A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Tim Heerdink

with Tim Heerdink:

Tim Heerdink is the author of Somniloquy & Trauma in the Knottseau Well, The Human Remains, Red Flag and Other Poems, Razed Monuments, Checking Tickets on Oumaumua, Sailing the Edge of Time, I Hear a Siren’s Call, Ghost Map, A Cacophony of Birds in the House of Dread, and short stories, The Tithing of Man and HEA-VEN2. His poems appear in various journals and anthologies. He is the President of Midwest Writers Guild of Evansville, Indiana.

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Tim: My love for writing started back in elementary school when I’d write stories prompted four our weekly journal entries. My teachers said I was on to something, which is ironic, because I went to fail a number of English classes in high school while writing songs for bands I fronted with the hope of getting a record out. Poetry that wasn’t song lyrics came in when I took creative writing classes in college, where I excelled once again.

Some of my first influences included Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Sylvia Plath, W.H. Auden, and Anne Sexton.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Tim: Much of my influence comes from writers I know. There are three poets along with myself that I call the Four Horsemen: Tony Brewer, Jon Koker, and Joseph Fulkerson. Mike Whicker left an everlasting impression with me when I first started publishing books back in 2018. One of the major subjects I write about is the Holocaust. He’s big on World War II history and has a wonderful series of books set in that era along with the standalone, Flowers for Hitler. Two professors who helped shape my poetic mind are Matthew Graham and Marcus Wicker.

Eva Kor, Elie Wiesel, Stephen Nasser, and all the other Holocaust survivors in the world continue to inspire me.

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

Tim: I grew up in Chandler, Indiana, which is not far from the city of Evansville where I was born. We had a nice house in the country away from the trouble that may have ensued if we stayed where we were living for the first six years of my life. Our old neighborhood became run down over the years. It was nice to be able to perform music outside your house, ride bikes, and just be a kid without neighbors complaining or traffic running you down.

Nature is inspiring for sure. My love for birds shows in A Cacophony of Birds in the House of Dread from Between Shadows Press.

Travel is important to my life and my work. A number of poems drew inspiration from being in different places. Red Flag and Other Poems and Razed Monuments both take from my study of the Holocaust while visiting concentration camps in Germany and Poland.

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


My most meaningful work would have to be my efforts to keep the Holocaust in conversation with Red Flag and Other Poems and Razed Monuments. While the former stresses the importance of remembrance, the latter builds upon that ideology and asks that history not be razed but built as a memorial so others can be vigilant in current events.

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

Tim: Teachers telling me I had something going for me with my writing growing up gave me confidence. One of my childhood friends had an author for a father. I always thought it’d be amazing to have my own books someday.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Tim: One of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is play board games. I’d love to design my own game in the future. My favorites are Scythe, Tapestry, and Wingspan, which are all from Stonemaier Games. Wingspan also helped influence me to write A Cacophony of Birds in the House of Dread.

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

Tim: Tony Brewer and I are back on tour this summer. My two latest books, Ghost Map and A Cacophony of Birds in the House of Dread, are limited runs that have sold out, so I’m primarily pushing Razed Monuments since it was my last widespread release from Finishing Line Press in December 2020. Also in tow are previous books, The Human Remains, which was the book we started touring on before the pandemic, and Red Flag and Other Poems.

The Midwest Writers Guild, of which I am president, started a chapbook series this year. My offering in February included Checking Tickets of Oumaumua, a collection of space-oriented poems.

Another limited run chapbook I put out in March saw a great departure from my usual style. Sailing on the Edge of Time, I Hear a Siren’s Call was published by Roaring Junior Press. One longer poem dealing with a lost at sea sailor who finds himself drawn to the song of a siren. I couldn’t be happier with how that one turned out.

In December, my next full-length collection, Somniloquy & Trauma in the Knottseau Well will be published by Cajun Mutt Press. It has many nightmares contained within its pages. There are several characters that visit me in the throws of sleep. They remind me of John Berryman and his Dream Songs.

