You really should read: A Suitcase Full of Crows

Reyes' sweet, straightforward poetry is a perfect place for the inexperienced poetry reader to start out. He's also a translator and a Portland Public Schools volunteer, so he's sure to be patient and thorough for all the poetry virgins. 4 pm Saturday, Oct. 10, with Maxine Scates. Mountain Writers Stage.

What's your personal writing ritual?

In [pleasant] weather I pretend I am at a fancy writers' colony and go out on the patio with my notebook, a variety of mechanical pencils, a couple of ball-point pens and my tea cup—I probably drink as much tea as the writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), who reputedly put away up to 16 cups a day. In the usual Oregon weather I creep into the corner of my workspace and face the computer screen. I am, however, looking for a good, old-fashioned portable typewriter.

What are your favorite themes to write about?

Failure and success of relationships. Our tenure on the planet.

The most beautiful word in the English language is: Maybe.

What authors made you want to pick up a pen in the first place, and why?

Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Vern Rutsala, Pablo Neruda and Wislawa Szymborska continue to inspire and motivate me. I have wanted to be a poet since I was 10 years old. Those writers convinced me that I could realize my dreams.

Fight Club time: If you could fight one author (or critic), who would it be and why?

With all apologies to Katherine Dunn, I think "fighting" sucks. If I were a fighter I would have a duel with Robert Duncan—our weapons: marshmallows or rose petals at five paces. Robert, wherever he is, would appreciate this response to a very literary question.

Name a book you think is highly overrated. Be honest.

Gary Snyder, Danger on Peaks; It purports to be a book of poetry.

Dream project:

To spend three weeks at Pablo Neruda's Isla Negra (not a writing colony) in Chile, writing and being inspired by the southern sea.

Most recent nightmare:

Arriving at the hall to discover I have left my poems at home (it has only happened once in real life).

Your cure for writer's block:

Reading a new poetry book or re-reading one of my 600 or so poetry books. Plowing through my notebooks looking for poems that never got past a line or word or two. Revising a poem I'm not happy with.

Pessimistic question: Will you keep writing even after people stop reading?

People will never stop eating...likewise, people will never stop reading poetry. Even if they do, I'll keep on writing poems.

Cautiously optimistic question: Obama? Discuss.

His election has given me as a person a more hopeful and positive attitude toward the world we live in. It has had no direct effect on my writing.

Share one thing you've had to change in your everyday life thanks to our current recession.

We poets are bottom feeders, so perhaps are not affected as much as other writers by the recession. The recession has, however, cost me two books, and several reading gigs and residencies (the main source of my income as a writer).

Please paste a short paragraph from a story or poem you're working on:


"During WW II I was in the 2nd grade. Our family (six of us) lived in a streetcar up on blocks in a tourist court called "Uncle Tom's Cabins" next door to bootleggers in Salina, Kansas. That year the Smoky Hill River overran its banks flooding the town allowing us to paddle through its streets—my sister almost drown on the same river after falling through the ice—I watched Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber fight—I flunked the 2nd grade…"