A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with HEEM, the Writer (Ibrahim B. Ibrahim)

with HEEM, the Writer

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Heem: I first began to write in my early teenage years. I was, however, bundled to science class in 1999 after acing my JSC Exams in high school, driving me of course in my literary endeavors. I’d say writing did not stop for me despite this because it was a core part of everything I found myself doing over the years, but I only found my way back to creative writing in 2019, at 33, when I read and was stunned by Makena Onjerika’s Caine Prize winning story, Fanta Blackcurrant. My earlier influences include Chinua Achebe, James Hadley Chase, T.S. Eliot, Cyprian Ekwensi, and George Orwell.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Heem: My biggest influence today would be my environment. Of course there are a great number of people whose works I find inspiring, but my environment is the singular most influential factor in my writer-life right now. I should also mention though, that the crop of writers and poets emerging from Nigeria at this moment in time are such a powerful force, their influence is truly immense.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Heem: Most of my early childhood was in Ado-Ekiti, but some was also in Ilorin, both in Nigeria. Culturally, this placed me in the middle of Yoruba norms, folk-hood, and by extension, literature. This was not all, however, as many of Nigeria’s other (vast) cultures were also able to find their way in, helping me to have a truly beautiful and diverse literary foundation. Asides to Ghana and the countries along the way there from Nigeria (Benin and Togo), I’m yet to travel away from my immediate surrounding, but that has not stopped me being influenced by cultures worlds away. Literature and other art forms have been my way of spreading my wings and being anywhere and everywhere I want to be without the hinderance of borders or visas. I still have a lifelong dream of traveling the world though, and hopefully that will begin this year.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?

Heem: This would be my yet-to-be-published collection of short stories which examined varying experiences of Africans in Africa and elsewhere across centuries. It explores different forms of storytelling, including the letter, diary entry, story within a story, and prose poetry. It is titled Dear Descendant(s) and was longlisted for the 2020 Dzanc Diverse Voices Prize. Many of the stories therein have been published in reputable journals, with some winning literary prizes.

https://www.dzancbooks.org/blog/2021/2/16/longlist-and-shortlist-honorees-for-the-2020-contests

https://de-de.facebook.com/dzancbooks/posts/10159444777479701

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be writer/poet?

Heem:

My literary journey has not been a straightforward one, and so I have had these moments more times than one. The first was in early childhood, indulging in all the many books on my parents’ shelves and others that I found in school or exchanged with friends. I would also lay on mats at night with my grandmother to count the stars while she fed me stories after stories that helped to broaden my imagination. I always wondered about the authors and poets whose works I was reading and was so sure I wanted to be like them when I grew up. 

The most recent was when I walked away from a ten-year career in media and entertainment, specifically from the position of general manager at a foremost record label in Nigeria because of how much my creativity was being stifled. I just knew that reality wasn’t for me and I had to be able to express myself as freely and as meaningfully as I’m doing now.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Heem: There are so many, but if I’m to pick the most fulfilling, it will have to be spending time with my beautiful family, reading or executing ideas.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Heem: Hopefully my manuscripts find publishers soon so I can have something major to promote.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Heem: I wish I could pick one line from a poem or song. One song that has huge significance for me though is ‘I Can’ by the rapper Nas. It was released at a time when I was in that juvenile delinquency stage, prone to all sorts of influences, but it came packed with so much positivity, real life facts, and reassurances for the future, especially coming from the genre of rap which otherwise was more popular for its angst and i-don’t-give-a-f**k attitude, and from a rapper who was one of my all-time favorites. The entire song is that one line for me.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Heem:

I know this is asking for the who, but I’ll have to answer with both the who and the what. With who, I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of amazing creatives who have been kind enough to help in a way or the other, but the most consistent has been Temitayo Olofinlua, a Nigerian writer and editor. It actually didn’t start all rosy between us, but that’s a story for another day. The story today is that she eventually became more convinced and more assured about my work and she’s been a pillar of support in more ways than one since then. 

