with Yrik Max Valentonis:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
YMV: I started seriously writing in High School. I had my first poem published in a local lifestyle magazine in 1983. My earliest influences were E.E.Cummings, Lord Byron, and Anne Sexton. At first, I was attracted to Cummings use of the space on the page and his designs, but as I read him more closely, I truly fell in love with the musicality in his poems. Byron, of course, was the heroism and Romantic ideals. He will always be an iconic Rock Star for poetry, he lived those exuberance and excesses. And he exemplified the faults, failings, and problems of being a Rock Star. Anne Sexton, with her perfectly crafted rhymes and meters, showed me how to Artistically bear one’s innermost raw emotions. No matter how personal, tragic, or unique her subject matter was, she crafted it into an approachable and universal imagery.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
YMV: I have been reading a lot of VisPo and Asemic writing lately. The past few years, I was reading a lot of Bizarro works. I still read comic books (new and old – big name & indie).
I have been reading as much as I can by Harryette Mullen, Kevin Young, and Amy Catanzano. I love their approaches to language.
Harryette has a great eye for common place imagery which can become philosophic and transformative. Her rhythm and meter sing and chant these images into a new existence.
Kevin is able to weave personal narratives, history, and cultural theory into a blues song/poem. He is a compelling story-teller who can dig into the core of his subject.
Amy has been doing interesting writing into current Quantum Physics research. She’s been actually going to research facilities and spending time with diverse scientists and poetizing the hypothesis and theories.
I’ve been privileged enough to have met and spent time with each of them.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
YMV: When I was a child I learned that actual people created the books I read. At that young age I knew I wanted to be a writer. After my MFA, I figured out that I wasn’t a writer of popular fiction, and I preferred the freedoms of expression that I had with small presses.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
YMV: The best help I recently had with my writing has been proofreading my son’s college history papers. He has a very deep appreciation for James Joyce sentence structures. He can compact a great deal of information into a sentence and has no problem with a two-page long paragraph. I absolutely love reading it, but I know that his professors are wanting more traditional sentences and shorter paragraphs. In pointing out where and how to change his writing, I have learned a lot about how to edit and revise my own writing. I highly recommend proofreading, editing, and beta reading for other writers, especially if their style or genre is different than your own.
I have found that a lot of writers are very supportive and into building community. Lesli Richardson has helped me edit several of my books. She is always encouraging me to write more. I’ve been lucky enough to get book blurbs from writers whose work I have enjoyed reading for years: Geof Huth, Kristine Snodgrass, Jeff O’Brien, and Martin Millar. I am a total fan of each of them and was over the moon ecstatic that they were willing give me a bump. And J.D. Nelson introduced me to you. A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with J.D. Nelson
That is just a sampling of people who have helped my writing. I love these folks for being so supportive.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
YMV: I grew up in St. Pete Beach Florida. It transformed from a fishing community to a tourist destination as I grew up. I was raised by my Grandparents and spent most of my childhood in company of retired adults instead of children. I see in my writing the love of hearing a long drawn out personal tale which may or may not have a point or conclusion; the rambling story which has a bunch of asides to explain historic significance, cultural nuances of the Old-Country, minor characters which briefly randomly appear, and an unreliable yet charming narrator have all become part of my writing style.
I lived in New Orleans for a little bit which reenforced building scenery and history into my writing. I was naturally influenced by Blues and Jazz.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
YMV: The answer to that is always the piece I am working on right now, which currently is a chapbook of poems about hurricanes.
I have a graphic novel in verse, Goblin Childe, that I am still illustrating that I think can become my most accessible work. I have a long poem, Lost In Urban Landscaping, which encompasses my poetic style and exploration. So far, about a third of it has been published in various journals. Poems by Yrik Max Valentonis : Lost in Urban Landscaping #2, #6, #46
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
YMV: I play Dungeons & Dragons (and other RPGs) with my friends on a weekly basis for the past 15 years. I write many of our adventures (which some day I will edit and publish). I really enjoy the collaborative story-telling; because no matter how well I plan an adventure to go, the players will find a new way to approach it, at which point I have to go into a Jazz inspired improvisation to keep up with where they take the story.
I am active in a Viking Age reenactment group (Wyrd Vikings). We train in Historic European Martial Arts. We practice and spar with shield, sword, axe, and spear. I’ve been studying the Norse cultures and history of that time period, with a specific focus on the Skalds and their writing techniques.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
YMV: from Desond Egan’s poem: The Pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne
something you say unthinkingly sometimes
can chord the shadows of your words
surprising my most silent places
with a suddenness of music
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
YMV: Last year Alien Buddha Press published my Bizarro Erotica novella, 120 Days Of Gomorrah, and this year they published a collection of my visual poems, Cranium Theatre.
And my poem, Tampa Brick Road, was selected in the City of Tampa’s National Poetry Month contest.
Bio: Yrik-Max Valentonis is the author of 120 Days of Gomorrah and Cranium Theatre. His comics and writings have appeared the chapbooks: iDEAL and this is visual poetry; the anthologies: the Alien Buddha’s Block Party, The Alien Buddha Goes Pop, the Alien Buddha’s House of Horrors #3, the Alien Buddha’s Snail Mail, Animal Blessings, Beer-Battered Shrimp for Cognitive Ruminations (forthcoming), Divided Again, Heat the Grease We’re Frying Up Some Poetry, the Last Time the Alien Buddha Got Sooo High, Sinbad and the Winds of Destiny, and Zombie Nation: St. Pete. He earned a BA in English & American Literature from the University of South Florida and a MFA in Poetry & Prose from Naropa University.