Kenneth P. Gurney. Tells us how you started in poetry? What age?
Tim Staley. I wrote my first poem around 3rd grade. I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember winning some award for it from the state of Alabama. My mother’s an artist and my father’s a technical writer. This is a good parent combo for a poet.
KPG. What is your favorite breakfast?
TS. Goldenrod Eggs. I’m just mad about saffron.
KPG. Does your university degree influence your writing of poetry and how?
TS. My MFA in poetry definitely influences my writing. For one thing, I learned all the tricks. All those things like synecdoche, ekphrasis, and Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein. My poetry professors curated the history of poetry, and how can knowing what came before hurt you? However, as Natalie Goldberg [wikipedia] reminds us, each time we write is a “new journey, with no maps.”
KPG. Is there any endeavor that you are passionate about outside of poetry? How does it enrich you?
TS. I like to go backpacking by myself at night. I like to wake up in the middle of the woods. I like to say thank you to the sky. I think best when I am alone in the woods. I write best when I am alone in the woods. I am closest to God when I am alone in the woods.
KPG. Tell about one of your favorite poetry experiences.
TS. I’m a high school English teacher. For the last decade I have been coaching students involved with the national recitation contest called Poetry Out Loud. I help student memorize and perform famous poems. I love contributing to young people getting passionate about poetry.
KPG. Do you have a connection to the American Civil War? Relative who served? Visited a battlefield and have a story?
TS. I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, which is the birthplace of the Confederacy. For the record, I am not one of those people who think the South should rise again. I get sad thinking about how Alabama has never done anything good for minorities on its own. For example, it was the US government that forced Alabama to free the slaves, to let women vote, and to stop segregation in schools. It’s as if Alabama always gets first place when it comes to hating on people who are not white and male.
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?
TS. My first choice would not be a book, it would be video of performance poetry like Def Poetry Jam. If it was a book, it would be a subversive one, like Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems or War All The Time by Bukowski. I think it’s important for students to see poetry that makes them squirm.
KPG. Where was your last selfie taken? With anyone? (include the selfie if you wish)
TS. This is from Thanksgiving 2016 in Santa Fe with my mom. Roll Tide.
KPG. Recommend a poetry (or literary) website that you frequent.
TS. www.poems.com This is POETRY DAILY. This website helps me keep my finger on the pulse of modern poetry.
KPG. What is your favorite National Park? Why?
TS. I love Glacier National Park. I had a marriage get called off 2 weeks before it was supposed to happen. I took the honeymoon money and dashed out to Montana to hang with the bears and the rivers and the mountains.
KPG. Please tell about a dream that you work toward achieving at this time.
TS. For 12 years my dream was to get my first book of poems published and I’m still riding the bliss from that coming true. Now my only dream is staying in the moment.
KPG. If there is a little known poet you think everyone should read, who is that poet and suggest one book of theirs we should purchase?
TS. I think everyone should read Acid & Menudo [gmp] by Johnny Huerta. They should take this book to the pool, to the campfire, or to the bar. This isn’t literature exactly, it’s just poetry. Why can’t poetry be beach reading?
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?
TS. Grateful Dead, Cornell, Ithaca, New York, May 8, 1977. I’d like to be an unsafe participant at this concert.
KPG. What reoccurring themes or personal experience have you noticed in your poetry over the years?
TS. Sex, music, nature and the nature of rules.
KPG. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, or some other sweet?
TS. Milk chocolate all the way. I don’t care if it’s not as healthy as dark chocolate. It’s lame to like chocolate because it’s good for you. I don’t drink wine because it’s good for my heart. I drink beer because it’s good for my buzz.