A presentation of excerpts from 1980 Minnesota Writers Conference, held in Rochester. Part two features remarks by writers Michael Dennis-Browne, Carol Bly, Judith Guest, and John Judson.
Beryl Byman was the writer, producer and director of program.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
My brother announced to me by mail that he's going to have a baby. They would have a baby. He sent a card and it said The contact my name is Bert. You see my family likes to old has to name the fetus. My name is Bert. I was made in Crete I had been on vacation. I'm living in Mimi's belly. I shall come out next year. So I sent a card back, which said my name is Bert. I was made in Crete I have tiny hands. I have tiny feet at this stage. I'm still a bit of a squirt but one day folks Will shout. That's him. That's Bert. One of the poet's to appear at the Minnesota writers Conference in Rochester was Michael Dennis Brown Braun is also a professor at the University of Minnesota and was leaving for a four week stint in China four days after the conference Dennis Brown talked about himself his role as a poet and when he first decided to write poetry, I began to read American poetry in the 60s it always loved poetry was raised with poetry and love Wordsworth and Blake and so forth, but I began to read American poetry in the early 60s I read blind right now is living in Finland and I guess it was then I thought hey I want to do that too. I was very excited back the images of James writes and bligh's bombed and letting the energy of the poems and I guess early 60s when I was in my early 20s, and that led me to exploring ways to come to the states and I came and 65 even though Dennis Brown publishes prolifically. He does not think of himself exclusively as a poet rather. He views himself as a Writer, I don't feel like I'm a poet like sitting like a statue in a park. I'm a working writer. I don't I don't, you know randomly often claimed the title poet. I write poetry. I'm a working writer. No, I don't have that solemn sense of myself as some fixed stable thing creme stable Point almost an oxymoron. They're very fluid. I feel I feel I'm somebody in process occasion. I can make a poem but I don't beat my chest and call myself a poet. I'm introduced as a poet. I had to put up with that but That's not that's not how I see myself. I'm like a snail can I'm pushing my way forward slowly day-to-day, you know, or maybe a speedy kind of snail actually, but now I don't have this sense of myself as a poet Dennis Brown talked about his Irish and English background and how family themes are important in his poetry the influence of his father in his poetry is extensive. I like to think my father is listening as a believing man. I believe is listening. No, I don't write to bring him back from the dead because I've seen his body. I write to some poem please record who he was because he was worth knowing about and also I write to name those things about him that have hampered me in some ways from being who I could be and we're speaking a little bit in the past now cause I don't write about my father so much anymore, except it conventionally lovingly. I exercise a lot of my pain and unresolved problems with thinking a long poem. I did some years ago. I'm running up my mother now my mum my British mum who Intrigues me who I know I'm bound to in many ways. I don't mean fixated by but certainly bound to I've always written about family. I'm very intrigued by these people who are not you but more like you than anybody else you'll ever meet the fact that the same blood is in some mysterious way in the veins of both all of you very intrigued by Family Ties and I got my brother a great deal some what about my sister's about my brothers and sisters children you who love to climb the mountains you live among now, you are roped to someone and when one day you fall as you will why you've a son to swing from although Michael Dennis Brown wrote this poem for his young nephew. He has been writing poems about children for years. I've always done them that is in my writing life. I think my first ones written. Yes and 65 before I came to the states so much children's poem to go back 15 years. I think again I'm writing better children's poems and I used to and the morally things obviously help with that but I'll always like to do children's poems. I dread the day. I have my own children if I do and how many children's how many gooey children's poems. Alright, obviously want to a burden so much to do with nephews and nieces if I had my own God help God help a literary World. I'll just swap them with with the stuff even though Michael Dennis Brown writes about his family. He does touch on a variety of subjects. I've been writing some prose poems and I like to read one. This is called. At the Picasso show. This was the Walker show some months ago. What I loved about that was not the show itself only but all the letters of the paper people all over threatened it seen by this charlatan, you know really offended by what he was doing. I thought it was wonderful. You know people got baptized about the castle, you know, so many years later anyway school at the Picasso show. This is Pros. A big country boy with a high straw hat is scratching his head and saying to his brother beside him, but supposed to be three women. Jean who's taking me round says that's the goat that was made in a day proudly as though she had participated in the