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A Conversation With Poet Steve Ausherman
http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/5466/1/A-Conversation-With-Poet-Steve-Ausherman/Page1.html
Norm Goldman


Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.

He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.

To read more about Norm Follow Here






 
By Norm Goldman
Published on October 15, 2012
 


Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com Interviews Poet Steve Ausherman



Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest poet Steve Ausherman author of Creek Bed Blue.

Good day Steve and thanks for participating in our interview

Steve:

Thanks for taking the time to interview me Norm. It is a pleasure

Norm:

How did you get started writing poetry? What keeps you going? As a follow up, what does it mean to you to be a poet?

Steve:

(How did you get started writing poetry.) I moved to New Mexico twenty years ago during a turbulent time in my life. I grabbed a pen and tried to write my way out of the emotional corner I found myself in. Writing had little effect on the external world, but I found myself changed...more centered, more mellow, more in touch with myself...when I wrote. I have been writing ever since...nearly daily...some periods of my life more than others...but consistently for the last twenty years. It may sound melodramatic that I found my writing life in a period of confusion and pain, but it would probably be the most accurate portrayal.

(What keeps me going?) Through the good and bad, ups and downs, hard times and smooth sailing....I find the need to write down the stories, the lightning moments of clarity, the pain, confusion and joy of living. So...recording the story of my life is part of what keeps me going. As well, there is always an ongoing attempt to understand my experience...my longing, my past, the knot of my current life...and writing helps me shine a light upon and understand more fully my experience.

(What does it mean for me to be a poet?) It means that in this rushing, crazy, turbulent world that there is a place that I can go...an experience that I can have...a voice of my own that I can find...and that I can create meaning out of my life and this world whatever life hands me. It is like being a secret reporter with no press pass, no teletype, no editor carving away at my words...and that I can report on the world through my own unique and unfiltered lens.

Norm:

How long does it take for you to write a poem and where do your ideas come from?

Steve:

The shortest amount of time is about a week....the longest is a year or year and a half. Inspiration and ideas comes in flashes and sparks. The process of revision always takes me quite a long time.

Norm:

How has your environment and/or upbringing influenced your poetry?

Steve:

My upbringing on a farm in PA directly influenced the details of my current book....the soil, the people, the wild animals that inhabited the woods and the fields.

Besides the details of my book, I was raised by a reader...my mom... and books were encouraged in my family. Some of my first memories were of my mother reading to me and I have many memories of times spent with a book in my hands...on the couch, in bed at night...and it was both something that had the power to take me away and also made time and problems disappear. A large bookshelf dominated the front wall of the family room of our house and was stuffed with novels, travel books, medical journals, and mysteries. My aunt Ruth was the counter-culture member of my family and she was always trying to pass alternative stuff my way...the Cousteau Log, Greenpeace newsletters, etc.... There was never a time that I remember not having books around and I feel lucky that a love of reading was instilled in me at an early age.

Norm:

What do you want your poetry to do? Entertain people? Provoke thinking?

Steve:

Like any creative person, I have a desire to entertain...for people to enjoy my work...to be transported away by it.

I also hope that the poems of this current book make people think about our American way of life and how quickly things change in this country...how quick we are to build, to make new, to pave over, to make it shiny and easy...and what we are leaving behind in this desire to constantly purchase and make new. What are we losing? What might be of value to keep? Are speed, newness and ease really the new gods that we must all worship? People in our country line up to buy the newest cell phone in the way that people in the 1930's stood in bread lines and no one questions the value, or lack of value, in this act. What goes in the landfills? What people, or ways of life, are we running over in our quest to purchase the newest and the best...be it a phone, car, house or lifestyle?

Finally, I hope that the stories and poems in this book inspire people to talk to their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. That readers get inspired to get their family oral history from the people who lived it before it is lost to time and the grave. The older I get, the more that I have the desire to do this...and I'm consistently surprised by what I don't about my family and delighted by the richness of my family's experience.

Norm:

What makes poetry come alive in a classroom? How can teachers foster a love of poetry, rather than a fear of it, in their students?

Steve:

The teacher is key to poetry coming alive. I feel as if we have all had experiences where amazing information...scientific, historical, poetic...has been shared by someone who simply isn't invested in the material and the info not only falls flat for the student, but has the potential to completely turn off the student for the subject. So, having a teacher who loves the medium of poetry is key.

