Poet Speaks Out!
Judih interviews poet/artist Stephen Futral
Birthplace: Paterson, New Jersey
Current location: Boulder, Colorado
Favourite Childhood memory: Summer vacations in the Catskills; enjoying the countryside, the pool and being served in the hotels
Favourite expression: Schmegeg
1.Stephen, you are a multi-talented artist. I’d like to ask you first about poetry. When did you first start to write?
I can’t quite remember but probably when I first went to sleepover camp and stayed in touch with my family with letters and sometimes drawings on them / was like a journal.
2. Could you describe yourself as a poet in one word?
No…how about a series of one words; perceptive, observant, sensitive, vulnerable
3. Do you have a favourite place or time for writing poetry?
I always carry a pad and pen / a group of words can come to me anytime…so I like being ready.
4. Do you find that you overlap painting with poetry? Does one lead to another?
Well, they certainly can and it can work both ways – a painting leads to a poem / a poem leads to a painting…
Could you offer examples?
For years I’ve identified with Macbeth’s Soliloquy…’Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ and I got this idea to do a painting with the entire quote on it in my hand writing – and I had been working on an experiment of being able to put into acrylics what some of us did as a child – different colored crayons covered with a black crayon and then scratch off a design in the black and the colors come out. So I interpreted that approach for the Macbeth Soliloquy painting.
5. Who/what inspires you?
Interestingly there are all the greats that we love and grew up with and some more of our contemporaries / but really it comes down sometimes, to everyday situations…common connections that put a smile on one’s face, that touch one’s heart and cause a tear to shed or images that I may see in some abstracted form from a photograph or nature herself…or a concept that develops in my mind.
6. Do you have favourite writers?
Once upon a time I read ravenously: DH Lawrence, Poe, Rilke, Rimbaud, Oscar Wilde, Jean Cocteau, Sartre, DeBeauvoir, Camus, Kafka, Ibsen, Ionesco, Henry Miller and so on…Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Diane DePrima etc. Then I began another journey; Paramahansa Yogananda, Alan Watts, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, Vivekananda, Patanjali’s Aphorisms, Bhagavad Gita, Rumi, Omar Khayyam and the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism…Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and many many others…
7. Favourite artists?
(Not in any order) DaVinci, Rubens, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Hieronymus Bosch, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Modigliani, Giacometti, Matisse, Picasso, Henry Moore, Dali, Albers, DeKooning, Magritte, Klimt, Escher, Kandinsky, Klee, Diego Rivera, Frieda, Edward Munch, Joan Miro, O’Keefe, Jean Arp, de Chirico, Max Ernst, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Bauhaus, Japanese Calligraphy and brush Paintings, Miens van deer Roe, Le Corbusier, Antonio Gaudi, Oldenburg, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, Pollack, I.M. Pei, Frank Lloyd Wright and many more…
8. When you write poetry, do you hear it or visualize it? (or both?)
Interesting question…had to think/feel about this one. I think, I hear it first in my mind then I may visualize some of it or not…there’s no intention on my part…shy of being asked to write something on a specific subject, it occurs however it occurs…I don’t employ a particular discipline to the methodology…
9. Do you have a writing process? If so, could you describe it?
I like to believe that most of it is spontaneous and some of it is thought out planned out and then comes out spontaneously…for / example in writing memoirs…I create an outline for each chapter or period of my life thinking over various incidents and influences and then I write spontaneously on those given situations.
Internet Poetry Scene
10. When did you first link into the internet poetry scene?
Not sure but rather recently, as I discovered FB and chose to join in there…less than 2 years ago / maybe just a year…I had been writing poetry all along and then on FB I discovered ‘Faces of Poetry’ and as I began posting on there and receiving many comments I then connected with the founder of the site, who happened to live in Denver…close enough and she then started another website / www.globalpoets.org which is now in process of changing to www.artvibe.org / after many phone calls and emails she asked if I’d be on the Board of Directors which I gladly said yes to…as I was already being consulted on various aspects of the development of the site and of course that is how I, fortunately met you and other fine poets…one of whom connected me to a great, loosely knit non-group of poets on FB. We share our poems and ‘tag’ each other to invite comments…as in all commentary there is the gamut of opinions, however some of these folks are quite brilliant and inspiring…If not careful one could spend an entire day reading and commenting on these fantastic pieces.
