Sunday, April 6, 2008

Contributor Interview # 2 - Gary McDowell

In the second Barn Owl Review Contributor Interview, Gary McDowell talks about writing, life as a PhD student, and the inevitable wait that comes with finishing a manuscript.

ST: First, the basics. When did you start writing and why?

GM: I started writing in high school (well, aside from the illustrated stories I’d write for my family when I was in grade school). My stepfather died of brain cancer when I was sixteen. He had been a huge influence on my life and once he passed I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere I went, jotted down “thoughts” and “memories” that I would then later turn into horrific little poems about my “feelings”: truly atrocious stuff, seriously… so bad. I think I did it because I felt like I needed a place to record what I was going through. I didn’t respond well to psychologists and writing seemed a natural way to deal with my grief, with my pain.

I also used to go to the shore of the Fox River in Illinois while in high school and write about my surroundings, the broken tree stumps, the muddy water, the frogs, the vegetation, the dead catfish that littered the inlets. So I guess maybe nature, and my connection to it, got me interested in writing a more serious poetry, a poetry more mature than adolescent grievings. And then, at Northern Illinois University I took a fiction writing course and from there found Modern and Contemporary poetry through my professors recommendations. Then I kept writing because I couldn’t stop. I still can’t stop, and I hope I never do.

ST: Where do you find inspiration? What themes or images keep popping up in your work?

GM: I draw inspiration from music, film, literature, nature, etc. The things, people, and events that surround me inspire me. Music though is where it’s really at for me: I love Muddy Waters, Metallica, Neutral Milk Hotel, Son House, Ben Webster, CLOP, Jay-Z, Leadbelly, Queen, Rascal Flatts, Silver Jews, Talib Kweli, Tom Waits, Wilco, Miles Davis, and on and on. I love the way different genres of music mix and filter through me, the images I get by going from a Billy Joel song to a Beatles song to a Blitzen Trapper song to an LL Cool J song.

Reading (anything: newspapers, historical nonfiction, poetry, fiction, etc) inspires me, too. It’s nearly impossible for me to read and not want to write afterward. Is this normal? Anyway.

As for images and themes? Fathers, sex, fish/fishing, rivers, water, childhood, birds (I love birds!!). There are so many common themes and images in my work… it’s sort of depressing, like maybe I need to invest in some new material!

ST: Who are you reading? (Or what’s your favorite book of 2007/08?)

GM: My favorite book of 07-08 was F. Daniel Rzicznek’s Neck of the World (Utah State UP 2008), winner of last year’s May Swenson Prize. Runner’s up would include: Peter Gizzi’s The Outernationale (Wesleyan 2007), Peter Conners’ Of Whiskey and Winter (White Pine Press 2007), Linda Gregerson’s Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin 2007), Alex Lemon’s Hallelujah Blackout (Milkweed 2008), Joshua Kryah’s Glean (Nightboat Books 2007), and others. Don’t even get me started on the fiction and nonfiction… so much good stuff out there this year!

I might as well mention a few others, books that I’ve read recently and loved but that didn’t come out this year: Charles Wright’s Country Music, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, all 3 of Peter Gizzi’s previous books, Seamus Heaney’s The Government of the Tongue, Louise Gluck’s Proofs & Theories, and Charles Wright’s Halflife and Quarter Notes. So many more I could name though!

ST: Who are your biggest influences (literary, mentors, other)?

GM: I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve studied with very giving, very inspirational poets at all three of the higher-educational schools I’ve attended: Amy Newman at Northern Illinois University, Larissa Szporluk at Bowling Green State University, and William Olsen and Nancy Eimers at Western Michigan University. They have all been mentors to me, provided me with insight, encouragement, and criticism… though I must say that Amy’s mentorship has been the longest lasting and meant the most to me. She’s the best—a friend, a poet, a teacher. She introduced me to poetry when I was lost and confused about my professional and scholarly ambitions as a scrappy 19-year old; she helped me understand that being a poet had a lot more to do with heart and determination and grit than with berets and coffee and black t-shirts; and to this day she continues to encourage, support, and influence me both with her literary wisdom and her unfaltering friendship.

As for literary influences… well, there’s so many. Here’s a few (though I know I’ll forget someone really important): Faulkner, Rilke, Charles Wright, Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping), Tom Andrews, C.D. Wright (Deepstep Come Shining), James Wright, Berryman, Dostoevsky, Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), Gary Young, Rosmarie Waldrop, Russell Edson, Ted Hughes (mostly just Crow), Robert Hass, Yeats, Hemingway Larry Levis, Raymond Carver, Kevin Canty, and most recently, Peter Gizzi. I also return often to Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us and all of Oliver Sacks’ books. I find that really great nonfiction influences me more than poetry most days.

And music (see question #2 above). Jackson Pollock’s art. So many influences, so little time!

ST: Which literary journals (besides Barn Owl Review, of course) do you enjoy most?

