The heat of June continues on my blog with a poet. I’m a fan of anyone who’s battled demons and persevered. That’s what I found most endearing about Peter Wesley when I met him on Twitter. Only after he’d agreed to do the interview, did I also learn the Chicago Tribune named him as one of its most influential people based on his use of Twitter.
In a city with a population of close to 3 million, Peter comes in at #12 on KLOUT’s Chicago List, a company that identifies people whose opinions carry weight with others for social media marketing. Of course, this is not what drew me to Peter, though I now think he was exercising his influence on me, and I didn’t even know it! What impressed me about this gentleman was his poetry—both from his tweets and his blog.
Poetry has always helped inspire me, and I think it takes a special skill to be able to write it well. When I connect with a poet who touches something in me, it’s a wonderful feeling. Peter is one of those poets, and I’m happy he’s agreed to share some of his time with us today.
Please welcome poet and man of influence, Peter Wesley.
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Peter has three books of poetry: Boredom over the Viaduct (1985) Fear of Butterflies (1997) and Homage to Vernon Dent and other poems (2002). Currently, he is in the process of doing a redux of Fear of Butterflies for release in October 2011.
He lives in Chicago.
Inside Peter Wesley’s Mind
What is your idea of perfect happiness? I have never been truly able to answer that. Maybe when I find out what happiness is, then I will find it.
What turns you on creatively? I can be inspired by any number of things, some of light some of darkness. A current poem I am working on for a mystery magazine is a narrative describing a middle aged college professor trying to pick up a hooker on the Internet for a trip to Mardi Gras.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? In speech, I catch myself saying “as I said” way too often. Not sure in writing. Have to think about it.
What quality do you most admire in a man or a woman? I am combining these two questions because I admire the same qualities in both men and women. One word: Authenticity. Dishonesty and pretense tends to diminish all people and is America’s greatest indoor sport. I would rather deal with an honest ditch digger than a dishonest writer. What people do is not as important as who they are. Literature, in its truest form, deals with the inner voice with all people; if that inner voice is a lie, their works are lies, and they cannot reach out to others.
What is your greatest regret? To keep peace in my marriage, I quit writing almost entirely after Fear of Butterflies. I would like to have that time back. I suffered a major heart attack in 2005 and a minor one this year, so I don’t know how much time I have left. Now I write every day because I have to.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I know it sounds shallow, but I don’t care: my appearance. A deeper answer would be my temper, I try and be as gentle with people as possible, but I have flown into rages. I am an alcoholic. What’s that t-shirt thing, “Instant Asshole–Just Add Alcohol.”
What is your greatest fear? Butterflies. You saw the book title. No that is not true, title is a metaphor. Having faced death in a very painful way (MI’s aren’t fun). I don’t know, other than leaving the earth without making a statement. I have no children (that I’m aware of) so I don’t have that to leave behind.
Which living person do you most admire? This one was a bit of a poser; but it comes down to two. I have interests in both poetry and politics. For poetry, far and away the poet I admire most is Tess Gallagher, widow of the late author Raymond Carver. She has settled into a Rimbaud-style silence of late, part out of illness. Her first collection of poetry, Instructions to the Double, should be required reading for membership to the human race. In politics I would have to say Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Publisher & Editor of The Nation magazine. Among the persons on TV who could be called ‘Talking Heads’, hers is a voice of brilliant optimism sans snark. More of that is needed.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I am currently a real estate broker, not a professional writer. I have also worked as a banker, bartender, ticket scalper, night club DJ, radio DJ, vending route operator, and even tried astrology. I will never figure out what I want to be when I grow up. It’s just as well.
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? A butterfly. When the redux of Fear of Butterflies comes out, you’ll want to come back as one too.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Surviving a heart attack. When you see the other side & begin feeling your mind escape your body, and you hold on. That’s as good as anyone can hope for.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Pretense. Keeps people from their humanity.
What is your greatest extravagance? I eat too much at times. I also spend a lot of money on my cats. But, well they’re cats and you have to.
What is one thing you want to do before you die? I would like to figure out what happiness is. Maybe I shall one day.
What is your present state of mind? I am optimistic. I do feel I am beginning to live the life I was meant to live. I think I am creating now with a greater sweep than I had before. I also know that, because of the heart disease, I could go at any minute. We all live with that. I want to live every moment I have left as if it were my last.
What are some of your favorite curse words? I try to avoid curse words. I use them in speech, but seldom in writing. Why bother, they are a crutch for many writers. I did use the word “cocksucker” in the second book of Fear of Butterflies in a scene where Lenny Bruce is being arrested at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago. But that’s really it.
What is your motto? “We don’t own the words we write; we borrow them with a rent exacted by the levers of favor or scorn.”
Connect with Peter
Thank you, Peter for being a man of refreshing candor and giving such unique responses. I invite all readers to leave him a comment or ask a question. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.