Jeffrey Round’s first poem, Raggedy Anne, won Honourable Mention for him in Grade Six. Since then, he’s garnered some slightly more significant awards. His poetry, short fiction and literary criticism have been published in numerous international reviews, including the Maple Tree Literary Supplement (http://www.mtls.ca/issue2/index.html) and A Casualty of War (Arcadia Books, Peter Burton ed., 2008.) He is also author of The P-Town Murders and Death In Key West (from the Bradford Fairfax Murder Mystery series, Cormorant Books) and A Cage of Bones. Forthcoming books include The Honey Locust (2009). His short film, My Heart Belongs To Daddy, won awards for Best Director and Best Use of Music. Visit his website: www.jeffreyround.com.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
Not really. I’ve always felt I was a writer—an interesting thought, considering I am also a believer in reincarnation.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I can find inspiration anywhere, usually in observing the small moments of a day. Most frequently, however, I find myself inspired when I travel, especially while passing through foriegn landscapes.
What is your writing process?
As a professional writer, I try to write for at least 4-6 hours a day, though 12 hours is not unusual. It would be unusual for me to spend that much time writing poetry, however, because it requires a more concentrated effort. If I feel flat or uninspired by what I’m working on, I will skip a day, though seldom more than that.
What is your revision/editing process?
I prefer the revision/editing to the actual writing process, because I am a perfectionist. The two are very separate in my mind. Writing is the pure, inspired part of the process where I try to disengage my critical faculties and just write, though on returning to the raw material I am rarely satisfied with it. It’s then that I allow my critical faculties to come to the fore and have a greater say in shaping the material. This is true of both my prose and poetry, though I find it’s easier to over-write poetry (to mess it up, in other words), because of its more concentrated, delicate qualities.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not? I began writing poetry in grade 6 in order to enter a writing competition. I was so excited by my first poem, Raggedy Anne (which received an honourable mention in the contest, and which I can still recite), that I penned a second, entitled Hog Frogs, thankfully now lost. By the time I reached high school, I had become a fan of song writers like John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Song writing can teach us a lot about poetry, because the lyrics are so immediate. Dylan, I learned, changed his name because he was inspired by the poet Dylan Thomas, so I started reading him and became a fan of his as well. (I’m still a great Dylan Thomas admirer to this day.)
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
While the best poetry resource is other poems, I would never hesitate to do research on a particular subject, if I felt it necessary to include historic (or other) details. For instance, I wrote a longer poem entitled “The Last Eunuch”, about the last surviving eunuch from China’s Manchu Dynasty. I needed to verify details about specific flowers and plants I was writing about, as well as the spelling of Chinese names. For this, I interviewed an Asian friend, but also read up on the period, and thereby gained some wonderful metaphors that ended up in the poem.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet? I recall watching a documentary on the poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen, who was being interviewed while sitting in his bathtub. He said something I’ve never forgot: “I always carry a pencil with me.” Then he picked up the pencil on the side of his tub and began to write. I follow that dictum to this day. You never know when something will blow into your head that needs to be written down immediately or risk losing it forever.