How many books have you published? Do you focus mostly on poetry?
I have published two books of poems: "Small Human Detail in Care of National Trust" and "Commonwealth." Creatively, I write mostly poetry, although I have published a few essays and book reviews.
I write for a living nowadays. I'm the managing editor at the Syracuse publishing firm Bentley-Hall. I write poetry in my spare time now. I guess I'm like the apocryphal postal worker who goes for a walk on his days off.
What does it mean to be a Witter Bynner Poetry Fellow?
It's quite a big honor, mostly because the award is given to a poet at the Poet Laureate's discretion.
I didn't enter a competition to win it, and I had no idea whatsoever that I was being considered. Ted Kooser, then the poet laureate, had published one of my poems in a textbook he'd written, and I sent him "Small Human Detail" as a thank you. I guess he must have been impressed.
The $10,000 honorarium was nice too, of course. I've tried to use my award here to help raise funds for the Syracuse YMCA's Writer's Voice program (we brought Kooser to Syracuse last year as a fund-raiser), and raise awareness about the importance of teaching poetry well in schools. Now that poetry is on that state curriculum and appears in school English Language Arts tests, we must ensure that the art form is de-mystified and brought out of its hiding place in the universities.
How did you become involved with the Scholastic Writing Awards?
I was introduced to the work of creative education guru Sir Ken Robinson by Andrew Mount, director of ThINC. I was so impressed with a speech that I heard online by Sir Ken, that I wrote to him, told him who I was, and that like him, I was interested in how the arts and creativity can augment general education. Next thing I know, he got me in touch with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers suggesting I be a judge for the Scholastic Awards.