Poetry Life & Times Interview with Poet R.W.Haynes

On the Savannah River 2013
 
R.W. Haynes teaches at a university and writes about literature for academic publications. His doctorate at the University of Georgia (1991) was on sixteenth-century classicism in England. He has taught at Texas A&M International University in Laredo since 1992.
 
His teaching focuses on literature ranging from the Greeks to the English Renaissance, most of it dealing with medieval material and Shakespeare. Two more recent dramatists, Henrik Ibsen and Horton Foote, have been the focus of his attention in recent years. His book The Major Plays of Horton Foote (Mellen 2010) will be followed next year by an anthology of criticism on the same author.
 
Here at PLT we have had the privilege of featuring several of his poetic works both in classical & free style form. Intrigued by his background as well as his work in the field of poetry, we have included him in our list of special interviews at PLT, where I would like to begin by putting these questions. Hello RW welcome to our PLT interview. A few questions via Robin Ouzman Hislop Editor
 
PLT- Which was your first contact with poetry?
 
RW- Both of my parents were teachers, and both loved literature. My mother wrote poetry and encouraged her children to do the same. I had the honor of reading one of my mother’s poems at my sister’s funeral not long ago.
 
PLT- Which style in writing defines you?
 
RW- I’m not sure. It might be easier for someone else to answer that. There are some poetic projects I’d like to try which may be very different from what I’ve written so far. And does one write to be defined? Perhaps one writes to elude definition, at least at times. Remember what Hamlet says to Guildenstern, “Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.” Not that I have any earth-shaking mystery in my poetic activity that it would be death to reveal. I do tend to work in more or less formal verse, which some editors and readers find insufficiently edgy or something. Different strokes. And not many of my poems have been long poems, possibly because of feebleness of mind. And sometimes the verse may be a bit angry, even though most of my sonnets are jokes to some extent. Well, anger demands expression, and, when it energizes a composition, that process governs the anger, I think, and wrath becomes something else, as it usually ought to do. To conclude the answer, I do what my Muse tells me to do, hoping all the while that writing about Downtown Waco or The Three Little Pigs or the Texas Campus-Carry legislation or the ghosts of people who aren’t dead yet isn’t some mad aberration arising from academic trauma or lack of tobacco or something.
 
PLT- Where is the germ of your creation? What triggers the poem?
 
RW- I join lots of poets in saying that the impulse to write is a constant presence. Perhaps it derives from a sense that language has a kind of magical potential to convey more in special moments than in ordinary ones. It isn’t always enough to yell “Caramba!” or to gasp “The rest is silence.” But let’s look at Shakespeare, whose sonnets show us something about how poetry does what it does. Can’t we say that in those poems there are motives we recognize with a distinct immediacy? Love, bitter disappointment, jealousy, humor, anxiety—all of which in their intensity are subjected to a presence of mind (if I may develop the usual sense of that phrase) and put before us as a kind of imaginative victory, if that is not too strong a word. So it seems to me that often the provocation to verse is a challenge to respond artistically to a moment deserving a poetic response. When the angel gives a command to Caedmon, he understands it is time for him to sing, despite his froglike voice.
 
PLT- Who were your educative poets?
 
RW- My mother, of course—Sarah Westbrook Haynes. My father also loved poetry. My older brother was, it seemed and still seems to me, a pretty good poet. Dylan Thomas, Pound, Eliot, Yeats. I majored in Classical Greek as an undergraduate largely because of Pound’s enthusiasm for Homer, but I also always read in the English poets, Chaucer, Spenser, Sidney, Donne. I liked the Romantics except for Wordsworth, whom I learned to respect at about the same time as I found I could read Wallace Stevens at last. I liked the work of a couple of poets, Marion Montgomery and Judith Ortiz Cofer, who were at the University of Georgia when I was there. Shakespeare finally became my job, and his work still amazes, and now as I write drama his skill seems even more unparalleled.
 
PLT- Do you handle an idea or an aesthetic intention when writing?
 