making though, perhaps to putting him down for the speed of the thing but somehow proud of it. That's the goat that was made in a day is a fine phrase don't you think so many people prodding the Picasso cat photo of Picasso eating a fish better than the photo label Picasso's eyes pretentious photo of Picasso parading on the sand and holding a parasol over his sweetie who striding along photo of Picasso with a pigeon on his head photo of Picasso huge color photo Chateau devolve, nog 1958 sitting in the studio near day's end sitting looking at his stuff several canvases. Huge side light coming in Honey color light Cedar light. Let's go on Cox and wine find some share of the goats cheese and some really good red. Shouldn't have mentioned the goat have to get back to the goat. Can't stay away from that goat. It's Peggy guggenheim's goat. She lent it such a bulge of bronze. Mr. Pablo pretty far from a Greek earn. Nobody touch that coat. Some preschoolers seated in a half circle in front of a large canvas and a lady saying to them almost apologetically for some reason he gave her three heads. Sure think the kids no problem. And how about a steamship coming out of a belly button and why not bananas in a years. Let's give her a whole bunch of heads and some spiders of fingers. No sweat Olie. Collage with some sheet music part of it the song share a good Donahoe suzaku van Dee's Les. Oiseaux. Come here son. Usually Simone de chirico told once that Picasso laughed a lot. They be sitting in a Café in Paris and someone would say look. It's starting to rain and Picasso would laugh and laugh and laugh. The castle rights. It should be enough to pick up a stone and say it is a bird right on sweetie. Listen in the Reeds. What birds are saying to the wind how happy they are the pretty lovers two women running on the beach to Arms held high and Hands Held two arms stretched out the big left breast of each exposed the see behind them a thick see they themselves so thick and ecstatic heavy with the Picasso pressure. I once saw a van Gogh's tubes of paint in the Jour de plume. You could see the dents in them where Van Gogh pushed with his thumb and forefinger to make the paint come out. I remember my mother saying once Picasso used to paint such lovely things but then he went all strange poor darling. I don't know what I'm doing here. I don't know what's going on. I just stumble in here with a group from Death Valley Junior High. I have to report to the Marines in the morning. I'm just doing this for a laugh. I swam a all the way Upstream from New Orleans. That's why I'm completely covered with grease. I can explain these holes in my forehead. On the way out. I buy four cards of a photo of Picasso with his son on the beach at one later and we'll send one to Peter and Peter in Wales and wanted Tim and Pablo in Finland. No photos of the goat goat eating a fish goat size goat with parasol goat with sweetie goat with finished canvases goat turning into cheese. I give Jean who is back at her big white desk a small card reproduction of two women running on a beach and pinned to the envelope at in bird and a Tin Fish and right next C in the middle, which is French for thank you and I leave in Picasso leaves with me. A sense of place is important to Michael Dennis Brown. He has a home on Leech Lake in the woods, which he says is a source of inspiration and strength to him the last two years starting in July of 78 when I was beginning a sabbatical I built with the help of a carpenter designer and many friends a house in the woods near leech like 200 miles from Minneapolis and I spent most of that person a year and now I spend every weekend I can that maybe three nights. And I've drawn tremendous strength from sitting there reading writing down what I see there didn't I mostly see birds? All right about a lot about birds, but I found that having built my own house a lot of it about myself. that had a tremendous feeling of How to say what I feel very good working their work very hard there there are no distraction for me there. I know where I am and that takes care of a lot of anxiety and so I can really, you know, when you're very lonely a lot of your energy goes into worrying about your loneliness and that yeah, there's less current of energy for other people. When were you are physically takes care of all that all your energy can go out from you into the world. So I think since the house is mine and I built it all my energy when I'm sitting there goes out into other things. I'm not self-absorbed because the house seems to take care of that about 200 yards from his house is one owned by Robert Bly. So there's a camaraderie of poets and Leech Lake the influence of other poets have figured strongly in Dennis Brown's life. He talks about DH Lawrence and one phrase I use in poetry and in talking about poetry and what I admire in Lawrence, Whitman and blind other poets is what I call the energy of attitude to use the word energy again. I felt a lot of poems. because The energy of attitude is deficient in the way. The poet is addressing experience a for to give it a simple example supposing someone you love dies in the poem says he's dead or she's dead. Oh God, I feel awful. There is minimal energy that attitude if when someone dies you attempt to really explore what it means to you to link into other deaths to link it to the notion of death to make some resolve to use your time perhaps in a different way than you