Michael Czarnecki interview

Michael Czarnecki

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Michael is a poet and oral memoirist. He and his wife Carolyn also run a publishing company, Foothills Press, that has brought the work of countless writers to light and to a public. They live on Wheeler Hill, off the grid on 50 acres.

Our interview was conducted via Skype and later transcribed by hand, the ultimate in close listening (and reading), so the text “reads” as natural conversation.

PRJ:
The whole time I’ve known you, you’ve turned away from a life in which you had an employer, and you’d probably been thinking of this life in which you could make everything significant, what I would call a life of complete honesty, and you’d probably been turning the gears in that direction for some years. Is that true? Or is it something you and Carolyn just decided one day to do?

MC:
It is a little of both. …
I’d always looked forward to getting into my forties when I was younger. Because I thought then I might know what I’d really want to do with my life. And prior to that, I’d just flowed along. I experienced life, I never thought of a career, I’d worked in retail mostly, and then doing sales for the winery, but that wasn’t my life’s work at all. It was just what I did to earn money to continue just experiencing my life.
The thing is, earlier, when I’d been writing poetry, since I was 17, in 1967, I knew it was important to me, because once I wrote that first poem I continued writing journals and poetry, but I never had the sense that you could just be a poet and that’s what you could do with your life. It was like, no, you can’t do that. So it wasn’t like a dream I had for years and years and years. I just wanted to follow the creative path. And I did creative stuff on my own and just worked jobs that mostly connected me with people – retail did that – but the other things were more important.
And there was an experience when I was 43. I was driving, for Heron Hill doing sales work, and I was in Buffalo, which is my home city. I had stopped at this store. I was supposed to go there for a sales call. But I was listening to something on Fresh Air, Teri Gross, and a heart doctor was talking about heart stuff, you know, and health, and there was just something about that interview that I paused, I didn’t go into the store, and I sat for the last five minutes listening to that, and I went into the store, I did my little sales thing, you know, took an order, and then I drove home.
And on the way home I realized, you know, I can’t do this anymore. This isn’t healthy for me, this isn’t what I want to be doing, and I knew what it was I wanted to do, and that was the creative. The poetry. I wanted to be a poet, and I wanted to be a publisher, and I wanted to make that all of what I do with my life. Not just selling wine for a weekly paycheck.
And that was really it. It was just this feeling that okay, I can do it. And Carolyn, fortunately, was very supportive of that, we didn’t have a saving account, we were living week to week basically, and we had Cassandra, and another child, Grayson, was in the belly. But I just quit it because I just knew there was less time ahead of me than behind me. I hope I was wrong. I hope there’s still more than that. And I felt I should be doing what’s important to me. And it was poetry, it was that path. So we just did it.
So it was never a long term dream that I had, that I wanted to do this, but it was building over time. It was 1994, and as you know it was 1985 when I started going public with my poetry, so it was nine years when I kept doing more and more poet in residence work in schools, giving poetry readings, publishing, chapbooks, as we could. Because there was always the matter of the dollars. And I knew this was what I really needed to do with my life. And that was how many years ago? Eighteen plus years. And I’ve never looked back. My only question was why I didn’t do this earlier. And the reason I didn’t do it earlier was I wasn’t ready for it.

PRJ:
I think certain things happen, and insights converge, don’t you think? And then you think, it’s inevitable. It’s not something I would consciously have chosen, but now it seems so inevitable that I can choose how I’m going to put it into play.
I met you guys in late 1995, when you were above – was it above Mary’s?

MC:
Yeah. Well, above Bookmarks, actually.

PRJ:
On Mary’s side of the street, across from West End Gallery, on the side with Medley’s and Rico’s.

MC:
Yep, across from Tom Gardner, and he’d stand out on the sidewalk doing his painting, and one of the paintings he did was of Grayson standing in the window of our loft up there, just this painting of this young boy standing in the window on Market Street.

PRJ:
Oh, I miss Tom Gardner. Is he still around?

MC:
Yeah, he is. I haven’t seen him for awhile, since I’m a recluse up here.

PRJ:
Well, if I had such a beautiful place, I think I’d happily be a self proclaimed recluse and just stay up on the hill.

So let me ask some of the questions. And I also have to say that with my basic writing students, more and more I’ve started to weave haiku into freshman comp classes. And the students take to it. It’s crazy. I have them writing, more and more, a kind of clumsy haibun. They’ll write their essays, and then I’ll say, okay, let’s try to condense or compress your essay into 17 syllables. And so we learn to write haiku, and they write haiku after each essay. So they have the prose and then the haiku. And then it becomes kind of interesting. But that’s all from you. I would not have known about haibun had it not been for your influence. So thank you.