GM: I like to read any and every lit journal I can get my hands on. I love seeing what my peers are up to as well as reading writers I’ve never read before. Isn’t that feeling just tremendous, when you read a poem by someone you’ve never heard of and then immediately flip to the contributor’s notes to see where else they’ve published so you can track their work down? Oh man, I love that! Anyway, there are a few mags that I either subscribe to or at least try to read every issue of: Colorado Review, Laurel Review, RHINO, DIAGRAM, Tin House, jubilat, Gulf Coast, American Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Sentence, Poetry, Black Warrior Review. There are so many more great literary magazines than space allows here.

ST: What advice would you give to writers who are just starting to send out their work?

GM: Read. Read widely and voraciously. Also, go listen to poets read (or go to PennSound online or some other audio archive and listen and listen and listen). If you live anywhere near a city with a good reading scene, go check out some of the ‘stars’ that come through town. I saw Robert Hass read when I was first getting started in poetry and it changed my life. Also, don’t silence yourself; be honest, be forthright, be fearless in your writing and your reading. Just go for it. Write like hell. Read like hell.

ST: You’re currently looking for a publisher for your first manuscript. How did you get the project ready for the mail, and how are you handling the wait?

GM: As for getting my manuscript ready for the mail… well, I’m still working on the damn thing. I find that it’s an endless process. I’m always tinkering, I’m always refining and tweaking. But eventually I just stop and put postage on it, write a check, and mail it off. I have to. If I don’t, no one will ever read it. In all seriousness though, this is where my mentors (Newman, Szporluk, Olsen, Eimers) have been so important. I’ve shown them different drafts, different incarnations of the manuscript, and their input has been crucial to the book’s development. It’s a tough beast, the first book manuscript. I don’t know much about it, I guess. I’m not sure I ever will. I just keep my head down and write and revise the best I know how. As for the waiting, it’s tough. I wish the turnaround were quicker, but I have been on the other side of these manuscript contests as a reader and screener and I completely understand why the process can take months. And to be honest, I’d rather wait.... hopefully that means my manuscript is getting a good read, some solid consideration. But I’ll not lie, waiting sucks!

ST: You’re working on your Ph.D. at Western Michigan University. Why did you decide to take the academic route?

GM: Yeah, the Ph.D.isease. Seriously though, I went to Northern Illinois University more than 10 years ago in hopes of becoming a Computer Scientist, a video-game programmer (I know, dorksville… like poetry’s any better!?). I took one Calculus class and as soon as the semester was over I ran, not walked, but ran to the advisor’s office and switched my major to English. After a semester in the English Department I realized I wanted to teach. Teaching high school, however, didn’t appeal to me. I loved what Amy Newman and my other college professors meant to me and decided that that’s what I wanted to do with my life: teach upper-level literature and creative writing. It’s great that the profession allows writers time to create and teach, even though the jobs are nearly impossible to secure. I love the atmosphere of the classroom, of the university, of young minds working together in the humanities, using their minds and hearts to create, build, and synthesize the literature of the past, present, and future. I can’t imagine ever wanting to do anything else.

*

Gary McDowell in Barn Owl Review:
from “On the Death of Houdini”

Even on his deathbed,
surrounded by friends,
his appendix mangled and bleeding,
stupefying the doctors,
his forehead, at the hairline,
blistering from fever,
he wouldn’t fall down.


Ohiotica: “I spent the last two years in Ohio earning my MFA at Bowling Green State University; it’s a two-year stint I wouldn’t trade for anything. Did I mention I also got married to my beautiful wife while living in Ohio?”
*

Still want to know about Gary? Check out his blog or send him an email at mcdowgl (at) gmail (dot) com.

9 comments:

DJMDDS said...

GM is an amazing poet and scholar, you will be enjoying his creative works for many years to come. This is truly from the heart, even though slightly biased, since I am his extremely proud father.

Amanda Auchter said...

What a great interview! Thanks for this!

Sara said...

Amanda, I'm glad you like it! Thanks for stopping by.

Ahmed Ashraf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ahmed Ashraf said...

Hi ,
Your site is very niceeee , this is my site pls , let me show it :
مصراليوم
مشاركة ارباح ادسنس
منتديات مصراليوم هى منتديات مصرية عامة تهتم بكل ما يهتم به المصريين , لدينا على منتديات مصر اليوم كل جديد و هذه هى اهم مواضيع المنتدى
اقسام منتديات مصر اليوم :
الحوار العام - شعر , قصائد - بحث , مقال - اخبار الفن - اخبار مصر - اخبار التعليم فى مصر - صور - اغانى , كلمات اغانى - افلام , مسلسلات - نكت - فيديوهات
قنوات , ترددات - العاب - كلية الطب - كلية الهندسة - رسائل موبايل - عروض الشبكات - قران كريم - برامج انترنت - اخبار الرياضة المصرية - مباريات بث مباشر - اسعار سيارات - اسعار موبايلات

Ahmed Ashraf said...

