Interview With John Yamrus

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Since 1970 John Yamrus has published 25 volumes of poetry, 2 novels and one volume of non-fiction. He has also had nearly 2,000 poems published in print magazines around the world. Selections of his poetry have been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Swedish, French, Japanese, Italian, Romanian, Albanian, Estonian and Bengali. His poetry is taught in numerous colleges and universities. His latest book, MEMORY LANE, a look back at his childhood growing up in a Pennsylvania coal mining community in the 1950s, is a highly anticipated addition to his published work.

His website is: http://www.johnyamrus.com

 

Q: When did you start writing?

A: my first book came out in 1970…a lifetime ago…two lifetimes ago.  i guess i always wrote.  it was something i was good at (or thought i was).  it started out as something to do…to pass the time…and pretty soon it got to be a habit…and, like most habits that are fun and eventually end up killing you, it’s a hard habit to break.

 

Q: Who are your biggest inspirations/your favourite writers?

A: i’ve often said that i’ve learned more about writing from listening to Miles Davis than i ever learned or could hope to learn from reading or studying any actual writer.  just listening to his KIND OF BLUE will teach you anything you want to know about writing…about the value of silence.  for my money, that’s the hardest thing for a writer (an aspiring writer) to learn…when to shut the hell up.  most writers talk and talk and talk, never understanding or knowing that for the most part they don’t have anything interesting to say.  beyond that, silence is another tool in the bag…knowing how to effectively use the white space on a page is very important…ESPECIALLY for writers of poetry.

Q: What time of day do you do most of your writing?

A: first thing i do when i get up…after taking a leak and letting the dog outside to do the same…is make myself a great big cup of coffee and come down here and get to work.  i got into that habit back in the days when i used to work a regular 9 to 5, and the habit’s stuck with me ever since.

 

Q:  Why do you write?

A:   i don’t know.  I’m not gonna say something off the wall like i “want to share my gift with the world”…to be honest, that’s a load of crap.  i guess i do it because i like the reaction it gets…i like surprising myself…and i like the fact that it lets me be alone while i’m doing it.

 

Q: Do you have any favourite quotes from writers?

A:  no.  sorry.

 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give new/aspiring writers?

A: don’t fool yourself and wait for inspiration.  like anything else you want to do for a living, this has to be approached like a job…like a professional.  if you’re serious about the work, you’ve got to do it every single day of your life.  naturally, that’s not always gonna happen, but it’s a great goal to shoot for.  every day that you don’t do something is another day you’ve lost.  even if it’s just ten minutes a day, it’s still something.  the other day i was doing a reading at this college…and the host was doing the introduction and she was saying that i’ve published 28 books and more than 2,000 poems…and there was this sound from the audience and the first thing that came to my mind…the first thing that i said to them when i finally got up to talk…was don’t let that fool you…it was all done just one little bit at a time…one day at a time.

 

Q: Do you have any collections, chapbooks, or other books available for people to purchase?

A: my books are on amazon…my latest book is MEMORY LANE…for lack of a better word, it’s a slim “memoir”…a look back at what it was like growing up in a Pennsylvania coal town in the 1950s…  why i hesitate calling it a memoir is that it’s really (as one newspaper review called it) a reflection on Time and the fallibility of memory.  i see the book like jazz…like an extended poem…it’s not linear in any sense of the word.  i intended it to be what it would feel like kicking back and having a couple of drinks and talking about what it was like way back when.  as for my latest books of poetry…there’s AS REAL AS RAIN, which is a book of my poems fully illustrated by the Swedish artist Janne Karlsson.  that book was a real hoot and a real risk…it gave me a chance to look at my own poems as seen thru someone else’s eyes.  it was a lot of fun.  the book right before that was I ADMIT NOTHING.  of course, all of my books that have been published by Epic Rites Press (and there’s been 9 so far) are high on my list of personal favorites.  i’m 67 now, and i think i’m starting to hit my stride.  maybe in another couple of years i’ll finally get it right.

 

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There but for the grace of God Go I – Fee Thomas

Luke 8:48 —-“And said unto them , Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.”

On January 16th, 2018 Marconia  Kessee was at Norman Regional Hospital in Oakland where the police were called on him for trespassing after he was discharged from the hospital. There is some discrepancy if there were actual physical cares by a physician made at said time. Family for Mr. Kessee has stipulated that Mr. Kessee had refused to leave the hospital because his many mental and medical health needs had not been addressed.

Master police officer Kyle Canaan and officer Daniel Brown of The Norman Regional Police Department responded at 1930 . This is where standards for human care and concern completely disengaged.

