Knowing I Do Not Know

Robert Tiess Author Interview

The Humbling and Other Poems is a collection of poetry covering topics that span all of life’s journey. What was the inspiration for this collection of poetry?

Throughout our lives, we each experience various degrees and kinds of humbling, situations which can challenge us or set us back in small or major ways.

Sometimes, that helps us to become more aware of truths or conditions we’ve yet to face, or of the progress we’ve yet to make, on our own or together. How we respond in each of those situations – with modesty or pride, verity or vanity – leads to new consequences, conditions, and considerations.

All of these things helped me to realize the book needed to be structured as a seven-part journey that could somehow parallel our respective and collective odysseys through life, from innocence, ignorance, and inexperience toward awakenings, wisdom, and empathy.

The expansive nature of this literary project was incredibly humbling in its own right.

Amid the Jersey Turnpike Whales is one of my favorite poems from this collection. Do you have a favorite poem, if so what one and why?

Each poem stands out in my mind for unique reasons. The title poem, “The Humbling,” is something I feel represents the collection well.

That poem alludes to the so-called “Socratic paradox” of “knowing I do not know,” but it does not cease with that idea. Life compels us to continue, to grow, to keep learning no matter what, and so all the verses to follow the opening poem pertain to that essential and ever-humbling progression.

Certain poems, such as “Lotus Dreamer” explore emergence and transformation – the birth into life – in spiritual and meditative manners, while my poem “Tell Them the Whole Truth” confronts the very harsh realities of history with an urgent specificity and persistent candor.

Some of my poems, like “The Song of Walt Is Our Song,” are more exuberant, a celebration of being alive, of liberation, as well as honoring the effusive spirit of Walt Whitman while delighting in our individualities as well as our beautifully diverse and vital communities.

“Amid the Jersey Turnpike Whales” was such a joyful poem to compose for several reasons, one being the fun challenge I brought upon myself: to portray the situation of being immersed in heavy traffic – as it’s raining heavily – within the extended metaphor of an ocean, all while emphasizing the adventurous qualities of a homeward commute.

And, just like that, through the transformative magic of metaphor, tractor trailers can become whales. The narrator’s hatchback becomes a dolphin. Trees are equated the coral reef.

Also, instead of approaching the long drive as a negative, mechanical experience, it was my hope the poem could feel imaginative, organic, and exciting – and then the driver being someone we might readily identify with: that someone who’s just trying to navigate through the traffic and get back home.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this collection of poetry?

Humility is the unifying theme for this collection. From the opening poem to the end of the book (including my “Addenda” of essays, etc.), the theme of humility remains prevalent and relevant.

Every poem in the collection engages or relates to that theme in one or more ways (not all of which may be apparent at first).

Other themes and ideas emerge throughout the text, such as liberty, compassion, selflessness, truth, joy, mindfulness, and peace.

Sometimes several or all of these themes converge in one poem – just as they often do in real life when we move through any given day and come to understand, at times, how such concepts remain essential to the success of our endeavors and to our hopes for real and lasting progress.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am presently working on several book-length projects.

The two books I can mention right now are: my second poetry collection, which will focus on aspects of the natural world, and a separate work of nonfiction focusing on my literary theory (something since the 1980s I’ve been developing called “Interpreture”), which, as it seems to suggest, has to do with interpretation.

In The Humbling and Other Poems, I share one of the central concepts from that theory in an essay (“The Vicarium”). I hope readers get a chance to think about that mode of contemplation.

I hope to publish my second poetry collection in Fall 2022. I will share more information about these projects at my website and in my Twitter feed.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Instagram | Website

The aspiring and inspired debut poetry collection by Robert J. Tiess. Over 100 memorable poems on humility, love, truth, peace, time, redemption, and hope. Includes Obsidian with Sheens of Gold, Interior Kingdom, The Song of Walt Is Our Song, Amid the Jersey Turnpike Whales, Love’s Special Relativity, Tao, Withstanding, the Phoenix poems, and other fan favorites, along with new works. Also included: author biography, three brief essays, a glossary of poetry terms, reading suggestions, and more.

Posted on July 14, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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