What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born in Chicago and grew up in Northwest Indiana. After leaving the Midwest from 1980-1990, when I lived in Colorado and then Upstate New York, my wife and I returned to Indiana, where I have lived ever since. I live on the opposite side of the state now, in the northeast corner, in Fort Wayne.
Favorite places or features of the region?
Of course, this question is a slam dunk: the woods. There is nothing like the deeply wooded areas of Indiana. If you think about it, Indiana was the old Northwest Territory and was even more thickly wooded then than it is now. Besides the woods, which can be found throughout the state, the rolling hills and hollers of southern Indiana are also entrancing.
What is your favorite season of the year?
My favorite season is definitely the fall. I could live in Indiana autumn twelve months a year! There’s nothing like September, October, and November in this part of the country. I crave it and relish it!
Has the Midwest been an influence or inspiration for your work, and if so, how?
Yes, the Midwest has been a huge influence on my work. In particular, the trees, the woods, and the land especially play a major role in my poetry, as do the animals of the area—especially the nocturnal animals and hound dogs of the region.
Pencil, pen, typewriter, computer?
What’s the best job you’ve ever had?
The best job I’ve ever had is my current job as Professor of English at Purdue University in Fort Wayne. This is my twenty-ninth year at that campus. Working as Poet Laureate of Indiana comes in as a close second. What I love most about these jobs is sharing poetry with people and seeing the ways reading and writing it enhance and deepen their lives.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
It’s hard to think of a “worst” job, since even the most difficult jobs I’ve had have taught me deep lessons. I’d say the most difficult job I ever had was working in the steel mills of Northwest Indiana.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time I prefer to read and write. I also love just hanging out with my beagle-hound.
Favorite music or musician?
My two favorite musicians of all time are Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison, and it’s not just my fondness for the letter “h”! I love all kinds of music, even classical, and I adore Brahms, for example (so there’s another letter right there!). But from the moment Are You Experienced? was released, Jimi changed the landscape of my nervous system in powerful and generative ways. George Harrison’s work, both with the Beatles and after, did the same thing for me. Music is extraordinarily important to my life and to my writing.
Favorite food or beverage?
Whose favorite food is not pizza?! My favorite beverage is tea, and I mean good tea. Actually, I’m an apprentice tea sommelier. I currently have around seventy loose leaf teas in my home—everything from white tea, to green, to oolong, and black, my favorites being white and oolong.
Do you have a pet?
Yes, I have a pet. I have an adorable beagle-hound named Bootsie. She’s an amazing little dog—curious, fun, affectionate, and smart!
What’s on your radar now? Current projects?
Well, speaking of Bootsie, I’m enamored with dogs, with a special fondness for hounds. They are just such “no-frills” dogs. They are always ready to explore with you and yet know how to lounge on the sofa. So, since 2014, I’ve been hard at work on a series of poems based on old photos that I’ve been collecting for some time of hound dogs—beagles, bluetick coonhounds, redbone coonhounds, Treeing Walker coonhounds, and others. I’m also finishing editing on two new books of poetry scheduled to be released soon, That Moment of Wept and Marsupial Mouth Movements.