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    Interview With Poet Robert Lee Brewer – Guest Post by Walt Wojtanik

    Categories: Guest Posts, How to Write Poetry, Writing Poetry, Poet Interviews.

    There’s something a little silly about being interviewed on your own
    blog. However, Walt Wojtanik made it a fun experience, which is part of
    the reason he was chosen as the 2010 Poetic Asides Poet Laureate. Walt
    manages several blogs, including Through the Eyes of a Poet’s Heart, Across the Lake, Eerily (with Marie Elena Good), and Wallegory and Other Stories. Please welcome, Walt.

     

    *****

    I had been honored by Robert Lee Brewer in being chosen as the Poet
    Laureate of the 2010 April Poem-a-Day Challenge. One of the biggest
    thrills of my reign was being interviewed by Robert for inclusion
    during the beginning of the 2011 Challenge. I had done my due diligence
    by reading the past interviews that he had conducted, so I could get a
    feel for the possible questions he may ask.

    I had studied the many great queries and responses from some very
    talented poets which gave me insight into this process. But I noticed
    one name conspicuous in its absence: Robert Lee Brewer.

    With the release of his poetry collection, ENTER, I thought a good idea
    for a guest post on the Poetic Asides blog would be to interview Robert
    in his own style and afford him the opportunity to put a fresh light on
    the man behind many successful poets presented here.

       

    You have released a limited edition collection of poems entitled
    ENTER. Tell us about the concept for the collection and what is your
    logic for the restricted run? Are there benefits?

    Once I decided that I wanted to self-publish my collection, I had an
    amazing array of options, including experimenting with print on demand
    and e-books. However, I ultimately decided that I wanted to create a
    special experience around my collection of poems. I felt making a
    limited edition chapbook would make it fun for myself and others. Since
    the collection has sold out already, I can definitely say it was fun on
    my end.

    Are there any new projects in the works?

    I always have a lot of ideas. But I never know which ones are going to
    stick until I have time to follow up on them. April and May are
    typically my busiest months because of the Market Books, including
    Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market. Plus, Tammy and I are expecting a
    little girl in the middle of June, so we’re going to be a little busy.

    That said, I do want to put some time into developing a full length
    manuscript. Plus, I’ve been kicking around the idea of trying to start
    up an Atlanta Poetry Festival. But who knows what I’ll be into once
    this production cycle is over.

    What steered you towards poetry? Does it still hold the same allure
    from when your first started? Did your childhood influence it in any
    way?

    I’ve always liked playing with numbers and letters, but I usually say
    it was a girl who got me into poetry. That relationship did not
    ultimately last, but my relationship with poetry has only deepened over
    time.

    As far as my childhood influencing my poetry, it gave me some material
    to write about later, but I didn’t get into writing poetry a lot until
    I was a teenager. I was the sort of boy who spent more time playing
    sports and riding bikes around the neighborhood than reading and
    writing.

    You have touched on the issue of location affecting a poet’s work.
    You are a man that stretches his muse between Ohio and Georgia. How
    does location play into your writing? Do you find a marked difference
    in your work between the two?

    I don’t know if one particular place produces a different type of
    poetry than another. However, I think travel is good, because it makes
    a person aware of the differences in places, but also the similarities.
    The tension between these two, I think, can make for some interesting
    poetry that resonates.

    It is apparent that family plays a large role in your work as well.
    Your wife Tammy Foster (Trendle) Brewer is a superb poet in her own
    right, and your boys on both ends of your North-South drive has all
    inspired pieces that we’ve seen here at Poetic Asides and other
    publications. Recently, you and Tammy announced the expectancy of a new
    addition, a daughter, to the Brewer brood. Do you see your work
    evolving in any manner because of this?

    I think having children really helped my writing in a lot of ways,
    because kids see the world much different than adults. The change
    happens over such a long period of time that we–as adults–don’t even
    realize the shift. And adults tend to take things for granted that
    children see with amazement or puzzlement.

    I’m sure having a daughter will move my writing into new and unexpected directions. I’m excited to see how.

    You are editor for various publications in the Writer’s Digest
    family, including Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market, and
    WritersMarket.com. Along with these duties and the aforementioned
    dedication to your family, it must be hard to adhere to a writing
    routine. At that, do you have a writing routine?

    Usually, I’m just always writing in the spaces between doing everything
    else. I almost always carry a couple pens on me and folded up sheets of
    paper. I don’t trust my memory to hold lines for too long, so I try to
    write them down as soon as I’m able. Then, I come back to them when I
    have a little more time.

    For the prompts on this site, I do have a routine of getting up and
    thinking about the prompt while I get ready in the morning. Then, I sit
    down and write. I don’t usually give myself a whole lot of time,
    because I know there are other poets waiting on me so they can start
    thinking about how to attack the prompt too.

    With the Poetic Asides blog and your own My Name Is Not Bob personal
    blog, how important do you feel an online presence is for a poet?

    I think if any writer (poet or not) wants to build an audience for his
    or her work, then he should be willing do build a presence online. It’s
    the cheapest and easiest way to connect with readers, writers, and
    other publishing folk. Of course, there are other things writers can do
    to build an audience–and the writing should always come first–but I
    know many of the opportunities I’ve had over the years wouldn’t have
    been possible without my online presence.

    During the April and November Poem-a-Day challenges, you have a
    great deal of poetry to peruse to come to a consensus on the premier
    body of work the poets submit. Now at the end of the 2011 PAD, how
    difficult a task is this and what catches your eye in a poem?

