A DOZEN QUESTIONS - 6 OF 12
SPECIAL GUEST: DEVON MARSH
Devon Marsh grew up on a farm adjacent to a Civil War battlefield, and later in a small city in northeast Georgia. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and flew the P-3 Orion aircraft at the end of the Cold War. Devon taught high school briefly, and has worked in banking since 1996. He has published a novella, How I Know, and his father’s memoir, Never A Hero: An Atlanta Boy’s Experience in World War II. Other credits include a sci-fi short story, “The Light of Mentors” (Into the Ruins, Issue 15); an essay, “Generating Verse” (periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics); and a couple of dozen poems in print and online journals, including the anthology “Deep Time: Volume I” (Black Bough Poetry). Devon lives in the piedmont region of North Carolina.
(Devon's book covers and other links at the end).
Devon Marsh's Dozen Answers,
and some encouraging words in conclusion.
Q: What is your favourite word?
A: Mellifluous. I’ll probably never use it in a poem, but when you consider its etymology, it is wonderful to think of describing something by comparing it in a single word to the way honey flows. Think of all it conveys: color, movement, scent, light refracted in the stream. It’s an adjective that invokes multiple senses. And it sounds lovely.
Q: What is your least favourite word?
A: In poems, my least favorite word is ‘not.’ Although I use it occasionally, I avoid it because it feels way overdone as a poetic device. When I need to negate something or present a stark contrast, I strive for other ways to achieve comparison than by listing things and saying what I’m describing is not any of them. Once in a while, fine. There are just richer ways to present contrast.
Q: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
A: The natural world, music, sincerity, and genuine positivity. By ‘genuine positivity,’ I mean people who follow the first rule of improv. They react to a suggestion with, “Yes, and,” rather than, “No, but.” When a person receives a genuinely positive response, he or she feels heard, and feels that the other person wants to engage, to build something together. A conversation, a meal, an experience, a life. A “No, but” response leaves one wondering if he was even heard. It holds up a hand that says “stop.” It presents conflict, which is a turnoff.
Q: What turns you off?
A: A lack of effort. Try, and I’ll do everything I can to help. Someone who refuses even to try disappoints me.
Q: What is your favourite song?
A: Probably “Romeo and Juliet,” by Dire Straits. I love Mark Knopfler’s guitar work, his voice, and the narrative arc of the story. It’s a beautiful song.
Q: What is your favourite film?
A: “The Shawshank Redemption.” It’s the story of a good man who can’t be broken, who exerts a positive influence on others, who orchestrates justice in the end, and who is loyal to his friends.
Q: What is your favourite curse word?
A: These days, anything besides “fuck.” It has been way overused by people on social media who want to sound brash. The shock factor from that one wore off long ago. Now it’s simply cliché. As for my favorite, there’s no single word. I like profane similes just because they’re so brilliantly illogical. I mean, how can anything actually hurt “like a sonofabitch?” And is there a hierarchy? Does something that hurts like a sonofabitch hurt more, or less, than something that hurts like a motherfucker? They can’t both be superlative.
Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: I love the thrum of a powerful old piston engine in a vintage World War II airplane, like a Spitfire or a Mustang or a B-17. The sound stirs me to think of brave people who sacrificed at least part of their youth—and often much more—when their countries called. You don’t hear those planes much anymore, but when you do, the sound is unmistakable. Run outside and look up.
Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: I hate the sound of a leaf blower. Especially a gasoline-powered one that the operator revs continually, for no reason, as he walks between places where he actually uses the thing.
Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: I was lucky to have been a Navy pilot when I was younger. That’s hard to beat. My current profession in banking isn’t hard to top on the excitement scale. If I could try something else, I would be a university professor at a small college. Physics, or English.
Q: What profession would you not like to do?
A: The medical sciences intrigue me logically, yet they turn me off emotionally. I love to help people, but I don’t like to cause pain, or see people or animals in pain. I would not enjoy being an emergency department doctor or a veterinarian.
Q: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
A: “That’ll do.”
Q: Any words of encouragement for writers and writing?
A: Carry a notebook. Make notes. Just capture the facts, names, dates. Phrases and descriptions. Snippets of ideas. When you read these later, you will find that the rest of the details either come rushing back, or you will wonder why you wrote them down in the first place. If you wonder why you wrote them, simply ignore them. The worst thing a writer can do is rely completely on memory for the essential details that make a story true, or make a made-up story feel plausible.
Thank you Devon for your dozen answers and words of encouragement.