As a welcome back from the long weekend, here’s an interview with poet John Thomas York, author of the collection Cold Spring Rising. He talks to us about what drew him to poetry and his fondness for cows, among other things, below.
P53: When is the first time you can remember wanting to be a poet?
JTY: First, I wanted to be a rock star. My cousins and I had a basement band—nobody had a garage—and I knew that self-respecting rock stars all wrote their own songs. I played the guitar but, when I sang, I couldn’t carry a tune, so I tended to forget whatever tune I thought I made up. But I had notebooks full of lyrics. And then I discovered e. e. cummings, who appealed to my rock ‘n’ roll, anti-establishment mentality, and I started writing poems. When an English teacher named Hayes McNeill, at Starmount High School in Yadkin County, published my early efforts, I saw my name in print, and I was hooked.
P53: What are the biggest non-literary influences on your work?
JTY: My biggest non-literary influences would have to be cows, especially Holsteins. We had a herd of thirty-five when I was a lad. They ate grass, chewed their cuds, and then, presto, a white abundance. I am also fond of mountains.
P53: How do you deal with writer’s block?
JTY: I find an old poem that I didn’t finish. I unpack it and let it unravel in the wind. Then, I try to catch it.
P53: Drink of choice?
JTY: Filtered water.
P53: What’s the longest amount of time you’ve spent working on a single line of poetry?
JTY: I have no idea.
Three Facts About John:
1. When I was a boy, I had a German shepherd named Thor. He was afraid of thunder.
2. My wife and three daughters are all musicians. They laugh at me when I try to sing.
3. Before I die, I would like to to go some remote place, free of all lights but supplied with an abundance of potable water, some place where I can really see the Milky Way at night.