Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life of a Poet--Timoteo

by Sherry Blue Sky

Hey, kids, when the blog Catnip first appeared on the blogroll, and I investigated, I discovered one of the way coolest poets in blogdom. I believe the first poem of Timoteo’s that I read was The White Hotel,  and I was hooked. I’ve been a follower ever since. Tim has a highly original voice. His work is very real, often humorous, always interesting, and has an underlying tinge of melancholy that, at my time of life,  I completely relate to.
For this one, you may want to forget the tea, and pour yourself a late afternoon beverage. Sit in the sun, relax and enjoy the ride. Today we’re visiting Timoteo’s part of the world, and it is weird and wonderful, beautiful and strange, and laced with lots of humor.

Poets United: Timoteo, so nice to meet you at last! Will you tell us the story behind the name of your blog?
 Timoteo: I thought of  Catnip  for the blog because I wanted the name to reflect something heady or intoxicating.  Something that might put you in an altered state  (if you're a cat, of course!) That's why the sub-heading says: "Scintillating fiction, poetry, and commentary...snort it up your snout!" Anyone who is cool, daddy-o, may think of themselves as a  "cat." So there you go.

Poets United: And I could tell right away that you are very cool! Tell us a little about yourself, Tim.
Timoteo:  I live in a scenic desert area just outside of Tucson, Arizona--USA. It's pretty quiet out here, and in some ways like the small towns of Iowa and Nebraska, where I grew up. We played baseball, rode our bicycles, didn't get too close to old guys who spat tobacco juice, and the nearest corn field was the place to take your date on a Saturday night. 
[Me, age 6]
Poets United: Tim, you were so cute!
Timoteo: Living in farm country gave me a love and appreciation for animals. I have a beautiful dog named Gypsy--who I think is part coyote, because she likes to sing along with them when they howl at the moon. Gypsy is twelve years old now. But still quite bouncy and ready to hit the road for a walk, or jump into the car for a day trip.  And some cats, who are quite talkative, but easy to understand, because it all translates to: FEED ME!!

[Gypsy and Boomer]

 Poets United: Gypsy is such a beautiful girl! They look like happy critters. When did you begin writing, Tim?  Did you have a special teacher or some adult who believed in you and encouraged you?

Timoteo: I started writing in my teen years. I was bored with high school, so I would sit in study hall and write nasty little parodies of "Beowulf" or "The Night Before Christmas," where Santa would fall head first down the chimney and then go berserk and start trashing the place. My poems became popular with my fellow students when I started passing them around in class.

Poets United: Wow, Tim! You looked like Fabian in high school!

Timoteo: Nice compliment! The poem would circulate up and down each row of desks -- my classmates snorting and giggling--but trying not to be too obvious about it while the teacher was doing his blah blah... One day my English instructor figured out  what was happening, and he snatched the paper out of a student's hand. He started reading, and began to laugh, then caught himself because he knew he wasn't supposed to laugh, and his face turned red. He went on a long tirade about how "SUCH TRASH WAS THE PRODUCT OF A SICK MIND!"
That was the first time when I felt like maybe I could be a writer.

Timoteo: I went on to a career as a rock ‘n roll radio deejay, where wit and a sense of humor was highly valued...working all over the country--and outside the country--in places like Puerto Rico and Alaska. I guess I always craved attention, of some kind. And, for a long time, my radio name was Charlie Brown:)
Poets United: Cool! What an awesome occupation! Do you still work as a deejay?
Timoteo: I still do a little part-time deejay work at a local radio station. I still have fun with it, so why not? 
Poets United:  Absolutely! Do you have any personal heroes, Tim?
Timoteo: Wolfman Jack. He was this wild and crazy deejay who broadcast his show from across the border in Mexico. I could pick up the station late at night as I lay in my bed when I was a kid. He'd play all these old rhythm and blues guys like Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker. This wolf would start howling in the middle of the songs. It gave me an appreciation for rhythm and blues and, of course, the art of being a little wacky. Flash day this guy shows up at my radio station in San Juan and introduces himself as Robert Smith, which I knew was The Wolfman's real name. He wanted to borrow our recording studio to make some tapes. I could hear him outside the studio door, doing that laugh and all the crazy Wolfman stuff--it sounded just like him, but I wasn't  freaking out because I figured he was probably an impersonator. Now I think that it really was him, so I'm freaking out NOW after all these years. 

