BookView Interview With Author Michael Estabrook

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed author Michael Estabrook, about his writing and his recent poetry collection, Controlling Chaos: A Hybrid Poem. (Read the review here.).  Michael has published over thirty collections, most recently The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019).

Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. He has published over thirty collections, most recently The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019). He lives in Acton, Massachusetts.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

This is an interesting question. I first felt the power of language in music, specifically in the lyrics of the great rock and roll musicians and bands of the 1960s such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Cream, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Santana, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane . . . I am a child of the 60s, after all.

Do you think someone could be a poet if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I suppose so, not sure you need emotions to observe the world with clarity, precision, and objectivity. Scientists for example could be poets even though they describe nature and the universe in dispassionate technical language which comes across with poetic concision and beauty. Try reading Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Galileo Galilei . . .

You have released several books over the years. How has your writing process evolved over that time, and especially, how has your process of preparing books for publication evolved?

Writing process has remained consistent over the last 35 years, I write in longhand then transcribe it onto the computer. I keep at it on the computer, proofing, rewriting, adding, deleting, putting everything in order until I get it right, then – I put it aside for a few weeks, then hit again.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Concision and avoiding sentimentality.

Controlling Chaos has elements of both prose and poetry. Can you tell us a bit more about why you blend the two forms rather than using just one or the other?

In my early days of creative writing I wrote poetry and I wrote prose and sometimes dabbled in prose poems. But as I’ve aged and my writing has evolved I have come to write in whatever format best expresses what I am trying to express. The labels are unimportant. Simple as that.

What life experiences have shaped your writing most?

Two things:

  1. Falling in love at 16 and having this superlative woman spend her life with me.
  2. Being educated and trained in the sciences, earning my living working for scientific companies, and not being only a “literary” person, never venturing outside academia. Science and the scientific method form the bedrock of my love for literature and the arts.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about poetry or literature?

I suppose that studying the work on mythology by Joseph Campbell (Hero with a Thousand Faces) had a special influence on my thoughts and feelings about literature, and life in general. There are central, seminal, universal themes that influence how we live our lives and strongly affect literary (and artistic) expression that are important to recognize and understand.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been working on Volume II of Controlling Chaos, the same cacophonous conflagration of poetry and prose, lines and sentences, stanzas and paragraphs . . . but it will have a different name which has not made itself known to me as of yet.

I’ve added a “Poet’s Statement” which you can use or not, whatever works best.

Poet’s Statement

Part of me wants to leave behind thousands of poems in countless

little chapbooks and magazines

infesting every nook and cranny of the Internet

quantity over quality and all that.

Another part wants me to write only, say,

100 poems, each a masterpiece like Dylan Thomas.

And a third part wants to leave nothing behind except for the smoke lingering in my wake after burning them all leaving people to wonder about what they might’ve missed forever searching for any poetic gems that may have survived the conflagration.

But seriously, do I have to write a poem every damn time

there’s a space in my day: at the doctor’s office, the airport, the DMV

during the grandkids’ basketball, soccer, and softball practices?

Pull out my notebook, push on my glasses, click my pen into action.

(I’m old-fashioned, no electronic recording gadgetry for me.)

No doubt the literary world would be fine

if I simply sat and did nothing other than stare

into the space all around me.

But the Muse, it’s her fault I tell you, she’s always crowding me

sticking her nose into my business. For example:

My Muse

The last thing I wanted was to wake up

3 a.m. turn on the light fumble

for my pad and pen but the Muse kept nudging me

hissing in my ear “come on man move it

I got things to say.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s