Showcase Spotlight #7: John Yamrus

Since 1970 John Yamrus has published 25 volumes of poetry and 2 novels. He has also had more than 1,800 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 and Bengali. His poetry is taught in a number of colleges and universities. AS REAL AS RAIN is his newest book. 

John Yamrus - As Real As Rain

As Real As Rain
Poetry by John Yamrus
Illustrated by Janne Karlsson
8.27″ x 11.69″
80 pages, perfect bound
$15 plus shipping
ISBN: 978-1-926860-59-6

Copies of As Real As Rain can be ordered at either of these links via Epic Rites Press or at the website of John Yamrus.

Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, John, thank you for taking some of your time to do this interview at 17Numa. Hell, let’s cut to the chase and dive right in. You have a new book, As Real As Rain, set to fly off the presses in July. How does this collection feel at the moment while coursing through your veins, still being fresh and active in the blood?

John Yamrus: it’s like with any new project – kinda scary, if you want to tell the truth.  a bit of a relief to be done with it, and looking ahead.  i’ve been doing this a really long time and the feeling fortunately never gets old and never goes away.  it’s like that second right after jumping off a diving board where you’re waiting to feel the hit of the water.

STO: When you start working on a new book, do you set out an overall theme to guide the ship toward? Or are you taking a ride with the muse’s whims wherever they might happen to lead you day-to-day?

JY: no.  i never start out with a firm idea.  i wait until i have what feels like enough material for the book – or, the RIGHT material – for a book, and then i start pulling it together, looking at it to see exactly what it’s trying to say to me, then i start putting things into an order that has meaning and flow – a very real beginning, middle and end.

STO: You’ve been with Epic Rites Press now for several years. Can you talk a bit about how your relationship with the publisher, Wolfgang Carstens, began? How has it evolved over time?

JY: this’ll be my 9th book with Epic Rites Press, and, like i said, i’ve been doing this a long time…nearly 50 years…and hooking on with Epic Rites has been the best move i ever made.  Wolf and i hit it off right from the start…even before i started working with him.  i almost feel like we’re this couple of oddly separated brothers.  he’s the young crazy one, and i’m the older one who wishes he was crazy.  he’s certainly by far the best editor i’ve ever encountered.  he’s got a great eye for what works and what doesn’t…what’s good and what’s bad.  he’s got an eye for detail like nobody else around.  through sheer force of will and work and personality he’s turned Epic Rites Press into THE place to be.

STO: You’ve teamed up again with illustrator Janne Karlsson for this new collection. How does the collaborative process work between the two of you? Is he creating his art based off your finished poems? Or is there a back-and-forth of ideas that takes place? How do you feel his craft compliments yours?

JY: boy, i really hate to be the one to take the mystery and romance out of it, but it’s a whole lot simpler than that, and maybe because of that it’s a whole lot more complex to figure out or understand.  certainly, it’s more subtle.  for this particular project, we had this idea for the book, which works contrary to my usual process, but we had this idea and we had the poems and we really do have a great mutual trust and joy…from both of us, because he really has a blast experiencing the poems on their own and i have maybe an even bigger blast seeing what else he can mine from the ore.  we wanted this book to take the whole idea of POEMS, and explode it.  we wanted to have a book that people can read and keep and save and maybe at the same time want to rip apart and frame and hang on their wall.  we really wanted MORE.

STO: In reading past books of yours such as Alchemy and I Admit Nothing, there’s definitely a sense that you’re working with an objective to create just the right amount of bone on each poem where the reader still has to bring their own mind to flesh out the full body. There will be no further physiology references in this question, I promise. When did you truly find your groove with this sort of style? How conscious of the audience’s possible reactions to a particular poem are you while it’s taking shape?

