The Eat Sleep Write.com Interview With Dah by Poet, Kerry Black
Dah, Thank you for joining me today! It is the goal at ESW to spread the word about each poet we interview. May I please begin by asking how long have you been writing and what inspired you?
Dah: Kerry, Thank you for having me here, and the pleasure is certainly mine.
I have been writing since the beginning of time. I cannot remember when writing was not a part of my life. So many times I have been asked, why do you write so much? And the answer is always the same, because I can’t stop. As for inspiration, it is mostly nature, love, dreams, visions, lost love, the world’s melancholy, you know, the topics most poets write about.
Where are you from? Where do you live? Where have you lived? How have your homes influenced your writing?
Dah: I was born and raised in the village of Ilion in Upstate New York and have lived
in a number of places including Manassas Virginia, Boulder Colorado and Southern Germany, on the Rhine. I have lived in Berkeley California for the past thirty-five years. As far as I can recall my homes have never influenced my writing. I am a café addict, so I spend large amounts of time writing in cafes in my journals in pencil.
Where would you most like to live?
Dah: The Italian Venetian Islands: Venice, Lido, or Burano. I have been there three times and will continue to go back as I am working on a fine-art photographic collection that I will compile into a book sometime over the next five years.
In reality, I will most likely move to Pacific Grove, California within the next eight years. I vacation there a couple of times per year. The dramatic Pacific Coast in that area is highly visible in my poetry and the laid back coastal lifestyle appeals to me.
What are some day jobs that you have held and how have they affected your writing?
Dah: Being that I dropped out of college several times, I have held many jobs, and if any has influenced my writing it was working in cemeteries as a gravedigger. There are many death-centered images in my poetry. I was also a licensed general contractor for a couple of decades, and a studio photographer for several years, and for the past ten years I have been a fulltime Yoga Teacher. I have been practicing Yoga for forty-five years.
How does your environment impact your writing?
Dah: Since I have been labeled a nature poet by many of my readers, well then, yes, the environment impacts my writing on many levels emotionally, spiritually and joyfully.
Can you share a bit about your upbringing/formative years, please? (Have you siblings? Does anyone else in the family write? Etc…)
Dah: I was raised in a Catholic family, which has to do with the Gothic-like influence in much of my early works. I left Catholicism at the age of eleven, or to put it more honestly, I was kicked out of our parish school and church for refusing to call the priest Father, as in Mathew: 23:9 “And do not address anyone here on earth as Father, for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father.” (New Living Translation). This was my first taste of being a recusant and it tasted pretty good. To put it bluntly, I left religion all together at an early age with no regret. This information is in my first book ‘In Forbidden Language’ (Stillpoint Books), and my follow up second book ‘The Second Coming’ (Stillpoint Books), in which Stillpoint’s publisher Eve Costello has aptly called “Dah’s Manifesto”. And, no, I am not a recovering Catholic, as I never
swallowed “the pill”.
Out of three brothers and three sisters I am the only artist / writer in my family.
Can you share a bit about your schooling, please?
Dah: Not much to talk about there. School and I have never been compatible. Being that intellectually I am not the fastest bird in flight sometimes it takes me a bit longer to reach an altitude of comprehension. I am seriously dyslexic and this makes it difficult for me to coordinate the eye to brain connection which has always slowed me down in reading, writing and math studies: letters and numbers rapidly move around on the pages, for example: 94 becomes 49, piano becomes patio, right is always left. I graduated from high school and spent a bit of time in small colleges studying art history, psychology, photography, music theory, and it is interesting in that the only thing I did not study is writing.
Is your writing genre your preferred reading genre as well? If not, what other genres interest you?
Dah: Yes, I read poetry and prose mostly, and occasionally biographies and novels. I recently read Man Ray’s autobiography. I couldn’t put it down. He was the only American to be an original member of the French Surrealist movement.
Which poets have inspired your work?
Dah: Nearly all of the early and mid twentieth century European poets.
What is your favorite poem and why (yours or someone else’s-feel free to answer for both yours and someone else’s)?
Dah: I don’t have favorite poems as there are simply too many that are so profoundly deep and unique.
Who inspired you to write poetry?
Dah: I began focusing on poetry in my early teens due to my ninth grade English teacher.
She would begin class with reading a poem by Neruda, Whitman, Poe, and others. Something clicked with the poetic language and especially with some of Neruda’s earthy simplicity. Around this time Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison’s poetry were just coming to light and as an easily influenced teenager the complex surrealism in their work had a sweeping effect over my psyche. The first time that I heard Morrison declare, “You cannot petition the Lord with prayer” my imagination blew wide open.
Are there recurring themes in your work?
