Author Spotlight: Gaylord Brewer

Gaylord is currently a professor at Middle Tennessee State. He has published in Best American Poetry and the Bedford Introduction to Literature. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the most recent being Give Over, Graymalkin

Amoskeag: Your poem begins with “Steaming kettle, cracked bowl, palms / risen dripping to the face.” What made you start here and why?IMG_2816

Gaylord: Three reasons come to mind. To begin the action quickly and physically, the former for narrative interest and latter as counterpoint to the ethereal quality of the poem’s inhabitants. I also liked the incantatory syllabics, evocative perhaps of a witch’s spell, and the hard consonants. Of course, I’m also invoking and playing with a baptismal motif of cleansing. That may be more than three reasons.

Amoskeag: What does poetry mean to you and has your idea of poetry changed since you began writing? If so, how?

Gaylord: This is a significant and far-reaching question, perhaps so much so that the scope and years and personal change involved make it nearly impossible to answer truthfully or meaningfully. Poetry has treated me well for the last thirty years, and I try to show it a good time, too. I’m less angry and limber than I used to be, but there are compensations of perspective, guile, and toughness. Regarding this poem in particular, I like it enough to have sent it out into the world to fend for itself.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?

Gaylord: I sense in your question some particular response to the ending that you’ve not articulated but that on an intuitive level I recognize and appreciate. Generally, at some point the ending begins to show itself, somewhere there down the lane, around the turn, emerging from the murky dawn. If it’s in the headlights from the beginning, that’s obviously a problem. The way you prepare is to accelerate, trusting your decades of driving instincts.

Amoskeag: Is your narrator’s view of the world in any way reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw? How they felt?

Gaylord: By “they,” perhaps you mean “he,” or even “she”? This is a fairly private party between Ghost and his/her stenographer. I think. I’ve been debating for five years whom exactly the narrator of the Ghost poems is when that ghoulish old boy isn’t speaking for himself. I’ve had some hints, and I’ve concocted some theories. To answer your question, I would say I share some of the speaker’s elusive and sometimes cynical conceits, but not all.

Amoskeag: What can you reflect upon the movement of your poetry—from line to line, idea to idea, image to image? How did you reflect the emotions of the narrator through your words?

Gaylord: I’d like a vibrant, balletic movement line to line, and a surprising inevitability, to misquote Aristotle, in the juxtaposition of image and revelation of sustained idea. Emotions are iterated and reflected through action, reverence, mystery, and obedience to Ghost’s often demanding insistence upon attention to his needs.

Amoskeag: What or why does the Ghost matter in this piece?

Gaylord: You’d better not let him overhear you asking that. To be honest, though, I’m not sure I understand the question. When Ghost beckons—whether with a regretted event to confess, a fractured dream to mitigate, or with some message he feels the urgency to report in his own weary voice—I listen and record. Hey, it’s his poem. I’m here to humbly serve and then stay the hell out of the way.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the poem that you worked so hard at to shape?

Gaylord: I feel fine with the process of publication and readers.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a poet/writer?

Gaylord: In additional response to your previous question, an entire book of Ghost poems—my ninth collection, which arrived incrementally over three intense summers and as a surprise to me—entitled Country of Ghost, will be published by Red Hen Press in early 2015. In time, I am told, for the AWP Bookfair in Minneapolis to celebrate and lament my 50th birthday a week earlier. That’s the plan, if I’m alive. If I’m not, I suppose they’ll celebrate anyway. In the meantime, spring 2014, Stephen F. Austin University Press is publishing a culinary memoir, if you will, called The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, and Desire. A cheeky hybrid of recipes, memories, snippets of poetry, and general kitchen insolence. I hope folks will find the book and enjoy it. Wait until you try the caramel-bourbon sauce. You’ll love me all over again. The next book after those is top secret.
Anyway, with two books, two very different books, appearing less than a year apart, I’ll be out and about, roving and cajoling. Folks can contact me or keep up with the hustle at my website (www.gaylordbrewer.com). Thanks for asking, by the way, and for your thoughtful attention.

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