RW- I’m sure I try at times. Sometimes the ideas handle me. I won’t say the road to Hell is paved with aesthetic intentions, but I do think we need to reserve some modest disdain for glib or facile effusions that have nothing behind them but a kind of opportunistic exhibitionism. I like all kinds of poetry and poets, but not all poetry is equal in value. Do you remember Cinna the Poet in Julius Caesar? The crowd, infuriated by Caesar’s murder, seized him because one of the assassins was named Cinna. When he protested that he was a poet, the crowd tore him to pieces because of his bad verses. Perhaps the poet, like the blues musician, has to pay dues in one way or another before arriving at competence. On the other hand, youth, though sometimes blind or inconsiderate, can energize expression so much that impulse redeems immaturity and the claims of common sense appear pedantic. One doesn’t want to hear “I fall on the thorns of life!” every ten minutes, but Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” still opens a universe of poetic power.
 
PLT- What do you think of alternative resources for spreading poetical works?
 
RW- I’m for poetry, however access to it may be provided. Thank God for the Internet, which has done much to diminish the influence of certain kinds of editorial tyranny. I taught two classes today to begin the summer session, and in both I advised the students to write poetry, and I believe some of them took me seriously.
 
PLT- Do you think that poets, as such, have a special social commitment or that their sensitivity is more exposed to society´s predicaments?
 
RW- Life usually requires some toughness, no? I visited Poe’s grave in Baltimore a year or so ago, and, of course, it’s painful to reflect on gifted individuals whose artistic souls drive them through destructive experiences and social rejection. One thinks particularly of musicians, though the names of Hart Crane and John Berryman come to mind as well. It is good when such individuals find support and encouragement and can sustain life’s disappointments. Charles Baudelaire said that his humiliations were of the grace of God, and no doubt he derived comfort from that thought. As for social commitment, I’d like to think that a commitment to the pursuit of wisdom would suit poets very well. If we look at the political alignments of poets in the United States, I am sure that far more are Democrats than Republicans, but a review of history might indicate that such characters as the Beowulf poet, Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare aligned themselves with political power to some extent, and no doubt the same was true of Homer. It was in fact reported that it was Caesar Augustus who prevented the posthumous burning of Vergil’s Aeneid. Now that was a patron of the arts. Despite these observations, however, it is also true that heartless greed and meretricious machination do not tend to promote poetic values. Though Lord Byron facetiously claimed to have discovered a new vice in avarice, his sponsorship of Hellenic freedom showed his true feelings. In so far as poets subscribe to humane values, to compassion and respect for their fellow humans, a social sympathy can be expected from them, but, surely, there is a considerable variety in human perspective. Would one expect an insurance executive such as Wallace Stevens to be a great poet?
 
PLT- Which was the last poetry book you read?
 
RW- I tend not to read books of poetry by individuals very often. I’m not sure why. It may be that I think I get more from works considered individually or in small groups than in a dense assemblage of poems. So the last book of poetry I read was probably Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
 
PLT- According to your criterion, what living poet should be re-read nowadays?
 
RW- Judith Ortiz Cofer, who is a native of Puerto Rico, but who has lived for many years in Georgia. Her work returns the reader to the personal by celebrating personal connections, the kind of sometimes casual devotion that shapes family and the caring individual. Those in search of new variations of insanity have many options, but Cofer’s poetry effectively engages a rare quest for an emotional responsibility which arises from a kind of harmony of verse and perspective.

 
PLT- Thanks RW for your amazing responses, I hope our readership following will be as profoundly impressed as I am. Also, I must admit, I’m a great fan of Wallace Stevens, him & Samuel Beckett in fact. And thank you again for your recommendation of Judith Ortiz Cofer, I’m intrigued, does she write in her original language, presumably Spanish? Could we entreat of you a sample of one of her works perhaps, and what that means to you and the title of any recommended publication.
 
RW- Judith Ortiz Cofer writes in English. A collection of her poetry is the volume Reaching for the Mainland & Selected New Poems, Bilingual Press 1995. Her poem “Esperanza,” which can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/240624 demonstrates her sense of the emotional implications of self-centered decisions. The young woman whose name means “Hope” is sketched in a few devastated lines as a person whose hope was cursed at her birth.
 