The what has been my amazing writing group, put together by Joshua Kepreotis, a writer and friend from Kythira in Greece. The group has all these amazing writers from different corners of the world, all with varying perspectives that come together to form something truly beautiful. This group has helped my writing grow in more ways than I can enumerate.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with John W. Leys

with John W. Leys

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

John: I’ve been making up stories, though not always writing them down, for as long as I can remember. Mostly these took the form of what would now be termed “Fan-Fic” in that I would make up stories about characters from books/TV shows that I loved.

I first started writing poetry when I was a freshman in high school (around 1987-ish). Initially it began as the urge to try and write songs. I had just been introduced to musicians/songwriters such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan and was so affected by their songs that it made me want to create my own. The big problem at the time was the only instrument I played was a saxophone in the school band & I had no idea how to write music. The solution came in my Freshman English class, in which we had an assignment to write a poem. This was revelatory to me, I had never considered writing poetry before, but once the idea hit me I was lost forever.

My earliest influences were songwriters like: Bob Dylan, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Pete Townshend & poets I discovered in school, or by browsing the poetry section of my local used bookstore: Lord Byron, Erica Jong, Catullus, John Keats, TS Eliot, and others.

Why Bob Dylan Matters

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

John: Its hard to narrow down to just one, I feel like I have so many influences, since I try to leave myself open to inspiration from any source. Ultimately, I’d have to say that in recent years Allen Ginsberg has been a huge influence through his style of free verse, which relies on irregular natural rhythms of the language to drive the poem along. I have also been influenced by his often-repeated philosophical notion that a poet should be authentic and true to themselves above all else.

Another recent influence on my work has been ancient and medieval poetry, specifically that dealing with legendary/mythological themes. I’ve been interested in mythology my whole life. In fact, my most recent book is a collection of mythologically inspired poetry.  A lot of mythological sources are written in verse (Illiad, Odyssey, the Eddas, et al.) and, even reading in translations, I’ve absorbed a lot of the techniques of these ancient poets. Old English, Norse, and medieval Welsh poetry doesn’t usually rhyme. Those poets relied on other poetic devises when writing their verse, such as meter, alliteration, kennings, and so forth. Especially since writing a books worth of poetry based on these traditions, I’ve found some of these techniques bleeding over into my “normal” poetry.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your work? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

John: I grew up in Albany, Oregon, which is a small-ish town in the Willamette Valley. I’m sure it had some sort of influence, but none that spring to mind.

I’ve travelled around quite a lot in my adult life. I joined the US Army right out of High School and was stationed in Germany and Ft Sam Houston, TX. After the Army I lived for a while in Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York City. In general, I’d say it influenced my work by giving me a different perspective on the world, exposing me to different points of view and cultures.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?

John: That’s a tough one, but the first thing that comes to mind is my poem ‘Kaddish for Karen Leys,’ which I wrote for my mom after she died in 2018. The seed of the poem was planted as I wrote her eulogy, I just kept feeling like there was so much more that I needed to say. So I took the eulogy, sprinkled a little inspiration from Ginsberg’s ‘Kaddish,’ which he wrote after his mother died, and wrote for days. The finished poem is 7 typewritten pages long and really crystalizes what my Mom meant to me. I chose it as the final poem in my first book, The Darkness of His Dreams: Poetry, which I published the following year.

