BookLife Talks with Steven C. Brandt about 'The Golden Window'
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'The Golden Window: Poems, Collection I 2015–2017 Self-Reliance to Caregiving'
What inspired you to start writing the poems in The Golden Window: Poems, Collection I 2015–2017 Self-Reliance to Caregiving?
I wrote these poems to survive. My wife of 52 years was diagnosed with dementia in 2010 and died in 2016. I started creating small books just for her before starting The Golden Window. Why shift to poetry? Curiosity, I guess. Fiction is typically expansive. Many words are used to reach and hold a reader. Poetry is contractive. The writer distills the subject to a form and the fewest words possible to provoke thinking, meaning, and feeling.
How is this volume organized? What criteria did you use to determine whether a poem belonged in this collection or elsewhere?
Over two years, I created over 300 poems on many subjects. I ended up classifying them in six categories I named “Parts”: Self-Reliance, Living Full, Nature, Joys, Sorrows, and Caregiving. Unlike my fiction, my poetry tends to be independent of place, time, and, usually, gender.
You’re an avid reader. Which authors have influenced your thinking the most?Starting in grade school at PS 39 in Indianapolis, I loved reading and hung out in local libraries. The formative writers for me have been Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Shakespeare, various Japanese haiku poets, the New Testament writers, and Buddhist writers/teachers such as Jack Kornfield.
You seem to thrive on variety. You have written novels, management and business books, and numerous columns and articles. How do you know which genre is best for your ideas?
Writing is a craft of giving ideas and thoughts life, of making them tangible for others. “An idea trapped in your head is the same as no idea at all” is something I used to tell my graduate students at Stanford. Writers’ building blocks in any genre are spoken words or other visual symbols arranged in a language; symbols can be mathematical, scientific, or even iconic. The idea dictates the form.
You come from a business and teaching background. Were you always longing to be an author or did this part of your life come later?
My three best-selling non-fiction management books were part of my teaching and business life and a great success that produced collateral income from speeches and corporate seminars. Writing takes a great deal of time and energy. Many people have a “book inside them.” As one sage responded, “It’s a good place to keep it.” Hemingway supposedly responded to a famous brain surgeon he met at a party after the surgeon said that once he retired, “He was going to take up writing. How about you?” Hemingway replied, “I was thinking of taking up brain surgery.”
Poetry did come later, though. It is the melodious and tight use of spoken words just as musical notes are shorthand for sounds used by instruments, including voices. When writing poetry or fiction, each word must carry its weight with the author’s chosen readers. There is no music, color, or sound-effect dramatizing the author-intended meaning. Motion pictures even dictate pacing for a story. My works of fiction had roughly 100,000 words between the covers; my poetry, a tiny number by comparison. And I try to influence the pacing of the reading of the poems by tinkering with the printed layouts of each poem I write for publication.