PLT- It wouldn’t be fair to wrap this Interview up without some further reference to your works other than those hitherto published here at PLT. So would you be so kind to leave us with one or more, perhaps a favourite of yours, if such a thing is possible.
 
RW Haynes
 
The Peacock Lady’s Declaration
 
The lady with glasses put her crutch aside
And said, “I get so sick of parasites
Who think that what a real writer writes
Just kind of bubbles up neatly from inside,
As she stares off in space, then grabs a pen
And puts together a story like a box
With little hinges, snaps, and locks,
And then goes back and puts the symbols in.
Of course, parasites are necessary,
And some of them are pleasant enough to be
Good company, at times, but mortality
Shouldn’t be orderly, at least not very;
Writing here, with these crumbling bones,
Makes new life sprout between inanimate stones.”

 
 
The Tomb of Edgar Poe (2014)
 
Looking for the conference hotel,
I drove by Poe’s grave. Tap tap…
One should definitely shudder a little
At a contact so nearly missed.
Later I walked back, passing by
The Everyman Theater, colder
Than I’m used to being, tap tap,
Down home on the Rio Grande,

    And on his stone a twisted wreath
    Of pasts and half-recalled regrets,
    A ribbon, a spoon, a ball-point pen,
    Declare our junkie solidarity again.
      Why wasn’t some demented witch
      Out front pouring green lemonade?
      A lean, blue owl on her shoulder perched,
      Staring as though I, too, were cursed.

Tapped out, forget that dark flower,
Return to harbor past the Bromo-Selzer Tower.
 
R.W. Haynes

 
 
robin@artvilla.com
PoetryLifeTimes
Poetry Life & Times

editor@artvilla.com
www.artvilla.com
Artvilla.com

The Swarm. A Poem by R.W. Haynes

 
 
Old words keep some kinds of resonance
When breathed, yet on the page they show
A coolness and an insincerity
Which dry up drama, let the steam escape
From warm expression, draw the judging eye
Of the critic or call for disdain.
 
So this is a spell for mandolin and harp,
For just-contained jealousy and spite,
For confidences and for bloody threats
Whispered outside taverns in starlight.
 
If you step up and turn your head a bit
To hear, your eyes alight to learn my news
Of dangers and delights and hidden traps,
I will assure you, though my words be old,
My voice is haunted through and through by songs
Beaten in breasts through torment and hope,
Chorused in kitchen and down country roads,
Alive as your eyes to our destinies,
Resonating like a tense swarm of bees.

 
 
 

On the Savannah River 2013

 
 
R. W. Haynes has taught literature at Texas A&M International University since 1992. His recent interests include the early British sonnet, and he is completing a second book on the Texas playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009). In his poetry, Haynes seeks to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without sounding any more dissonant notes than he has to. In fiction, he works toward grasping that part of the past which made its mark on his generation. He enjoys teaching drama, especially the Greeks, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and he devoutly hopes for a stunning literary Renaissance in South Texas.

 
editor@artvilla.com
robin@artvilla.com
www.facebook.com/PoetryLifeTimes
www.facebook.com/Artvilla.com

A Modest Operation of Exclusion. A Poem by R.W. Haynes

 
 
A modest operation of exclusion
Extracts the rain-frog from the desert sands,
The cornered mouse from his confusion,
The vaguely dreaming poet from drowsy lands,
And it even explains, eventually,
Why we do not know, even vaguely,
How we wish happiness to be.
And the operator standing by,
Whose merciful, providential hands
Make this story whole so that I
Throw such eloquence at the silent sky?
 
You see how it is. Ever since I fell
Into the Niagara from that hot-air balloon,
I dream of smiling crocodiles in Hell
Feeding me sherbet with a golden spoon.

