George Wallace











RD: – George Wallace is a regular on the NYC poetry and performance scene who maintains a regular reading, lecture and poetry workshop touring schedule across the US and Europe. First poet laureate of Suffolk County and Writer in Residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace in West Hills NY, he is author of 24 chapbooks of poetry published in the US, UK, Italy and Greece, and adjunct professor of English at Pace University in Manhattan. Among George’s appearances: US: Woody Guthrie Festival (Okemah OK); Mabel Dodge Luhan House (Taos NM); Church of Beethoven (Albuquerque NM); Beyond Baroque (Los Angeles Ca); the John Steinbeck Center (Salinas Ca); Beat Museum (San Francisco Ca); and Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival (Lowell Ma). UK: Robert Burns Centre (Dumfries, Scotland); the Dylan Thomas Centre (Swansea, Wales); Citizen 32 Fuel Bar (Manchester UK); John Ruskin’s Brantwood (Cumbria UK). OTHER About Art (Athens Gr); Shakespeare & Co (Paris Fr).






George Wallace you’re a writer of international stature, with a sacred past as a poet and performer! Very active very creative in the world of American poets and artists, tell us, please, where your love for poetry comes from?

Who introduced you to poetry?






GW: – I’m like everyone! I was introduced to poetry in the womb. Music, poetry, the burning spark of creation pulsing in around and through us. Call it what you want, it underlies & courses through everything we see hear smell touch taste in this world. That’s my sacred past, it’s everyone’s sacred past and we all discover it in the womb and possess that vision. But living in the world the sacred vision is obscured. ‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting’ – Wordsworth got it close. A lot of us forget because the conscious brain throws a blanket over our primal vision. Me, I was lucky, I didn’t forget.


RD: – Why?


GW: – I think it was my big sister and her goddamn piano. first time I heard her strike a fat chord with one hand and bang out a clumsy melody with the other, I remembered the ‘music of the spheres’ I first encountered, like everyone else, in the womb. & I realized at that moment that if you mess with things – a piano, a cascade of words, images ideas or buttons in a jar – you can be a creator of that music yourself. Other people can think what they want. For me, nothing else i can do in this world is better than that. It’s a curse!



George Wallace reads :



RD: – Since the end of Levure littéraire is dedicated to the Child, I would like to talk with you, as Child Georges. How has he lived George Wallace as a young child? How your childhood you determined in your writings of later?


GW: – We carry our ghosts within us. And what ghosts more hauntingly powerful or profound than the ones that came to inhabit us in childhood. Mine are magnificent bastards! Displaced, transmuted, resurrected or raw, they terrify and enchant me. I dare not name them by name, for fear they will undo me. Yet through my creative process I dance with them. It is a delicious death grip by which I hold them and they hold me. I yearn to seduce them as they subdued and seduced me.


RD: – Do you think the author of poetry is rooted in his childhood? A great French poet, poet-philosopher Yves Bonnefoy, nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, with whom I did an interview, told me that all his life he remained a sensitive child. What would you say?






GW: – Like other kinds of people, some poets are rooted in their childhood. Sure! We have sensitive poets and bedwetting poets. Bully poets and bewildered and crybaby poets. Poets who ignore you and others who chirp like a cricket when you enter the room. Poets who can charm the pants right off you, and others that will kick sand in your face with a smile, or steal your lunch. Were they like that as children? Probably! Have they grown since then? Doubtful!

Then again, some poets are emergent creatures, and refuse to see their origins as an end point of a trap, but as a platform for what they may become.

I’m like them, I suppose. The way i figure it, why consign yourself to ‘remain’ what you were when you were a kid when you can devote your life to discovering new depths and dimensions? Yves Bonnefoy has his reasons to say he has ‘remained’ some particular thing. I have my reasons to think otherwise.


RD: – Of course…


GW: – Roots are roots, seeds are seeds. They’re not the whole plant. They’re not even the flower or the fruit of the plant, at least not usually. Ok turnips, potatoes. But I’m not a root crop kind of guy. I want to hurl my leaves and branches out into the open air and toward the sun!

Let Yves Bonnefoy be what he must be. I want to be one of Antoine de St Exupéry’s seeds yearning for the sun. Let Yves Bonnefoy’s horse be tethered by gravity to the terrestrial earth of his childhood. I want to ride like Andres Breton, imagine a horse galloping across a tomato, or flying weightlessly through heaven.


RD: – George Wallace, your named is associated with surrealism in America but it also has strong resonance with the European Surrealist literature. How do you feel about Surrealism? Why is it still fashionable?