MC:
It’s nice to hear you using it in that way.

PRJ:
Yes. And they can’t imagine, when I tell them of someone living off the grid on a hill in Western New York, it seems like something in a book to them. And I’m like, no, this is a real dude, you have no idea.

MC:
Real dude living off grid on a hill talking on Skype to his good friend 2000 miles away.

PRJ:
Well, we couldn’t have imagined that in 1995, that’s for sure.

MC:
Yeah. Someone once mentioned that we live in the 19th century and the 21st century here on the hill. I think that’s relatively accurate.

PRJ:
I’ve heard variations on this story before, but I’ll ask this question … because we become different storytellers and different understanders of our own story every day, right? When did you first know that you wanted to write, that you identified as a writer instead of all those other things people thought you should identify as?

MC:
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think that first poem in high school was a real wow experience. I had just accomplished something important, and it was something important that happened to me, too, not just that I’d done something important. I never knew you could be a poet. So I just went along with my life and wrote journals and wrote poetry.
I think … the first public reading I gave was in 1985. And that was a single poem to the Bath Peace and Justice group. And I think that was real defining moment for me, because I was always this shy, quiet person, and fairly private, and that was the first time … when I wrote this fairly long poem about nuclear winter, I knew when I finished it that I had to speak this poem out loud. To an audience. And that was very profound for me, because I could never do that, I could never get up in front of a group and that goes back to my second grade experience in Catholic school, but I don’t need to talk about that now. But when I finished the poem, it was about a ten minute long poem to speak it, I knew I needed to share it orally. And that was the real moment that, that following week, when I read that poem to the Peace group, it went from being this private act I’d been doing for 18 years, writing poems, and maybe occasionally sharing a poem with a friend, maybe sitting on the couch with somebody sharing a poem or two, and that was about it. But when I was standing in front of that group, it wasn’t a poetry reading, it was a Peace group meeting, and speaking that poem, that was … a change occurred there. Poetry wasn’t just something I was doing in my composition journals. You know, the black and white marbled covered books. It became something that I shared with others. And even though we’ve been publishing poetry for 27 years now, 28 almost, you know, poetry is an oral art. And when I spoke that first poem, I think that’s when it shifted for me. I realized this is more than just words on a page. I’m a poet.

PRJ:
And there’s so much power in that, when the gears turn. And there’s not really a way for them to turn back. It’s not a swivel chair moment. It’s a real gear moment.
So much of what I’ve always experienced in your work is a series of iterations, always a looping back to the past. You’re always bringing up those stories from the past, even bringing in the history of Grayson’s name. And the current voice has always been so rooted in the past, and even the texts of the past, even if they are your own texts. Now that the only texts from the past that you really have are those that are in the hands of your friends and loved ones, people like us who are out here with copies of your books and you might not even have your own copies of those books anymore, and your notebooks are gone, and everything else – and I’ll say lost here in quotes – everything else that’s been lost, your work almost returns, in part, to the oral tradition fully because all of those now reside in you, as memory. What kind of burden is that for you? And how do you think it impacts your writing going forward?