    I think many poetry judges stress themselves out a little too much
    about the process of judging. I try to make it very simple on myself by
    choosing poems that I personally like. There are usually thousands of
    poems to get through with each monthly challenge, so I have to do
    several rounds of reading. The first round tends to take a long time,
    because I’m just going through and picking out the ones that stick out
    the most.

    I usually try to eliminate a huge chunk of the field during the first
    round. I really have to, because it gets progressively difficult to
    choose between poems and poets in each round afterward. When I get near
    the end, I bring in Tammy to help me choose. I never let her know which
    ones I’m leaning toward until after she gives me her opinion. It’s
    uncanny how many times we completely agree on poems and poets.

    As far as what catches my eye, I really like poems that are unique. Of
    course, that could mean anything. A straight narrative poem can be
    unique because of its content; a concrete poem could be unique because
    of its structure. And I think I’m pretty open to the various schools of
    poetry.

    What or who do you enjoy reading?

    Of course, I love reading anything written by my wife. Outside of that,
    I’m very lucky in that I’m constantly receiving and buying new
    collections of poetry. So I’m always coming into contact with new (to
    me anyway) poets and voices. I also love reading all these crazy fact
    books that Reese is currently into reading.

    You have given a lot of advice over the years to help poets advance
    their works. Do you listen to your own advice, and do you find it hard
    to listen sometimes?

    I think advice is a good and bad thing. Advice is good when it gets
    people thinking. However, I believe advice should always be questioned
    and stretched. Advice is a good starting point, but people (whether
    they write or parent or cook or whatever) should always be open to
    experimenting and making things their own. So yes, I listen to my own
    advice often, but I also question and re-examine my own (and others’)
    advice often too.

    And in that respect, as you always frame the final question, what one piece of advice do you have for aspiring poets?

    Try new things. By this, I mean that poets should experiment with their
    writing but also their reading. Don’t just read the poets you know you
    like; find new voices that will spin you in new directions. Get out of
    the house or neighborhood or country even. Eat new foods. Take a
    different route home from work. Shake things up. Live. And then, write.

    *****

    Follow Robert on Twitter @robertleebrewer

    And check out his My Name Is Not Bob blog at http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com

    *****

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    About Robert Lee Brewer

    Senior Content Editor, Writer's Digest Community.

    16 Responses to Interview With Poet Robert Lee Brewer – Guest Post by Walt Wojtanik

    1. de jackson says:

      This was a great read, guys. Thank you! :)

    2. Diane says:

      Thanks for the interview, Walt. It’s nice to get to know a little more about Robert. I enjoyed reading it.

    3. Kim King says:

      That was a great interview! I enjoyed reading the questions as much as the answers.
      Thanks to both of you for sharing the interview. You have to be busy.

      Robert, just a warning…I had two boys before my daughter was born. It’s a whole ‘nuther animal! Believe me. You’ll have poetry fodder forever. And your boys will be surprised how that little girl can wrap Daddy around her baby finger. My baby is 20 and it still works. You and Tammy are truly blessed.

    4. What an interesting interview! Go Robert and Walt! Loved getting the chance to get into your mind for a little bit, Robert. Looking forward to reading your chapbook! So excited to hear how this new litle lady will turn your life upside down….because all women invariably will ;)

    5. Absolutely agree with Marie Elena both in Walt "spinning the top in reverse"… (great image there) and in
      expressing gratitude to Robert (Lee Brewer) for Poetic Asides. There are many poetry sites on the so-called blogosphere but the formatting, intersection and basic sense of community is unique at Poetic Asides. If, the site is, as I like to say, is analogous to a " street" then surely both the peace, the excitement, the inspiration and the continuing welcoming flow of poets and their poetry is in larger part due to the "guy" directing the traffic..our "Fearless Leader" Robert Lee Brewer. Thank you for providing a safe space in which to write and share. As Marie has also mentioned, this obviously takes a great deal of time and effort and the understanding that this time and effort occurs within the context of the joys, challenges, and even a near death experience of the bustling life of a growing, young family, is a testament to Robert’s commitment and recognition, and a connection with and an inspiration to, others who would write. I think the interview particularly illuminated the way in which Robert and by implication, " others" too might write in " the spaces."

      It was delightful to hear a feet-up-on-the-railing type of relaxed interview and in this way hear Robert’s voice. Great job to Walt and Robert on both ends of this memorable, informative and thoroughly enjoyable interview!

    6. Well, well, well … leave it to Walt to spin the top in reverse! Fun and informative interview, guys!

      Robert, if I haven’t thanked you lately, THANK YOU. The time and effort you put into this venture is clearly evident, and we are the ones who benefit.

    7. Gloria says:

      Great interview! I really enjoyed reading and learning more about you Robert. Now I’m anxious to find the poetry of Tammy Foster (Trendle) Brewer, a poet with whom I am not yet familiar. :)

    8. Jarvis says:

      Congrats on the honor!

    9. Willy says:

      Thanks to both of you for the interesting read. And I second Ellenelizabeth’s suggestion, wholeheartedly!

    10. I enjoyed reading you two.

    11. Thanks Walt & Robert for putting this interview together! Enjoyed the reading.

    12. I loved the questions Walt!
      Robert, your answers stirred my muse!
      Next interview should be with your wife!
      (Maybe before you both are too busy with the new princess!)
      Thanks to both of you.

    13. MiskMask says:

      That was a good read. Thanks to you both.

    14. RJ Clarken says:

      …and it was sure fun to read! Thanks, Walt and Robert! ☼

    15. Thanks for coming up with the idea, Walt! It was fun to have the tables turned.

    16. Now, that’s what I’m talking about. Very inciteful Robert. Not as painful as you imagined, was it? Great interview.

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