Dah: Yes, as is the case with most poets. Mine are the ocean, the coast, the forest, rivers, wind, dawn, dusk, death, lost love, found love, sex, dreams, city life, and currently the world’s ongoing grief and melancholy.
When choosing a title for your poetry, how do you decide?
Dah: If I wait long enough the title whispers in my ear and then other times I agonize over titles for days.
Are you working on any compilations at the moment?
Dah: At the moment I am working with the editors from ‘Transcendent Zero Press’, finalizing the edits and changes for my fourth poetry collection which should be released in Summer 2015. This is a new publisher for me, and TZP’s Editor-in Chief Dustin Pickering is easy going, and he is open to giving the creative reins to his authors on how the cover and the interior should look. This is very exciting!
I am also working on my fifth and sixth poetry manuscripts simultaneously. My fifth manuscript titled, ‘Something Else’s Thoughts’ is with an editor now. I use at least three editors (due to my dyslexia) before I send my work to publishers.
‘Something Else’s Thoughts’ is a conceptual piece in that each poem plays off of the poem before it and plays into the poem after it forming a story based around dreams within dreams.
From my sixth work-in-progress manuscript, currently untitled, 17 of the 60 poems have already been accepted for publication by various editors of poetry journals.
Do you enter contests? Have you won any?
Dah: Over the past ten years I have entered a dozen plus contests, and not only have I not won, I have never made the finals or have never received an honorable mention or an editor’s choice award. It is costly so I have stopped.
Where else do you publish your work?
Dah: Over the past two years my poems have had great success in getting published in journals, magazines, and reviews. 82 of my poems and an essay have been published in 37 reviews nationally and internationally during this short period, which also includes a half-dozen University publications. Apparently I have hit a vein with editors and I am feeling lucky and grateful. Recently a few editors have contacted me asking to see my new works for their upcoming issues. That is a fantastic feeling.
Do you know how the poem is going to end before you start or do you just let the poem write itself as you move along?
Dah: My poems pretty much write themselves from a subconscious level in that on a conscious level I have very little influence over a poem’s direction or ending. When I do realize what the poem is saying or where it is headed then I jump into the driver’s seat and hit the accelerator. When I become too conscious about writing a poem the creative process simply stalls.
What does your writing process involve?
Dah: My belief is writing processes belong to academically schooled poets. They are taught to develop a process, a structure, or an environment to encourage their writing. As a non-trained / non-schooled creative writer, I have never thought of a writing process. It sounds so fenced in, so confined for my taste. I write when I have something to say and mostly that is between 4:AM and 8:AM after a mug of Dark French Roast on any given morning. Also, I travel a bit which creates a natural process for my creative writing. I don’t believe in writer’s block. When I can’t write it is simply because I have nothing to say. During my nothing-to-say periods I edit and play with my work on hand.
Please describe your life as a poet.
Dah: Honestly, I do not have a life as a poet.
How many poems have you written to date? Has the number surpassed your
Dah: I have been writing for a number of decades which has created a hefty stock of poems and prose something like five thousand with hundreds of them lost during my several moves in the 1980’s. I never have expectations on how many poems that I should write or that I should have written.
How does it feel to know that hundreds, possibly thousands and eventually millions of people will read the poetry you have created?
Dah: I feel lucky!
Is there anything that you would like to say to aspiring poets?
Dah: I hear many aspiring poets say that they want to make a living at selling poetry books. I tell them to get a full-time job in a bookstore and work the poetry book section. Also, never let rejection dictate who you are or slow you down. Rejection is simply the name of the game when submitting your work no matter which creative genre you are involved with. The key is to stay focused on your own thoughts about your work. My poem “Rattle” (from my forthcoming fourth book) was rejected twenty-eight times within a twelve-month period, and because I had faith in this poem I never stopped submitting it, and Bingo, it has been published by the great ‘Orion headless’: Editor, Sara Fitzpatrick Comito.
What was the hardest part of writing poetry?
Dah: Reaching my writing tools quickly enough before I fail to retain my thoughts.
What do you enjoy most about writing poetry?
Dah: Nailing the perfect metaphor or simile, and I enjoy the editing process, the shaping of a poem from first draft to finished product.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about poetry that isn’t so?
Dah: Apparently most people think very little about poetry in that there is little or no money to be made from producing and attempting to sell poetry books.
I live in a small city that has around eight-plus bookstores and over the past ten years all of them have downsized their new poetry sections considerably, and even in my travels I see that poetry sections have been limited to one or two shelves in all of the bookstores with focus on the same top-ten academic poets. I find this rather dull that all of the bookstores are pushing the same poets over and over again.
