1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)
I have been concerned about the environment since I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as a teenager. I also worked on the national staff of the first Earth Day in 1970. In April it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. Unfortunately, many of the events have been cancelled. Over the years I have had a number of environmental poems published so I decided to pull some of them together in a manuscript which Fly on the Wall Poetry Press published as “Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival”.
I had previously self-published an illustrated children’s book “My Little Plastic Bag” which educates children about where plastic goes in our ecosystem. It won a number of awards and is now in Spanish and English. It has been my best seller.
I feel poets can play an important role in changing our environmental consciousness and they need to speak out in poems with clear messages. It is not a time for obscure images that we hope some people will get. Also, people are scared and depressed because of Covid-19, but they are spending a lot of time on line so we can provide inspiration and understanding for them. I recently put up a graphic on Facebook “Quarantine Your Body, Not Your Mind, Read Poetry”. A number of people shared it.
2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?
We timed the release of “Awakening” to the Fiftieth Anniversary of Earth Day and I set up a number of readings through environmental groups and they all got cancelled so I am working social media and trying to get some press attention. But Covid-19 is sucking up all the oxygen. As a result, I have done some virtual book launches and will record some of the poems and put them on my website, YouTube and Facebook. I am also writing some pieces on the resurgence of eco-poetry as a set up to promote “Awakening”.
If you don’t promote your work it is invisible, so you need to let people know about it.
3, What projects are you working on at present?
I am trying to find ways to promote my new book and that is time consuming, but as I have ideas for new poems I write them down and store them in a working file. It’s like planting seeds that I may watch germinate.
4, What does poetry mean to you?
Joy Harjo, our American poet laureate, is the first native American poet laureate. She says something like, “Poetry gives voice to the spirits in the wind.”
I feel like we are channelling some unconscious survival instincts. In my poem in “Awakening” about the disappearance of the ecology symbol that was everywhere around the first Earth Day I write:
“if everyone lives the American dream,
we will need a planet three times
the size of Mother Earth
and the last time I looked,
she’s not gaining weight.”
That sums it up for me.