4 Questions with James F. Miller

1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

I am an outdoorsman, survivalist, recovered addict, musician, father, and so much more. I began writing in elementary school as song lyrics. This changed to poetry around middle school. I have been in and out of multiple colleges with various majors since the late 1990s. My range of interests is exceptionally large. Music management and live sound were my life for many years after I concluded my 8th semester in college. It was on the road, in the steady presence of excess that I found my weakness. My first book A Footnote for Tomorrow was about my struggles with addiction and my journey along the way to recovery. My second book is about the decline of society, morals, and values as both a broad spectrum and as it applies in the building block of society, the modern relationship.

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

I promote via social media, occasional advertisements, and have a lot of help from outsourced marketing people to assist with my promotional activities. I could not say that it eats much into my time, because the bulk of my sales come through random meetings and conversations or successful marketing campaigns. I don’t really spend as much time writing as I spend on rewrites and editing of those hour or two here there writing sessions.

3, What projects are you working on at present? 

Presently, I am finishing up what will be my third full length collection, A Lesser Man, it’s a collection of poetry about person’s battle to find their way and identity in life, romance, career and especially faith. Those ups and downs turn arounds and revisions that we make along the journey that is defining us finding our own definition.

4, What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is that first big, deep, fresh breath of air that starts our days off. Without its release, I am not sure I could have been able to keep my composure to make it as far as I have in any aspect of my life. It’s as vital as water and food, it is the sustenance that sustains us.

James Miller is a poet from the Midwest. His passion for writing began to burn for him once he learned to write in cursive.  Putting pen to page is what makes him feel alive.  His book, A Footnote for Tomorrow, has held the No. 2 spot on Amazon Top New Releases list and remained in the top 10 for two months.  He has been published in the Tecumseh Review (Vincennes University, Indiana), in 2000, as well as various anthologies between 1997 and 2000.

Jim was born in 1970s in a small town in northern Indiana.  His early life was spent between Indiana, Florida and the New York area. After his many years in college, he took to the road and travelled the country in a quest to find himself and some meaning or purpose in life.

During his academic career, James studied English, creative writing, journalism, advertising, philosophy and music/audio recording. During that time, he attended several smaller community colleges including Vincennes University where he studied English-Creative Writing, Journalism and Music-Audio Recording.  During his time at VU he held an editor position on the school’s newspaper, The Trailblazer, for four semesters. 

When he is not writing, working on the family business or at the auto factory, Jim likes to throw on a backpack and hike or load up the kayak and head out into nature. He’s a curious man who will speak to anyone willing to have a meaningful conversation. 


Today poetry collection House of Weeds is released ‘Weeds and humans overlap in this prickly-sweet fusion of poetry and illustration, painting tales of society’s outsiders’ Here is an interview with its author Amy Charlotte Kean.

1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

I’m on a journey to become as weird as David Lynch. I’d say I’m about 3% of the way there, so this may take a while. Most of what I write – my columns, my poems, by books – are about being yourself and accepting your weirdness. Some of us are more capable than others, because being yourself is an extremely brave act. Weirdness is feared intensely in the world, often by insecure people.

 
My first book The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is about being completely, unapologetically yourself and not worrying what people think. I try not to be cliched about mental health. In the book, the main character Elodie-Rose deals with a constant buzzing and whirring in her brain whenever she decides to give zero fucks for something the day has thrown her way; like bullying or sexual harassment or even being told she’s too loud in debating class. Eventually, when she decides to live life as she chooses, the whirring stops. And in my upcoming poetry book, House of Weeds, every character has been labelled an outcast by society. The poems are about rebelling against norms and embracing your strange. Making peace with it.

I’ve been influenced by the oddest, most magical content: Jim Henson, Roald Dahl, The Mighty Boosh, The Worst Witch, horoscopes, Ella Frears, Anne Carson and Michael Rosen. There will always be a dark humour in my work, because I believe even the saddest, most terrifying situations need laughter.

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

Every single waking second of every day I spend working, with my laptop open. It’s ruining my eyesight. And I live on Twitter, despite how angry it makes me. I write a lot of comment pieces on the themes of my books and have a regular column for a magazine called Shots, which is designed for the creative community. I’m known as outspoken, which is weird in and of itself, because I only talk about what I believe. In the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson talks about how we’re cultivating a society where only the bland will thrive. I try and remember that when I write.

3, What projects are you working on at present?

 
House of Weeds, published by Fly on the Wall Press, is coming out on 17th May. As soon as the world is back to normal and it’s appropriate to do so, me and the book’s illustrator Jack Wallington are staging an immersive exhibition in Peckham, so you can go straight to the scene of the book, and live like its characters. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also writing an audio sitcom and am in the final stages of a novel about the dark, exploitative side of the volunteering industry, set in Kenya.

 

4, What does poetry mean to you?