have been that strenuousness is what I would call imaginative strenuousness is what I admire important what I call energy of attitude, I think for example in Yates his poems And tackling questions of the Easter Rebellion or what time is our history is he brings all his intellectual and spiritual forces to Bear upon that problem think of a scientist trying to discover a cure for say cancer and we have equivalents emotionally for cancers in US. When things have a dedicated scientists, you know spending a lifetime trying to crack the code trying to solve the problem bring immense energy to that task. I think imaginatively a poet has to bring an energy of attitude to the confronting of sale problem Dennis Brown knew John Barrowman at the University of Minnesota. He describes berryman's influence and I have some depth to Burma. I wrote I've written I published two articles and one is about Barrowman and they'll hire of you and it's called The Depths to the dream songs and it's about how much I and other poets Oberman. I met him a few times. I didn't know him well, but we knew each other I started teaching at the you in October of 71, and he was dead in January. Seventy, two three, four months later. But I admired enormously what he'd done in the dream songs. And in this article, I tried to say how useful how fruitful and fertile as was for mean other poets finding it Persona, which was a key to unlocking all kinds of parts of himself that he hadn't been able to write about before. However, excellent. Some of the poems main may have been for example, like homage to mistress Bradstreet. I felt that they were as important for him. I say Prufrock was for Elliot and berimbau has a super essay on Prufrock in his book Freedom of the poet. So I knew him I saw him I was in or of him as I said in my article he was he was John Barrowman people said about Odin for example that when you're with Autumn even people who knew him. Well, they were always conscious that this was wa Jordan, you know, you couldn't quite seem as wisdom We Stand Hue or TS Eliot same thing. So I was an aura Barrowman little scared of him little alarmed at times by his eruptions of volume or strange Behavior. But I kind of loved him in secret could never tell him that was there a particular philosophy to which Michael Dennis Brown ascribed or one single message. He wished to relay he answered this question with a revealing short story. I was telling a story today about after Elliot died in January of 65. There will let us to the times about him reminiscing and I was living in England still. And Valerie Elliott his wife wrote to the times a rumor and she had married him the last few years of his life and had been very happy and she said I remember Tom told me this story you got into a taxi month a month to go somewhere and was driving along on the driver was at talk me and he turned around. He said here your TS Eliot, don't you? And it said well, yes, how do you know about that always says, I know I'm all the famous people. He said are we newspapers? I see their pictures. He said I had I had Bertrand Russell in me cab once Bertrand Russell the famous philosopher. Well, Lou Russell I said to him what's it all about him and you know, he couldn't tell me. All the fall walking in the yellow Groves. We said enjoy this enjoy because soon we'll be in for it. There is no doubt. Our Winters can make a grave mess of Rural Life snow drifts and bad years as a 1968 forces to dump garbage in non burnable ever near the house until finally in March. There is a semicircle of refuse nearly at the front door. Even the German Shepherd lower the standards the snow around the doghouse entrance is unspeakable. This is just a complaint of a homeowner. The worst sufferers are probably the used-car lachman 50 times. The winter the snow must be taken off the car. That is an excerpt from Carol bligh's notes from the country which appeared in Minnesota monthly Carol Bly rights both fiction and nonfiction and will soon have a book of essays published. Although Bly rights in a variety of forms. She feels that short stories and essays are her particular strength, but I like yesterday's very much and I like essays that have narrative in them and I like short stories that have some s a quality about them. So some sort of a mongrel work of art between essays and short stories. So you consider the line between let's say the short story and they say now that finally drawn I think it perhaps should be finely drawn and great great great writers who are absolutely true to the material and aren't interspersing themselves into the the characters. They've already drawn do draw that line and they keep it clear what applies major concerns is that the writer deal with larger topics Global themes. She explained to the Kind of problems. We now grapple with our problems that did not exist in tolstoi's time, but it's say that it's 1850. You can write something in 1850 about human cruelty to other human beings. For example. And you can say well no matter how cruel they are and these characters. I've just described to you in this long novel have just lived there 80 years and now they're dying, but nature always goes on and the grass will always spring up and the sun will shine. So at least there's that now we haven't got that confidence. Now, we may have ruined the world and now there isn't anything to count on everything is up for grabs the sky the Earth the crust of the