Monday, September 2, 2013

Life of a Poet - Sam Edge

Kids, over at Collateral Damn-Edge, you will find a poet who is humorous, irreverent, self-deprecating and brave. My fellow Canadian, Sam Edge, took a leap of faith at the beginning of this year, when he took on writing as a full-time profession. This long weekend marks the release of his introductory 5 Planning Steps for Success, which is available for free download here. We have been enjoying Sam's poetry, and I look forward to finding out more about him. So let's walk right out onto the edge and dive in.



P.U.: Sam, I am looking forward to this discussion. First: Sam Edge. Pen-name?


Sam: I do write under a pen name. My Legal Name is Jason Samuel Gordon, however, that is my adopted name. The name on my birth certificate is Jason Samuel Edge. 

P.U.: Sam Edge suits you to a T! Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, your family......the Poet At Home.

Sam: Thanks Sherry, I am really grateful that you asked to interview me. For me, being a poet and writer is pretty solitary work, and it’s nice to connect with colleagues.

Sam at home - wow!

I live in a small town in the Central Interior of British Columbia, Williams Lake – population around 17,000. I’ve been living here since 2000 when I moved up to take on a 1-year contract as a Community Planner with one of the local First Nations communities. I am a Registered Professional Planner and have spent the last 15 years working with native communities.


Abigail

I moved up here with my first daughter Emma, who was only 30 days old at the time, and her mother. We wanted to get away from the crime, traffic and noise of the bigger cities and start our family in a small town setting. We broke up after only a few months in Williams Lake and I ended up a single Dad for two years until I met my current Wife, Wenona. We’ve been married 8 years now, together for 9, and have two daughters of our own, Tegan, 6 and Abigail, 11 months.



After my one-year contract was up, I got hired on as the General Manager of a Development Corporation that ran all the Band businesses, including a Mill and Logging Company. I ran that for 5 years and built a 9 hole golf course, a cultural heritage park, an irrigation system for their hayfields, 50 serviced lots for new housing, a playground and upgraded their water and sewer systems – it was a busy five years.  When that job dried up my wife and I started a consulting company and worked for another five years doing consulting contracts.

We built a house on 10 acres right on lakefront about 10 minutes out of town. It’s a pretty relaxed set up and I am blessed. I have slowed my pace considerably and now I write from my home office and spend lots of time with my kids.

P.U.: It sounds idyllic. And what a beautiful family you have. Where did you grow up, city or country?

Sam: I was born in North Vancouver in the 60’s. My parents were authentic hippies who lived in a Chinese Junk in a little suburb called Deep Cove. My Mom and I took off and moved to the interior when I was still a baby.

P.U.: I love Deep Cove!!!!! And Chinese junks! How cool. You took a huge leap of faith this year, dedicating yourself to earning a living through freelancing. Tell us what you have learned from this. How do you keep the wolf from the door?  

Sam: I’ve always wanted to do more writing – I started off in university in English literature, but I ended up graduating with a major in geography and economics. As a consultant, a lot of what I did was writing business plans and proposals, so I figured I could take that show on the road and do some freelancing and pursue some of my own writing. I’ve always loved poetry and thought I could come out of the closet on that as well. 

We did play it safe in some ways. We have some clients that have thrown some work our way and my wife still does some Environmental Work to keep the wolves away. One thing about living in the country is the cost of living is pretty reasonable. We can get by on much less than what we would need living in any of the larger cities.

With my uncle Steve Edge from London,
a character in his own right

As I have become more involved in the writing profession, I saw real opportunity in self-publishing – especially the Amazon Kindle Platform. Freelancing was going okay but you do have to pay your dues when you’re starting out. It can be really tough slugging, competing with some of the low bids on the internet jobsites and craigslist. I published a poetry chapbook on Amazon Kindle as a sort of pilot project to get to know the ropes. That went well, so I thought I would see where self-publishing would take us.

P.U.: This weekend you are launching your Planning for Success series.  Would you tell us a bit about it?

Sam: After the poetry experiment, I wanted to see what I could come up with for a self-publishing project. I’ve been through a lot in my life, and always had the idea I could write about my experiences, because I feel I have something to offer to help others. I wasn’t sure if I should write fiction, creative non-fiction, a memoir, self-help...  What I came up with was combining my formal education and career as a planner with my personal experiences overcoming adversity, and putting together a series of e-books “Planning for Success”.

