Thursday, January 19, 2017

Newton Free Library Poetry Series Starts Feb. 14 7PM

(Click on picture to enlarge)  For more information go to: 
The series has been directed by Doug Holder since 2002. It was founded by Robert K. Johnson

The Sunday Poet: Christopher Reilley

Christopher Reilley

Christopher Reilley is the current poet laureate for Dedham, MA. He is also a Pushcart nominee, contributing editor for Acoustic Ink, and a board member of the Newton Writing & Publishing Center. He is the author of Grief Tattoos and Breathing for Clouds, both with Big Table Publishing. His poems have appeared in mumerous collections, journals, and anthologies, including Word Salad, Boston Literary Magazine, and Compass of Conception.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Roberto Carlos Garcia Interview by Susan Tepper

Roberto Carlos Garcia’s new full length poetry book, Melancolia, has been published by Cervena Barva Press. His chapbook amores gitanos (‘gypsy love’) was published by the same press a few years ago. Poems and prose by Garcia appear or will soon appear in The New Engagement, Public Pool, Stillwater Review, Gawker, Barrelhouse, Tuesday; An Art Project, The Acentos Review, Lunch Ticket and more. He is the founding editor of GET FRESH BOOKS, LLC, a cooperative publishing press. A native New Yorker, Garcia holds an MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation from Drew University, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Roberto Carlos Garcia Interview by Susan Tepper

Susan Tepper: You’re a painter as well as a poet, and your new collection titled Melancolía wears a cover of your own design.  Was this book cover painted for these poems, specifically, or did the image come before the manuscript?

Roberto Carlos Garcia: I went to the canvas and to my paints with the explicit intention of painting the cover. For a long time I couldn’t decide how to express the melancolía of the poems for the cover. I was afraid I would end up with a cover I hated. I had asked some artist friends to help me out but nothing really came of that, so I decided the cover would come from my hands.

ST: Excellent. Because the vision of the work came out of you. I think it’s really great when a press allows the author to participate in the choice of cover.

RCG: At first I envisioned a man running through the rain into a disappearing vantage point. Then I thought it would be cool if, instead of rain, roses were falling from the sky. By the time I painted the sky I knew there would be no man running in the painting. I was surprised by how “moody” or somber the image of roses falling from the sky was. I took that a step further with the puddles on the ground, “the mélange of colors,” as one observer wrote. Many of the poems include bright colors, roses, and rain, so I feel like that is represented well in the cover art.

ST: It’s a fantastic cover for these poems and the puddles first struck me as blood searing the earth. What makes you bleed as a poet?

RCG: Raw emotion. So often, or for me at least, being an artist is like living as an open wound or gateway. The intensity of emotion ultimately finds release as art because you have to share it, you have to, good or bad. The blood coming out of the wound, the emotions rushing through the gate, once you give this thing some thought, real contemplation, it becomes a poem, an essay, a short story, a painting, photos, whatever it is. The deep contemplation of each raw emotion, the thought, the worry, also makes me bleed as a poet. It’s like that quote by Amiri Baraka: “Thought is more important than art. To revere art and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence, is finally not even to understand what art is.”

The triggers are everywhere and I believe this book, Melancolía, explores them. From the smallest of concerns, watching the moon or the seasons change through a window, to state sanctioned violence against black and brown bodies, and women. Maybe it’s akin to Wordsworth’s cheesy line “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of feelings.” And it’s also Amiri Baraka’s critically important idea that “The artist's role is to raise the consciousness of the people. To make them understand life, the world and themselves more completely. That's how I see it. Otherwise, I don't know why you do it.

ST: I couldn’t agree more. Art is so hard. Especially here in America where it is often disdained and pushed aside for the most mindless forms of entertainment. What makes you bleed as a man?

RCG: The world’s lack of empathy. Everything that is wrong in the world could be changed if everyone wanted to change it. It’s that simple and it’s that complicated. Not only does this make me bleed, it depresses me, makes me despair, and I have to fight really hard to stay engaged with everyone and everything that I love. I know so many people, the majority of them writers, struggling with the same thing.
And yet, even showing love can bleed you dry. Sometimes you feel like you have enough empathy and love for the whole world and you hemorrhage, and you hurt yourself, your spirit. I believe that surviving as an Afro-Latino in America, one that is preoccupied with social justice for all, makes me bleed heavy.

ST: How personal are these poems to your own life?

RCG: The majority of these poems were written during a tough period in my life that I don’t want to get into here. I was looking for the joy and digging through the fat for something to sustain me emotionally. The bones of the book were made during a 30/30 writing challenge. I poured all of my searching, thinking, feeling, interrogating, and seeing into these poems. They are very personal, but also accessible because these are mostly universal concerns. Now more than ever the human being needs to understand that our concerns are universal.

ST: Some of these poems are after the works of poets Lorca, Milosz, Percy Bysshe Shelley and writers such as James Baldwin. Were they a direct influence on the particular poem? In other words, what is the tie-in?

RCG: These are just a few of my favorite writers. Many times I’ll be contemplating some line, quote, poem, or image from / or either of these artists and it will find its way into a poem. Mostly, I’m trying to have a conversation with these folks. Aren’t writers great conversationalists?

ST: I think they are. Sometimes a little too much!

RCG: I believe subconsciously I’m trying to get that writer in a room with a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee, to try solving the world’s problems.

ST: I would give anything to sit down and have a conversation with Baldwin. So what can we expect from you in your future writings? Any new books on the horizon?

RCG: I’m working on a novel, a collection of essays, a collection of short stories, and the next poetry collection. Hopefully, you’ll hear some news soon!

ST: That’s a lot of writing! I’m sure they will be equally dramatic and compelling as this stunning book. 

Susan Tepper
 Susan Tepper, an award-winning writer, has been at it for twenty years. Six books of her fiction and poetry have been published, with a seventh book, a novella, forthcoming in the fall of 2017. FIZZ her reading series at KGB Bar, NYC, is sporadically ongoing these past nine years.