Earth the core of the earth and our weapons are so gigantic that there's a sort of malaise around at all times. No irresponsible major fiction writer, I think ought to have that malaise. If he or she feels it in in in some way in the story so that we'd not writing stories as if that didn't exist because if we're doing that then the stories don't know apply to our era and they don't touch our hearts fears. They may touch our hearts desires. You can write a 400-page novel still about Love and Death and fear of cancer private life and that will take care of some of our hearts Desires in our personal fears. But since public General group fears and group immorality and group responsibilities are a major part of our Lives now not to be able to handle it and fiction I think is a major loss to the people. So I'm interested in that and would like to do it and I ruined any number of budding short stories by trying to do it and failing Carol Bly brings a variety of experiences and backgrounds to her stories where she lives and has lived is important. Although she feels her stories do not have an easily identified location. New Yorkers story The Last of The Gold Star Mothers is an example that story couldn't have been set anywhere by the description. I gave it specifically because everything is a little bit wrong. But basically it's somewhere between Esco Minnesota and West Duluth on the escarpment of Lake Superior a people talk now, but writers having a sense of place is that your place the the northern part of Minnesota. I have two places one is the Prairie country of West Central Minnesota. And the other is that northern part in the prairie country. I've spent 25 years. And I know those fields and I know at the stars look like at night and I know what kind of trees are about the Riverbanks and what the blizzards are like there and then my childhood place and my present place is Northeastern Minnesota the old Northwest Territory part of the state with the disused dairy farms and and people selling smoke snowmobile parts in order to make it and the odd people set back into the woods who want to live there instead of living in the Twin Cities. Hmm. Is this the kind of background from which you draw your materials for writing right now, that's where I'm drawing them from what exactly are you doing now in terms of writing right now, I'm writing a short story with the help of the Bush Grant which I have and the Minnesota state Arts board Grant on on the stealing of bad art from English churches, and that story will be set in Suffolk and Essex in England. And two weeks ago. I was working on a short story which was set in in near Moose Lake Minnesota and next week. I will also be working again on a short story set near Sturgeon Lake Minnesota. Well, you mean to say that you are working on three-story simultaneously well all through the years when I was having children, I planned short story plots and they're in my notebook. And now I'm mining it you didn't write then when your children are small is that correct? I wrote a little bit but not much and never one whole sustained piece of art of any kind. I wrote essays for Minnesota Public Radio. And I wrote one short story when the youngest of my children was about four or five. You really started writing it and when your youngest was four or five know I started writing when I was about 21 years old. I wrote a novel about General MacArthur. It was a wonderful novel. It was one of the worst novels that I've ever seen in all my life. I had perfect Integrity is a bad work of art. And then I wrote short stories as well and I published an essay and True Confessions. So it was it was more or less a freelance effort. Is that right? Or you could say that and then you began writing seriously about when? It must have been about 1975. What was the impetus that that got you started on it? What made the difference for you? The youngest child got old enough for me to leave the room without his being in physical danger Bly draws on a landscape. It is larger than Minnesota. She is currently working on a story which is a far cry from the snowy climes of the Upper Midwest. This story is about stealing art works from Westminster Abbey and other cathedrals in England. I've lived some years in England and while I was living there I lived in a little town which whose Vicar of the church received one night while we were at choir practice of extremely bad painting and he was instructed by lady what's-her-name who gave it that she would like to have that painting on the west wall of the lady Chapel. And we all in the choir looked at the painting and we murmured kind things and afterwards when they'd all left. I was the last to leave from the vicarage for choir practice father. Jack said, well, what do you think and I said well if you left a painting on a wet night like this when it's raining in near the door and forgot to lock tonight a thief could probably steal the thing and you'd never they'd never be found because no one's out on a horrible night like this and I remember he gave me a very long look and he said no Carol, that won't do then I realized right away. It nearly would do and if there had been an organization that started at the time of Henry the eighth and stole bad art ever since that would explain why English churches are not crowded and ugly and jammed fullest some countries churches are and so I imagine organization that systematically could be called