John Timothy Robinson–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

My creative space is wherever I’m comfortable to get the lines down on paper.  I usually work on the front porch in warmer weather.  I live in rural West Virginia, though just a couple minutes from a new four-lane highway.  Still, mornings here are quite secluded and quiet.  I sit with coffee and watch the sun rise.  I listen to the birds.  There are several hay-fields around the house.  Sometimes I jot lines down or make notes of ideas when they come to in thought or experience, though I don’t think I’ve ever made it any practice to write in public, like in city parks or anything.  When I was younger I would take a small, pocket-notebook with me, though now I always keep activities separate.  Work is for home or sometimes in the woods.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I use a combination of writing and typing in Word documents.  I use the lag time between for a kind of gestation of material.  You can work on something too much and stifle the creative drive.  Allowing the work to sit a while is good practice.  Horace even said that in Ars Poetica.  I like the idea that I can change things radically on a computer, though return to my previous draft with no alteration if I don’t like my changes.  Word is typically also used for visualizing and revising line breaks.  I prefer writing the ideas and having the ability to scribble and revise on paper.  Computers are amazing machines, though I don’t feel so at ease with carrying a laptop everywhere I go.  I guess I’m just old fashioned.

What is your routine for writing?

Jung said that artists should create just after waking or shortly before sleeping.  The condition of being tired and therefore relaxed, opens your unconscious and increases one’s creative potential.  I always do work right after breakfast.  If I don’t work, I do some related activity; reading, note-taking or file work.  Often though, I find that in the routine course of doing something completely alien to the creative activity there will come thoughts or ideas.  This frequently happens on walks in the woods or during manual labor outside.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I have been writing in the academic tradition, that is, reading the critical/craft essays and the poetry of the poets I like since 1993-1995 after my first college workshop class in creative writing; poetry at Marshall University.  I had written in high school, though I held a superficial understanding and an undeveloped knowledge of other ideas directly relevant to the act of thinking about and writing poetry.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

My intended audience is the academic reader, though sometimes the reader of average intelligence with little knowledge of theory or poetry may find enjoyment in the work.  I enjoy writing about certain ideas some would consider intellectual or topics usually the material of modern or postmodern writing.  Much of my work can be described as mainstream free-verse with an interest in the formal poetic challenge.  In one way, I write for those of similar interest.  However, first and foremost I write for me.  Writing is always that kind of dualistic activity; you write from the self to create and share your thought and work with a larger community.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Inspiration is part being moved by life experience to share feeling, thoughts or emotion and the urge to create a work of art.  The will to create always exists, though I don’t force creativity.  If I sit down to work and the thoughts aren’t there, I do something else.  It is usually not the poetry of other poets that inspires me.  I recently read James Wright’s unpublished poems in A Wild Perfection and I was driven into that kind of awe and modest envy that poets have when they read good work that has influenced them.  I knew when I read him that I was that kind of poet; a similar material and similar mindset.  This kind of inspiration is different from the every-day inspiration to work.  That kind of inspiration is a little more difficult to pin down.  I think you can do things to invoke the right attitude or mood, though I honestly believe you often have to forget that such a thing is what you’re doing.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I am a novice printmaker and work in the techniques of monotype and monoprint.  My print images have appeared in The Diagram and The Tishman Review.  I work in non-toxic processes for etching, lithography, woodcut, and collagraph.  I recently completed a creative dissertation in poetics.  I write critical/craft essays on poetry.  I’m also a novice fruit tree grower and grafter.  I only slow dance, and I’ve never learned how to golf.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I enjoy the entire process; beginning with an idea or a line and then just going with the flow of thought until a cluster evolves in the activity.  I like the moment when words move somehow from thought to lines and seem to originate from nowhere.  You have to enjoy the puzzle of the whole thing.  Right now, a favorite part of my poetic process is seeing my work in print.  I have published 56 poems in 46 journals and websites since August 2016.  This is a new experience for me.  Previously, eighteen years ago, I had published in POEM, The Distillery: Artistic Spirits of the South and Feelings.  I never really made any significant attempt after that.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Trust your instincts, though read the critical work you like, that reinforces why you write the way you write as well as what you think is conceptually different.  The internet and the concept of free submissions to literary journals have made the possibility of getting published a more realistic and accessible goal.  I am living proof that Submittable and Outlook email can be an effective platform in submitting to varied publications on an international scale.  Not only are there more electronic literary journals today that publish poetry, there exist more journals of sub-genres which address readers and issues of varied types.  Read, write, revise, submit.

Check out John’s work in Volume 3, Issue 2.


Check out John Timothy Robinson’s work in Volume


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