[image from]

Poets United: Ack! You missed your Moment! Wait! Can you arrange for a Do-Over:)? What is it about poetry that makes you want to write, Tim?  What keeps you at it?

Timoteo: It just has to come out. It's in there, and it has to come out--otherwise I will feel bloated.
Poets United: Hee hee. Same here! I've lost weight since I began writing again! What style of poem do you write the most?  Is there any form of poetry you avoid, or find difficult to read or write?
Timoteo: I do mostly free verse. Occasionally a pantoum or something like that. Though lately, I'm getting more and more into haiku and senryu, and enjoying it immensely. But generally, the kinds of things I have to say don't lend themselves to what I think of as the "polite" forms. I don't think I'll be doing any sonnets, for example. 
Poets United:  How do you know a poem is good? And do you revise your work very much?
Timoteo: I know it's good if I like it. That may sound brash, but it's important for a writer to develop his or her own voice, and to recognize that voice as the authentic you, and to like the sound of it. I think writers are essentially born, not made. Writing classes can help to bring out what's already in there, but it's got to be in there to begin with--that overwhelming need for self-expression.  Once you've developed your own voice, getting critiques from so-called "experts" may be counter-productive, because writing is such a subjective thing. If you've spoken in your own voice, and expressed your own truth--that's what writing is about. The rest is just style points, which will come with practice.
I do revise, but I don't get obsessive about it. There is an intuition that tells me when a poem is finished. 

Poets United: I so agree, especially about the spark having to be in there to begin with. So what triggers you to write?
Timoteo: Passion!!!  Some kind of emotional involvement with the subject matter. You've  got to care about something if you want the reader to care about finishing your poem. Hunger motivates me to eat. Passion motivates me to write.
Poets United: Well said. What is your take on poetry and the internet?
Timoteo: I see a lot of internet poetry that is well written, with striking images--but overall it's a bit too foggy, or vague, or ethereal for me to sink my teeth into. I'm looking for poems that can connect me to some kind of real life experience. Of course, "real" can mean literally real, or imagined, but it's based in the world we live in. Most of my own writing will reflect that--often in a humorous, and/or satirical kind of way. 
The "aha" moment in poetry comes when you can identify with the author's experience. You've been there. I'll probably never write a poem about faeries, unless I've just come back from the dentist and I'm still under the influence of laughing gas.  
Poets United: That is why I love your work so much; it is in your own original voice and is very real, a trip into your world, and your unique vision. Is there anywhere you especially like to write?
Timoteo: It's frustrating if you're driving down the road and you get this flash of inspiration, and you're fumbling about for a pen, trying to write stuff down on the inside of your arm. I have a little mini-cassette recorder--about the size of a cell phone--that I can speak into without missing a beat. Inspiration can come at any time. 3 o'clock in the morning, I'll jolt upright in bed, looking for my yellow pad. (And rubbing my head, because I've knocked it on the headboard!)
Poets United: Ouch! Again, I relate!
Timoteo: I can write anywhere, as long as there aren't too many distractions... like if I am sitting on the couch and there's this cat on top of me--digging his claws into my belly because he has this weird idea that I'm his mother.

Poets United: Do you have a favorite among your poems?
Timoteo: That's a tough call. But here is one of my favorites:
I wanna be a semi-distinguished poet--
a relative household name
in the households of all my relatives.
I wanna do a book signing at a store
that will later slap 50 % off stickers
onto all my remainders.
I wanna go to a used book sale in the mall
and find one of my tomes misplaced
in the foreign language section...
with a partially torn 50 % off sticker
still clinging to the cover like some kind of skin disease.
I wanna be a semi-distinguished poet--
invited to travel half way across the country
where my sponsors will put me up in some fleabag hotel
and I will write a poem about the fleas.
And I will give a reading for an audience of eleven people
who read about it in the weekly alternative rag...
most of them will wander in late.
And I want there to be one semi-attractive woman
who'll approach me afterward
intent upon getting into my pants...
this, to me, is the essence of true romance.
I wanna be a semi-distinguished poet--
winging my way home
and vaguely apprehensive about the future--
plucking words from the rarefied air
and drifting into a cloud-shrouded dream.