MC:
Oh boy.
It’s hard to say in terms of going forward. Since the fire in July, what, five months ago now, I really haven’t written very much. And that’s okay. It doesn’t concern me, really, very much because there are things that needed to be done life-wise to get back to this space of warmth and comfort and feeling like we have an actual home. And our home has always been here, our land, our fifty acres, but now we have this building, and winter is here, and we can be comfortable and safe and warm.
So all the energy since July, I think, has gone to this point.
A couple of days ago I felt that I’m ready to move forward now and start being really creative again. I know I’m going to be putting words down on page, words on computer, very shortly. But the loss of the journals you alluded to, the loss of all those printed words, the old books that we can’t replace anymore, I think I’m still –
(MC pauses)
When the fire happened, when I realized we had lost everything except what we had in our car in Maine, – I’m gonna go on some tangents here.
When that happened, we were just in Maine, just got there. After the shock of realizing everything was gone, knowing that Grayson was okay, that Cassandra came over and he was with her and they’ll be okay, and after the shock of knowing everything was gone except what we had with us, I reminded myself of that Chinese story that I’ve told dozens of times over the years, about good fortune/ bad fortune. And the Chinese farmer. It’s a wonderful story I love to tell. We don’t how things are going to end up. What seems like misfortune at the moment – who knows what’s going to happen because of that. And I’m getting a little bit away from what you were asking. But the writing, the journals … it’s tough losing 40 years’ worth of journals. And I have remnant scrap pages of bits of pages that survived the fire, but that’s it. And what I’ve thought of doing is, you know, I have these oral memoirs, and these palm of the hand workshops that I developed. And I’ve been thinking that all of it is there in our head even though we can’t bring most of it out. The memories are there. And I need to reconstruct the important ones in word in some way again. And I don’t know if that will be poetry, or palm of the hand memoirs, but when I realized what happened, I really saw it also as wonderful, and wonderful may seem like a strange word, but a wonderful spiritual experience. Because in the long run everything that was lost is material stuff, just material. And, yeah, journals. Forty years of journals.
But I still have memories. And I have memories of the important things that occurred. And maybe 90 percent of the journals, maybe ninety five, maybe ninety nine, percent, were, like, yeah, I chronicled my life, but how much of our life is worth chronicling? I think all of it is, so I’m conflicted.
I lost a lot, but things that are important are still there in my head.
So I think there’s a grieving that still needs to go on that maybe I haven’t quite worked through yet because of all the work involved in getting to this place of comfort for the winter. And so along with the fact that I feel I’m at this edge of being ready to really sit down and write again, I think it’s time to sit down and work through what really has been lost. And what has been gained through this whole process, too. There’s been so much that has been gained because of what happened. So much support from the amazing communities we have, family, close friends here, the poetry community across the country, our Amish neighbors here. I’ve always been this optimistic person. I’ve always been feeling that most people are good. The negative things that happen are exceptions to the rule, but most people are good and kind. What we’ve experienced through this disaster, the fire and the loss of everything, the way people have responded, has just totally reinforced that feeling.

PRJ:
I loved seeing your near-daily haiku, and the images, after the fire. As a reflective or meditative practice, do you think that has been a form of comfort for you?

MC:
Yes. That, and also the morning photographs, the morning pictures, and probably the pictures even more, in the sense that, when the fire happened, I was about eight months into the photographs. Before the fire, taking the photographs and posting them was almost this daily practice that I was doing, and I’ve almost never done anything daily in my whole life.

PRJ:
Too much regimentation for Michael.

MC:
Yeah! Exactly.
But this morning picture thing became almost a spiritual practice. And the same thing with the haiku, which I started a little bit later. And I just finished the pictures. Yesterday I posted the 365th one. When I started it, I wanted to do one year of morning photographs and then stop. And because of the fire, and all of that, there were breaks in that daily photograph, but I finished it, and now I’m taking a break from that. And I missed it, I missed it this morning. I’m going to start a daily one January 1st.
I see very much a similarity between doing a daily picture and writing haiku. When I write haiku, every once in a while I would take a day here on the hill and it would be a haiku day. And what I would do all day was totally focus on making haiku. And it would be a day I would plan on not going anywhere. I would stay up on the hill here, go out and work in the garden, or do whatever I do outdoors here. But all day I would create haiku. And I’d try to do that twice a year. Fascinating experience because when I was in that haiku mind, I was seeing the world differently. You know, haiku is a spiritual practice. It is this being in the moment, being aware, being totally present right now. And when I would do these haiku days, I’d create maybe 30, 40 haiku for the day. And it was just this exhilarating feeling. I was just so focused on experiencing the moment right now. And so often, we don’t.

PRJ:
Well, it gives you that compressed lens for seeing things in an expansive way. Like, when you go into some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, he has this idea that an entrance should never be soaring, that an entrance should always be a little compressed so you go through a smaller, more enclosed space and you have a moment at which you actually enter the space, and that’s when everything expands and your spirit should feel different, you know, the architecture should have that sort of spiritual effect. And I think the practice of haiku does something similar, don’t you? You have to see the subject in this smaller, more finite, focused way, but there’s something about expressing in that way, and using that lens, that expands everything.

MC:
Yeah, it’s being present in the moment, and what comes to you. When I’m doing the haiku days, I tend to be aware of things much more so. Like today, I went out to haul firewood, I wrote to you earlier. So I went out there, and I took the pickup truck out into the woods, and I threw chunks of wood up into the bed, and drove back, and I was doing the physical work, but I don’t know if I noticed very much around me as I did that. And when I’m having one of my haiku days, when I’m working in the garden, I’m working but I’m also being really aware of what is around me as I work.
Ideally, when I talk about haiku, I think the perfect haiku is a moment of spiritual enlightenment. It’s the aha moment. And rarely does the haiku attain that level. And not to rank things, but on another level, it does make you more aware of your surroundings, what calls out to you, what grabs you, sense wise, hearing, seeing, feeling, and it connects you to that universe around you, that world around you, that space around you. How often do we just not notice anything around us? We are so into our own heads. So into what I’ve got to do tomorrow. So into what happened last week. And being in the haiku mind, you really try to be totally present.