FREE E-BOOK DOWNLOAD HERE:

The free download  will always be free and is an introduction: "5 Steps to Planning Success" 

The link to my amazon author page is below,  where the link to my first full book in the series "7 Simple Planning Principles" will be available. I will be running a free promotion on this one from September 1st to 5th.  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00E3FL67Y

P.U.: Very cool, Sam, and congratulations! I like that you offer free downloads: good marketing tool!

Sam: It’s been quite a ride, and a steep learning curve. I had to learn everything from formatting for Amazon Kindle, to marketing, and to building a platform. One thing that I want to touch on is I do have a learning disability – dyslexia. It is on the mild side but reading for long periods is a struggle, as is writing without typing. 

My wife proofreads everything I write. As a child I was put back in grade Seven because I wasn’t keeping up, and was generally labeled not too bright and even lazy. It was when I entered University that I thrived under the self-directed nature of study. Later testing confirmed my dyslexia and also my above average intelligence. 

It is with a certain perverse pride that I take on writing as a profession. Over the years I have learned how to function at a very high level with my disability. To this day however, I still print lower case d’s and b’s or 6’ and 9’s backwards 50% of the time. By the Grace of dog I will over come this as well, with time and repetition.

P.U.: Cackle. Reminds me of the joke about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac, who lies awake at night wondering if there's a dog. I love it.

Sam: Then I have my poetry. I try to write two to three poems a week. That is really more like therapy for me and, while I do want to be a published poet, I don’t want to mix it with my business. It’s something I haven’t quite figured out – how it all fits together.

Like I said I’m in a really steep learning curve right now – but that’s the way I like it.

P.U.: You are firing on all cylinders, kiddo, and it's all good.  In 2008 you were struck by lightning. Can you tell us that story, what it felt like, how you managed to survive, and how it has affected you since?

Sam: Ha ha. It was coming down in buckets with lightning strikes crashing into the lake only a few hundred feet away and my wife and daughters were yelling at me to come in while I was out on the deck talking on the phone. Then BAM lightning struck the power line 10 feet above my head. I didn’t take a direct hit, but I felt the charge and got sprayed with sparks. Since then I’ve joked that I have super powers.

P.U.: A close call, and you likely have a guardian angel as well. When did you first know you were a writer? How did you find your way to poetry?

Sam: I’ve always loved writing and even though I’ve been doing other things for work, it is my writing that has anchored my income for the last 20 years. My first semester in University, I was 19, and I enrolled late and had to take a 200 course “Romantic and Victorian Literature” to fill up my calendar. There I met Wordsworth, Percy and Mary Shelley and Williams Blake, all those yahoos. These guys and their pretty wild partying and having wild opium orgies and sticking it to the Man every chance they got, you know iconoclasts and all that. I remember thinking “these guys are like the Rolling Stones of the 19th century.  

I really loved Blake and became a little obsessed with him and his Songs of Innocence and Experience. I thought musicians like Pete Townsend, John Lennon and Jim Morrison were the “new Romantics”. I’m not sure if I still think that but that was who influenced me.

I didn’t really advertise my new obsession except in poetry class – of course the girls loved me, I was so dark and complicated … ha ha. Just too many pulls on the bong, if the truth was told. I’ve always written poetry – mostly love poems, and for years I didn’t really keep any. I would just write it and throw it away.

P.U.: Favourite poem by a favourite poet?

WIlliam Blake – The Tyger. I also loved Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Service, ee cummings, Leonard Cohen: Like I said, I think some of the contemporary musicians are great poets – like Pete Townsend is one of my all time favourite lyricists – he’s a modern Renaissance Man. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Doors... they were right up there. 

I hate to admit it, but I think some of the rappers are real geniuses also. A lot of it I don’t get, but Eminem is really amazing with what he does with the English language – there’s this one song “Business”, he actually rhymes "orange", and Tupac has a book of poetry I love also. I would say they are the iconoclasts of this generation.

P.U.: Interesting. Besides poetry, what other genres do you write in?

