Tuesday, August 14, 2018

dah responds

Dah: Besides being a prolific writer and the author of seven poetry books, I am an award-winning photographer, and a yoga practitioner since 1969. I'm a certified teacher in two yogic disciplines, Shivananda and Yoga Of The Heart. From these two schools I developed my own style, Chakra Four Yoga, which I have been teaching to children in public and private schools since 2005. I stopped teaching adults in 2013, only to focus on the magical realm of teaching kids to meditate, to stretch, and to stay in harmony with the natural world. When I am not writing or teaching I stay close to nature and have a great passion for coastal camping along the Pacific shores, and backcountry camping along lakes and rivers, as well as cycling, canoeing, and daily long walks in the redwood hills of Berkeley, California, where I live. I also spend many hours in my self-designed and self-built garden meditating or floating into a trance state of deep relaxation, dreams, and visions.

DV: How did you decide to be a poet?

Dah: Ah, good question! I don’t remember making an active decision to become a poet, or making decisions about it at all. My memory tells me that the choice was made for me by an inner force along with the influence of the poetry being read and studied in the village schools that I attended in Ilion, New York. I began writing sometime in 1961, when I was eleven years old, and I haven’t stopped writing since then. There was a bit of poetry sway from certain teachers (an English teacher and an Art teacher) who were poets too; they brought poetry books into classes. So the stage and inspiration was unknowingly set. At that time, Walt Whitman’s work was at the top of the selection for these middle school and high school teachers. It seemed that they all had a copy of Leaves of Grass. Also, at that time, Pablo Neruda’s work was beginning to surface in small doses, especially amongst the younger teachers who were coming to the village schools fresh from university graduate programs. During that period the poetry/lyrics of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Doors were coming into light, which had a lot to do with revving up and revealing the unrefined poet inside of me. It was an inner force that was being stimulated by many outside forces. The ingredients for becoming a poet were already in the caldron. I simply had to drink the concoction and embrace my destiny.  So, if there was a decision made then I don’t remember being a part of that decision.

DV: When did you start publishing?

Dah: I’ve had quite a few photographs published but when it comes to publishing poetry I’m a late sprout that rooted rapidly. My first poem went into print in 2009 with the anthology, Original Poetry, Volume 1. Since then, I’ve had hundreds of poems published in too-many-to-name magazines, reviews and journals, which also includes two essays. My first book, In Forbidding Language, was published in 2010 and then came my second in 2012, The Second Coming. Both of these are published by Stillpoint Books, who also published my third book in 2015, If You Have One Moment. Book four, The Translator, published in 2015, is from Transcendent Zero Press: TZ Press will also be publishing my seventh book, Something Else’s Thoughts, due in July 2018. Currently, I’m shopping around for a publisher for my recently completed eighth manuscript, Waking Love With A Kiss, a collection of poetry that alludes to childhood fairy tales and fantasies while keeping the poems introspective with self-ruminations, self-reflections and self-doubt. Since December 2017, I have been working on my ninth manuscript, inheritance: Book One and Book Two. From this newest collection of about sixty-plus poems, thirty of the poems have been published in various magazines and journals. To date, I have six books published by four different small press publishers. My fifth book, Say This In A Whisper (Red Wolf Editions, 2017), is a FREE download ebook. For those interested here’s the link to a free copy: redwolfeditions.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/say-this-in-a-whisper-by-dah/ In between all of this publishing production, I’m doing everything that I can to assist and guide fledging writers in finding their publishing wings. For me, a part of the magic (happiness) is watching other writers getting published for the first time, especially when it’s their first book.  

DV: Six collections of poetry in 8 years is rather amazing. Of course, since 1962 Joyce Carol Oates has put out over 40 novels (plus novellas, plays, and collections of short stories, poetry, and essays)! As "Rosamond Smith" and "Lauren Kelly" she wrote additional suspense novels. As she herself mockingly wrote, back in the 1970s when she was just beginning, "So many books! so many! Many more titles and she might as well ... what? ... give up all hopes for a 'reputation'?" (But she closed by writing, "I work hard, and long, and as the hours roll by I seem to create more than I anticipate; more, certainly, than the literary world allows for a 'serious' writer. Yet I have more stories to tell.") So, are you going to have to revert to a string of pen names to keep from competing against yourself?
Dah: In July my next book will appear, Something Else’s Thoughts, which will make seven in eight years. This one is a return to a couple of easy-going publishers, Z.M. Weiss and Dustin Pickering from Transcendent Zero Press. Here’s a blurb from SET: "Saturated with elements of lucid dreaming Something Else’s Thoughts ushers its readers into sex, lust, mysticism, confusion, paranoia, conspiracy, surveillance, disaster and death." With this book I’ve tried something new (for me). The poems weave in and out of one another, telling a mystifying story that contains everything that the blurb states. I applaud writers, like Oates, and I understand her discipline, her focus, and her “serious writer” notion. As for adopting a pen name, it’s tempting but I like the one that I have. 