PRJ:
Isn’t it interesting, what we call it. If we were talking about villanelle, we would call it a form rather than a practice, right? Isn’t it funny, haiku is more of a practice than a form.

MC:
Yeah, it is.
And when you mentioned haibun, it’s that combining the prosaic voice which in haibun is condensed prose and then the 17 syllables. There’s so much that can be said in 17 syllables. If nothing else, writing haiku is a good practice for all of your other writing. Because you’re really considering every word you’re using, every single syllable. And we should do that in all of our writing. But obviously that’s a little more difficult when you’re writing prose.
My favorite definition of poetry: words under pressure.

PRJ:
Absolutely. And it is a goal-less activity. We hope for the sublime, right? But if you go into it in a goal oriented sort of way, you’re never going to hit the sublime.

MC:
It finds you when you’re not looking, not trying.
What got me into poetry was the lyrics to songs. Mr Kerr [MC’s high school teacher] had us bring in lyrics to songs, this was 1967, and I was really into lyrics of songs, not poetry, at that point, and I brought in “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan.
The whole thing about not trying, immediately brought to mind a Joni Mitchell song, and the times you impress me most are the times when you don’t even try, you don’t even try. It’s the same with so much of our life, when you don’t try that’s when you’re natural, when you flow with it, you don’t aim for the sublime, you just aim to put words out there and express your experience. And sometimes, it becomes sublime. But not because you were trying.

PRJ:
And sometimes it just is. Sometimes the moment needs a translator.

So what are you reading? Is there something that you are carrying around right now?

MC:
I’ve been rediscovering some of the books that I don’t have around anymore. And that’s been intriguing because the library was extensive. And it’s gone. You know. The few that I’ve gotten recently I’ve also been reading the last week or two – one is Ring of Bone by Lew Welch. He was one of the beat generation. Gary Snyder said of him, if you were a serious poet in the sixties, you had a book of Lew Welch’s next to your bed. That was one of the books I had that I knew I needed to get back again. A new edition of his selected works came out just last year. And he just disappeared, I think it was in 71, he just left a note at Snyder’s place and just walked off into the mountains. And they never found him. A really strong, powerful poet who really affected my life. I would highly recommend him to anybody. And it’s interesting, because in the mid seventies I ran into three of his poems in an anthology and was really moved by them but had never heard of him and didn’t really know who he was. And I mentioned it to a friend of mine who had compiled a beat bibliography and he said, oh yeah, Lew Welch, here. And a week later he gave me Ring of Bone and the collected works. And I really didn’t get into it. The poems in the anthology I really liked, and it just wasn’t connecting with me after he gave me the book. And then, about a year later, I went through this personal crisis, and my first marriage split up, and it was kind of a crazy year for me, 1979, and I went back to my little cabin in the woods, alone, and if I ever came close to a nervous breakdown, that was it. And I remember picking up Lew Welch. And here I am, my ex wife wouldn’t talk to me, and my best friend [in a bad situation], just all this stuff went on. And I remember standing in front of my wood cookstove, even then, and I picked up Lew Welch. And one of the first poems, maybe the first poem in the book, is called “Chicago Poem.” [opens the book] Yeah, it’s after the dedication. And it’s all about Chicago, he lived there for a little while, had to leave, just it was too overpowering, the city, but I’ve got the book next to me, here it is, and I got to this line – I’m standing in front of the wood cookstove, reading this poem out loud to myself, and this is long before I ever shared a poem in public, six years before I became the poet sharing work in public, and I get to this line, after the gunshots, and after all this weird stuff going on, and just totally on the edge of a breakdown, and I get to this line:

