This Week's Interview: Erren Geraud Kelly.

What are your goals when you write poetry? 

I want to make sure I convey a message when I write; in the past, I worried a lot about the reader "getting," the poem, but that shouldn't be the poet's job. The job of the poet is to show the reader the world, the way he sees it; how the reader wants to interpret the poem is up to him/her. I've always loved poetry because no two people will come away with the same interpretation. though I don't write abstract poetry, I still read a lot of abstract poets, to see what I can take from them and see how can expand my world.

Cathy Park Hong's "Dance Dance Revolution" blew my mind; e.e. cummings' work and Amiri Baraka showed me a few things as well.

Usually, it takes me two or three drafts to say the things I really want to say, but I don't believe in excessive editing. I think constant editing takes the soul out of the poem. Once I get a poem published, I leave it alone.

What's your attitude about the poetry business, the print, the online, magazines, book publishers, etc?

I knew when I became a poet, it was not going to be an easy road; I passed on being a lawyer to be a poet. I chose poetry, because it was what I loved and what I enjoy doing. maybe one day, i'll become rich and famous, like allen Ginsberg or maya angelou; maybe i'll be under the radar, the rest of my life. I could care less ! what you do is what you are called to do. you take your shot and you go for it. if you become successful,cool, if not, you're still a success, because you made the attempt! most people live their lives going for plan a, with a plan b on the back of their mind; they're just hedging their bets. no. no. no. Go all in or don't do it.

What's your attitude about the poetry business, the print, the online, magazines, book publishers, etc?

I don't like it that a lot of publishers seem to insist on holding contests as a condition of reading a poet's manuscript. poetry is becoming more about business than about art, in that aspect. I realize poetry publishers have to eat, but I wish there were more poetry publishers who were " poet friendly."
I do not have a problem with buying a poetry book from a publisher or even entering contests, if they are publishers I believe and want to support...

When you read poetry by others, what do you get from it? 

I read a lot of poetry; in the past, my reading was 50% prose 50% poetry, but now, it's like, 90% poetry. I guess I read so much poetry, cos if I don't, I'm afraid I'll lose my poetic chops. I wrote two novels and some short stories, but never published any fiction and that's cool. I can live with being a poet. I think more like a poet, than a fiction writer. There are a lot of writers out there who say they don't read and I wonder, what do they have as a template for their style? Every one has an influence: I read contemporary black poets, contemporary poets, women poets, English poets, beats, black art school, abstract, concrete, Baraka, Dorianne Laux, Billy Collins, Timothy Liu, Robert frost, Emily Dickinson, slam poetry, Shakepearean and Petrarchan sonnets, Charles Bukowski, a friend turned me on to Brautigan, anything that doesn't bore me.

I want to see how they work language, how they play with it; not just about what they say, but how they say it and why.

I spend hours in coffeehouses engrossed in poetry books, listening to music or surfing the web, just to see how all these things can add to my writing

What's the one bit of knowledge you have now that you wish you had when you first started writing and publishing?

Just not to worry about the next poet and what they are doing; it's not a competition. I'm not trying to be like other poets. When I write poetry, I just want to see how I can expand on my world. I don't write every poem, thinking lightning has to strike, I just go with my gut. God made me a poet. I never try to force it out.I just go with the feeling. when a poem is ready to be shared with the world, it will give itself to you...

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