Officers Canaan and Brown began my taunting and mocking Mr. Kessee, at times comparing him to a child and a dog. They disregarded his HIPA Rights by broadcasting publicly the reason for his hospital visit. As he fell to the ground more than once, not a single offer of help was made. Further humiliation was made toward Mr. Kessee while these officers who are supposedly meant to Serve and protect laughed loudly at a man who simply wanted medical treatment.

When Mr. Kessee could not comply with the officer’s orders the officers drug Mr. Kessee’s body on the cold pavement in the dark air.  Marconia Kessee, the victim had no recourse and no aid during this entire time. Not a single person stopped to assist him. Not even a doctor of which the hospital was full of.

This is about race. This is about class. This is about stigma. This is about privilege. This is about power. This is about what we let go unchecked. This is what is about the worst in us.

Mr. Marconia Kessee died in his cell two hours later.

Had he if he would have been a white, middle class, non Mentally Ill, guy wearing khakis and a polo?

Those officers drug that man around while he was on his belly while they laughed and laughed. Mr. Marconia Kessee is dead now. His last hours on this earth were dreadful. Without a singular face of compassion anywhere to be found.

My heart breaks for this man.

© Fee Thomas

Blast From The Past #2 – Marilyn Kortemeier

First of all the name of the country is properly two words. Secondly the A is the flat long A, not the rounder short A that is appreciated in the west. But the people who live there and speak the language say the long flat A all the time. Also, did you see “Frontline” on PBS the other day. It was all about Senator John McCain. I was pleased to see that I remembered that first interview he did for the camera’s the right way. He had been beaten so badly that he could not stand up, or even sit up. He did that first interview lying on his bunk. Donald Trump says he’s not a war hero, i’d like to see just how long Trump would last under that kind of torture.

The next thing to remember is that when the war in Vietnam ended the first time, we had a treaty with North Vietnam. We were removing out troops under that treaty. When we got them down to a certain level that the North Vietnamese felt they could handle the troops that were left in the south, they attacked. That was when we had to evacuate Saigon.

It wasn’t until after the war was over for good that we discovered what Ho Chi Minh was really trying to do. If you think about it you can completely understand the man. He was trying to drive foreign invaders out of his country. He would have done anything to achieve that aim. He tried talking to the US about it and to the UN. He got nowhere with the west so he turned to the Chinese and the communists. The US took over the war from the French; recall that Vietnam was a French colony before WWII. The French have always seen themselves as the most civilized country on Earth. They have always thought it was their duty to bring civilization to the rest of the world. Can you imagine that ego, WOW! Even though WWII virtually bled them white, they refused to give up any of their colonies. In 1956 Algeria began a bloody conflict that gained them their freedom from France. It was due to these two factors that the French finally agreed to get out of Vietnam, but only if the US would get into Vietnam and we were not to give the Vietnamese their freedom. We were to maintain some sort of control over them because the French insisted they were still little more than savages. They had to be because they weren’t French. We actually started sending troops in there in 1958, under Eisenhower.

© Marilyn Kortemeier

Blast from the Past – Vietnam – Marilyn Kortemeier

Everyone knows all about the news footage that was shot by the reporters covering the war in Viet Nam.  We used to see those over our dinner tables every night.  They also know about the official protests in every large city in America.  But what they don’t know about it about how it divided families.  This often also happened over the dinner table.  I remember my father and my brother sitting opposite each other and having discussions about the war.  For my father, the government was always right.  The government could do no wrong.  For my brother it was always the opposite, the government was always wrong, it couldn’t do anything right.  I tended to side with my father.  My little brother sided with my mother.  How on earth it did not turn into screaming matches, I will never know.  But I do remember one night when my older brother stated unequicacally ​”If I get drafted, I’m taking off for Canada.”  My father said, “If you do that, don’t ever come home.”  That was the way a lot of families were.  The sons had very definite opinions against the war and the father’s had very definite opinions for.  And when the sons did get their draft notices they took off in the middle of the night for Canada.  Fathers would do a lot of things to let their sons know that they were ashamed of the boys.  And the families would not see their 18 year old son again.  For my family, you might say that we lucked out.  My brother was legally blind without his glasses, so he flunked his physical.  They put him down as 4F.  That meant that they would only take him if they had to look under the barrel.  For myself, I joined the Navy.  Women who were not nurses were not allowed in the country at the time.  So I worked supporting our sailors and marines stateside here.  And, surprisingly, my older brother never showed my anything but respect for my decision.  I did hear, from time to time, about the boys who were in Canada.  They were happy with Canada, but miserable to be separated from their families.  When the war was over, and clemency was declared for them, most were happy to try to return home and be reunited with their families.  But the important events in the lives of families that they had missed were gone forever.  I mean events such as weddings and funerals, etc.  So in the end it was rather more sad than happy.
© Marilyn Kortemeier