Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Life of a Poet - John Greenwood

Kids, you are going to enjoy this week’s interview so much! For a long time I have been enjoying Raining Iguanas, for the name, the cool lizards on-site, and the talent of its creator, John Greenwood.

Not only is John an interesting writer, he is a fantastic photographer. With my limited technical abilities (to put it mildly), I am going to attempt to insert some of his slide shows and youtube clips in this interview, so you can enjoy his marvellous shots of  the very scenic  Saratoga Springs, New York, where John was born and raised, and has, as he says, enjoyed a half century of life.  Lean back, put your mind in Dreamy Mode and come along for the ride. We’re coming up to the main intersection, and I see John waiting for us on the corner. He’s going to show us around his home town.

Poets United: John, in lurking around your site, while dodging the iguanas, I came across the BEAUTIFUL slide show: Saratoga Winter Morning. You have an artist’s eye. And, apparently, a very high quality lens!

(Kids, here is the link to Saratoga Winter Morning. It is a walk through John's home town.J

John: I am glad you enjoyed my slide show . I have done several of them. I sometimes use photos from a walk at nearby Moreau Lake State Park, or simply put one together from a walk around my home. I have a confession though. My camera is a simple Kodak digital and the only thing I use to edit them are the basic tools in IPhoto. I’d like to believe it’s the splash of heart and soul that brings out the best of what you see.  

Poets United: The shots in your Moreau Morning clip are breathtaking. Kids, take a peek. It is a morning meditation on Beauty.


Poets United: Saratoga Springs is incredibly beautiful. Has it changed much over the years?

John: I was born in Saratoga Springs, and grew up a few miles north, in the village of Greenfield Center. Growing up there was a mix of Mayberry RFD and The Wonder Years. Being a young boy in the late 50’s and 60’s provided a lifetime of fond memories and unforgettable characters. I recently began to document a few of those memories on my Raining Iguanas Blog. I put them under the title, Late Nights And Lunch Breaks,”  because that is when I squeeze in the time to get them down on paper. I hope to put them in a collection some day.

The city of Saratoga Springs is also where I went to high school and peddled newspapers on the street. It is famous for its Health, History, and Horses. Our invigorating spring water, Victorian Era history, and famous Saratoga Race Course have made this a wonderful place to live and raise a family. 

Poets United: Your memories would make a wonderful collection, for sure. With your photos in them, they'd sell like hotcakes to both locals and tourists. What does your life look like now, John? What people or critters  do you share space with?

John: We are presently pet-less. Years of dogs that shed by the dump truck full (Samoyed), cats with names like Ken & Dingles, a rabbit who lived through three presidents, and bowls of county fair goldfish have left my wife and I pet weary and leery. Subject to change of course! 

Poets United: You have mentioned coming home from work exhausted – what is your line of work? 

John: I am a Hauling Supervisor for a convenience store chain in upstate New York. I am responsible for a large number of drivers, their driving, and their safety. They are young and I am not. Thus the exhausted part. I am also a NYS Certified Defensive Driving Instructor. I care about keeping people safe on the road. Have you noticed what’s out there texting up and down our highways? Again, the exhausted part... 

Poets United: I know – it’s quite frightening on the roads these days. When did you become aware you are a writer?

John: Until the last few years the only thing I knew about poetry was:
  1. I loved the name e.e. cummings
  2. I have always taken the one less traveled. 
  3. Back Story:
         A few winters ago the snow was deep and inviting. I had an extra $100. I grabbed a pair of gloves, filled a paper bag with sandwiches and headed to the Gore Mountain Ski Center in North Creek, N.Y. I hadn’t been skiing there since I first kissed my, now wife, some thirty-five years earlier. I rented equipment, which was better than anything I had ever skied on before. The skiing and weather were a perfect match. It was one of the best days of my life. I returned to reality that evening. Back to my father’s bedside in the hospital where I was born. He was the one who had handed me the $100.

