Accomplished Free Verse Poet Offers Inspiration

Curtis Dunlap, a well-known haikuist, is also a very successful free verse poet. His web site http://www.tobaccoroadpoet.com is an extremely popular site with poets throughout the world.

Curtis recently made a CD featuring a reading of his entertaining, non-pretentious poetry, rich in description. You can read a few of his poems below. His poetry is inviting, as he has an easy storytelling-style that flows, and an earnest, reflective way of looking at life.

Curtis also offers advice and inspiration to beginning poets with his responses to the three questions I recently queried him with.

love poem

sometimes
I like to imagine
that she’s
googled me;
she’ll read
a few
of my poems
in an online
journal,
remember
the one
I penned for her
decades ago.
she’ll rise from her chair,
retrieve an old shoe box
from a closet,
sit down
at the kitchen table
with a cup of coffee,
tenderly lift
and unfold
a yellowed scrap
of notebook paper,
read that love poem
aloud,
smile,
look wistfully
out the window
into
her rose garden
and say,
“I’m glad
I didn’t marry
that poor bastard.”

The Wild Goose Poetry Review Volume 4, Issue 4 Winter 2009

Dee Dot

Dee Dot died,
drunk
talking to a telephone pole.
He keeled over,
like a felled oak,
6’6″, 270 lbs. of quarter Cherokee
hitting the sidewalk with a thud,
blood trickling out of the back of his skull
into the gutter.

Dee Dot conversing
with the spirits
of inanimate objects,
or so they say,
drinking heavily to quiet the voices
whispering in his brain,
now lying on his back,
lifeless eyes open
reflecting the clouds, the sun,
the wires
abuzz
with all those voices.

The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature – March 2009 edition

Why Lester Duncan Drinks

It’s hard to stop drinking
when you find a pint of vodka
under your pillow at night.
That conniving wife of mine
wants to keep me drunk.
Every time I toss out a bottle,
she buys another one and
conveniently places it
where I can find it.

As long as I’m pegged a drunkard
no one will blame her when
she leaves me.

She likes talking to that
fat tax man in town.
I figure she’s got her sights
set on him.
He’s rich, got four cars, a fine house,
and a bad heart.
Well, God Bless ‘em and
good riddance to the both of them.
Hell,
she’ll probably stick fried chicken
under his pillow.

Rusty Truck June 26, 2011

1) What inspires you to write free verse?

The inability to convey everything I want to say in a haiku or tanka inspires me to write free verse. Of course, I will always write haiku. North Carolina poet Lenard D. Moore gave me some splendid advice once. He said, “Always write haiku. Writing haiku will enable you to write free verse poems.” Lenard was right. The conciseness of haiku is instrumental in helping me to eliminate unnecessary words in my free verse poetry.

2) Do you have any pet peeves about the free verse that you often read in publications? (i.e.) Is it really poetry?

Not really. Every poet has a unique voice or style. I enjoy reading and hearing the diversity of poets and their poems. The only thing that tends to…annoy me is reading a poem so convoluted that I don’t understand what the poet is trying to convey. Such poems tend to put me to sleep. Poetry should jolt you! not bore you.

3) What is your advice to someone who has never written a poem, but wants to start by writing free verse?

Read a lot of free verse poems. Learn to write haiku too. Short poems will lead you to longer free verse poems. I’ve been inspired by reading the works of Albert Huffstickler, Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall, Aurora Antonovic, Dave Etter, Felicia Mitchell, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Charles Bukowski, Lenard D. Moore, Helen Losse, Scott Owens, Tim Peeler, Sam Ragan, David Shumate, Ruth Stone, Candace Black, to name a few.

P.S. The photo of Curtis Dunlap is courtesy of Ian Dunlap.

Copyright 2011 by Charlotte Digregorio.

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. I recently received an Official Commendation from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of five non-fiction books: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; and Your Original Personal Ad. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry. I have won forty-seven poetry awards, writing twelve poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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6 Responses to Accomplished Free Verse Poet Offers Inspiration

  1. snowbirdpress says:

    Curtis always offers advice that is true and right to the heart of things. The more you read poetry that “wakes you up” the more you learn what the poetic experience is… no matter what the form. As you try to find words for your own experience you will become more awake to the very moments of your own life. Thanks Curtis. Great info. I’d add my own poets to that as I expect everyone will. Find the ones who “talk to you”…

  2. I agree, Merrill. So many of the poets I read don’t “talk” to me. When I find those that do, I’m a loyal reader, and some of their lines stick in my head. Thanks for writing, AGAIN! It’s good to know I have loyal readers.

  3. Peggy Heinrich says:

    I love your poems, Curtis. Thanks for the chance to read them.

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