there’s nobody else to blame
you can’t fix it
and you can’t make it go away

and this is all about Chicago, right? And the tears start pouring down my face. And I couldn’t go on. And there I was, nothing about relationships, just the city-human relationship, and I realized that I need to read through this poem without crying and then I’ll be okay.
And it took me, I think, four days to get to that point. Every once in a while, I would pick the book up, I would start reading out loud, and I would get to those lines and the tears would fall. And eventually I read through the whole poem. And boy, that was freeing, like okay I did it. I did it. And there’s nothing about relationships, just that there’s nobody else to blame, you can’t fix it, and you can’t make it go away. And I read through the poem finally and I got to the other side. Then, I discovered the rest of the book. Which was amazing. So, yeah, Lew Welch. That’s one of the books.
Another book is Loren Isley. He was an archaeologist, writer, poet, and I’m rereading his autobiography All The Strange Hours. It’s a book, again, that I had in the past and very meaningful for me. And that’s my bedtime book right now. I read a chapter every evening. And it’s fascinating, wonderful, better than I remembered it.
And I actually bought a new book, too, a book by David Hinton. David Hinton is a translator. He translated T’ao Ch’ien’s selected works, who is a major poet and influence for me. He lives up in Vermont, and he’s translated many Chinese poets and philosophical works. This is a book called Hunger Mountain. It’s sort of meditations as he is walking through the woods in Vermont. He has immersed himself in Chinese literature, culture, and philosophy for decades, and so he is experiencing his own ground with this Chinese literary and philosophic consciousness. I just started that book, but I find it very fascinating.

PRJ:
So I have to ask if you’ve replaced your Thoreau, or if you’ve replaced your Palm of the Hand, because I’m thinking if Michael had 2000 books and now can have 20, what are the essential 20?

MC:
It’s interesting, because we were in Maine when the fire occurred, and we were supposed to be up in Acadia for a week and a half, and when we got there the fire happened, and I said we can’t just turn around. We had driven all night. I’d had a program in Waterloo the night before, and we drove all night to get to Acadia. And I said we need to stay here for at least a couple days. So we stayed for two days. And when we came back, on the third day, we pulled up to the hill, drove our drive like we usually do through the hayfields, and came around the bend, and the house that should be sitting there was gone. So we pulled up. And Cassandra [MC’s daughter] fortunately had sent me a few pictures of the ruins of the house so I knew what we were coming into. And next to all the charred ruins of the house was a table, with flowers on it, and a tablecloth, and flowers on another platform, and out friends had come up and decorated our space with a little bit of warmth, which was just so moving. So we settled in. And about an hour after we returned to the hill, a car pulled up and parked a little ways away. And a friend, Louie Babcock, stepped out of the car. And as he started walking towards us, he had a book in his hand. And I knew from a distance what the book was. Big, hardcover book, orange cover, Arthur Whaley’s Translations from the Chinese. I just couldn’t believe it. It was the first book of Chinese poetry I ever purchased, back in the seventies, and it was the first time I discovered the poems of T’ao Ch’ien. And he knew how important that book was to me. And he brought it an hour after we returned to the hill.
And you mentioned Thoreau. My seafood man at Tops Market in Bath, Steve, we have these wonderful conversations. Shortly after returning, I went in one day and we started talking. And he said oh yeah, I’ve got something for you. And it was excerpts from Thoreau’s Journals. You could spend two lifetimes reading them. And then a week later, another friend, a poet friend, I was giving a reading in Corning, and Edward Dougherty, I don’t know if you remember him, he came to the reading, and he had a copy of Whaley’s Translations for me. And I said oh Edward, thank you, but I already have one. And the other book he had for me was Walden.
So there are people in my life who know some of those books that are important to me.

So I’m slowly replacing the library. I have most of the David Grayson books, which were very important to me. And I’m slowly working on the poetry. The thing is, there is so much that was there. And every once in a while I’ll reach for one and then remember, oh yeah, I don’t have that. I think of a poem, and it’s not here on the shelf anymore. The shelf is gone. The house is gone. And yet, the few books that we do have, and I’ve picked up maybe thirty or forty, boy they are so special now. We’ll never replace what the library was, but we are building the new library, just like we are building the new experiences. We are building the new connections with people. We are building new bonds with communities. And a lot of this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the fire.

PRJ:
And I think, at a certain level, when there’s so much loss, just from the outside in, one thing you’d have to gain is this deep faith, an humbling sort of faith, in the love of other people.
When I saw even at Indiegogo, when the fundraiser was underway, that people there were responding who only knew the story and did not even know you. They were trying to connect with you, and I found that phenomenal.

