G.O. Clark returns to Analog with his poem “Keck.” Get to know him in our latest Q&A, where he talks influences, poems, and keeping his sense of wonder.
Analog Editor: What made you think of Analog for this piece?
GC: A number of my poems are short, factual pieces dealing with hard science. Asimov’s Science Fiction has taken some in the past, but when Analog began including poetry, I felt the poems a more logical fit, and tried my luck with my haiku, “Keck.”
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
GC: Writers who have influenced and inspired me over the years are Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Silverberg, Kurt Vonnegut, Henry Miller, Colin Wilson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm, Mary Shelley, Harlan Ellison, and others.
Poetic influences include Dylan Thomas, William Carlos Williams, Donald Hall, Billy Collins, Tom Clark, Bruce Boston, and Marge Simon.
In terms of influencing my style, the free verse techniques of Bruce Boston and Tom Clark probably come the closest.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
GC: The current events I tend to write about are scientific in nature. My poem “Keck” is a simple haiku about W. M. Keck observatory on Mt. Maunakea, Hawaii Island. The twin telescopes literally represent eyes gazing up at the stars, in my mind. A photo is worth a thousand words; I edited the poem down to 8.
Veiled references to politics sneak into my poems as well sometimes. Names withheld to protect the not-so-innocent.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
GC: Space exploration, real and imagined. Post-apocalyptic scenarios. Things horrific.
I’ve always been interested in space, and feel lucky to have come of age when we finely jumped off-planet for the first time. Authors like Clarke, Asimov, Pohl, Williamson, and, more recently Baxter, Bear, McDevitt have lifted my imagination beyond the confines of Earth and the mundane.
Post-apocalyptic scenarios I find darkly intriguing as well. I’m a child of the atomic age, born in 1945, and the flip side of those wonders of atomic power proselytized by some was the duck and cover drills of grade school, accompanied by random air raid siren tests. Nothing came to pass, but the bombs still exist, as does the paranoia that keeps certain countries stockpiling them.
My interest in horror is more recent. Poems about ghosts, zombies, devils, fallen angels, witches, mad men and killer clowns have all taken a turn at tormenting my readers. We live in strange, inexplicable times, and my horror poetry is just another way to reflect upon them.
I feel blessed to still have the same sense of wonder I had when young, and hope my poetry conveys as much.
AE: Do you tend toward formal verse or free verse? Or do you try to mix it up?
GC: Most of my poetry over the years has been free verse. It’s the form that seems to fit my voice the best, is friendly to metaphors, and allows my sense of wonder to show through. A rhyme here, haiku there, an aborted attempt at a sonnet from time to time, but I’m most comfortable with the space to tell a story that free verse allows.
AE: How did you break into writing?
GC: My first published mainstream poem was published in the Big Sur Gazette, 1979, a weekly newspaper serving the Big Sur, CA region. It dealt with the natural beauty and history of the Big Sur area.
My first speculative poem was published in The Magazine Of Speculative Poetry, 1988. The issue also included poetry by Brian Aldiss, William John Watkins, Bruce Boston and Robert Frazier.
I took a couple of fiction writing courses in college, but gravitated towards poetry after graduating, which seemed a better fit.
Being retired now, with more time on my hands, I’ve taken up fiction again with some of my stories appearing in the small press, and a few pro sales to Daily SF online.
AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
GC: I would love to see the development of FTL drive and the expansion of humankind beyond our solar system. It’s in our nature to explore and push the boundaries, which in space seem limitless. Also, the survival of the human race may eventually depend upon leaving Earth behind, do to our own short sightedness. Of course the eventuality of a planet killing celestial body waits in the wings as well.
AE: What are you reading right now?
GC: I’m currently reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New Your: 2140” & “Leonardo Da Vinci”, by Walter Isaacson. Also working my way through Michael Moorcock’s “Jerry Cornelius” series. As for poetry, “Voices Of The Mutant Rain Forest” by Bruce Boston & Robert Frazier, and the 2018 Rhysling Anthology, published by the SFPA.
I read more non-fiction than fiction these days. Perhaps its an age thing; clinging to reality in my so-called golden years.
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your poetry?
GC: I have no formal scientific background. I did take college level science courses, i.e., biology, geology, etc. to fulfill the GE requirement towards my BA in English.
My knowledge of current and past science comes from popular science books like “The Elegant Universe,” magazines like Discover, TV’s Nova and other PBS shows, and the internet of course. My knowledge of science in general is spotty, and definitely at the novice level.
I remember my dad reading Science Digest and Popular Science Magazine when I was a kid, and his ongoing interest in new technology and scientific discovery. Years later we watched the moon landing on TV, father and son together, the stars a little closer then before. Evidently the seed of scientific interest was planted early in me.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
GC: I have a website devoted to my work, http://goclarkpoet.weebly.com,
and a presence on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gary.o.clark.