You have many interest and inspirations. What are they?
Dah: Wilderness camping, camping along the coast, cycling, walking for hours, meditation, deep relaxation, stillness and silence.
In other words, what truly inspires you?
Dah: Light inspires me. Wind inspires. Dawn inspires me. Conversations over-heard inspire me.
How do you define your poetry? (Romantic, Modern, Structured, etc…)
Dah: All of the above.
Who are some of your favorite authors (as opposed to poets)? How have they influenced your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Dah: Mostly European writers such as, Pierre Reverdy, Andrea Zanzoto, Paul Celan,
Zbigniew Herbert, Claude De Burine (her work leaves me breathless). They have influenced me by teaching me to write what is exactly on my mind and to be unapologetic about it.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
Dah: With the onslaught of Texting, SnapShot, or whatever the next big digital social network will be, serious reading is taking a back seat. The future generations are going to be even more distracted and edgy by being wired to the WEB with its short attention span. As for writing it will always have a place in society, as in Blogs.
How do you find or make time to write?
Dah: Writing tells me when I must write. I never think about it. Many times while walking or driving I have dropped to the sidewalk or pulled my truck over to get a first-draft line or two out of my head. Again, there is no process or no rules for my writing.
What are your free-time hobbies?
I really don’t have hobbies I have passions that include caring for my desert-like garden, cycling, canoeing, walking in the hills, watching independent movies …
What is the title of your most recent release? What are your previous releases?
Dah: My recent book is my third poetry collection from Stillpoint Books, ‘If You Have One Moment’, released in January 2015. My other two releases from Stillpoint Books are ‘The Second Coming’ (2012) and ‘In Forbidden Language’ (2010). Stillpoint Publisher Eve Costello (Spokane, Washington) has been the grand catapult for getting my work into books, and I am forever grateful for Eve’s support.
My excitement right now is the anticipation of my fourth collection being released this Summer, 2015 from ‘Transcendent Zero Press’ (Houston, Texas), titled ‘The Translator’ which has been summarized like this:
“Where most contemporary poetry collections focus on family history or cultural sentimentality, the poems in ‘The Translator’, composed with real and surreal imagery, address the current social, spiritual and melancholic conditions of humanity as a whole, with an emphasis on staying aligned with the natural world”.
And I am happy to announce that 56 of the 68 poems have been previously published
in 30 reviews, journals and magazines internationally.
Where do you send poems for publication?
Dah: I do my research otherwise I would be wasting precious time. Google has all of the information a writer needs for submitting, so I go through that channel. I submit to wherever my poems appear to fit, and I find what fits by looking into the authors that have been published by editors calling for submissions. It is time consuming to research in this manner but the payoff has been sensational.
How do you feel about E-books vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
Dah: It’s all good and a vital part of the future’s publishing arena. As authors we must
be open to everything that the future has in store for getting our work published and read.
What makes your poetry stand out from the crowd?
Dah: I have been told that it is my clever use of metaphors and similes along with my polished cinematic-like imagery and my ability to make melancholy taste like dessert.
How do you promote your work?
Dah: I use every online means possible including Facebook and even guerilla marketing i.e. if brick and mortar bookstores refuse to carry my work, I go back to the store and place my books on the shelf myself without concern over being paid. My main concern is finding an audience and being read.
What are some of your other writing credits?
Dah: For me it’s all poetry, at the moment anyway.
Will you please share one of your poems with us?
Dah: Thank you for asking. Here is one from my forthcoming book, ‘The Translator’.
I composed this a few months ago at 4:AM after waking from a dream about my late-Father, who passed away eighteen years ago.
This poem was first published in ‘Lost Coast Review’
Editor: Casey Dorman
“Nocturne in d-flat minor”
In the same way breezeless trees are still,
I ask for nothing,
only to be.
Today is another demand,
the deep churning of time that quickens
that which falls silently into the hole
till nothing is left
but the final sleep of exhausted flowers.
If I could translate this,
this thin string of old light,
it would be the loneliness
of a single shoe left behind.
If I could wake up and forget your absence
this empty heart would be less heavy.
I dare say nothing. Nothing.
Only I have spoken a few words too many.
Across a blue smear
wind-scattered clouds break apart.
They say nothing,
not even thank you
to the kindhearted wind
for its long body touches
each cloud’s demise.
The wind is blind, so it only touches
still, it is possible to leave
to break apart
to enter the hole without feeling
to feel nothing
for what we leave behind.
Dah, thank you for allowing me the pleasure of getting to know you a bit more and I hope that you will enjoy tremendous success in the future!
Dah: It has been my pleasure, Kerry. Looking forward … !