Beyond The Ink
Welcome to 'Beyond The Ink' an Original series where we explore our writers beyond the ink-side that we've gotten to know. A series that delves deeper into the personal and everyday lives of our poets and writers.
Steve, many readers and writers will recognize your published work on Spillwords.com as you’ve been a collaborator for quite a while already, including your Mental Health: The Diary of a Broken Mind series, in addition to your previous recognition of being an Author of The Month.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and could you share what it is that you do outside of writing?
This year I will be sixty years old and will have been married for forty two years, which the more astute of you will have realised, means we married young. I guess, when it's right, it's right.
Outside of writing poetry I develop statistical reporting applications for major clients. My wife and I are also foster carers, which keeps us both very busy.
What does a day in your life look like, and how do you find time to write?
I rise every morning at around five AM, at the insistence of our dog, Yoda, a Collie and Beagle cross. He is a rescue dog who has clearly suffered abuse in his life yet is very loving once he overcomes his timidity. My wife and I walk him in our local park at about six o'clock and return for a well earned breakfast. I start work in my home-office at nine o'clock every morning. The work is essentially computer programming, interspersed with meetings. That keeps me busy until I finish at five-thirty PM.
I'm the cook in our household, though some might say "chef" but I couldn't possibly comment. I love the creative process of bringing together ingredients and producing something delicious (so they tell me!) so I make our evening meal and we're usually eating by no later than seven PM. We walk the dog again, maybe watch a little television with my family, and generally relax. Everything eventually winds down to a time where it's just me, Yoda, a pad and absolute quiet. It is mainly in this small but precious part of the day that I write. It can sometimes take many weeks to finish a poem or can spring to life in just a night.
How does your career affect your writing and/or vice versa?
Almost everything I do is in one way or another, a creative process. There must be bleed-through in one direction or another but I wouldn't be able to tell you where?
What creative challenges do you face?
They say one should never explain meaning: a poem lives or dies by what the reader takes from it. I once had a conversation with a poet friend of mine about my favourite poem, "Nothing gold can stay", by Robert Frost, which for me is about the ephemeral beauty of youth. It seems obvious to me, and yet my friend takes his own meaning. Imagine a missive by Robert Frost, upon the meaning of every line was discovered tomorrow. One of us would have our understanding of a beautiful poem shattered, despite the validity of our personal interpretations. So, I believe we should never explain. The problem is, my writings can be a little impenetrable at times and I really do want people to read and take a message from my writings. So my challenge is often to dial back the angle of attack.
Doh! See what I mean?
What role do social issues play in your life?
I have spent my life as a would-be poet writing about inequality. It hurts, an almost physical pain, to see inescapable struggle in the shadows of great wealth. I have said once before on this platform "As a lifelong socialist, I believe that equality is an absolute right: equality of being, equality of purpose, equality of life. There will always be people who have more of everything, the wealth makers of society, than the people who have less. My issue is where obscene wealth is accrued at the expense of shocking poverty imposed by the state"
What advice would you give others that are pursuing a career in your field?
Think outside of the box. If you're never going to cross lines, that box will begin to feel like a prison.
What advice would you give to other writers out there?
Never give up. If you have something worth saying you will one day find your audience.
What adjective best describes you and why?
I always mean what I say and believe what I say, though not exclusively: I'm quite prepared to be wrong. However, I do demand a very high level of proof.
What’s a fun fact about you that would surprise many that know you?
I once sang live on a national TV broadcast!
What inspires you to write?
It's like a boil that simply must be lanced. Something, anything, grows in me that has to be put down on paper. I love the feeling of getting it all out, spilling the words if you will, making sense of it until I have the structure and colour of a fully formed poem.
What are the things on your bucket list?
Lake Taupo on the North island of New Zealand is somewhere I would love to visit. Volcanology is one of my interests and Taupo, made up of the calderas formed by two of the largest supervolcanic eruptions in the known history of the world is my dream destination. Mt. Tongariro is a complex compound volcano with many cones. The region is very active so I might even get to see an eruption close up! Hopefully small enough for me to come home and write dozens of poems about it.
Fly high enough to see the curvature of earth and an inky black "sky". (Are you listening flat-earth conspiracy theorists?)
Watch my team, San Francisco 49ers live, winning their sixth Super Bowl. Garappolo could make it happen.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Until I was asked this back in July I hadn't even considered it. I think I will repeat what I said then:
My aim has always been to contribute to the major issues of the day. Such issues are unfortunately issues for every age, such as the fight against poverty and its impact. I suppose that I would like to think I leave a body of work which muses upon the recurrent, important socio-political issues across time. Maybe I will add to the debate and maybe I won't. Ultimately, I will be happy for people to read my words and say, "you know what, he had a point."