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An Interview With Poet M.E. Silverman

This week at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet M.E. Silverman was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since he loves Nina Simone, my dinner music companion Telemann, and Vivaldi.  You’ll have to check out all the great writing and poetry book recommendations.  Unfortunately, he’s a bit camera shy, but we do have an interview and a sample poem.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I am a Dad first and often introduce myself as Vice-President of Isabel Inc. I actually once had someone inquire in these tough economic times about a job opening there, and if he wasn’t so serious, I might have continued the joke.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I have taken several online workshops from 32 poems with Deborah Ager to Mid American Review with Craigo and I find them all helpful and inspirational. I tried the Dnzanc one on one critique but found it less than helpful. Kooser Poetry Home Repair Manual by far is one of the best how-to books, but also Triggering Town and Cleave’s Contemporary American Poetry: Behind the Scenes. I could not put down either Kim Addonizio‘s how-to books nor Padgett’s The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.

Of course, there are many anthologies I also enjoyed just to get exposure to other writers, including Chang’s Asian American Poetry, Collins Poetry 180, Yale Younger Poets Anthology, Feinstein’s Jazz Poetry Anthology & The Second Set Vol 2, Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of New Formalism, A Formal Feeling Comes ed. by Finch, A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry by Seaton, the KGB Bar Book of Poems, American Poetry Now (Pitt) and the Copper Canyon Anthology. Also, there are quite a few portable workshop books but by far the most enjoyable is Jack Myers Portable Poetry Workshop.

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

I find strong violin sax and trumpet to be the most inspiring instruments. Naima by Coltrane is a beautiful sweet song. Clifford Brown Portrait of Jenny with Strings. Any Miles Davis but I love the album Seven Steps to Heaven. Who could resist writing with music and a title like that? Nina Simone is a goddess of the vocal chords. Occasionally, I will go to Norah Jones but mostly it is Beethoven, Telemann, Vivaldi.

He also included a poem for readers to check out:

Bubbie’s Kitchen Secrets

We cooked in her kitchen,
a small square room
with a large double sink.

The refrigerator zapped
its electric ache
and like an old noir film,

the lights flickered in response.
For herbs, she had me climb onto the counter
and open the one window,

to reach the basil, the thyme,
the sunflowers potted on the fire escape,
a hazardous garden

the whole building used.
Two or three steps were lined
with mason jars full of cucumbers,

for pickles crisp from sunlight.
On this particular Sabbath,
I did what I always did, helped her make

the kugel,
a pudding made of noodles and eggs
with a dash of her secret:

the caramel color from sugar burnt,
not too little, not too much.
We were finishing up

when we smelled the cigar smoke
and heard heavy boots
pounding down the fire escape.

Then glass breaking,
a curse, that curse!,
quick and sharp

in gun-shot German.
Bubbie screamed. Scared,
I ducked under the table.

She whispered one word
before feinting:
Nazis.

Her war from long ago. Startled,
the man stepped back,
slipped and fell

to the pavement,
dying in agony.
Later,  she told me

she thought she saw
the guard from the camp.
The guard who gave the orders.

She told me this
as we huddled on the linoleum.
No one discovered how it happened.

I should have told somebody
when I read the paper and learned
he was just a student,

a young boy, like me.
I never did.

About the Poet:

M. E. Silverman moved from New Orleans to Georgia and teaches at Gordon College, with work appearing in Mizmor L’David Anthology: The Shoah, Crab Orchard Review, 32 Poems, Chicago Quarterly Review, Tapestry, The Los Angeles Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Cloudbank, Pacific Review, Sugar House Review, and other magazines. M. E. Silverman was a finalist for the 2008 New Letters Poetry Award, the 2008 DeNovo Contest and the 2009 Naugatuck River Review Contest.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

***Also, please check out today’s National Poetry Month tour posts at Layers of Thought and Read Handed.