Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Poet Interview: STEVEN MICHAEL PAPE (third interview) by Dave Wolff

Interview with poet STEVEN MICHAEL PAPE

You are releasing a new anthology of poems in 2018. Is there anything you can reveal about it before it comes out?
The new book contains over fifty poems touching on subjects like homelessness, gang culture, poverty and other issues in society today. There are also a few nature-themed poems that touch on the various seasons and how they make me feel. The book should be out in June or July; the book itself is complete and I'm waiting on a cover being painted and designed by my friend Tim Bennett. I've seen an example of what he's working on and it's a great, strong themed cover.

In our last interview a year ago you mentioned your previous collections are being favorably reviewed. Are those still being discovered by reviewers today?
I still have people mentioning them, who discovered them either through others or chanced upon a copy in a library somewhere.

What is the title of your new anthology? How did you go about choosing a title that would reflect on the included poems?
The title is 'A Weapon Called The Word.' It was taken from the opening poem, one of the first I wrote. It’s kind of a play on words as it fits in with several poems and represents the strength words can have if used correctly.

How do you define the correct use of words in relation to your writing? Does putting it into practice result in more effective verses?
If for example I'm using a word that isn't used regularly I will research the word, how it can be used so that I'm not making mistakes or using the word out of context. Practice does help. I'm better at fitting words into poems than earlier books and poems. With this book the poems seemed to flow well and weren't difficult to write or organize.

Did it take as much time to write and compile poems for A Weapon Called The Word as your previous anthologies? Your older books cover similar subjects as your new project. Are your new poems approaching the topics differently?
I started writing the poems for this new collection just before 'Life In The Past Frame' was released. So it was about a year in the writing, but they were only rough drafts and ideas. I had to collect everything and start the editing process. Some of the subjects I've written about previously may be revisited, but this is in no way a rehashing of past poems. My poems reflect society and it changes from each book. For example knife crimes and homelessness have risen since my last book in 2017, so this is something I wanted to write about. I like to try different approaches with my writing. Some poems might rhyme while others have more dialogue.

Did your research you based your work on come from newspapers and/or the internet? Since Trump was elected president in the U.S. there has been speculation of war in the news. Is the threat of war a concern in England, or is it mostly viewed as media spin?
I don't read newspapers so some have been articles on the internet, radio news reports etc. If you are writing factually you need to research and make sure you are putting in the relevant facts or terminology. I think the only way Trump has affected English society is that no one seems to like him very much and views him as a fake politician. I suppose there's always a threat but I still believe the media manipulates what they want us to believe.

How much did you revise your new collection of poems before you were finally satisfied?
I tend to first write rough drafts of the poems then do the proper editing, changing lines and words around so it depends on the poem. I've been lucky to have an editor (Rose Terranova Cirigliano) who is able to transfer these into the book and change any that I might want doing. Along the way I've taken some poems out and replaced them with stronger ones.

Has Rose Terranova Cirigliano edited your anthologies since you began publishing or is the arrangement recent? How much does having an editor help your publishing?
This is the first time I've worked with her. I had an editor several years ago for 21st Century Wasteland, Lewis Crystal, who sadly passed away a year after the book’s release. Rose took over the job of publishing an anthology book called FM that Lewis started so I’ve known her for years. She's a great editor, she goes with ideas and imagination to create aspects of this book that look professional and well planned out. Having a good editor takes a huge strain of a writer as they input and change the poems if requested and offer support and advice.

How much experience did Cirigliano have at editing prior to you working together? How much format editing has she done for A Weapon Called The Word?
Rose has a wealth of experience in editing. She's a retired teacher so she understands the beauty words can offer, the power they can attract. She's been editing FM anthology for a long time and she's edited quite a lot of other books for poets and writers. In A Weapon Called The Word I sent her the contents list, then the first ten edited poems and continued that way. I was open to her ideas and she came up with some clever editing, a nice introduction piece well written and other little touches.

How many ideas did Cirigliano contribute to the layout while she was editing?
So many! From the introduction piece to the layout. I'd sent her the contents list how I wanted it to be. Throughout the book we both had ideas. One of mine was to ask certain people to do reviews as blurbs and two starting pages so it draws the reader in. I have some nice words written by several people who know my work and several by people whose work I admire. Like Alan G Parker who has written several books on Sid Vicious and Steve Ignorant the ex-Crass frontman kindly sent a few nice words after I sent him a selection from the book.

How many books has Alan G. Parker written about Sid Vicious? How would you rate the research he did on the Sex Pistols bassist? Would there ever be a collaborative effort between you and he?
Alan has written Sid’s Way, No One Is Innocent and Vicious: Too Fast To Live. He did Satellite: Sex Pistols and also wrote and directed Who Killed Nancy. Alan did a great job researching Sid, from his early years, school records and talking to those who knew him. A collaboration is not in the cards as Alan directs more these days than writes.

Did Parker do a good job putting Who Killed Nancy together? I’ve read Vicious: Too Fast To Live and I found it to have some interesting theories. What are your thoughts on the Vicious/Spungen incident if you have read the book and seen the movie?
He did an amazing job visiting places in New York. It’s a great piece of work. My thoughts on the Vicious/Spungen theory are that Nancy was killed by someone else who she let into Room 100. There are witnesses interviewed in Parker’s film who state Vicious was unconscious on the bed after taking Tuinol tablets when they visited. Sid and Nancy had a substantial amount of money from gigs Sid had done so I think this was the reason for a struggle which Nancy died as a result of. Sid was a convenient suspect for the police as it was an open and shut case in their opinion.