DV: Dustin has graced the pages of duanespoetree with his work. If you haven't done so, you should check it out. But to return to you and your book -- your blurb sounds like something that Tales of the Crypt would have loved to do in the 1950s. Of course, even what it actually dared to publish forced it out of business (due to governmental fear mongering), and it was a comic book, not a poetry outlet. But, still.... Who do you and Dustin expect your audience to be? 

Dah: Dustin is a solid writer, a deep thinker. We have spent hours on the phone tossing our philosophical notions at each other. With Something Else’s Thoughts (SET) it’s actually Z.M. Weiss at the publishing helm for this project. He’s young, in his late twenties, and he fell in love with the manuscript, with this dreamy, sexy, seductive story. So far only three people have read SET: Weiss, my editor Ron Tompkins, and writer Michael Grotsky (the author of the introduction). Grotsky’s intro is as compelling as the story. Both Tompkins and Grotsky, without knowing each other, have said that SET is the ideal material for a strange and compelling independent movie. I say, CHEERS to that! As far as who the audience is, it’s a toss in the air. Sometimes I’m amazed by who the readers of my poetry are. With the online audience process the age-range is from high school to university professors to retired people, from all over the world. Yes, I remember Tales of the Crypt, and if this were the 1950’s Something Else’s Thoughts, and I, would be burned at the stake.

DV: We would have been rotisseried together, I suppose. Charles Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil was censored because of its “crude realism offensive to public decency.” That seems akin, to me, of Socrates being executed for "corrupting the youth" via skeptical inquiry. Coincidentally, I too am coming out with a book of poetry that I always thought could be the framework for a stylized movie about how people love in different situations and how love changes. I suppose it won't be long before there are graphic novel poetry books, and some of these will probably be adapted to film. Can you visualize T. S. Eliot's Waste Land on the big screen?

Dah: Led by many of the world’s seedy politicians, corruption (of everything) seems to be the norm for these people; anyway, congratulations on your forthcoming book. Yes, it would be refreshing to see certain poetry books worked into movies. My twenty-one-year-old daughter is a third-year film student at UCSB with a passion for writing and directing. It would be thrilling for me to work with her on turning SET into a movie, and it’s best that I focus on getting it published first. After the standard onslaught of rejections from a dozen publishers, I’m honored that Transcendent Zero Press is taking Something Else’s Thoughts into print in July, and to have a publisher, like Weiss, as excited about the work as I am.

DV: If you had to choose one poem from SET that somehow exemplifies the entire work, which one would it be? Can you share it with us?

Dah: I’d love to share, and there are too many to choose from, so let's give “Pass Through The Center” the podium:  

I listen for instructions
from the gray line
quiet as a thief, I listen
The gray line flaps in the dark,
a startled pigeon

All night I’ve been listening
while the storm rattles the windows
and the shack’s frame squeaks
its tired rickshaw sounds

I take the gray line and hang it
from ceiling to floor, taut as a bow string
and use a broom handle to stroke it,
like a cellist, until sound waves roll
from side to side
then pass through the center

It’s there, at the center, the instructions
sound: a requiem for white roses,
a German opus, noise of death

My silver hair, faint diffusers between
Yin and Yang, winter’s fog,
Alpine white, frozen
like the hardness of ice

Then I wake up, the hieroglyphs still with me
the code, symbolism, sound bites
Breaking daylight fills everything

Everything is the same as yesterday

DV: Do you have any tips for poets who want to break into print?

