Poet Profile: Edwin Romond
Edwin Romond taught English for 32 years in Wisconsin and New Jersey, garnering Princeton's "Distinguished Secondary School Teaching Award" and many other accolades in the course of that career. Along the way, he established himself as a gifted poet; his award-winning work has appeared in numerous literary journals, college text books, and anthologies, and has been featured on National Public Radio. Edwin is also a playwright and composer, and his prose memoir, "The Ticket," appears in Tim Russert's book, Wisdom of Our Fathers. A native of Woodbridge, NJ, Edwin now lives in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, with his wife and son. Since retiring in 2003, he has become increasingly active in poety events and readings and was, most recently, a featured speaker at the 2010 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.
I have been interested in writing from the time I was nine years old. My first meaningful experience with putting words on paper was sending letters to the New York Yankees and many even wrote back. I also used to write an account of a baseball game I had just watched on TV, and then compare it to the one in the New York newspaper the following morning. I wrote for my high school newspaper and yearbook and also wrote film reviews for my college paper. My love of writing turned to poetry, however, after I had attended a reading by Robert Bly. His poetry elevated my academic interest in poetry to a personal passion and soon after hearing him at Rutgers University I began to turn by lifelong love of writing toward the making of poems.
How did you come to be a professional poet?
My first experience with publishing came because of one of my students. A very close friend of mine was moving to Hawaii and I wrote a poem as a farewell to him. I read it to one of my classes at Metuchen High School in New Jersey and a student said, “You should try to get that published.” As luck would have it, right after that class I went to my main office mail box where there was a brochure inviting submissions to a book made up of only teachers’ poetry. Just for the heck of it I mailed them the poem for my friend and months later I learned they had accepted it. I was thrilled when I saw it in print and that was how I became interested in publishing my poetry.
Do you have favorite poets or poems?
I will limit my response to contemporary poets. The following are some poems and poets I admire very much: Gary Soto’s “Oranges,” Stephen Dobbins’ “Shaving,” Robert Bly’s “Snowbanks North of the House,” BJ Ward’s “The Star-Ledger,” Mary Oliver’s “In Blackwater Woods,” Galway Kinnell’s “Olive Wood Fire,” Sharon Olds’ “First Love,” Stephen Dunn’s “Desire,” James Wright’s “A Blessing,” Joseph Pintauro’s “Lizzie and Blondie,” Michael Blumenthal’s “Night Baseball,” Li-Young Lee’s “Station,” and Donald Hall’s “Old Timers’ Day.”
What's the most interesting "poetry pilgrimage" you've ever made?
I went to Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, MA, and it was very emotional for me. To stand in front of that house and reflect upon all the astounding, culture-changing poetry that was written right behind those walls ---- what a moment that was!
In the great scheme of things, where does poetry fit in?
Art is what makes us human and what keeps us human and I am convinced that having a place in your life for art is essential. I regret that in these times of economic turmoil the first place people want to make cuts is in support of the arts in schools and in our nation as a whole. To be fully alive requires our attention and connection to matters of the human spirit because such attention is what keeps us living instead of just breathing.
Describe your writing routine and/or process.
I am retired now but when I was teaching I would usually work on drafts during the school year and spend the summer revising them. Now that I have more time I usually write in the morning, although I don’t write every single day. The older I get the more I enjoy the process of writing and I am not in the rush that I once was to “finish” a poem. I keep a notebook where I write ideas for new poems and I have a few poet friends whom I share drafts with. One of the biggest changes in my writing life is my willingness now to give a draft more time between efforts. In general, I am more patient - I don’t try to push the river anymore.
What's the most absurd thing you've ever written a poem about?
I recently completed a silly poem in which our dog, Nabby, “speaks” to us about how angry he is that we had left him alone all afternoon. It’s my first (and probably last!) attempt to write from the point of view of a dog.
When/where are you most inspired?
I am not one to go to a specific place to write but I have found that I am very inspired to write after I have heard a really fine poet read in person. There’s something about excellent poetry being read in a dynamic fashion that stokes my creative fire. For example, I once heard Galway Kinnell and Robert Bly read together in a tribute to James Wright in New York City. It was an incredible evening and when I returned home I wanted to write all night.
Which classic poet would you most like to meet, and why?
I love John Keats and his life story has for many years been fascinating for me. I would love to speak with him about his writing and his all too brief life. Probably I would spend a great deal of my visit with him discussing his poem, “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be.”
Is there some consistent trademark or characteristic that you've discovered in your poetry?
I write only about what is important to me so most of my poems are about the three loves of my life: my family, my teaching, and my favorite sport which is baseball. I have, of course, written about other topics over the years but, for the most part, I write about what matters to me personally. The challenge therefore is to try to make poems about whom / what I love meaningful to other people as well. I realize that I am not always successful in this regard.
Anything else you'd like to share--advice, anecdotes, forthcoming adventure, etc?
If a writer has three hours to devote to poetry I suggest that one of those three hours should be spent reading the work of accomplished poets. Putting ourselves in the company of masters of the craft helps us grow in ways we probably can’t even identify.
Many thanks to Edwin for his time and reflection on these questions. You're invited to read some of his wonderful poems in the YDP archives.