Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Interview with Writer and Poet Monty Wheeler

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Monty. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

In days since college and my writing persona, I’ve always billed myself as “a little old man living out his days in the shadow of the Ozark Mountains,” which is true, and I’m a day older today than I was yesterday; although wiser would be nice too. In my early days, I ignored writing’s attraction even though it was there. It wasn’t until my late-in-life start to college that I again looked at writing creatively. It was in college and poetry classes that I became fascinated with the mechanics of writing in meter and rhyme, and I still love the special challenge today. But throughout most of my writer’s life since college, I would have never dreamed of having a full collection of formal verse soon to hit the shelves. Amazing what turns life might have in store.

What did you study in college, and how did that impact your writing, if it did? Also, what turned out to be your least favorite college course?

Oddly. College was my highway back to an enjoyment that I’d tasted as early as elementary school then set aside for other much less productive entertainments. And by the time I got to college at age 40, I’d long forgotten about writing. I began college with a fantasy of an engineering degree, and calculus burst that bubble. Then, in searching for course content that contained studies that did interest me, I rediscovered writing. I graduated with degree in creative writing and the basics of meter and rhyme and writing formal verse and fiction.

I am guessing then that Calculus qualified as the least favorite course. Do you read a lot of poetry? If so, where do you find it—magazines, ezines, books, blogs? Do you have a favorite poet?

Oh yes, calculus was my bane. Even dropped back to pre-cal before finding my creative writing major, and that was still no better. I do read a lot of poetry. I have collections on my Kindle from poets I know from social networking, and I constantly watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds for bargains and free-for-limited-time offers on fiction and verse. I’d have to say the dead poets, Robert Browning, his daughter Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Emily Dickinson are still my favorites.

When you read poetry, do you read it aloud, or silently? Does it make a difference in the experience?

Ugh. That brings back a painful memory. (And I say that smiling.) The rejection that prompted me to swear off submissions forever and always said about what I thought some of my best works “. . .it doesn’t sing to us.” Now I prided myself on writing meter, and now it doesn’t sing? I was hurt. Near a decade later when I was doing some exploring and experimenting in SoundCloud and recorded readings I had to read aloud what I’d been reading silently or with taps of my fingers counting beats. Guess what. Reading aloud points out flaws. Some words are not meant to go together. The human mouth doesn’t follow some sounds with others. My work didn’t sing after all. I try now in revision to read anything aloud to see how smoothly my sounds flow and work together or clash.

Thanks for sharing that experience, Monty. I wondered as I teach poetry to high school juniors, and I try to tell them, that like Shakespeare, poetry was meant to be listened to. Reading is okay, but it offers a different experience than actually listening. Just like reading lyrics for a song, I guess.

You have a book of poetry, The Many Shades of Dark, scheduled for release in mid March. Would you tell us a little bit about it? Also, if you could pick three people, living or deceased, or maybe even not yet born, what three would want to get The Many Shades of Dark in their hands to read, and why?

Ah yes, March 13, 2013 is the release date for the paperback edition of The Many Shades of Dark. The e-book editions come out a week later. This, my debut collection of poetry, seems to be two things for me. First, a culmination of all the things I’d vowed to not do at one point in my writer’s life (Writing was to be for pleasure only, or so I convinced myself) and second, it seems some sort of transition for the poet. What begins with dark verse, drawn from the horror genre, ends with poems of sin, salvation, and redemption. As if in the poet’s search for something, he finds so much more. And this first collected works seems to lead into what I term as Project 2 already in the making.

Three people I hope will hold and read The Many Shades of Dark are my three children who are named in the dedication. I can only hope that through this collection they know me a little bit more and a little bit better.

I’d like to share an excerpt, a single stanza from one of my favorite works, THE BARGAIN, in this collection, and that I think includes all the elements of this collection.

Thunder cracked as she drew
The blade across her wrists
She raised the red and wounded flesh
To God and clenched her fists.

The Many Shades of Dark
Copyright 2013 by Monty Wheeler
Excerpt appears courtesy of Winter Goose Publishing

A gripping and intense excerpt, Monty.

Are there any suggestions or advice you might have for aspiring writers and poets?

