Thursday, January 04, 2018

Interview with Neil Silberblatt: Founder of Voices of Poetry

(Left Doug Holder/Right Neil Silberblatt)

Interview with Neil Silberblatt: Founder of Voices of Poetry

with Doug Holder

In spite of suffering from cancer and all that entails, poet Neil Silberblatt fights on and presents poets, readings and other events through his organization “Voices of Poetry.” This one man dynamo has become a major player in the poetry scene on the Cape, Connecticut, and the region.

Neil Silberblatt was born and grew up in New York City, lived for a (long) time in Connecticut, and is now a “wash ashore” on Cape Cod.  He has been writing poetry since his college days.  His poems have appeared in several print and online literary journals including Verse Wisconsin;Hennen’s Observer; Naugatuck River Review; Chantarelle’s Notebook; Oddball Magazine; and The Good Men ProjectHis work has also been included in Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words (Naugatuck Valley Community College, 2013), an anthology of selected poetry and prose; and in University of Connecticut’s Teacher-Writer magazine.  He has published two poetry collections: So Far, So Good (2012), and Present Tense (2013).  He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and one of his poems – Recycling Instructions – received Honorable Mention in the 2nd Annual OuterMost Poetry Contest judged by Marge Piercy.

Doug Holder: Neil—how did you originally come to poetry?

Neil Silberblatt: I came to it in two ways. One was genetically and the other academic. I have two older brothers—I am one of three boys. My brothers had the good fortune to have two great poetry teachers—Robert Lowell at Harvard and Kenneth Koch at Columbia. They would bring home these poetry books during the spring and summer, put them on the shelf—and I read them. I was especially inspired to read them after I was told the books were over my head. Then in high school I had the incredible good luck of having a great English teacher—Frank McCourt—at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. He was a very demanding teacher. He expected you to justify your presence in class. If you used your Monarch Notes or the like, he would read you the riot act. Because of this he made us think. This stirred my creative juices in a way that I hadn't experienced before. In college I took a lot of English courses with some top notch poets. I continue to hone the craft. It is a craft that you have to work at. I read and write as much as I can.

DH: You are from New York City. What made you relocate to the Cape?

NS: I was friends with somebody and the opportunity came up to move—so I came to the Cape to write and expand my life. I got to know the late poet Joe Gouveia. He was a poet and a force of nature. He hosted the Poet's Corner at on the radio station WOMR in Provincetown. Gouveia was sick with cancer and he asked if I could keep the mic warm for him while he recovered. He passed and I inherited the show. The podcasts for the show are archived at I personally have interviewed a lot of the poets from the Fine Arts Center here in P-Town—like Mark Statman, Jennifer Franklin, Michael Klein and many others.

DH: Tell me a bit about your organization “ Voices of Poetry.”

NS: There are two components of “ Voices of Poetry.” One part is the events that I organize. Basically I am the organization. I go out and find poets and their work and invite them to read. I get folks from the Cape, Connecticut, N.Y., and the region. I have developed a network of connections. I love the art of poetry. I want people to hear poets who really deserve an audience.

DH: How is it funded?

NS: Sometimes hosting libraries have funds—there are some voluntary donations at readings, etc...

DH: How did the Voices of Poetry Facebook page develop?

NS: It started out as a community bulletin board for people to reference then it just evolved.

DH: You have been waging a courageous battle with cancer. Has poetry acted as a balm of sorts?

NS: My involvement with poetry predated my diagnosis. But having Stage 4 Colon Cancer has made me get as much out of the time I have left. I plan to go down fighting. I will not go gently into the night.

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