Five Questions with Ron Riekki:
Five Questions with Ron Riekki:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
Ever since I was a child and had no training, I have been writing poetry. I would experiment, especially when I was feeling any emotion strongly - sadness, anger, boredom, happiness. In the military, I worked with some DJs I was stationed with in Diego Garcia and started writing a lot of hip-hop lyrics, which is where I learned form - again, with no training. I listened to a lot of political hip-hop, like X Clan, Brand Nubian, and Def Jef and that really influenced me to write politically-minded lyrics, stuff like "Analyzing society, we see that we're f---ed / I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt / your TV program / 'cause you're programmed / by Big Brother..." Poetry was always catharsis for me, but to also have it be bonding socially, where you're working with a talented DJ (one was named DJ KGB and the other was DJ Jazzy A, both very good with turntables) was just bliss. It wasn't until college that I started studying it though, really working on taking my writing to another level. I've only had three poetry teachers - Eric Torgersen, Anselm Hollo, and Gregory Orr and they greatly influence how I look at a poem (combined with just plain youthful exuberance and hip-hop aesthetic).
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most influenced and informed your work?
My favorite poets are too long to list. I tend to read everyone and everything. On the hip-hop side, I adore MC Serch and consider him a friend, along with Jus Rhyme and DJ SirReal and Gozza. Also, K-os, Zack de la Rocha, Loco Locass, Sinik, Kery James, Abd Al Malik, M.I.A., El-P, Beastie Boys, Kool Savas, Q-Tip, Pharcyde, DMX, T.I., Ice T, ICP, Common Market, Nas, Dead Prez, Fettes Brot, Mos Def, D-Nice, Blumentopf, The Streets, Black Moon, Texta, Kinderzimmer Productions, Menelik... I'll stop there. I could make a very long list. Especially if I got into the poetry of other music genres (Coeur de pirate, for example). On the page, I like Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, Victoria Nunoo, Sally Brunk, Austin Hummell, Bob Hicok, James Tate, Tom Hunley, Jonathan Johnson, Catie Rosemurgy, Keith Taylor, Jim Zukowski, Amiri Baraka, Jim Carroll... again, I could go on for a long time. The most influential poets though have been my three teachers - Torgersen, Hollo, and Orr. I see them in all of my poems. Eric Torgersen taught me brevity. Anselm Hollo taught me to break out of standard thinking. And Gregory Orr taught me to go very deep into honesty.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
Great question. I've never been asked it. I'd say my dream has always been to have a full-length poetry book. I've been working on it for years now, but it's not ready yet. At all. Maybe in a year or two though. And I think these poems will be in it. One day... I just haven't had the money to send out a poetry manuscript. Which is maybe good, as I need time to get it perfected. But it really is a dream of mine though. I've had some chapbooks in the meantime, but a full-length book would be a dream come true.
4. What inspired you to get to know Ghanaian poetry? The work of these particular authors?
I am a huge fan of multicultural everything. Even with hip-hop, I got into an argument with music critic Jeff Chang once; he was saying all real hip-hop comes from New York and only New York. I said he was crazy and even said that the best hip-hop comes from outside of New York, which got him going, so we kept arguing while I was driving him to go shopping for records. But my argument was that songs like Kery James "Banlieusards" or a handful of Menelik songs or Loco Locass's best RATM-style rants are masterpieces. He thought I was going to go West Coast on him, but I went global, multi-coast instead. So if it's hip-hop or poetry on the page, I'm always looking globally for awesome voices and it was the Best of the Net nomination for One Ghana, One Voice that drew me to your journal. I started reading it and loving it and hoping I could get into it. So I just have to say this - I'm very happy and honored to be included in your pages. And I'm also really happy that I'm getting to include poems that will hopefully have people seeking the poetry of Jacob Osae, Victoria Nunoo, and Novisi Dzitrie, as they are incredibly talented. Much more so than I am with poetry. Victoria, in particular, has an ability to make me cry that most poets are just unable to do. That's pretty powerful to be able to do that. And I love the deceptively raw simplicity and power of her words, something as subtle as the end of her poem "She Is": "A refreshing breath / She is Obaa Yaa / My love story..." Maybe it comes from that first poetry class of mine with Eric Torgersen, who is a master of the epigrammatic form, but poets who can impact me emotional (like I learned from Orr) and can do it in a few words (learned from Torgersen) in an intriguing, unique way (learned from Hollo) capture my poetic heart.
5. Have you written many of these short poems dedicated to particular writers? What inspired you to try this form?
Another great question. I've had five poems dedicated to writers that have been published: "William S. Burroughs" in Brittle Star, "Ann Beattie" and "Kendrah McKay" in Melusine, and "Amy Lynn Hess" and "Andrea K. Devenney" in Jones Av. That's all I've written. But I do find it very fun to do and it provides a wonderful focus. I loved reading a bunch of writing by Osae, Nunoo, and Dzitrie while writing poems about and for them. It allows me to not write about myself, which is freeing, as I tend to do that too often. I think that's what inspired me to try that form, was wanting to escape myself, as poems about myself can get very depressing. This is revelatory for me, but writing poems about these three poets felt spiritual. It really did. I felt very healthy when I got done writing them. I think it was due in large part to reading their poems, which tended to move me in inspirational ways.