Dah: In 2012 -- my first year of actively seeking publication -- I sent out twenty submission packages. All of them were rejected. In 2013, I sent out eighty-five with ten accepted. In 2014, I sent 124 packages with 30 accepted. Since then it has simply gotten better for me. Perseverance along with no fear of rejection is a huge part of the process. Most writers would have given up with the 2012 straight rejections. For me, it’s important to spend time on a literary web page, reading what they publish, what their mission is, who the editors are, etc. The poetry has to be a solid fit, or it’s precious time wasted for all involved. Sometimes it takes me a half-an-hour-plus of reading poems from the contributors before I decide if my work fits. Other times my work is a fit and it gets rejected anyway. My mantra is: Keep Pushing!  
DV: As a poet, and as a photographer too, what sorts of themes most attract your creative impulse? 
Dah: Surrealism has and continues to be a theme in much of my work but not consciously. 
DV: But the whole point of surrealism is the liberation of the unconscious.
Dah: Then, according to that concept, I’m “unconsciously” doing it properly (smiles). Starting from childhood and filtering into my adult life, I have gravitated toward Lewis Carroll’s stories and poetry, especially Alice in Wonderland (1886), which I’ve read and reread a few times. With the fathering of my daughter, I was able to return to Alice, both the book and the movies. We had spent so much time in Wonderland that we became the characters, knowing them line-by-line. Along with Carroll’s work, I’ve read and reread many of the twentieth century European surrealist and DADA writers, along with studying photographers Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s technique; I have been told by editors that my poetry conveys the imagery of surrealism. Returning back to my earlier statement on Waking Love With A Kiss: this is an example of how my thinking was influenced and enhanced at a young age. This is where my creative impulse stems from, surrealism. Now, this is first-class timing: I just checked my email and Waking Love With A Kiss has been accepted for publication by Sandy Benitez from Flutter Press. I’ve been working on trying to get this collection published for twelve months with a string of rejections coming back, a dozen rejections to be exact. Here’s what Benitez has to say: “I feel Waking Love With A Kiss would be a lovely fit with Flutter Press. I felt transported to another world that was refreshing and beautiful.” Release month will be October 2018. As my mantra sounds: Keep Pushing …
DV: In what ways do you think your experience with visual images has affected your written work?
Dah: I’ve never thought about it. Some friends have told me that the influence is obvious. Michael Grotsky’s introduction to SET says this: “I first met Dah in 1998 when he was expressing himself in photographic images that were poetic, mysterious, erotic, and dreamy. These images are of concrete things, like Venetian masks, women and seascapes, that reveal abstract ideas moving between dreaming and waking while suggesting something beneath and beyond the subjects in his camera lens. Along the line Dah’s photographs morphed into poems…“ 
DV: Does it work the other way too? Do your poems ever morph into pictures?
Dah: As this cliché states: everything is connected.
DV: As in the old joke about ordering a hot dog from a Buddhist vendor: "Make me one with everything"? Do either of your creative modes depend on your yogic activities?
Dah: I’m sure that there is a dependency, an influence from one to the other but it’s not evident to me. For instance, I couldn’t take a poem or a photo and say, these happened because of my four-plus decades of Raja Yoga, or Prana Yam Yoga, or Hatha Yoga.

DV: You've told us how you work at getting your poems published. But how do you work as a poet? Do you maintain a tight schedule, have an "office space," go through specific rituals, use a certain pen, listen to set musical pieces, maintain a journal? Or is your muse more organic?  

Dah: My approach to writing is that I don’t have an approach. There’s no schedule other than the fact that I rise early in the morning, around five, simply because I wake up at this time. As I say in my poem “Yard Sale”: 'I wake early // before family commotion starts // before the endless // mandible chatter // rips apart the silence.' I don’t have a sacred writing space; I don’t go through any writers rituals, nor do I have a special pen etc. My writing tools of choice are cheap pencils and cheap composition notebooks. The idea of all of this special thinking and set up for writing is, for me, confining. I write in my house, my garden, in cafes, or camping along rivers and lakes, and even sitting on sidewalks. I write whenever the muse says get your tools out and take notes. I always have pad and pencils with me.
DV: It seems to me that writing (especially poetry) is the only major art form that does not require some sort of elaborate equipment. Just a piece of paper and a pencil, and magic can happen. Before you took up poetry seriously, what other kinds of writing were you doing?

Dah: Before poetry dictated that I needed to get serious about it, as in compiling clear and accessible files of my work, submitting poems, putting manuscripts together, starting a poetry critique group, etc, I have always kept journals. The need to write was always there. During my middle school years I drafted a couple of murder mysteries that were inspired by Agatha Christie’s novels and I wrote an essay on John F. Kennedy. But it’s the journals that have the most word-weight; there was always something on my mind that needed to be saved in writing.
DV: This has been an enlightening conversation. I want to thank you for your time and for the "breaking news" about your two forthcoming publications. I hope others enjoy your work as much as I do (I'm sure they do/will). I wish you the best of luck with everything! 

Dah: The honor is mine, Duane. Thank you! And thank you for your fine publication, Duane’s PoeTree, and for all of the hours that you put into keeping this journal running. Summer is upon us, stay close to nature. Om Shanti, Namaste.   

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