The Darkness of His Dreams: Poetry by [John W. Leys]

https://amzn.to/2UXklMK

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

John: It really all goes back to that writing assignment in high school. That was the moment when I realized that poetry was my “thing.” I began writing more and more, reading and absorbing as much poetry as I could. From that moment on I viewed myself as a writer and a poet, even during times in my life when I wasn’t writing that much, that’s always how I’ve seen myself.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s a matter of me “wanting to be a poet,” its just a fact of who I am.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

John: The obvious answer is reading, which I’m sure I have in common with most writers. But next to that my favorite activity, which I do to relax and for pure enjoyment, is playing the ukulele. I first became interested in ukuleles via George Harrison, who was obsessed with them. My folks bought me a cheap little ukulele as a present when they went to Hawaii many years ago and I taught myself how to play it.  I now own 8 ukuleles of various sizes and usually play every day just to relax a bit. Sometimes I’ll even just sit and strum while I’m thinking, instead of fidgeting.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

John: My most recent work is my book Whispers of a One-Eyed Raven: Mythological Poetry, which was published last November, and which is available from all the major on-line book retailers. It’s a collection of poetry based on and inspired by mythology (primarily Norse and Celtic). There’s more information, as well as purchasing links, on the book’s page on my website: https://johnwleys.com/whispers-of-a-one-eyed-raven-mythological-poetry-2020/

Whispers of a One-Eyed Raven: Mythological Poetry by [W Leys, John]

Another recent project that I’m very excited about is Through The Looking Glass: Reflecting on Madness and Chaos Within, an anthology from Indie Blu(e) Publishing on which I served as a guest editor and a contributor.  The theme of the anthology is writing, poetry, and art from writers and artists with mental illnesses, writing about their experiences. It’s a project I’ve been looking forward to reading since the idea was mentioned to me a year or so ago, and was blown away when my dear friend and co-founder of Indie Blu(e), Kindra Austin, asked me to join the editorial team for the project, which consisted of myself, Kindra, Christine E Ray, Candice Louisa Daquin, and Marcia Weber. We received an incredible volume of brilliant submissions by some of the most talented and brave writers/poets/artists across the globe. The finished anthology contains the work of 158 writers and artists and is available from most online retailers, including Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1951724089/

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

John:

That’s a tough question.  At the moment these verses from my poem ‘Myrddin Wyllt,’ from Whispers of a One-Eyed Raven, are among my favorites that I’ve written:

Where soldiers were slain, I have stood,
From Camlann to Arfderydd.
Arthur lies in Avalon
Under Morgan’s healing hands.
Gwenddoleu lies in his grave
Under a cold Carnedd of stones.
I hide, a hunted man,
Among the apple trees.

For great oak groves I searched,
To divine truth as in days of old.
Why was I left behind
By the raven hoard of Annwfn?
Why am I alone not allowed to die?

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

John: The first name that comes to mind is Kindra M Austin, a poet I met through our WordPress blogs about 5 years ago. She’s given me some great feedback on poems I was struggling with, for one reason or another. I trust her to tell me the truth, which is important because I usually don’t believe people when they praise my work. She’s also good at offering suggestions without imposing her own style/voice onto the work. Her belief in my work has gone a long way toward boosting my self confidence.

Poem “It’s Getting Darker” by John W. Leys in Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen

https://johnwleys.com/

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Igor Goldkind

with Igor Goldkind:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Igor: I started writing things down that wasn’t school work when I was still in grade school. I had a teacher Mrs. Atkins, in the 5th grade who has her class write a story as an assignment one morning for an hour. I kept writing and she saw I was caught up in the story and let me keep writing for most of the day until the story was finished while the rest of the class moved onto other subjects. I think I realized that there was something special, something important about writing things down that my teacher considered more important than following the curriculum schedule.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Igor: Everyone I meet. Every conversation I overhear. The turn of phrase I hear someone using in their everyday life. Literature is not sanctified, language doesn’t come from heaven, it comes from the lives we are living, it comes from what happens to us and our need to account for our experience and the truth of that experience.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Igor: I grew up in San Diego, California where I find myself again after returning in 2016 to see my mother out. I couldn’t wait to get out of San Diego and get to the rest of the world I had been reading about. I graduated from high school a year early just to get out of San Diego which was and to a great extent still is a creatively oppressive place to live. I went to UC Santa Cruz where I studied philosophy and phenomenology and then San Francisco Stay where I lived a couple of blocks from the corner of Haight & Ashbury, studied poetry and went to poetry readings with whichever beat poets were still alive. After college I wound up living in Paris, France working as a journalist and intentionally rented a room in the house that Henry Miller once lived in. Later moving to England, my first sold work were for British publications, The London Review of Books, The Oxford Poetry Journal, The Guardian etc.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?

