Bill Nevins | Interview

Kenneth P. Gurney. What got you started into poetry? What age?

Bill Nevins. The first poem I recall hearing was my Irish great granny Anna Eagle singing “Molly Malone” to me when I was a wee child. I wrote a nonsense poem (a parody of Lewis Carroll) which drew praise from one of my nun teachers in elementary school, and I also wrote some religious poems in secondary school. I was given good poetry by my excellent teachers early on. I particularly like Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne, Emily Dickinson, Gregory Corso, Arthur Rimbaud, James Wright, Sylvia Plath and W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot. Still do.

In my college age years, I attended performances by Allen Ginsberg, Tuli Kupferberg, Bob Dylan, Ed Sanders, Patti Smith and my contemporaries Terence Winch, Angelo Verga, Terence Hegarty and Michael Palma and Paul E. Delaney.  I was intrigued by the “beat” and free verse public-tribune approach. I performed “Howl” in its entirety in a film made by Paul E. Delaney, and I brought Ed Sanders to my campus and briefly joined Ginsberg on stage one time. I began performing my own poems publicly while still in college, took a long break from performance while I raised my children and focused on journalism, then resumed performing when I met the slammers and other fine performing poets in New Mexico in the late 1990s. Kell Robertson and Robert Warren—both dear friends—are HUGE influences on my writing. Paul Muldoon is a big influence of late. I hope to meet him some day in person.

KPG. What is your favorite breakfast?

BN. Green chile smothered breakfast burrito! Monroe’s is a great place for them as is that great little burrito shop on the main street in Los Lunas!

KPG. How much influence does your university degree(s) has on your writing of poetry and how?

BN. The Tagalog/English language poet/scholar Epifanio San Juan Jr. was and is a huge influence on my attitude and my writing, as is Jack Hirschman, both of whom are magnificent teachers both in and out of college whom I studied under. I also learned much from a course I took from Stephen Spender, who joined me in a university strike in 1970! And I learned from Michael Palma, Terence Winch and others during my college years,  but largely outside the classrooms.

I did much intense reading while in college, including poetry, and my degrees are in English literature. That said, I don’t see myself as an “academic” poet even though I have attached footnotes to some of my published poems! My influences, especially for my public poet role, have come primarily from the public community and the “street”, not from academia. And rock poetry—Larry Kirwan and Black 47, Jim Carroll, The Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan, James McMurtry, The Kinks, Bob Marley, Patti Smith and The Clash, as well as Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy—has influenced as much as my college readings and associations. But I enjoyed college and I am honored to have earned my degrees!

KPG. Is there any other endeavor that you are passionate about outside of poetry? How does it enrich you?

BN. I love nature—hiking and just being out there in the woods and on the waters. I love to observe sandhill cranes, elk and other wildlife here in New Mexico and I journeyed last year to the far mountains of Sinaloa, Mexico with the Northern Jaguar Project—great folks doing great animal protection work! And I love music though I am not much of a musician. I have many musician friends with whom I hang out, and the songs and tunes always have influenced my poetry. I tend to “steal” lyrics and rhythms! Tribute, not plagiarism. And I do love rhymes. I also have a taste for social activism and involvement and this comes into my poetry. I am a socially engaged poet. And a socialist.

My journalism and the interviews I do influence the content and sometimes the style of my poetry. I have been called a poetry-journalist by Peter Rabbit and Anne McNaughton, and I took it as a great compliment!

KPG. Tell us about one of your favorite poetry experiences.

BN. Hosting and reading at poet gatherings in New Mexico. The most recent was when I recently performed onstage with The People of The Sun poetry-music group: Jessica Helen Lopez, Manuel Gonzalez and Glenn Buddah Benevidez one evening this December. One of the thrills of my life!

KPG. Do you have a connection to the American Civil War? Relative who served? Visited a battlefield and have a story?

BN. Yes. My cousin Bruce Moriarty has done great family genealogy research and he has discovered that at least two of my direct ancestors—including a great great grand father— fought on the Union side in the American Civil War. One or both likely was at Gettysburg, and I have visited that battlefield. Another sympathetic or romantic historical connection I have is the the American War on Mexico which preceded the American Civil War and included many of the American officers—Lee and Grant among them—who became famous in our Civil War. In particular, I have studied the history of the “San Patricios”, who were Irish and German soldiers in the US Army who left that force to join the Army of the Republic of Mexico where they fought heroically, and died, in defense of Mexico. Heroes.

KPG. If you could wave a magic wand and place a poetry book into every high school english classroom as required reading, which one would it be and why?

BN. Either Jessica Helen Lopez’s “Cunt. Bomb.” or “Always Messing With Them Boys” would be a great one for the kids to absorb! So would Hakim Bellamy’s and Manuel Gonzalez’s books. And Kell Robertson’s “A Horse Called Desperation”. We have some GREAT poets in New Mexico. Of course, as you know, I got fired for bringing poetry into one of our esteemed New Mexico school systems a while back. See the movie Committing Poetry in Times of War for details.

KPG. Where was your last selfie taken?  With anyone?

BN. I took one yesterday at the benefit concert at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center held to help the ailing mother of Albuquerque master-musician Male Fainke. What a great show that was!

KPG. Recommend a poetry (or literary) website that you frequent.

BN. Yours, Ken. Swimming With Elephants Publications. Jules’ Poetry Playhouse. Logos a Journal of Society and Culture. Also Revolutionary Poets Brigade on Facebook, and several of the literary sites that are thriving now. It is great to see them out there.

KPG. What is your favorite National Park? Why?

BN. Big Bend in Texas. Grand Canyon. The ones I have not been to yet, but hope to visit!

KPG. Do you have a dream that you work toward achieving. If so, please tell us about it.

BN. Love. Peace. Justice. The funeral of Donald J. Trump. These are my fondest dreams. As Elvis Costello sang about Margaret Thatcher, I hope to live long enough to “tramp the dirt down” on Trump.

KPG. If there is a little known poet you think everyone should read, who is that poet and which book of theirs should we seek?

BN. Well, I don’t know if Terence Winch is “little known” but if you don’t know his work, you should. So please go read him NOW.  And then read Agneta Falk and Angelo Verga.

KPG. If you could be present at any moment in history as a safe observer or unsafe participant, what event would you visit and why?

BN. As I said above, I would love to be present at the funeral of Donald T. Trump. I would hope that historic moment won’t be too far off in the future. Also love to be on hand for the Irish Easter Rising and for Fidel’s triumph in Cuba.

KPG. What reoccurring themes have you noticed in your poetry over the years?  Is there a point of personal experience you revisit often?

BN. The death of my son Liam and my feelings about that and about his life have informed and dominated my poetry since 2013, though not to the exclusion of other topics and themes, stars be praised. War, peace, love, music, laughter and perhaps a bit of magic and whimsy. Those are the themes I notice in my own stuff. Wonder what my readers see and here? Love to know that.

KPG. What is your favorite potent potable?

BN. You mean booze? Beers would be La Cumbre Elevated IPA, Rasputin Russian imperial stout, any good Belgian sours. Mezcal and good Tequila. Irish whiskey: Redbreast when I can afford, but Powers, Black Bush or Jamesons will do nicely, thanks. A nice bourbon or Islay Scotch will never be refused. Cheers! Salud!

2 thoughts on “Bill Nevins | Interview

  1. Delightful to learn about fellow Southwest Poets. You, Kenneth, are performing an invaluable service to the local poetry community–no surprise. I admire the ever whimsical and serious Bill Nevins, his contribution to the community, and was surprised to learn of a common connection with fellow poet Michael Palma.


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