On the Eve of National Poetry Day, Writer Sean Hill Shares his Passion for Poetry and Prose.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. — Ernest Hemingway

While I don’t think too many but the purest of old school writers are still using a typewriter to get their stories out, Hemingway’s words are still on point today. The greatest of writers are those who leave a little piece of themselves on the page; who come away from writing a little poorer so that those who read it may become that much richer.

How long have you been a writer?
Well, I’m told that writers are born not made, that they always have the words or the story inside of them, but it’s not until they get them out, that they become a “working” writer.

So 2 years then?
Yes (laughing), yes. All of that was writer speak for two years. No. Seriously, I started writing when I was able to, 5 maybe 6. For fun? 20 years maybe. Professionally speaking, I guess 10 years or so.

And what kind of writer are you? In what genre do you predominantly write?
Well, what I have published, are mainly articles and some short stories. But I’ve been working on a novel. Then again, that sounds so cliché’. Who isn’t working on a novel?

Well, I’d like to have the rebuttal of “me” here, but unfortunately, I too am working on a novel. 

So, you write mainly short fiction and non-fiction and are an aspiring novelist?
Basically, but my first literary love is poetry. I’m really a poet.

And you didn’t know it?
Exactly (laughing). You should consider giving up writing that novel and getting your own stand-up.

Believe me, it’s crossed my mind. Again I digress. So tell me what is it about poetry that makes it your genre of choice?
You can make it what you want to make it for one thing. I mean, you can do that with any writing really. But If I write a book about Jack and Jill going up a hill, if 10 people read it chances are all 10 will say “hey that was a book about Jack and Jill going up a hill”. But a poem, unless it is something so cut and dry, so simple, it can’t be disputed, it can be totally subjective. 10 people might think it means 10 different things. And there are just so many works of poetry that move me, like truly take me to another place.

Who are your favorite poets? 
There’s just too many. There are certainly latter-day poets that have influence me, Ginsberg, Kerouac, poets of the beat generation. And then there’s Dylan Thomas, and Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath… and I could just go on. But I’m a purist at heart. Give me some Emily Dickinson, Yeats, Lord Byron, Walt Whitman. There’s something for every mood, every moment, every phase of life. It’s pretty astonishing.

Okay, say you are talking to a thousand poetry novices right now. They’re reading this. Obviously, they’re all going to have different tastes, different interests, come from different places and experiences, but you have to give them a top 10 intro to poetry to-do list as an assignment. They have to read one piece from each in order to get a good well-rounded poetry education. Who do you choose?
So they have to get a complete intro to poetry in 10 pieces?

Yes. Consider it like speed dating for would-be poetry lovers. Give them your top 10 to check out. 
(we took a ten minute break here so he could think about this and incidentally, so I could get more coffee)
Okay I’ve got it.
Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Browning, T.S. Eliot, William Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Maya Angelou.

I think that’s 11.
I’m a writer, we’re indecisive.

What’s your favorite poem?
Surely you jest.

That difficult? 
Could you pick a favorite child?

Depending on the day, yes, yes I could. 
I don’t think I have a favorite. I do not think it’s even possible. I think there’s a favorite for when I’m happy, and a favorite for when I’m in a bad mood, and a favorite on rainy days, and a favorite for Thursdays. It’s too much.

Okay then, give us your favorite poem for Thursdays.
(laughter) Okay, okay. My favorite Thursday poem. I’m gonna go with Dylan Thomas.

Was he even on your top 10 list?
Yeah we’re not just indecisive but we’re fickle too. So, here is my Thursday poem. Is this even going to be published on Thursday?

Actually no it’s not. It’s going to be published on Wednesday. But interestingly. Thursday is National Poetry Day. And we honestly did not plan it that way! So let’s have your Thursday, National Poetry Day poem.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I actually thought of another… interesting story here. So many people know it. It’s on probably a million mass cards. But do you have any idea who wrote it?

Do not stand at my grave and weep:
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starshine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there; I did not die.

I actually know the story, but I venture to guess most people do not. Did you want to share?
So, this work is by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Ever hear of her? No? She was a housewife from Baltimore, Maryland. Had no higher education, no writing credentials, and had never even tried writing poetry before. She grew up an orphan. So the story goes that she wrote the poem for a young girl who has escaped after the Holocaust but when she returned she found out that her mother had not made it and had died in Germany. The girl was devastated that she had no grave, nowhere to visit, nowhere to go to cry and say goodbye. So Frye, feeling this incredible compassion for this young girl, also now an orphan, wrote this poem for her. And here it is, this incredibly famous piece of work that is recited and published and shared as a means of consoling the bereaved. And all because a housewife had felt empathy and compassion for a young Jewish girl. The best part is, Frye never had it published. She never even got a copyright. She never made a cent from it.

Incredibly story never get tired of it. Again, that’s the power of words.

Friday we’re publishing some submissions from our readers. Stay tuned. Maybe one of those will become the next great poetic story. 

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