8 May 2018

Poéfrika Interview with Geoffrey Philp


1. In your opinion, what is the worst thing that has happened to writing in the past ten years?
That is such a general question. I wouldn't know where to begin. The world is so big. I know some good things are happening in Caribbean writing. More authors are being published, and that is something about which we can all give thanks.


2. If there were one thing that the 'learning' and 'beginning' writers should do, what would it be?
There is a Buddhist story about full cups and empty cups. Be empty.


3. Poets spend a lot of time perfecting their craft, and then perfecting each piece. So, where's the money?
The riches are in the kingdom of heaven...


4. How long did you work on your first book? Do all your books take about the same time to "finish"?
My first book took me about ten years to write. Then, I began to write steadily. Hurricane Center took me one year to write because I purposely set out to write a poem a week. Made my wife crazy, but I did it. That was the only time I worked on a themed book. The other books have grown by accretion. I write and write and then at the end of five years or so, I figure out what I've been thinking about for the five years, the general themes, and try to arrange them into a manuscript. At least, that's how my latest collection DUB WISE came into being. I've been meditating on Reggae, my thirty years of writing, and what I've learned from being a part of the Boomer "Reggae" Generation.


5. A university teacher of mine (Elizabeth, one of the reasons I'm here busting my..., well... my head to try and write) told me that if
I ever got a poem published in a prestigious magazine, she'd go back and turn my grade into an A+. No matter when that happened. Question: Was that a good or a bad move on her part? Would you do something of the sort if you were a varsity teacher?

Although many of my favorite poets are published in many "prestigious" magazines, I don't think that should be a motive for publication or for working on a poem. It sets up the poet for all kinds of despair that s/he doesn't need. Writing poetry is hard enough. Why add to it? Better to coax the student to think about the intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards of writing--clarifying one's ideas and living as an actualized human being.


6. Do you read Asian poetry (or Asian literature in general)? If you don't, why not? If you do, please say a word about it.
It depends on what you mean by Asian literature. Does Thich Nhat Hahn count?


7. You are to encourage poetry students to write a poem. Please come up with a "writing prompt" out of your own experience, or out of
something else, using anything that invades your mind right now. Very short and simple.

Write a Chaucerian Ballade from the viewpoint of an unborn child speaking to his/her mother.


8. What position do four-letter words hold in your work? Can a poem be good despite its use of profanity?
In poetry every word must count. If the word conveys the feeling or idea, it is justified.


9. What saddens you? I know many of your happy poems. Have you written any that you consider sad?
A recent poem, "Mule Train" saddens me. It is filled with such despair and it's written from the point of view of a woman who believes she doesn't have many choices in life, so she becomes a drug mule.

What saddens me is when people think that they have no control over their lives and so become victims. We can be victimized, but we should never adopt the psychology of victims.


10. Here's an on-going poem. Please write the third verse.

They stood before me that night
With clenched fists and blown pupils,
Shadowed by leafless branches of a cotton tree



_______________
Geoffrey Philp is the author of a children’s book, Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories; a novel, Benjamin, My Son; a collection of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, and five poetry collections, including Exodus and Other Poems, Florida Bound, hurricane center, xango music, and Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas. His next book, Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories will be published by Peepal Tree Press in May 2009. He lives in Miami, Florida.


Geoffrey Philp

12 comments:

Michelle said...

Thank you, Ret and Geoffrey. I really enjoyed this.

I love these words, Geoffrey:

Although many of my favorite poets are published in many "prestigious" magazines, I don't think that should be a motive for publication or for working on a poem. It sets up the poet for all kinds of despair that s/he doesn't need. Writing poetry is hard enough. Why add to it? Better to coax the student to think about the intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards of writing--clarifying one's ideas and living as an actualized human being.

And this:

Be empty.

Rethabile said...

I'll try to be empty, too.

Kay said...

A wise man I would conjecture - no condescension intended, just stating a fact. Great way to start the day, reading that!

Rethabile said...

Cheers, Kay. You're probably right on the nose, too. Good morning down there.

Ruthibelle said...

this is good. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing me to Geoffrey's work. I went on his blog and checked out a couple other things... really great!
Nancy Phillips

Rethabile said...

Thank you, Ruthibelle and Geoffrey.

Rethabile said...

Nancy, glad you popped over. There's a whole body of work to delve into.

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Thank you, Rethabile, for your gracious offer. This was fun.

1Love,
Geoffrey

susan said...

Let's give this another go around. Your interview is linked to my weekly Little Lov'n Monday feature.

Rethabile said...

That's very cool, Susan. Thanks.

Julie said...

I saw Geoffrey's poem at Michelle's beautiful blog, and I just had to come over and read the interview. I would love to be in this man's class. I can't even describe how much I love "Erzulie's Daughter."

This interview is wonderful. I love all of the answers, especially #5 and #9. The riches answer also made me smile. Thank you!

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