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Eric Forsberg

Richer Resources: How long have you been writing poetry?

Eric Forsbergh: I’ve been writing poetry since I was 14, when my English teacher introduced our class to Dylan Thomas. I wrote a poem about Thomas, and the teacher edited it with me and gave me encouragement to continue.   

Richer Resources: Did you study creative writing?

Eric Forsbergh: I studied the great poets throughout high school and college in many classes, but never took a class critiquing my own work. I graduated from high school in 1969, and didn’t have a poem of my own critiqued in a workshop until 2010, after I had won two poetry prizes. I must have benefited by osmosis from the poetry I read. Now, I depend on a trusted workshop once a month to critique my work.

Richer Resources: Where and when do you write? Any particular time and place, or when the thought arises?

Eric Forsbergh: I write in our home study, at our kitchen table, or when we are at our lake cabin in Maine. As to when, mostly when a writing prompt strikes, but always when I have a segment of quiet time. This translates to early in the morning or later at night, since I work full time.

Richer Resources: How would you describe your writing process?

Eric Forsbergh: Writing prompts come to me frequently and at any time. In order not to forget them, I will write them down on scraps of paper which usually get left around the house, in my date book, or in my phone as a message. It amuses my wife to find scraps of scribbles here and there at home. I scoop them up when I get a chance and enter them into my computer, then write full drafts from them. I will normally write a batch of poems, five to ten, like a tidal surge, in five or six days. I tend to grab unusual words and phrases, and I have invented a few words as well.

Richer Resources: What’s your usual approach to revising a poem? Do you let it sit and come back to it later? Typically, how many drafts do you make?

Eric Forsbergh: After I write a batch, I will come back to it two days later and start the long process of revision, shuttling back and forth between poems. I’ll shape them almost daily, and as several weeks go by, refine them less and less as I close in on finished products. The problematic ones I may put aside for a year, or cut them up for parts. I keep a file called “Poetry Ideas,” which has all kinds of words, phrases, and sentences thrown in a pile for later use. If I revise a poem substantially or even slightly, and each revision is considered another draft, then I normally make twenty drafts of a poem.

Richer Resources: How would you classify your poetry? Lyric ? romantic ? narrative ? formal vs. free verse ?

Eric Forsbergh: All of the above, but if I had a trend, it might be free verse that tells a short narrative. I sometimes sit down in a mood that predicates a lyric, romantic, or narrative piece. Maine, as well as Virginia, is lyrical in its great beauty. Also, it was with great effort I won my wife’s hand, so I am always willing to write her a love poem, even thirty years later. As for narrative, I always listen for stories from others, which can set the terms of a poem with excellent built-in tension. I write free verse in a sprung rhythm, like conversation when it’s articulate. As for formal verse, it is necessary for developing discipline in word usage, and rhyming helps me to think of words I might have otherwise missed.

Richer Resources: What themes tend to recur in your poems?

Eric Forsbergh: My themes are relationships, nature, farm life, unexpected encounters, prayer, war, family, medical situations, solitude, sexuality.

Richer Resources: Was there a poet or poem that particularly spoke to you early on and influenced your writing?

Eric Forsbergh: When I was five or six years old, I would sit with my father, who, in a dramatic voice, would read “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T. S. Eliot, the basis of the play “Cats.” It was a great way to introduce a child to poetry! He also read to me the children’s version of the Iliad and the Odyssey. In high school, my classmates and I closely studied one of Shakespeare’s plays each year.

Richer Resources: What poets are you currently reading?

Eric Forsbergh: I continually return to Shakespeare. Otherwise, I’m now reading Tracy K. Smith, Mary Oliver, and Dante Alighieri. Often, I will plow into British and American anthologies.

Richer Resources: Where does your inspiration come from?

Eric Forsbergh: My inspiration comes from numerous sources, including long walks through the woods, hearing stories, and even from strange phrases which jump out of my imagination without warning, often in the middle of the night.

Richer Resources: What advice would you give aspiring poets?

Eric Forsbergh: Be curious, and continually read the best literature to develop your best voice. Then you can write, and it’s okay to write scraps or long pieces in a sitting. It may seem unfruitful from time to time while you do it, but just write, and you will turn up better work with time. As to curiosity, I’ve always wanted to experience what was unknown to me, with some limits. This led to adventure with its occasional dangers and many rewards, providing me with great material.  


Interview with the Poet
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