Interview With John Yamrus

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Since 1970 John Yamrus has published 25 volumes of poetry, 2 novels and one volume of non-fiction. He has also had nearly 2,000 poems published in print magazines around the world. Selections of his poetry have been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Swedish, French, Japanese, Italian, Romanian, Albanian, Estonian and Bengali. His poetry is taught in numerous colleges and universities. His latest book, MEMORY LANE, a look back at his childhood growing up in a Pennsylvania coal mining community in the 1950s, is a highly anticipated addition to his published work.

His website is:


Q: When did you start writing?

A: my first book came out in 1970…a lifetime ago…two lifetimes ago.  i guess i always wrote.  it was something i was good at (or thought i was).  it started out as something to do…to pass the time…and pretty soon it got to be a habit…and, like most habits that are fun and eventually end up killing you, it’s a hard habit to break.


Q: Who are your biggest inspirations/your favourite writers?

A: i’ve often said that i’ve learned more about writing from listening to Miles Davis than i ever learned or could hope to learn from reading or studying any actual writer.  just listening to his KIND OF BLUE will teach you anything you want to know about writing…about the value of silence.  for my money, that’s the hardest thing for a writer (an aspiring writer) to learn…when to shut the hell up.  most writers talk and talk and talk, never understanding or knowing that for the most part they don’t have anything interesting to say.  beyond that, silence is another tool in the bag…knowing how to effectively use the white space on a page is very important…ESPECIALLY for writers of poetry.

Q: What time of day do you do most of your writing?

A: first thing i do when i get up…after taking a leak and letting the dog outside to do the same…is make myself a great big cup of coffee and come down here and get to work.  i got into that habit back in the days when i used to work a regular 9 to 5, and the habit’s stuck with me ever since.


Q:  Why do you write?

A:   i don’t know.  I’m not gonna say something off the wall like i “want to share my gift with the world”…to be honest, that’s a load of crap.  i guess i do it because i like the reaction it gets…i like surprising myself…and i like the fact that it lets me be alone while i’m doing it.


Q: Do you have any favourite quotes from writers?

A:  no.  sorry.


Q: What is one piece of advice you would give new/aspiring writers?

A: don’t fool yourself and wait for inspiration.  like anything else you want to do for a living, this has to be approached like a job…like a professional.  if you’re serious about the work, you’ve got to do it every single day of your life.  naturally, that’s not always gonna happen, but it’s a great goal to shoot for.  every day that you don’t do something is another day you’ve lost.  even if it’s just ten minutes a day, it’s still something.  the other day i was doing a reading at this college…and the host was doing the introduction and she was saying that i’ve published 28 books and more than 2,000 poems…and there was this sound from the audience and the first thing that came to my mind…the first thing that i said to them when i finally got up to talk…was don’t let that fool you…it was all done just one little bit at a time…one day at a time.


Q: Do you have any collections, chapbooks, or other books available for people to purchase?

A: my books are on amazon…my latest book is MEMORY LANE…for lack of a better word, it’s a slim “memoir”…a look back at what it was like growing up in a Pennsylvania coal town in the 1950s…  why i hesitate calling it a memoir is that it’s really (as one newspaper review called it) a reflection on Time and the fallibility of memory.  i see the book like jazz…like an extended poem…it’s not linear in any sense of the word.  i intended it to be what it would feel like kicking back and having a couple of drinks and talking about what it was like way back when.  as for my latest books of poetry…there’s AS REAL AS RAIN, which is a book of my poems fully illustrated by the Swedish artist Janne Karlsson.  that book was a real hoot and a real risk…it gave me a chance to look at my own poems as seen thru someone else’s eyes.  it was a lot of fun.  the book right before that was I ADMIT NOTHING.  of course, all of my books that have been published by Epic Rites Press (and there’s been 9 so far) are high on my list of personal favorites.  i’m 67 now, and i think i’m starting to hit my stride.  maybe in another couple of years i’ll finally get it right.




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