Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Poetry Chain Gang (Volume 2) | Walter Bjorkman

The Black Telephone has five fast questions for poet Walter Bjorkman.

BT: What triggered your interest in poetry?

WALTER: I would say at the earliest, it had to be the songs of early childhood that were sung by family, particularly mothers. The lyricism, meter and rhyme were intoned to us before we could understand or speak words. It’s the same thing that later triggered my interest in Rock ‘n Roll, R & B, Blues & Jazz. Most of us were fortunate to have had that upbringing in one form or another, so it is nothing unique, most of us have it. With me now it is a matter of keeping in touch with it. As to expressing myself in poetry, it had to be the first poem I ever wrote, Grave Fears, at age 14, about the death of my father five years earlier. I don’t remember writing the best parts, I was zoned out. It got raves in my soph. English class and stuck into the school literary publication. I put it on the shelf for a few years until I got serious about questioning everything, and a professor, Sally Sears, took interest in my poems as I was in the process of dropping out of science and taking up literature. I later met her on the boardwalk at Coney where she was then in a traveling troupe of the Bread & Puppet Theater, entertaining a July crowd, so I did get to thank her.

BT: Right now, do you have a favorite poem?

WALTER: It changes daily. Today I was taken again by Coleen Shin’s hello grace. It has a humanity to it expressed with images and sounds that stay with me, “gentle bird bon mots” to quote her. As for all time, no, I couldn’t pick one, but Keat’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci would always be in the top five. And Ferlinghetti’s Junkman’s Obbligato from the Oral Message’s section of A Coney Island of the Mind.

BT: You are the Co-founder and Editor of the online literary community Voices. What made you want to start an online literary community?

WALTER: “What” is correct – Michelle Elvy (laughter). It didn’t start out as such, we had started a “dueling poets” thing on Fictionaut and realized it was becoming an in sort of thing, so we decided to start a blog to accomodate it rather than subjecting unsuspecting and unexpecting readers to it. We wanted a place to have more freedom to just throw stuff out there without the scrutiny of a rating system, without the minutiae of a workshop. It was character driven, so we got the idea for the name "VOICES where characters (flawed or not) have their say." So we did it, and soon we got the idea to invite others through our contacts to join in. At around the same time, I was asked to assist at 52|250 A Year of Flash on design and editing, that Michelle had started up with John Wentworth Chapin. So that led to the smallish group we have there on Voices that drop in every now and then with some of their works. We quickly started with interviews, an Artist, a Poet, a mysterious Flasher and most recently a The New Yorker cartoonist.

More changes are soon to come on Voices (or . . maybe a little later). In a few weeks, thirteen, 52|250′s first quarterly will be coming out. It is the editor’s selection of the best of the flashes of the first quarter year, plus a few more treats. Working on both may have taken me away from writing a bit, but it has exposed me to such good work by so many writers, that it will serve my own writing well down the road.

BT: Pick a poet, any poet…

WALTER: Depends on what for. A day in the woods – Keats. A night runnin’ down the town – Ferlinghetti. And so on. Sometimes the experience leads me to the poet, other times the reverse. But most often these days it is what is before my eyes on the sites and blogs that I frequent.

BT: I’m trying to start a chain, a chain of poets, sort of like a chain gang of poets. Can you please suggest a poet I should ask five fast questions to next?

WALTER: Sam Rasnake, whose poetry has inspired me with its art and sensibilities since I first came across him about a year ago.

Walter Bjorkman is a woods walker, watcher and sometimes writer living in Maryland. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, and as such much of his work is rooted there. His work has been published in Poets & Artists, Metazen, BluePrint Review and OCHO.


  1. This is a nice blog. I did not know about it. Keep up the good work. Walter has a book of short stories coming out later this year or early next year by the way.

    Thank you,

  2. I like that you did a spin-off of your "The Black Telephone" blog and made "The Poetry Chain Gang" its own blog. That segment took a life of its own. I love the interviews and Walt Bjorkman is the perfect writer to start off volume 2 of this series.

  3. Thanks for giving this walker, watcher and writer space here. This is a marvelous venue!

  4. Thanks, Michelle. I appreciate the comment.