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I’ve built this website to introduce myself and provide a taste of what to expect from each of my books. As for me, although writing is all I ever wanted to do, I also felt the need for experience to write about. As a result, I didn’t major in literature or journalism in college, didn’t opt for an MFA in creative writing and submitted to the PhD process only when I found myself jobless in a small university town. Meanwhile, I exploited my facility with words, working as a technical writer and an advertising copywriter, editing a weekly newspaper, serving as a radio and print journalist in Moscow, winning a grant to study Hindi at Delhi University and translating a Pakistani poet’s work from Urdu into English (Four Walls and a Black Veil by Fahmida Riaz). Even when posted to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Dominican Republic, Pakistan and India as a public diplomacy officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, I chose the word-heavy press and information side. Off duty, I plunged into the uniqueness of each culture.
My own words began trickling out long before I retired, but when I left the Foreign Service the flow of fiction and poetry intensified. Nor did I renounce my interest in diplomacy and global issues. With an ex-foreign service officer I hadn’t met during our years of service, I’m a co-founder of WhirledView (www. whirledview.typepad.com), a blog that focuses on foreign affairs, although it strays into U.S. politics, law, culture and travel as well. And here’s a great thing about retired life: I’ve time to enjoy my friends and family (two sons, a daughter-in-law and a grandson) and hiking in the mountains.
Long before socially-conscious poetry became critically respectable again, I prefaced A Partial Rainbow Makes No Sense, my first collection of poems, with a protest:
ANEMIA You want me to be i- ronic, to approach by in- direction and speak (if I must) through un- derstatement. Anything else, (you say) is un- poetic, like a boot stomping a violet, I suppose. But facing killers, I say: NO! Having lived in the lands of the un- derfed and the un- enfranchised and the in- defensible, I say it again: NO! Real poems don’t rage? Can’t convey the pain of an arm macheted off, shock the only anesthetic? Can’t fix on a girl’s frozen eyes watching a shirt go red as bullets make a sieve of Daddy-Father-Papa’s chest? Wouldn’t stoop to playing back, un- damped, the primal scream that erupts when memory gets un- plugged and horrible things rush out? This coyness that’s praised, this pastelized soft porn that never groans or grunts or barfs, this pay dirt for critics and scholars in- tervening to in- terpret for the masses, is it elegant in- direction? Or evasion? Delicacy or anemia? Ambiguity or simple lack of care- ing?