You can find information for my books along with more dates on my website for the tour with Tony Brewer as we add them, but here is our current trek:

July 10            Bluestocking Social – Evansville, Indiana
July 16            Tower Grove Park – St. Louis, Missouri
July 17            Barb’s Books – Belle, Missouri
July 18            KOPN FM – Columbia, Missouri
October 26      The Focal Point – St. Louis, Missouri

Website: www.timheerdink.com 
Facebook: @TimHeerdinkWriter
Twitter: @THeerdink 
Instagram: @heerdinktim
Patreon: patreon.com/timheerdink


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


If I could rewrite the ending
would it make a difference,
or should I look back, thinking
of my love lost in remembrance?

from “Unthankful Givings” in The Human Remains

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?


Matthew Graham and Marcus Wicker helped steer me toward a betterment of the craft while under their wing at University of Southern Indiana.

My wife always encouraged me being one of my first constant readers. I’ve added a number of people who read all my work when it’s published. There are a select few who get it all as it leaves my head.

There’d be no me without my mom, who passed away May 2020 from brain cancer. She gave me this ability. Losing her produced some of the poems found in three of my chapbooks from 2021. I have a new manuscript, Final Flight as the Fog Becomes Night, that is currently being shopped around for a publisher. May there be even more healing in 2022.

The last, but not least, great help in my continued writing are my children. I meant to publish my first book, what was supposed to be Last Lights of a Dying Sun, before my first daughter was born. That didn’t happen, and that novel is still in progress. It doesn’t look like the novel will be done for quite some time, but I do have some short stories in the works and another daughter on the way. All when it is meant to be.

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Tim Heerdink

2 poems from Tim Heerdink from Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020 : “Tether” & “What’s Left Over From a Haunting”

3 poems by Tim Heerdink: “Algorithm for a Lost Thought” “Old Tricks” “Checkmate”

Poems by Tim Heerdink: Us Motherless Men & Maybe This Will Be the Last Time

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Tony Brewer

with Tony Brewer:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Tony: I drew a lot when I was very young. My mom is a visual artist and encouraged me. When I learned to read, I started doing lettering and titles for the drawings, then captions. The captions became paragraphs and I just kept making more paragraphs. I wrote my first stage play in 3rd grade – an Empire Strikes Back ripoff – and I was a short story writer in 6th grade and junior high. My first major influence was Ray Bradbury and authors like Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. McGuin, Tolkien, Clive Barker, Thomas Harris. My favorite album as a kid was Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. I have learned it was produced by the Disney sound effects department, so that makes sense considering I got into foley later on. I studied film and writing in college, at Bard and IU, and a girlfriend gave me books of Bukowski and Dylan albums – Love Is a Dog from Hell and Bringing It All Back Home were favorites – so around then I gravitated toward poetry. Experimental filmmaker Maya Deren wrote about the similarities of film and poetry and that really resonated with me, how poetry bends time and has the jump-cut and juxtaposition/montage quality of film editing. William S. Burroughs and Ginsberg were early poetry and artistic influences. Reading Beowulf in 8th grade was a major motivator.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Tony: Most recently CA Conrad and I’m reading a lot of Basho. Also Jack Gilbert, W.S. Merwin, James Tate, Louise Gluck, da levy, Neruda. People I actually know: Steve Henn, Tim Heerdink, Matt Hart, Hiromi Yoshida. I think William S. Burroughs is still a big influence, partly his writing and his voice – and he also is a Midwesterner – but mainly his process-based experiments like cut-ups and audio editing and shotgun paintings. There is intention in all that but he also liked to just set things up and see what happens. I have a background in improv theatre, so chance and free association have become central to all my projects. I like working across disciplines.

