I have a treat for you all. I’m visiting today with someone whom I’ve come to know over the past few years, though not as well as I’d like. Poet or playwright, Walt Wojtanik is someone to emulate, especially in this world of verse and meter.
Walt has made a place for himself in the world of poetry and in the hearts of those who’ve come to know him, even a little. On his poetry site “Poetic Bloomings,” that he co-administers with Marie Elena Good, he describes himself as a hibiscus.
I can see that about him; a large, brilliant carmine blossom, waving from its post at the end of branch, daring others to do as much, always teetering on the verge of romance or insight. And while the blossom might be short-lived, the impact of its existence is not. Walt’s poetry always touches the reader, whether with romance, humor, or philosophy.
This hard-working poet writes so prolifically that his cache of work boggles the mind. During the Poetic Asides PAD challenges, he contributes three or more new poems per day, all while administering multiple websites and taking care of the rest of his life. For the 2010 PAD challenge, he was selected as the Poet Laureate; a well-deserved title.
Hello, Walt. I want to thank you for doing this interview. I have some small idea of how busy you are with your own work, and I appreciate you taking time out to spend with us.
Walt: Thanks for the invitation to chat, Claudette. I’m flattered that you would deem my work as worthy.
Claudsy: It’s my pleasure. When I first met you, you were doing the Micro Poetry page on Facebook. I admit to being intimidated by you and all of the “Old-timers” that contributed regularly. Would you tell us about your work habits when it comes to poetry?
Walt: Although I have been writing song lyrics for 43 years, my poetry has only seen resurgence for the past four years. Attempting the 2009 Poetic Asides April Poem-A-Day Challenge, I began a journey that has brought me to this point in my writing career. It was surely serendipity in every sense of the word.
In being prodded to take on the challenge by a good friend, it had put me in contact with some incredible and very talented people. You mentioned Marie (Marie Elena Good). Three days into April I was ready to give up that foolishness and resign myself to the fact that I was a dreamer thinking I could write anything worth people’s attention. She placed a comment that was supportive and nurturing and kick started my muse into high gear. I built confidence and quite the following from that point.
Writing a poem a day was indeed a challenge, but writing 7 to 10 poems a day bordered on the certifiable. Half way through the first challenge I established my blog THROUGH THE EYES OF A POET’S HEART (link below) to keep my poems organized.
Claudsy: You and Marie Elena (whom I adore) have collaborated on two websites. Both are marvelous for the reader and aspiring poets alike. How did the two of you choose to create Across the Lake, Eerily? Both title and site are terrific.
Walt: I am from Buffalo, New York which sits at the eastern most tip of Lake Erie. Marie Elena is in the Toledo/Maumee, Ohio area which pinpoints the western most tip of the same lake. I had noticed a lot of Marie’s poems had a familiarity to them, as if I had experienced that of which she wrote.
We had determined that this connective body of water was the key. Our backgrounds and upbringings were eerily parallel, and in exploring that fact have become what we fondly call ourselves the “best friends we’ve NEVER met”. So here we are situated “Across Lake Erie” living these “eerily” same lives and the title of the blog came from that.
I presented the idea for it to my “Partner” across the lake. Initially, Marie played the Wayne Campbell (Mike Myer’s WAYNE’S WORLD) card with her “I’m not worthy” attitude. I needed to convince her that she was. And in that, I created a monster! (Love you, Marie!)
Claudsy: I can second that sentiment. She’s one of the loveliest people I know. Now you have Poetic Bloomings, which has carved out an international place in the sun. Poets from many venues congregate there, contribute, and have their own poetry pages, thanks to your beneficence. How much work goes into administering such a website? I ask this for all those other poets out there who might dream of having such a spot of their own.
Walt: Well, for as much as ACROSS THE LAKE, EERILY provided my and Marie’s poetry a place to grow after the Poem-A-Day challenge, we wanted to extend that further to allow our poetic friends and comrades to add their worded brilliance in a similar way that Robert Lee Brewer, the administrator of the Poetic Asides blog, had done.
Plus, it kept all those derelict poets off of the streets between challenges. The POETIC BLOOMINGS name came from a poem I had written for one of the PAD daily prompts where I referred to my poems as the “blooming of my soul”. When Marie suggested we try to assemble the blog, I had already anticipated such an undertaking. Within five minutes, POETIC BLOOMINGS was online. The design and weekly prompts are my responsibility, as is the IN-FORM POET (exposing our poets to a new poetic form) which appears on alternate Wednesdays.
The other half of those days, Marie conducts our WEB-WEDNESDAY INTERIEW in which she chooses one of our contributing poets and shines a light on their work and personal poetry blogs much like we’re doing here. We are looking to add some new features as we begin our second year of propagating poetry with our friends.
Claudsy: Still, you have a family and a life outside of your online activities. Most of us have outside lives. Is there much interference between the two for you, or do you allow that outside life to act as impetus and fodder for your poetry?
Walt: Short answer? Yes! It is a struggle fitting my writing (especially the poetry) into my life. And with the oppressive number of pieces I’ve written, you can imagine the burden that places on my home situation. My daughters (Melissa, 25 and Andrea, 19 going on 39) are my best critics and biggest fans.
I’d like to say my wife is fully on board with it, but I won’t lie to you, she thinks my time could be better spent. But my need to express wins out in the long run, grudgingly. My belief is that inspiration is everywhere you look for it, so a lot of my outside life is reflected in my poems. My first poetry collection – a chapbook entitled, WOOD, explores the relationship between me and my father who was a Master Carpenter (we lived on Wood Street) and battled alcoholism and liver cancer.