JY: i almost don’t want to answer this one because i wouldn’t want to give you the impression that i hate many of my early books, but that’s just not the case.  even though there’s very little in them that i like, especially the VERY early ones, each and every one of them still managed to teach me a lot about the process of writing, being a writer and REALLY reaching across to the reader.  you mentioned ALCHEMY and I ADMIT NOTHING as examples of my “to the bone” style of writing…really, all 9 of my Epic Rites books work toward that end.  it’s really about getting the reader involved.  that was a hard thing for me to learn.  and, learning what NOT to say was and is absolutely the hardest.  it’s an ongoing thing.  there’s a poem in the new book that explains it:

John Yamrus - poem graphic

STO: When does the high come? When first sitting down to write? During the actual process itself? After it’s been completed? How long does the satisfaction last?

JY: that’s an odd question for me.  certainly a tough one to answer.  while i never feel the “high” as you call it, i DO feel it’s absence when i’m away from it.  does that make any sense? 

STO: I’ve heard you speak before about the necessity of putting in the work every day in order to make sure the job gets done. I’m paraphrasing, but something to that extent. Have you always had that surefire drive of dedication? Or was there some stage you hit along the way that hammered the lesson home?

JY: that’s the one thing i was always crystal clear and perfectly sure about.  it’s not fancy or smart or elite.  it’s not some holy thing.  it’s not sitting around, waiting for inspiration.  for every day of my life as long as i thought of being a writer it has always been about waking up and getting the job done.  maybe it’s the way i grew up.  we were coal miners.  the whole family.  the whole town.  no matter what it was that you did in life you just got up, got out and got the job done.  no magic.  no mystery.  just good, hard work.  and, because of that, i always felt myself to be – and prided myself in becoming – a lunch pail kind of writer who never made any big deal about the process, who just tucked his head down, lowered his shoulder and pushed ahead and got it done.  it DID take me a long time to figure out i wasn’t going to write the “great poem”…but, it eventually became clear to me that the great poem wasn’t in just one single poem…it was in the complete day after day, year after year, body of work.  that, for me, was and is the great poem.

STO: When a reader sets down their copy of As Real As Rain, what are a couple of thoughts you hope they might have floating around inside their head?

JY: god, that’s never crossed my mind!  i mean, i hope they don’t feel they’ve wasted their money or an hour of their time.  i hope to god they feel good about the book…maybe a little bit shaken or disturbed or even inspired.  maybe i’d even feel good about them ripping a page out and putting it up on the refrigerator or next to their morning mirror.  i think the greatest compliment would be having them thinking about sharing it with a friend or giving it as a gift.  that’d feel really really good.

STO: When you’re not writing, what other types of hobbies and activities do you get a kick out of?

JY: well, since i AM one of those writers whose only real subject is himself, that should be pretty obvious from reading my books, but, i read a hell of a lot…i love my wife, my dog, old movies and books. 

STO: Congratulations on the new book, John, and thank you again for your time. If there’s anything else you’d like to add that my questions missed the mark on or failed to broach altogether, please feel free to elaborate now. The floor belongs to you.

JY: no, thank YOU.  interviews like this are almost always a lot of fun, especially when someone takes the time (like you) to come up with interesting and challenging questions.  it gives me a chance to pretend that i know what i’m talking about.  at the end of the day i’m a pretty lucky guy.  i get to do things like this…every year or so i get to have my name on a book…and every night i get to fall asleep between clean sheets.  all things considered, that’s pretty damn good, don’t you think?

what else would i like?  i’d like to hear from readers.  on my website there’s a “contact” tab…people can write and tell me what they think of the work.  it won’t ever change me or my direction, but it’ll give people a chance to vent and tell me what worked and what didn’t.  what moved them or just fell flat.  like i said earlier, this book’s a real experiment.  it may work…and it may not…that (really) doesn’t matter.  what matters is trying.   what matters most is giving it a shot…saying this is me…now, what do you think of that?