Sam: Flash Fiction, Self Help and Business Communications

P.U.: I am touched by your devotion to your wife, which shines in your poems and whatever you write about her. Tell us a bit about her influence on your life. (I love your poem The Edited Version of Me

Sam: Ya, well what can I say? I never thought anyone would love me the way she does – I didn’t even know love like that was possible. I grew up in a very cold, utilitarian home and I learned to keep people at a distance. She really broke down my defences and showed me how to be a good man – a father and a husband. She is a great mom and wife and I owe her my life. I don’t know where I’d be today without her.



P.U.: That is truly lovely, Sam. She sounds wonderful. Is there a poem you have written that you feel best describes who Sam Edge is?

Ya, well, Middle Aged White Poet pretty much sums it up:

Middle-aged white guy writing poetry
It’s not pretty
But I really love it - I always have.
A word nerd since my early teens
John Lennon Imagining,
Bob-Dylan-Thomas, Lizard King
Blew my mind with poetry
And it’s never been the same for me.

Let it be Lord, let it be.

And right away I could see
these dudes were inside my head.
They said the things I’d  wished I’d said.
They understood and spoke to me
with innocent experience
iconoclasts in past and present tense.
Feelings so intense they circumvent
my conflicted disobedience.
Feelings from so deep inside 
that sometimes even I don’t realize
the blood stains on the page are mine.

So why not me, Lord, why not me?

Because I was born without a pedigree -
A white suburban refugee where
we never mention child-abuse,
and we always get the right to choose,
and never ever get refused service for not wearing shoes.
So I turned my cap back to hide my bald spot.
My angst is in my pudding cup.
But don’t tell me I didn’t earn my seat
and I don’t have the right to speak
and be heard if I wannabe.

Word.

I’m just an aging word-nerd who knows what
it’s like to hurt and not be heard.
But proud enough to stake a spot out in the crowd
and use my voice to shout it out
and tell my story loud enough
that anyone who gives a shit can sit and listen to another …

Middle-aged white poet

P.U.: Sing it, Sam! Your book Rough Around the Edges is doing well on Amazon. Would you like to tell us a bit about it?



Sam: Well it is a chapbook and it tells my story in 28 poems. I really let a lot of myself out in those poems – maybe more than I should. I’m really not sure. I write about abuse, addiction, recovery, fatherhood – it all pretty much sums up my journey to date. It went up as high as #5 on the Amazon Best Seller list for Canadian Poetry – that’s not the most competitive category, but I was happy, I really never got much feedback on it, so other than people bought it I don’t know how it was received. My wife liked it but she’s biased. 

It’s only available on Amazon Kindle right now. I am working on getting some paperbacks put together. I would like to attend some open mics one day in Vancouver, and it would be nice to have a sample to bring with me. I just got an anxiety attack talking about that.

P.U.: Go for it, Sam.  The more we do it, the easier it gets. Trust me, I know these things.  You allude in your bio to your teen years as a rebel, and mention some issues with addiction, which many teens experience. Would you like to share how you made your way off that slippery slope onto a more stable path? 

(Sam titles this shot "Hair")

Sam: It was more than just my teen years, although they were the worst. I got in lots of trouble – even got locked up for a while. My Dad was in jail when I was growing up and he got out when I was 17 or so and we went on a tear together. He ended up committing suicide. My mom married a Judge when I was 6, so I had a complicated set of male role models. I chose to act out rebelling. That didn’t work out well for me. I went through some real self-destructive years and finally ended up in recovery.

P.U.: The wonder is we actually survive our childhoods at all, Sam. Wow. You must know you are doing great!

Sam: I stayed clean and sober for 12 years from 29 to 41 and then just a few years ago I fell off the wagon. After all those years I didn’t think it would hurt but like they say - once you’re a pickle you’ll never be a cucumber again. It was hard on everyone when I fell off and I really had to re-evaluate what is important. My relapse dragged on – I sobered up for over a year and then slipped again. I wasn’t as bad as I was in the old days, but there is a lot of baggage attached to it, and it did some real damage.  

My relapse had a lot to do with my choice to pursue poetry and my writing and share some of my experiences – to start working more on things that I feel add value. I’m back sober for a year and a half again now. I think I’m done with it for good this time. It may sound funny, but I am a better person for my struggles. My wife and I grew much closer over the ordeal and it’s part of the reason I worship her, she just has my back so unquestionably.

P.U.: I'm glad, Sam. Would you like to tell us a little about your days as a prospector?



