Monday, January 4, 2010

Stabbed in Stanzas Feature Poet: Gary William Crawford

Interview conducted by Karen L. Newman

Gary William Crawford has been twice nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in the category of poetry collection for his books, The Shadow City (Naked Snake Press, 2005) and The Phantom World (Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2008). He’s the author of three more poetry collections and two short story collections. He’s edited The Horror Fiction Newsletter and Night Songs. He is also the founder of Gothic Press, which is now seeking submissions by invitation only.

KLN: You received an M.A. from Mississippi State University. Why did you choose to earn that degree and not an M.F.A.?
GWC: My original plan was to get a Ph. D. in literature to become a professor. At one point I thought I would try for an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but I developed schizophrenia before I could do so. The schizophrenia cut short my academic career.

KLN: Your thesis was entitled “Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly: Ironic Distance and the Supernatural”. Why did you choose this work? Tell the readers more about this author and his work.
GWC: This work is one of the best collections of Gothic fiction in the English language, and it has placed Le Fanu in high esteem in the history of literature. Le Fanu is regarded by many as the father of the English ghost story. He is most famous for the vampire tale “Carmilla,” which is in In a Glass Darkly.

KLN: In the afterward to your latest poetry collection, Voices from the Dark, you mention that you suffer from schizophrenia. How has that affected your writing? How do you incorporate that part of yourself in your writing?
GWC: It has affected much of the horror imagery in my poetry and fiction. Many of the ideas I had while psychotic I have incorporated into my work. Thus I consider myself a “confessional poet,” a known school of twentieth century poetry as practiced by the poet Sylvia Plath.

KLN: How have other parts of your personal life manifested themselves in your work?
GWC: I am gay, and this aspect of my work is in both my poetry and fiction. I have written the story “Mysteries of Von Domarus,” which is really a prose poem about my early difficulties in confronting and accepting my sexual orientation.

KLN: You’ve written both stories and poetry. Which is your favorite form and why?
GWC: I have no real preference of one over the other, but I have written more poetry than fiction.

KLN: Your nonfiction credits are impressive. Please tell our readers about the articles you contributed to The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. You also wrote about Ramsey Campbell and Robert Aickman. How have their styles of writing influenced you?
GWC: I wrote about twenty articles for the Penguin encyclopedia. The longest one was a bibliographical essay on scholarship and criticism of horror. My books on Ramsey Campbell and Robert Aickman were intended to be biographical and critical introductions to their lives and works. My Greenwood Press bibliography of Victorian ghost story writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu is the most comprehensive annotated listing of primary and secondary sources. I chose to write these books because I had a love for their works and wanted to give them some permanence in the history of Gothic and horror literature. Aickman has had the strongest influence on my fiction.

KLN: You’ve served as editor of several publications, including Gothic and Le Fanu Studies. What do you look for in submissions? Please tell us the differences in your criteria in the formats of newsletter, poetry magazine, and fiction, or did you take submissions for the newsletter?
GWC: In my academic journal Gothic I sought the best scholarly essays I could find on the subject. I believe that this kind of work is very important because it gives readers a greater understanding of the genre. The same goes for my free online journal Le Fanu Studies.

KLN: You’ve started and run a successful press. What advice would you give those contemplating starting a press, particularly in this economy? What were some of the high points of that endeavor? Low points? Would you consider starting another press? Why or why not?
GWC: One must realize that he will not likely make a profit. It has been for me a labor of love, and my advice to anyone who is thinking of starting a press to realize that he will lose money and be prepared for this.

KLN: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I appreciate your time. Is there anything additional you’d like to share with our readers?
GWC: The only thing I ever tell someone who writes is not to give up.

--Karen L. Newman
(The Black Glove thanks Mr. Crawford for his time and efforts)