18 January 2013

fridays with friends 1/18: an interview with luke maguire armstrong

For this Friday with Friends, I’m happy to share an interview with Luke Maguire Armstrong. Luke and I first started talking poetry a few months ago. I was honored to have the opportunity to review his second collection of poems, How We Are Human, right here in the Lost Jungle earlier this month. (Click here to read the review.)

Luke Maguire Armstrong

Luke Maguire Armstrong (LukeSpartacus.com) was a baby, who became a boy, who became a man. Once he fought a bear and almost died. Haters later claimed it was “only a raccoon” and he was “acting like a little girl.” After college, Luke set out to hitchhike from Chile to Alaska, making it as far as Guatemala where he spent four years directing the NGO Nuestros Ahijados. He is the author of How We Are Human and iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About. Currently he is headed to Africa, from where he has two adopted Kenyan brothers, in an effort to found an educational charity there.  Follow Luke on Twitter: @LukeSpartacus.

What projects are you currently working on?

I'm writing a non-fiction book of my four years spent working in development in Guatemala and working on publishing novel titled "How One Guitar Will Save The World."

Oftentimes poets consider themselves as having "arrived" at becoming a poet. How long have you considered yourself poet?

This is a tough question. For inexplicable reasons, I still shy away from calling myself a poet. I'm more comfortable with considering myself someone who writes poetry. Which, yes, I realize is a roundabout way of saying the same thing. I guess I don't like the distinction because it's a dividing one. If I'm honest with myself, I maybe feel that either we are all poets or none of us are.

You've said that you write for the "don't read poetry crowd." What would you say defines this crowd, and what makes you poetry appealing to them?

Very few people read poetry. I'd estimate that for every book sold less than 1% is poetry. I don't think there is anything intrinsically unappealing about poetry, but that our educational system does a poor job of presenting it to students when they are young. National newspapers once published poetry. Now they do not. But I think there's a place in everyone's life for poetry.

The feedback I've gotten from many people about my poetry is surprise that there is humor mixed with higher meaning. Some didn't realize you could have both. When it's all said and done, readers will only get through something if it is engaging and enjoyable. It must speak to them, not at them. I'm not writing poetry for other poets, I do it for me and people who I could see myself clinking glasses with. Life, our world, these are all gifts, and poetry is a way of engaging others in a permanent conversation.

What, for you, defines "good" poetry? Is it a matter of accessibility, or something deeper than that?

Good poetry has the power to stop someone in their tracks. When the poem ceases to be what someone else has written and becomes an echo of what the reader already believes to be true, that's art. Accessibility is important, art is made to be shared. I think good poetry has to have an element of sincerity to it. It's the discovery of things we already knew but did not have the words to say.

Which poets do you turn to for inspiration? What inspires you in the poetry of others?

I really like A. R. Ammons. His poem "Play" is what I turn to when I need help answering that recurring question, "Why am I doing this with my life?" Also, I think Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet should be required reading for life. It's only ostensibly about poetry and has everything to do with how to go about living your life in the best way possible.

If you could share a piece of advice for other poets, what would it be?

Share your joy more readily than your gloom. Poetry can be a therapeutic outlet, and more dark days then bright days are spent composing verse. But we have a choice on what to share with the world.  It's okay to share the brightness along with the darkness, but just don't make the mistake of only sharing the gloomier stanzas.

For more from Luke Maguire Armstrong, visit his blog at Travel. Write. Sing.


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  1. I thought it was very interesting - now I want to read his poetry! Thanks!

  2. Thanks Khara for the great interview questions and review. I love what you are doing with your site and am honored to be a part of it.


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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