Thursday, 20 January 2011

Moondustwriter's Thursday - Guest Featuring Poet Samuel Peralta

Welcome to Moondustwriter Thursday. I , Leslie Moon, am pleased to have the opportunity to interview Samuel Peralta. I've been following Samuel for more than a year now (we met on Twitter). I have been impressed with the depth and thoughtfulness of his poetry. 
Please enjoy Samuel Peralta!

Can you give us a short biography of yourself?

Some people have noticed that my writing suggests a science background and a varied cultural landscape – and that’s all true. I was born in Manila, went through school in the Philippines and California, U.S., did a Ph.D. in physics in the U.K., then research in Canada. 

I was the youngest to win a Palanca Award (the Pulitzer equivalent in the Philippines) for my collection “Pacific”. It was heady stuff. I published a chapbook after that, “Moon Leaves”. Later, I was recognized by the U.K. Poetry Society, the B.B.C., and was included in a Best of Anthology by the League of Canadian Poets. Then it ended.

Essentially, I became focused on the corporate world. My production of poetry dropped for years to maybe one poem a year. Having achieved business success, I had lost myself.

In trying to re-discover myself, I turned to songwriting, actually garnering a following on MySpace. Then Twitter arrived, and I began to re-visit poetry, as @Semaphore To my surprise, in two months, I reached a following in poetry that had taken me two years to achieve in music. Something clicked. Last year I was voted #1 for the Poetry on Twitter, and also named to a list of the Top 100 on-line poets in the world.

Now, with tens of thousands across my social sites, my reach has been greater than all my previous print publications combined. Ashton Kutcher has nothing to fear, but for poetry – the numbers are amazing. Besides my Twitter stream, my poetry is collected on my online journal, “Semaphore” -

Since my personal poetry renaissance, I’ve had poems in various journals and anthologies, but recently GOSS183 published my first new chapbook in years, “Sonnets from the Labrador” - It’s a fabulous press, who include Pushcart Prize awardees in their author list; so I’m quite happy to be in that company.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing poetry ever since I can remember; my mother kept presenting me with a notebook where I used to write verse~ couplets mainly. She says I was 5! She’s an artist, and my father a playwright, both well-recognized back home; I was raised to love art and literature. “A Mother” - - is about my mother, and “Pacific” - - is about my father.

What inspired you to start writing poetry?

The sound, the musicality, of words, inspired me at the start.  Then, later on, the layers of meaning and emotion you could sculpt with words. Now, as I’ve said before, I am moved by earthquakes and personal tragedies, constellations and war, quantum physics and lost love, forces of nature as seen through the lens of a single person's experience. I write about imagined lives, camouflaging my personal pain and joy among these lives. I like being challenged. Someone once challenged me to write a poem related to shoes – when I finished, I had come up with “War” -

Maybe because of my scientific background, I also do a lot of research on a poem; you’d be surprised at how much. People have written to me about my life in Afghanistan, or Haiti, or my skating experiences. I have never been to those places, and I am a terrible skater. I live vicariously through my poems.

Do you engage in other forms of art?

I used to produce visual art, influenced by my parents’ artistic bent. I still appreciate it, but now I mainly visit galleries or collect, rather than produce visual art.

I still have a moderate following as a songwriter. As a singer, I worked with a professional studio to produce a couple of tracks and still continue to write songs for other bands and singers.

I find that those experiences help enrich my poetry, in terms of visual control and musicality.

What words of advice would you give someone just starting out?

Always be writing – having coffee, taking a walk, dreaming. Strive to make each poem the best you can make it, don’t compromise. If you’re not happy, it’s a work in progress.

Read as much as you can. Re-discover the classic poets. Among my favorites are T.S. Eliot - for his literary erudition; Pablo Neruda - for his sensuousness of language; and Craig Raine - for his incredible use of metaphor. There are many others.

Also, search out new works by new writers – you’d be surprised at what you find. The best poetry books I bought last year were from Billy Collins – the former US laureate – and Shaindel Beers, a relative newcomer.

This is where “One Stop Poetry” excels – in introducing writers to each other’s work, and in encouraging new work. It’s a wonderful community, with talent and enthusiasm, and I’m eager to see it move to the next level of success.

What are you working on at the present?

I continue to write on a regular basis, of course. My life is poetry. Over 200 poems are now collected on my “Semaphore” site.

"Sonata Vampirica", my sonnet-cycle book on that mythology, is being readied for release. I am hoping to follow that up with a collection of love poems and a collection of my renditions of selected poems by the Japanese artist, Kotaro Takamura.

My big project at the moment is a novel-sized verse project. I am 10,000+ words into it, it is consuming most of my time, but I am excited by it. And petrified.

 “The Semaphore Anthology” - - another online journal I maintain, collects samples of the best (in my humble opinion) from new poets. I don’t solicit poems, I scour the net and then ask for permission to print, with only one criterion, that I read a poem and think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that”.

 I’m thinking about starting another online journal, about the craft of poetry, a behind-the-scenes look at structure and how specific poems were written. It’s a matter of whether I have enough time.

I appreciate that Samuel took time out of his schedule for this interview. One Stop Poetry is about recognizing talent and featuring  both new poets as well as seasoned poets. We hope you've enjoyed this view into Samuel's world of poetry. I know we will enjoy many years of wonder and intensity from this talented man.

Photography attributed to Creative Commons.


budh.aaah said...

Congratulations and All the best Samuel.

Arron Palmer said...

Great interview Leslie, really insightful. Samuel seems like a genuinely thoughtful and patient chap, who has a rich 're-love' for poetry. I learned a lot from this, so thank you both.

dustus said...

Semaphore's work continues to inspire worldwide. As an artist, his numerous accomplishments attest to his skill and perspicacious dedication to poetry. Appreciate him taking the time to discuss his various influences and current work-in-progress. All the best, Samuel. Thank you, Leslie.

Reilley said...

Sam is a terrifically intelligent poet, and a generous digital friend. I have learned a great deal from reading his work, and not just about the subject of his words. I was honored when he wrote such a nice review of my recent chapbook, and was doubly honored that he selected one of my poems for his "Poems I Wish I Wrote" online anthology.

I want to be just like him when I grow up, despite the fact that I am already older than him.

Mama Zen said...

I love that he returned to poetry!

hedgewitch said...

Fascinating interview, and a wonderful story of success and perseverance. And the greatest advice any writer can give: "Always be writing." Thanks Leslie, Samuel, and One Stop.

Pete Marshall said...

i think we all echo the wonderful advice, "keep writing". a great informative interview of an inspiring poet...thanks to both leslie and samuel for this...cheers pete

Brian Miller said... was great to get to know samuel better through this interview...quite the list of accomplishments...and enjoyed my visit to your place yesterday for 1sw

Semaphore said...

Thanks to Leslie for the interview, to the dedicated crew at One Stop Poetry, and to this amazing community for the warm welcome!

Anonymous said...

Very exciting to see Samuel here. He is so very talented and has a great heart. I love his work!

signed...bkm said...

Nice write up on Samuel...I want to check out Sonnets from the Labrador....Congrat's to Sam...and thank you Moondustwriter...bkm