May Recap … Toward a June Swoon

It is hard to describe any month in my life of late as being anything other than … blissful. Amazing and/or lovely should also suffice. I’m at peace. My mind is calm. My thoughts are clear. My body is clean. The present is bright, and the future is calling/screaming. I rarely use a phone, but I can still sense such sounds being signaled strongly in the atmosphere. Synchronicity was, is, and always will remain the station on the dial that I seek to tune my consciousness toward. Reception achieved. Breaker! Breaker! 10-4. Over and out.
By the Window 5
Thank you to all the editors associated with these 16 venues for accepting and/or publishing my work during the month of May:
Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine; Where Are You From? anthology; Poetry Leaves; Poetry Pacific; Dissident Voice; Writing Knights Press; Leaves of Ink; ELSiEiSY; Creative Talents Unleashed; Duane’s PoeTree; Scarlet Leaf Review; The Blue Mountain Review; Setu Mag; GloMag; Our Poetry Archive; and Synesthesia Literary Journal.
The Visions of Verse event held in Jasper, Georgia and hosted by the Southern Collective Experience served to kick off the festivities in May quite nicely. My poem “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” from the performance can be seen here on YouTube.
One of the five print publications that my work appeared in during the month, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, featured a review written by Sam Rose about my book, Happy Hour Hallelujah (copies of which are available here through the publisher, CTU).
Happy Hour Hallelujah front cover draft
I also had an opportunity to read several poems at an event in Sandy Springs, Georgia held at the Phoenix & Dragon bookstore. One of the pieces, “Midnight Wonder/Wander,” will be published as a signed and numbered limited edition broadside in the 48th Street Press 2017 series. It can be viewed here on YouTube (please subscribe to the new channel if you’d like to remain in the loop with my latest videos).
I fully enjoyed appearing on Marcia Epstein’s Talk With ME radio show a few weeks ago for an hour-long conversation about my current work and upcoming projects. Marcia is an incredibly gracious and supportive host, and the archive of our discussion can be listened to here on Lawrence Hits out of Kansas.
Poison in Paradise, my new book coming soon from Alien Buddha Press, is in the final stages of development. It’s going to be a full-length collection with over a dozen incredible color photographs (taken by publishers Jay Miner and Red Focks) included throughout. The poems in this book are compiled in such a way so as to reflect my spin on the tried-and-true tale about the hubris-filled fall from grace followed by a redemptive rise out of the ashes. Actually, a better way to phrase the synopsis would be: it’s an original work of art that was ripped from out the depths of my own soul. I wouldn’t dare try to pawn anything less on those who read it. I swear to God. Authenticity, after all, is the skeleton key to salvation. My hope is to open the doors to your hearts and minds with the words I pen. Lofty ambitions. But why settle for anything less in life, right? Right! Hot damn! I’m looking forward to sharing further details in the weeks ahead as a firm release date is set. I hope you’ll help support my work by purchasing a copy when Poison in Paradise becomes available.
Alien Buddha Press - Red Focks art
Anything else? You betcha! Setu Mag, a bilingual Hindi/English online publication, included a video link in their latest issue to my poetry recital from the Collective Sessions event which was held at Good Acting Studio in Marietta, Georgia not too long ago. I read three poems during my set, including “Transcending Definitions” which was recently translated into Afrikaans by Don Beukes. The full performance can be seen here.
Another selection of my work was also translated into Persian during May by Soodabeh Saeidnia for the Where Are You From? anthology. The three poems she lent her talents to can be listened to here on my SoundCloud page.
Podium 7
There were also plenty of goings-on at the four journals where I serve as an editor, The Blue Mountain Review, Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters. I will speak much more about all these venues in new posts coming soon.
All in all, I feel a sense of satisfaction for what was accomplished during May, though I will never become complacent because I’m still nowhere near to where I hope to one day be. Thank you to everyone who supports my journey. Your kindness means the world to me. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, peace-filled, successful month of June ahead!
Scott Thomas Outlar



(Make the Two as One)

Why did humanity cross the road?
Because we longed to breathe fresh air again.
Some said there was no other choice
but to set the ships toward Mars,
but, my God!,
I’d rather hang around
and ride the next wave
as earth regains its rhythm
and begins to rise again.
Some said the blackout was certain
as the curtains continued falling day by day,
but sweet salvation
would never close down Broadway
until the final act
on every street
reaches fever pitch.
Some said we’re due a fire, a flood, a quake, a storm
as fault lines wrench and come undone,
but the colors of hallelujah
keep singing holy all the while
until the harshest shift settles down
and new electric vibrations start to sway.
Why did humanity cross the road?
Because evolution was never snuffed out of survival’s DNA.

