discover your poetic possibilities
SHAKE HANDS WITH YOUR HEART by Dave Morrison (2015, JukeBooks)
Usually as I read, I mark words or lines I might use in a review. I did so this time and found it was the review. Here I offer a few thoughts on Dave Morrison’s tenth book of poetry (beginning and ending with my favorite lines), and then I have some questions for the poet.
…We are bits of sea glass on a / vast beach of possibility…
“Being a Poet” (where people are always suggesting material for your poems)
“Celebrity Poem” (where the famous attempt “writing”)
“Cemetery” (about the poet’s father)
“Not Much Matters” (…he / learned to pack his indignity and / humiliation like snowballs, cold hard / lumps…)
“Close Your Eyes” (to get to a peaceful place without alcohol or drugs? “I take naps, and dream”)
“Congratulations. You’ve Already Won.” (Why? “The Universe is crazy about you”)
“Poet Speaks at Junior High Graduation”
“Shake Hands with Your Heart” (…Sometimes the drafty / old house lets in the most / light and air, not everything / needs to be fixed…)
Made Me Cry:
…writing is / cheaper than drinking even if / less socially acceptable…
Dave, congratulations on your most recent book. After nine previous books, do you find it difficult to write new poems? Do any particular themes run throughout your work?
Thanks Donna! The writing seems to come in waves, as if it has its own seasons. I quit pretty much once a year, deciding that either the ideas have dried up, or that I’m just tired of my own voice. But sooner or later, if I show up and put up my antenna, I catch a signal, and out comes a poem. The themes tend to be whatever interests me at the moment, but I must confess I have fun poking fun at poets, myself included.
I think it’s your ability to laugh at yourself that endears me to your work! You are also a guitar player. How does music affect your writing?
Indirectly, in that if I have any gift at all it’s a good ear. More often, certain pieces of music will rev me up and make me want to create something with some life to it. I remember once a while ago seeing Stevie Ray Vaughn on TV and thinking “I want to write like he plays.”
Do you write every day or only when something strikes you?
I am horribly undisciplined, so it’s usually when an idea sinks its little teeth in my pant leg and won’t let go.
I completely understand that feeling. When did you first consider yourself a poet? As a child? When you wrote your first poem? Something altogether wild and different?
I didn’t trust poetry for a long time, probably because in school it was always something that smelled like mothballs and had little to do with my life. Bukowski blew my mind a bit, in that a poet could be a regular un-academic guy trying to find his way. I always liked to write, and fairly early on that turned into songwriting, which I did for years. I suppose it’s a matter of momentum—after getting a few things published and doing some readings, I started to feel that I could call myself a poet, but if anyone were to ask me I’d say it has less to do with those things, and more with a state of mind, or how you interact with the world.
Oh, I can’t stand when schools teach poetry as a “unit.” It should be a daily, wonderful happening—and not analyzed, but simply savored and enjoyed. Glad you were able to find your own way as a poet, Dave.
What is your favorite food? Just curious.
Steak. My wife cooked a prime rib for Christmas that made my eyes roll back in my head. I heard the angels sing.
Ha! And now, your favorite and least favorite parts about writing poetry?
There’s lots to love: a seed of an idea that offers possibilities, finishing a poem that feels like good work and does its job, sharing a poem and having it affect someone. The downside is disappointment, that a poem fizzled, that nothing would come when you needed it to, the creeping feeling that you are a fraud or a hack. In the end it’s all a part of the whole, the good and bad.
Well-said. Insights you’d like to share with writers just beginning their poetic journeys?
None of these are original, but here goes: expect to write a lot of crap—that’s how you prime the pump. Try to find your own voice and be true to it. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by rules that limit you or any particular school of thought. It’s OK to have fun, and it’s OK to be entertaining. Don’t do it to impress someone, or get attention, or make money (HA!)—do it because it gives you something, it acts as a safety valve, it helps you find clarity, it’s an offering. Do it because in some gentle way, you have to.
I hope no one goes into poetry expecting to make money! That being said, it’s always nice to know poetry is still being bought and loved and given as gifts. Where can readers find your newest book?
For the moment it’s available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I would encourage folks to spend a couple extra bucks and let their local bookshop order it for them.
Yes, please support the indies! Seriously, there is no better friend than your local bookstore.
Finally, share one surprising fact about Dave Morrison.
I once helped to save the New Kids On The Block (and several NYPD cops) from being torn limb-from-limb by crazed teenaged girls.
I’ll leave that one alone…
Your newest book is one of my favorites so far. Thanks so much for blog stopping and answering questions!
Thank you, Donna!
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