Where in the book are you placing the blurbs? Some authors place them on the back cover and others place them on the first pages before the actual text. Where do you think is the most fitting place where readers will notice them?
I'm putting reviews on the back cover and on the first pages. I think on the back cover is effective as the reader can get a genuine feel of what the book is about from others perspective, reviews before the text should hopefully further confirm that.

How much feedback have your collections received from the English punk scenes and punk scenes in other countries in the past year? If you’ve been corresponding with punks outside of England, do fans generally relate to your books in similar ways?
I guess punk fans in the U.K might like the more political poems but I couldn't really say as I've not had much contact. There is an author who has been working on a book about Sid for years. I've corresponded with him and sent him a poem I did about Sid last year that might hopefully be included in his book.

Who is the author you submitted your poem about Sid Vicious to, and how long have you been corresponding with him? Has he been publishing for a long time? If so, how many publications does he have out?
The author is Brett Dunford. He’s been researching the book and writing it for four years. He released a documentary called, 'Sad Vacation' a few years ago that I have yet to see. I've only just started corresponding with him. We had a great online chat about Sid and he's sending me the first chapter of his upcoming book to read shortly.

Tim Bennett has designed cover art for 21st Century Wasteland, Observations With Half Closed Eyes and A Closed Mind Is An Open Trap. Does his latest piece for you show how comfortable he has become representing your poems?
Tim kindly offered to design the cover for this new book after I sent him a selection of poems. He choose one called 'This Is England' as the inspiration for the cover. His cover art always touches on the poems inside and this new cover is some amazing work.

How would you describe the piece Bennett designed for This Is England, and what aspects of the poem does he capture?
Bennett's artwork, without giving too much away, encapsulates the England poem and others. There are subtle references in the piece that the reader after studying the poems will be able to relate to.

How do your nature themed poems fit with your poems about homelessness, poverty and gang culture? Were they written as a counterpoint to your grittier verses?
I've always been interested in Nature, the changing seasons, the beauty that can be found. I don't want my books to just reflect the darker sides of society; I want to mix that in by saying that there is calmness in Nature. It lightens the book and shows that life isn't always about the problems in society.

With the current state of the world there is a need for escape of one kind or another, no matter how brief. Do your poems based on nature help serve this purpose?
Nature poems are nice to write, there's a feeling of lightness when writing them especially if you are outside and picking up on the smells, noises etc. Some of the poems in this book have touched on despair, so to write a poem or a selection based on Nature is a good way for me to get back to basics, touch Nature and see the beauty there. There's the dark in poetry but also the light.

When writing poems that reflect society in a dark manner, how much can your writing impact you to the point where you have to create a balance?
Poems that reflect on issues like homelessness or deaths aren't always pleasant to write about, though when I highlighted these poems via Facebook before I put them in the book the response was good. I distance myself after the poem is written, and tend to write poems of a lighter tone to break up the subject matter expressed in the emotional poems.

Have your reality based poems or your nature based poems gotten more favorable responses since you started previewing A Weapon Called The Word on Facebook? Or does it depend on each poem?
I think it depends on the poem but when a book is imminent I get more responses with the nature themed work. People still seem to prefer society based poems as they can hopefully relate to them but it depends on people’s preferences.

Name some new poems you are previewing on Facebook and explain why you chose them?
Poems previewed there's been quite a few 'A Strange Little Town' was one I felt people of my hometown would relate to and luckily it was well received. Others were, 'Death Of A Homeless Man', 'Silent Snow' 'Small Town Solidarity' and one called 'Gentleman Ged' about a man I knew briefly for about a year who sadly passed away. I wrote and sent the poem to his family, and they asked if it could be read out at his funeral service which it was. I'm currently setting up an author page on Facebook to help promote this book and others. And I'm planning on doing competitions, giveaways etc. It all helps promotion. It's good for people to leave reviews and it will have a direct link to Amazon.

What sort of competitions and giveaways are you planning to host? Will you be conducting it through Facebook?
I have a few things planned. Some are a surprise and will be totally different but I'll also do the like, comment share kind of thing and pick a name out at random. So most of it will be via Facebook.

Are you considering other social media platforms besides Facebook to promote the release of A Weapon Called The Word?
I'm planning on articles/advertising via the local press who have published my poems in their paper. I'm also hoping to branch out and get the book in several shops in my town so it's easily accessible if people want a copy. Even though it will be available via Amazon I find not many people tend to purchase it from this outlet. I'm hoping this might change with this book. I'd like to see it chart for poetry best-sellers that would be nice.

Are you still seeking major publishing companies to distribute your books, or are you still self-published and satisfied with independent companies?
If a company approached me I'd be interested as it would reach a bigger audience. I still enjoy the D.I.Y ethic with self-publishing; the freedom, no deadlines and doing my own promotion, covers etc. It's still fun for me writing and publishing new books so why it continues being so, I'll continue regardless.

Would you be interested in writing about underground scenes in other countries as your career progresses? What besides nature would you also consider basing poems on?
Everything's possible and writable when proper research is done. I wouldn't mind one day writing childrens’ poems and putting them in a book. That would be fun.


-Dave Wolff

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