Wordsmith Interview – Mark Belair

Mark Belair
Age 62
New York City
New England Conservatory of Music, Bachelor of Music
Do you have a specific writing style?
The part of me that writes won’t take commands from anyone, least of all from me. When I try to give it an order it just shuts down. Yet when left alone it starts to write the way it wants to write, and will even consider suggestions, so I guess that’s my specific style.
What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
To find out, as I write a poem, why I needed to start it.
Title of your work in Crack the Spine and a brief description
The title of my poem in Crack the Spine is “perky.” It relates the experience of a brother and sister who let their parakeet out of its cage while their parents are out.
What inspired the work?
A childhood event in which I suddenly saw my parents as a struggling couple needing a break from their cage of responsibilities—which included me.
Tell us about another project you have published
My most recent collection is Night Watch. Its 19 linked poems chronicle, in diary form, the loss of a loved one from acute leukemia. While the result of the disease was grim, these poems are not; rather, they are even-tempered, plainspoken, affectionate, accepting.
Where can we find this work?
Night Watchis available at the Finishing Line Press website or at Amazon.
How often do you write?
Monday through Friday mornings. I’m also a musician, a drummer, so my work in that is mostly afternoons and night.
Where do you write?
In New York we are lucky to have The Writers Room, where writers rent inexpensive desk space. I find writing at home too distracting.
What are your thoughts on writing at a computer vs. writing longhand?
I do both. Most of my poems begin with some kind of random prompt I sketch out in longhand. Then I commit to the hard work at the computer. But since I revise a lot, I handwrite each poem I’m working on once a week. This slows me down, forces me to revisit every line, and I always find something I‘ve overlooked.
What is your usual starting point for a piece?
Something happens that I don’t understand but need to; I write out of bewilderment.
What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer?
The temptation to become an author. As writers we write in private; as authors we present our work to the public. One’s author side, wanting a certain public result, can suck the blood out of one’s writer side. That’s a vampire we need to keep at bay with a cross, garlic, stakes—whatever it takes.
What is your favorite word?
What makes you laugh?
Dreams. I often wake myself up laughing.
What’s in that cup on your desk?
Just Mud Truck coffee. After all, I do write in the morning.
Personal website: www.markbelair.com

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