Monday, March 11, 2013

Life of a Poet~Uneven Steven


Today we are visiting a poet you likely all know well, who writes at uneven steven. Steve lives in Illinois, USA, with his fiancee, a brand new puppy and a very disgruntled resident cat. I especially love Steven's poems written to his daughter. They are very tender. 



Poets United: Thanks, Steve, for agreeing to this interview. I have wondered, why the name Uneven Steven?

Steve and his daughter


Steve: First off, I have to say you must be a saint or something - I mean you spend a tremendous amount of time and effort giving complete strangers a platform to do nothing but talk about themselves for 20 minutes or even longer - did my therapist put you up to doing this?

Actually it's  Steve for short. And thank you for inviting me.  You know my first thought when you asked me was -"hey, do nothing but talk about me?" - hello, what could possibly be more interesting than that??? - my second thought - "tell the most intimate details of my life to complete strangers on the internet" - what could possibly go wrong?  Hi facebook friends and homeland security dude who got assigned to me .....

P.U.: (Smiles.) Yoiks, I didn't know about the homeland security problem. Where did you grow up, Steve?

Steve: Growing up .... Let’s see,  kinda like dorothy's house in kansas ... only in the middle of Wisconsin, and in a city of 19,000, no colleges, we lived on the poorer side of the river of a paper mill town, no farm hands or auntie ems, just mom, dad, one brother,  two sisters.

Your turn, Sherry- quick without thinking too much-  scarecrow, tinman, cowardly lion - which one would people say you are most like... and  how does that make you feel?

P.U.: Well, one of the songs I sing often is “If I Only Had a Brain.........” and it makes me laugh hysterically. When did you begin writing, Steve?

Steve: My first experience in writing came in 7th grade - everyone had to write a short story - I wrote a story about my experiences on the middle school gridiron which got an award for some reason and accolades. 

Good poetry is always a little bit sad in my opinion - makes the sweet that much sweeter and the glad that much gladder ... there are always exceptions of course - but those are harder to come up with...

Birth
not being into being
each moment
a star
the universe
all
blooming
in front of me,
I close my eyes
and they all
disappear
if only
I could open them
and see you
one
more
time

P.U.: I love that poem, Steve! 

Steve: I took a poetry class in high school - I was always a dreamy and introverted kid - (luckily being big for my age I was always in sports to balance me out a bit - sports are very big in small rural towns), but there were always things in nature or the environment that had a beauty or rightness about them that gave me pause - took my breath away a little bit- and I found some poems and lines of poems that had that same effect - a little ‘wow, I wish I had written that’ kind of feeling - so some of my first impetus to write was to take that little bit of rightness and put it in a form- a poem that expressed  that rightness somehow and let it show through.

I had some poems published in the school art journal and at graduation they gave me an award for creative English, so that gave me the impression that what I was doing had some potential or worth. 

P.U.: What triggers you to write, nowadays?

Steve: I seem to write poetry in spurts, mostly accompanied by life changing circumstances, pain or personal growth of some kind. Hey, is “kiddo” a Canadian term of endearment or perhaps you are implying something else …

P.U.: It’s my own personal term of endearment for all of the lovely people on line whom I love so much and am so grateful for.  No inference, just affection.  Is there a certain time of day, a special place, where you like to write the most?

Steve: Generally I need to be in the groove, and there are certain times and places that do seem to work best... But first I take an idea or a prompt and keep it somewhere in my mind as I do mindless work until it becomes like an itch or a sliver or an irritant that transforms into a kind of knot in my guts. And although I would like to think I am so enlightened that my subconscious will never surprise me - I start to write out the itch until it works itself clear - usually I end up with something pretty neat that is something similar to what I wanted, but never quite what I had really planned.  I may reword here or there afterwards, but once it has worked itself out it is out there and almost as much a surprise to me as everyone else.  And the kicker is, if I really like it or think it is good, I am almost certain it is the final one I'll ever write and don't know when or if it will ever happen again.  Weird huh? 