I struggle with the inaccessibility of poetry, sometimes. So many regular people simply feel they “don’t get it.” What a tragedy! I don’t want poetry to be a secret club, for English grads from redbrick universities who use the same words and voices. It defeats the object of the world being gifted this unrivalled art form that allows people to rip out a piece of their ridiculous brains and throw it on a page to see what happens. When I started writing poetry I was stunned at how much I could get away with, how much I was able to speak my mind, but do it beautifully, with wit and surprise. Poetry is therapy, genuinely. It’s becoming more accessible over time, and when my friends say to me “I don’t get it” it makes me sad, because they don’t realise that all you have to do is try.


Amy photo

Amy Charlotte Kean is an advertising strategist, innovation consultant and writer from Essex. Her first book, the number 1 bestselling The Little Girl Who Gave Zero F*cks was published in 2018 with Unbound. Amy’s rants, reviews, short fiction and poems have been published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, Disclaimer, Glamour, Abridged, Burning House Press, Poetry Village and many others. She was shortlisted in the Reflex Flash Fiction competition and was an Ink, Sweat & Tears poet of the month. Her second book, House of Weeds, is out in May with Fly on the Wall Press.


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4 Questions with Martin Grey.


1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

 
I’m a Nottingham based performance poet and event organiser. I spent the best part of a decade writing poems I barely showed to anybody, before starting a now defunct poetry blog in 2011 and nervously taking to the stage for the first time in 2013.

 
My poems tend to be about little details and connections to people, objects and time, but I also write nonsense and found poetry when the mood takes me. I try to layer a positive social or political message into my poems, but generally prefer to leave it under the words for people to find. I consider it a compliment if three people read a poem of mine and take three different meanings.

 
I’ve always been drawn to nuanced and character focussed writing, especially in poetry and song lyrics. I used to blow my early teenage mind exploring all the possible meanings in 90s lyrics from the likes of Richey Edwards and Gruff Rhys. Today, I still find that poets who have had the most influence over my writing tend to explore these same themes. Mike Garry’s poem “Made in England” is a great example of this.
My writing is also strongly influenced by how many incredibly talented poets there are in the East Midlands. Just seeing great poet after great poet at an open mic is often enough to make me work extra hard on a poem, in the hope it can hold up next to everybody else’s!

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

 
I promote through my social media accounts (instagram, youtube, facebook) and a website. While I do find these useful (it’s great if you want to get people to your event or livestream, for example), I also find they have limited value on their own, and keeping them active can be to the detriment of my own focus. All that said though, you should definitely follow me.

 
I personally think the best promotion, especially locally, comes from not actually promoting, but from being present, being genuine and being aware. Talk to people at events, give people confidence and a platform where you can, tell that instapoet why you liked their poem, make sure you’re on the mailing list, apply to whatever you can and be nice to people. I personally find these help create more opportunities and add time to my own writing, because they fill my mind with ideas and remind me why I love doing it.

3, What projects are you working on at present?

 
Quite a few at the moment. My first book, The Prettyboys of Gangster Town, is due out later this year with Fly on the Wall Poetry, which I’m super excited about!

 
I’m also closely involved with two local groups, DIY Poets and World Jam. At DIY we run quarterly events, monthly writing support meetings, and produce what we believe is the longest running free poetry zine in the country, although we’d love to meet a group with a longer running one. At World Jam we try to facilitate global poetry and music through events and workshops, by getting people together from as many different backgrounds, native languages and styles as we can.

 
I was also going to start bringing some spoken word theatre shows to Nottingham, but unfortunately all that has gone on hold at the moment. I guess I find it hard to say no to poetry things!

4, What does poetry mean to you?

As horribly cliched as this sounds, it really does mean the world to me, because it’s good for me in so many ways. It’s friendship. It’s belonging to a community. it’s being part of something positive and being able to help open doors for others. it’s educational, teaching me a lot about how other people feel and process what comes their way. It’s a therapist with unlimited time to help me come to terms with any difficult times I face. It’s also made me much better at taking constructive criticism!

 
On a different angle, it’s also a marker of how good something can be. In a great poem, the words seem to dance on the page or paint great works on the walls of the venue. There’s nothing quite like that breathe out moment, when somebody’s poem gets right into the blood cells of everyone in the room, and the only tools you need for that are a pen and the back of an envelope. It’s magic.


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4 Questions with Sam Love.

 

 

 

 

1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

I have been concerned about the environment since I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as a teenager. I also worked on the national staff of the first Earth Day in 1970. In April it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. Unfortunately, many of the events have been cancelled. Over the years I have had a number of environmental poems published so I decided to pull some of them together in a manuscript which Fly on the Wall Poetry Press published as “Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival”.
I had previously self-published an illustrated children’s book “My Little Plastic Bag” which educates children about where plastic goes in our ecosystem. It won a number of awards and is now in Spanish and English. It has been my best seller.

www.mylittleplasticbag.com

 
I feel poets can play an important role in changing our environmental consciousness and they need to speak out in poems with clear messages. It is not a time for obscure images that we hope some people will get. Also, people are scared and depressed because of Covid-19, but they are spending a lot of time on line so we can provide inspiration and understanding for them. I recently put up a graphic on Facebook “Quarantine Your Body, Not Your Mind, Read Poetry”. A number of people shared it.

