Wednesday, July 29, 2015

APRI PRESENTS: Interview with Author Steve A. Manolis


Steve was born and raised in Chicago. His first exposure to poetry was learning to write haiku as a sophomore in high school. In the mid 80's he delved into performance poetry collaborating on two poetry plays with a small group of three other poets. This lead to poetry slams at the renowned Green Mill in Chicago, as well as other venues such as Weeds, Adolph's and The School Street Café.

Steve published his first two books of poetry, Agnostic Sins and The Silence Still Screams earlier this year, a collection of 23 poems, available through his website, and online through Amazon and Kindle.

The Beast is his third book of poems. The theme here is focused on love and nature with some exceptions. The poetry also includes two German poems (with translation). All poems are written in 2015.

Steve continues to write and post poetry in online websites and magazines. He has over a dozen poems published in various online anthologies and in magazine form.

You can contact Steve through his website, he would love to hear from you.

Steve, now retired from his marketing career, currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, Susan and their family of rescue dogs.

Steve Manolis
Phoenix Arizona, 2015 


APRI: Why is poetry important?

SM: Poetry is a form of art, no different than the various styles of painting, poetry is one form of written art. More than that though poetry, like paintings, becomes a record of history from the perspective of the artist / writer. As what we have taken away from Michelangelo, or Chagall, or Tanguy in painting we can also take away from Alan Ginsburg, or Shakespeare, or Milton.

APRI: When did you start writing poetry and what moved you to start?

SM: I started when I was a sophomore in high school, in an English class. English is not a strong subject for me, and I was very bored in school so I never applied myself. I felt restricted in many ways (you'll see that in my writings) and then one day the teacher told us to write a report about a book, any book; well that was different and eye-opening and I started to pay attention, because I liked her style. A few weeks later she was teaching about different forms of poetry and the most interesting forms for me was Haiku, and as you can imagine Haiku is restrictive in form, but the challenge of writing Haiku was because of the restrictions. I am not a very good Haiku writer, but it later became a vehicle for the form of poetry I use today which is free verse. Haiku became an exercise for ideas, much like a few pushups, to keep me in mindset of writing.

APRI: How does a poem begin for you - with an idea, a form or an image?

SM: It begins with an idea that strikes me when I least expect it. I rarely sit down and say, "Today I am going to write" unless I am doing my "Haiku pushup". I often see a word or visual image and then it starts to flow, the poem. Sometimes I dream of a poem. Other times, when I am most prolific, it's just being around other poets and ideas just bounce around.

APRI: How do you choose the form of your poems?

SM: 90% of my poetry is free form. I guess I should say I don't worry about the form, but if I am reading a lot of haiku, I get inspired and write haiku. One summer I read all the Shakespeare plays and wrote a sonnet or two.

APRI: What conditions help you with your writing process?

SM: Silence, or I just shut myself off from everything else, even in a bar with friends and other poets, I can remove myself and be with the poem, or at least my thoughts and just let things come in. I don't edit my thoughts in my head, they either come or they don't.

APRI: Where do you write?

SM: I almost always write at home, in front of a computer, that's not to say the thoughts can come earlier, they often do, but the actually composing is in a third bedroom my wife and I converted to a library and a Bowflex that collects dust.

APRI: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing?

SM: My poetry has changed, my idea of what poetry represents has not. And I was cleaning the pool just now to take a break, and thought about this in an earlier question; my idea of poetry, and what it represents is similar to being in an art gallery, everyone there is in silent contemplation of what was going on in the painter's head when they painted, the idea of poetry is similar...contemplation of the writer and that interpretation of the writing, what was going on in the head and in the world.

APRI: If you had to convince a friend or colleague to read your work, what might you tell them?

SM: I don't tell them anything really, I want their interpretation to be unbiased. Again, like the painting, poetry can have many interpretations and, a very important and, the poet needs to allow for the readers interpretation. If the reader wants to know what was in my thought process I will tell them, but not unless they ask or read the poem first. I want their experience to be the first kiss and that first date.

APRI: When did you realize you were a writer?

SM: That happened with my first public experience, in my mid-thirties; prior to that I was writing for myself. I was scanning an alternative newspaper, The Reader in Chicago, and came across a personal section from a poet looking for others to put together a poetry play/performance. I submitted a few poems and got a call. Ultimately we were a group of four poets and we produced two plays based on our poetry. I really got into the performance part of it and then we got turned on to Slam Poetry, which had just taking root. That was in 1986-87, and was introduced to Marc Smith who started it all.

APRI: Tell us about your process: Pen and Paper, computer, do you write?

SM: I have a plastic storage box full of paper and notebooks. My wife has a binder she keeps of her favorite ones when we were dating (those don’t get published). Today it’s all on computer. I am converting the paper and notebooks ones to computer and in the process re-writing some of them. The paper is getting worn and yellowing.