with something like an 800 number and you call up in you'd say we can give it an awfully lovely virgin. Statue she's a purple striped and she's standing and the Sextons awfully ill he hasn't been able to lock up the last week and there's 50 Quid in the Culvert north of town. And then the person say well that's awfully nice. I'm so glad you've got that. I'm sure everything will turn out very well for you and next Thursday night when the Sextant is still the thief comes and takes the painting and goes up to the Culvert and picks up the 50 Quid and it's very nice for everybody. So that's the original plot of this and I'm now working on it with a group of people helping me with the research last year Bly won both the bush foundation and Minnesota state Arts board awards for literature. I asked her what impact these had on her life. It's been simply marvelous the impact of spend that all the fear of money-making in a feeding the children disappears. And so I spend many more hours a day planning planning work in writing work and I've written much much more. Simply because I don't have to race around taking so many hours of other jobs. I work on a Time base as a Humanities consultant. And now I take fewer of those jobs as they come up because of this it gives me more time Carol Bliss interest in the humanities does not end with writing essays and short stories. She translates her concern for issues through her job with a Farmers Union. She does not believe that she will ever be able to make a living solely on writing nor is that her goal. She feels a doing work other than writing makes her life more interesting. I asked Bly if she felt pulled between writing and her other activities. No, I find that part of the excitement of getting up in the morning. They're all those things to do and I like the job as the manatees consultant and I like I own a small business myself of crossword puzzle making and I like that and I like the dealing with it and the worry of it and then I like the writing which has no Financial worry right now. Thank goodness, but it has all its own. Horrible sets of worries and I like that too. And when the day is over it's been very very stuffed full. I like that. Do you find that when you do all these activities? This is the writing prominent or does it let's say take last place in all your activity. Yeah, it's always around. It's like it's like living in a cave and hearing constantly a lion roaring outside. And sometimes you hear him in the undergrowth and sometimes you don't and sometimes you just hear the roar at Twilight, but it's always there. You know that the moment you exit from the cave you him to deal with he's in the area. So she will continue to write and also be active in other activities such as the Farmers Union and writers conferences and workshops. If she has a philosophy she wishes to express it is an attempt to have people think independently of popular Trends. Well, let's say for example, one of them might be a topic that's very current now with that people are very aware of which is the the split and temperament and in taste between openness. Permissiveness and he's in Social commitments and what's and what those people entering call the rigid judgmentalism, which is a right and wrong approach to our life and those two people are at those two kinds of people are at each other's throats often are particularly as sociology and in religious groups. Now there's a third element. I that I'm interested in that ought to be considered and that is if for example therapy is nothing but openness and not suggesting to people that they are followers and that you are a leader and they must think as you think and then you'll do the thinking if that's so for therapy. The opposite of that is not rigid judgmentalism or goodness and Badness and taking moral responsibility on purpose. The opposite of it is advertising, which says I'm the leader think as I will condition you to think so those are the two right enemies going on now. Hmm and I'm interested in that kind of subject and would like to see it handled in essays and and see it exemplified in short stories essayist Carol Bly. The movie Ordinary People has just opened up around the country based on the best selling novel by Judith guest Ordinary People describes the life of an upper middle class family confronting the tragedy of a suicidal teenage son returning home after a stay in a mental hospital the boy attempts to lead a normal life, but his older brother's death in a boating accident leaves them feeling guilty how this guilt and lack of communication in the family affects him is a focus of the story. It is a story of loneliness despair failure and the inability to express real feelings. The film version of Ordinary People was directed by Robert Redford Judith guest believes that the film is faithful to the idea of the novel and was involved in the final production at the Minnesota writers conference guest describe when she began writing and when she started taking yourself, seriously, I write every day. and I've written since I was about 12. And I view myself as a student of the craft and I think I always will I hope each day that I get to be a little better at what I do. I do it in this room. That's about 9 by 12 with the desk and a bookcase and some shelves with all sorts of note notes written on it and a buffet that sits in the corner with all the unanswered male waiting for me on top is a letter from my