(Crossing Over)


Translated Poems in Afrikaans

It was quite an honor and thrill to have two poems of mine translated into the Afrikaans language by my dear friend, Don Beukes. “Detoxification” and “Transcending Definitions” can be read here at his website.
An even cooler surprise was learning that he recorded recitations of my translated work on his SoundCloud page. His wonderful versions can be listened to at these links:
Ontgiftiging (Detoxification)
Definisies Sonder Perke (Transcending Definitions)
Don Beukes - salamander logo 2
To find out more about Don’s work, please check out this in-depth interview he did for a recent Showcase Spotlight here at 17Numa where he talked about his life and debut poetry book, The Salamander Chronicles.

Snapshot of Sweet Salvation by Scott Thomas Outlar

Cheers and thank you to Melanie Wolfe and Inigo Online Magazine for publishing my poem “Snapshot of Sweet Salvation” recently…

Grass stains in my mind
where I tripped through your thoughts
for a flash, for an instant,
for a moment
captured (click-click) in time.

Big hope on the wire
where birds balance their souls
with a feather, with a fire,
with a heart
fluttering (kiss-kiss) across the scales.

Rain drops through the sky
where the winter takes aim
with a shiver, with a shake,
with a dose
melting (drip-drip) on wet tongues.

War hawks on the rise
where the old gods have fallen
for a ruse, for a hoax,
for a hope
cutting (snip-snip) through illusions.

Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. His work has received nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Scott serves as an editor for The Blue Mountain Review, Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Peregrine Muse…

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Two Poems | by Scott Thomas Outlar

Thank you to Communicators League for publishing two of my poems recently…

Communicators League

Midnight Wonder/Wander


Head in the clouds,

soul on the brink

of salvation and/or annihilation

at any/every moment.

The signs in the sky

appear to point out our future in space.

The signs in my mind

seek to find the path home to source.

But the signs on the street

are marketed for entirely different ends,

singing their songs about realtors

who have erected

new neighborhoods

as far as the eye can see

in this suburban wonderland

(Call Alice;

she might know

the truth by now).

Chopping down trees,

chasing deer

from their home.

Come meet me at midnight,

my friend;

we’ll stare straight

into heaven’s void together.

I too know

what it is

to roam.

Taxing the System

Rain –

soaked to the marrow,

to the soil,

to the point

past saturation.

God –

whispering the truth,

a little too loose

for the likes

of falling angels.

Roots –

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Author Scott Thomas Outlar: Platitudes toward Paradise

Cheers and thank you to Raja Williams for posting this excerpt from Happy Hour Hallelujah at the CTU Publishing site recently…

Creative Talents Unleashed

It has been said

a time or two

that the early bird

gets the worm,

so I’m up with the dawn

to dive into the dirt,

rip into the soil,

and tear apart the Earth

until I get mine.

I’ve heard it spoken

by three or thirty

that nothing is ever easy,

so I’m breathing deeply

until perfect mindfulness

completely engulfs my psyche

and I become able

to laugh at and be thankful

for every little challenge

that helps toughen my resolve

toward the enlightenment I seek.

Some people sing

about how chaos leads to order

in this experience

full of pain and pleasure,

and I couldn’t agree more,

so I raise my voice on high

with the symphony of the spheres,

praising this precious life

for all its ups and downs

as I rise and fall

in rhythm with each stage

that guides me along

toward the fate etched…

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