GW: – There were a number of movements in early to mid-20th century poetry -futurism, cubism, dada, and surrealism in particular – that were explored effectively in Europe, also in Latin America. Not so much so in the US, where Pound & Eliot’s academic modernism case a huge shadow over things. My exposure to the body of work in these areas is from what was done by Europeans and South Americans, mostly in translation. Of course in the US there was ee cummings and certain work by William Carlos Williams, and then through the Beat movement and Avante Garde a number of people, like Charles Henri Ford and Philip Lamantia. Ferlinghetti’s little book of translations of poems by Jacques Prevert was enormously important to me.






RD: – Why is it still fashionable?


GW: – Because it’s still fun! The Nobel Prize committee thinks so, evidently, they just picked Tomas Transtromer in 2011. As for us in America, I think we have plenty of ground yet to cover in seeing what we can do to explore the possibilities of these movements in our national context.


RD- What are your references in field of literature? Your Teachers, your literary models?






GW: – American Transcendentalists (Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau), Muckrakers & Populists (Sandburg, Reed, Kalar), Beat BopProsodists & New York School (Kerouac, Ginsburg, O’Hara, Clausen), European & South American Cubists & Surrealists (Cendrars, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Breton, Soupault, Sachtouris, Elytis, Huidobro, Neruda) and a host of spoken word performers on the current poetry scene.


RD: – How do you write? Thoughtfully? After mature reflection? Your writing is there a direct jet? Automatic, a dictation of the unconscious?






GW: – Richard Hugo has a good explanation of what I do in his ‘Triggering Town. I’m a poet who discovers what he is going to write about through the writing process. The energy in a few words or a phrase suggests a direction for me to go — their sound & rhythm, the complexion of their meaning, and I open myself to as wide a field of exploratory possibilities to DISCOVER what I will write about. I also tend to complete a poem in one sitting – using words as ‘live’ material to create a product that is essentially complete before it dries. Think watercolor or gouache. Think fresco. Both of these aspects of my process tend to result in work that retains the excitement of first discovery.


RD: – For you?


GW: – For me anyhow!


RD: -What are the rewards that you bring your writing?


GW: – The biggest reward is this — every day I wake up and I’m a poet. I’m an artist. I have a new set of waking hours to turn my dreams and thoughts and feelings into artistic creations. So to me every day I wake up I’ve won at the game of life. Is there anything better than that? I think not.


RD: – What have you in common with European surrealists? What differentiates you from them?


GW: – Surrealism isn’t a doctrine to me. It’s a tool. One of a number in an arsenal of tools that I use in my craft. I’m a simple guy, simple and intuitive and results oriented. I’m not interested in manifestos or definitions. I just want a tool that fits my hand.






RD: – What puts you in revolt in this world?


GW: – Change is in the nature of things in this world, including revolution. I’m just part of that, what’s the big deal. To the extent I revolt, it is a joyous thing. I believe in the grace inherent in all things, that we are all ‘beautiful sunflowers inside,’ like Ginsburg says in Sunflower Sutra. I believe that humans mess with things in this world, and that when they screw things up it’s just something that has to be picked up, dusted off, and pasted back together. Corruption happens not because people are corrupt, but because they’re imperfect by nature. When I see corruption in people, I say something. Is that revolt?


RD: – What is then?


GW: – Step in and clean it up if we can. Is that revolt? I think not. I’m just trying to help out and get us to the next, hopefully higher place. Yes I can be a poet of witness. Yes I can be a poet of conscience. But I don’t think I’m an angry poet. Ginsburg says ‘We are not our skin of grime,’ and I believe that. Call me an idiot, but if I see grime, I’m going to mention it.


RD: – Is your imagination fed from reality? Or it is purely fantasy, in revolt?


GW: – I don’t think of fantasy is a revolt against reality any more than I think emotional love is a revolt against intellectual love. And in terms of my poetry, I don’t make a distinction between the levels of reality of different perceptive states. I mean if I’m driving on the highway my idea of useful reality is quite narrow. But when I’m writing poems? Dreams, imagination, fantasy, unconscious – they’re all perfectly fine realities to me. So are memories, observations, passions, basic urges, social impulses and conscious experiences. Equal in value, all fine as material for the creative process.


RD: – What does a surrealist poet dream at night?


GW: – That he is awake and a surreal poet.






RD: – And during the day?

GW: – That he has not really awake.












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Reporter: Rodica Draghincescu


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