Wednesday, June 3, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by William Jolliff

William Jolliff


Explanations for the Night



Her doctor, she says, claims he can't do a thing

for her other troubles until she starts to sleep.

Anybody who goes a day or two without it

is likely to forget things, lose things, maybe

even find things that aren't really there.

In the Spotlight: William Jolliff

The writer of “Explanations for the Night” and "For Rebecca, Off to Spain,” two poems published in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV, William Jolliff is a professor, old-time country and traditional music enthusiast, and poet who here offers writing tips and insights into his own work as a poet. 

You have noted on the George Fox University faculty page that you are interested in traditional Appalachian and Midwestern music. Could you discuss how your interest and involvement in these genres has influenced your poetry?

That's really hard to say. I assume there may be some mutual influence but not much that would lend itself to easy correspondences. I've loved old-time country and traditional music since the cradle, but other than the shared fascination with words, such art forms seem very different to me from literary poetry. When I write songs in those genres, I put a very different kind of formal demands on myself than I do with my poetry, which is largely (more or less) free verse. Probably the main influence might simply be that the kinds of people who show up in my poems are often people who like old-time country music and live in that little demographic slice. I did happen to notice a few summers back that I'd written about forty poems of sixteen lines each: four, four-line stanzas with about four pulses to the line. That happens to be the structure of a traditional fiddle tune... So I suppose on some deep structural level there's a bit of merging going on.

You have also noted that you like to focus on countercultural writers. Could you share why and which works in particular have stuck with you and your writing?