Pine Row Issue No. 1 Spring 2020 - Featured Poet
Stopping by the Quik-Fil before dawn
for a coffee, darts,
a homemade sour
cream cruller. Sleet
got here too quick
this year but the bed
stayed dry overnight
and it’ll be Jumbo’s
for clubs at lunch
so there’s that sorted.
Nodding at the self-
pour station, I ask
about the depths
of other men’s
wells, wood stacks,
unnoticed as daily
prayer. And me?
I’m throwing up
a fresh new sign
on the old bank
its third change
of hands in as many
years and funny
how they give you
just as much to create
as to destroy. It’s cold
but I’ve got chains
for my snow tires,
cup, high beams
for the lengthening dark
Interview with Garrett Stack
by Hank Hudepohl, Pine Row Editor
1. Did anyone help influence your interest in poetry?
I started writing poetry in graduate school as a mental break from my doctoral dissertation. I was lucky enough to come in contact with two fantastic professors at Carnegie Mellon University, Kevin Gonzalez and Lauren Shapiro, who let me audit their undergraduate classes and participate in their workshops for two years. I cut my teeth there, and by the time I finished my PhD I had also found my poetic voice.
2. How do your poems transition from inspiration to draft to final version?
I collect lines/phrases in a journal and I wait until a concept or idea I have pairs with a journal entry before I start writing. That way, I have a first line to get me rolling and a focus, idea, theme, etc. to direct the poem from there. Complete drafts are transitioned to the computer, where they are continually tweaked until the find a home in a lovely journal such as Pine Row.
3. What book is currently on your nightstand?
At this very moment, it's Jim Harrison's poetry collection The Shape of the Journey.
4. Any particular poet/s inspire you?
My first and strongest influence was Ted Koozer, who's Poetry Home Repair Manual lies affectionately dogeared on my desk. More recently, I'm inspired by my local West Michigan poet Jack Ridl, who is quietly waging the most peaceful and poetic political protest in history.
5. Do you have access to a community of writers / artists / poets?
I belong to a creative writing group, the Grand River Writing Tribe, which provides critiques, companionship, and general emotional support on a bi-weekly basis. Writing would be feasibly impossible without them.
6. While it may be impossible to single out a specific style or trait, what do you think are some of the defining qualities of poetry being written in the United States today?
I was at a reading a few years ago with a poet who opened by describing his mother's reaction to his first book as, "It's pretty but I don't really understand any of it." He proceeded to tell the audience that his second book was written with his mother in mind (i.e. more approachable). Then he started reading and I felt sorry for his mother, because I can guarantee she didn't have an easier time with his second book. I think this fits the bill for much of what we're seeing in popular literary journals: beautiful abstraction. And just as with abstract art, it's pleasant for some people but not for everyone. Without calling for a return to pentameter, I do think there is still something to be said for approachable poetry.
Garrett Stack is a teacher and writer at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. His work is forthcoming or recently published in the American Journal of Poetry, 2 Bridges, The MacGuffin, Southern Poetry Review, and others. He is currently assembling his first collection of poetry.