Monday, April 17, 2017

Life of a Poet - Eric Erb

Today we are zipping across North America to drop in on one of our newer members, Eric Erb, of erbiage, who lives in New Jersey, USA. We are looking forward to getting to know this young man better, so pull your chairs in close. The coffee's on me!

Sherry: It is lovely to be visiting with you, Eric. Would you give us a snapshot of the poet at home?
Eric: Thirty-seven miles north of Princeton, N.J., in a venerable old home by a small river, piled up on a stone foundation, my wife and I make our home. With two chickens in the yard.

Sherry: It looks lovely. And chickens, too! Would you like to tell us a bit about your childhood? Is there anything, looking back, that you think contributed to your becoming a poet? Were you exposed to poetry as a child?

Eric: The words first enthralled me as my Uncle Tom unfurled them, reciting Jabberwocky from memory, spinning the tale of Falling Rock, (the ghost of an Indian chief who did not like road cuts scarring sacred land), or laying words down on the family scrabble board, with grace and aplomb, invariably coming in second. Shel Silverstein I vaguely recall as well, my mom reading to me at bedtime.

Sherry: Such wonderful memories. When did you write your first poem?

Eric: There is a slip of paper surviving, where I wrote "they have cities and tables". I was five at the time and honestly have no idea what I meant by it, but I count that as my first poem. I began writing in my high school math class to try to escape. Carried that through into college, where I was involved in the literary magazines, Sheaf and Four Walls, both as contributing author and editor. A creative writing class was somewhat helpful, but it also exposed me to people who had real talent, and it left me feeling like a fraud. After college writing dried up to almost nonexistent, save for a few inspirations when I met the woman who would become my wife.

The blog Erbiage began in 2015, when I could no longer deny my urge to create. NaPoWriMo was a huge inspiration in April 2016, even featuring one of my works, and I have been writing daily since, finding great community at Poets United, dVerse Poets Pub, and others.

Sherry: I am glad you returned to writing, Eric, for you have talent. What led you to choose poetry as your means of creative expression? What do you love about it?

Eric: The richness of poetry is fascinating, the way the words can move beyond their mere intellectual meaning and begin to convey the feelings and parts of our experiences that are beyond words.

Sherry: Well said, Eric. How did you discover the world of blogging, and how has it impacted your work? 

Eric: The impact is huge. I first started the blog as a way to keep track of my work. It took a bit to really get going, but there came a point where the words were unstoppable, and I could barely type fast enough to lay out the ideas that kept welling up within me. But, like most things, it continues to grow and change.

I've noticed patterns in my work as my voice develops, which is intriguing. But above all, it has given me hints as to how much more there is. It's one thing to sit in a room and write poetry, but another when you work with others, either as audience or even co-authors, then you begin to co-create, which is, I think, an important part of being in the world, and bringing value to it.

Sherry: You have expressed that so well. Let's take a look at a few of your poems, shall we?

Extreme datacenter
A great big block of a building with no features save for its edges
A handleless door every fifty feet or more, no visible entrance
One lone handle, pulled, leads into a tiny chamber, too small to lay down in
Electromagnet unlocks, door opens into a lobby space with security behind thick plexiglass
After approval the next portal opens into airlock, one must close, trapped,
before the next opens, onto conference rooms cubicles and vending machines
And still we are not in the belly of the beast, not yet to the meat of it, no
The final palm print reader opens into the warehouse of ideas
47 types of pipes overhead color coded and labeled accordingly
Rows and columns of cages constructed one by one by twenty two or more
Cooling units larger than my first apartment blasting through ductwork
fit for jacks nemesis, constantly blowing to keep their charges cool
Whisking away the heat of processors crunching through their code
In each cage, racks upon racks of stacks of servers some cloaked in chaotic
jumble of crossed cables colored like skittles candy
Others orderly, a huge investment in cash and effort, blue lights blinking
Wiring chases neatly stuffed with power on one side, data flowing on the other
Fifty thousand computers or more storing analyzing and serving up information
This is where we house the cloud, there is no cloud! It’s someone else’s server!
Fed endless electricity by duplicate generators about the size of a seven eleven
Tanks of diesel lined up like the docks in Linden new jersey feed the monsters in their zoo
Everything about your actual life it can possibly collect,
Everything you company does, every problem every triumph, in the cage next to you fiercest competitor
Your friends, your likes, who you’ve unfriended and after a brief AI analysis, why
And your entire digital world, your playground your escape, your bank accounts
It’s all here

Eric: This was featured by the NaPoWriMo challenge in April of 2016. The challenge that prompted it was to write a long-line poem. At first I found it very difficult to do but, once I began, it just started pouring out. This is about a real place.

Dove and pine
Alight! Alight! My dove, and write
Make your mark upon my heart
Imprint your feet upon my soul
I’ll be your roost when daylight fails
Catch your cooing in robust sails
my dove, my love, my pretty bird
Alight and let me hold you
through the cold and bitter night
Let’s make your nest here embowered
Above the springtide flowered
I’ll whisper songs of zephyr’s race
And hide you from the moons cold face
Soon you’ll need bring seeds and worms
From nearby fields and earthy berms
and so your generations turn
Tell your tale of enlighting
So write, my love of
A light

Eric: Oh what a tree must think of the birds? So often these ideas are gifts. I'll often write just before bed, and really try to let go into the work, to relax and let the words come out. Sometimes it works!

The Instant of Art
The master sits,
Fresh parchment,
Three of us,
Our curiosity,
His brush,

The moment hangs in the air,
So palpably Now.  The contemplation
Of the empty vellum
The viscosity of the ink
The intention in his spirit
Flows unto the page
Until a single mark is made
Razor sharp and precisely laid.