Poets United: I so love this poem! “Vaguely apprehensive about the future”. I can SO relate! Do you have a favorite poet?

[image from]
Timoteo: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and some of the other "beat poets." I like the rhythm and the musicality of their writing. Ginsberg's Howl,  published in 1956, was a seminal work that marked the beginning of the end to literary censorship in the United States. The significance of that to ALL writers who followed must never be diminished or forgotten. 

Poets United: I see similarities between Ginsberg's style and yours. Unique voices, and very real.
[image from google]
Timoteo: I like the mad imagery of Kerouac. And he was smart. He hitch-hiked back and forth across the U.S. By today's gas prices, he must have saved, like, hundreds of thousands of dollars!!!
Poets United:  Who knew, back then? I only wish I had hung onto one of the cars I used to go out on dates in - I'd be rich now! Tim, do you write with hopes of being published? Is online feedback satisfying enough, if you don’t publish?
Timoteo: The first thing I ever sent out--a short story--was accepted by the well-respected South Dakota Review.  Beginner's luck, I imagine. I've had a few other things published in literary journals and magazines, newspapers, etc. But there's a lot of rejection that goes along with print publication too, and you've got to steel yourself against the inevitability of that. It's great to see your work in print, but they don't normally publish your phone number or mailing address, so you get little, if any, feedback on your work. What did readers think of it? You don't know. There is a vacuum there. The initial euphoria of receiving your contributor's copies in the mail can fade a few days later when you say to yourself: Now what?
So for me,  over the last few years, the internet has been the way to go. Writing is mind to mind communication. I can post a poem on my blog and a few minutes later someone from half the way around the world may be commenting on it. That still boggles my mind, though I think that young people who have lived with this technology all their lives may think it's no big deal. But the friends and acquaintances you acquire from around the globe would not be there without the internet. 
Poets United: I so agree. It blows me away too; the connections we make through this community are amazing.
Timoteo: Is it real publishing? Of course it is. If people are reading you, what's the difference? You've just told that person in a position of power who can either give you a thumbs up--or more likely, a thumbs down--that you don't need her. The doctrine that all men and women are created equal has never been reflected with greater impact than through online publishing. And with the advent of print-on-demand, you can always have your online work published in book form, if you want. It's a win-win.
Poets United: I'm with you on that one. Have you ever thought about writing a  book?
Timoteo: I have a novel that has been gathering dust in a drawer. It's about time travel, UFOs, space aliens, radio broadcasting, sex, murder, culture shock, garbage trucks, illegal immigration, government suppression of the truth, political correctness, and punk rock. Mainstream publishers aren't going to touch it. But if anyone might be interested in a really fun story of that type, let me know.

[image from]

Poets United: Sounds like it’s time to take it out of the drawer and dust it off – it sounds more interesting than lots of books out there right now. Do you enjoy music, Tim?
Timoteo: I like smooth jazz, Latin jazz, rhythm and blues...just about anything except old Albanian folk tunes, and that's only because I haven't been exposed to them much. 
My favorite musician is a tenor sax player from Argentina named Gato Barbieri. He did the soundtrack for Last Tango In Paris. A piece of that soundtrack was recycled recently and used in the movie Eat, Pray, Love...because it's so good. 
I played a little clarinet in elementary school, and now I fool around a bit on the alto sax, just for fun. I've discovered that I can write music--I just don't know where to end it. It just goes on and on. I'll call it "The Never Ending Symphony," I think.
Poets United: Good title! If you could have dinner with any famous person, past or present, who would it be?

[image from google]

Timoteo: Marlon Brando (rest his soul). I do a really good impersonation of the way he speaks, and I would perform it for him, and see if he liked it.   
Poets United: I bet he would. Do you have any favorites in the blogosphere?
Timoteo: I hesitate to use the word favorite, because later on I'll surely think of another deserving someone I left out. But here are a few poets I really like: 

Joy, a.k.a. "Hedgewitch" over at Verse Escape:

Claudia at Jay Walking The Moon:

Rene at Not The Rockefellers:

They are brilliant poets. That said, let it be known that all the blogs where I visit and comment on a regular basis are also my favorites. (Was that diplomatic enough?)

Poets United: Totally! Such great choices. When you are not writing, what other interests do you pursue?