mother saying are you dead? Yes writing career was not planned. She never really thought she would be writing for a living even though she is not completed her second novel called second heaven. She was as recently as ten years ago teaching school. I was teaching fourth grade in Birmingham Michigan and I would go to class and about once a week. I would get this feeling like I had the stuff that had to be written and how could I do it? Because I was trying to conduct a class. So I discovered this really neat way of doing it. I just said to the kids. Well now let's all sit down and write for half an hour and then we'd all sit down and write for half an hour one of the biggest problems beginning writers. is finishing what they start it came as a surprise to know that she to experience this problem the goal I said was to finish something as I said before I'd written since I was 12. I never finished anything. I wrote to the emotional moment. I wrote when it just things just sort of built up and I felt like I had to get it down and then I'd write until I'd written myself into a corner and didn't know how to get out of it or I got bored with what I was writing about or something came up in my life. That was more immediate and needed my attention and then I just stick it in a drawer and go on from there. So when I wrote Ordinary People I decided that it was about time that I got some outside information. I'd never let anybody read anything that I'd written. It didn't strike me as as an occupation. It's really seemed more like a bad habit. Just something that you couldn't help doing and you had better do it in the closet because nobody's really interested in this other than you and When I started feeling the pressure of of of wanting to communicate, which I think at some point when you're writing that happens to you where it's not enough anymore to write in the closet you want you want somebody else to read it and see what they think of it and be interested in it guest is not a prolific writer. She writes only novels and does that very painstakingly laboring over every draft. I'm also very meticulous and slow. I only work on one thing at a time. I don't write articles. I don't write poetry. I don't write anything. But the thing I'm writing on at the moment. So since I've been working on this one for about five years, I don't see myself as being particularly prolific and Publishing 10 or 15 or 20 novels in my lifetime. I think maybe I've got three maybe four and if I do that, I'm doing real good. Maybe I'll I'll try some short stories after this just to get a little quicker. It's an awfully long term thing writing a novel with not too many rewards. You got to give yourself the rewards. I'm pretty much a creature of habit. I like to do things the same way every day. I always write in the morning after everybody leaves the house. I might read for a while and then go in and work and I work until I get tired. I work until 1 or 2 o'clock. Sometimes three sometimes more than that. I'm actually writing more than that now because I'm working on the final draft and it seems to require it. For some reason II seem to be able to spend more time there without getting as tired as I do like for instance. If you're working on first draft material, which I think is the most tiring of all in addition to being a writer Judith guest is also a mother and a wife. How does her family fit into her life as a writer. I write on the weekends because I used to not write on weekends. I felt that it wasn't fair to my family, but I don't care about them anymore. It seemed like the natural thing to say actually, they're busy with their things and they don't care about me anymore. No, I what I discovered was that if you break the Rhythm, it's very I found like Mondays were really hard and I realized that my knees were hard because I hadn't written on Saturday and Sunday. So I had to like re press the button and prime the pump and go through all this these this mechanism to get myself going and whereas if I would work if I just work every day for certain amount of time. I wouldn't have to do that. It would be right there ready to go the next day and then when I finished writing I use the rest of the day for what I call filling myself up I write I write an occasional letter again my sister I could feel her standing over my shoulder laugh. And I run my errands and I drive the kids places and I straighten up the house and cook and make phone calls. Like everybody else does and I find that a real necessary part of the process. It's I think writing is a draining process in an emptying out. And then what you need to do is live the rest of your life so that you feel yourself back up. So the next day you get up and you have something to say guests readily admits that her lifestyle allows this leisurely approach to writing she does not have to hold a full-time job writing only as she can I quit teaching to write Ordinary People. I to me, it's amazing that people can teach and write at the same time and I have just Untold admiration for people who can do that because I think from my own experience with teaching it demands exactly the same kind of energy and I don't have that much energy. I you know, I loved it when I did it. I really did love it. But I found that I was given myself all I was giving myself completely away and I didn't have anything left for me and I just got real selfish. But you see I could afford to do that. I