Since 1970 John Yamrus has published 26 volumes of poetry and 2 novels. He has also had nearly 2,000 poems published in print magazines around the world. Selections of his poetry have been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Swedish, French, Japanese, Italian, Romanian, Albanian and Bengali. His poetry is regularly taught in colleges and universities. MEMORY LANE, a memoir looking back at his childhood growing up in a Pennsylvania coal mining community, is a highly anticipated addition to his published work. The presale link is: http://www.epicrites.org/pre-order.html His website is: http://www.johnyamrus.com.
Congratulations on the publication of MEMORY LANE. It's a beautiful memoir, unabashedly sentimental (in the best sense of that word), precise, full of feeling, jazzy, and seeped in the 50s. What is it about memory that you most regret, and most appreciate?
boy, we’re starting right at the top, aren’t we? i actually have very few regrets. there was that time i had the chance to see Miles Davis and i passed it up. 2 months later he was dead and i can’t ever get that moment back. regrets all seem to be wrapped around those little moments, don’t they? things we did. things we didn’t do. at the end of the day it all has a way of evening out. i’m just glad i got to do and see and hear and feel everything i did. and i don’t regret that a bit.
If you could relive one year of your past, which would it be? And why?
1965...that was the year Willie Mays hit .317, with 52 home runs and played center field like a god. that was the year my father died and the year i discovered James Brown, Wilson Pickett and girls. in 1965 my whole world changed and i don’t know why. i guess i’ve been trying to figure it out ever since.
I'm struck by the humility of your writing--utterly without pretense. Who set the bar for you as a writer? Whom do you admire, living and dead?
who set the bar for me? i think that answer changes (really) from day to day and even minute to minute. there were always a couple of constants...people who would not necessarily be thought of as influencing the life and work of a writer...Miles Davis (again) and Groucho Marx and Amos Milburn and Jerry Lee Lewis (talk about having no regrets!)...and Raymond Chandler and Steinbeck and that legless guy who for years and years had a spot on a corner in Public Square back home in Wilkes-Barre. he had no legs and his hands were all crippled up. he sold pencils out of a jar. day in and day out he sold those pencils. there was a guy who did what he did. he did it every day and he did it the best that he could. as a writer, that’s about all you can ask for. come to work. do your job...and go home.
MEMORY LANE is a gift to boomers, as I see it. Who else did you have in mind as an audience writing the book?
i didn’t have anybody in mind. the book wrote itself really fast. i started out thinking about my sister...and then i got inside my head and kinda like jazz i let the music take me where it would. there was this whole form in front of me...just a skeleton standing there...and all i did was add some clothes and a hat and a smile and it turned around and walked off all on its own. weird, huh?
Does writing a memoir, something so close to you, feel the same as publishing poetry? How is it different, if at all?
for years i’ve been dealing with people who say that what i do isn’t really poetry. on top of that, in the last 10 years or so my poems have gotten smaller and smaller and shorter and shorter. poetry’s supposed to be all about reaching inside of you and saying as much as you can in as few words as possible. maybe this was a way for me to blow up that idea and reverse that trend. i don’t really know. maybe at 66 it was just a way for me to try something new. failure’s not even a consideration. i’d rather try something and really mess it up...that’s better than not trying anything at all. maybe that’s why i have so very few regrets.
What's your dream future for this book?
books...especially THIS book...are all about the past. the trick is to get them out of your system as fast as you can and keep moving forward. maybe it’s like that pig at the end of book...you break free of what’s holding you back and keep running and running and running until somebody tracks you down, slits your throat and puts a bullet in your head.