MC:
Yeah, that was amazing, and another example of the response we had was I received a card and donation of $100 from somebody in Nebraska, and their note was, “I’ve never met you, I don’t know you, but I’ve always been impressed with what you’ve done with Foothills Publishing. I hope this helps.” And that was one of a number of things that, with people knowing what we have done with the publishing, knowing the work I’ve done in the world encouraging people, and just wanting to help out and say what you do is important.
So in a way the fire has been a strong validation of the life we had led up to that point. And we hope we can continue to live that kind of life. Well, there’s no choice in that matter. There is no other life.

PRJ:
And how can you go back to a consumerist, salaried, reporting-structure kind of life when you’ve had what is really absolute freedom? I don’t know how you could do it.
It is interesting, the Lew Welch line that you said so struck you because it makes us think about how we want to fix things, how we want to apportion I don’t know if blame is the right word, but something like blame, responsibility, when things go badly. We want to know that it can be fixed or repaired or that, once we’ve realized what’s happened, there’s some sort of remediation strategy that we can be part of. And so there’s such power in, when we are younger, learning for the first time that sometimes nothing can be done. It brings to mind the thought I keep sticking on now, from a Williams Carlos Williams poem:

no one to witness and adjust
no one to drive the car.

When you’re surrounded by mortality and things that don’t even seem to be choices, sometimes you’re in the swirl of karma, either as observer or things are happening to you, and things are so far outside the blame/responsibility sphere. Think about your own health issues a few years ago, and people we have lost or thought we might lose, all of that I’m grappling with right now as a mortal and a writer. This concept of everything outside our control. And what is control, anyway. Why did we want it, and why did we think that was one of our happy human gifts.
And I’m seeing some of that in both images that you post and in your recent haiku. It’s not despairing work, but it seems to have at the center of it the sense that the noticed moment is the only thing we have. The only thing we can control.. I can control my 17 syllables. Or I can control my photograph. And as soon as I shot it, the bird flew away. It has a different resonance now. Am I misreading?

MC:
No, I don’t think you’re misreading them. And I don’t know that I’m writing or picturing that consciously. But certainly it is there.
You never expect to have something like the total loss of your house. Obviously it is going to affect how you go forward. I’ve never been one to be overly attached to material things. I’ve felt strongly for a few decades that death is hanging there over our left shoulder. It’s there, it’s hanging there, and one never knows. And I think I’ve tried at times, not always, to realize that we have no sense of what might happen tomorrow. You know me, the natural world being so important, and the wildflowers and the birds and the experiencing of the life out there in nature. We keep track of the flowers on our property, when they bloom, and when we first see them. And if I don’t see white trillium this year, will I be here next year to see it? There’s that: we don’t know. That goes back to haiku and being totally present in the moment.

You know my poetry, and how most of it comes from experience. And there’s this one point when I was driving back from Buffalo, still working for the winery, just prior to making the change. I had this sudden thought that it would be okay if I died. That just came to me. And I thought about that: Carolyn, Cassandra. And I thought: really? And then it came again, this acceptance. It would be okay. I am ready. And from it came the poem “Migrations.”
And as we were mentioning earlier, there is that mortality issue that comes up. And I was 40, 41, entering my forties when I felt that. And it was a freeing experience. And a few years after that I realized I needed to stop doing the other work and just follow the creative path. So all of that leads to where I am now, like there is no other life. All those things led to me being where I am now. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

PRJ:
And really, at a certain level, don’t you have to think there never was another life? All your lives before were leading you to this.

MC:
Joseph Campbell quotes one of the philosophers – when you look at this life, it is almost like a play leading to where you are now. Everything seems to fit perfectly to lead you to this moment.
This is just my life.

PRJ:
One last question. If you could be any animal, which animal would you be?

MC:
Without giving it any thought, my immediate response is a crow. For quite a while, I wrote a series of poems, back to the early nineties, about crows. It seemed like over a period of time three crows kept appearing in my life. They were trying to tell me things. And I eventually listened. Crows are pretty magical, they are very very intelligent. Raven is one of the tricksters. I don’t know if crows have ever been considered tricksters in native lore. But certainly they are pretty amazing creatures, the vocalizations they make. We had some crows nesting in the woods here, and just the calls, the different intonations of their voice, and just that wistful connection to these crows all the time. I could tell a number of stories about that.

3 Responses to “Michael Czarnecki interview”

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  1. and, dear friends, we are still reading. « pea river journal - December 26, 2012

    […] Michael Czarnecki interview […]

  2. on trying and the sublime: Michael Czarnecki « pea river journal - January 20, 2013

    […] Michael Czarnecki interview […]

  3. what they are reading: reading lists from three interviews with writers « pea river journal - January 21, 2013

    […] Michael Czarnecki interview […]

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