 
 

On the Savannah River 2013

 
 
R. W. Haynes has taught literature at Texas A&M International University since 1992. His recent interests include the early British sonnet, and he is completing a second book on the Texas playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009). In his poetry, Haynes seeks to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without sounding any more dissonant notes than he has to. In fiction, he works toward grasping that part of the past which made its mark on his generation. He enjoys teaching drama, especially the Greeks, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and he devoutly hopes for a stunning literary Renaissance in South Texas.

 
editor@artvilla.com
robin@artvilla.com
www.facebook.com/PoetryLifeTimes
www.facebook.com/Artvilla.com

 

The Best Tlacoyos in Chickasawhatchee. A Poem by R.W. Haynes

 
 
Back before he was extinct, I mean, of course,
The Great Common-Sense Woodpecker, bless his heart,
You could sit here on the porch, sober as a judge,
And watch pterodactyls chasing the bugs
Back and forth around the glowing moon.
 
Back then, that is, before it all went to hell,
That boy from Bacon County, what was his name?
His daddy drove a log truck, it finally caught fire
And burned down the Primitive Baptist Church,
But the pastor’s German Shepherd barked in time,
And they saved the parsonage. I’ll remember his name,
The boy’s, not the German Shepherd’s, here in a little,
But anyhow, he played the mandolin, not the dog,
Of course, but the kid from Bacon, pretty well,
And he’d park his butt on the steps and play old songs,
“Pretty Polly,” “Darlin’ Corey,” and “Watch Out, Young Ladies,”
And Grandmama, who did watch out pretty well
When she was young, according to her, anyhow,
Would tap her foot as if arthritis was a song.
 
And up in the sky, the constellations danced,
And passenger pigeons flowed across forever,
And old songs fused together like aqueducts,
Washing all the grief away that any of us ever had.

 
 
 
On the Savannah River 2013
 
 
 
R. W. Haynes has taught literature at Texas A&M International University since 1992. His recent interests include the early British sonnet, and he is completing a second book on the Texas playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009). In his poetry, Haynes seeks to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without sounding any more dissonant notes than he has to. In fiction, he works toward grasping that part of the past which made its mark on his generation. He enjoys teaching drama, especially the Greeks, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and he devoutly hopes for a stunning literary Renaissance in South Texas.
 
 
robin@artvilla.com
PoetryLifeTimes
Poetry Life & Times

editor@artvilla.com
www.artvilla.com
Artvilla.com
 

Mona Lisa and the Marlboro Man. Poem by R.W. Haynes .

 
 
Not knowing if wisdom would impulsively fly
Or if it dragged its feet when impulse flared,
She had to make the call and suddenly try
To do what an immortal would have dared,
An Aphrodite, ascending in a flying cart
Drawn by fifty gurgling pigeons at a speed
Which matched the speed of her own matchless heart
And the heartbreaking glory of her need.
Later, back in Laredo, she would say
She didn’t know why she’d taken off that way,
Smiling with satisfaction, recalling when
Her best moments flew by delightfully then.
 
 
He didn’t want anyone saying, “Oh.
This is how I feel,” but people do
Say that, and he said it, sometimes, too,
In unguarded moments, and he would show
How he felt, displaying great disdain
As he lit his pipe, blew blue smoke forth
Delivering himself from aesthetic pain
Incurred by foolish ideas from the North,
And, nodding slightly to appreciate
A tolerable turn of phrase which he
Thought suggested some brain activity,
He let his tobacco counter-obfuscate
Suspicious overflows of raw emotion
Eroding the bedrock beneath her devotion.
 
 

On the Savannah River 2013

***

 
R. W. Haynes has taught literature at Texas A&M International University since 1992. His recent interests include the early British sonnet, and he is completing a second book on the Texas playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009). In his poetry, Haynes seeks to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without sounding any more dissonant notes than he has to. In fiction, he works toward grasping that part of the past which made its mark on his generation. He enjoys teaching drama, especially the Greeks, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and he devoutly hopes for a stunning literary Renaissance in South Texas.

***

 
editor@artvilla.com
robin@artvilla.com
 
www.facebook.com/PoetryLifeTimes
www.facebook.com/Artvilla.com

 

The Recirculation of the Minimal. Poem. Sonnet. R.W. Haynes.

