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!

Fillman, headshot

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.

A Virtual Poetry Reading by Robert Fillman

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I am excited to announce that my friend, Robert Fillman, is going to do a virtual poetry reading on Thursday, June 4th, 2021, at 6 pm EST on Zoom. Robert Fillman is a brilliant poet, and I hope you take the opportunity to attend and hear him delivering his work!

Here is a sample of his poetry:

THERE SHOULD ALWAYS BE TWO

ripe grapefruits in a glass
bowl in the fridge beside

a small note: Darling, you
can always count on me.


Scribble that to yourself
if you have to. Then spend

the morning in the tub
holding yourself beneath

the water. Listen for  
the cello’s womb bleeding

into your wrinkled skin.
Eyes half-opened, like rough

moss lining a clay pot.
Don’t get up to answer

any calls. When you fly
downstairs, there will be bags

of groceries already
unpacked, a bright kitchen

that you won’t remember
tidying and a fresh

pie warm on the counter.
Eat it naked and wet.

This poem was first published in Kestrel, Issue 37.

See his chapbook November Weather Spell via Main Street Rag

To attend, please use this link.

Here’s how to join us and Robert Fillman online on Thursday, June 4th:

RFillmanpoetryreading

May Poetry Retreat 2020 With Poet Robert Fillman Leading A Workshop

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Robb Fillman
Hello everyone: My good friend and extraordinary poet, Robert Fillman will lead a workshop in an online Poetry Retreat. This will be a wonderful opportunity to work on your poetry.
This is being called “May Poetry Retreat” which is rescheduled from an earlier planned retreat.
Poetry Retreat flyer for august 2020 rescheduling v2
Here’s the info: 
May Poetry Retreat 2020 is a single-day retreat through Zoom.  Poets can spend the day generating new material, sharing their work, and talking with other poets.  Opt for any (or all) of three creative writing workshops, sign up for a spot at one of our two Zoom readings, or spend some quiet time writing.  We’ll also provide Zoom breakout rooms throughout the day for small group discussion on the side as preferred. Poets of all experience levels welcome.

 
When: Saturday, Aug 1, 9am – 3pm
Cost: $15

Hope to see you there!
Please remember to check out Robert Fillman’s excellent book of poetry:
cvrnovweather_bookstore

A New Poem By Robert Fillman

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I am proud to announce that my friend, Robert Fillman, has published another poem–“Losing The Bed”, and it appears here: Jacar Press — Robert Fillman.  This poem is both deeply personal and powerful. Please take the time to read it.

Robert Fillman is the author of November Weather Spell, a brilliant collection of his poetry. This book can be found here: November Weather Spell

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Robb Fillman

You can visit Robert Fillman’s website here: Robert Fillman. Please visit the extraordinary poet’s site, consider buying his book, and enjoy the poetry of one of America’s finest poets.

Please consider reblogging this post, so as many as possible can read  his work.

A Poetry Reading By Robert Fillman

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I had the great pleasure and honor yesterday of attending a poetry reading at the Emmaus, PA Public Library by an extraordinary poet and a friend, Robert Fillman.

He spoke about poetry and read his excellent poems from his chapbook November Weather Spell with a delivery that make it clear  that poems should be read aloud and heard. It is doable simply to read them silently, but hearing the words brings life to the rhythm and images. Robb’s delivery filled the words with power and meaning.

Robb is a truly excellent poet, and I hope his work continues to be acknowledged. I think, in my not so humble opinion,  that he is, right now, one of our country’s finest poets.

Please consider buying a copy of this book. You will enjoy it, and you will have the pleasure of having an emerging poet’s initial book!

to purchase

reading

Another Poem by Robert Fillman!

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I have the honor of telling all of you that Robert Fillman has had another poem published: “Classic Kindergarten Scene” in Allegro Poetry Magazine, issue 20, March 2019.

Here is a link to the poem: Classic Kindergarten Scene

And his upcoming book of poetry:

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Here is a link to the book page: November Weather Spell

and to his homepage: robertfillman.com

Please consider pre-ordering a copy of his book of poetry!

Who Are Some Of Your Favorite American Poets?

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As I continue this series, I realized that with some categories, it is necessary to be more specific than I had been. Poets are one such group; I thought I would begin this discussion with American poets and then move on in later posts to poets from other places.

It is still an enormous task to choose several favorite poets, but since it is my series, I must do so. Here are my choices:

Robert_Frost_NYWTS

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Robert Frost

Without a doubt, Robert Frost is one of the most important American poets. He wrote many poems set in rural America, and his works earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Many who do not read much poetry are familiar with his famous poem: “The Road Not Taken.”

My next choice:

Langston_Hughes_by_Carl_Van_Vechten_1936

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a poet of the 20th Century, and he was one of the most important of the creative minds who made up the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes wrote about life for African-Americans and about themes that dealt with the entirety of the American experience. One of his best know poems is “Dream Deferred.”

My third choice is a poet whom I have featured in this blog before:

robertfillman

Robert Fillman

Mr. Fillman has a book of his poems being published this spring– November Weather Spell. I completely expect that, in the future, Robert Fillman will be recognized as one of the most important American poets.

Here is a link to the book page: November Weather Spell

and to his homepage: robertfillman.com

cvrnovweather_bookstore

 

My question to all of you is–who are some of your favorite American poets?

Coming Soon–November Weather Spell by Robert Fillman

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CvrNovWeather_bookstore

I am very proud to announce that my friend and office mate at Lehigh University, Robert Fillman, has an important book of poetry published, and it will be out soon!

I have featured Robb’s poetry on this blog before, and I urge all of you to take a look, and if you can, to buy a book at the pre-release price, which is sharply discounted.

Here is a link to the book page: November Weather Spell

and to his homepage: robertfillman.com

robertfillman

 

Congratulations to Robb!