Sam: I am actually a “Certified Prospector” by the province of B.C. There are only a couple hundred of us that I know of. I was good at it too. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a real gold rush here in BC – it was the wild west and the day of the Vancouver Stock Market – I was young and wild and everyone in that industry was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.  Those were my hard drinking days all through my twenties. 

Man, I was in good shape. I used to run through the bush like a deer. It was a great time in my life – but it was a frantic pace, I couldn’t have kept it up much longer. Things would have been a lot worse if I wasn’t out in the bush for 9 months of the year. I could really only get into so much trouble. I managed to have some real success and was responsible for a couple of significant finds in the far north corner of BC.

P.U.: You are an adventurous soul. What a glorious landscape, in the north! I hope you write about those days some time. I note you participate in a lot of high-energy, physically challenging sports.  Was it these pursuits that helped you onto a healthier path?


Sam: I go in spurts. I like to take on challenges and then I move on. I took Karate for a few years and ended up winning the National Gold Medal in the World Karate Council in my division (the old fart division) I actually went on and won a number of tournaments in all different divisions. 


Surfing was another goal I had, I wanted to surf and I did. It’s not something I would do as an ongoing sport. 



My sports are mountain biking and snowboarding (and golf). I have been skiing my whole life and I took up snow boarding when I got married because my wife was a boarder. To be honest at the moment I don’t do much of anything. With the baby we have had our hands full.



P.U.: What a beauty, Sam. There is no better way to spend your time. What advice would you give other writers who dream of making a living from writing? 

Sam: Don’t die and don’t quit. And be prepared to pay your dues. Success comes over time and you have to kiss a lot of frogs. Make a list of goals you want to accomplish then start ticking things off one at a time and try to enjoy the process.

P.U.: What is your take on the internet and poetry/writing?

Sam: I am loyal to a few sites, Poets United, Imaginary Gardenwith Real Toads and D’Verse Poets Pub –  these are great online communities, and everyone is great and very supportive. There are others, but those are the ones I try to be consistent with. As far as I can tell, everyone on those sites are just plain old poetry lovers like me. We all have something we’ve got to get out of us and poetry does that for us. You have to remember in these sites we are pumping out poems hours after the prompt comes out so it’s pretty raw stuff. 

When I published my chapbook I agonized over editing, whereas most of my poems I write for the Toads or P.U. come together in an hour or so with no revisions. I don’t think I’m qualified to comment beyond that.

P.U.: Where do you go for inspiration?

Sam: Inside. All the things I spoke of in this interview. I feel that authenticity is vital to good poetry. I would call myself a confessional poet – I write about internal conflict and resolution. For me that’s the core of what poetry is. 

A lot of my poetry has been about me coming to grips with myself. But also I am inspired by the powerful feelings I have for my wife and three daughters. Other times it’s all about the language. I love the language and what I love about poetry is the art of putting the exact right word in the right place at the right time. It amazes me that after thousands of years of communication with the written word,  it is still possible to put letters, words and sentences together in a way that has never been done before – the combinations are infinite. 

One of my greatest fears is that I am going to run out of ideas or new things to say. Thanks to my beloved language, this is unlikely. On  rare occasion, I do it for the sake of the language itself. Most of the time there is meaning. I think I’m pretty straight forward when it comes to my message – it's usually not too hard to figure out what I’m saying (I think)

P.U.: Anything else you’d like to share with Poets United?

Sam: No that was great – Thank you very much Sherry – I feel like you should invoice me for therapy for this. A little self promotion if that’s okay -  I have two blogs my poetry blog “Collateral Damn-Edge” www.damn-edge.blogspot.ca and my Author Blog “Notes from the Edge”: www.edgeynotes.com stop by and check me out.

Cheers and God Bless.

P.U.: I am smiling about the invoice. If only! Sam, it has truly been a pleasure getting to know you better. I hope your series does really well and that this weekend started off with a bang!

There we are, kids, another interesting poet, another amazing life. No end to these wonderful journeys we make with our fellow poets. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


26 comments:

  1. Fantastic look at the life of a fellow poet. Wonderfully informative interview. I always enjoy learning about what inspires someone to write. Great read.

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    1. Thanks Justin I'll have to check your blog out.

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  2. Sherry! Thank you for presenting this wonderful interview.I had the privilege of getting to know Sam edge through PU, so I was so happy to read this interview.Thanks for sharing Sherry and Sam.
    This interview inspires me to read Sam’s work more. Enjoyed the read...:)
    Thanks to both of you!!

