This is the first in 3-part series of short interviews with novelists who also write poetry. Today features Stephen Swartz, a good friend who came though on short notice! But first, I’ll need to lay a little groundwork.
When I think of the Romantic movement in poetry, I think of poets like William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake, and Lord Byron.
According to Wikipedia, “The Romantic movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature.”
I have a reason for opening with “the big guns of Romantic poetry,” so to speak. The roots of my guest’s writing life were shaped by Romanticism.
For some who write poetry, the muse, the inspiration to bend words is not always a constant companion. For some of us, our writing career begins with poetry, but as we branch out into other genres, the poetic muse slips into the background and emerges at odd times.
Yet we sometimes feel we are the only one who have wandered away from that beginning. It helps to know that others experience this wandering too, that writing a novel doesn’t make us less of a poet.
Poetry is always waiting to be rediscovered, accepting of the fact it will be set aside when something shiny catches our authorly attention.
Unlike most spurned lovers, Poetry forgives us when we abandon it for greener writing pastures. When we return to it, Poetry welcomes us home with no recriminations.
And now, my good friend, author Stephen Swartz, has kindly consented to answer a series of questions regarding both his current work and his life as a poet.
CJJ: When did you begin to write poetry?
SS: I probably dabbled at silly rhymes early on, but I would count my poetic career beginning at age 12 when I became a Romantic…and have remained a member to this day. I used to write love poems to the girls in high school and college – mostly unappreciated. My first poem publication (school newspaper) was a set of rhyming quatrains about a young knight fighting a dragon and saving the town.
CJJ: What is your favorite form, rhyming or free?
SS: Depends on the subject. Although serious subjects still can lend themselves to rhyming, modern poetry favors free verse. In the past two years I’ve dabbled in Twitter poetry (from posted prompts) and for the sake of the short format I often write haiku or limerick.
CJJ: For me, poetry becomes an emotional catharsis. Where do you find the emotional strength to write and publish something as deeply personal as poetry?
SS: In the past few years, poetry has been more a mental exercise (like for the Twitter prompts), although I do try to say something. Otherwise, I write when I feel an emotional knot that needs to be untied or cut and putting it out in poetic form is cathartic. They also help me remember what I felt at various times in my life, like emotional postcards.
CJJ: We all write what we are in the mood for. Which literary form, novel or poetry is easiest for you today?
SS: I just finished a contemporary crime novel set in my own city. It was easy in the sense I did not need to “make up” anything because the real features of the setting were right there. However, previous novels in sci-fi and fantasy had their easier parts when I was able to simply invent something rather than having it conform to known facts. I tend to shift back and forth with regard to genre. I feel the urge now to swing back to something more fabulous than realistic.
CJJ: What are you currently working on?
SS: I am rather in limbo at the moment. I should finish a sci-fi book I’ve been working on since my first NaNoWriMo. I started an apocalyptic plague novel when the lockdown began but lost interest at 5000 words; I may yet return to it. I also need to get back to Book 4 of my vampire trilogy, sitting at 35,000 words. And there’s Epic Fantasy *With Zombies to work on. Now that my summer staycation has begun, I may yet be productive!
Thank you, Stephen! You came though beautifully on exceedingly short notice to help me kick off this 3-part series of interviews with working poets who are also novelists.
Tomorrow, Thursday, I will feature an interview with poet/novelist Shaun Allan, and on Monday, Maria V.A. Johnson has agreed to talk about writing poetry from an autistic person’s perspective.
ABOUT AUTHOR STEPHEN SWARTZ
Stephen Swartz grew up in Kansas City where he was an avid reader of science-fiction and quickly began emulating his favorite authors. Since then, Stephen studied music in college and, like many writers, worked at a wide range of jobs: from French fry guy to soldier, to IRS clerk to TV station writer, before heading to Japan for several years of teaching English. Now Stephen is a Professor of English at a university in Oklahoma, where he teaches many kinds of writing. He still can be found obsessively writing his latest manuscript, usually late at night. He has only robot cats.
Facebook: Author Stephen Swartz
- @StephenSwartz1 (general use)
- @dreamlandtrilogy (The Dream Land trilogy specifically)
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You can find all of Stephen’s books on his Amazon Author Page