Claudsy: That volume of yours packs a punch, on several levels. Could you tell us more about how much of your young life goes into either your poetry or your plays?
Walt: You’d be surprised. If you took all my songs, and poems, short stories and stage plays and bound them together, they would tell my life’s story. As a thirteen year old geek, I was writing love songs for girls I hadn’t met yet. My debilitating shyness as I was growing up became the subject of many early pieces and I found them to be cathartic and liberating.
I had taken a Creative Writing class in High School, and the first poem assignment I had written was panned by the instructor and the class. What followed were scathing parodies that brought my cynical eye and sarcasm to the fore. A lot of what show up today came from that one class.
My children’s books were based on Andrea’s relationship with her first grade teacher. Up, my first play, TAKING UP SPACE was semi-autobiographical. So, I’d say 90% of my youth goes into my work. Can you imagine what I will be able to do once I grow up?
Claudsy: And speaking of those plays, what were they about and do you still write for the stage?
Walt: TAKING UP SPACE is a comedy about a young man who lives his life by the dictates of his precious Space/Science Fiction movies, until a “close encounter” foists realities into his life to open his eyes.
CHANGING WITH THE SEASONS is based on John Keats’ poem, THE HUMAN SEASONS, where he equates different stages of a person’s life with a different season of the year. My SEASONS take the lives of a group of friends from the playgrounds of their youth to their elder years.
SKETCHES IN STILL LIFE is a series of vignettes staged as paintings in an art gallery. All three have earned awards from the Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions and have been staged locally in Buffalo. I actually have drafted another play, am fashioning a musical out of my compositions and have a screen play that is drawing my passion at the moment. The trick is finding about six more hours in my day.
Claudsy: They all sound fascinating. I wish I could have seen them. I love plays. Even though you started late, you’ve written much about your life through verse. You seem to relish the intimacy of poetry, sometimes with urgency and others with reflection. What moods/emotional states grip you when you’re writing urgently; and when you reflect?
Walt: I can’t speak for other poets. As for me, poetry comes from a place so internal that I don’t write them, they explode out of me, dying to find the light of day. My habit had always been to write for the therapeutic aspect of it and hide them away. POETIC ASIDES rescued me from that for good. Poetry is emotion. It is heart. It lives and breathes and chokes on the marrow of life. It regurgitates and resuscitates. It expresses and soothes. It massages hearts and caresses souls.
Poetry is life. Do you want to know you’re alive? Write a poem with reckless abandon and let someone read it. You feel naked; vulnerable – vindicated and validated. I can write in a pensive mood, reflective mood, out of anger or from a deep and consuming love. It’s funny, I inherited one of my father’s “genies in a bottle”, but I never remember writing inebriate. Maybe I was just that wasted.
Claudsy: Tell us about “I Am Santa Clause.” This is a new and different venture for you.
Walt: Another tidbit from a POETIC ASIDES prompt where I saw myself as this Santa Claus figure flying the Christmas Eve sky to deliver a “frozen wisp of a sigh”, a kiss, to my beloved. The final line has become my tag line and the inspiration for the “I AM SANTA CLAUS” book.
It is intended to be collaboration with a friend from High School who has agreed to illustrate some of the poems to enhance the book. It tells of the “everyman is Santa Claus” part of life. When I say I AM SANTA CLAUS, I’m saying we are ALL Santa Claus.
Claudsy: I can’t wait to see this one come out. What other new plans do you have on your goals list for the rest of this year? Are you going to launch another website for poets or perhaps put out a marvelous poetry collection?
Walt: Marie and I are putting the finishing touches on getting ACROSS THE LAKE, EERILY into print. The Santa Claus project, of course. And I plan on sitting down for at least five minutes this year and do nothing but veg-out. I see that one falling flat on its face. I have enough websites to keep me busy for now. Maybe I’ll start painting again. Who knows? Being alive in the morning would be nice, too!
Claudsy: I can sympathize with that morning daze reference. Ha! I can also tell you that my book list order form is getting longer as we speak. I know your time is short, but if you would tell us, what practical advice would you give new writers, poets or otherwise?
Walt: You were born with all the tools you need to succeed. It’s your job to figure out how to use them. Re-invent yourself. You are who you aspire to be. Enough clichés?
All (of) that IS important to an extent, but let your eyes dictate what your heart sees. Be observant and inspiration will find you. And keep writing. From draft, through revision, to the final product, keep writing. The entire process matters. Robert Lee Brewer had quoted a friend who had said poetry was all about the process, and I have come to believe that completely.
Claudsy: And the process can be such a satisfying thing in its own right. I’m so happy that you could spend some time with us today, Walt. Thank you again for gracing my small space here. Please drop by any time you feel the need to sprinkle a poem on my word-filled garden.
Walt: Hmmm, poems and gardens? I do like the sound of that…
As Walt exits on poetic journeys of the day, I want to say how proud I am that he shared so much with us today. If you haven’t become acquainted with this man’s verse, do yourself a favor and indulge.
Please go surfing soon among the poetic islands created by Walt Wojtanik. Allow the sun to set as you comb the beaches presented there, as you pick up m multi-colored shells to take home and place in your treasure boxes. Take your mini-vacation at the following resorts and enjoy the treatments you find there.
WOOD, a poetry collection released in 2011.
One of the administrators of Flashy Fiction (http://flashyfiction.blogspot.com)
THROUGH THE EYES OF A POET’S HEART
My heart envisions what my eyes refuse to see.