Interview With Poet Walt Wojtanik

As many of you may know, I love to interview past winners of the challenges here on Poetic Asides. Walt Wojtanik is no exception. The 2010 Poetic Asides Poet Laureate, Walt is a fine (and prolific) poet who is very encouraging to other poets on this blog and in other venues. He’s a true class act.


Walt has written more poems on this blog than I can even begin to guesstimate. The number is easily in the hundreds, and I wouldn’t even be surprised to learn he’s shared more than 1,000 poems on here. That said, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but here is one I highlighted from last April.

And Suddenly the Room Fell Silent, by Walt Wojtanik

Labored and shallow,
a respirator kept the last vestige
of breath on a
regimented pace.

Inhalation and exhalation mechanized;
kept the plane
of life still in view
for eyes closed and mortified.

All sense of
pulse was just
a faint memory, and suddenly
the sound of a father’s voice
was hard to recall.

The strength of it nestled in a heart
so deeply
that it defied fibrillations.
The ashen hue of his drawn

made the vision of him indistinguishable.
Erratic and
broken now, each gasp begged
to be his last. A faint squeeze

of a
clutching hand flashed the image
of your “hero” walking you across the
for the first time. Now as he crossed,

it was your grip that
led the way.
There came a gurgle; a guttural gag.
And suddenly the room
fell silent.


What are you currently up to?

Idle hands and all that, I find that the busier I am, the more productive I am. And lately, I’ve been busy. The poetry, of course, has moved to center stage for me (after my family, of course). I am going through the poems that I’ve amassed since the Poetic Asides 2009 April Poem-a-Day Challenge to put a collection together (or at the very least, a couple of chapbooks). Choosing the right combination is daunting considering the sheer number of poems written.

I’m composing my music (my melodic poetry) which is making a resurgence due to a musical which I have in process. In my spare time (whatever that is) I’m wrestling with a movie script I’ve started and all that it entails. But, I remember the advice that your wife, Tammy Foster (Trendle) Brewer said in your interview with her, “Never forget you are a poet.” Poetic Asides and the incredible poets in “residence” here never let me forget that. To that end, I consider myself “manic poemic.”

At last count, I maintain three active blogs, each slightly different from the next. “Through the Eyes of a Poet’s Heart” is my personal blog. It contains pretty much all of my poetry under one banner, a cyber file cabinet. I like the blog idea because I can incorporate a visual aspect with photos and such, to enhance my work.

Across the Lake, Eerily” is a blog I share with a kindred spirit, fellow Poetic Asides insider, Marie Elena Good. We joke that we’re “the best friends we’ve never met.” With me being in Buffalo, New York and Marie Elena out near Toledo, Ohio, we are strategically positioned on the very opposite tips of Lake Erie. We’ve found that our similar experiences growing up around this Great Lake are eerie indeed, as if we were siblings separated at birth. I’m trying to talk Marie into a joint collection from that site.

The third blog, “Wallegory and Other Stories” is a place where my short stories and flash fiction go to roost. Besides these three and Poetic Asides, I am the administrator of micro poetry on Facebook.

You’ve played around with concrete poetry on Poetic Asides. What appeals to you about the form?

I seemed to have garnered an obsession for concrete poetry. I’ve been blessed artistically being able to craft in words, music and art. But, the combination of verse in an artistic display has become my favorite undertaking. I think poetry is not only an aural medium, but can be very visual as well. My top seven submission for the November Chapbook Challenge, “Worth a Thousand Words” was comprised entirely of my concrete poetry, holding firm to the adage that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And sometimes the words paint a pretty picture.

As for composing a concrete poem, sometimes the picture forms in my head before a single word comes to my mind. I write to the image as much as I try to manipulate poems into a visual form. I love the challenge of coordinating the visual with the poem to connect with the reader.

I believe there’s a special code needed to format each space in the comments of this blog. Could you share that code with other poets who might want to dabble in concrete poetry this month?

Certainly. The manipulation of the spaces rose from the desire to indent lines, and the secret of this was shared with me by Sara Gwen, one of the many innovative poets here at Poetic Asides. You cannot just advance the cursor with the space bar. You need to “insert” the spaces as actual characters. The code is Alt +0160. This needs to be keyed for each space desired.

Keep an eye on the preview below the comment box. It will be a good representation of the finished poem. It is very labor intensive to write concrete poetry here, but the result is usually dynamic and speaks for itself.