He had been ill for a long time. He knew my job, and his care, were taking a toll on me. He wanted me to enjoy a day away, so I did. It was such an invigorating and refreshing day that I wrote, “A Poem For Gore,” and sent it to the local newspaper. A few days later they called me on my cell phone as I sat next to my failing father. I walked down the hall as the outdoor sports writer asked if he could do a short piece on my day of skiing. He wanted to print the poem along with the story. I was thrilled beyond words. As I stood there silent, wanting to share my excitement, I again had to return to the real world and head back down the hall. Dad was sound asleep. I patted his hand and said good night. Days later he would join mom high above. He never got to see the article. I have been writing poetry ever since.  

Poets United: What a touching story. It’s wonderful that the local paper saw its value and printed an article. So, John, what makes for good poetry, in your opinion? What do you strive for in your poems?

John: I write what I feel. I feel what I write. I do it for me. I edit little. I enjoy touching the tender nerves of people but I don’t write to please anyone. I point and shoot. Sometimes it works. I am a sophomore writer with a senior’s heart. My poems are blue collar sincere and usually short. My attention span is... well I’m a man. I just simply love to write. Photo captions and little Facebook snippets are my specialty. Emily, Robert, and Jack have nothing to fear from a Raining Iguana.

Poets United: But maybe Annie Liebovitz should be a little nervous? Do you enjoy any other creative pursuits?

John: I have been pursuing something creative for 56 years. I simply can’t figure out what it is that I am looking for. I will know when I find it. I hope it stays light outside long enough. 

"I always looked up to my sister, Joanne. She gave me the gift
of music and a warmth of heart."

Poets United: How about music? Do you love it?

John: My dear sister instilled in me a love for music of all types and genres. Music is a daily part of my life. I run to bluegrass, sway to the blues, fall asleep to the soft lyrics of Sam Baker, and I don’t hate rap. I have Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water Album, my first, the original, purchased at Montgomery Wards in 1970. It’s in my cellar alongside milk crates full of other vinyl gold. My voice is meant to speak only and I can play a radio.  

Poets United: I love it! I play radio too.  Your original albums are likely worth something, now that vinyl is coming back! Do you have any long-term goals for writing? Or are you content going day by day? 

John: Every day I have a fresh idea of something I would like to write about. I am a nonfiction guy. I want to document my experiences living in this area over the last fifty years. Saratoga has hotels full of early 19th and 20th century history. I would like to preserve more recent tales of my generation. I believe there is room for it.  

Poets United: Absolutely! On a happiness quotient of one to ten, ten being extremely happy, where do you see yourself right now?

John: I am at a 9. I lean to optimism. I want more time. I want to learn, read, and write about it. I discover something or someone new every day. I did not go to college. My wife and I instead chose to step out into the world in bare feet and run with it. We have been hand-in-hand since I was 15 and slender. 

"My wife and I recently visited Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
It was sunrise in a beautiful harbor side park. We were the only ones there.
I placed my Kodak on a rock, set the timer, and ran to the bench."

Poets United: Wow, John! There is a fantastic love story there! How cool is that? 

(Look at this short little clip, kids – John took photos One June Day around his beautiful home. Sigh. I’d be a 9, too!!!!!! Heck, I'd be a HUNDRED and nine:-))


Poets United: What a beautiful life you have created, John. So, hypothetical question: if money were no object, what would you do?

John: I would take a leave of absence from work and get a bachelors degree in Journalism. 

Poets United: Since money IS an object, what makes you happy in this present moment?

John: Our newly installed 93% efficient natural gas furnace. I am content, warm and happy! 

Poets United: What other activities might we find you doing?

John: Starting another never-to-be-completed home repair project or making a fresh pot of coffee. I enjoy attending book signings and readings by local authors such as Jon Katz and Jenna Woginrich, just in case... I am inspired by Mother Nature and I love to visit her home whenever possible.

