Welcome to my new monthly new series, Interview with… My aim is to introduce you to authors you may not have come across before. The first few will be with fellow Vine Leaves Press authors, mostly because I asked and they were hugely enthusiastic!
So without further ado, please welcome poet Bauke Kamstra…
Hi Bauke. Tell us a little bit about yourself
Originally a farm boy, I left home early to seek my fortune (never found it), I discovered nothing was what it seemed. I was starting to do visual art at that time, travelled to many countries around the world, acquired the skill of cooking to find jobs, and worked as a carnival ride jockey, golf caddy and other jobs, met peoples and cultures, reading reading always reading, trying to figure everything out. I still am.
I discovered beauty, and developed a passion for it. I still have that passion. People are the most beautiful creatures in existence, my gender bias paints more women than men, but hardly exclusively. Beauty is not rare, but should always be celebrated, or in my case, worshipped. I managed to attend art school of a couple of years, supporting myself by modelling for art classes, always desiring more beauty, fell in and out of love, but art ruled everything. My innate sense of beauty taught me that art was the ability to see, that the physical skills might be essential, but without vision there is no transcendence.
At that time I thought words were all lies, it was all a trap, that because we learned to think in words we believed in them, there was an inescapable circularity about it. I focused on visual art as a means of communication meant to escape that tyranny.
Why poetry? Did you choose it, or did it choose you? Have you tried any other forms of writing?
Time passes, I develop Palindromic Rheumatoid Arthritis, I lose the fine control I’d developed in my hands, flopped around for awhile like a water-starved fish, found poetry. Poetry is also means to build images, line into text, a way to say things that can’t be said.
Like art, poetry gets around some of the sensory bottlenecks of being human, i.e., we have a limited sensory bandwidth. Consciousness itself seems limited, small, an almost ephemeral quantum froth on the surface of personal reality as the skin encloses the body. The writing is a requirement of the soul, the insatiable desire for art, the finger of god touching and inspiring, the connection to the larger part of yourself of which conscious awareness is but a miniscule froth on the surface of the great lake. Poking the beast within that personality/ego strata is my primary source of inspiration.
What do you hope your readers take away from your work? What are you trying to achieve?
The work of art (visual art, poetry, etc.) is the acquisition of vision, the work we produce is the means of transmitting, or communicating that vision to others, which allows them the opportunity to expand their own vision. It is the ultimate act of communication.
What’s your most recent publication?
My most recent publication is a 4 volume set of poetry entitled “Passion Requires a Vocabulary of Desire”. The title reflects my love of art, of poetry, of beauty. Each poem is intended to be a perception of the world from a different angle, to be absorbed quickly, at a glance, but with the substance to inspire further thought, or an “aha!” moment.
How did your relationship with Vine Leaves Press begin? Was it a conscious decision to work with a small press publisher rather than the Big 5 or self-publishing?
I want to say that the publisher, Vine Leaves Press is entirely amazing, designing covers that even my educated visual palette swooned for, Jessica Bell, the Publisher, picked out and edited the all 4 volumes of “Passion…”, choosing from over a thousand poems. I do not think there are many publishers out there that would put out that kind of effort.
As for my introduction to the Press, a few years after I started writing I decided I wanted to get some out as a book, but had no idea how to do that. Posting constantly on twitter I made a friend, an excellent poet herself, Catherine Lofrumento-Foster who believed in my work. Wracked by tumour-induced headaches at the time, I would never have pulled it off if she had not both found the contest at Vine Leaves Journal (now Vine Leaves Press), and picked a selection of 100 my poems for me to choose from. The prize was some cash and publication of a book of 60 poems. Primarily with the help of Catherine and with input from my wife, Ellen, I submitted. I did not win, but I did come second. Vine Leaves was impressed enough to want to publish that book. Thus “We All Reach the Earth by Falling” was born.
Have you considered how Covid-19 will affect your writing? Has it already?
I can’t say it has affected me much, I had kind of planned a book launch at a local open mike at Tan Cafe, I had launched the first book of the series there simultaneously with an online launch, but that plan got thwarted by other circumstances more than Covid. As you must know much of a writer’s life requires a certain amount of solitude, no, it has not affected me much.
What’s next for you?
Well, I’m an obsessive writer, I write all the time, and this is further down the road, so I have more skills in terms of pulling together my work. So, I’m putting together another book focused on the beauty of sensuality, not lost in the vagaries of the mind, as I often find myself, but right here where we live.
Thank you so much, Bauke, it’s been fascinating to read about your life as a poet!
To whet your appetite, here are two poems from Bauke’s upcoming Vol. 4 of “Passion Requires a Vocabulary of Desire” which is due out in October. Volumes 1-3 are available by clicking the link!