APRI: Which writer would you most like to have a drink with and why?

SM:  Without question, Jack Kerouac, 2nd and 3rd Alan Ginsburg and Gary Snyder. The beat poets and writers were and are my biggest influence for many reasons. They really emphasize my point about writers being historians, I really don’t think we would have totally understood what America was about if it weren’t for the writings of the beats. I also believe many people today have a greater understand as to what was going on in the 50’s and 60’s without understanding the writings of those writers. They definite freedom of expressions and innocence at the same time, I would have loved to go back and live in that era just to see it firsthand.

APRI: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?

SM: Ha, not paying enough attention to grammar in school, grammar is by biggest weakness. I jokingly tell people there are two reasons I write poetry; first I cannot put together a grammatically correct sentence, and second, I cannot sustain a thought longer than a poem.

My other big mistake is one day sitting in my apartment in my mid 20’s and burning all my poems I wrote up to that time, maybe a hundred or so. Only one was saved because I gave a copy to my sister. I still have it. I don’t know if it was so much a mistake or a liberation of my past…a little of both.

APRI: Can you tell our readers about yourself and your writings?

SM: The easy answer is read my poetry; you will read over 30 years of writing. (it would have been over 40 if I had not burned those others).

OK, what about me, obviously I have a passion for writing, and it spans a wide range of subject. My wife and I watch Cops, which is important to know as I write about the human condition and the influences of communicating with the world around us.

We are dog rescuers, love dogs, they have a wonderful live of running around naked and un-afraid.
I would go to the airport, that’s when one could go and sit at boarding gates, and just watch people come and go, and I would write about those experiences, how people interacted.

APRI: What do you do in your spare time?

SM: I retired a couple years ago, well forced out of the BIG CORPORATION, best thing that happened to me. We travel a lot in a RV, I read motorcycles for pleasure and we play pickleball…a great game. And rescue dogs.

APRI: Do you have any advice for up and coming writers / poets?

SM: Yes, do not think what your writings are lousy, other people will tell you that…haha.

Really though, write from your heart, don’t worry about form, or acceptance, or critique. A poem is never wrong if it is your experience or truth. It need not be shared, sharing your poems is the scariest part, so it’s ok to be scared, you are opening your guts out and spilling them across the paper, and the internet. Your success comes from just one person saying ‘this struck me and inspired me’, that is when it becomes a successful poem.

APRI: What do you hope people take away from your writing?

SM: Their own interpretation and they are inspired. I hope I write thought provoking poetry.

APRI: I see that you have done many things over the years. What was your decision for changing from one to the other and then to writing?

SM: To grow and continue experiencing life.

I started out repairing copy machines, changed jobs to a company I worked for many years doing electronics repair in the machine tool industry. That company had no marketing manager and I like to write. One day I asked to work towards becoming the marketing manager. I didn’t have the experience but offered to not take a raise if they paid for my education, to my surprise they agreed and I spent the next 8 years going to college on the weekends in the 30’s. I took classes in philosophy as electives which lead me to reading about the existentialist, free will and the beat generation, it turned out that was the piece I was missing to move my writing to a point of maturity and strength.

APRI: What is the measure of success as a poet?

SM: For me it’s fairly simple, if one person comes up to me and says, “Your poem inspired me” that’s my measure. Hopefully it’s not followed by, “…to tear my eyes and ears out”
I want to effect change (or is it affect).

APRI: What makes a poem “good”?

SM: A good poem achieves the same as above…without the eyes and ears being torn out.

APRI: When you have time to sit back and relax, what do you find yourself doing?

SM: Napping, well my wife finds me doing that.☺

APRI: When was the first time that you felt “Wow, my work actually has an impact on someone else?”

SM: The first time when I burned all my poetry and my sister got mad at me, ok, the really first time was when I started to do performance poetry in Chicago. To watch the audience and talk to them afterwards, wow, I thought, I’m a poet.

APRI: What question have you always wanted to be asked during an interview? How would you answer that question?

SM: Question: What is the role of the poet and why write?

Answer: I think in some ways I may have answered this, but more specifically I think the purpose of poetry is this: How one interprets the art of poetry is an immensely personal endeavor. Your interpretation may not be mine, but that is the great thing about poetry and the written word. You will take from it what you want, or simply just leave it.

My view on poetry is simple...I liken it to the experience of a window to be broken, I write to not hear the window shatter, but to examine the shards of glass and occasionally draw the shards across my arm to feel the pain, to watch the blood flow, to live in love anguish or pain.

 For more information about Steve A. Manolis see links below:

Steve Manolis on Linkedin:

Website for Steve A. Manolis:

Steve Manolis on HubPages: 

Link for Agnostic Sins: Poetry of Personal Sins on Amazon: Agnostic Sins: Poetry of Personal Sins 

Link for The Silence Still Screams: A collection of original poems on Amazon:

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