(Kids, here is a link to John’s terrifically interesting post An Afternoon On Campus. John has also posted the sound recording of this post at the end of the piece, if you prefer to listen.)

Poets United: Have you done any traveling? Or are you so happy at home you don’t need to?

John: I am the least travelled man you will ever meet. Five decades and a handful, and I have never been up in an airplane - honest. My true joy would be to take my beautiful wife with the Irish dimple to the land of her ancestors for a well-deserved and long overdue vacation.

Poets United: Will you go by sea? Hee hee. I hope your dear wife gets that trip one day! Is there a cause that is dear to your heart? 

John: Eradicating child abuse. Yesterday. 

Poets United: Yes! Any advice to a beginning writer?

John: I was going to ask you that question! 

Poets United: You are so funny! Any blogging pals you’d like to give a shout-out to?

John and author Michael Perry - "Michael is the young guy
in the blue t-shirt."

John: I am forever grateful to Population: #485, Author Michael Perry. He has no idea how his writing and his personal story have influenced the past few years of my life. I am drawn to his style of writing, as well as his unrelenting will to do what he loves. I have to be honest, I am always rooting around looking for something that pulls me in. What I enjoy today is affected by what might be going on in my life at that time. I enjoy sites such as Poets United because it’s like a buffet table of talent and variety. The support and encouragement you receive from a community of people with the same passion is immeasurable. 

Poets United: I so agree, John.  So many talented folk, and now we have heard the wonderful and heart-warming story of one more. Thank you, John, for being part of our community, and for walking us around Saratoga Springs.

Sigh. The white porch columns....the green green lawn....the beautiful town....the couple together since they were kids.....this is better than any fictitious tale one might read. (As I keep saying.....) Well, kids, I know you hate to leave this idyllic tale as much as I do, but it’s back to the Real World. Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!!!!


  1. Sherry and John,

    Congratulations to you both.....
    I enjoyed this Life of a Poet Interview so much. An honest, down to earth story, filled with love and living itself.
    John always manages to see the beauty in some of the ordinary views in life and makes them interesting, through both his words and his wonderful photography.
    One of the very best interviews Sherry...
    Much deserved John.
    Eileen :)

  2. John~
    Your productive and contented life glows through this interview. Lovely, lovely, lovely!

  3. Dear Sherry, I can't put in to words the gratitude I feel toward the wonderful way you assembled and posted our interview. I am forever grateful for simply being asked to be a part of something like this. It means more to me than you could know. There are so, so many talented individuals out here in cyberspace, and I am in awe each and every day at the things I encounter. I am a babe in the woods. People like you who inspire and encourage others are what keeps me coming back for more. My favorite line is from Population: #485 author Michael Perry when asked about his writing career. He say's, "It's like cleaning calf pens-just keep shoveling, and eventually you've got a pile so big, someone will notice." For all of you who visit, comment, and support sites like Poets United I thank you. I also encourage you to do what gives you joy. Do it now - without hesitation. Life is waiting for you…

    Yours truly,
    John Greenwood
    Raining Iguanas

  4. Oh John, how lovely. I absolutely loved doing this interview - and I love Michael Perry's line.......Even more, do I love your advice to do what gives us joy - do it now........yes! Thanks so much for being part of Poets United. I, too, love the wonderful community of folks here. Encouraging comes easily, when surrounded by such talent and warmth and humanity.Come back and check for more comments later - people will likely come by after work............

  5. What a beautiful interview. John's pictures didn't hurt it, either. I am astounded at your talent and your state of mind, which seems to be peaceful. Congratulations.

  6. Great interview again Sherry of a very interesting man. Lovely love story and photographs too.

  7. Wonderful interview! Such a wonderful love story and gorgeous photos. The first clip, took me home. Thank you John for sharing your heart!
    I now want to move...lol

  8. With a name as cool as 'Raining Iguanas' it doesn't even have to be good. But it is.


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