Igor: I try to generate meaning for the reader in every work that has been published. More importantly, I strive to invite the reader into the apprehension of the meaning of the words I write at the moment that they are read. Reading is an experience that occurs in the moment and all meaning derives from our experience of the moment we rediscover ourselves in.

Q5: Any pivotal moments when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Igor: Every time I got fired from a straight job, or made redundant or had to cope with endemic, systematic injustice on an organizational level, I wanted to stop following order without meaning or conscience and work at what I was good at without doing any harm to others.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Igor: I’m a biker currently riding a Triumph Thunderbird 1600. It’s a large sturdy vehicle that I like to ride long distances. Riding a motorcycle requires a completely different focus than a protected vehicle. On a bike you are ultimately vulnerable and must pay attention to everything that is going on 360 degrees as well as be able to anticipate any potential event to a mortal degree. If you are distracted, you might die, if you lose focus, you might die, if you zone out, you might die So you can’t do any of those things if you want to stay alive. You must maintain full mindful consciousness of where you are, who are and what is all around you or you may die. I like to think of it as coercive mediation. Pay attention or you might die. That’s how I relax.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you would like to promote?

Igor:

My latest work Take a Deep Breath – Living With Uncertainty was written during the pandemic lockdown about the pandemic lock down from a first person, experiential point of view.

It is the first work I’ve done in which the intention is overt: to use words as remedies for suffering.

The sciences provide remedies, but so do the arts.  The ancient Egyptians wrote curative words on fragments of papyrus to feed their burnt ashes to the afflicted. Lacking morphine, Walt Whitman read verses to fallen soldiers on the battlefields of the first Civil War.  At their best, the right words are more than therapeutic, they can be curative. Take a Deep Breath emulates this ritual here in administrating remedies for living in these times of crisis, in living with uncertainty. 

“…in dark and mendacious times we need poetry because its careful, precise way with language is a form of truth-telling.”  
– Amit Majmudar, The New Yorker

“Igor takes you into the guts of the pandemic and gives you a tour of the struggles and trials of the everyday environment of the virus that is stalking this dystopian pandemic world of the year 2020. Wide-ranging, he takes you from trans-global to the nightly news of the day that is rocketing past at roller coaster speed, pure emotive emotions so personal that it makes you sit back and wonder at the writing here and what you have just read”. 
– Chris Vannoy – US Beat Poet Laureate 2019

A unique collage of fully illustrated poetry, fables, and philosophies, Take a Deep Breath, Living With Uncertainty, is a book aimed at the pandemic of crisis anxiety so many of us are living through.

222 Pages, Fully illustrated in Color, High-Quality Paperback edition.

• ISBN: 9798563450462

• $30.00

https://takeadeepbreath.one

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WK51XSJ

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Igor: Impossible to choose just once line, much less piece.
I suppose off the top of my head, I’ve always found the line that resonates with many people is “Fate is nothing personal”. That’s the level of ontological insight and understanding I attempt to prompt with my words.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Igor: Too many. Of those who I knew while they were still living… Ray Bradbury, who gave me my first advice on being a writer when I was 14. Then friends, Theodor Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, David Halliwell, Jeremy and then Eleanor Brooks, my first editor and Alan Moore who told me once that an artist doesn’t give the public what it wants, he or she gives the public what it needs.

Links:

Wolfpack Contributor: Igor Goldkind

Poetry Showcase from Igor Goldkind

Several Poems by Igor Goldkind

https://www.pw.org/directory/writers/igor_goldkind

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with ps pirro

About – ps pirro

with ps pirro

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

ps: I‘ve been a writer since I was a kid. I published an “underground newspaper” when I was 12. It was printed using my school’s ditto machine (an old style copy machine that used inked pages for duplication.) Earliest influences included journalist Norman Solomon, who at the time I encountered him was writing for his high school free press. 