P.U.: I so know that surprised feeling! Where do you go for inspiration?

Steve: One of my favorite sites right now is Trifecta - http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/

I also find a lot of inspiration in the on line community.  What's neat about the online community is the great variety of examples of impulses to write - Brian Miller   at  http://www.waystationone.com/  uses daily life all the time, for instance. Mama Zen -  http://mamaneedsshoes.blogspot.com/  uses neat word play to create little gems.…really awesome poems. Tessa  (http://willowmanor.blogspot.com)  uses nearly incomprehensible meaning to create something greater than the parts.  Guys like j cosmo  (http://jcosmonewbery2.blogspot.com/)  scare me by how easy they make it seem.  In the end I try and use all of these, but most of the time try to create something with an emotional bump.

P.U.: Interesting, Steve. I like the idea of the  “emotional bump”. Do you write prose as well as poetry?

Steve: I do poetry almost exclusively - prose is unspeakably hard for me- guess I have just never practiced enough to do it naturally.

P.U.: Which do you prefer: form poetry or free verse?

Steve: Especially when I was younger, I copied some forms and played with rhymes a bit - it was interesting and challenging. One of the great benefits of form is that it makes you use unusual words or images to fit the form, so you come up with some very creative stuff you might not normally have thought of yourself - plus it gives you a rhythm and flow to follow so it sounds purty too.  

The Last City Autumn (Sonnet)

The city autumn has bared her cold breast,
Breathing in gusts, a withering of years,
Whose call is for you dear father, brown guest,
Who in a whirling dervish of leaves, fears.
For cloistered, the city has left ungleaned
A father’s true loves for city forged dreams,
A rust of spirit turning gold from greed,
His green life blown to fallen ember leaves;
Blown to where turning feet on wet cement
Churn his last lingering leaves of hope to moist oil,
The seeds of his ash remains to a silent,
Soft, lubricating spring of city soil,
Where I weep not for autumn, no dying thing,
But for you dear father and wild delivering spring.




P.U.: Wow, that’s beautiful, Steve! I love the “withering of years” and the “delivering of spring”. Would you like to tell us about your new ebook?


Steve: I have a daughter who is 11 now - when she was first born, I had an achilles tendon rupture and was taking care of her during the day - (we started locomoting together at the same time). Anyways, being a stay at home parent with an injury was a bit mind-numbing - so I started to think - what would she know about a younger me?  

I never knew anything about my parents before they gave their lives up to us. What can I torture her with when she gets to be in high school and college? So I started to write again at an online poetry site - the critical poet, where you had to critique others works at varying levels - I wrote 2 pieces that got placed in contests - and so got back into poetry a bit.

                                                    


I wanted to organize all my old poems with words of advice from her old pa - did that in kinkos paper form and kept reworking it over the years until it occurred to me this could get lost real easy - how can I insure her much needed embarrassment from her crazy parent? - the internet of course - put it on, never really goes away.


This is a picture of my sweetie and her puppy.  We’ve been together for a year and a half and I finally asked her to marry me this last December 24th – she said yes – finally - on January 4th – that was Molly, her border collie puppy. She was 14 years old when she died last year. 

You were always
black and white,
wet nose nudging the present
joy you knew was in my hand
even when I didn’t,
the long leash
of us
stretching
thin
at times
with the irresistible
urge
of a dark underbrush -
its only breaking,
the one time
I called
and you didn’t look back,
collie grin fading
to a distant
field,
memories of you
nipping
our heels,
your loyal, uncertain
stragglers -
I know it’s hard, girl
but stay,
we’ll catch up soon.

P.U.: Oh my goodness, that just breaks my heart, Steve. “We’ll catch up soon.” Congrats on the impending wedding! That’s great news!

