Interview with P. W. Chaltas

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My favourite way to spend time is on long walks, whether in nature by the lake or in the crowded buzz of the city. The long walks allow me to observe and think more clearly about many things ranging from plans for the future, problems, death, poetry, nature, the human condition and how its' rules apply unswervingly to all of our kind, without exception. In between my writing and walks I spend my day at my various entrepreneurial pursuits. Right now my latest project is building a house north of Toronto as well as my ongoing entrepreneurial pursuits.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I browse endlessly and keep my eye out for books on authors and topics that I am interested in on twitter and facebook as well as flipboard.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was as a child in public school. I presented it in front of my class. It was about Leonardo DaVinci's painting "The Mona Lisa" and how the Mona Lisa got her intriguing, so admired, and mysterious smile. I had an unusual and perhaps unbecoming interest in Leonardo as a very young child. The idea of an artist as an inventor and innovator fascinated me at a very early age. In any case, the gist of my story was that she was chewing on chewing gum and it got stuck in her teeth so she just smiled, embarrassed, not knowing what to do, as Leonardo painted her portrait, and recorded her iconic smile. It got laughs both from from the class and the teacher, as I remember.
What is your writing process?
My writing process seems to happen in two ways. What I think is some of my best poetry comes at the most unexpected of times spontaneously manifested as a line in my head, or a thought that almost feels as if it is coming from another "place' or other consciousness. At these times I rarely alter the original as it comes, except for grammar, word spacing, ie. line breaks, or placement that I feel may be appropriate to the essence of the poem. The unusual thing about these types of poems is that often times, after a few months of writing them elapse, I will reread them, and honestly not recognize them, as if someone else's hand had written the poem. (Perhaps it's an early symptom of the onset of Alzheimer's).

Secondly, there are those poems that are event-related or specific to an experience. These are the ones that I constantly revise or work at until, it feels and sounds to me that the poem is completed. This is when I have to ascribe to Hemingway's maxim "The first draft of anything is shit." It has mainly to do with the sound or the music of the words and the cadence. It has to feel right and complete. I will revise the poem until I'm completely satisfied, until it's pleasing, and has a certain "message". The revisions can take place over a month or even years. At times I will give a poem two versions because I think both have valid messages through a particular nuance.

I also enjoy translating some of my favourite poets' work from French or Greek into English. Translating a poem is much like participating in the poet's work, or even actually recreating the poem, as Scott Griffin has said of the translation of poetry. At times I'm absolutely compelled to translate a poem if I read a current English translation and think it loses something important about the poem's truth or essence. Seferis is one of poets I enjoy translating, mostly because I read so few good English translations deserving of his work. One of my absolute joys was translating an obscure love poem of Victor Hugo's that I found on a bookshelf, in a Paris apartment, which is on my blog, titled "Certainly She Wasn't".
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It is hard to remember the first story I ever read, but the first poem I remember that I read, that had a lasting effect on me, was an early love poem of Leonard Cohen's called "Go by Brooks." I read it while I was at university. It started my love affair with the poetry of Leonard Cohen. I think I connected with his poetry because of a certain wistful romantic nature, but also because his poetry was pervaded by sadness at times. He like myself lost his father early on, although he lost him much earlier in his childhood at the age of nine. I remember reading that Cohen as a child wrote his father a letter after he had died, which he bundled with a ribbon, and which was then buried with his father.
How do you approach cover design?
I prefer to select and use my own graphics or photos, but I imagine at some point I may use the cover graphic designer's graphic. I think I will insist that they read the collection of poems that they design the cover for, before designing it. This way it will be an interpretation of the poetry. That's how I look at covers. They must be creative in themselves and a "soul shot" of the collection.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1/ Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is a favourite because it so vividly portrays the human journey, and the human condition, much as Herman Hesse's Siddhartha does.
2/ Leonard Cohen's Book Of Longing, because it is Cohen.
3/ Rumi's collection of verse contained in a tiny book called The Pocket Rumi, because it is an elegant prayer, and because it fell off my bookshelf as I was answering this question.
4/ Hemingway's A Moveable Feast (restored edition published by Scribner) because it is a stunning portrayal of Paris, of artistic life, of iconic literary times in Paris, and of Hemingway's psyche, struggles, and sensibilities. The Old Man and the Sea is also a favourite of mine because it is such a powerful simple book, written in a simple potent language.
5/ T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" because its language and imagery are so vivid, erudite, and packed full of message(s).
and so many more...
What do you read for pleasure?
Poetry is my pleasure. I read many many different types of poetry, including poets such as Leonard Cohen, Sylvia Plath, Rumi, Federico Garcia Lorca, A.F. Moritz, Maya Angelou, Al Purdy, Shel Silverstein, Charles Bukowski, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, George Seferis, what little there is left of the poetry of Sappho, and Marilyn Monroe, Yannis Ritsos, Margaret Atwood, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Irving Latyon, Charles Simic, Abraham Klein to name just a few. I urge people to read these poets. Their works contain many important truths. Biographies and themed art books also I find are very interesting and enjoyable.

I also love to listen to the poetry of music, whether it be the lyrics of Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, Fleetwood Mac, Nina Simone, The Eagles, Tupac, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Blue Rodeo, Aznavour, John Denver, or Bob Dylan. Great musical performers I often find consider themselves essentially poets first, as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Serge Gainsbourg, and Jim Morrison all have professed. Plato said of music in The Republic : "What should be the end of music if not the love of beauty ?" I believe the same is true of poetry, through the many gateways of Truth.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I love my iphone. Perhaps it is not as practical as an ipad or kindle but, I love my iphone. I also use my iphone to write most of my poetry. It is very convenient and I have immediate access at all times to notes, camera, apps, information, media, and many other items. Immediacy is invaluable in many ways to a poet, writer, or artist.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Twitter, Facebook, my website, spoken word poetry readings, friends, and of course "word of mouth" which is most appropriate.
Describe your desk
My desk at any one time has on its surface, my apple computer, my iphone, stacks of drafts of my collected poetry held together by large black clips, other stacks of paper in piles, all located in very specific strategic places that I do not like to have disturbed or rearranged, and a picture of Sacre Coeur that I took while on one of our trips to Paris with my wife Tonie. A wedding picture of my wife and myself at Las Hadas in Manzanillo Mexico, and a picture of my nephew are also on my desk, along with 3 coloured stones each engraved with the words "Truth", "Faith", and "Wisdom". There is also a picture of my wife's smiling Border Collie Shepherd "Josh" with tilted head, who has now departed from this world.
Published 2015-12-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Free Verse in Useless Times
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 6,660. Language: English. Published: December 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry, Fiction » Inspirational
What is the truth? A gift of the human condition to the self. What are the current, and enduring questions relevant to everyone? Can we answer all of them? Let us thread through the lives of famous, infamous, and anonymous, inclusive of love, lust, nature, the current day material world, and find the invisible and organic ties that bind us together.