Secondly, I feel that having an instructor who is engaged actively in their own writing process is important. A teacher who is currently involved in their own process will be better tuned in to the experiences of their student poets. Not only will they be in tune with the good times...those moments when the pen moves across the page and the words seem to flow like water and you lift your head after writing and see that hours have gone by, but they will also be in touch with the challenging times...those times when the words seem to disappear and your back hurts while writing and the empty page of paper (or computer screen) seems as barren and wide as the desert in Lawrence of Arabia. Having a teacher who is engaged in her own writing process will allow her to more deeply connect with...and therefore help to guide...her students through the strange landscape of being a writer.

In response to ways in which teachers can foster a love of poetry, rather than a fear of it, I believe so much has to do with feedback. My undergraduate major was in the fine arts and, looking back, I am still surprised by the aggressive and negative nature of critiques and the interactions between students when giving feedback about creative work. I have seen people share their artwork or writing in critique environments and have seen people eviscerate their creative efforts. This can be debilitating to creators with even the highest sense of self esteem. I think that teachers should try to continually remind themselves that their students are putting themselves in a vulnerable position when they are sharing their work in the classroom...whether it is in the form or writing or spoken work... and to try to set up an environment where the writers feel emotionally safe in doing so. Students are sharing their "deepest selves" when engaging in poetry and when a teacher creates an environment in which it is safe for these students to do so... to try and even to fail...they'll see their student's work grow and flourish.)

Norm:

Do you have any suggestions to help some of our readers that wish to write poetry to become better poets? If so, what are they?

Steve:

Fit it in the cracks! To get better at writing, you have got to write as much as you can and there will never be a perfect time to do it. Every stage of life...adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, being a senior citizen...has its challenges, stresses, busyness and distractions. There will never be the perfect set of circumstances for anyone to write. Fit it in the cracks! Poetry is the perfect art form for this as writing can be created on a grocery store receipts, sticky notes, journals, yellow pads, IPads, laptops....any flat surface of paper or any digital device can be used to record your creative efforts.

Painters don't have this luxury. Neither do sculptors, photographers, printmakers or so many other people whose creative efforts are tied down by material constraints. As well, since most poetic forms are short and sweet, so much can get done by simply trying to fit a bit of writing in during a coffee or lunch break at work. Novelists and essayists need longer swaths of time to get any truly productive work done. Poets are lucky to have an art form that can be fit into those spare moments of a busy life! Try writing on a piece of paper while waiting in line at the grocery store. How about writing while at a red light? How about writing at the laundromat or while the coffee is brewing in the morning. Fit it into the cracks!

Norm:

What is your favorite poem in Creek Bed Blue and where did the title of the collection come from?

Steve:

My favorite might be "Her Wrinkled Skin" as it is about my great aunt Velma. She was the last of the elders that I grew up with to die and acts as a transitional figure in my mind between the farming way of life and the more modern way of life that my parent's generation had to embrace. Velma's generation was raised with the rationing of the Great Depression and managed the hard sacrifices of the years of World War Two. Her generation was educated in one room school houses and never had the chance to even go to high school as they were needed to work on the farm. I feel as if this poem is both an homage to their generation and a celebration of Velma's life.

The title "Creek Bed Blue" comes from the omnipresence of the land in my young life and the creek that ran through our property. My brother and I played in the creek, watched it swell and muddy with rain, and caught crayfish and salamanders in it. Eating dinner at the kitchen table bought views of the creek and the woods beyond through the kitchen window. Humid Pennsylvania summer nights were cooled in the dark morning hours by this creek running through our land. The title refers to this creek in our life and the sadness surrounding changes to both the land...encroaching suburban sprawl and development...and the creek itself...it transforming from a wide spring-fed creek to a cut-bank gully that swells with runoff from the local suburbs that combines gravel from the road with trash from surrounding neighborhoods.

Norm:

Who are your favorite poets and why?

Steve

Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry for the deep connection to nature that I see in their work. Alison Luterman for her insights into human experience. Walt Whitman for his beautiful, rambling, drunk-in-love-with-the-world verse.

Norm:

Where can our readers find out more about you and your poetry?

Steve:

Readers can visit my blog at aushcreates.blogspot.com or can contact me through my Facebook page. As well, they can visit the Encircle Publications website to get more info on "Creek Bed Blue" and "Favorite from the First Fifteen Years" in which two poems of mine appear in the Aurorean's recent anthology of their favorite poems.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

Steve:

I hope that this book of poetry can inspire people to get out and take a walk in nature today and appreciate the woods, creeks, rivers and mountains that they may find close to their homes. And I hope that in these wanderings they can find some solace, and also find the strength, creativity, and courage needed to create solutions to protect the open spaces in our country.

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors

Steve:

Thank you Norm!

Follow Here To Read Norm's Review Of Creek Bed Blue

Follow Here To Purchase Creek Bed Blue