Timoteo: I like outdoorsy stuff... hiking, camping, poking my head out the car window with my tongue dangling in the wind like a dog--you know, the usual things.. I've been trying my hand at painting too. I love the French impressionists. I have this romantic idea that if I just 
make a painting real blurry, it will look like something by Monet. Hasn't worked yet.

Poets United: Cool! Have you ever lived a great adventure?

Timoteo: I once did a road trip, with three of my buddies, from Iowa to the Panama Canal and back. Bizarre things happened. It was in Honduras, I think, where we picked up this drunken policeman, who was hitch hiking. In the front seat was the driver--who didn't have a shirt on--me in the middle, and the cop riding shotgun. Without warning, the boozed-up cop reaches across me, and begins tickling the driver in the ribs! The car is swerving all over the road. My friend is cursing the guy, while trying to maintain control of the vehicle. He slams on his brakes, and we shove the cockeyed constable out the door.

Poets United: Whoa! Sounds like a movie outtake! Is more traveling on your Bucket List?

Timoteo: I guess I got all of the wanderlust out of my system in my youth--I've been in the Tucson area for a lot of years now, and this is likely where I will stay. There is a magic and an enchantment  about the desert that I have found no where else.  If I were to do some traveling now, it would likely be to Italy and Greece. I've been to Europe, but not those countries, and I think they would both be fascinating. 
Poets United: They would, for sure – so much history. But with such spectacular beauty outside your front door, I can see you  wouldn't  really need to travel. Do you have a dream you still hope to make come true?

Timoteo: It's kind of a big one: Enlightenment for all beings.
Poets United: I'll second that! A favorite quote to share?
Timoteo: From T.S. Eliot: We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.   
We can end  with a few lines from my poem: Poetry Lives:

It is incumbent upon the poet
to tell the truth
even when his truth never really happened--
and even bad poetry is good
when compared with a political speech.
As Gregory Corso said:
Poetry is the opposite of hypocrisy...
and that's the truth.  

Poets United: That is just a perfect ending, Tim. It could not be said any better. Thank you so much for allowing us to get to know you better. I'll be looking forward to reading your poems all through the long, hot summer:)
Wasn't that fun, kids? The people behind the pen are some of the most interesting people around. Be sure to check back in two weeks to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Incredible interview....definitely a poet to watch and read.

  2. Yay Timoteo, getting his props!

    I'm a big fan of his writing.
    (I keep chiding him to write a book)

    If you haven't already, go now and check out Catnip and Timoteo!

  3. The red text is hard to read but I enjoy the interview. Tim's poetry are fun to read. I love humor in poems.

    Great interview.

  4. I was so taken by Tim's writing that I just had to meet him and he's in my own state. We got to meet last weekend and I found a man with a poet's heart and a kid's wonder.

  5. Terrific post. Timoteo is one of my favorite writers... and that school pic...hubba, hubba.

  6. This was highly entertaining and enlightening. And the final words of Tim's poem a fitting showcase of his style and message.
    Thanks for the hard work that went into this terrific share.

  7. Sherry, I just loved reading your interview. You ask questions that make the poets really come 'alive' here. Timoteo, I look forward to exploring more of your blog!

  8. Love the interview and Timoteo's work. I will be checking out more of his work. Thanks for the interview.


  9. Great interview Tim n' Sherry! I enjoyed it; I look forward to visiting Tim and his blog, "Catnip"~
    One cool cat!

  10. One cool cat, indeed:) It was such fun working on this with Tim, but I was bummed when he couldnt provide a photo of his head hanging out the car window with his tongue dangling in the wind:)Hee hee. Glad you all enjoyed learning more about this talented poet - check out his site. Wonderful writing happens there!

  11. Yes, Sherry really good post! I enjoyed what Timoteo had to say!

  12. What a great write up on Timoteo...Indeed one cool character filled with great stories...bkm

  13. Very cool, I love the beats! Great work Sherry! Can't wait to be interviewed by talent such as you!! ;)

  14. Timoteo is definitely one of my favourite poets and a very cool guy to boot. Fantastic interview.

  15. thanks for sharing, both of you. i really enjoyed this conversation!

  16. Great interview, funny deep and real, like being sweaty in a clean madras shirt...


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