Entretiens avec William Burroughs | Daniel Odier, William S. Burroughs |  First Printing

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

Tony: I grew up in Ladoga IN, a tiny farm town of about 1000 people. I’ve traveled a bunch and lived in NY my freshman year of college, but I had a Ray Bradbury childhood: sheltered and somewhat locked in the past, even when I was a kid, but I had freedom to roam. I’m not resentful of that shelter. It still feels very small and trapped in amber whenever I visit. I’ve written about my family dynamics, which are interesting to me, and I have performed in many states and Canada. It’s important to maintain a sense of belonging to where I am originally from but I don’t want to just write downhome stuff – barn poems, I call them – but also not come off like I am “from the internet.” I don’t want to write about things that I have only read or heard about but haven’t experienced myself. I mean up to a point, but I remember hearing at a workshop “I want to know what you think, not what the New York Times thinks.” I like the stories you have to dig down to find. I think that’s what poetry “covers”: not simply the zeitgeist but what squishes out when the hammer of media attention falls. The thing that’s taken me furthest from home – in terms of physical distance but also getting “outside myself” – is performing live sound effects because it’s not words at all. It’s performative and requires intense listening and observing. Director David Ossman has said I am painting with sound – I really like that. I’ve worked coast to coast and that’s been a broadening experience, both because traveling does that but also any kind of production work, I pick up ways to make my own productions better: how to take care of people, how to get good performances out of people. I try to produce readings and events I would want to attend. I co-founded the first poetry slam in Indiana in 2001, mainly because it was a different way of hosting a poetry reading. That’s when I started traveling to do readings. I was also a roller derby announcer for 8 years and I traveled with the team to announce for them at away bouts. In fact that’s how I got to do a reading in Canada: I stayed an extra day and read in Toronto. Trips that still stand out and that generated a lot of writing: Devils Tower WY, Iceland, New Orleans, Toronto, Shiprock NM, Whidbey Island WA. I finished my book Hot Type Cold Read in a hotel room while I was working a live sound effects gig in Fort Lauderdale. I do some of my best work in one field while I’m in the thick of it in another.

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


Meaningful to me, probably my 2010 chapbook Little Glove in a Big Hand. My cousin Jeffrey died in a farming accident when he and I were both 4 years old, and it tore our families apart. I was so young I was barely aware of it and no one really explained to me what happened to him. He was just gone. I’d been writing about that for probably 25 years but didn’t like any of it – I was either too close to the material or not close enough. Then the memories started coming back, more vivid than before, and I started having dreams about it and I filled a notebook with poems and workshopped them with the Reservoir Dogwoods and got them published all in about 8 months. I was doing some therapy at the time, really working on myself, so that’s likely why some dormant things resurfaced with more clarity. I really figured some things out in that project.

Meaningful to other people, probably the poem I wrote in 2004 “Cicada Blues Chorus 10 & 17.” I wrote it as a team piece for poetry slams the last time the 17-year cicadas came through. It continues to be my most endearing poem and I never get tired of doing it. I also have written a ton of meaningful poetry on demand, for total strangers as well as close friends who have trusted me enough to tell me intimate details about their lives, sometimes out on the street in the middle of a festival. A woman once asked if I knew anything about bipolar disorder (I do) and could I write a poem about her son? Another person was in recovery and asked me to write about it – and I asked questions like recovery from what? How long have you been clean? I’m not confrontational about it but this collaborative thing opens up between us and I feel compelled to push for details. I think the patrons feel compelled to tell me – after all they asked for it. I have written elegies on demand too for a haunted cemetery tour, and for those I always ask things like “So what kind of life did you lead?” or “Do you have any regrets?” and sometimes they laugh it off and sometimes they get very serious, more serious than they were probably imagining their night was going to be.

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

Tony: Learning how to parse any poetry, especially by reading Ginsberg’s big red book of collected poems 1947-1980. It took several years to work through because I really dug down into the forms and researched his life a bit to figure out what he was saying. Read most of it aloud. Suddenly the veil lifted and I could see with new eyes. Before that, some poetry was just unreachable, or maybe I didn’t work at it enough. There are poems I don’t like or poets I like more than others, but everything is available to me now. I think Poetry is enormous and I want to get at it. I’m not sure I ever wanted to be an artist, or a poet, but I’ve always done some writing and some music and some production work, making books or plays or movies. I just like doing the work: making poems, making live sound effects, making events. There is a certain amount of networking required and I don’t always feel like that’s conducive to getting underneath things enough to make poems, so that tension – the openness and the aloofness – fuels a lot of what I do.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?