11. Do you feel it has helped you develop as a writer?
Another interesting question / to exist in this world you are constantly being influenced…unless you are dead…so from that perspective I have been exposed to some great minds…great thinking and great poetic styles…all different than mine.
12. You speak of cyber romance in your poem The Unbearable Lightness of Cyber Romance. How has that spark of erotica influenced your work?
Interestingly it isn’t necessarily ‘erotica’ as much as ‘romantica’ and what I mean is it has at times, the spark of meeting of minds of touching hearts and of pleasant friendship…in that, there is the possibility of falling in love and as I connect in that way it has been a great influence both in inspiring many poems and many paintings … various women have become a muse for me and in that way may not even realize the influence they’ve instilled…
13. Also, in “The Unbearable Lightness,” you quote Bob Dylan saying ‘‘I can’t say if I want the pain to end or not.” How does that work? How has that worked for you? Can you elaborate?
Well, let me take another section of that poem that may bear some insight to this question: “It is like that, not a sense of masochism per se…but rather an awareness of the percolative quality of both emotional pain and bliss / it keeps you in the juice, alive, reverberating with energy, actively participating in the dance of seven veils, the Lila, this play of illusions, Samsara…the Magic of Ordinariness.” Well we all suffer and in that we want to find / experience the ‘end of suffering’…but I realize that it’s that ‘pain’ that influences creativity…not exclusively meaning elation has as much a bearing also / but so many of my poems are influenced from some direct emotional experience or life experience even politically leaning poems are perhaps reactive to the existing hypocrisies prevalent in the world today. So simply put the world and life itself is the muse / whichever way the experience leans or takes you acts as a function of creativity.
14. How do you react when you come upon a really good poem on the Net?
It’s like ‘hoo-ahh’ / all the honor to you…it is exciting and fortuitous to see how select words convey deep meanings and their juxtapositions resound in one’s mind. I love it and honor and bow to the poet.
15. Would you consider mentoring another poet? I mean taking her/him under your wing, offering encouragement, critique, support, etc?
Absolutely…in certain ways I’m in the midst of doing that to some extent…I’ve kind of produced a group of some 20 odd poets and musicians here in Boulder where we’ve been asked to read and play at various venues and it seems to be growing and gaining support and popularity. Several poets are students at Naropa University and we have quite a talented young fellow that is still in high school. I wouldn’t quite say I’m mentoring but certainly recognizing the talent and encouraging them to get up and read their words.
16. You have said that you’ve been a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche for over forty years. Is there an overlap? How has poetry and art widened your inner work? Can you elaborate?
Well…perhaps we can call it an ‘innerlap’ haha / meaning that one doesn’t exist separate from the other…everything is integrated from a certain perspective. Rinpoche was a wonderful artist in everything he touched…the elegance of how he held a cup of tea or sake and how he sipped to his actual paintings and calligraphies and flower arrangements to his incredible poetry and the transmission of the essence of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings in the most comprehensible American vernacular. So he brought into his teachings of Shambhala Warriorship some of the culture of Japanese traditions and their various disciplines of the Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy, Kyudo and of course a sense of respectful elegance.
As for how it widened my inner work…well when one creates, in that moment there is a connection to one’s self…your mind, heart and hand are all in sync…whether painting or writing or sipping coffee or conversing with someone…there is a choice of having awareness in everything you do…being mindful or not. So in this state of mindful awareness you are as fully in the moment of everything you do as you can be. So my ‘inner work’ is going on ongoingly…hmmm!
17. After you’ve completed a painting or a poem, do you feel that you’ve exposed yourself? Is vulnerability an asset to your artistic explorations?
