Interview – Kevin Zepper

  1. You recently spent some time in New Mexico. Tell us about any goals you had with this retreat.

From July 1st through July 14th, I stayed at the Starry Night Artists Retreat in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. My creative goal was to generate more drafts for another book length manuscript. I have visited New Mexico yearly for rest, retreat, or vacation. It is a place I draw inspiration from and spiritual nourishment.

  1. Where did you grow up? Were there any moments or memories in particular from your childhood that had a lasting impression on you?

Moorhead, Minnesota is where I grew up. I spent short periods of my life in Florida and California. I always liked going to the lakes. When I was a small child, I would literally spend the day in the water at the shore. Sun up to sun down, that’s where you’d find me.

  1. How has your childhood influenced your writing style or subjects?

My childhood was a blessing. My parents both read to me, the Bookmobile was like an ice cream truck, and visits to the library were like Christmas! I still get excited going to the library.

I guess I write about things that “strike me as funny,” whether humorous or not. Poet Ted Kooser said, “If you can awaken in the familiar and discover it new, you never need leave home.” I remind myself of this statement constantly. The prose poem has been my favorite form to work with. There is a sense of freedom on the page with prose poetry.

  1. When you write, how much is influenced by your roots or what you identify as home?

Tough one. My roots began here, in Northern Minnesota. At the risk of sounding a bit dodgy, my home is where my family is. It’s Moorhead for now anyway. However, New Mexico feels more like home, a place to transplant old roots in new ground.

  1. How do you feel about or what is your gut reaction to this statement: “Write what you know”. Do you feel it is too limiting or unforgiving of someone’s work? Related to this, poetry as a part of culture, timeless in its creation and purpose, is becoming a lost form of art. How do you feel about this and what can artists do?

I believe “write what you know” is sound advice for beginning writers. At some point I think we write about what we don’t know, or write about what we didn’t know what we knew already. I guess it is limiting, but it is a great way to ground a piece before exploring the “unknown.”

Poetry has had its peaks and valleys. Fact is, it’s everywhere. You pick up a few people here and there who enjoy poetry after going to a reading, slam, or performance poetry event. Poetry in flux, kind of mirrors the world right now.

As basic as this sounds, writers need to be open to create opportunities for poetry. Maybe it’s spray-painted on a wall, or it’s read with music, or read aloud in unison, or the poem is “dance.” The more it appears in the everyday, the more people will connect with the metaphor.

  1. Do you have a daily routine when it comes to writing?

I try to write something every day. I haven’t lately because I’m still reflecting over my experiences in New Mexico. Usually I try to write something on Facebook or jot something down in a journal just to keep the wheels moving. Morning is the best time for me to write, and at the kitchen table.

  1. Was there a moment when you decided “I am a writer” and the rest became history, or did you fall into it over time?

I guess I’m just a person who writes. I think it’s an evolving process. There are moments when I’ve felt a connection with something. Writer? I did know I wanted to write in the second grade, or become a writer. I am still becoming a writer!

  1. Any current projects you would like to share with Stone Path Review?

Currently, I am working with a colleague of mine at MSUM, a talented pianist, Professor Terrie Manno. We are putting together poetry and music for a kind of performance. She has actually scored my poems as if they were music. It is amazing. Our goal is to put together a show of 45 minutes to an hour. I am shopping around a book-length manuscript of prose poetry and working on a second. There are other ideas in the early stages, nothing definite yet.

  1. Any words of wisdom or advice for struggling writers?

Give yourself permission to write badly. Man, I know this one for a fact! If you don’t, you simply won’t write. It takes a lot of sifting through ore before you hit gold.

  1. Who are a few of your favorite writers? Is there someone not well-known that you feel is undervalued in their contribution to literature?

Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac, Ruth L. Schwartz, Anne Waldman, Issa, Jim Carroll, Patti Smith, Hafiz, and many others. I believe there are so many authors who deserve some kind of recognition. Good writing is not limited to large cities or art collectives. There’s so much wonderful work coming from voices off the beaten path, miles from the next town and interstate. It’s fortunate to read their work, or hear it. To me, communities like Bemidji, Fergus Falls, and Evansville all have potent scenes.