Are there any other poetic forms you especially enjoy?

I’ve been introduced to a wide variety of forms here at Poetic Asides. Among the forms I use with some regularity, I have to say that the pantoum and sestina rank as my favorites. The pantoum, with the repetition of lines from stanza to stanza, in my mind is easier to write. There is a continuity that allows the thought process to flow with more clarity. On the other hand, the sestina is rather regimented and presents its own challenges. Being a longer form, it gives a poet the opportunity to stretch their poetic legs and expand on the subject at hand. I’ve taken the liberty of writing a lot of the variations such as a rhyming sestina, a double sestina and an actual backward sestina at Poetic Asides. As I stated earlier, I love challenges.  
Last year, you became the third ever Poet Laureate of the Poetic Asides blog. Were you able to gain anything from last year’s April PAD Challenge experience?

First off, it has been an extreme honor to be chosen as the 2010 Poet Laureate for the Poetic Asides April Poem-a-Day Challenge. I have followed in the footsteps of two very talented and inspiring women in winning this laurel, Sara Diane Doyle (2008) and Marie-Elizabeth Mali (2009). Probably the biggest benefit I was able to glean from the designation, was the confidence it infused into my abilities, which in turn made me a more accomplished poet.

I would say I owe a lot of that to the incredible sense of community that is present at Poetic Asides. As much as drive and inspiration and idea, community was vital to the poetry in my eyes. It’s like talking shop; a union of like minds with the same interest on which we rely and feed. There develops a friendly rivalry that pushes us to even greater heights. The encouragement of a community such as Poetic Asides can make or break a poet.

Take me as an example. After three days worth of prompting in the 2009 PAD, I was prepared to give up the ghost. I couldn’t justify my work against the quality that was present here at Poetic Asides. I didn’t think I fit in. But, I saw a comment on one of my poems by another neophyte that kept me in the game. That happened to be Marie Elena. You can’t have a bad day or pen a bad poem for that matter, when you have that generous heart backing you. We’ve spurned each other into some good work, and along with the likes of De Jackson, Hannah Gosselin, Pearl Ketover Prilik, RJ Clarken, Salvatore Buttaci, Joseph Harker, Amy Barlow Liberatore, et al, have been able to assemble quite the group, within the group.

And to have our work ranked up among Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Bruce Neidt, Nancy Posey, Taylor Graham and the like, makes it more rewarding. You named me Poet Laureate, but these are the people of whom I am in awe.
Do you have any words of advice for poets who may be new to the poem-a-day challenges?

I guess my best advice for someone deciding to undertake the poem-a-day challenge would be to get to the prompt as early as possible. Think, but don’t dwell on the prompt; your first instincts usually capture the essence of the prompt and are more spot on.

Don’t be too literal with it. Look for the angle that isn’t as apparent.

Point of view and perspective are your allies. Rely on them. Write your ass off, and when that is all said and done, you’ll find you’ve also written your heart out; do not fear using what you (Robert) like to call, a confessional voice. Let the poetry be cathartic and liberating.

Above all else, embrace the support that this blog provides and feel free to contribute your own.

Did I say have fun? Have fun.
Who (or what) are you currently reading?
Being a devout Lennonite and Beatlemaniac, there is usually a tome within arm’s reach that is either a biography or analysis of John Lennon or
the Beatles. Currently it’s “John Lennon: The Life” by Philip Norman. Aside from his song lyrics, I thought John Lennon was a gifted poet “In His Own Write.” But, I find it’s that analytical mind that drives my muse.

When I was younger, I drove my parents nuts by tearing apart appliances to see how they worked. After a while, I was able to put them back together and actually have them work again. I do the same with poetry.  I’ll read books on the construction and composition of various forms or the works of as many of the classic poets I can get my hands on. I love anthologies. I analyze, then “reconstruct” them. Eventually, I get them to work for me too.

If you had only one piece of advice to share with other poets, what would it be?
You will only find inspiration in the places you look. Everything can work its way into your writing if it strikes your muse. There is as much inspiration in a block of moldy cheese as there is in a wonderful sunset. That’s the nature of the process. If it triggers something deep within, be inspired by it. You just have to keep your eyes open and write your heart out. And like the lady said, “Never forget you are a poet.”


Be sure to follow Walt’s blogs listed again below:

Also, search for and friend him on Facebook–as well as in the comments of this blog.