mean, I've got a husband who supports me and some people aren't that lucky if Judith guest has a philosophy of writing she feels it is best expressed by novelist John McDonald a book written for oneself to meet one's own standards to gratify and satisfy and entertain the toughest one man audience a writer can ever have such a book has a good chance of acceptance anywhere. I dip my coffee water now from the spring. an earthworm crawls across its floor and I have two thick hinges made of brass fastened above it to the weathered hardwood door. The water seeps up through black leaves in a hole. I helped time hack from the Earth. beneath the boulder dropped by the glaciers melt It is older than any ideograph of man. or the walking Chinese I of their verb to be Who would believe me if I said? I have never been more happy. with life The poem Morning Song by John Jetson another poet at the 1980 Minnesota writers conference Judson is also a professor of English at the University of wisconsin-la Crosse. He spoke about his background in the events that led to his becoming a poet. Although Judson has been writing poetry for 22 years. He did not always want to be a writer. I started off becoming an engineer. I was a physicist and a geologist particular time. Then I worked for a great deal of time in electronics. I quit college and gone into the Air Force and came out and worked for for Norton and for laboratory of electronics and it was only through coming back to college and altering my major rather late in life on the basis of of course and Shakespeare from very fine teacher that I really altered my life and became an English major and a very dear friend who was now a fine experimental novelist was the first one to say to You're a poet so it wasn't really until I was about 28 or 30 when I became aware of the fact that maybe I had some talent because up to that point the only imaginative preoccupation. I had was between debt Rose and diodes and calculus Judson defies The Stereotype of the poet as an effete intellectual. In fact, he almost went in the other direction for it was chance that prevented him from becoming a professional athlete. I was a high school athlete I The multi-layer man like 14 letters and I subtract man in the baseball player and a football player and I went to high school. I went to prepare it to high school in the east on track scholarship and the baseball scholarship and then I got into college on the same and unfortunate Fortune for me. It was a very fine School in New England and I at the time was playing with a possible option at that time with the Braves and the Athletics and the Senators the Senators have since become the Minnesota Twins who I'm in the ironic position of being in the neck of the woods where if I had persisted in my original career. I might have been just playing Centerfield. I was the day that I was to go to spring training with the twins. I received word to report to the Air Force and I went to Korea instead Judson talked at length about the role of the poet how much of the poet's magic is conscious and how much is intuitive poet is never really understands fully that which he transmits as we were talking about in a class A poem which comes through you many times. The poet himself does not understand. I was always afraid to say that until I heard Robert Boles and I don't understand my thought don't he didn't know what the poem is about he became the vehicle for it and that was legitimate enough for me. Then to at least come up and be courageous enough to say yes, that's true of me. Also, it shows you how much lack of Courage I had in the beginning but I think that's that's true of most poets when you really ask him where the beautiful poem comes from that they have written. They cannot take full credit. What is the role of persona in poetry? John Judson defined the word and explain the role of persona in his own poetry. The Persona is another person whom you imaginatively embody now that allows you freedom from your own aesthetic philosophical moral restrictions if they are restrictions, an assimilation of his Now no one really ever gets completely free of himself. So you always are dragging part of your moral paraphernalia and your imaginative paraphernalia to another person but you change sex or you change age and you changed philosophical perspective and now you can say things and see things differently. Where did they come from? They had to be in you to articulate them or else they had to be visited upon you and that's the Dilemma that we're in but the Persona allows you that kind of freedom in life and yet a submission to the discipline of another point of view that life doesn't allow you. It's a severe restriction because you cannot then alter the personality you're speaking from as soon as the poet stocks to moralize through the mouth of a Persona the Persona dies. And only the poem is a good poem that has a Persona that achieves a human nature that doesn't violate the speaker's personality the speaker's philosophy and your thus left with a strange thing that you have articulated is in this case the but man I Have articulated something a man 25 or 30 years. My Elder has said and seen. How did I have access to that information? Well, obviously I've known and loved my grandfather's and I've known other people in Oldman and that delighted in this Michael Butler. the Button Man moon eyes is what I cut. More than anyone and out of clam