Max Garland served as the 2013-2014 Wisconsin Poet Laureate. A former rural letter carrier and the author of The Postal Confessions, he will be in residency September 11-18 at Write On. While here, he will participate in the Music, Words, and (Almost) Free Beer fundraiser on Monday, September 12, and will lead the workshop, Poetry of Place, on Saturday, September 17. Maggie Peterman recently had a chance to chat with Max about his writing.
Maggie Peterman (MP): Where do you live?
Max Garland (MG): Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
MP: Can you tell us which author and/or book has most influenced your own writing and why?
MG: Actually, given my western Kentucky roots, and decidedly non-academic early background, I’d say the Bible– it was pretty much the only poetry book we had when I was young, though I didn’t know it was poetry at the time.
MP: How would you describe your writing discipline?
MG: If you mean what genre, then mostly poetry, but also prose, and songwriting. If you mean writing regimen or habits, then I write everyday, in the mornings, but much (most) of what I write will never see the light of day, hopefully.
MP: Can you tell us about the writing project you are currently working on?
MG: I’m revising a new book of poems called The Word We Used for It.
MP: What is your favorite place to visit in Door County?
MG: Cave Point County Park.
MP: How did you become acquainted with Door County?
MG: I’ve been coming to Door County off and on for 20 years or so, but really came to know the place better during my two years as Poet Laureate of Wisconsin.
MP: What is your favorite activity unrelated to writing?
MG: Playing music, singing, guitar– but then that involves writing, too. In fact, it’s hard to think of much that is actually unrelated to writing. I mean, you write about your experience, and therefore it’s all related.
MP: What are some of your favorite books?
MG: Leaves of Grass, Middlemarch, Moby Dick, Stories That Could Be True, by William Stafford, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, almost anything by Alice Munro or Marilynne Robinson.
MP: How did you become involved with Write On?
MG: A chance encounter at the Washington Island Book Festival a couple of years ago.
MP: You’ll be leading the workshop “Poetry of Place,” Saturday, September 17. What can people taking the workshop expect?
MG: I am hoping we all discover something new about the “places” we write about, how to dig beneath the surface, beyond the tourist brochures, the Chamber of Commerce sales pitch, and progress toward more deeply inhabiting these places. Maybe this is just a way of saying that any place we live or even visit is partially inhabited by our imaginations. Also, you can’t really separate a place, a town, a landscape, from the hearts and minds of those who live there. Much of the terrain is internal.
MP: What advice can you give to aspiring Write On writers?
MG: Read books, cultivate solitude.