How would you describe what you do?
The blithe simple answer is I write, yet that’s not what I do, that is how I express what I do. What I do is look, listen, observe and report. Sometimes in prose, yet mostly for the past forty years it has been poetic observation. I love the form mainly because I know just enough of the rules and styles to ignore them. I also reach out from the inner core to the world around me and act like a road crew filling in pot holes as I come across them. Work has always come easy to me.
What are you currently working on?
Oh man. Currently I am working with a couple of vibrant young poets editing a rather long piece written in the style of the Norse Saga. Katherine Vergan, the poet who wrote it, is I believe one of the most dynamic poets I have come across in the past few years. She is one of The Girls of Sunday Night, a casual writing group of like minded people. I am the fat hairy chick.
I am also going to start the training needed to tutor pre-k-3rd grade children in literacy, Detroit Public School students ranked last in the nation for 4th and 8th graders on the NEAP test in its history. The call went out for volunteers and this is my home. If not me who? If not my hands, whose, is my philosophy, regarding literacy.
The GoSN and I finished my latest chap book STINK: Poetry and Prose of Detroit 2005-2009 in September which has been published by Island Grove Press, Newmarket Ontario. I have just been issued an ISBN by Ottawa. I may make it more widely available soon. I will have to iron out a few details yet but until then it can be gotten from me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org 80 pages $10 no pay pal or credit cards.
I also expect within the next 6 months I will be drawing the pieces together for the next book project. I have an idea that I wish to explore but nothing firm on it just yet.
What has had the greatest influence on your work?
The greatest influence on my life is God. Not the god of religion but the Spirit who created all. Please do not define me as a creationist I guarantee you, if you do, you will be sorely disappointed. As a poet, the first greatest influence was my grandmother who would read me the likes of Frost and Sandburg, Edgar Guest and Emily Dickinson when I was just a wee lad. Michelle Brooks, someone you will be hearing about very soon on the national stage has been very helpful to me in the encouragement department.
See it is not a proper question to ask me WHAT has influenced me; rather the question should be who. I live a life of nouns in action and the nouns coupled with verbs influence me greatly, daily.
What is the greatest misconception about you or your work?
The greatest misconception about poetry in general is that the form has to fit, is limited to, a definition that someone else set. I see poetry in everything. Pick up a green leaf and look at it. You will see a hundred different shades of green in it, none of them exactly able to be described using words and terms. Yet through poetry the idea of the individual shades of color is able to be communicated. Each nuance can be depicted and the audience will know by the end of the well crafted poem each color the writer saw.
As far as my writing goes I think the individual pieces that I put out leave little room for misconception. I am pretty straight forward in what and how I write. It is with intent that I use the words I do so simply to not be misinterpreted. I like metaphorical work well enough but I feel that there can be a distraction in them, so I use them sparsely. I prefer to leave the reader to interpret for themselves what portion of my work is relevant to their heart.
As for me and any misconceptions people have about me personally, I do nothing to dissuade them of their thinking because every situation is fluid and we all grow to different understandings in time. Someone may see me as this today, and that tomorrow, I can accept either because I have accepted myself simply as I am, which is a guy who lives each heartbeat as it is; a new life.
What do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the medium you work in?
The weakness of poetry, no matter when it was written, is when them who write it try to stretch their thought to fit a specific style or scheme rather than simply let it flow. I organize the meter using punctuation, verse and line breaks. A piece has to work in both written and spoken form for it to be A1. The beauty of weakness though is that with exercise it can become strong.
The strengths of poetry are that it can be a great tool of communication and bridge building between cultures. It can liberate people from thinking that has been holding them back, a poet is a key maker and a good poet freely offers those keys for the audience to accept or reject as they see fit.
How has technology impacted upon the work you do?
Made me learn to type faster? I don’t know, technology is a tool, I was an auto mechanic in my other life and I like tools but I don’t use the ones that don’t work. The modern age is one of speed and I never minded driving fast.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you would like to pass on?
If you limit yourself with a label, any label, then you are missing out on everything else outside of the envelope that label is stuck to. Just be. Don’t define yourself as anything, not poet or scientist, not Christian or Muslim (etal), not victim or knight; simply accept the good you see around you, incorporate it into your being and reject the rest as foolish.
Where can we find you online?
THE WALKING MAN BLOG is where I put most of my new work. I tend to delete the archives a couple of times a year but I have twenty or so pieces up right now that won’t be deleted until when ever I delete them.
What are you reading at the moment?
Aporia by Sarah Turton
ALOHA Where You Like Go? From Survival to Satisfaction by Honolulu Taxi
Cloudia W Charters
And sadly not enough room to mention all of the wonderful poetry blogs I read most every day,
What are you listening to at the moment?
Joni Mitchell (Same Situation) just popped up on the random play but ask me again in four minutes and the answer may be anything from Bach to Eminem.
Anything else we should know?
Nope; because without a question there can be no answer.
5 thoughts on “Mark Durfee”
Wonderful interview with the wonderful Walking Man. Mark is a cool soul that can express himself in ways that make me laugh and cry. He is also a natural born teacher and the children of Detroit will be blessed to work with him.
love the answer on the misconception… sometimes secret destinies lay hidden in the green of the leaf…
nicely said Mark
WTG Mark, awesome interview. I hope to see you soon. Keep up the great work around town.
A great view IN TO the mind of Mark Durfee. I am a huge fan of his poetry. Although he says here that his individual pieces ‘leave little room for misconception’- they are still rich with metaphor, style and technique. They certainly do reveal all the colours of the green and so reach into the reader’s soul.
Mark is a keeper, and a faithful friend. Great interview. Thank you, both, for the questions—and the answers.