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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.

The Humbling and Other Poems

The Humbling and Other Poems by Robert J. Tiess is expansive, intricate, and a well-developed poetry collection. While this collection has been arranged in seven parts, its poems can be read in any order and cover many things in life’s journey. There is a kindness and gentleness to Tiess’ work that resonates on a human level, and in turn, gives itself beautifully to the reader. The “Addenda” towards the end of the collection is its own little marvel, and truthfully, if there’s anything I could do differently regarding my initial reading of this collection, it’s that I would read the closing section first.

One poem I especially enjoyed was “Amid the Jersey Turnpike Whales.” As someone who has driven on that cursed road myself, I still remember my first time on the turnpike and Tiess’ poeticizing of it to an ocean is, for me, enormously memorable. Visceral, the scene depicted quickly burrows itself inside your skin. You can taste the exhaust, the gravel, even the cold itself. And then, there’s the rain—Tiess’s chosen equalizer in dreaming the turnpike to an ocean. All of this, contrasted with the peace, warmth, and light of returning home to dryness and comfort, makes this poem a summoning of rest specific to home. And that’s the thing about this collection—while you might not be able to connect with every single poem in it, there’s still something in this book for everyone.

Further, I enjoyed seeing Tiess branching out in his use of form and space (ex: “Deepmost”). I reveled in the opportunity to see him break free from form and let live. Nevertheless, there are times when this sudden liberation causes the opposite to occur. In “Elsewhere in the Coffee House…,” it feels as if Tiess is almost trying to overcompensate for the poem’s unwinding nature by tensing and coiling it back into itself. Tiess is bold with his poems and his language hits a delightful, vital literary octave that only a true poet can touch in their writing.

The Humbling and Other Poems is a well-constructed, and thoughtful creation which not only brings people joy, but also serves to make the world a better place simply by existing.

Pages: 233 | ASIN: B09YMPN6VW

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Euphoric Wonderland

Music is an incredible force, with the power to unite people of all backgrounds over universal themes and make every kind of situation seem valid and surmountable. It also can inspire, as it does here for Ryan Becker in his poetry collection Euphoric Wonderland. Sprinkled with great references to many bands and a plethora of iconic songs, Becker creates a roadmap through his imagination, using the music he loves as the most important landmarks.  

The book’s prologue is an open letter to the music and the artists that sparked the journey for Becker, giving a brief idea of what clicked for him as he listened. It focuses heavily on The Beatles, who have been well-known inspirations to countless writers, artists, and other musicians since their time. These open letters, which contain their own distinct rhythm and read as times like confessions, continue to pop up periodically throughout the book, simultaneously praising and paying homage to the music Becker has discovered. 

The poetry itself is expressive and captivating. I feel that the rhyming pattern was distracting, and I would’ve liked the poems to be more free-flowing. One of the appeals for writers and readers alike is the freedom to construct a thought outside the traditional writing restrictions, especially when it comes to poetry. Becker does a fantastic job conveying emotions in his poems, making them a powerful read. One key thing the author does well is references the music that has presumably inspired his writing. There is a great deal of music history hidden here, called out either in names, song titles, and personal stories of the artists. He is masterful in discreetly incorporating things that may not be obvious in his writing. This is a nice treat because there is something new to find in Becker’s poetry, especially when read more than once.

I immensely enjoyed finding all the musical references throughout though I am sure I may have missed some. Poetry is hugely subjective and personal when it comes to the level of enjoyment, for any music lover these entertaining poems will inspire you.  

Euphoric Wonderland is a humorous and engaging collection of poetry. The musical reference will bring on feelings of nostalgia for older generations, and serve as a rich and diverse introduction to younger generations that may not be as familiar with the music that inspired the works here.

Pages: 96 | ASIN : B09WHG11FP

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Politics of the Minotaur: Poems

Politics of the Minotaur is a collection of short poems by award-winning poet Karla K. Morton. The poems discuss times in one’s life that make people question their fate and destiny. It might be a happy moment or a sad one, a big or a small one. But in these moments, you sometimes question your life and what the universe has in store for you. The common theme is that all these events become our identity and come to define us. This collection of poems explores these moments in various lifetimes and embraces them.

Karla is known to take her inspiration from nature. That’s not just limited to observing nature and writing about it. Rather it is seen across all her works with a keen eye for small details and beauty of life, faith and trust in the process, and the belief that everything is a part of a much bigger plan and that there’s a universal force guiding us all.

The title Politics of the Minotaur is fitting for this collection. In a sense, the Minotaur represents a monster that feeds on human flesh. However, if you look more closely, you realize that it, in fact, symbolizes vitality, strength, and power. Hidden inside a labyrinth, to be able to access this strength, one has to peel out layers and layers to truly access the power that the gods have given us. While there are clear mentions of a higher force of nature and destiny, the book isn’t based on spirituality. If you’re just someone who enjoys observing and appreciating the simple beauty of nature and life, you are definitely going to enjoy this collection.

For me, the poem that stands out the most is “The Importance of Coffee.” On the surface, it is because I do enjoy coffee, but reading the poem and reflecting on it, the meaning is much deeper. It reminds the reader to take time and appreciate the moment, look around and see what is right before you and stop thinking about the future and other obligations. Focus on the now.

Politics of the Minotaur is a beautifully put-together collection of poetry. The poems, just like the Minotaur’s labyrinth, have multiple layers to peel away and must be appreciated with patience, just like nature.

Pages: 103 | ASIN: B09NZPWZST

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