Hi ,
Your site is very niceeee , this is my site pls , let me show it :
مصراليوم
مشاركة ارباح ادسنس
منتديات مصراليوم هى منتديات مصرية عامة تهتم بكل ما يهتم به المصريين , لدينا على منتديات مصر اليوم كل جديد و هذه هى اهم مواضيع المنتدى
اقسام منتديات مصر اليوم :
الحوار العام - شعر , قصائد - بحث , مقال - اخبار الفن - اخبار مصر - اخبار التعليم فى مصر - صور - اغانى , كلمات اغانى - افلام , مسلسلات - نكت - فيديوهات
قنوات , ترددات - العاب - كلية الطب - كلية الهندسة - رسائل موبايل - عروض الشبكات - قران كريم - برامج انترنت - اخبار الرياضة المصرية - مباريات بث مباشر - اسعار سيارات - اسعار موبايلات

Ahmed Ashraf said...

تردد قناة mbc مصر على النايل سات 2013
مشاهدة قناة mbc مصر بث مباشر
وظائف الوزارات المصرية 2013
وظائف الحكومة المصرية 2013
احدث عروض كارفور مصر الهايبر ماركت
اماكن و فروع كارفور مصر
نكت مصرية قليلة الادب 2013
صور , نكت اساحبى 2013
صور نكت على جمال و علاء و حسنى مبارك
مشاهدة قناة النهار بث مباشر
تردد قناة 25 يناير على النايل سات 2013
ترددات قنوات المصارعة على النايل سات 2013
ترددات قنوات النايل سات الجديدة 2013
ترددات قنوات النايل سات الجديدة
الموقع الرسمى لقناة الحياة الحمرا
الموقع الرسمى لقناة النهار
الموقع الرسمى لقناة الفراعين
ترددات قنوات النايل سات الجديدة 2013
مشاهدة جلسات مجلس الشعب اون لاين
مشاهدة جلسات مجلس الشعب بث مباشر
مشاهدة قناة صوت الشعب اون لاين
ترددات قنوات النايل سات الجديدة بعد التعديل
مشاهدة قناة صوت الشعب بث مباشر
الموقع الرسمى لقناه مودرن سبورت
مشاهدة قناة 25 يناير بث مباشر اون لاين
مشاهدة قناة اليوم بث مباشر اون لاين بدون تقطيع - القاهرة اليوم
مشاهدة قناة الجزيرة مصر بث مباشر اون لاين بدون تقطيع
رسائل قصيرة للاصدقاء
كود تحويل رصيد من فودافون الى فودافون
طريقة تحويل الرصيد فودافون
اسعار الموبايلات النوكيا المستعملة فى مصر
اسعار الذهب اليوم فى طنطا
اسعار السيارات المستعملة فى مصر بالصور 2013
اسعار السيارات فى مصر 2013 بالصور
سعر موبايل نوكيا بخطين Nokia e97
صورة اجمل امراة فى مصر 2013 , اجمل امراة فى العالم 2013
صور تامر حسني و بسمة بوسيل زوجته
نكت صعايدة

Ahmed Ashraf said...

نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 , محافظة الاسكندرية
نتيجة الصف الثالث الاعدادى الترم الاول 2013
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 , محافظة اسوان
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 , محافظة اسيوط
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 , محافظة البحيرة
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 , محافظة بنى سويف
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة القاهرة
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة الدقهلية
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة دمياط
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة الفيوم
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة الغربية
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة الجيزة
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة الاسماعيلية
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة كفر الشيخ
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة المنيا
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة المنوفيه
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة القليوبية
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة قنا
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة الشرقيه
نتيجة الشهادة الاعدادية الترم الاول 2013 محافظة سوهاج

Ahmad Ashraf said...

صور اساحبي جديدة عن مرسي 2013
صور شرم الشيخ 2013
صور اساحبي جديدة 2013
صور و نكت اساحبى جديدة عن الصعايدة 2013
صور , نكت اساحبى جديدة عن الشباب 2013
صور , نكت اساحبى عن البنات 2013
نكت مصرية قليلة الادب 2013
صور , نكت اساحبى 2013
مشاهدة قناة 25 يناير بث مباشر
تردد قناة 25 يناير 2013
تردد قناة خمسة و عشرين يناير 2013
الموقع الرسمى لقناه مودرن سبورت modernsport
الموقع الرسمى لقناة الحياة الحمرا
ترددات قنوات النايل سات الجديدة 2013
ترددات قنوات النايل سات الجديدة بعد التعديل
كلمات اغنية "واحشني" جنات 2013
كلمات اغنية "برتاح" رامى صبري
كلمات اغنية "عيشني اكتر" جنات 2013
اسعار كليات و معاهد الهندسة الخاصة 2013
مصروفات الدراسة بالكليات و المعاهد الخاصة 2013
تردد قناة الحياة الزرقاء 2013
تحميل صور شهر رمضان