William Preston: Poet Interview

This week’s featured poet didn’t only make the Top 25 list for the April PAD Challenge, he was also named Poet Laureate for 2013. Please welcome William Preston!

preston_puss03William Preston is a medical writer and editor for the Department of Radiation Medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, California. He has written poetry for roughly 30 years but has published little save for occasional winning poems in small contests, mainly those sponsored by Chaparral Poets of California. A few of his poems have appeared as examples of poetic forms in the Poetic Asides column of Writer’s Digest. He is a regular contributor, along with fellow poet RJ Clarken, to the Poetic Bloomings blog created by poets Walter Wojtanik and Marie Elena Good. He is deaf but has some hearing thanks to a cochlear implant; as such, his work is included in Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look, an anthology of works by writers with disabilities (Norway, Maine; PR Gott Books Publishing, 2013).

Here is the poem I selected for the Top 25:

Dichotomy, by William Preston

I can’t comprehend the connection
between sex and a sense of affection;
it would seem that the first
is a simple outburst
while the latter’s of complex complexion.


Where are you located?

I live in Macedon, a town about 20 miles east of Rochester, New York.

Who are your favorite poets?

Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, Adelaide Crapsey, and Emily Dickinson, in roughly that order.

As a reader, what do you like most in poems?

I like formed poems that rhyme and have a beat, and I tend to like light, happy verse. Neither of those criteria are absolute; one of my favorite forms is Crapsey’s cinquain, which usually does not use rhyme and often had no regular meter. I am deaf, and my inspiration to write poems actually comes from song lyricists, not poets.

As a kid, I loved to listen to records of vocalists such as Bing Crosby and Pat Boone (though I also liked Guy Lombardo’s band, which played melodic stuff that I could appreciate), but inasmuch as I usually couldn’t understand the words, I would look them up. That’s how I got introduced to lyricists such as Oscar Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, and lots of others.

I wanted to write like they wrote, since I couldn’t make music like their composer colleagues did. I guess, then, I should include them among my favorite poets, for I regard them as such. I was pleased to read Philip Furia’s book, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley, as confirmation.

What were your goals for the 2013 April PAD Challenge?

I had only one goal: to take part and see if I could actually write a poem a day and have some good ones come out of it.

What’s next for you?

The best answer is, I don’t know. I’ll certainly keep following your blog, and also Walt Wojtanik and Marie Elena Good’s Poetic Bloomings. I’ve published little, and never tried to get a collection published.

I have, however, assembled a collection called Little Bird Poems and Stories: Reflections of a Deaf Birdwatcher. I’ve asked several folks to review it, and have gotten mixed reactions. I don’t know if it eventually will appeal to some publisher. Some have suggested I self-publish it, but I doubt I’ll do that; I’d prefer some peer review, if you will, as confirmation that it’s worth others’ reading.


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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and happy to learn more about William Preston. He’s the author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53) and can be followed on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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22 thoughts on “William Preston: Poet Interview

  1. Jezzie

    William (or can I call you Bill?) I have only today seen this interview with you. Well deserved but belated congratulations on being the 2013 Poet Laureate. Everyone here has already eloquently voiced my thoughts about your contributions to the bi-annual PAD postings and the Wednesday poetry promps, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Many, many thanks for all the encouraging comments you have added to my own posts. You are spot on, PressOn!

  2. julie e.

    William/Bill/PressOn– I don’t know how I missed seeing this interview till now, but I NEED to add how much I’ve appreciated you on Poetic Asides! The time you’ve spent so kindly and positively leaving comments that have buoyed the spirits of so many of us is priceless. Thank you for your lovely heart. 🙂

  3. Sara McNulty

    William, I just read your interview with Robert Brewer, and I could not be happier to get a bit of background
    on you. Love having you on Poetic Bloomings, and always look forward to reading your wonderful, magical poems. You are so kind to everyone on the site, and we are lucky to have you.

  4. PKP

    William – I only knew you as PressOn … what a dolt am I – Here is another congratulations – rather than to the anonymous William Preston whom I did not know – but to the PressOn who has delighted me with “her” poetry and been so ever so supportive and gracious toward my own writing. How delightful to learn more about you and to wish you welcome and put my hand on the laurel wreath about your worthy Poet Laureate head. Congratulations 🙂

  5. BezBawni

    I’m joining the chorus of praise. It is really wonderful not only to read poems but to know something about the author. I always enjoy your work, William. Thank you for sharing with us and speaking in the words of our fellow forumers – ‘press on’!))))

  6. Michelle Hed

    Thank you Robert for interviewing William! He is one of my favorite poets! His grace on his comments to everyone else in this community is as awe inspiring as his poetry.

    So glad to learn more about you William!

  7. Julieann

    Congratulations for your award of Poet Laureate. I can’t imagine anyone who deserves the recognition more. Your poems are awesome, you face a disability with grace, humility, and an “it’s a challenge to move forward with,” attitude. Wow! Your poems are awesome. You’ve achieved the musicality you strive for. I love your poems very much. As for your comments on my poems and others, a double WOW factor. You manage to see where I was going and to put into beautiful, lyrical words, what was behind the poem, even, and especially, when I couldn’t even find the right words myself. You are an awesome gentleman and any and all recognition you earn you deserve many times over. You are an inspiration to all of us.

  8. PressOn

    Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate them very much. I’d like to clarify a couple of points, though. I do not have a book; I have written a manuscript that might be a book someday, but it’s a long way from that at the moment. Further, although I have a profound hearing loss and call myself deaf, I am not a member of the Deaf community. I often wish I was: ASL (American Sign Language) is a language of great beauty and flexibility, true poetry in motion, in my view.

  9. RJ Clarken

    William – I am beyond delighted to read your interview here. You know how much I love your work. All that talent – and a gentleman, too!

    Robert, thank you for honoring William and his poetry, because in doing so, you honor all of us here.

  10. Linda Hatton

    William! How wonderful to see your smiling face! Your comments to everyone on the blog are just as much fun to read as the poems. You always have such a unique view of each piece. Thank you for that positive energy that contributes the the fun of participating.

    I am fascinated at the mention of your book. I love that title! I would think it would be good timing for such a book with the popularity of Switched At Birth. If you are not familiar with that, it is a TV show that has brought the deaf community more into the public eye. A good percentage of the characters are deaf and they use sign language throughout the show.

    Wishing you well! And I am so happy for your recognition!

  11. Marie Elena


    So very nice to see a smiling face to fit with the uplifting poetry and supportive comments! You are such an inspiration for how (IMHO) poets SHOULD be. It thrills me to see you get the recognition you have earned, yet so humbly and hesitantly accept. The poetic community is blessed to have you among us.

  12. Jane Shlensky

    Hey, Bill. I knew you’d have a smiling face to go with all the encouraging comments you’ve offered so many of us here and at PB. It’s always a pleasure to read your unique ways of seeing the world. You put the play in wordplay, my friend, and make it fun to join you. (Insert hugs and pats). 😉

  13. JRSimmang

    To put a face to a name is to know in three dimensions those who inspire. William, you deserve every bit of praise for your kindness and your poems, and your realm of influence stretches beyond the green borders of California. Poem On, PressOn!

  14. De Jackson

    This is a Poet (yep, capital P) who has helped many of us “PressOn” for quite some time now, with his incredibly encouraging and lyrical comments. His talented pen is only outshined by his penchant for making other poets feel like a million bucks.

    William, you are simply an amazing poetic soul, and I’m blessed to know you.


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