So much has been said before, but like a good song it’s timeless and worth a “Play it again, Sam.” At risk of sounding cliché, never let go of your dream. It might change, somehow alter as time goes by, but never let go and let it float out through the wild blue yonder; you may not get it back. Learn the rules before you break the rules. As in my case, I fell in love with the rules of formal verse and write by them. And write what you want to and about what you want to; that’s a part of that vague, foggy phrase, “Find your own voice.” I enjoy telling a story, using plain and simple diction, and often times in the rather stilted ballad form. I love the contrast of simple contained in the complexities of a form and meter. So write. And write more until you discover both who you are and what you love.

Solid advice, Monty. Have you ever considered writing an Epic Poem—does anyone still do that sort of thing?

I had to do some looking before having the confidence to answer this one. The best definition of “epic” I could find in my own words is “a long narrative up to 500 stanzas long of a hero’s adventures. Most of us think of works such as The Odyssey, The Iliad, and Virgil’s Aeneid when the term “epic” is used. In my quick search, did not find any references to modern epic poems even approaching that length. I love writing narrative verse in different form; traditional ballad stanza, heroic couplets, and blank verse are all common narrative forms. And I’m sure I’m not the last but mine do not near such “epic” proportions. And let’s face it. . .most of us are not Milton. One example of mine, and not for the faint of heart, is my EPIC OF LILITH you can find on my blog. Another example of one of my long narratives is EAST OF EDEN.

One of the things about epics for me is that they’ve been translated to English, and I think something is lost in that process, especially with Beowulf, which is my favorite epic poem.

Could you provide us with a link to your blog’s page with the EPIC of LILITH or EAST OF EDEN?

I call Lilith’s work an epic; it’s narrative and long, but hardly the five hundred stanzas long kind of epic. By her nature, Lilith is not for the faint of heart. EAST OF EDEN is fairly long ballad, which is my favorite type of narrative verse to write. While its thirty three or so stanzas doesn’t come close to an ancient epic’s five hundred, the work fits the criteria of an epic work. Here’s the link to that particular work.

Link: East of Eden

One final question before we wrap things up. Where do the ideas for your poems come from? And, when you get them, how do you make sure you don’t forget before getting the chance to write them—or are you a poet who has a rock solid memory for such things?

It sounds corny, but ideas come floating by oft times. Saving them is the key, and it’s safe to say I’ve forgotten many more poetic works than I’ve recorded. . .and likely the best ones still float out there forgotten and lost in time. I’ve composed many potentially good verses riding my Harley along an interstate highway. And no way to record them they float in the wind never to rend a page of innocent white. And likewise, that no-man’s land we call half-sleep or state of doze. . .how many good verses lost in the pillow never to find clean air again? Now I’d say to you, I may record a good verse or two but how many more blew right through a dazed or dozing mind’s gray goo? In my latest WIP, and in many of the works in The Many Shades of Dark, I look to the Great Book, The Bible for my inspirations. There is so much in that book! I’ve embarked on a front to back reading, no time limits set, but the book is pure joy to study.

As we’re about to wrap up this interview, is there anything else you’d like to add?

You’ve covered all that need be, I think. Sans a page or two of childhood memories that neither time nor place in this chat. But. I will add this…for the chance to talk to you and be a guest on your site is an honor. And one I stand both humbled and grateful for. And to those who’ve dared to read this far, I look forward to meeting you in the land of cyber. Just pick a link included here and find me there 

I appreciate the kind words and I think the readers of Up Around the Corner will really enjoy this interview. Thanks, Monty, for taking the time to chat and share some insights with us.

If you’d like to learn more about Monty, you can follow him on his blog or twitter account. Also, here’s a link to his upcoming release:

Blog: Babbles
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bumfuzzled2004

Where The Many Shades of Dark is available:
Amazon (Print) & Kindle, and UK 
Barnes & Noble (Print and Nook)



  1. Wonderful interview! I love reading poetry, though writing it is not my strength. Congratulations on the release of your collection. I definitely will get a copy. I also failed at Calculus in college, which led to becoming an English major. Thanks to you both!

    1. ty's, angie, both for your warm remarks and your support. and yes, my failure at the higher level maths led me here :)


    2. I did pass Calculus, be it with a struggle (major), but it was necessary for me to major in Life Science and Minor in English. In truth, the experience didn't help me much with writing, and I could not begin to comprehend what I supposedly learned in the class so many years ago.

  2. let's say I retained much more much longer from my writiing and lit classes than any of my higher level math learnings :)