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Roger Craik on his poetry and Pied Piper project in the Star Beacon

 

ASHTABULA — When people think about retirement, many picture life in a condo on a beach in sunny Florida. 

That's not the case with Roger Craik, emeritus professor of English at Kent State University Ashtabula, who retired last May. He's traveling, writing poetry, voice recording a collection of poems and fulfilling speaking engagements, including a recent meeting of the Cleveland Area Mensa. 

He has written several full-length poetry books. 

But one of his favorites is one he didn't write. Rather, his parents illustrated and colored it for him as a young boy — a facsimile of Robert Browning's "The Pied Piper of Hamelin, A Child's Story." 

His parents, Tom and Wendy Craik, gave it to him on his sixth birthday in 1962, when he was considered old enough to enjoy it. He remembers enjoying "The Pied Piper" being read to him as well as sensing his parents' relish in reading aloud and their pausing to point to the illustrations.

A few years ago, with his parents' permission, Craik made a copy of the treasured book in Nottingham, England, and began sending it out to friends as an email attachment.

Everyone who saw it loved it, he said.

Tom Craik penned Browning's words, nothing added or deleted, but the illustrations come entirely from his parents' imagination. They were 32 and 25 years old at the time.

In the past year, the book has been translated in Bulgarian, as well as Romanian. It's also been exhibited at the Gaudeamus International Book Fair in Bucharest. In fall 2017, "Pied Piper" will be translated in Russian, coming out in Minsk, Belarus. 

Craik said he knows why the book is popular around the world.

"It's original, intelligent and whimsical," he said. "I think it will always appeal. I do this for my parents but, more importantly, for the pleasure of other parents and their children."

In addition, Minsk Publishing is putting together a selection of poetry on emigration and Craik's poetry will be published as an article by Lyuba Perbushina of the University of Minsk. She sent Craik a large survey, asking for comments and questions on his pieces.

"It's an academic article written about me and translating my poems," he said. "I have been invited to Minsk in 2017 and I plan to go."

Craik also hopes to go to Romania, where he was a Fulbright Scholar at Oradea University in 2013-14.

"I enjoy eastern Europe," he said.

His poetry has appeared in several national poetry journals, such as "The Formalist," "Fulcrum," "The Literary Review" and "The Atlanta Review." 

English by birth and educated at the universities of Reading and Southampton, Craik has worked as a journalist, TV critic and chess columnist. Before coming to the U.S. in 1991, he worked in Turkish universities and was awarded a Beineke Fellowship to Yale in 1990. 

He's visited North Yemen, Egypt, South Africa, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Bulgaria — where he taught during spring 2007 on a Fulbright Scholarship to Sofia University — and, more recently, the United Arab Emirates, Austria and Croatia. 

Retired or not, Craik says poetry is his passion. He writes for at least an hour over coffee each morning before breakfast.

His newest book of poems is coming out from BlazeVox, in Buffalo, which published his last full-length collection "Down Stranger Roads" (2014), and also "The Pied Piper." 

But wherever Craik travels, Ashtabula is still his home base.

"I am continually grateful for (former KSU Ashtabula) Dean John Mahan for hiring me in 1991 and giving me this marvelous life," he said. "I mention him at all my talks. I'm so fortunate."

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Animated Landscape by Robert Gibbons Reviewed

 

Robert Gibbons, Animated Landscape, BlazeVox, 2016, 146 pp, $16.

Speaking recently at the Gloucester Writers Center, poet and Olson scholar Don Byrd advised poets who are inspired by Charles Olson not to attempt to follow him because Olson was uniquely unfollowable. Rather, Byrd said, they should attempt to move beyond Olson with their own work, as the poet himself had done with respect to his own masters, Pound and Williams.  

Among poets who have learned from Olson while forging their own unique path, Robert Gibbons stands out. Though widely published and admired among poets, scholars of poetry, critics, and curators of contemporary art, Robert Gibbons has been less known to discerning readers of new American poetry. This is about to change with the publication by BlazeVox of Animated Landscape, Gibbon’s major new collection of poems. Those who care about the life of poetry in a time when there are many MFAs in verse but fewer poets who appeal directly to the human condition should attend to what Richard Deming calls Gibbons’ “universal and inclusive vision.”  

Gibbons’ poetry is informed not only by the crucial texts he’s read and internalized—Kristeva, Davenport, Olson himself— but also by the music and visual art that has animated his life and work—the jazz of Coltrane, the inventions of Bach, the paintings of Clyfford Still (about whom he has written incisively in Olson/Still: Crossroad)—along with the walks he has taken daily in the places he’s lived—Gloucester, MA, Salem, Washington, DC, Boston, Portland, ME, and now Denver—bringing them to life and into his pages through conversations with those he has encountered going about their daily business, as Gibbons has gone about his as both secret sharer and astute observer. His is a poetry that is as intensely lived as it is informed by a poised intelligence; a poetry of the heart and mind, where intellect and feeling do not conflict but, instead, fuse into incandescence, as Gibbons writes: “where senses reach an/intoxicated height, where air alone is/magic, silence music, touch between/us dispelling all dread.” 

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Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher: The TNB Self-Interview

 

kmd-jg

 

What are three things you want the reader to know about GHOST / LANDSCAPE?

KMD: In the poems, you’ll find a bank robbery, a lock on the door, and a freezer we keep forgetting we keep in the basement. One (and only one) of these things is real.

Now that you’ve entered the landscape, don’t follow the paths that seem most clearly marked. They’ll lead you further away from the guesthouse (and the truth about the ghost).

Lastly, and most importantly, the conference we keep referring to was really an elaborate cover-up. Even the panels were just for show.

JG: Things keep changing, you know? One moment the news is on, and it’s such very bad news from so many quarters (1). And then you’re shopping for new shoes (2). Both of these things are honest and true things about living in the world (3).

I was reading something the other day (you might’ve seen it; it was passed around facebook) arguing against the current conception of empathy, that it’s too easily swayed by individuals in crisis and not enough by long-term goals. And it reminded me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Riker gets turned into a god, and loses his capacity for empathy. Like most things, it’s a negotiation.

 

What does collaboration make possible in your work?

JG: Someone else! I get tired of myself and my way of thinking, and it’s great to get out of that house, go visiting. It’s why we have dinner parties? Something like that. A new context allows for new thinking.

KMD: Absolutely! Collaboration invites a degree of spontaneity into my practice that is just about impossible when I’m writing alone.  I tend to be a control freak, a compulsive planner.  But when you’re writing a book with John, you really never know what he’s going to do.  Which is a good thing.  Well, most of the time.

 

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Tony Trigilio interviewed on Best American Poetry Blog

 

"Eleven Questions for Eleven Poets" Part 1 of the Best American Poetry blog interview! 



Alan Michael Parker interviewed Tony Trigilio
 and 10 other poets (Elizabeth Colen, Carolina Ebeid, Dana Levin, Max Ritvo, David Rivard, Chris Santiago, Lee Sharkey, Clint Smith, Megan Snyder-Camp, and Monica Youn). Everyone talks about their new books coming out this fall.
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