Mid-Atlantic, poems of separation and the sea is a new collection by local poet, John James Reid. He reads from this volume at Village Books, Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7 PM. I shall be honored to introduce John, a Clover contributor, at his reading.
John James Reid is an Irish poet, architect and mediator who lives in Bellingham. Mid-Atlantic, is his third book of poetry. Previous books include After Six Weeks and The Goalkeeper, previously hosted by Village Books. Life’s personal journey continues to inspire his poetry, in the post-Heaney world, that he believes needs gently softened, revealed and articulated.
The poems in Mid-Atlantic speak to the soul. John’s writing is honest and compelling. Carol Graham’s paintings perfectly compliment the poems in this existential compilation: How do we deal with separation? How did we get here? And where do we go from here — when the here is a place caught between continents on a sea with no land in sight.
Profits from Mid-Atlantic will go to the Dispute Resolution Center in Bellingham.
I asked John some questions via email and he kindly responded.
What were the early influences on your writing and how do they manifest in your work?
Learning English language and literature at school. The language of Shakespeare, the poetry of Wordsworth, Keats, the War Poets, the great WB Yeats, Joyce,… and on!
How does writing change the writer?
You turn in on yourself. The opening of an awareness of language, the resonance and power of words, the simple pleasure of reading, the open invitation to be creative, it’s pulling power. Writing changes you in the quest for meaningful language to search out thoughts and feelings and dreams. You find more of yourself.
What books have fortified you as a writer?
I bought The Collected Poems of WB Yeats from a restored famine poor house in County Donegal in NW Ireland in a sale for £1.99 almost 25 years ago. Best book I ever bought. Old and timeless.
I also began collecting the poetry books of Seamus Heaney from second book shops over time from The Death of a Naturalist to Aeneid, published after his death. Edward Hirsch’s The Poet’s Choice is a favourite too for its worldly perspective. I could go on but a deep love of Irish and English poetry books is evident! I am reading Jonny Cash’s Forever Words now.
Why is the unconscious mind a writer’s best friend?
Because it germinates the idea and the words for writing. For me as an architect, it also generates a visual. For Mid-Atlantic, it came as the front cover image for the book and the metaphor of the sea. In my second book, The Goalkeeper the idea of my mother as a keeper watching her ten children in the wake of the Irish Troubles appeared from deep within. The unconscious brought these things to me. I am not sure I would have found these ideas if I had gone looking for them. I allow that my e my next idea and my next thought germinates from the unconscious. After Six Weeks traveled a different path. This volume of poetry was born from a hard grief and a love in deep loss—a healing journey.
What are you working on now?
Nothing but I am thinking about an idea about spaces; maybe, because I am an architect. An idea about describing architectural spaces and other spaces. The spaces that touch us and make our lives different. The empty spaces. The surprising space that can burst us alive. I leave it to the unconscious to crystallize it further. An idea came to me about two empty rocking chairs in a space for some reason. The different spaces we all move through, conscious and unconscious.
What is next for you?
To read more and to wait. I plan to read from the collected works of the Irish poet Paul Muldoon. I want to read more of Whitman, was well. I like the idea of going to Litfuse, the poetry conference in Yakima, maybe. And maybe just learning more.
A place I can never leave really. It is in my grain. It offers me his history, knowledge, culture, pain and perspective—certainly my foundation. The US America relationship is also special.
You say that all profits from the Mid-Atlantic will go to the Dispute Resolution Center. Your relationship to that?
The Dispute Resolution Center. It seemed relevant to donate all proceeds to the DRC as they deal with separation all the time—the theme of the book. I wanted to acknowledge the work of the Center as an invaluable community service and as a healer.
What do you want the reader to know about you?
My love of poetry and something I have turned to for enjoyment and width and therapy. Born from my Irish childhood and my history. And for the wonderful places it will take me and the inner world it shows me—as well as well as an avenue to make new friends!