ALoha from Molokai Paradise!
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M: Have you had any interesting jobs over the years?
KW: Well, here’s a short list: Coral raker, stone wall builder at a fishpond, painter, gardener, Waikiki construction worker, writer and researcher for the Center for Auto Safety in DC, editor for Ralph Nader’s speeches, creative writing instructor at Palo Alto Adult School and the Art Institute of California, writing advisor at National University, freelance online writer, content writer for Santa.com, development director for Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Oh, and I had a brief stint at UCSD getting paid to pick up writers/poets at the airport and drive them to their lodgings and later to campus—Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Ginsberg, Jerome Rothenberg, Carolyn Forche, etc. They actually gave me $500 in cash as pocket money to help entertain guests! I kissed Carolyn Forche under the talking tree in the UCSD forest, she is a good kisser. Vonnegut told me to keep the pocket money and he treated me to lunch at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. He said I reminded him of John Irving, and he wrote the following in my copy of BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS: “To Kirby Wright, who will make it as a writer. I know these things.”
M: What is your favorite color and/or number?
KW: Color: Yellow, Number: 3
M: Okay, thanks for your time and good luck with the book.
Ok, i've gotta admit I like the Online Publications better that Hard Copy Ones because it's so damn random, you don't know who's going to end up reading you and they don't have to pay to do it. Also, you don't have to wait a million years to find out AND you don't have to pay for stamps. I would recommend all new writers and poets submit a bunch online first before spending sending snail mail submissions. Also, did you know online publications pay? Well, some do.
If you come out Hard Copy only, you sort of get locked away on a shelf and nobody really reads you. That's why literary magazines have a struggle making it and many owners/editors must resort to putting in a lot of ads in their pages even though they don't really respect the source advertising.
The best of both worlds is getting published online and then they come out with a GREATEST HITS hard copy and you're in it!
M: You also include prose pieces with the poetry. What makes you decide to write in prose vs. poetry? What do you like/dislike about each medium?
KW: I like poetry because it teaches economy as well as lyricism. What I don't like about it is being a prisoner of the line. And I don’t like being typecast as just a poet. I was told by the late poet William Dickey to learn “how to cut away some of the underbrush” from my poetry, but I think the underbrush can be interesting too. I wanted to experiment with things like narration, dialogue, and surrealism in a single piece and the prose poetic form worked well. Remember those poetic pieces in-between the stories in Hemingway’s IN OUR TIME? Well, I suppose it was him who gave me permission to write sudden poetic fictions like “Love From a Distance,” “Retirement and the Home Boy,” and “Shiatsu.” Also, you can cheat a bit with prose poetry by laying it out so that certain words show up at the ends and beginnings of lines for dramatic impact. I received GREAT encouragement from the poet Jerome Rothenberg to continue writing prose poetry after he read something I’d written about Galileo going blind from staring at the moon too much through his telescope while naming and charting the various Seas.
M: There are many memorable lines such as "How much of construction begins with destroy" and "Her clothes are Flesh in my closet." Also, "You can't move something without risking history." How do you come up with such great lines? Do
you have a favorite line or poem that you've written?
KW: Again, thanks. I’d have to say I like “Now is history as fast as the mind remembers” and “Foraging for things I don’t understand, things that won’t resist my claws.” Single lines just pop into my head like that, usually when I’m constructing a poem. So, it is in the editing mode that the line typically strikes. Sometimes the line will come to me when I wake up very early in the morning, say around 3 a.m. I have this little dream journal by my bed and scraps of paper and I make sure to jot it down. I think the unconscious mind can really help a poet work out killer lines, you just can’t force it sometimes in the conscious mind because we tend to censor so much good writing. For me that censor has my father's voice because he never really believed in any of my creative efforts. As a matter of fact, he just told me over the phone that my novel would NEVER sell because there's no sex and violence in it.
I wrote this poem in about a half-hour after going down to the beach and harvesting images. You will notice the narrator's lament about the loss of youth and the loss of the lovelys who he lost as a youth. There is something paradoxical working here, I will let YOU figure it out!
Black Point, Oahu 2004
Here you can swim
As far as you can go.
The reef is not distant—
Soon you will be aware of its teeth.
Bikinis and one pieces
Cover the beach.
A girl searches for friends
Along the seawall.
She reminds me of what I lost,
The years of crushes and failed loves.
I’m there again getting crushed
And losing all over again
This time wearing
Sunglasses, visor, marlin-blue trunks.