Steve: Jodi’s a vet, and I would only recommend a border collie for professionals ….  This one only recently showed up from border collie rescue … oh good lord  …  the horror … and impending property destruction …



 So what do you think, Sneaks?



P.U.: I LOVE it! Sneaks is in for a shock. I have read a lot of Jon Katz, so I know what you mean about border collies!  But so cute! I love Sneaks' expression - not happy! She'll adjust though.




Hmmmmm.....maybe not! Would you tell us a bit about being a martial arts instructor?

Steve: When I have children in class, my first question to them is - what is a martial art? Learning to kick or punch is usually the first answer. And what are we trying to do when we kick and punch someone?  why yes we are trying to hurt them -  So my next question - why in the world would your parents bring you somewhere to learn how to hurt other people??   This leads to discussing proper frame of mind, ethical concerns and safety.




P.U.: I like that approach a lot!

Steve: Most people have really strange ideas about martial arts; my particular martial art recently had the 50th anniversary   - golden anniversary -  of its founding, and it is almost unique in keeping its martial art identity throughout the years.  Hey, buyer beware, it’s crazy out there – please be careful,  do the research, and know who you are trusting your children with….

   A student's birthday celebration


Wow!

P.U.: Any adventures?

Steve: When I was young and wild, I took some interesting classes and seminars. Being a parent is also pretty adventurous, but is one of my greatest joys and challenges as well. 




You are 10, I am 45

and oh, the solemnities I wish to bestow
upon you -
heaping, drowning you
with what my father might have called
chestnuts,
tomes you should read,
rebukes, remonstrations,
all the weight of my discontent
on your fragile bird frame -
but I resist the vase,
the glass frame enclosing
and linger in the wild swaying
of your wonder,
smile sunflower
bright
and is there something
in you knowing
this dark silhouette always
over your shoulder,
this somber south of a compass
always behind you
singing
keep your face to the sunshine
singing and singing
and you will not see the shadows
singing and singing
into life
a little girl
dancing, twirling
under the tweezers of a pointing
finger and thumb
frilly flower skirt
so much in motion
as to seem
perfectly
still



P.U.: Incredibly beautiful, Steve, as is your daughter. Such a touching poem.
Anything else you’d like to say to Poets United?

Steve: Let me wrap this up by saying:  I remember a couple of big life decisions I purposefully made that influenced my life drastically  - one:  what did I want to do in college - A) go there and learn as much as I could or B) get a career - because I grew up a dumb hick only smart enough to know I was a hick - I chose a to explore and learn ;  and two:  do I want to A) make money or B) help other people?  I chose a life of helping other people .  Hopefully these two decisions have influenced my writings  in a positive way. They definitely did not help my financial situation.

So why uneven steven?  I guess it's because I am a big fan of yin and yang  –  balance.  To be a balanced whole, you need to be aware of, to love and to be able to use your dark as well as your light, your hard as well as your soft. And........

Why I Write

Because it's night,
the edge of sight
unexpectedly bright
and I always
have to stop
and
name it

Full
Moon

heart skipping
beats
thinking
this stranger
in the crowd
might have been
you


 I am still a bit leery of this online poetry thing - I sometimes worry it is just us making each other feel better in a world spiraling out of control - but every once in a while, I see something come through in someone's writing - that little bit of wow, that something special, that rightness, and I am reminded of how we all have that rightness inside of us, and it is our duty to nurture that, to bring out that spark that is unique to each of us - and in doing that we will help heal the world - one person at a time, starting with ourselves -  each of us doing our proper work with the proper spirit and then you know, I think everything will be all right - at least for this moment.




P.U.: Wonderful, Steven. I, too, see that something special coming through in everyone’s poetry. There isn’t one whose work doesn’t touch me and make me go “wow!” often. So, final words?

