JAMES GERING is a diarist, poet, and short story writer from Australia. He has received various international awards and prizes for his stories and poems. Interactive Press published his collection of poetry, Staying Whole While Falling Apart, in 2021. Other publication credits include Rattle, Star 82 Review, and San Pedro River Review. James lives in the Blue Mountains, where he climbs the sandstone cliffs and rappels the river canyons in search of Rilke’s solitude, Chekhov’s humility, and insight in general. He welcomes visitors at jamesgering.com. You can read Butterfly in the April 2023 issue.
Would you like to tell us a little bit more about your poem? For instance, how or why you wrote it, or perhaps provide some extra context?
2022 was an interesting year for me – I embarked on a full-time, year-long writing project called My Year Of Writing Dangerously, which is a prose poetry diary. I roved close to home and far, from little picture to big picture, from recounts of adventures in the wilderness around my home in the Blue Mountains to Mariupol in Ukraine, from metafiction musings to the antics of Trump. I committed to five thousand words a month and am now honing the final result for publication. When a section of the diary seemed poetic, I transferred it to a file for development into a poem. Butterfly came to life in this way.
Why was the poetic form the best fit for this particular piece of work?
The movement of a butterfly – flit here, flit there. And the wonderful disarray.
Do you have a collection of poetry or even a single poem that acts as a touchstone?
I’m big on Ilya Kaminsky, his Deaf Republic – he brings out all the elements that I value: sincerity and humility, oomph and humour, nuance and surprise.
If you didn’t write poetry, how do you think you might access the same fulfillments that poetry offers in your life?
Short stories. I have to write. For me writing well is synonymous with living well. To ground myself I turn to nature. It never lies.
How do you revise your work?
I take a poem through many drafts. And then I put it away and tackle it again in a month. Eventually it seems just right.
What are you working on now?
Getting my prose-poetry diary into good shape before sending it to a publisher. Making sure it flows well from section to section, cutting blah bits, coaxing out themes. It’s exhausting, but I’m feeling good about it. You can see the final month of the diary on my website.
How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine?
I sold my house and left the city. Poetry is my daily routine.
What are you reading or watching or listening to lately that intrigues or inspires you?
The Poet’s Corner is a book I’ve listened to many times on Audible. Assembled by actor, John Lithgow. He moves through the alphabet of great poets, devoting about ten minutes to each, some poems, some analysis, some backstory. And you have readings by the likes of Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren.
Have you ever received advice (or has there been something you’ve learned on your own) about writing or revising poems that has made you a better poet? What was it?
Be on poetic call 24/7. Be disciplined. Take your work through those drafts – it’ll be worth it in the end.
Do you belong to a writer’s group? If not, where do you find poetry community and feedback?
Yes. I also run workshops in my local community. (A town called Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, 100kms from Sydney, Australia.)