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

ps: I love the writers at The Sun. I found poet Alison Luterman there, and Poe Ballentine, and Sparrow. I also like the work of Chris LaTray, a Montana poet and member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

ps: Small town, western New York state, near Buffalo. Blue collar town, first and second generation Italian and Polish immigrants. I spent a lot of time walking in the woods there. I’ve lived in California and Colorado and Arizona, done a lot of cross-country travels. Everywhere you go is an influence

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?

ps: My most meaningful work, most generous work, was the coffeehouse I started in 2000 after moving to Evansville, and then the pay-what-you-can cafe I ran from 2017 through 2019. At the coffeehouse we published an anthology of all the poets who read there during its first year in business. At the cafe I cooked a lot of food and fed a lot of people, which informed my writing, and gave me a lot to think about.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

ps: Seems like I knew as soon as I could read that I would be a writer

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

ps: I make art. I work in collage and reclaimed fabric. I read a lot, listen to podcasts, get together with a friend every week to play music. I still walk in the woods when I can.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you would like to promote?

ps: We’re all just coming back out into the world, aren’t we. I’ve been posting regularly on my two websites, pspirro.com and rag & feather. That’s about all the promotion I’m doing right now.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

ps: I created this art doll during the early weeks of the lockdown. I like her a lot: My Corona

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

ps: My readers, for sure. It’s good to write for someone, a real someone, not just an imaginary person in your head, and my readers let me know they’re reading, which makes me want to write truer work. It keeps me going.

Links:

3 poems from ps pirro from Fevers of the Mind Anthology & Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen

https://amzn.to/3zm6myV

https://amzn.to/3BjQizn

3 poems by Judith Kingston : And I Am Doing Just Fine, Done.Just Done. , Not Quite Ready

And I am Doing Just Fine

The light outside hurts my eyes now and the streets
stretch up too high.
My palms are sweating at the thought of meeting
another person now.
I mouth ‘did you have a good journey’ and it sounds
like I am acting in a play.
‘What have you been up to? A jigsaw? Yes,
I too know about jigsaws.’
I cannot meet your gaze; my eyes slide off
your face, reticent,
like I am touching you;
like you are touching me;
like I am asking you to touch me.
I smile behind my mask and then blink-slow,
like a cat, to tell you: ‘I am safe’.

Done. Just done.

There is not much of you, you are spent.
You have been worn smooth and the years
have filed off the jagged edge of dissent.

Your voice now barely raises its head –
a tired dog, done with the postman and
chasing cars, now fond of the fire instead.

Too thirsty to drink, too hungry to move,
the windows are shut. The record skips
on the chorus and clean out of the groove.

I don't know if I am a friend or a foil;
a kite, dancing on a string, reaching to find
the thing that will bring you back to the boil.

Not Quite Ready

It was never a good time.

It was too hot or too cold
The leaves were too green
or the wind too chilly.
The tide was too high
or there were too many wasps.
The trains were delayed
or not running at all.
The paint was flaking off the front door
or the bathroom floor newly tiled.
The papers were too aggressive
or the verges untrimmed.

She had too many meetings
or not enough milk.
She had lost her keys or her mind
and her aunt was coming to stay
and her brother had said that
the moon was in Mars
which was surely
a very bad sign.

It was never a good time.


Bio:
Judith is a Dutch writer living in the UK. She specialises in unhelpful advice, nostalgia and mermaids. Her poetry has previously appeared in magazines such as Barren Magazine, Riggwelter, Kissing Dynamite and Ghost City Press. The latter also published her microchap Mother is the Name for God in their 2020 Summer Series. Most recently, her poetry has been published in Crossing Lines: an anthology of immigrant poetry (Broken Sleep Books).

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Judith Kingston