Well I feel that our very existence is a process of ‘exposing’ ourselves…if we’re being honest in how we live. So it seems, that sense of exposure doesn’t necessarily come after completion of a painting or poem but even during the creation and for the most part that sense of exposure isn’t constraining at all…otherwise why bother creating anything unless we’re putting it in storage for no one to view at all? I feel my creating comes from some inner place or need to express…as if I have something to share…if some people perceive it as a potential talent or not, matters not…I seem to need to create and there is bliss and pain in the process again and in that there’s a sense of exposure and vulnerability. In fact by ‘sharing’ one’s work with anyone is to put your mind and heart on the line for criticism and otherwise…so I feel you have to create and express your vulnerability and sensitivity and to hell with what anyone thinks…you can only do it for you, your need to express and if someone hates or loves it is incidental. For any given artist in the realm of history, it is totally arbitrary as to who has been recognized as a great or not…how many thousands of pieces lie hidden away somewhere on this planet that may or may not be great but have never been seen or known about.
Comments to your work
18. You exhibit your work in Facebook, a social network that garners a lot of reaction. I’m wondering if there are any specific comments made by others that stand out in your mind.
If there are, could you offer them and explain why you remember them?
b) What is the best thing about social networking, for you?
I don’t recall any particular comment per se…but that might be because most are somewhat innocuous…niceties that are appreciated but aren’t constructive nor need they be. The only thing that might stand out is when someone’s comment is so full of themselves that their ego is pulsating as a thumb just struck accidentally with a hammer. My intention of putting all this work on Facebook and other areas is because in today’s market this is one more avenue for exposure.
One of my teachers told me this: You just keep painting…when the paintings come into the room to the extent that there is only a single path to move in, then put them outside your door on the landing and when that is full let them go down along the stairs and into the street and keep painting…eventually someone will trip over them. So I’m trying to be somewhat smart in pursuing various avenues or as they say…’streams of income.’
Now when I first discovered or joined Facebook, I did it because I’m writing my memoirs and therefore recalling my life altogether and, in doing that, various memories would come up and I would try and see if I could find that person or persons. For example, I went ‘steady’ (whatever that means at this age) in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades and then moved and hadn’t been in touch for some 55 years and I found this person on Facebook. We were only children but it was fun to re-connect and stay a bit in touch. After a while, I realized I could create a ‘Fan Page’ as it was once called and put up my artwork, poems and excerpts from my book, and I have now re-connected with some wonderful friends from junior high school on up closer to the present.
19. Could you offer a few of your favourite poems (your own work) – perhaps a brief intro if there’s something you’d like to mention.
Well a brief general introduction would be that all of these poems have been written in the last two years. They reflect varying degrees of an emotional view that seemed to have a life of its own. There are reflections, insights and reactions to occurrences in my life that might be as ordinary at someone else’s along with things that push me to write and fuel my creative juices. My working title for this particular group of poems is: “The Lartufian Gestalt: Poems from the Aftermath.” There are love poems and political poems and there are some that stand out. I’ve chosen several of my more recent ones…so here goes:
I MISS THE LAUGHTER IN ONE’S EYES / Inspired from a line in Petey’s poem…
As we proceed
with this operating manual
‘Life on Planet Earth’
we discover some inconsistencies
some angst driven situations
they don’t tell you everything you need to know
much comes from first hand experience
usually the mistakes…
then we’re able to get to the next chapter
you know the one that didn’t warn you how
fucking painful and gut-wrenching some
of the pain will be…
somehow if we don’t kill ourselves in the learning curve
then age tempers our mettle of experiences
and at best we mellow
and with great karma and auspicious coincidence
we may even realize the root of our pain…
and again there is always a choice…
but in the human condition
of pain grows a wonderful tenderness
a gentleness and empathy of our fellow travelers’
journey / the journey through the wheel of life
from birth through old age sickness and death…
it is not a morbid perspective but one of reality
the kind we tend to avoid
try not to think about and basically occupy our minds
with distractions…and in this age of high tech instant gratification
I want it now / give it to me now
we buy toys, seduce each other eat incredible foods and drinks and
in general imbibe out of avoidance…
I mean how many partake to raise their consciousness?
