Interview with Don A. Hoyt

1. How'd you get started with your poetry?
I knew nothing about poetry until I got to college in 1969. Except for the usual children's books that got forced on me in school, I didn't read anything much on my own until I was in 7th grade. One day I stumbled into the New Orleans public library and some rather assertive librarian issued me a library card and coerced me into borrowing a book. The book was Journey to the Nineth Planet by Robert A. Wolheim. After that one, I read a book about WWII pilots entitled Visibility Unlimited and then a third entitled Up Periscope about a WWII submarine.

From then on I read silly science fiction novels until I was in the Navy in the early sixties. Those long weeks at sea lent themselves to copious reading of almost anything, so I inevitably came into contact with some better (and worse) material. Although I had already read Asimov, Clark, and Bradbury, a couple of better schooled shipmates introduced me to some more sophisticated science fiction by them and by Heinlen, Vonnegut, John Hersey, George Orwell, and Aldus Huxley. Would you believe, I read 1984 as we steamed up and down the coast of Viet Nam launching air strikes against the "commies."

I thought I wanted to be a novelist when I entered college in 1969 but realized rather soon that poetry was my "thing" (as we used to say in those days). Literature classes are usually heavy on the poetry because it's easier to discuss shorter works in class. Thus, my literature survey courses saturated me with the usual canon of English and American poetry from Beowulf to Sylvia Plath (this was in 1970). An old professor I had for several classes, sensing my affinity for poetry, gave me a couple of interesting new (at that time) collections of contemporary work which introduced me to Ted Hughes, Sexton, Lowell, and others. Stephen Spender visited the campus about this time, and I was enthralled.

In 1974 I met two important influences: the short story writer Berry Morgan and my lifelong literary friend, Errol Miller. Morgan was an accomplished writer but a terrible teacher; she simply came to class and read her stroies to us. She was supposed to critique the submitted work of her students, so I turned in several of the poems I had been working on which she promptly returned saying they were beyond her ability to improve. While I was suspicious, I wanted very much to believe her and kept writing poems. There were many years after that of floundering in the dark, literary cellar; but she turned out to be right in the long run, I think. Errol had been writng poems for a couple of years and had had some publications success already. He taught me the basics of finding "markets" for my poems and submiting to them.

All this happened from 1969 to 1974. I have been immersed in poetry ever since.
2. What stimulates a poem?
I don't think I really know what stimulates a poem: other poems maybe?

Socrates in the Phaedrus praises prophesy, love, and "enthousiasmós" as forms of divine madness and as gifts from the gods. Inspiration was, to him, a glimpse of the Ideas, the eternal forms of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Everyone knows of Keats' equation of truth with beauty, an over simplification, of course, since the world is far to large to be encapsulated in even the most massive artifice. Spencer described making poetry "when with the force of a divine breath he [the poet] bringeth things forth far surpassing her [nature's] doings." In Shelley's famous "Defense" the mind is compared to a fading coal, fanned into heated creativity by a mysterious, inner wind, unpredictable by even the most accomplished poet. More recently, structuralists and deconstructionists have revealed the minuscule involvement of the artist in the production of meanings.
3. Any dominant themes that thread through your work?
I hjope not.
For one thing, I don't see poetry as necessarily confessional; and the poet should be able to let fiction take control at times (as Wordsworth did reluctantly).

I weary of the incessant whining in modern writing. Whether or not I was poor, ignorant, emotionally troubled, or sexually abused as a child has little relevance to my creative and intellectual explorations. I've had my share of deprivations and discomforts, as has just about everyone else. Just think, would there have been a Sylvia Plath if Prozac had been invented in 1950? Probably not the one we know. If her mind had been free from debilitating chemical inbalances, I wonder where she would have taken us in her work, a far more rewarding place, no doubt. Nikki Giovanni had the last word on deprivation, writing that "they'll / probably talk about my hard childhood and never understand that / all the while I was quite happy."