Steve: One last one:
Epilogue

I gathered the waitress
expected him there
every morning
old man
in the corner
writing down his
rosebud
thoughts
himself unsure
whether he was just
holding on
or learning
to let it all
go

or
Morning coffee
and a newspaper

Bitter brew
that burns
a scalding cleft
runnelling my throat –
too bright
shaft of light
knifing
the half opened blinds
of my kitchen
sight blurring
20 more children dead
and every morning
I have to pray
to heal these sleep strewn
eyes,
once so comfortably
jaded,
just one
more
time

Thanks so much, Steve. Well, kids, there you have it, a glimpse into the life of Uneven Steven, another pilgrim poet on the path. Come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

20 comments:

  1. smiles...great pics of you and your daughter...and thanks for the nod as well...cant imagine being home with that achilles rupture...yikes! love your thoughts there in the end on nurturing that through our writing...true man...

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    1. you are amazing Brian - visiting and commenting on so many sites with great consideration and kindness - kudos to you well deserved :-)

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  2. Steve is a talent with lots to share. Thrilled to have read this in-depth and entertaining interview.

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  3. Steve, I enjoyed learning more about you. Hmmmm, a papermill town in the middle of Wisconsin?? With no college? Can I guess......Wisconsin Rapids? Being a 'Badger' myself, you now have me curious!

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  4. Thank-you for a wonderful inter-view Steve and Sherry.

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  5. Yet another fascinating interview. Many thanks, Steve and Sherry.

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  6. Thank you for sharing Steve,especially the 'special' between you and your beatiful daughter. I spent a little time up in Depere, Wisc. a little college. it's always fun reading Sherry's interviews
    because the queries come from a warm and caring place.

    Gracias Steve, Gracias mi amiga

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  7. Wonderful interview, Sherry and Steve. It was very nice to get a little glimpse of Steve's life. Congratulations on the impending wedding, Steve.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Steve your comments on the "online poetry thing" are dead-on, very well said.

    I've "oddly" enjoyed reading of "Uneven Steven". Thanks Sherry, thanks Steve.

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  9. Great interview and love seeing similarities we enjoy - the biggest being - Wow, where did that come from? I too am often surprised how our words turn out (even after decades) and today, marvel at the different things and aspect people see in our poetry.

    Great to know you Steve and you have a lovely daughter there!

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  10. Big thanks to the Poet's United community and to Sherry - she "edited" the interview by cutting down the length and somehow made me sound reasonable and nice while still having it be entertaining. Always willing to offer others my unedited opinions which are usually a bit more crude, critical and a lot less touchy feely - Glad to see some of my thoughts resonating with others -

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  11. A fascinating read Steve, we all travel such different paths and yet have so many things in common.

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  12. An inspired interview and a lovely poem to go with it

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  13. Sherry and Steve -this was such a great interview! Steve - I'm sure you are bringing balance to each child that is lucky enough to be in your martial arts classes! I also find the poets that you go to for inspiration are so wonderful and supportive of the online poetry writing community! Thanks for sharing this interview!

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  14. it's wonderful to "meet" you Steve, I love your words and the way you write

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  15. I'm so happy everyone enjoyed getting to know Steve a little more. It was my pleasure, as always. Steve, your daughter is so lovely and I so envy you your puppy! Enjoy!

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  16. Hi Steve!! Have always enjoyed your poetry and was thrilled that Sherry (interviewer extraordinaire) asked you for an interview. I Love your cat's expression, that is hilarious! And as to feeling a little leery, I think everyone has a bit of that sense from time to time--but who better to appreciate poetry than other poets? I am overwhelmed by the support out here and in reading all this poetry I know it makes me a better poet, too. Really wonderful poems in this interview. I do martial arts too! Very cool. (Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu) What do you do?

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  18. Wonderful to learn more about Steve! I love the photos and the poems~
    You are a poetic Ninja ;D
    Great photos-you have a lovely family!

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  19. Congrats! on the wedding Steve and loved the poems as part of the interview. By the way, you almost walked in the interviewer's shoes, to begin with! :)

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