• Big Table Publishing

OCTOBER 2022


Inside the amazing brains of Len Kuntz,

Doug Holder, & Tim Suermondt






Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of five books, most recently the personal essay collection, This is Me Being Brave, now available from Everytime Press. You can find more of his writing every M, W, and Friday at http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com









BLM: What role does humor or irony play in your writing?


LK: I'm not good at writing a happy ending nor am I gifted with writing humor. The closest I've come to it was in a story called, "My Mother, Marilyn Monroe," written from a son's POV about his mother who is grappling with dementia. What takes away the darkness is she continually dresses up in costumes: wearing a bee keeper's suit, or as a genie, or a (much older) cheerleader, and of course, as her idol Marilyn. Her exuberance for life, even as her health is failing her, sets an example for the son to do the same, and. make some major course corrections for his future.


BLM: What's a book or movie that everyone absolutely raved about and you hated, and why?


LK: Book would be Where'd You Go, Bernadette or The Goon Squad. Movie would be Star Wars. It's the only film I've fallen asleep during, Everyone raved about it, so I went back two days later and fell asleep again. Sci-fi just isn't my deal.

BLM: What do you feel is your favorite or most successful poem or short story, and why?


LK: I have a few, but probably, "You," for a few reasons. Roxane Gay had rejected me 24 times before finally taking this piece. Also, it kind of represents my brand as a writer--quirky, taut, dark, yet ultimately hopeful.


You


She says, "When I kiss you I can feel how much your teeth ache." I kiss her again and she tells me that's more like it. We sleep in. All day we lay in bed like lumps, like lonesome cats and dogs. Pillows become our neighbors.


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Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. He was recently elected co-president of the New England Poetry Club. The Doug Holder Papers Collection is housed at the University at Buffalo. He teaches Creative Writing at Endicott College, and was the first recipient of the Allen Ginsberg Literary Community Contribution Award from the Newton Writing and Publishing Center. His latest collection of poetry is The Essential Doug Holder from Big Table Publishing Company.






BLM: How has grief inspired or changed your writing?


DH: They say great pain brings great art. So, when I witnessed the decline of my wife Dianne Robitaille from ovarian cancer; I was devastated. But during this time, I was prolific in terms of my poetry. All that was happening pierced me to the marrow, and as a result poetry came flowing out. I wrote about our life together, my experience with her when she passed. And in a way, this was therapeutic for me, but it certainly brought pain and passion to my work.


BLM: What scared you as a kid?


DH: I remember for some reason I used to listen to Billy Graham -- the firebrand evangelist on the radio at night. And of course, he had the old fire and brimstone rap going on. And it seemed there was no room for Jews in that heavenly abode. As a Jewish kid, I was worried I wind up on the hot coals of Hades, or at the very worst stuck with an insurance salesman for eternity. Later I learned that hell was other people.( Laugh)


BLM: What do you feel is your best or most successful poem, and why?


DH: I don't know if this is my best poem—that is hard to decide. But it is the most emotionally powerful for me. It was right before my wife's last breath, our last seconds of intimacy. This event is seared in my mind and will be until I take my final breath.


Little Animals

~ for my wife Dianne


The last talk we had

I put on my fantasy

cat voice.


Her mouth gasping for air

That Halo of gray hair.


We had a cast of characters,

an effete French beauty

living in Nice.

A Boston, hardscrabble,

alley Top Cat

who had a certain rakish charm

but who could never

bring her to

his mangy arms.


Her mouth gasping for air

That Halo of gray hair.


My cat voice

started to break apart

both cats

told her

that we were sorry

to see her leave.


Her mouth gasping for air.

That Halo of gray hair.


A nurse

checked her pulse

and she was gone

.

A wind from the pond

blew in the room

and carried her away

to an impossible blue

and fragrant sky

and that's the way

she did die.


That Halo

of grey hair

floating in

the air.


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Tim Suermondt’s sixth full-length book of poems A Doughnut And The Great Beauty Of TheWorld will be coming out later this year from MadHat Press. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine, Smartish Pace, The Fortnightly Review, Poet Lore and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.








"Tim Suermondt’s genial, wry, luminescent and (not too strong a word!) immortal voice and sensibility are like no other in our confusing and chaotic world of contemporary American poetry."





BLM: Should poetry serve a purpose, or should it be just poetry?

TS: I know I can sound like a broken record, but my main purpose when I’m writing a poem is to write it as well as I can, thereby hoping it might resonate with readers who might read it. Of course, sometimes the muse and I are not up to the task and the poem has to be given up, at least for a little while. I try not to act like I know everything about everything, especially when it comes to poetry—I’ll leave that to the critics. And since I believe that poetry is past, present and future, I try not to just write poems on subjects that many demand poets do: a good love poem doesn’t have to apologize for not being a political poem and a good political poem can stand by itself just fine.

BLM: What was your favorite record album when you were 15?

TS: No broken records here, but when I was 15 I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming, living on an Army base (my father was in the Air Force) where I remember it once got down to -20 in the winter. A girl from school had a tiny phonograph, but I don’t recall what the records were. Mostly the music came from the radio and the jukeboxes. I do remember (if I’m getting this right) some of the songs I listened to: "Patches", "Tell Laura I Love Her"' and "Down in the Boondocks"—proving that every boy and girl has had at least a brush with the sorrows of young Werther. Later, when the Sixties picked up steam and records were cool and part of the “Revolution” the albums came. My first album was by the Beatles, a European edition, and I even got an early Pablo Casals—I’m a sucker for the cello.

BLM: Which of your poems is your favorite or most successful, and why?

TS: This is a bit like someone saying to a father: “I see you have a bunch of fine kids. Which one is your favorite?” If I pick one, my other poems will be mad at me. But here’s one from my first full-length collection Trying To Help The Elephant Dance (The Backwaters Press) way back in 2007. A sort of success in its own right:


Because It’s Spring in the City

No one I’m jealous of,

no one I hate.

No fear of death and taxes,

poetry readings and terrorists—

the walks I took

along the Mekong

fill me with pride

instead of shame.

Love,

look out the window.

I’m the fool dancing in front

of Jacob’s Hardware.

Don’t be alarmed for me—

I’m coming up happy and soon.

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