with Gayle J Greenlea
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Gayle: I wrote the first poem I can remember writing when I was eight, but my English professor-mother credits me with this poem which I recited to her when I was two: “God, throw the sun in my hand and make it warm.” I was writing stories from the time I could hold a crayon. My early influences were fairytales, as well as Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, and a collection of Native American tales called, When the Storm God Rides. John Ciardi (I Met a Man) was my go-to poet when I first learned to read.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Poets: Joy Harjo, Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Wislawa Szymborska, Ana Glazova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Seamus Heaney, W.B. Yeats
Writers: Jorge Luis Borges, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Dostoyevsky, Checkov, Vonnegut, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, Amy Tan, Patricia Highsmith, Stieg Larson
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Gayle: I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, with sun-long days and barefoot summers accompanied by cicada song. Immersed in Latino culture and under the tutelage of my Spanish teacher, I fell in love with the language and literature of Latino poets and writers, including their themes of political justice. By 18, I was a world traveler, which further widened my horizons and established a lifelong passion for multiculturalism. In graduate school, I discovered Paulo Freire and liberation theologians like Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff, Ernesto Cardenal, and Elsa Tamez, whose influence completed my metamorphosis into a political poet.
Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Gayle: I recently completed my first novel, a Herculean task and exhilarating learning experience. I’m also proud of my decades-long, creative activism with the LGBTQIA community and healing work with survivors of sexual and gender violence.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Gayle: I think I’ve always wanted to be an artist/poet, despite dabbling in all kinds of things, including Quantum Physics.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Gayle: Playing guitar and singing, listening to music, reading, photography, collage-making, forest bathing, beach-combing, traveling (sadly on hold), theatre-going and art museum-loitering, nesting with David, playing with our kitties. I’m also a patron of café culture and a coffee connoisseur.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Gayle: N/A at the moment, but I look forward to promotional work in the future. I’m working on a poetry collection and hoping an agent will snap up my novel. Current promotions are limited to social justice and climate action advocacy.
Q8: What is one of your favorite lines/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Blue paint falls from my brush
as I float in thin air
for a change of weather
(from Picasso Blues)
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Gayle: Graham Mort, Wesley McNair, Lin Ostler, Peter Shefler, Lois P. Jones, Scott Wolven, Newell Faulkner, Marion Newland and my mom Mary Nell Kivikko