In today's installment of Who Wants to Be Seattle's Next Top Poet , we have this guy:
Candidate #5: John Olson. 59.
I was nominated
In today's installment of Who Wants to Be Seattle's Next Top Poet, we have this guy:
Candidate #5: John Olson. 59.
I was nominated by Jennifer Borges Foster, the editor of Filter magazine, which is not a magazine at all but an exquisite handmade limited edition literary journal. Jennifer published two of my prose poems in her first issue.
Have you ever used poetry to win someone over or get them in the sack?
Indirectly. I met my wife Roberta at a Red Sky event when we were both competing for a reading slot at Bumbershoot circa 1994. We both won. We still share the same sack.
Who is your favorite poet?
I don't have a single favorite poet, more like a constellation of poets whose binding energies and hectic colors rain through me. A top ten list might include William Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Tristan Tzara, André Breton, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Duchamp, César Vallejo, and Guillaume Apollinaire.
What’s your favorite poem right now?
"Zone," by Guillaume Apollinaire.
What would your campaign slogan be for running for Seattle Poet Populist? Your campaign’s theme song?
Slogan: "Mount to paradise by the stairway of surprise." It is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Theme song: Liberté, by Kad Achouri (based on a poem by Paul Eluard that was scattered over occupied France by airplane during WWII).
Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
Can you share an anecdote about poetry touching your life?
At age 18, having no particular interests outside of beer & locomotion, I was riding in the backseat of a friend's car on a sultry, Seattle summer afternoon in 1965. There were three of us. We had all graduated from Highline High School that year, had spent part of our summer driving ice cream scooters, a whole lot of our summer partying, very little of our summer planning for the future, and were on our way to a junkyard to search for some automobile parts. After "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys finished playing on the car radio, I heard Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" for the first time. It blew me away. That's when I fell completely in love with poetry. Regrettably, I did not also learn how to play the guitar.
What movie character do you most identify with?
That's easy: Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, in Sideways. Except that I don't drink wine. I'm into coffee & Italian sodas.
hat is your biggest notable oddball talent?
I seem to have a facility for making dynamite sandwiches. I can also use my mouth to make the sound of a heavy fluid, like vegetable oil, pouring out of a bottle.
If you couldn’t write any more, how would you spend that excess time?
Learning how to write.
How long have you been writing?
I've been at it about 40 years. That's distressing. Am I really that old?
What poem has made you feel most uncomfortable? Has made you cry?
There are some very distrubing narratives by the Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff in his collection Testimony, which are based on cases in law reports. As far as crying is concerned, the recent postal rate increase proposed for lower circulation periodicals makes me want to cry. And scream. It's so egregiously unfair, and damaging to literary culture.
What's the most irritating aspect of the poetry scene?
Poetry slams. Shallowness. Histrionics. Digital narcissism. People who don't read but write poetry.
What was the last good book you read and fell in love with?
The Unnamable, by Samuel Beckett.
What are a few lines from a poem you’ve written that you’d consider one of your best? (And the title of the poem.)
from "A Bee Is A Predicate With Wings":
"Everything we see in this world we see in sequence. Sequins. A chain of events. A necklace of noise. Succession. Series. Strings and upshots. Cause and effect. Spanish motorcyclists tumbling through the air."
Why should you win?
Because I feel it is my destiny to prove that commas do little to stop the spread of gravity. Because poetry is supple and marvelous as squid. Because (to quote Diane Di Prima) "the war that matters is the war against the imagination/ all other wars are subsumed in it." I am very distressed by an ever diminishing loss of readers, and a lamentable indifference toward the beauty and mystery of language. It would be nice to be in a position to champion the cause of poetry. And frighten a few more people.
If elected Poet Populist, what would be your first order of business?
Clear my throat.