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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!

William 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).

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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.

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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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Receive feedback on your poetry!Click here to learn how.

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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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