The familiar sand
Shifts beneath my weight.
How many of you remember the "Fight of the Century," the first fight between Ali and Frazier? I think what made the fight magical was that neither fighter had ever lost and the country was split in half over the Vietnam War. Ali's pre-fight promotion made Frazier appear as an "Uncle Tom" and the "white man's champion" because he knew the Moral Majority in America resented him for defying his "duty to fight" for his country. Ali and Frazier were both guaranteed 2.5 million to fight. That's alot of $, but what they really should have taken was the 1.25 million plus a split of 35% of the gate--that would have earned them each 9 million!
I went with my father and brother to the HIC to see the fight on closed-circuit TV. I was for Frazier because I am always for the underdog. Frazier was a BIG underdog at the time and I think Vegas had the fight 2-1 in favor of Ali. It was electric that night at the HIC. My father wanted Frazier and my brother wanted Ali. I sat between them and heard "Go, Joe!" from my father and my brother chanting, "Ali, Ali, Ali!" It seemed as though Ali was piling up points and would either KO Frazier or win a unanimous decision by the 10th Round, but Frazier's LION HEART would not be denied. Frazier took control in the 11th Round and almost had Ali down on the canvas. Frazier decked Ali about a half-minute into the 15th Round and the crowd at Madison Square Garden was going nuts. At the HIC it was more subdued because it was a pro-Ali crowd. Frazier won a unanimous decision and retained his heavyweight title.
My father was so happy that Frazier won that he took us to the Ranch House in Aina Haina to celebrate.
Megaera: Tell us a little about yourself and your writing habits.
Kirby Wright: Habits?! Ha. I wish I had more of them, at least the good ones. I’m a totally sporadic and basically lazy writer.
My Moloka'i grandmother used to call me “Moelepo,” which is Hawaiian for “good for nothing.” But I didn’t mind so
much because she called my big brother that too. One day I’ll crank out what I consider 4 quality poems and then only make
one or two journal entries for two months. But poetry and the poetic voice has always saved me from stagnation because I like
observation and can rely on it about 90% of the time to get active. I just wrote my first pantoum yesterday. Want it for
Megaera? (joke) I have projects now that are taking my time away from poetry, such as putting the finishing touches on a first
novel manuscript. That novel has taken me a decade to write, I kid you not. It’s coming of age set in Hawaii.
M: Many of the poems are rooted in a specific place, i.e. Hawaii, California. Some are even specific to a particular
neighborhood. How does location influence your poetry?
KW: Location is everything for me, especially when I’ve never been to a place and can see it fresh and new. Now I was born
and raised in Hawaii but was away for quite a while—when I returned, everything was new again because of all the time
between visits. The same thing happened in San Diego—I got used to it, quit writing about it, then returned a decade later to
find it full of new and powerful images. I’m not saying that a city or place has to change for me to write about it, but time
away restores its freshness and allows me to see it with new eyes.
Check out my interview with MEGAERA MAGAZINE at:
And make sure to order the book--it's only 10 bucks and WAY worth it!
Ohmigod! Have you seen those reruns?! Cheesus, I think I had a crush on the youngest Lennon Sister, the one with the buffont! Welk was such a Republican, I kid u not. I remember when my Moloka'i grandmother used to watch it, she loved every second. Funny how ol' Welk mixed Church and State to justify the Vietnam War, as if GOD was on America's side and anything our President did or said was right. HA! Imagine what Welk thought when we beat our hasty retreat and ended up dumping the Jolly Green Giants off the side of the carriers?
There really is a Lawrence Welk Village, in Escondido, California and they've got this gold statue of Lawrence in the courtyard just outside the theater. He made millions on it and his heirs are making even more. There's a rumor the Marriot is thinking about buying it for 2 billion. Oh, and Lawrence knew timeshare was a big $ maker, that's why he converted his Village to timeshare the year before he died. Always the good businessman, that Lawrence.
Is it true that F. Scott helped Hemingway shape the beginning of THE SUN ALSO RISES by focusing on the character of Robert Cohn? I was told that Hemingway was at the end of his rope and that Fitzgerald took the time out to both edit the manuscript and reshape it for dramatic impact. When it was Hemingway's turn to repay the favor, he apparently refused to read Fitzgerald's second draft of THE GREAT GATSBY. I wonder if Hemingway and Fitzgerald are slugging it out in literary heaven right now.