Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Prof. Bill Yarrow. Bill teaches in Joliet, Ilinois, at Joliet Junior College, the first public community college in the USA
He has worked with faculty on issues related to teaching online and using technology in teaching. In addition, he teaches online classes in Shakespeare, film study and creative writing.
Bill is the author of Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press 2015), Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX 2012) and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary, DIAGRAM, Altered Scale, FriGG,THRUSH, Gargoyle, and PANK.
He is a six-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee and an editor at the online journal Blue Fifth Review.
Norm: Good day, Bill, and thanks for participating in our interview
Bill: Hi, Norm. Thanks for including me. Happy to be here
Norm: How did you get started in writing and what keeps you going?
Bill: Early encouragement from teachers, contests, and peers pushed me down the path. Inertia keeps me going.
Norm: How do you feel as to the way language and words are used today?
Bill: I seethe with rage when I read mottled poems and muddled prose. I long for clarity. Clear thinking as in Johnson. Clear writing as in Boswell. Bunyan is a tonic; Borges, Singer, and Miller intoxicants. I admire true difficulty as in Rilke. I despise the idiocy manifested in pretense.
Norm: What draws you to express yourself through poetry and what drew you to poetry? As a follow up, what is the source of your poetry? From where do the poems come?
Bill: Writing draws writing. Art inspires art. Poems come from other poems. But inspiration is everywhere. Poems are only one form of expression for me. They exercise my mind in a certain way. I like the healthy exhaustion I feel after I write one. I like their tightness and conciseness. I like being forced to write tightly and concisely. Writing itself doesn't give me pleasure, but writing well always gives me pleasure. Who is not drawn to pleasure?
Norm: How would you define a good poem?
Bill: Good poems are safe poems. Good poems bore me. I don't like good poems. There are too many good poems out there and not enough great ones. As Voltaire said, "The good is the enemy of the best." I'd like to see more poets swing for the fences. More homers! More grand slams! Push yourselves. Stop being satisfied with base hits. What is greatness? Greatness rewards and repays attention. The more you look at things that are truly great, the more you see.
Norm: It is sometimes said that people in times of need turn to poetry. Is this true and if so, why?
Bill: Bad poetry maybe. Poetry as solace? Poetry as comfort? I don't go to poetry for comfort or consolation. I'm trying to imagine people in need turning to Rimbaud or James Tate. I think some poetry (some lines of poetry) may be helpful to people in pain but more likely poetry's medicinal properties are incidental or accidental.
Norm: Would you say you get clarity about a subject from writing a poem about it? If so, please elaborate.
Bill: Excellent question, Norm. Auden said that poetry is "the clear expression of mixed feelings." I like that quote, but that's not how I approach poems. I rarely start in a state of confusion so I am not searching for clarity exactly. I guess my game is surprise. I am, in the process of writing, looking to be surprised. When I surprise myself, I am happy. For me, discovery is the real delight in writing poems. New concepts, insights, unplumbed feelings, unplanned narratives, shifts, novel word combinations—things happen in writing poems that, for me, could only happen while writing poems.
Norm: Has the Internet changed the way poetry reaches people?
Bill: I don't know if it changes the way poetry reaches people but it definitely has changed the way people reach poetry. The Internet is like an open bank vault: literary riches surround us. Take whatever you want and take as much as you want. It's life in the literary fast lane. Like the line in the Eagles song, "Everything, all the time."
Norm: Could you tell our readers something about Blasphemer and what purpose do you believe your poems serve? What matters to you about the poems?
Bill: Oh, gosh! Self promotion! Blasphemer is a fun book, it's an edgy book, it's an unusual kind of poetry book. It definitely won't comfort you. I wouldn't go to it for solace. You may find parts of it (or all of it!) offensive, but it will definitely make you reconsider what can or can't be a poem as it will encourage you to reexamine all you think you believe.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Bill: I'm on Facebook, Fictionaut, LinkedIn, Twitter, Goodreads, Scriggler, Smashwords, MacGuffin, SoundCloud, YouTube, Vimeo, academia.edu, and Follow Here For My Website
Norm: What is next for Bill Yarrow?
Bill: I'm working with the composer Ray Fahrner on a CD of music and poetry. The CD is called Pointed Music and consists of 38 pieces Dr. Fahrner has composed specifically for readings of poems from Pointed Sentences, my first full-length book of poems, which came out from BlazeVOX in 2012.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Q: Who should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in literature?
A: Oliver Sacks.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Bill: Thank you, Norm! I really enjoyed your questions.
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