Eric: This is about the moment of writing, when the vast infinite possibility of an empty page comes crashing into a single path forward, when Something is called forth from Nothing. What a world it would be if Art was a spectator sport?

First Flight

sticky wax collected from the ears of ten thousand bees
feathers of every bird save the ostrich
balsa canvas sinew
atop the cretian cliffs
with the wings strapped to our backs
from point spinalonga we set out
across the sea, to catch the wind
the culmination of fear as we left the rock
Minos’s men not far behind drove our last steps
the sea beckoned but the wind would not let go
we left the rushing waves below
elation victory success then washed over me
not even fathers words could catch me!
as he called his son, the sun called me
ever onward, ever upward

Eric: Oh what human doesn't look to the sky, the stars? Icarus and his father escaped the king of Crete by making wings and soaring across the sea. What must that have felt like? This was an attempt to depict that. And despite the warning, we still strive to climb higher and higher. 

Sherry: Such a wonderful collection of poems, Eric. My favorites are "Dove and Pine" and "First Flight". Your imagery is really wonderful. I love the wax from the ears of bees!

What other activities do you enjoy, when you aren't writing?

Eric: I have far too many hobbies and crafts, woodworking, blacksmithing, gardening, cooking, event planning.

Sherry: Interesting pursuits. Very cool. Is there a cause you are passionate about?

Eric: My cause is the personal growth of each of us, facing the underlying fears and feelings of worthlessness which keep us stewing in the same miseries over and over.

Sherry: Yes, it is good when we climb up into the light of self-worth. That is the journey. Is there anything you would like to say to Poets United?

Eric: What a wonderful community to foster growth and learning. Write often, and comment on others' writings. Thank you all for reading m,y work, and helping hone our craft.

Sherry: Thank you, Eric, for this wonderful visit. It is good to get to know you. We look forward to reading more of your work in the months ahead.

Wasn't this an interesting visit, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. So nice to meet you Eric. I've read a few of your poems already and love these you selected here. I look forward to reading more of your work.
    Thanks Sherry for this nice introduction to Eric.

  2. Great! I wondered about you, Eric, after reading your Impressive poems at Poets United. I like the one yesterday called "."-- a single point and how to know or to enter it. Contrast that with the location of the cloud in that building with so many doors--and yet also "invisible"! And these poems with bird imagery: now that I know you have companion chickens I'm not surprised that wings and flying come through in your unique visions. It's good to know you. I'm very happy you post your poems here with us. Thank you, Sherry, for another fine interview!

  3. Thanks, Sherry and Eric, for this lovely, upbeat interview. I love the photos – very outdoorsy – especially the one affectionately eyeballing the chicken. And the poems are of course terrific. I think Eric is one of the most interesting poets around. Dear Eric, you always seem to me one of those people with 'real talent'! And me the fraud by comparison – but I have learnt that we all have our gifts and our own voices, and that poetry is something that develops in the doing. I'm so glad that finally your vocation wouldn't go of you! I always come away from reading your work feeling enriched. Every poem you write gives me something I didn't know before or hadn't looked at in quite that way – including the pieces you've shared here, which also show that you have quite a range. I particularly like the casual detail in the Icarus poem, that they used feathers from 'every bird save the ostrich'. (Well of course, now that you mention it – but who else wold have thought to mention it?) And the fact that this poem is so full of the joy and exhilaration of the flight, stopping short of the fall. Altogether, a great start to my day!

    1. Aaargh! 'wouldn't let go of you', I meant of course, re your vocation.

  4. Thanks for the introduction to Eric, Sherry - and another fascinating interview. Awesome poetry! I enjoy the way you put words together, Eric - poetically and conversationally.

  5. Thank you, friends. I am happy you enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed putting it together. I especially like Eric and the chicken eyeball to eyeball. LOL. Eric, we are so happy you arrived at Poets United!

  6. Thank you all so much, for welcoming me and for reading the words that have come through me. Susan, feel free to ask anything that springs to mind. I'm so glad that "." came out, i didn't see it as a single point until your comments, it seemed so huge on the inside! but it really was dimensionless. My chickens aren't much for flying! I do have a neighbor who just bought a glider though. Rosemary, you are too kind. So much of it is just getting out of our own way. I hear you telling me, do not refrain from the obvious. Wendy, i'm glad you enjoyed. Sherry really put this together very well, thank you Sherry.

    1. You are most welcome, Eric. It was a pleasure and a privilege. I am so glad you are honouring your writing gifts. And that you are a friend to chickens!

  7. This is an interesting interview Sherry and Eric. Enjoyed the beautiful poems and your chat :)

  8. LOVES me some erb! So thankful to be reading this talented poet these days, and always always thankful to read your wonderful interviews, Sherry. Thank you!
    Eric, "First Flight," in particular, took my heart and gave it wings.

  9. Sherry, thanks for this enlightening interview with Eric!Loved it.
    Eric-I am already a fan. I love the poems that were included above, esp. the poem 'First Flight'... Thank you for sharing your poetry journey with us. Great stuff!

  10. Dear Sherry and Eric. What a wonderful post! I enjoyed every word and shared one of your poems with a friend! Thanks so much.

  11. nice to know you, Eric. i think i am a fan of your poetry already. :)
    your datacenter poem reminds me of an incident in my workplace. i once complained to the MA that the air-con was too cold, and he said sorry, the aircon was not meant for me but the the machines. the cold truth hurts.

  12. Nice to meet you Eric and Poet's United ... wandered over via the link at dVerse ... will explore a while, thanks!

    Your first poem about the Cloud is profound ... most sheeple prefer not to know


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