A.R. Do you write poetry, prose, or a mixture of both?
J.C.M. Yes, both–about 80% poetry, 10% creative nonfiction, 10% fiction
A.R. Have you every done any journalistic writing?
J.C.M. No, but I served as the editor of a technical journal for the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers for 5 years.
A.R. What made you start writing?
J.C.M. Thinking outside the box as a professor of physics and astronomy, I wanted to give my students a memorable experience with science so I began convolving history with the science. It was Longfellow’s work that attracted me to poetry–he wrote much about the night, which fascinated me. It was 2000-2002. But at a literary festival in Charlotte, NC, after meeting with Urey (Pulitzer prize-winning playwright for Driving Miss Daisy) that I joined a critique group in May 2004 and seriously pursued the craft of poetry.
A.R. How old were you when you started writing?
J.C.M. Just a month shy of 56
A.R. Where do you get your inspirations?
J.C.M. All around me, there are poems to be plucked in everything ordinary.
A.R. What is the one thing you hate most about writing?
J.C.M. Nothing about writing itself but as an editor, I hate sending rejections (except to flagrant repeat offenders).
A.R. What is the one thing you like most about writing?
J.C.M. Sending acceptances, discovering new talent, and rewarding poets with Pushcart nominations, are all high on my list, but I suspect you want to know what excites me about my own writing the most. I love to see a poem develop texture/literary depth. That’s what the revision process rewards me with.
A.R. When is inspiration most likely to strike you?
J.C.M. Actually any time, but I have noticed a lot comes when I am driving.
A.R. Do you do any other sort of art?
J.C.M. Not really, but I appreciate other art (especially paintings and music), which often energizes me when I feel “stuck” (I don’t have writer’s block but I am not always equally inspired).
A.R. If you could invite any one other author or poet over for dinner, who would you invite?
J.C.M. Pablo Neruda
J.C.M. I want to hear his poems in Spanish; I want my heart to sing when I hear those words from his mouth.
A.R. What would you talk about?
J.C.M. Among other things, Lorca, his brilliance and at the same time his difficult Spanish. We’d talk about poetry in translation, and of course, the ode.
A.R. What would you serve for the meal?
A.R. If you received the bad news that you only had thirty days to live, what would you do?
J.C.M. Live for 30 days; write my heart out.
A.R. Thinking about all of your characters, which one are you most like?
J.C.M. William in Fragments, an experimental Civil War novella
A.R. Thinking about all the characters you’ve ever seen in movies, plays, tv shows, or read about, which are you most like?
J.C.M. Hard to tell, but maybe Pucino, Duval…
A.R. What do you tell people that say “I want to be a writer.” ?
J.C.M. “If you feel it, you probably are, but developing the craft is hard work requiring years of patience and dedication.” If they balk, then they don’t really want to be a writer, they want the (imagined) glory of it.
A.R. Why do you tell them that?
J.C.M. First, I want to encourage, second, I want to be honest.
A.R. What do you want on your tombstone?
J.C.M. I haven’t thought about it, so I don’t know. I trust others to speak of me as they see me, not on how I see myself. I hope they will say there is a lot of poetry hiding in the dash (syntax is so important 🙂 )
A.R. Any last words?
J.C.M. It’s 11:23 pm; I think I will detune with a movie or give ideas a chance to become poems. Good night.