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Interview With Poet Robert Lee Brewer - Guest Post by Walt Wojtanik

There's something a little silly about being interviewed on your own
blog. However, Walt Wojtanik made it a fun experience, which is part of
the reason he was chosen as the 2010 Poetic Asides Poet Laureate. Walt
manages several blogs, including Through the Eyes of a Poet's Heart, Across the Lake, Eerily (with Marie Elena Good), and Wallegory and Other Stories. Please welcome, Walt.

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I had been honored by Robert Lee Brewer in being chosen as the Poet
Laureate of the 2010 April Poem-a-Day Challenge. One of the biggest
thrills of my reign was being interviewed by Robert for inclusion
during the beginning of the 2011 Challenge. I had done my due diligence
by reading the past interviews that he had conducted, so I could get a
feel for the possible questions he may ask.

I had studied the many great queries and responses from some very
talented poets which gave me insight into this process. But I noticed
one name conspicuous in its absence: Robert Lee Brewer.

With the release of his poetry collection, ENTER, I thought a good idea
for a guest post on the Poetic Asides blog would be to interview Robert
in his own style and afford him the opportunity to put a fresh light on
the man behind many successful poets presented here.

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You have released a limited edition collection of poems entitled
ENTER. Tell us about the concept for the collection and what is your
logic for the restricted run? Are there benefits?

Once I decided that I wanted to self-publish my collection, I had an
amazing array of options, including experimenting with print on demand
and e-books. However, I ultimately decided that I wanted to create a
special experience around my collection of poems. I felt making a
limited edition chapbook would make it fun for myself and others. Since
the collection has sold out already, I can definitely say it was fun on
my end.

Are there any new projects in the works?

I always have a lot of ideas. But I never know which ones are going to
stick until I have time to follow up on them. April and May are
typically my busiest months because of the Market Books, including
Writer's Market and Poet's Market. Plus, Tammy and I are expecting a
little girl in the middle of June, so we're going to be a little busy.

That said, I do want to put some time into developing a full length
manuscript. Plus, I've been kicking around the idea of trying to start
up an Atlanta Poetry Festival. But who knows what I'll be into once
this production cycle is over.

What steered you towards poetry? Does it still hold the same allure
from when your first started? Did your childhood influence it in any

I've always liked playing with numbers and letters, but I usually say
it was a girl who got me into poetry. That relationship did not
ultimately last, but my relationship with poetry has only deepened over

As far as my childhood influencing my poetry, it gave me some material
to write about later, but I didn't get into writing poetry a lot until
I was a teenager. I was the sort of boy who spent more time playing
sports and riding bikes around the neighborhood than reading and

You have touched on the issue of location affecting a poet's work.
You are a man that stretches his muse between Ohio and Georgia. How
does location play into your writing? Do you find a marked difference
in your work between the two?

I don't know if one particular place produces a different type of
poetry than another. However, I think travel is good, because it makes
a person aware of the differences in places, but also the similarities.
The tension between these two, I think, can make for some interesting
poetry that resonates.

It is apparent that family plays a large role in your work as well.
Your wife Tammy Foster (Trendle) Brewer is a superb poet in her own
right, and your boys on both ends of your North-South drive has all
inspired pieces that we've seen here at Poetic Asides and other
publications. Recently, you and Tammy announced the expectancy of a new
addition, a daughter, to the Brewer brood. Do you see your work
evolving in any manner because of this?

I think having children really helped my writing in a lot of ways,
because kids see the world much different than adults. The change
happens over such a long period of time that we--as adults--don't even
realize the shift. And adults tend to take things for granted that
children see with amazement or puzzlement.

I'm sure having a daughter will move my writing into new and unexpected directions. I'm excited to see how.

You are editor for various publications in the Writer's Digest
family, including Writer's Market, Poet's Market, and Along with these duties and the aforementioned
dedication to your family, it must be hard to adhere to a writing
routine. At that, do you have a writing routine?

Usually, I'm just always writing in the spaces between doing everything
else. I almost always carry a couple pens on me and folded up sheets of
paper. I don't trust my memory to hold lines for too long, so I try to
write them down as soon as I'm able. Then, I come back to them when I
have a little more time.

For the prompts on this site, I do have a routine of getting up and
thinking about the prompt while I get ready in the morning. Then, I sit
down and write. I don't usually give myself a whole lot of time,
because I know there are other poets waiting on me so they can start
thinking about how to attack the prompt too.

With the Poetic Asides blog and your own My Name Is Not Bob personal
blog, how important do you feel an online presence is for a poet?

I think if any writer (poet or not) wants to build an audience for his
or her work, then he should be willing do build a presence online. It's
the cheapest and easiest way to connect with readers, writers, and
other publishing folk. Of course, there are other things writers can do
to build an audience--and the writing should always come first--but I
know many of the opportunities I've had over the years wouldn't have
been possible without my online presence.

During the April and November Poem-a-Day challenges, you have a
great deal of poetry to peruse to come to a consensus on the premier
body of work the poets submit. Now at the end of the 2011 PAD, how
difficult a task is this and what catches your eye in a poem?

I think many poetry judges stress themselves out a little too much
about the process of judging. I try to make it very simple on myself by
choosing poems that I personally like. There are usually thousands of
poems to get through with each monthly challenge, so I have to do
several rounds of reading. The first round tends to take a long time,
because I'm just going through and picking out the ones that stick out
the most.

I usually try to eliminate a huge chunk of the field during the first
round. I really have to, because it gets progressively difficult to
choose between poems and poets in each round afterward. When I get near
the end, I bring in Tammy to help me choose. I never let her know which
ones I'm leaning toward until after she gives me her opinion. It's
uncanny how many times we completely agree on poems and poets.

As far as what catches my eye, I really like poems that are unique. Of
course, that could mean anything. A straight narrative poem can be
unique because of its content; a concrete poem could be unique because
of its structure. And I think I'm pretty open to the various schools of

What or who do you enjoy reading?

Of course, I love reading anything written by my wife. Outside of that,
I'm very lucky in that I'm constantly receiving and buying new
collections of poetry. So I'm always coming into contact with new (to
me anyway) poets and voices. I also love reading all these crazy fact
books that Reese is currently into reading.

You have given a lot of advice over the years to help poets advance
their works. Do you listen to your own advice, and do you find it hard
to listen sometimes?

I think advice is a good and bad thing. Advice is good when it gets
people thinking. However, I believe advice should always be questioned
and stretched. Advice is a good starting point, but people (whether
they write or parent or cook or whatever) should always be open to
experimenting and making things their own. So yes, I listen to my own
advice often, but I also question and re-examine my own (and others')
advice often too.

And in that respect, as you always frame the final question, what one piece of advice do you have for aspiring poets?

Try new things. By this, I mean that poets should experiment with their
writing but also their reading. Don't just read the poets you know you
like; find new voices that will spin you in new directions. Get out of
the house or neighborhood or country even. Eat new foods. Take a
different route home from work. Shake things up. Live. And then, write.


Follow Robert on Twitter @robertleebrewer

And check out his My Name Is Not Bob blog at


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