On the process of completing my poems, I’m very much a poet of Place. As such, my poems result in an invented presence: what my own mind determines as the emotional resonance of a place—what reverberates in image, or emotion, with potential editors and readers. Image is particularly important for me.
What has always captivated me are the ruined and abandoned places of America, and the people that inhabit them—real or imagined. These are richly evocative to me as a writer. As with Richard Hugo, who said he knew very little about the towns that triggered his poems, I know very little about those places or people I write about. Yet, to continue with Hugo—a major influence on my early poetry writing—I take emotional possession of what obsesses me. Yet not all my poems are set in these places; often they are places I write about after visiting them, and somehow they compel me to write about them.
“Gunner George Passing Starbucks the First Monday in July” was written about a World War II veteran I used to see nearly every day at the coffee shop I frequent. I’d seen him around for three or so years before I was ever moved to write about him, and when I finally did it was centered on watching him stand on a sidewalk by the café while he gazed down the street. “Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook,” was written about a popular shore area in New Jersey, near where my parents live. “Hotel in Milwaukee, Early July,” and “Sunday Morning Blues Played Through a Blown Amp” were written by visiting other places, while “The Shipyard Anglesmith, Terminal Island, 1943,” was triggered by one of those abandoned places I mentioned above, this time the former Bethlehem Steel shipbuilding plant on Terminal Island, a part of the Port of Los Angeles complex, and a few miles from where I live.
For each of these poems I learned something new, whether raw facts about an obsolete occupation, such as an anglesmith, or a common enough street musician.