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    1. It has been good getting to know you also Panachali

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  3. Sam, I know the dark side. I'm 21 years clean. Loved learning more about you.

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    1. Thanks LaTonya, I was really hard coming back after 12 years and being a "newcomer" I'm back now trudging the road to happy destiny.

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  4. smiles..i def appreciate your love of your family man...that is what jumps out at me when i read you....cool stuff on your ebooks as well....

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    1. Hey thanks BRian you are an excellent advocate of poetry and you have been very supportive thanks dude.

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  5. I applaud your courage and love for your family ~ Your sincerity shines through in your work ~ Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey with us and I must say I envy where you are right now ~ Wishing you a lot of success in your writing projects ~

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    1. Thanks Grace I've enjoys getting to know you on these sites

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  6. Sam, I've read the interview three times ... increasingly impressed with each read! (great job Sherry) You are one fascinating man .. the sum total of all your amazing life experiences. I agree with Brian, the family man side of you an inspiration for all. Hello to your wife and to your daughters .......... best of luck in every single endeavor.

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    1. Awwe thanks Helen you've alway been so sweet to me - it's so great to be in a community with all you great poetic types.

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  7. Sam, I really loved this interview. I feel like I know you so much better. You really are a man who has worn lots of 'hats.' I am impressed that you were a prospector at one time and also a Karate champion. I admire the kind of poetry you write....about coming to grips with yourself. It takes a person who knows himself to do that. Loved reading about your relationship with your wife & your new (and beautiful) little one. So great to have you as part of our poetry community. Good luck with your Amazon chapbook, Sam. Always good to see you around Poets United and other haunts in the blogosphere.

    Sherry, another great interview! You always bring out the most interesting facets of a poet!!

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  8. THank-you everyone. It was an honor to have Sherry interview me. Our online community is so supportive and I am grateful you comments mean allot. I am on the road a th emoent. I will comment more when I am settled. God Bless

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  9. I have the best job in the world, as I get to visit all these great people and dig their stories out of them!!!! Kids, check out Sam's recent poem - it is one of the best, most honest and heartfelt poems about recovery I have ever read. http://damn-edge.blogspot.ca/2013/08/gimme-three-steps.html

    Way to be, Sam! And thanks for a wonderful visit!

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    1. This was my favourite experience so far as a poet Sherry you do a great thing here at Poets United and it feels so good to be recognized by the community in this way. It takes a lot to write poetry and even more to put it out for the whole world to see. Letting people see behind the words is a great service you provide to the community.

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  10. Wow, Sam, you share a lot here. I admire your current life and the amazing path it took to get there. What I've learned about addiction is that to leave the product behind, you have to want something else very very much. And your poems! Nice to have plain-speak wrapped around all edges that you navigate. Glad to meet you. Thanks Sherry for another thorough introduction!

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    1. All we have is our story Susan. Yes addiction is a tricky one.

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  11. This wonderful interview is one of my favourites to date - and that's saying a lot as they are all so good. Great to get to know more about Sam.

    I think addicts are usually the most sensitive souls, and this seems to be borne out in Sam's case - a man so unashamedly in touch with his emotions.

    It's inspiring, Sam, to read of your life and values, and all the things you have done.

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    1. Yes sensitive and complicated - that's why I'm so blessed to have a wife and partner that puts up with me. Thanks for much for all the king words.

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  12. Fascinating! I feel the more I get to know each poet, the more I look forward to reading poems written by them - a bit more personal, perhaps. Quite a ride you've had so far, but it looks like you are back in the saddle and I truly hope you stay there - I imagine as much as poetry can be healing, it also can drudge up memories that might be better off left buried.

    Thank again, Sherry , for making each interview unique and interesting.

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    1. Hi Margaret, I'm just rereading my interview and thought I would respond. I sure enjoy know you and the others the the Pond. The community is so supportive.

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  13. Sam, you are an inspiration...what an amazing journey you have made to reach where you are now.....wish you and your wonderful family all the best.....
    Thank you Sherry for presenting such a gift....

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  14. Sam really lives upto his name! An amazing journey and wish many more wondrous moments and congo! on the publications. Thanks Sherry and Sam! for sharing this journey with us

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