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Meet Dan Pritchard

Q: Dan, you are the only poet that I know. What inspired you to start writing poetry?

I'm probably not the only poet you know! Poets are, quietly, everywhere. A lot of poets teach at colleges and high schools, sure, but there are PLENTY of poets who make their money as bartenders, bus drivers, scientists, construction workers, bank tellers, insurance execs—or, in my case, as a marketing and communications director for a nonprofit.

I first got interested in poetry as a kid. I was gifted a copy of Shel Silverstein's Light in the Attic when I was eight or nine, and his absurdist, irreverent, anti-authoritarian poems really struck a chord with me. I read a lot in general, with plenty of poetry in the mix. But it didn't seem like something I could do—the working-class son of a single mom from Quincy—until I was at Boston College and really dug into literature, took my first creative writing workshops, and started editing an alternative literary magazine.

Q:  What is the process when you are composing one? How do you find topics or themes? How long does it typically take? 

This sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but the germ of a poem can start anywhere—a phrase, an image, an idea, some feeling or personal event I'm wrestling with, or that someone I care about is going through. Poetry is a way of looking at the world, looking for complexity and tension in detail, putting that into the medium of language. Some poems come all at once. Other poems languish as (quite terrible) drafts until I find the right edit or the right next image or idea. It's usually the latter, the more toilsome process. One poet I know compares it to passing a gallstone. Who wouldn't want to be a poet?!

Q: For those of us scarred by having to memorize large swaths of the poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadia as a child as our introduction to poetry .... are there any anthologies you might recommend as a good place to start?

Two local poets recently edited a volume of ecological / nature verse titled Tree Lines (Grayson Books) that has a lot of striking work. There are so many poetries out there, so many writers in so many styles covering every possible topic, that I really do think there is some poetry that will land for every reader. We are living in a golden age of poetry, in terms of the vast diversity. Some collections I often recommend to people who don't usually read poetry include Aracelis Girmay's Kingdom Animalia and Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring poets just starting out?

Read widely, across all genres. Remain curious. Read everything by the poets you like and read the poets who hung out with the poets you like. Read the poets who hated the poets you like too. Embrace work and ideas that ignite something in you, even if it isn't highbrow or cool or serious or respected or marketable. Write badly, a lot. You can't write well until you write very badly. Write what you know and then write what you don't know. Push yourself to write in different styles, try on different forms. Don't rush things, don't take shortcuts, don't try to win or be first. Don't lose touch with real, lived life. Take feedback seriously from people who want to help you write your poetry; don't listen to people who want you to write the poetry they like, or like they do.

Q: Can you share the story behind one of your favorite poems?

I'll tell you about my most recent publication, "Ailanthus,” which appeared in the Arts Fuse. After my grandfather died, my grandmother lived alone in the house where I grew up, which was the house where my grandfather, her husband, also grew up. It was familiar, she had a routine and a network of support, and for many years it worked. And then things started to change, as they do. The last couple of years in the house were hard, and the last few months were heartbreaking. People deserve to live with dignity. That's a core value I hold. So I have mixed feelings about her living alone for so long—even though it was, vehemently, what she said she wanted. I think a lot of people are wrestling with this tension right now, as the population ages and the crisis of elder care mounts, heightened by inequality and the housing shortage. Maybe this poem will help some people feel less alone in that process.

Q: What keeps you busy in Watertown?

My daughter is at the Hosmer, she keeps me very busy. I love being a dad. We ride our bikes to different playgrounds and for ice cream at Celebrity. We're big fans of the Watertown Free Public Library, the greatest library in the Commonwealth (I was an elected trustee there, a role I highly recommend to folks interested in getting involved in the community). I've been a member of Progressive Watertown and the Watertown Democrats.

Recently, I've been involved in pro-housing advocacy as a co-founder of Housing for All Watertown. We're a coalition of residents working to address the housing crisis through local advocacy in favor of more housing, of all types, for residents and families at every income level—so we can all live with dignity, at every stage of life. 

1 opmerking

13 jun.


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