Learn poetic forms, terms, and more…
…with The Poetry Dictionary, by John Drury. For instance, Walt mentioned the sestina and pantoum in his interview. Those forms and many others are explained (with example poems) in The Poetry Dictionary. Also, poetic terms, movements, and more are defined.

Click here to learn more.

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43 thoughts on “Interview With Poet Walt Wojtanik

  1. Walt Wojtanik


    Jerry – Thanks Buddy. I just "give back" what I’ve always gotten here. If I can inspire someone to achieve what I have and be able to feel the incredible boost it has given me, then it is all worth it.

    JRC – You tilt the playing field way too generously. Robert has the definite edge over my abilities. I look upward in that respect. I used to write poems. I found my stride when I pursued poetry with a vengence. Poetry is heart. And I heart poetry!

    Sara Diane Doyle – Thanks for setting the bar in the first place. Confidence is key to leaving your heart on the page every time.

    Carole – Your words humble me. Glad you’ve returned to the fold. Your work has been missed.

    Linda – Thank you.

    Michele (Banana) – You have a gift of your own that inspires and nurtures.
    I bow to you as well.

    Del – Welcome to the neighborhood, Friend.

    Hannah – I heart the smiles you bring to the able as well. From your poetry to your comments, another uplifting soul. Thank you.

    Nancy – Glad you enjoyed the interview. Your mention is well deserved. I do follow your work closely and am inspired by it as well.

    Salvatore – Another good friend I’ve never met, as encouraging and supportive as the real "Good" friend. Just not as cute!

    LBC – Thanks for your kindness.

  2. Nancy Posey

    Walt, I finally got to read the whole interview and enjoyed it. Thanks for your kind mention too. I liked the imagery of taking things apart to see how they work. I always try to tell my students that we aren’t conducting an autopsy (or the poem would be dead). I like the image of those Body Works exhibits, where you can see what’s going on under the skin.

    I see the cheap chi irons are here too!

  3. Hannah Gosselin

    Robert!! Thank you for this wonderful interview, delving into the dynamic mind of "our Walt!"

    I’m humbled by the mention of my name, Walt! I feel blessed to have been in the presence of such creativity this last few years! By the way I love your advice on how to approach the joys of a daily prompt. This is exactly how I roll as well! 🙂

    ~Warm Smiles,

  4. Del Cain

    I enjoyed the interview. I did the 2009 April PAD then skipped 2010 but missed it so I will try again. I did try to follow Robert’s advice and "friend" Walt on Facebook but the only entry that seemed possible for him had all info blocked so I wasn’t sure he was really interested in being "friended" there. That’s OK but I’ll continue to follow him here. I’m a day behind already plus haven’t posted the three that are finished so I better get to work.

  5. Michele Brenton/banana

    Great interview Walt. I was away from home all of yesterday travelling to and from Oxford for a poetry event and rose late this morning to pop along and see what I’d missed from yesterday to be delighted to find and read this lovely testament to your talent and generous spirit. I feel blessed to be part of this wonderful community which is so welcoming and nurturing to so many burgeoning poets and to whom you are such an inspiring example. XX

  6. Carole Egler

    Walt, I have been away from the PAD for over a year and what do I find as I came back but an interview with you and Robert; and that you are Poet Laureate – ETC! I feel as if I have come home to a community of good friends after a long long journey and so glad to be here! I am so happy for your success and I. too, remember your generous and kind encouragement!
    I wish you the best!

    Rpbert, ditto for you, great leader!

  7. Sara Diane Doyle

    I would have to echo Walt’s comment: Probably the biggest benefit I was able to glean from the designation, was the confidence it infused into my abilities, which in turn made me a more accomplished poet.

    Having someone say "your poetry is worth notice" does wonders for confidence. And a shout out to Robert, for continuing this tradition and helping us all find poems we never knew were within us!

  8. Janet Rice Carnahan

    Congratulations, again, Walt. As always you have such inspiring things to say. And we should be surprised? Not at all . . . you are just that way! You lift the whole poetic effort to heights where it belongs as songs from your heart!

    You and Robert make a great team of esteemed poets with great emphasis on the written word of meaning, stance, sincere chance with correct circumstance. You make it work and work again. Poetic uplift is your dual gift!

    Thanks, too, for the tips and the greater insight to get to know the real Walt . . . the salt of the Earth and the King of Mirth! Ok . . . enough said. We are so proud of our PL!! You are quite a guy and a treasured friend! I wish you all the best . . . always!