De-marginailzation is the current rage. Everyone pretends to be marginalized so they can join the "struggle". Some minority poets spew anger and hatred against the "oppressor" group (i.e.: Teutonics and Scandinavians) regardless of their individual complicity in these processes. Some women do the same, showering all men with worthless vituperations, whether they individually deserve it or not. If they can, some artists absorb unnecessary hardships like mind altering chemicals, then struggle to become sensible again through their art, as if poetry were an antidote to misfiring synapses. Wallowing in the social mud becomes the primary raw material for their work (some exagerated for maximum impact, which is at least a welcome infusion of fiction into an otherwise monotonous litany of social mishaps). Later, they all become professor-poets, living comfortably on the public payroll while molding the plyable minds of children into duplicates of themselves by vividly describing the pleasures of being being deprived or depraved and then successfully de-marginalized.
4. Any favorite subjects?
I don't really start out with any subject in mind; the subject of the poem is always a product of the poem itself (a river serves not the tributary but the course). Theme may even be a function of the reader alone. I begin with some sense impressions, images, or observed or remembered incidents. Sometimes they are very different things that, when juxtaposed, shock the cognative mind into new awarenesses. In the act of depicting and examining these perceptions, a web of associations and connections begins to take on recognizable patterns. Mathew Arnold said that discovering new ideas is the job of the Philosopher; the creative artist should synthesize and expose what is already there. I would add that the best art synthesizes and exposes what the rest of us overlook because, as Wordsworth said, "the world is too much with us." In the end, as Giovanni says, all a poet is really trying to say is that life is precious.
5. How does writing enhance your work in the classroom--or does it?
My own writing has very little to do with my functioning in the classroom. In fact, while I was enduring a long career in government administration and at other, non-literary occupations, I always thought a college teaching position would be a creative boon. On the contrary, I have written less these past six years as an academic than during any six year period since I began writing in 1970. I know now that creating literature and earning a living, even as an English teacher, are mutually exclusive endeavors.

My work in the classroom is purely practical, technical, and aimed at helping students become prosperous, not creative. I teach mostly Technical Writing to Business Management and Science majors and basic composition for students just starting out in higher education who are interested in practical careers. In the occasional Junior or Senior level literature course, I concentrate on the placement of the studied works into the context of literary discourse (from Hibbard: realism, romanticism, classicism) and critical perspectives (from Richter: mimetic, expressive, formal, rhetorical). I then attempt to guide them in the production of exegetical "term papers," a skill which will serve them on through graduate school if they head there.

Outside of the classroom, I continue my careeer as a Planner. I've had one consulting assignment after another, composing municipal comprehensive and strategic plans for communities across the northeastern part of the state. Now and then I write something or process submissions to the journals.
Published 2017-10-29.
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Books by This Author

Zhougong: The Duke of Zhou
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 110,810. Language: English. Published: April 20, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Ancient
Approximately 1045 BCE the ruler of an independent province on the frontier of ancient China named Ji Fa defeated the reigning Emperor Di Xin's vast forces to found China's 3rd dynasty, the Zhou. The rise of the Zhou with their military, scientific, cultural, and economic superiority and their triumph over the Shang dynasty is the subject of this novel.
Commerce of the Undesirable
You set the price! Words: 8,730. Language: English. Published: February 3, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Nonfiction » Politics and Current Affairs » Social policy
No less than in our continuing wars on poverty, poisonous substances, poly-ethnicisim, and faith, our “free enterprise” obsessed society too often experiences tragic collateral damage. Hoyt’s poems examine the damage, inflicting discomfort on the unwary reader. Hold on to your convictions if you can.
The Mausoleum on the Levee
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,620. Language: English. Published: January 26, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Themes & motifs, Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
Hoyt's first full volume of poetry (55 poems) exhibits a broad range of styles-- from sonnets to concrete lyrics. Somewhat romantic, somewhat modernist, somewhat language based, Hoyt's poems are largely unclassifiable; yet every one is ripe with insights into the human condition.
Tribal Magic
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,090. Language: American English. Published: January 2, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Fiction » Poetry » Themes & motifs
Taking as his aim to make some sense of the life around him, Hoyt writes poems of both heart and mind, of observation and contemplation. For him, language is not the cause of poetry, but the tool of the poet.
Cousin Toby and the Preacher and Other Stories
You set the price! Words: 10,780. Language: English. Published: December 21, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literary collections » American / General, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
The Robertsons are not the only occupants of rural Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. In Don A. Hoyt's collection of eleven "flash fiction" stories, neighbors of the "Dynasty" clan exhibit many of the same fascinating and puzzling characteristics. Meet Billie Moran the horse trader, Mayor Roosevelt Huey Wallace, Dutch Bienvdenue the moss ginner, and especially Cousin Toby. Unforgettable!
A New Kerygma
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,070. Language: English. Published: December 4, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
The fifteen poems in Hoyt's small collection were published in 1993 by Bootleg Press of Uniondale, NY. They are an attempt to imagine something of his own "kerygma."
Rejecting the New Millennium
Price: Free! Words: 3,300. Language: English. Published: September 3, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Nonfiction » Philosophy » Contemporary philosophy
Hoyt wrote most of the poems in "Rejecting the New Millennium" while he was an instructor at Grambling State University in Louisiana from 1994 to 1999. A limited edition of the collection was issued in 1999 by CC Marimbo Communications, PO Box 933, Berkley, CA 94701. 24 signed and numbered hard copies of this collection are still available from the author.