Friday, May 6, 2016

William H. Drummond responds

William H. Drummond: I am a native Detroiter, where I learned what a riot life could be. After my family fled to the suburbs, I continued attacking in a different direction, spending time in Europe with the Navy and eventually home-porting in Korea. Inspired by my father’s and grandfather’s love of language, I awed audiences around the world with renditions of such classics as Casey at the Bat, The Highwayman, and The Celebration of the Lizard. My nieces taught me the importance of magic and wonder, and for them I penned a series of faerie poems celebrating the wisdom of youth. I continue my journey of exploration, binding close to family and reaching out to the universe.

DV: Bill, I've known you for a long time, since back in the Korea days. But I didn't know you wrote poetry until you sent me some of your work for the blog. Whatever got you started as a poet, and why didn't I know that aspect of your life back then?

WHD: I mostly lived in
Korea from 1979 through 1999, teaching English, working for the Fulbright Commission and the U.S. military.  When out with my Korean friends and colleagues, it was the custom to sing songs over cups of soju and makkoli.  I’m a terrible singer, but because I had memorized a number of story poems I was able to contribute to the fun.  The ancient custom of shared entertainment is alive and well in the Land of the Morning Calm. For thousands of years, before TV and the Internet, folks were expected to be able to entertain each other.  Social gatherings were often enlivened by someone singing, playing the piano, guitar, or other instrument, and with everyone else joining in.  I recall sitting around the camp fire listening to ghost stories, singing favorite songs like On Top of Old Smokey, The Grandfather’s Clock, and Bill Grogan’s Goat.  My grandfather loved to sing songs and tell stories, and that rubbed off on my father, especially the story-telling.  Dad recited Casey at the Bat, Gunga Din, Face on the Barroom Floor, and many Shakespeare soliloquies, and he taught these and others to me.  Reciting stories became a hobby of mine, and this hobby planted a love of poetry and the spoken word that continues to bloom.  I’m a ham and will spout out Jim Morrison’s Celebration of the Lizard or Robert Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee at the drop of a hat. I think we’ve lost something with the rise of passive entertainment.  We no longer sit around the campfire, the dinner table, or the bar singing songs and telling stories.  Our entertainment is delivered to us; we don’t have to work for it and so we appreciate it less.  Our sense of community is lessened, and we no longer have an outlet for self-expression.  Duane’s Poetree is a wonderful attempt at giving us a place to share our joys, sorrows, and humanity.  Still, I hunger for a live audience to share with, and I pine for the old days of singing around the campfire.

DV: So far, about half your postings here have been about faeries. They definitely have a lot of charm and appeal for wee folk. How did these come about?

WHD: My faerie poems were written in 2004 and 2005 while I was unemployed.  My nieces told me they were fascinated by faeries and were convinced they were living in their backyard.  Their innocent and fervent faith touched me deeply, and inspired me to write.  My plan originally was to write a novel about a young girl who was ashamed of her frizzy hair and had been contacted in her dreams by an evil entity, an enemy of the faeries, who used the girl’s shame to control her.  The basic story is in the poem The Faerie Queen’s Hair.  I never got around to writing the novel because I went back to work, but I was able to get a few faerie poems on paper before returning to the “real” world.

DV: I guess your improved prosperity has made the rest of us poorer. Have you given up on creativity? Don't you write any more?

WHD: I'd like to spend more time writing, but life gets in the way.  My most productive period was more than ten years ago when I was unemployed.  I had nothing but time, and writing helped keep me sane - well, at least mostly sane.  I recently retired and moved to
Florida, but I'm finding retirement is almost as much work as work itself.  Time isn't the only factor.  I find that I write my best when I seem to have no choice.  The words force themselves out of my head and I have to write them down before they escape.  It sometimes feels like I'm simply a conduit for the words, feelings, and ideas.  Weird.  It's like I'm partially possessed.  Shades of Linda Blair.  Are you an exorcist, Duane?

DV: I'm retired, too, and  getting enough exercise  has become a big problem. Nonetheless, here goes: In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Sancte Michaël Archangele, defende nos in proelio; contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute in infernum detrude. Amen. Consider yourself exorcised! Now, Linda, bend over backwards -- let's see some submission(s). Who do you enjoy reading; or, whose writing would you like to emulate (in a Drummondesque way)?

WHD: Ha!  I went to Catholic school in the 1960s and was an altar boy.  I understand some Latin, and thank you for my exorcism.  Now I won't have to go to the health club for a week! I love reading and with Amazon Kindle software on my smartphone I've been amply supplied with material.  For the past several years, I've been rereading 19th century classics, Dickens, Twain, Burroughs, Doyle, etc.  I also have been rereading classic philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, Aurelius, Confucius, Lao Tzu, etc.  These writers, some fun and some serious, speak to what is basic in humans.  They have open minds and seek to open the minds of their readers.  Rereading these authors by choice and as a mature (I refuse to call myself old) man, I understand much more than when I first encountered them when they were forced on me and when I was young and inexperienced.  Not only have I gained more from rereading the classics at my stage of life, I have been able to reflect on myself as I was decades ago.  I have been able with their help to forgive myself for many of my past failings.  As for writers I would like to emulate, my favorite poet is Bob Dylan.  He has such a breadth of range, from silly songs to heart crushing laments, from stories of the Old West to protests against the insanity of our culture.  One day I will try my hand (or my mouth) at recording his songs as spoken words.  I plan to set up a recording studio in my new room in my mother's house in Florida when I return from a trip this June to Cambodia.  Wish me luck!

DV: Good luck for all your endeavors. When you're next door in Cambodia, are we going to be able to get together here in Thailand? Your list makes for interesting speculation. When I was a teenager I read all Burroughs' Tarzan stories (and I've used the "How Tarzan learned to read" bit in various classes over the years). I've gone through Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories a couple of times, and now I'm doing a lot of Dickens that somehow I overlooked before. Twain and Dylan have always been around; over the winter I read much of Twain's late, unpublished work and found the fragments fascinating. And I thought Dylan's "Tempest" was by far his best album since "Love and Theft," which was his best since "Blood on the Tracks." What do they say about Great Minds Thinking Alike? (Actually, I think that's bass-ackwards -- the truly great minds are noted for their originality and nonconformity.) But I prattle. Why don't you record your own work in your studio? I suspect there's a decent audience for children's poetry.

WHD: Thanks for the good thoughts, Duane!  Getting to
Cambodia does indeed require a stop-over in Thailand, and in my case a bit more than just changing planes.  I will visit friends in southern Thailand on my arrival, and our group from the non-profit will travel overland through northern Thailand into Cambodia.  I'm anticipating a sore bum by the time we get to the school we built in rural Cambodia since the bus ride will take at least a week.  It will be worth it, though.  Helping people is its own reward... I will record my own poetry, eventually.  I just enjoy Dylan's stuff so much that I feel I need to do his first.  I will also record The Highwayman, Gunga Din, Face on the Barroom Floor, Casey at the Bat, and The Cremation of Sam McGee, all my favorites from my early days learning at my father's knee.  I may also throw in some John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Moody Blues, etc.  We were blessed, Duane, to live during a time of so much creativity.  Classic rock and roll was a gift from our generation to the world.  BTW, my "studio" will be a microphone and a desk top computer in my bedroom.  :-) 

DV: I guess we've reached the end of this particular road, at this particular time. I wish you much success, or enjoyment, with your recording endeavors. I hope to be one of your listeners some day. But, for now, thank you for your time in answering these questions. We all look forward to reading (and hearing?) more of your work.

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