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Mace and Crown | May 20, 2018

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Tim Seibles: A Poet’s Poet

Tim Seibles: A Poet’s Poet

Old Dominion University’s College of Arts and Letters is fortunate to have on its teaching faculty a plethora of instructors who hold tremendous accolades in addition to offering top-notch academics to their students.

Among the many  great instructors, the university is also home to associate professor Tim Seibles, esteemed poet and 2013 National Book Award Finalist for his Fast Animal, a riveting collection of poetry that is as daring as it is comical, as alluring as it is smart, and as exciting as it is frank.

On Saturday, Sept. 14, at 1 p.m., Tim Seibles participated in a reading at Prince Books. Prince Books is a local bookstore located at 109 E. Main St. in Norfolk, VA. It has been open since 1982 and offers an abundant selection of books on fiction, poetry, history, biography, boating, travel, home design, cookbooks, spirituality, and a complete children’s selection.

MC: What do you love most about poetry?

Seibles: “What I love most about poetry is that it gives me an opportunity to consider my life and to find out how my life connects to other lives.  Poetry allows me to feel more intimately connected to the community of people—locally and globally.”

MC: Think back to your very first reading experience, how did you feel? How did you deal with nerves?

Seibles: “I did my first public reading at a litfest event when I was an undergraduate.  I felt excited to read my poems, but also nervous because there were some famous literary festival guests in the audience.  The only way to deal with nerves is to do the thing you’re afraid to do.  Every time you do that thing you become a little more comfortable.”

MC: Do you still get nervous before or during readings, if so, how do you deal with the nerves now?

Seibles: “Yes, I still get nervous, but it’s much less intense than when I was younger.  Now, I get nervous mostly because I want to make something happen for the audience; I don’t want to be boring or to seem self-absorbed.”

MC: What makes you most excited about having the opportunity to read at Prince Books? How do you feel about the venue?

Seibles: “Prince Books is a great, independent bookstore.  I’ve read there many times over the years.  It’s a great venue for serious listeners.”

MC: What would you like people attending the reading to take away from your poetry?

Seibles: “I always want listeners to come away with a sense that poetry can speak to various aspects of their REAL lives. I want them to leave the reading more emotionally engaged with their own lives and with life in general. Poetry should make us care more about what being alive means.”

MC: There’s so much going on in the world, how do current events influence your poetry?

Seibles: “Yes, current events do influence what I write about.  When I write about homelessness or war or racism or political repression of whatever kind, it’s because I see those evils at work here and all around the world.”

MC: You say you are an ambassador for poetry. Would you go into detail as to what holding such a position entails?

Seibles: “I HOPE to be an ambassador for poetry.  To me, that would involve writing and reading poems that invite more and more people into the magical and gut-wrenching cosmos of poetry.  Of course, whenever I teach, I’m always hoping to foster a love for poetry and the precision of language.  I want all students to be lifelong readers of poetry.  I think reading poems, sitting with truthful thoughts and perceptions, can help to make us better people individually and, of course, a better society collectively.”

MC: What are your thoughts on the current state of poetry?

Seibles: “Poetry is thriving now.  Spoken Word is everywhere.  Traditional readings are everywhere.  People of all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs are writing, performing, and publishing poems.  I think we’ve entered a sort of golden age of poetry.  This doesn’t mean there couldn’t be MORE poetry in our daily lives; it simply means that it’s a good thing that people can find poetry virtually anywhere.”

MC: In the future?

Seibles: “In terms of the future of poetry, I dream of an America (and a planet Earth) where no one feels that poetry is for smart people or that poetry isn’t for men or for poor people.  Poetry should be seen as ONE WAY, among many, for people to talk to each other, to dispel feelings of isolation and despair.”

MC: Thank you for your time Professor. Before you go is there any advice you can offer aspiring poets eager to demonstrate their art in front of an audience of their own?

Seibles: “If you are a young poet in search of a chance to read or perform go to open mikes at bars and coffee shops.  There are usually several open mikes on campus, here, if you’re an ODU poet.  However, the most important thing you can do in service of your art is to READ deeply and widely.  There’s so much to learn from other writers, so many ways we might be awakened to what words can do.”

Also, if you are a creative writer of poetry or short-stories, consider submitting your masterpieces to The Mace & Crown’s Creative Enclave. Send your submissions to Derek Page at for the wonderful opportunity to see your work in print.

Will Willson

Staff Writer