Welcome Fall, and Happy Mabon!

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The beginning of fall has arrived, and I am delighted! This is my favorite season of the year, followed by winter! I know many will disagree with my love of winter, but I hope you do enjoy the autumn season.

So I wish you all a happy Fall Equinox and a happy Mabon, the Celtic/Wiccan/Druidic celebration. Decorate your homes, talk a walk, and when the crisp weather sets in, go outside and breath deeply.

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I love the foods of fall and the wearing of sweaters, flannels, and sweatshirts, not to mention ice hockey! The colors of autumn fill me with happiness. This is a joyous season.

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By the way, if you are worried, there is NOTHING Satanic about this celebration. Wiccans and Druids do not recognize the existence of Satan, so if you are Christian, please welcome this season also!

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An Interview With The Poet Robert Fillman

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House Bird cover (final)

It is my honor and pleasure to interview the extraordinary poet and my friend, Robert Fillman. Robb is not only an excellent poet, but he is also a deeply talented teacher, a devoted family man, and an honorable human being.

Robb has his debut full-length collection of poetry, House Bird, available now on Amazon for preorder.  Like his other fine work, I am sure this will be an excellent book, and I am very excited to get my copies!

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CF (Charles French): Robb, welcome to my blog, and congratulations on your new collection! How does it feel to have your first full-length book of poetry published?

RF (Robert Fillman): Thank you for the kind words– and for inviting me to speak about my work, Chuck. I’m extremely excited to bring the poems of House Bird into the world. I set a goal for myself
some years back: to publish my first full-length collection of poetry by the time I was forty,
and I’ve managed to reach that goal with a few months to spare, so I couldn’t be happier
about its release!

Cf: Do you have a particular approach to writing poetry?  For example, do you focus first on an image and go from there? Or is your approach varied?

RF: I do have a basic approach. I tend to write each poem-draft in a single sitting. When I’m trying to write a poem, I can start with almost anything– an image, a word, a musical phrase that has been repeating in my mind, some fact or piece of trivia I’ve come across, a stray comment I may have overheard. I just need something to get the poem started. After that, I write my poems one word at a time, building phrases, and then lines, and then stanzas (if the poem calls for those), letting the narrative or the idea or the emotion (or the you-name-it) carry me forward. I never know where the poem is going, or where it will eventually end. It is as much a surprise to me as it is to the reader, and that’s the real joy of writing a poem. Every poem I’ve written has emerged in that fashion.

CF: How often do you write?

RF: These days I try to write poetry a few times a week. When I was younger, I maintained an almost-daily writing regimen, which, in hindsight, was probably self-defeating and unhealthy. I found myself growing restless and frustrated when I wasn’t meeting my self-imposed deadlines and writing goals, and looking back, even though I was publishing quite a lot, I wasn’t as happy. Over the years, I’ve learned that poetry needs space to breathe. I need to give myself the mental and emotional freedom to let the ideas simmer and bubble to the surface more naturally. During the semester especially, when I am teaching four or five courses, it is sometimes difficult even to find the time to write. So in committing myself to a few hours per week, where I am deliberately setting aside time for the craft, and not over-committing myself–I find that I come back to the work fresher and more energized.

CF: Can you talk about how you decided on the title for your book? Does it have special significance?

RF: That’s a great question. House Bird derives its name from a poem in the collection. It’s an ekphrastic poem based on the painting “Bird in the House” by the American realist painter Andrew Wyeth. When I wrote that poem I was trying to put into words all the subtlety and calm and sadness and muted tones that spring from Wyeth’s palette. I was trying to pull from thin air the unsayable narratives latent in that visual medium. I’m not sure if I accomplished the goal successfully, but I had fun trying, and I was proud of the end result. “House Bird,” I think, is emblematic of the type of poetry I try to write: understated, quiet, shrouded in what’s-not-said, things always left a little up in the air. I think a bird-in-the-house also works as a metaphor for my poems, which are often about exploring the beautiful ordinariness of domestic life. The same way that a bird may inadvertently venture into a domicile and, simultaneously, feel at-home and out-of-place in its surroundings, this is the unsettling tension that the speakers navigate in so many of my poems.