  9. de jackson

    PS: For those of you on a Mac, the spacing thing can be abundantly simple: it’s "option" and the space bar. Everything doesn’t always line up the way it should (I admire Walt’s infinite patience for the concrete form in this online format…I gave up after one or two frustrating poems), but if you’re just looking to give your words a little room, it works just fine. 🙂

  10. Walt Wojtanik

    Nikki, I’ll amend your comment very simply. I am the Crazy Glue that bonds us together. Thanks for the support. You are another that inspires me. I should have included you in my "list". I apologize.

    Patricia (the WordHawk) So, the teacher has become a student? Very happy to have your class in mine.

    A-Lotus – Thanks for the warmth of your comment. Glad to have you aboard.

    Meg – Aside from Marie Elena’s influence, this entire place stirs the positive energy. You spark equally as well. Thanks.

    Mariya – You are welcome. And not just for the thanks. Your work enhances an already awesome site. It is appreciated.

    Misk – Thumbs right back at you. You are establishing roots that will sprout in the same fashion as I have here. Write and grow in the glow.

    Daniel Pai – Robert calls me a class act. But, having the pleasure to have read your work and consider you a contemporary, puts you in a class of your own. Thank you.

    Pearl – as already numerously stated, you are a gem in your own right! Thanks continuously.

    Dheepikaa – I follow your work as well. Thanks for bringing it to Poetic Asides.

    Carol – Avoid the misconception. All you need do to be a part of the "group" is to come aboard and post. Nothing more. This is not a "secret society" or "members only" club. Just aplace for other poets in pursuit of poetry. Glad to count you in our number.

    Debra Ann – Your words warm me. And you wonder how I stay inspired here?

    Linda – I hope I didn’t diminish my poetry by attaching THAT face to it. But, thank you for the encouragement and fellowship.

    Debbie – I speak of "group" in a collective sense. It is not just a faction of poets, but everyone that posts their work on Poetic Asides. The list (and it fall short due to space restrictions) are the people who began this journey around the same time as I did. Do not be intimidated. Be inspired and bring your best to the table. It will be valued AND appreciated. Thanks for the thoughful words.

    Kim – From one WNYer to another, thank you a whole "good Neighbor" bunch. Talking Proud for all of us.

    Wendy, And I, yours. As Kim suggests, we Buffaloons have to stick together. Look, I started out just like you and Debbie, intimidated and overwhelmed. It took one encouraging word to let me get into the water past that first trepidacious toe. Write and continue to post. I look forward to reading you just as much.

  11. Wendy

    Walt, excellent interview, and like Debbie said, it can be a little intimidating to post in a group with such talent. I lurk mostly, but decided to try and post my meager poems. You guys are inspiring. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  12. Daniel Paicopulos

    Walt’s willingness to be a man of many words, and put it all out there is. for me, the best illustration of a Cyril Connolly quotation:

    "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."

    And them I find, lo and behold, abra cadabra, just like that, his amazing self has an equally amazing public.

  13. Kim King

    Dear Fellow Western New Yorker,
    Congratulations, again! Lovely interview. You and Robert have inspired so many of us to share our poems and to share our lives with each other.

    Cheers to you and to the poetry that you bring to the world.

  14. Carol

    Congratulations, Walt! Well-deserved. Good interview, too. I can really relate to the difficulty of pulling together a book when a poet is a prolific one. (ME TOO..I am following (trying) 3 different PAD challenges, and this weekend wrote…seven poems plus 7 drafts for a 2-day contest poem.
    I have followed PAD for awhile now but unfortunately never felt like one of "the in-crowd". Kudos to that group, though, because I know how great it is to have poetic support.

    All the best


  15. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    To Debbie and all others who poem…. If there is a " group" the door is open…this sense of welcome was extended when I stumbled here three or so years ago and was delighted as Walt ( and surprised!) to have a poem commented on ( incidentally by Marie Elena as well). Of course there are those who seem to " know" each other but the beauty and difference in this site is the sense of community that is open to all…there may be squabbles from time to time, or passion that leaks out from behind the poetry, but in capable hands any ruffled feathers are ultimately smoothed and all continue individually and collectively with the wind of airbags like myself under your wings! Ah, Linda and RC and. Bruce…. to say so much so succinctly… brings a smile to my face and an apology for becoming a mixed metaphor myself…. Rambling Rose Pearl….

