My copy of Gary Hotham's book Breath Marks: Haiku to Read in the Dark is well-worn and highlighted. It's the expansive sense of eternity that he packs into his tight little gems that draw me to his work—that and his dedication to poetry itself. He is looking to achieve more than a haiku moment in his poems. He is looking to contribute his own link in the chain of modern art. You can see it in the dialogue his poems have with influences like T.S. Eliot. You can see it in his penchant for experimentation. I was a huge fan of Breath Marks when I contacted him looking for work to publish. Here's an example of what I had the privilege to publish at nowculture.com:
half a dozen footprints
the wave didn't spoil
Of course by the time I had reached out to Gary he had already moved on from what he was doing in Breath Marks and his muse moved on again in books I've bought since. The following interview offers a glimpse of what motivates one of my favorite poets, a poet with an uncanny ability to reveal the essence in life's ordinary things.
Q: When you have time for yourself, what do you spend most of your time thinking about?
A: I might like to think otherwise but probably most of my time is spent thinking about myself. It would be interesting to have an accurate measure for the topics of our thoughts. I'm sure God knows. Does Big Data? I suspect Google and Yahoo have a good handle on our thought topics also—especially the ones the advertisers pay good money for! Those money makers.
Q: What compels you to write?
A: The wonder or wonders of life. And the words that go with them. I suspect that many times it is putting words down or putting words together that the wonders emerge although we might think that the wonders cause or bring out the words. Chicken or egg first kind of riddle.
Q: What do you hope readers might get from your poems?
A: A vision for a vast universe along with a sense of their place or a reason for their place in it. It is the wonder of why did God create such an overwhelming place for our senses and then why me or why us for such a small place in it. It is a brain rattler. One hopes to recover by looking at one's feet. But then there is question of why there is earth for our feet and why the toes and why the ankle bone is connected to . . .
T.S. Eliot said there would be days like that:
"Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . . "
Q. Who are your favorite poets?
A: There are many, many poets I like to read. Too many. And the great thing about poetry is that the lines are written by the good poets so that one can read them more than once. This is just a partial list of some of the dead poets I have enjoyed over the many years and still enjoy: William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Lorine Niedecker, William Stafford, E.E. Cummings, Philip Booth, Cid Corman, Frank Samperi, Ted Enslin, George Oppen . . . There are many others still alive. And there are dead and living ones who I don't really enjoy but read anyway.
And then there is a whole host of dead and living haiku writers who I greatly appreciate. That list would become very long. Somebody is now going to comment that I have no standards! But there is a great richness in the number of poets and their poetry that reminds me of the old comic book scene of Scrooge McDuck swimming in his piles of money: I see that scene a reader surrounded by many books of poetry to choose from and for which an earthly lifetime would not exhaust. This image won't work well as e-book readers become more and more the norm.