For National Poetry Month, Alabamian and poet Randy Blythe will give a reading on Monday, April 13, at 5:15 p.m. in Hawkins Auditorium.
Blythe is known for his recently published book, “The Human Part,” which explores a compilation of various topics.
Before becoming a poet, Blythe worked on a farm with his father in Etowah County.
Growing up surrounded by nature, Blythe often chooses to focus on nature as a poetry topic.
“I don’t know that I’d call it nature poetry, because to me there are all these other textures and allusions and threads that weave in there,” he said.
Although Blythe has travelled some, he prefers to stay in Alabama for inspiration.
“The idea of trying to be in a place and be centered is a big thing for me,” Blythe said. “It almost always has to do with nature and it almost always has to do with North Alabama.”
Nature isn’t the only topic that Blythe enjoys to write about though. He also loves to write about and perform music. Blythe is a drummer and has played jazz, blues, and country music for decades.
He writes about painting and art as well. He compared his book to a gallery in a museum.
“A gallery is a good metaphor because it encompasses all that diversity of topics and influences,” Blythe said.
A spectrum of poets have influenced and inspired Blythe.
“To me, influence is about diversity,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to have a very diverse reading.”
Blythe does not limit himself to American poets, but explores other nations’ poets as well, such as Spanish poet Antonio Machado and Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo.
“The criteria for evaluating good or bad are not the same everywhere,” Blythe said. “What we think of as good poetry in this country is not necessarily what other people think of in other countries. I like to add that breadth of reading.”
Another poet Blythe relates to is Galway Kinnell, who wrote “The Book of Nightmares.”
“He was just letting the line do what it was going to do,” Blythe said. “He wasn’t thinking so much about the length of it. It was just the weight of it.”
Blythe enjoys breaking free from form and admires Walt Whitman’s style of letting the lines flow.
American Romantics, like Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson, were already playing with form and reconsidering it.
“Americans sort of go between a form that is rigorous and no form at all,” he said. “That’s the way the pendulum swings in American poetry.”
Blythe believes that poetry is taking in all the different information one receives, trying to assimilate that information and making it into something more.
Ironically, Blythe has not always loved poetry, but he was a reader from an early age, thanks to his mother. It was in high school that he began to scribble things down.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I was a plumber for a long time and I would keep a notepad with me and I did all kinds of things.”
Back in the 70s, he was more concerned with just putting things on the page, writing down train names and journaling about various things.
Blythe’s advice to aspiring poets and writers is this: “It’s a good idea to start thinking about who you might be.”
Blythe himself feels that his signature is always working hard. Currently, he teaches creative writing at UAB and has also edited several magazines.
Blythe pointed out that as a baby boomer it was unusual for someone to change his or her career as much as he has.
“Now there’s a lot of freedom that people can exercise and sort of search out their courage and their path,” he said. “That’s a lucky thing that we have that freedom to do that.”
Blythe has experimented often with the forms of his poetry over the years. He doesn’t mind his poetry looking like prose either.
“It’s all what the poem wants,” he said. “A work of art is an entity and I think it wants what it wants and my job is to figure out what that is and respect it.”
Blythe stressed that this idea is much harder than it sounds and it’s very easy for the ego to slip into the poetry.
He takes pleasure in the compulsion he has to write poetry and considers it a gift.