“Never hurry, never rest” -Nietzsche

I try to get into some woods near running water whenever possible.

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


I just put out a new chapbook with Alien Buddha Press: The History of Projectiles. I was invited by Ryder Magazine to do a writeup on it here: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/392109039/10/

Why buy from Amazon when you can buy directly from me? https://tonybrewer71.blogspot.com/

Seriously, hit me up and I’ll kick in something special and unique.

I’m doing some readings with Tim Heerdink in July:

7/10 Bluestocking Social Bookstore in Evansville IN: https://www.facebook.com/events/204093574943742

7/16 Poetry in the Park in St. Louis: https://www.facebook.com/events/185279830160680

7/17 Barb’s Books in Belle MO: https://www.facebook.com/events/498526064727221

7/18 TBA but likely we’ll be live on KOPN out of Columbia MO https://www.kopn.org/

7/29 I’m doing a formal book launch with guest readers in Bloomington in the courtyard at the Runcible Spoon Cafe & Restaurant.

Aug 10 and 24 Poetry on Demand at A Fair for the Arts in Switchyard Park in Bloomington

Sep 4-5 Labor Day weekend Poetry on Demand at the 4th Street Arts Festival in Bloomington

I just wrapped co-producing the 9th annual HEAR Now Audio Fiction & Arts Festival (virtual this year) June 24-27 https://www.natf.org/, where I also taught live sound effects, did some voice acting, and performed poetry live with the ensemble Urban Deer: http://urban-deer.com/

I also co-produce a spoken word series (currently also virtual) with live music for the Writers Guild at Bloomington on the first Wed of every month: https://writersguildbloomington.com/

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


“May you always be prepared for what you want. Amen.” from “Toast”
“The waiting period for revenge / is a sentence” from “Why we will never get over this”

Q9: What has helped you most with writing?


On the last day of Richard Cecil’s poetry workshop when I was a junior at IU, I asked “How do I keep doing this?” meaning making poems as some sort vocation outside of a college classroom. I wasn’t sure how serious I was about writing as a profession. He said there were 2 ways: get into an MFA program but you’ll be teaching and doing other things as much as or more than writing – although there is a supportive network there and you’ll get published and have books and all that. That was his world. I said OK what’s the other? He said just write and send your stuff out. Get a job that doesn’t destroy your mind and your willingness to keep submitting work, and eventually you’ll get things out there. I think I went that route, with an assist from audio theatre and poetry slams, which weren’t widely known at that point but I hosted a slam for 10 years and found my network that way. Many of my influences are “working poets” who have a job outside the field: William Carlos Williams, Lee Young-Li, slam poets who were active and touring before Poetry Slam incorporated. I liked that Richard didn’t say “and so you should take THIS path.” He just told me what was available.

Joseph Kerschbaum and I have workshopped each other a bunch. He co-founded that slam with me and we’ve done book tours together. The Reservoir Dogwoods poetry performance group I’m in – Jason Ammerman in Indy, Matthew Jackson in Columbus (IN), and me in Bloomington – has taught me a lot about collaboration and writing poems together. Same with all the poetry on demand. I have written a lot of poems I would not have thought to write except someone asked for it, and that compulsory aspect has stretched my boundaries. POD has helped me break out of writing slumps and keep my mind open to new forms. It’s another form of connectedness.

Poets Tom Hastings and Eric Rensberger have been mentors. Eric once commented after an open mic I was hosting: “More chips with the salsa please,” and that has stuck with me. Spice is nice but your need a sturdy delivery system. Tom has said: “You’re always working on a manuscript,” I think meaning you are always editing and collecting material for the next project, whatever it ends up being. I am definitely doing that all the time.

Poetry by Tony Brewer : “You and I are Human Beings” “the Seashell & the Clergyman”