Imagine you're all alone on a remote island with only one poem. What would it be?
I'd bring a translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy, all three parts. The progression Dante takes is not about the afterlife, but about the actual arc of our own physical existence. It is the search for meaning in humankind. That, and it's a really long epic poem, so that could keep me entertained as I slowly worked on a makeshift raft.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration for me comes from the daily slog of life. For some poets, time is essential, having enough time to work on a given piece, to tinker with each line. I finish my poems quickly, so time is not an issue. For me, it's more about engagement with the quotidian and finding the correct mental space to let the words come forth. If I'm in the right mental space then I'm inspired by the very act of putting my fingers on the keyboard. Whatever inspired me isn't known beforehand; if it were, the poems would come out stilted and with a lack of freedom of expression, power, and breadth.
Can you discuss the origin of your poems in the February 2016 issue of Bird's Thumb?
The poems in this issue of Bird's Thumb have a couple of underlying themes. "From This to That" is a poem about parental anxiety, witnessing my son growing up in a world full of competition and falseness. This is scary for a father. The poem ends with a recollection of a moment in my own childhood before I too had to face the crude environment beyond the safety of my mother. "The World Before this One" is a meditation on confronting the harsh reality of a public school high school, a new experience for me as an English teacher. Though I did not teach a special education class, for the first time in my professional life I had to work in close proximity to students with serious disabilities walking around the campus. I coupled that with channel-surfing as a comment on how removed the televised/computerized world is from the more urgent concerns of our existence. We'd rather believe in and be inspired by the next superhero than be conscious of the pain and struggle the weakest, sickest, and most vulnerable people experience on a daily basis.