Russel Micnhimer has been writing poetry for forty five years while working at a variety of jobs and travelling throughout the world pursuing his interests in archaeology and rock art. His poetry has appeared in various journals and anthologies including Camel Saloon, Destiny Poets, Mad Swirl, Resonance and Colors of Refuge Etc.He is author of several books on rock art, fiction and poetry including Leaves and Pebbles, Lotus Mirage, a collection of 52 new ghazals and Notes to Be Left with the Gatekeeper published by Global Fraternity of Poets for which he has been bestowed with Poet Laureate
Presently, he lives in a secluded cabin with a two hundred mile view of the snow capped Cascade Mountains out the front window in Central Oregon and approximately seven thousand volume library he has acquired through the years. He leads a retired life pursuing his archaeological interests along with spending an increasing amount of time writing new poetry and retrieving poems from the hundreds of notebooks he kept over the years.
This Interview was conducted via email
Andrea Ashima: Thank you so much, Mr. Micnhimer, for agreeing to answer some questions that I always wanted to ask since I first got a chance to read some of your poems that are part of your book ‘ These Days And Nights-A Universal Peace Evocation‘ and loved them. You write poems, plays, novels, fiction. What do you enjoy writing most?
D Russel Micnhimer: After trying my hand at many other kinds of writing, including reporting and article writing, I would have to say that poetry gives me the most pleasure to write. I think it is the freedom to play with language, rather than using it for a purpose that makes me feel that way. I made a living writing advertising contracts and ad copy for 30 plus years so that was a very repetitious form of writing that involved little creativity, but it paid the bills. Recently I have been getting paid to write a couple of blog posts a month, so that is a relatively new genre of writing that I enjoy somewhat, but not nearly as much as poetry.
Andrea Ashima: When did you start writing and what inspired you to do so?
D Russel Micnhimer: I grew up on a family farm with animals to take care of, gardening, irrigating and many other endless physical tasks to do from the time I was about eight. From there I joined the Marine Corps which involved some very hard physical tasks, like running twenty miles with a 30 pound knapsack and an 8 pound rifle. So I very consciously, just before I got out of the service, asked myself what I wanted to do. I decided that I had plenty of physical labor so some how I reasoned that a pencil was about the lightest tool one could wield and perhaps make a living. So I started writing long letters and poems to my girlfriend. So I guess to answer your question, it was either laziness or love—take your pick.
I half awaken on an island half way between world of real and world of dream
It is on no map, no chart marks its anchor amongst the waves of flexing tides.
I came from some where in a consensual sea with borders long upon agreed
There is a land and womb from which I emerged, in records it is well marked.
I gaze around searching for that key that will open mystery of where I am
To me, show if it is wine dark surrrounding sea or some land invisible afar.
And then I hear your voice and hope for rescue rises from within me new
Voice, though from afar, seems near and speaks with tone to be believed.
I do not ask from whence you come or what realm creates your words
But I cannot not listen to songs your voice plays on strings of my heart .
With each listen to your songs, my heart wish to escape island grows less
Your words are sweetness that sustains growth; we become what we think.
Andrea Ashima: Tell us something about your childhood. What kind of books did you read and who were your favorite writers?
D Russel Micnhimer: I, as well as my two brothers and sister, were very fortunate that we had a mother who read to us nearly every evening from the time we were small. That lead to a great love of reading and since I had been exposed to language in that way, I don’t remember having any trouble learning to read and from then on I read everything I was able to and could get my hands on. Comic books were big and all the neighbor kids had some too, so there were always stacks of those around.
By the time I was in sixth grade I was reading many books on a huge variety of subjects. I remember there was a Landmark Series of books that had books about nearly any person or historical occasion you can imagine. Then in early high school I discovered mysteries and I read everyone of those I could find. There was a small, but big by my experience, county library and we got to go there once a week and check out as many books as we thought we could read in a week. That was wonderful. When I ran out of mysteries, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars series which were the first science fiction I read. That set me on a lifelong love of that genre and when I read these days it is usually science fiction. Burroughs is still among my favorite writers. Somewhere in all that I managed to read many of the classics like Swiss Family Robinson, Kidnapped, Moby Dick and the like.
Andrea Ashima: You have traveled a lot, not only in America but all around the world. How has it affected your writing?
D Russel Micnhimer: Although I attempted to keep travel journals, I was really only successful by doing it religiously during the four months I spent in Peru. I think that by traveling, it somehow that is hard to describe, de-regionalized my voice. By hearing many different languages in many different environments among many cultures it some how infused my language with a greater degree of flexibility that enable it to be understood by a wider spectrum of people. That is a great question, but a difficult one to answer.
Andrea Ashima: Did you visit India during your travels? Tell us something about your experience?
D Russel Micnhimer: I spent about six weeks in India, mostly the kind of central part. I visited innumerable temples of all kinds, particularly the more ancient ones (archaeology is an intense interest of mine.) The caves of Ellora were extremely impressive. I am as a rule a country boy who doesn’t much like urban crowds. So the over all impression of traveling there was getting rid of hundreds of cab drivers, trying to find quiet places to sleep and trying to find cold beer.
That is probably not a very fair way of characterizing my travels there as there were many pleasant experiences as well. I once went out walking around one night and kind of wandered into two weddings from two different religions and was treated at both as an honorable guest. Some where there are someone’s wedding pictures with me right in there smiling with the bride and groom!
I think what I liked most was the endless variety of everything, every where, all the time. I love variety and in India one could never exhaust that I think.
For Your Smiles I Long – A Ghazal
How hours grow long as for your smiles I long
Minutes turn to days while for your smiles I long
Suddenly season is upon us when sun lingers most
A moment without is forever, for your smiles I long
A thousand li I walk toward you in my dreams
Horizons grow no closer when for your smiles I long
Imagined wings soar me to unimagined heights
None high enough to mirror for your smiles I long
Toward all faces of the wind I look in search
Of traces in furled grasses, for your smiles I long
In all rustling of leaves, long hear my voice cry out
Will never grow parched as for your smile I long.
Andrea Ashima: You have done extensive research on rock art and written many books and papers. How did two such different hobbies develop?
D Russel Micnhimer: Rock art had been on the periphery of many archaeology pursuits for a long time but when I learned that Oregon, the state where I live had over two hundred sites, most of them in very remote wild places and I started visiting them, I realized that few had ever been to most of the sites. So I built a website that eventually ended up with nearly 13.000 photos on it. Http://www.oregonrockart.com . My research and ability to write allowed me to share the experience with others in a number of written forms including a couple of books on the subject.http://meaningofrockart.com/
And you know, all these various ways I employ writing are still a lot less physical work than cleaning the barn or humping a pack and a rifle.
Thank you for interviewing me, Andrea. Your questions were insightful and touched on many key things about me being a writer. It will be really cool to see it on your blog.