Jon Tribble lives, writes, teaches and edits in Carbondale, Illinois, where he serves as managing editor of Crab Orchard Review and Series Editor of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry. He is the author of three books of poems, Natural State, published in 2016 by Glass Lyre Press, And There Is Many a Good Thing, published in 2017 from Salmon Poetry, and God of the Kitchen, forthcoming in 2018 from Glass Lyre Press. He is a 2016 winner in the Nazim Hikmet International Poetry Competition. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, Atticus Review, South Dakota Review, Connotation Review, and in anthologies such as the Jazz Poetry Anthology and Sweet Jesus: Poems About the Ultimate Icon. He has received fellowships and awards from the Illinois Arts Council. He is the literary partner and husband of Allison Joseph.
You wear many hats. Which of them—teacher, editor, poet—has been most challenging? How have you dealt with some of those challenges?
The hat I always want to wear is that of poet or writer. While that is always challenging, I feel such satisfaction when I am writing that I wouldn't have it any other way. I look at editing and teaching in terms of whether they make writing easier or harder, and there is really no contest. Editing is very difficult and often all-consuming and it definitely changes how and if I am able to write at all. Teaching often generates work when I use prompts to get students writing because I will do the prompts too. I feel I am stealing time when I am writing and I know I have editing work to do. I think every effort I make to write makes me a better teacher of writing, so I don't feel guilty at all.
Reading certain authors to reset my writer's mind has become very important for me to come back from heavy editing tasks like reading our poetry book submissions or working on an issue of Crab Orchard Review. Robert Hayden, Elizabeth Bishop, Jake Adam York, and many other poets remind me of what I'm reaching for as a poet; James Baldwin, Jane Austen, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Gabriel García Márquez are among the writers who refresh me. And music, all kinds of music, is so essential.
What are some of your concerns as a poet? Do you see those as changing, or influenced by the current political climate or threat to our democracy?
The main concern that drives me is to gain an understanding of both my life and the lives of others so that my poems and writing can manage to take readers into experiences where people might engage and develop their sympathetic imaginations and begin to see how the world looks and works for people very different from themselves. Of course, the obstacles and crises that rise out of our current social/political troubles challenge my writing, but I am a student of history as well so I know the times have always been very difficult for so many. I hope if people read about and begin to understand many of the ways these things come about and see them through the eyes of those most harmed by the callous and unfair limits that crush so many then those readers will focus on how justice and opportunity raises us all.
As an editor, I love searching out the details around language—punctuation, etcetera—which not only help to create a more intimate relationship with a text, but are in themselves a kind of art that supplement it. How has being an editor influenced your work as a teacher and poet?
A dear friend, Lynda Hull, told me once, "Editing teaches you what you don't need to write." That has been true in so many ways over the years, and what I have found is that editing has taught me that whenever I begin to write, I have in mind all the ways I have seen writers approach subjects similar to mine and I work as hard as I can to find a fresh way to make the thing I am writing unique, to surprise myself with the direction and details so readers will be surprised. Most of all, I work to make certain that the reader is rewarded as often as possible with images, sounds, elements of story, something to make it worthwhile to read the next line, to make it to the bottom of the page and want to move forward.