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

We timed the release of “Awakening” to the Fiftieth Anniversary of Earth Day and I set up a number of readings through environmental groups and they all got cancelled so I am working social media and trying to get some press attention. But Covid-19 is sucking up all the oxygen. As a result, I have done some virtual book launches and will record some of the poems and put them on my website, YouTube and Facebook. I am also writing some pieces on the resurgence of eco-poetry as a set up to promote “Awakening”.
If you don’t promote your work it is invisible, so you need to let people know about it.

3, What projects are you working on at present?

I am trying to find ways to promote my new book and that is time consuming, but as I have ideas for new poems I write them down and store them in a working file. It’s like planting seeds that I may watch germinate.

4, What does poetry mean to you?

Joy Harjo, our American poet laureate, is the first native American poet laureate. She says something like, “Poetry gives voice to the spirits in the wind.”
I feel like we are channelling some unconscious survival instincts. In my poem in “Awakening” about the disappearance of the ecology symbol that was everywhere around the first Earth Day I write:

  “if everyone lives the American dream,
we will need a planet three times
the size of Mother Earth
and the last time I looked,
she’s not gaining weight.”


That sums it up for me.


lovemusings

An Interview with Elfie, author of the chap Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her?

elfiechappoetry
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Buy Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her?  on Amazon


1. Tell us a little about your chapbook Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? and the inspiration behind it?

 

Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? is my first published book and I am so proud to have it out in the world! It is a retrospective look at the sapphic experiences of my youth and my inevitable queer realisation. I originally wrote it as a tool to come out to my family, hence the title, but it also addresses friends and God too.

2. What experiences or people have had a significant impact on your writing?

 

I am very fortunate to have had a writing buddy for literally all of my life. My friend Ebony and I were born on the same day, in the same hospital, and have grown up together. We are both very creative and it has been really inspiring to have someone so talented and passionate close to me. I genuinely don’t know what I would be doing without her support. There are also a lot of incredible people in the writing community on Twitter who have inspired and encouraged me so much! Imani Campbell, Juliette Sebock, and Lenee H all have such distinct voices and reading their work is a delight. There are so many amazing writers in this world! As for experiences, they mainly seem to be negative ones — experiences that I need to process, confront, and reflect upon. Writing can be very therapeutic.

3. Since you started to write how do you feel you have changed, and your writing developed?

 

I started writing when I was in a depressed state and it really helped me to understand what I was feeling and gave me a chance to express those emotions in a safe way. It is emotional looking back on poems and seeing how my perception of the world has changed over this past year and how my mental state has improved. I also became very interested in poetry in general and read as much as I could – especially from online literary journals – and my understanding of language and style has made me a lot more self-critical. I want to put out my best work, the poems that I am really proud of.

 

4. Which period of your life do you write about most often?

 

A lot of my poems in Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? were about my teenage years and crushes on girls that I developed but refused to acknowledge, and subsequently by late teens and early twenties when I was involved in serious relationships and finally realising my queer identity. Now, I tend to write about recent experiences as a way to process them as I go through them.

5. What did you edit out of your book?

 

With a chapbook, you have to be very selective with which and how many poems you include. I wanted to create a narrative that readers would be able to follow while staying true to my own perception of events and the order they happened. Some poems were removed because they confused that narrative, and other poems were taken out because I didn’t feel like they were strong enough. All of my beta readers suggested changing the order of the poems and I think that made the collection so much better.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

 

It changes every day! I usually begin each day journalling and then turn some of those thoughts into poems. Sometimes a poem takes a minute, sometimes I agonise over it for week.

7. In terms of receiving feedback for your writing who or what do you use for a sounding board?

 

I have been very fortunate to make connections on Twitter with some truly talented writers and editors, so I send my poems and manuscripts to them for their opinions. Poetry is very subjective so I get a mix of responses. I think it’s important to go with your gut but feedback is definitely helpful.

8. What are the aspects of writing that you find challenging?

 

A lot of my writing surrounds my own experiences, mostly to do with traumatic events, so I have found it difficult to decide what to put out into the world and how to word things so that certain individuals can’t be identified, in respect for them and myself. It is also really difficult sometimes to figure out if a poem is done or not. You can keep tweaking and tweaking forever but at some point you have to let it go.

9. Other than your writing, what else occupies your time?

 

I have recently gotten back into playing the piano! I started around ten years ago but stopped due to anxiety. It feels really good to be back sat at those black and whites keys that I loved so much! I also love wandering through nature and taking photographs.

Thank you so much for this interview! I have really enjoyed it!


 

Find Elfie @ElfieinBloom on Twitter & Instagram and their website https://www.elfieinbloom.co.uk/

 


 


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