shells. I held a records for the finest and the most what else is there? Why are used to crimp the hooks and Cutters in my hand the way a jeweler works? Then drill holes. So small. You could pick up a dozen on the Tyne of an oyster Fork. Like small oiled moons jeweled in an inner Sheen they made themselves from that sweet Mock and calm. With a river is sturgeon and catfish prowl and get caught by the size of their hungers. why some eat themselves into Hollows they can never swim from they wait until they died a Hulk fat and the girth and in the head like like Martha Foley who worked next to me for seven years until she grew so big her chair stood back where her bifocals couldn't focus where they ought and she started trimming small Pearl circles out of her nails life's like that like Martha and the cats. You stay so long in one place. You do yourself out a moving room. That shows how much you can trust your will and the world's around you. And the first thing that happens when any living thing get squatter's rights. Is that it wants too much? Catfish start on kin eating them men consume their kids with their own old ideals Or by some quirk in the river sand starts coming in. And though we're bread to muck in water. One day we were Ground our bones beached becoming dead-ended like a sluice left off. Now land man or River Falls the same each has currents Seasons depth and range, but none of them is permanent. Not a God damned man a thing. You take buttons for instance. First it was Japan. Our company got them cheaper there when unions made the quotas in our lives predictable. Then it was Plastics and then aged got to my fingers. And my knives couldn't move with the quickness. My mind had spent a lifetime gaining. The only thing that stayed with me then was the moon and the distaff bit once gave my sight. I always cut by that. And I cut some as small and perfect is a pin-sized platinum dowel sliced razor-thin another's tinted or tainted large as a blue giants thumb. Now I'm done. But I gave the world something it didn't count on something from my head to keep my spirit closed in. Well, I showed some to my grandson yesterday and he saw the shapes of colors of them cutting their way up there between his eyes. You can always tell when that rights happening. Well, why not extend our love's I say I got mine from my mother's night needs and my father's smoothness with her then and the way he used to say her name and mine allowed. Look here. You see this one is soft and pale. It is outlined like a moon in Mist about 5 a.m. It be / Slough down by farnum's gosh. Almost lost in the sky. like a herons Stillness to a shallow. I if Judson has a philosophy of writing or message who wishes to convey. It might be expressed in these lines on both sides of us the silence Rhymes Judson explains what these words and what this particular book means to him sometimes life hits you with things that you don't think you could take and ultimately you have to that particular book was ashes the candles work and that was written As a means of therapy. Our oldest son had been killed in a skiing accident each like teen the only way I could really hold myself together was to write in the mornings. And bashes the candles worked was that Testament and that little excerpt that you just quoted to me was a kind of haiku that came out of one morning the talking about the relationship between the worth of Life previous that after and it's meant a great deal to me. It's it's led to that sense of Silence which we talked about earlier out of which all the mystery comes that I think people have to be aware of that silence. Maybe one of the things that we find it difficult to do in our culture is to feel comfortable in its presence reading poetry is yet another art and clearly John Jetson has mastered it. Well, he has a musical quality to his readings that he admits is deliberate. I think what you're saying and I take it as a compliment as that, I found a kind of voice rhythmic correspondence and that I hope is true because it's been a long struggle. And it's been a struggle. Well, let me put it this way. If someone says right in iambic pentameter and you're always hearing another music, sometimes that iambic pentameter intrudes upon it other music and sometimes therefore the to don't want to go together. So you have a moral dilemma. Do you do what the teacher told you to do? Or do you listen to the inner music and consequentially love the learning of that inner music is a difficult is the difficult thing sometimes however, you're fortunate you are told to write in iambic pentameter and by riding in on by am I am dick pentameter you free that inner voice or you give it a new set of ways of coming through and I was fortunate enough to come to poetry late enough in life. Not at least to abandon my some of my New England willfulness. And so when someone said write an iambic pentameter, I did it and I found strangely enough when I started to write in meter. I could hear my voice in different ways, and I couldn't so I consciously tried to get at what I hear inside. And when I listen closely to that, I then became aware of what a lion was. I think that's one of the most important things and I get the only thing that a poet has to take what he does away from being prose poetry is written in lines. And until we understand the nature of the lines of our palms. We don't understand our form the cross poet. John Jepson. I'm Burrell biman.