Maybe in the 60s but hardly now…
so I put forth this idea this tidbit of tenderness
because I do miss the laughter in one’s eyes
the caress on one’s cheek
holding a hand or wiping a tear
sharing a heart, eyes, lips and bodies
and it is in this human contact that so much can happen
so I take my hand and touch your cheeks
kiss your lips
hold your hands
wipe your tears
and share my joy
share the laughter in my eyes…
©stephen.futral / 8.nov.10
AS THE DAY BEGINS TO STRAY
Just talking to an old friend
says he’s not sure if he’s clinically depressed
or having a mid-life crisis…
just turned the corner of his 5th decade
but no oomph
he’s not alone
so many people in that place
tried to get him interested
invited him to play music and song
a favorite of his / once he’s doing it
but prying him out of his cocoon
that’s the problem…
I talked to him about ‘choice’
having a choice / up to him
stay depressed or get off your ass—
Isn’t it just like that though
as the day begins to stray
and our life isn’t sure it will stay
for me / it was a wake up call
a time to get going
to fulfill some sense of purpose
to give of myself to this world
to this life…
to be in love
to hear the heartbeat of one’s mind
to taste the thoughts of one’s heart
to see the beauty of one’s being
to share the essence of one’s eyes
to smell the aroma of one’s karma
to rise up
a phoenix from one’s ashes
and not die while still living
to not be the corpse / the shell
of who you were / who you are
to not give up / not give in
to complacency…to apathy
to Carpe Diem the fuck out of everyday
in every way
and do not be betrayed
as the day continues to stray
and you lie in your malaise
of the burden on your life…
flip the choice switch
look at all the people you influence
family, friends, mankind
raise your rapier wit
that keen and quick sense of humor…
here’s the shovel of yourself
now dig out!!!
©stephen.futral / 6.december.10
How do I market me
let me count the ways…
With social media
and maybe Etsy
Zazzle and myriad others
but who has time
to keep up with that
and still paint and write
dilemma of today’s technology
and there’s also the galleries
the vanities of creativity
Damn / who are we doing this for anyway?
for me…for my sanity
and to actually earn a living
living my passion…
ah yes — the Reminder…
©stephen.futral / 9.december.10
Listen to One of These Days on audioboo
ONE OF THESE DAYS
one of these days…
while my life is still living
and my heart is still giving
I will show you who I am
as best I know myself…
without any outside expectations
or inside projections
I will reveal to you the illustrious,
dynamic, petite ball of fire that I am …
I will give you my all with no reservation
and we will be rapt in our knowing
our minds mixing
our hearts rubbing
our tears salting
our lips quivering
and you shall be ever so pleasantly astounded..
for I shall be there naked
with no boundaries of mind, heart or body…
then you will see my eyes and know me fully…
(him talking as if it were her)
©stephen.futral / 10.december.10
Editor’s Note: You can hear Ishwara/Stephen Futral on his audioboo page.
20. Any other comments? Any questions you wish I had asked? Please add your thoughts or amendments.
Well this was very interesting and I appreciate the opportunity to express myself here and to examine a bit closer my motivations and needs for creating and in different mediums.
The only other thing to mention is that since I started answering these questions some new things have developed:
I’ve created 31 greeting cards of my original paintings that are richly color-saturated on glossy card stock and blank inside / I will show links etc below.
January 1-31: One-man show of my paintings at Caffe Sole in Boulder, Colorado. I also found this great band ‘Back to the Woods’ that will be playing as it will be a dance party and a birthday party.
February 1-28: One-man show of my paintings at Tonic Herban Lounge in Boulder, Colorado. Every Thursday night: ongoing poetry readings and music.
Stephen’s Current links:
- Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/firsthought
- You Tube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuM-YBLz4ss
- Recorded Poems: http://audioboo.fm/Ishwara46
- Greeting Cards: $3.00 + shipping / no min…no max
- Email: email@example.com
Judih: Thanks, Stephen!