The name of the play was Don’t Say You’re Here
When You’re Not All There, and it starred, I believe,
Lillian Fish, King Kong, and Lassie, that year
Drawing raves, if memory serves to deceive,
But we didn’t go—there was something about a hat
Or a color, and then World War Three arrived
To gray our heads in weathering all of that,
But though that tempest bellowed, we survived,
And now we stand in line again to see
The same play, this time with Lash LaRue,
A washed-up whale, and Pauline Parlez-Vous,
Newly-dealt ghosts, clear cards where we
Read past and future, as though the present cared,
Or the future somehow knew, or the past had dared.

***
On the Savannah River 2013
***

R. W. Haynes has taught literature at Texas A&M International University since 1992. His recent interests include the early British sonnet, and he is completing a second book on the Texas playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009). In his poetry, Haynes seeks to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without sounding any more dissonant notes than he has to. In fiction, he works toward grasping that part of the past which made its mark on his generation. He enjoys teaching drama, especially the Greeks, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and he devoutly hopes for a stunning literary Renaissance in South Texas.

***

 
robin@artvilla.com

Downtown Waco. Midnight. Heidegger Looks at the Moon. Poem. Sonnet. R.W.Haynes

 

The Bush Library really should be here,

For each dead city needs a laugh or two,

A little something so the skeletons can jeer

On nights like this when there’s little to do

And nothing to haunt but the haunting lack of hope

Where words are born to sputter anxiously

Toward brief life in some half-bungled trope

Irrecoverable etymologically.

Is there another cyclone on its way

To re-mix this desperation here?

To make words and deeds mutually obey

A dim correspondence–never more clear

Than the misshapen moon cruising so high

Over the Brazos in the hopeless Waco sky?

***

On the Savannah River 2013

***

R. W. Haynes has taught literature at Texas A&M International University since 1992.  His recent interests include the early British sonnet, and he is completing a second book on the Texas playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009).  In his poetry, Haynes seeks to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without sounding any more dissonant notes than he has to.  In fiction, he works toward grasping that part of the past which made its mark on his generation.  He enjoys teaching drama, especially the Greeks, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and he devoutly hopes for a stunning literary Renaissance in South Texas.

***

editor@artvilla.com
robin@artvilla.com

www.facebook.com/PoetryLifeTimes
www.facebook.com/Artvilla.com

 

The House of the Idiot. Poem.Sonnet. R.W.Haynes .

 

Dosteyoevsky

 

 

 When Dostoyevsky seemed so pessimistic,

 I smiled to think he’d viewed society

as though the false, the foolish, and the sadistic

established the patterns of human propriety,

with demons hovering over each decision,

winking and leering, clouding calculation

with appetite, with decency in derision,

annihilating honesty in negotiation.

Wondering at his marvellous naïveté,

I recognize that diabolic brood,

and ask myself how he could write all day

depicting evil with exactitude.

Age brings these recognitions, it seems,

as nightmares shove aside our foolish dreams.

 

 

 

R. W. Haynes (1951 — ), Professor of English at Texas A&M International University, has published sonnets and other poems in numerous journals, including Ampersand Poetry Review, Lucayos, Off the Coast, The Queen City Review, The Resurrectionist, Lucid Rhythms, Kritya, Willows Wept Review, Sixers Review, Sonnetto Poesia and Tertulia. He teaches early British literature and Shakespeare, with occasional courses on Ibsen and on Horton Foote.

 

This sonnet is pre-published with the permission of the Editor-in-chief from:Richard Vallance, editor-in-chief. The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Anthology of sonnets of the early third millennium = Le Phénix renaissant de ses cendres : Anthologie de sonnets au début du troisième millénaire. Friesen Presse, Victoria, B.C., Canada. © 2013. approx. 240 pp. ISBN Hardcover: 978-1-4602-1700-9 Price: $28.00 Paperback: 978-1-4602-1701-6 Price: $18.00 e-Book: 978-1-4602-1702-3 Price: TBA

300 sonnets & ghazals in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese & Persian. Selected sonnets in this anthology are to be pre-published by our permission in Poetry Life & Times (UK) which has exclusive sole rights prior to the publication of the anthology itself. Readers may also contact Richard Vallance, Editor-in-Chief, at: vallance22@gmx.com for further information.

http://vallance22.hpage.com/

 ***

robin@artvilla.com
editor@artvilla.com