Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interview with the Founder of Poetry Magazine dot com Mary Barnet

 What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book was half a lifetime in the making. The Arts came naturally to me coming from a family of artists. I chose poetry as cats destroyed my first attempts at sculpture. But as for writing, it is a part of me. As I have had more than one book published, it’s hard to say what inspired each. I guess I have a need to communicate with the rest of humankind. I have rarely gone a week without writing and that fills up a book pretty quickly.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have studied the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets and wrote brief Haiku-like poems. Also, inspired by poets like Robert Frost, I tried my hand at rhyme. Poets like Shelley and Tennyson and other classical Europeans, as well as the modern Americans have inspired me. But I would have to say, I always try to be brief and to the point; I don’t like to waste words.

How did you come up with the title?

My first book was about my identity as an American; thus “The New American.”

My most recent book, “Arrival” is about my own arrival at a plateau, in the here and now,
already a senior, despite all my attempts to resist aging. Hopefully, my poetry has not grown old but become more contemporary.

Is there a message in your poetry you want the readers to grasp?

My message is only that beauty is there for those who yearn to experience it. Even in the harsh technochronic environment, beauty, peace and grace are available in poetry.

How much of the book is realistic?

Early in life I wrote pictures of the many places I saw which included Mexico and Belize. I pondered my place in them. This was my teenage experience on the road and also included London and many of the cities of Europe. I have written prose poetry but feel it must convey its own reality not just a narrative of events without experience. I try to make each poem a world unto itself. My most recent poetry is meant to be a somewhat surrealistic collage of images with a common experience as well as a statement about humankind.

What books have influenced your life most?

Among the poets who have influenced me the most are the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets such as Li Po, Tu Fu, Lao Tzu, British poets, Shelley, Tennyson, John Donne, Americans e.e. cummings, , Robert Frost, and French poets such as Beaudelaire. The books that have influenced me the most are the Bible, particularly the psalms, and Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Grace Cavalieri, a writer and producer/host of the PRN satellite radio show, “The Poet and the Poem,” under the auspices of the Library of Congress is both a mentor, and the person who has supported my writing the most outside family members.

Are there any new poets that have grasped your interest?

Among modern poets who have influence me, many have been featured in PoetryMagazine.com by Feature Editor Andrena Zawinski. As founder of that digizine and Senior Editor, I read all unsolicited submissions. I must admit I have learned some things to try and also not to do in my poetry. As a modern poet I like W.S. Merwin, and have also been inspired by, among others, Ruth Daigon, Dylan Thomas, Len Roberts, Elisha Porat, Fady Joudah, and Lucille Day.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My inspiration to take up writing was a mother’s helper in my large family. The lady was never spoken to intellectually, but I saw that she read in privacy Paradise Lost as well as Paradise Regained. I knew nothing about poetry and my interest was aroused. That made me realize that everyday people read poetry. I decided I wanted to be such a poet. It reminded me that in years past students memorized poems. It seemed that this was important. Any one person might read a poem and enjoy it.

What are your current projects?

I am currently working on my third book. The sonnets are written in a modern syle but using the traditional forms of rhyme schemes. I expect to have a book of them published in 2014. The working title is “Sonnets and Songs.”

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Here’s one from my upcoming book: “Sonnets and Songs”, like “Arrival” from Casa de Snapdragon Press :

The author sways

Voices strident
dancers marching ;
then fingers bent
limbs with Time’s weight arching.
The keyboard sings.
Once young fingers stop.
(no stanza break)
What is this each added year brings ?
For what reason wilts the crop ?
What seemed an endless play, in old age is a flop.
It seems some end is near.
The dancers fall, kerplop.
The actor casts aside his spear,
no sense at finish has this prop.
The actor sways and both he, and the final curtain drop.

© Copyright, Mary Barnet.
All rights reserved.

You can see more of my earlier work at MaryBarnet.com.

Who designed the covers?

My covers as well as the art works in both my books are my husband Richard E. Schiff, who studied art with my father Will Barnet at The Art Students League of New York. He is now a Life Member. Richard has shown widely, most recently this past winter for his fourth show in as many years at the offices of The Manhattan Borough President. His ‘Homeless Man” hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Jerusalem.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

To my readers I want to say that in life the simplest things are beautiful. We can find joy in everyday life and in the things around us. No matter how distant your life and experience have been from literature, I hope everyone finds something that resonates with them in my poetry.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your poetry?

What challenges me most in the writing of my poetry is getting the punctuation exactly right so it reads through fluidly as a poem. A poem, I believe, is meant to be read aloud as well as silently. It must have its own life. So the meter is crucial. And the rhyme must sing, but it must remain always secondary to, or the vehicle of the flow and meaning of the poem.