Enjoy reading this inspiring interview with former Bucks County Poet Laureate,Tyler Kline.
LF: When did you begin writing poetry? TK: I started writing poetry in the spring of my senior year of high school. I was taking my first creative writing class at C.B. West with a teacher who would end up being a significant mentor to me – Robert Trachtenberg. My teacher was a gifted poet who frequently showed us his writing in workshop which was a great model to observe. He taught me to keep a journal and write something daily (one of the best, simplest pieces of advice I’ve ever received). I then graduated and attended The University of Delaware where I had the privilege of workshopping with poets Devon Miller-Duggan and Jeanne Murray Walker.
LF: What are some of your favorite creative influences? TK: Gosh, so many. The poem “Slow Dance” by Matthew Dickman started everything. If I didn’t stumble across Dickman’s work in high school I don’t think I’d ever have enjoyed or started writing poetry. What was so compelling about Dickman’s work was that I’d never read long-narrative free-verse before. I also adored his use of metaphor and how he could draw comparisons from such unlikely things. So I owe a create deal to “Slow Dance” and it’s definitely become one of my go-to poems for sharing with young writers. As for other influences, in the past year or two I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Anna Journey, Keith Leonard, Chase Twichell, Ocean Vuong, Peter LaBerge, Camille Rankine, Danez Smith, Dalton Day, Austin Smith, Miriam Bird Greenberg, and I could keep going. Never listen to when anyone says poetry is dead. It is alive and well.
LF: Could you describe your creative process for writing poetry? TK: I wish I had a William Stafford-styled process: wake before dawn, write a poem before the sun rises. But alas, my process is much more jumbled and dependent on my mind being more awake. I usually find a poem born in an image or phrase – something that pops into my head. Typically, I jot down these notes (images, words, phrases, etc.) in a journal and play with them from there. A resolution of mine is to write every day, even if it is just one line. With being a first-year teacher, my writing time has been hurting so I’m looking to carve away more time to write this spring. But honestly, I think the strongest, most successful processes come down to practice: writing, reading, and editing every day. It’s a job in a lot of ways but hopefully with more birds.
LF: What are you working on now? TK: I’ve been writing/revising a few poems that explore topics such as gender identity and mental health. This past summer my first chapbook, As Men Do Around Knives, came out form ELJ Editions (available here to purchase: tylerklinepoetry.com). Besides that, I’ve been chewing on the idea of creating another chapbook manuscript. I’m mostly trying to get back to a solid writing routine now that the school year is well-under way.
LF: Why is poetry important? What's its role in the world? TK: *takes long, deep breath* Poetry (and obviously I’m biased) is SO vitally important in our society, especially today and now. There is an unwavering truth and energy to contemporary poetry that works to help define and make sense of this wildly beautiful and terrible world we live in. More than fiction, poetry provides us with economic truths (to paraphrase Ta-Nehisi Coates) that explore questions and situations we sometimes don’t even realize we are thinking. As a teacher, I’m interested in expressing to my students the beauty in diverse contemporary poetry and how so much writing today is working towards making a positive, social change. Not to mention, poetry serves as a wonderful outlet for anyone dealing with something wonderful or depressing. It doesn’t have to be sad. It doesn’t have to be confusing. Poetry’s purpose is to enlighten but also entertain. There is a reason poetry has such strong images of birds. Flight and grace are quite magnificent things.
LF: What do you hope readers take away from your poetry? TK: That there are more deer in Bucks County than they realized. That the moon is wondrous and immense and no one should ever stop thinking about it. That gardening and spending time with the natural earth is something everyone should try. That people shouldn’t employ gender roles. That gender roles don’t exist. That mental health is never something one should be afraid to discuss. That boyhood and adulthood and being a human are strange yet beautiful things. That you should try writing a poem.