Spotlight On Writers - Michael L. Utley, interview at

Spotlight On Writers – Michael L. Utley

Spotlight On Writers

Michael L. Utley


  1. Where do you originate from?

I was born and raised in rural southeast Utah and grew up on a small farm. I’ve lived most of my life in the Four Corners area, although I’ve also spent time in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon), California, and the south (South Carolina, Louisiana). I currently call southwest Colorado home. This region lies on the Colorado Plateau, which is famous for its majestic red rock deserts, several national parks, mountain ranges in all directions, and vast swathes of farmland dotted with a handful of tiny towns. My love for nature developed early in my childhood and later inspired me to become a nature photographer. Nature also plays a lead-role in much of my poetry. Although I’m no longer active in photography due to medical and financial reasons, I still marvel at the unique landscapes in my area and dream about exploring other wild places.

  1. What do you cherish most about the place you call home?

Everywhere I look, I see natural wonders in my area. Mountain ranges in four states are visible from the small town where I live; three national parks are within a two-hour drive; lakes and rivers are nearby; wildlife abounds; the air is fresh and the sky is huge and wide-open; vast deserts are minutes away. This area is unsullied by the dirty fingerprints of man. So much of this region lies untouched, unexplored, and is breath-taking. Nothing rejuvenates the soul and inspires creativity quite like pristine nature. As a highly introverted person, I’ve never felt comfortable living in towns or cities. The welcoming tranquility of the natural world—far from the futility and inhumanity of the rat race—is where I feel at peace.

  1. What ignites your creativity?

My family was severely dysfunctional and domestic abuse by my father caused long-lasting trauma, so therapy has been a mainstay of my life for many years. This trauma has found its way into my poetry as well, where I use the elixir of creativity as a therapeutic balm to assuage those painful memories. I’ve often said that the stillness, peace and serenity of my nature images serve as a counterweight to the pain and sorrow of my poetry. This equilibrium is crucial in maintaining a sense of hope and purpose in my life.

Whether writing about nature or trauma, my technique for nurturing inspiration centers around what I call my “haiku place,” an imaginary locale where I go to find stillness and contemplation. This is essentially a safe place in my mind, based upon my idea of what life may have been like for the great haiku masters of Japan centuries ago. My haiku place consists of a small forested rural valley with a reed-bordered stream that flows beneath a red footbridge and feeds into a lotus pond filled with koi. There are willows along the stream bank, and a bamboo grove beyond the footbridge. A flower garden lies just down the path from a tiny hut, and a path leads up the nearby mountain. Herons, kitsune and dragonflies are regular visitors. It’s a meditative place, where everything is quiet and peaceful, and in my mind I can hear the strains of koto music on the breeze (something my deaf ears would never allow in real-life). I retreat to this place whenever I write to clear my mind and center myself, and I’ve found plenty of inspiration here. It naturally lends itself to writing haiku, senryu and tanka, all of which I love.

  1. Do you have a favorite word and could you incorporate it into a poetic phrase?

By now, it should be apparent my favorite word is nature. I am hopelessly enamored with the natural world. It nurtures and rejuvenates my soul, provides unlimited inspiration for poetry and photography, soothes a troubled mind and offers respite from a cruel and uncaring world. Here’s a short verse of mine that perhaps sums up my love for nature:

to those whose stories
go unheard through dearth of care
nature lends her ear

  1. What is your pet peeve?

I think the inherent apathy and cruelty of people toward one another would top my list. It astounds me that here in the 21st century we’re still hellbent on killing each other over insignificant differences. Whether it’s religious, racial, gender, political, or economic, the discrimination and hate espoused by humankind are staggering and the divisions erected between people are both insurmountable and unnecessary. Much of my poetry deals with the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, the invisible and forgotten people who have been cast aside by society. Anyone who is different in any way is a target for hate and abuse. What have we become as a species when we resort to violence that threatens to annihilate not only humanity but our planet as well, and for what? I grew up with a violent father. I went to school in a state where religious discrimination is rampant. As a deaf, disabled person, I experience discrimination constantly. There is significant racism in my immediate rural area. There are hate groups in my tiny town. Democracy teeters on the edge of oblivion here and abroad. Our planet is burning. And we’re responsible for it. We can’t get along with each other. It’s easier to hate than to simply love, accept, and find comity with one another. And it’s a shame.

  1. How would you describe the essence of Michael L. Utley?

I care deeply. I love deeply. I hurt deeply. Creativity is crucial for me to combat my demons and keep them at bay. It’s really the only thing I’ve found that helps me maintain a balance in my life when deafness, depression and PTSD are constant, unwelcome companions. I feel as though I have a purpose in life when I’m able to help someone. Despite being introverted, I yearn for human connection, and the best way I can achieve this is through my writing. In essence, I’m a sensitive, creative person, with many flaws as well, who desires to make the world a better place by connecting with people through my poetry. If I can affect even one person’s life in a positive manner with my poetry, then my life has meaning.

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This publication is part 403 of 404 in the series Spotlight On Writers