Poet Norman Stock’s poems “Reruns in Retirement” and “It Had to Be” were featured in Issue #3 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed him about his writing, and his answers are below. For more information on Norman and his writing, check out his profile at poets.nyq.org. (For more information about “It Had to Be,” see below the interview).
What is your relationship to Queens?
I worked as a librarian in the Central Building of the Queens Borough Public Library in Jamaica from 1968 to 1973. Most of my library career since then was at Montclair State University in New Jersey, but my wife and I have been living in Jackson Heights since 1990.
How would you describe the writing you do?
My poems range from direct expressions of gut-level feelings to surreal fantasies, usually in free verse style, but sometimes in rhyme or in short prose forms. The tone is acerbic, edgy, irreverent, and often humorous. The humor comes naturally; I don’t try to be funny, it just comes out that way. I write against what is usually considered poetry.
How did you come to writing?
My father was a Yiddish poet and I grew up in a kind of literary milieu, although in a different language. I majored in literature in college and started writing poetry in my twenties, mostly in rhyme, until I went into William Packard’s poetry workshop at NYU, where I broke out of the rhymes and began to write in long lines of free verse, with the emotion driving the rhythm and the form.
What inspires you?
Anger, frustration, conflict, and poetry itself.
What does it mean to be a writer in Queens?
I am a city poet, the city is all I know. I ride the subways and buses, walk the streets, eat in diners, live in an apartment, use the public libraries, that’s my life, so that’s what I write about. The city life I live here is very similar to that of Brooklyn, where I grew up, and of Manhattan, where I have also lived, but the image of Queens is different. The poems I have written about Queens tend to be satiric because of its kind of hokey image. For instance, one of my poems is called “Wallace Stevens in Queens.” Another one, “How to Become the Poet Laureate of Queens,” was actually published as an audio in the New York Times online to accompany an article about the First Tuesdays Reading Series in Jackson Heights.
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn’t?
“How has work like yours fared in the poetry world?”
Straightforward, offbeat, humorous poetry that engages the reader is not well-recognized in the insular poetry world, where boring complexity and unreadable gibberish are often
more highly prized.
[Editors note: Mr. Stock’s poem, “It Had to Be,” was printed incorrectly formatted in our third issue. Here it is, how it was meant to be seen.]
Also, the “Third Fridays, Queens Writers Series (TFQW)” will read at Enigma Bookstore in Astoria on July 18th at 6:30. The format includes both featured readers and an open mike. All Queens writers are welcome. Mark your calendars!