  16. Dheepikaa

    Walt – such a beautiful poem. I’m new to AprilPAD, but am enjoying every bit of your poetry, sometimes overwhelmed by the number of poems you post. Thanks for keeping me inspired. 🙂

    Robert – I am truly glad I am here. It’s a joy to write here and thanks for creating such a space and opportunity.

  17. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    You are always welcome …. As I said at the time if I could have placed a laurel wreath upon your head myself I would have been delighted to do so….you so richly deserved and enriched the title of Poet Laureate with sheer talent, perseverance and a stunning ability to work with and through all sorts of challenges that came your way. Enjoy! If there could be a standing ovation I think now is the time people would rise and smilingly applaud your accomplishment and I,too, would be on my feet lining the street of Poetic Asides, as the sun shone and just perhaps a band played on. Congratulations again, to success and beauty in so many forms. 🙂

    Robert, again a lovely interview, a wonderful choice and kudos for your personal and professional accomplishments and ability to steer this ship ( street, ship, mhmmm mixed metaphors…then again this site takes so many firms fir so many!) at any rate, you have and continue through public personal crisis and joys, to contain, encourage and inspire without suppressing the powerful creativity within each person who comes your way. Poetic Asides is very much Robert Lee Brewer, and interviews such as this one serve as a reminder of hey you were honored as poetic blogger of the year. A true pleasure… As with Walt enjoy the deep admiration and friendship that drifts about you always.

  18. MiskMask

    An excellent article, Robert, and thanks for revealing a bit about one of the gifted poets in this community that inspires my creativity. And, Walt, yes, I mean you. Thumbs-up; well-done.

  19. Debbie Feller

    So happy to see this interview with Walt . .. and see how humble he is too! You probably don’t know that others of us look up to you and your group, more than a little intimidated to even try to post. I don’t put poems up, but have loved the interaction between all of the wonderful people here. Thanks Robert, for the interview and for making a poet’s place like this!

  20. Walt Wojtanik

    Linda, I’ll see your sunset, and be inspired by it! Thanks.

    Pearl, you’ve always been a go to poet, and remain so. Your take is thought provoking. Thank you.

    Pamela, you are so kind and I appreciate your kindness.

    Bruce, the praise is fitting. Your work does indeed mean a lot to me. You’re one heluva poet, my friend.

    Jacqueline, you are a dear. I would expect no less from my main groupie 🙂 Thanks.

    De, here’s a wink 😉 to go with that nod. I too feel blessed. Thank you.

    Marie Elena, word cannot express, although it’s what I claim to be my strong point. I meant every word, and always will. Thank you from the heart of my bot… um, strike that, reverse it!

  21. RJ Clarken

    This is just too cool for words! (And I’m almost never at a lack for them, either!)

    Congrats Walt – you deserve this! And Robert – you totally rock!

    What a fantabulous interview. Couldn’t happen to two nicer people!

    Quelle inspiration!

  22. Marie Elena

    I’ve looked forward to this interview with great anticipation. I knew it would be professional, interesting, and motivating. The pride I feel in my PArtner and his work is immeasurable. In the true sense of “laureate,” he is impressively talented and prolific, and supportive of others of us who are putting ourselves out there. I knew that would shine through his responses, and put a smile on my face.

    What I did not anticipate is how this interview would humble me. Walt, you’ve once again left me speechless.

    Robert, thanks again for the time, effort, and opportunities you provide to all of us. Playing among the great talents out here is educational and exhilarating.

  23. PSC in CT

    Walt & Robert: An excellent interview with lots of good advice! You are (both) an inspiration — and a busy ones, at that! Congrats again, Walt! Keep up the good work(s)! 🙂

  24. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    Dear Walt… What a lovely interview…(I’d say the same even if you hadn’t mentioned me by name… but what a delightful surprise and honor that was!). It has been wonderful watching you blossom as a poet (I’d like to say here that the 2 notes concrete poem was an absolute favorite!).
    I could not agree more that the community here at Poetic Asides creates a sense of community and dynamic interaction that is both supportive and challenging, as any good "muse" should be.

    Thanks to you and of course to Robert, our "fearless leader" for a great read on a late Sunday afternoon. (PS Walt, our 2010 PL we will all be waiting for that collection, congratulations and sparkling positive thoughts on all your other projects!)