CF: How can readers find your book?

RF: The book has been published by Terrapin Books, and it is available for purchase from their website. Readers can also find House Bird on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble online. Locally, it is being sold by Firefly Bookstore, in Kutztown, PA, which is probably my favorite book shop in the area. They have a wonderful, friendly staff, and they are really committed to supporting regional writers. I’m honored to have my work on display in their local authors section. If anyone is in the Kutztown area on the evening of Monday, March 7th at 6 p.m., they should stop by for my book launch. I’ll be reading from House Bird and signing copies.

House Bird is available at the following locations/sites:

terrapinbooks.com

amazon.com

barnesandnoble.com

fireflybookstore.com

CF: You are also the author of a chapbook, November Weather Spell, which I will add is excellent, and I recommend it to anyone reading this interview. Can you speak a bit about this chapbook?

RF: Thanks for the kind words about the chapbook, Chuck. In many ways, my debut collection, House Bird, is an extension of the themes I began exploring in November Weather Spell—what it means to be a son, a husband, a father; how memory is fluid; the way in which the events of our past are always present, their meanings changing along with us as we age. The seeds of House Bird began with November Weather Spell. There are even a few poems in the 2019 chapbook which have made their way into the full-length book, almost as a way of showing how old wounds brought into a new light can alter how we see them, allowing them the space to reverberate in new ways.

Robb has given us one poem to read from his new book!

Blessing

Leaving the old place for the last

time. Got the trash out, a couple

boxes in the car, the final

walk-through over. It’s amazing

to see the place empty. I hope

the new owners will find as much

happiness as we did. As I’m

about to lock away the years,

abandon the memories of

dancing in the dark and my wife’s

full pregnant belly warm against

my ear while I listen for our

daughter’s first thoughts, I wonder if

the energy we leave behind

from living well is a blessing.

Just in case I rub hands across

plaster, squeeze every brass doorknob,

make my way outside, where I raise

my arms beneath the full moon, cast

a spell at the point of the roof

aiming to protect every brick,

every shingle of crumbling slate.

(This poem first appeared in Third Wednesday (Volume XIV, No. 3, Summer 2021). 

Once again, thank you to Robert Fillman for this interview! Please be sure to find a copy of his book. I am sure you will enjoy it.

What Are Your Writing Goals For 2022?

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I am not a huge fan of declaring resolutions for the New Year, because they often set people up for failure. Too often, large changes are declared, and they may or may not be possible immediately.

I prefer to think in terms of goals, both long-term and short term and to set up situations in which, with discipline, you can achieve these ends. 

My immediate goal is to finish a revision of my YA horror novel; additionally, I want to do two more first drafts this years–one of a novel, and one of a nonfiction book on revision, and I want to revise at least one more novel. My first goal should be done by the end of January, but we will see. The important thing is to keep working and to keep writing.

My question for all of you is this: what are your writing goals for this year?

 

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(Photo by Markus Winkler from Pexels)

Favorite Horror Films: 2–The Phantom Of The Opera

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The Phantom of the Opera (1925) starring Lon Chaney Sr. is based on Gaston Leroux’s novel and was a huge success. This movie was a Universal Pictures production and was directed by Rupert Julian, although some film historian offer the possibility that Chaney himself was an uncredited director also.

Chaney played the deformed writer who falls in love with a singer and who becomes her kidnapper. This tale of horror and love has been redone numerous times, including the well known stage musical, but none of those productions have reached the sterling height of this extraordinary film.  If you are a fan of any of the more recent productions, you certainly should take the time to view this extraordinary movie. It is a piece of cinema history.

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As with the Hunchback, Chaney created this makeup, and his performance is sublime.  The unmasking sequence, in which the imprisoned singer’s curiosity overtakes her, and she removes the mask covering the Phantom’s face, remains a moment of terror and excellent acting.

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In my opinion, The Phantom Of The Opera Again, is not only an excellent horror film, but also it ranks as one of the best and most important works in American cinematic history. If you have not seen this film,  I recommend it highly.

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