Behind the Words: John Repp

Posted by on Apr 6, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: John Repp

John Repp was published in the sixth issue of Spry Literary Journal. He takes a moment to catch up with co-founding editor Erin Ollila on writing and process.
Erin Ollila: I’m always so interested on what sparks an idea for a poem. Where did the spark of inspiration for “The Invention of Gunpowder” come from?
John Repp: I don’t know. Although I don’t keep track of such things, I’m reasonably sure I worked on this poem periodically over a long period, as I’ve done with all but a very few of my poems. Rereading it now, I suspect the “spark” came from the ox roast/Whippy Dip pairing, and I followed its teeter-totter lead as best I could.
Is poetry the only genre you write in? If so, what do you like/dislike about the form? If you write in other genres, which is your favorite?
No, I’ve written fiction, essays, book reviews, and the occasional political/social polemic. I’ve also played around with every other genre you can name but nothing (so far) has announced itself as “finished” in those other genres. My favorite “other genre” is fiction.
If you could go back and edit this piece, would you? Why or why not, and what, (if anything) would you change?
No. It’s as finished as I can make it.
As a writer, I’m always so interested in the path that bought poets to poetry. At what point in your writing career did you start writing poetry? If you ever write prose, do you find you struggle with it or find it easier?
I started writing poetry (or “poetry”) as the stereotypically gloomy, lovelorn, melodramatically alienated white lower-middle-class 1960s/70s American hormone-addled male adolescent I was. I didn’t hear poetry/writing as the calling it’s long been until January, 1977 when I was nearly twenty-four.
Whether or not prose is “easier” depends on the piece of prose. Thinking about it now, I do think prose is generally easier.
Whose work has had the most profound impact on your writing?
Today, right this minute (the list changes every time I’m asked this question): Walt Whitman, Frank O’Hara, C.K. Williams, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Roth
Do you ever let anyone read your work while in progress? If so, who? If not, why?
No. “Sharing” work-in-progress stopped being useful to me (and to those with whom I once “shared” it) many years ago.
What 5 writers would you invite to your house for a meal (dead or alive)? What would you serve them?
Living? Today, right this minute: Mark Halliday, Lynn Emanuel, Maggie Anderson, Rebecca Solnit, Margo Lanagan
Dead? Today, right this minute: Walt Whitman, John Keats, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Frank O’Hara
The food? Right now, it would be buckwheat pancakes, fresh blueberries, maple syrup, and a rasher of bacon.
How big is your “In-Progress” folder? How many works-in-progress make it to a final draft?
As big as the various manifold jottings piled and scattered wherever I happen to be. I don’t know how to answer the second question, except to say “However many deserve to.”

Erin Ollila is a writer and content strategist who helps big brands and small businesses share stories and build relationships with their customers. She has her MFA from Fairfield University in creative nonfiction. When Erin’s not editing Spry or writing for clients, she’s either drinking coffee or trying to take a nap.