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Archive for April 8th, 2022

Poetry Friday is with Janice Scully
at Salt City Verse

I met Allan Wolf years ago when he visited and presented in our area. He’s incredibly entertaining in real life. He is also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So when an opportunity appeared to get an ARC of his latest book of poems, along with an interview, I jumped at it.

Behold our Magical Garden is full of poems that take us into a school garden. You can jump in without getting dirty. The poems are lyrical, funny, and informative. They beg to be read aloud. Behold Our Magical Garden was released on March 8. Please enjoy this delightful interview with Allan.

Who is Allan Wolf?

Allan Wolf is a member of the species Poemo sapien. He often vocalizes in verse from atop chairs. He spends many hours alone sitting at his nest using his imagination to make things. Although he is 59 years old and 5’8” in height, he imagines himself much younger and much taller. He is a writer of poetry, novels, and picture books, and a serious believer in the healing powers of poetry. His latest collection of poems is Behold Our Magical Garden: Poems Fresh from a School Garden, illustrated by Daniel Duncan.

What inspires your writing?

Reading is a big inspiration. Listening to music. Watching performances of all kinds. Observing and experiencing any creative expression that resonates and moves me. While I certainly am a writer, I am more specifically a creator. I have an urge to create. We all have these urges to create life from the clay of our imaginations. And in that respect, we are all amateur gods. Writing and poetry is my default medium.

Why poetry?

Since I first discovered rhythm when I was four years old (I remember it as if it was yesterday!), my thought process has lent itself well to poetry, metaphorical thought, rhythms, rhymes, music, story. And most importantly, my brain is something of a non-linear array of constellations of thought bubbles, with observations flying in and out, unbidden as birds.

Words give a poem sense, while the space between the words give it resonance. Poets can arrange words based on craft, style, and clarity, just as prose writers do. But poets don’t have to stop there. Poets can arrange words based on prescribed patterns . . . or not. Poets can even arrange words wherever the words instruct them too. Space is key. Space between words. Space between lines. You can even remove a word, like you would remove a superfluous wisdom tooth. Line-breaks can be purposefully clunky or smooth. When a line breaks, the words turn. The poem’s rhythm may also turn. The poem’s pace may turn as well. The reader’s eyes, heartbeat, and attention all turn. (Bonus Fact: The word “verse” comes from the Latin, verso, to turn.)

The poet chooses

where

the lines        break.

Three things you love?

One) I love juggling (just juggling balls, not clubs, or rubber chickens, or chainsaws! Well, maybe I would love to juggle rubber chickens. That would be really funny!)

Two) I love making music, playing the guitar and the drums, singing, and making up songs.

Three) I love being an author of books! There is such a feeling of closure to have your thoughts and ideas and words and revelations enshrined within a book that is widely available to all. It is a sense of relief, that my words will continue to live and to speak, long after I’ve stopped doing either one.

Oh and, Four) Puppets! Let’s not forget puppets. I love puppets.

During the pandemic, how did you keep creating? 

Like many of my writing colleagues, I was surprised how hard it was to keep creating new work, even with two years of mandatory “free time.” I had already been reassessing my work, even before the pandemic. At that time the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements were already in full swing. As a white male writer, I felt like it was more a time to listen than to speak. Then the pandemic, with its forced stay-at-home quarantine, provided the necessary Petri dish to amplify the whole conversation. During that time, I temporarily set aside my most pressing novel, the one I’m back at work on now. It has taken me all this time away from it to reassess what I was trying to say. So much has changed. Meanwhile, throughout my writer’s block, I was actually writing poetry and picture books, which can be a little easier to carry around in your head without going nuts. I also made a lot of videos and I organized my private journals (which I’ve been keeping since I was 12 years old).  

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my wife and my children, Simon, Ethan, and James. As for writing, it’s hard to say. I’m proud of the Iceberg character/narrator in The Watch that Ends the Night. That character’s voice is written in iambic pentameter that gradually melts to tetrameter, trimeter, dimeter, and finally, monometer. The Iceberg’s last two spoken words, “I am,” are actually an iamb!  

Do you have a writing activity to pass along? (I’d like to challenge my readers and my students to respond.) 

What’s In a Name?

ONE) Begin by generating a list of all the “names” you are known by. General Names, like son, daughter, best friend, hero, helper, athlete, or alchemist. And Specific Names like Elizabeth, LaQuesha, Darius, or David. And Nicknames  like Doodle, Tutu, Junior, or Jack.

TWO) Choose one example from your list. Using informal prose write “the story of your name.”

THREE) After you’re done, circle (or highlight) five to ten words or phrases that seem integral to your story. Next, use those chosen words or phrases as the building blocks of a poem.

Note to readers: If you do Allan’s challenge, add your poem to this padlet.

Made with Padlet

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