Friday, 9 November 2012

Mark J. Mitchell

Herb Tea

Listening for the kettle
I cough. My lungs rattle
Hard, like trapped steam. The cold
Will pass, the cure is time.
Still, I can’t say I’m fine
Trapped in this midnight, feeling old.


TSTmpj:  Are you a night owl, Mark?  Do you write at midnight?

Mark J. Mitchell:  I used to be more of a night owl than I am these days. Still, every year during Lent, I write a poem every day, and I can't go to bed until I write a poem, so sometimes midnight is the time I have to write.


TSTmpj:  A poet friend of mine said years ago, "time heals all wounds, but time passes so slowly."  Do you see, in the contemporary progression of poetry, and the arts more generally, more "cure" or more "wound" to our society?

Mark J. Mitchell:  I find the idea of "progress" in the arts to be a little baffling. We haven't improved on Shakespeare. I think the insistence on innovation is going to be seen as very odd in the future. It is purity of expression that matters, not constantly building new, often ephemeral, forms. I think the fact that the world of the arts is open to more people, both to experience art and produce it, is a cure for all of us.


TSTmpj:  There are some famous examples -- Keats immediately comes to mind -- of poets producing great work within the shadow of illness.  What bearing do you see as your state of health having on your writing?

Mark J. Mitchell:  Luckily, I mostly enjoy good health. Still, when I get sick, it will turn up as a subject. I have had a couple of poems turn up in medical/literary journals. I use whatever is handy as a subject for poetry, especially when I assign myself the job of a poem a day.

Bio Note

Mark J. Mitchell’s new collection Three Visitors is available from

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

David James Olsen

Sonnet to Isaac

Dear laughing Isaac, listen if you please:
Don't dig your wells in New Orleans now tame.
I beg of you to curve your course with ease
And twirl out toward the sea from whence you came!
For seven years ago your sis did lick
This city's soul and break its levees large,
But screw their courage have they done to stick
And stand against your Grendel's gutt'ral charge.
A pact: like Milton, sell my sight I might
If you'd turn your blind eye at my request.
Ironic and coincidental blight:
Speed not o'er land, just ocean without rest.
Present your cruel account on waves of blue,
And leave pure hearts of people dry and true.


TSTmpj:  What is your take on the "soul" of New Orleans?

David James Olsen:  I feel the "soul" of New Orleans is the battered, but constantly cultured, jazzy and progressive spirit that energizes everyone living there. They may be downtrodden at times; they may have to ride through the rough times; but they keep moving. They keep marching to their own music and surviving their city's hardships, only to add more and more to the overall artistic quilt of America and the world. But their piece of that quilt is quite a bit bigger than most other cities that have forgotten the value of art and culture, and how it so powerfully reflects the fighting drive to survive and succeed within all of us. That, to me, is the riveting, exemplary "soul" of that colorfully vital city.


TSTmpj:  Do you usually write in formal ways?  What do you see as the future of formal verse?

David James Olsen:  I often write in formal ways because I like structure to guide me as I write a poem that can so easily spin off into chaotic confusion. I find that poems with great amounts of disorganized words tend to lose meaning when straying from a form. Perhaps that is just me. In the end, as long as one writes from the heart and in a way that is passionate and true, a poem should work just fine. I feel the future of formal verse is up to those of us brave enough to apply our modern emotions and events within its structure. Far too many people nowadays dismiss the poetic forms of the past. Frankly, I find them freeing and fantastic to experiment with while composing a new poem. I enjoy honoring what came before, but simply updating it with modern topics. Also, I love taking a form and, as long as I know all the rules well, breaking and twisting it here and there for emphasis. Shakespeare was famous for this, and wrote that way so as to guide his actors with hidden hints. I feel smart poetry readers pick up on this technique as well. But, one must know and respect all the rules of a form first.


TSTmpj:  How anchored in allusion do you usually make your poems?

David James Olsen:  I would say half to two-thirds of my poetry is anchored in, or applies hinted or obvious allusion. Again, I so enjoy reflecting on those great men and women that wrote before me, and if I can compliment their work by mixing it into mine somehow and therefore enhancing the richness and tone of my piece, it is irresistible to me. Both of my parents were English teachers as I grew up, so there has always been an inherent fascination with the great writers. Those classic and modern poets and novelists and such have surrounded me from day one, and what fabulous company to keep!

Bio Note

David James Olsen is a 29-year-old writer/actor living in NYC.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Gary Beck

Speechless in Another Land

When the dusky hour rumbles
towards another evening, mumbles
rising from the open windows tease 
the unfound variations of delight.
The maddened hopeless waiting
breathes a silent, urgent howling
deafened only by imagined growling
from the figment animals of fear.
When time again
this place to leave
untouched moments,
strangers pass unseen
waiting for arrivals, come
too late for expectations,
or never discovered.
To find one puff-ball escape
hidden in another language
discovery, making in this place
an instant of dissolving
self, pose, proclaimed hungers
extending just to the doom of desire,
renouncing only what was not had.


TSTmpj:  How do you sustain your imagination?

Gary Beck:  I appreciate every day and always try to be positive.


TSTmpj:  What do you feel are the essential differences between the practices of writing poetry, writing novels, and writing plays?

Gary Beck:  poetry is urgent and requires intense focus, a novel must be sustained and be consistent, a play is written to be performed and must be clear and structured.


TSTmpj:  What do you see as the creative challenges you still face?

Gary Beck:  to make sure content and meaning are more important than form and style. 

Bio Note

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theatre director.  He currently lives in New York City.