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
Bio: Gayle J. Greenlea is a poet and counselor for survivors of sexual and gender-related violence. Her poem, “Wonderland”, received the Australian Poetry Prod Award in 2011. She shortlisted and longlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize in 2013, and debuted her first novel, Zero Gravity, at the KGB Literary Bar in Manhattan in 2016. Her work appears in St. Julian Press, Rebelle Society, A Time to Speak, Headline Poetry and Press, The Wombwell Rainbow, and Life in Quarantine (Stanford).