Q&A with Terry Wooten


Terry has been called “an everyday Homer writing as a modern Bard for ordinary heroes.” He is an award-winning poet, creator of the Elders Project, and builder and host of the Stone Circle, the longest outdoor poetry venue in Michigan and the focus of an international documentary film, due in 2017. His collected works, Stone Circle Poems, won a 2016 Michigan Notable Book Award.
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Q: How important is it to have a supportive community as a writer? 
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A: To me it’s important because my wife and I host a poetry, storytelling and song gathering every Saturday night during the summer called Stone Circle. It’s an actual Stone Circle of 88 boulders that I built in the meadow behind our home, arranged in three concentric circles. It’s important that we draw an audience, which we do. This summer will be our 34th year. I think it’s up to the writer to create his or her audience.
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Q: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in poetry over the last few years?
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A: I think Slam poetry changed things a lot. I’m not a big fan of a lot of slam poems, but it got poetry out of the academic setting and back out among the everyday people where it’s thriving. Poetry Out Loud in high schools has helped invigorate poetry too. I was the ambassador of Poetry Out Loud for it’s first three years in Michigan.
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Q: What would you say to poets who get discouraged about seeing their work get published? 
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A: Self-publish if you need to. These days with computers and printers it’s an easy thing to do. What’s important is to get the poems out there. Walt Whitman self-published into his mid-fifties.
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Q: What gets you excited about poetry now? 
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A: Since I perform my poems in the oral tradition, I love working in front of an audience. It’s spontaneous feed back. Also, four years ago a film crew from Barcelona, Spain stayed at our house for a month to shoot a documentary on Stone Circle and my career as a poet. The film is finished now and will be released at various film festivals around the country and Europe. That’s exciting. My collected works, The Stone Circle Poems was released by Parkhurst Brothers Publishers in 2015. Last year the Library of Michigan chose it as a 2016 Michigan Notable Book.
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Q: You will also be one of our Rally Warm Up storytellers. How did you get into storytelling? 
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A: I really don’t see myself as a storyteller, though I do tell stories about my poems. I call myself a Poet/Bard because I perform my poems by memory instead of reading them. It’s similar to storytelling, but closer to song.

 

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Andrea King Collier
Freelance Journalist and Author
For A Rally of Writers 2017