Dear Site Visitors,
The August, 2001 featured poet is John R. Yaws, a native Texan (big surprise for me too!) from the Houston area, where he lives with his wife 28 years and has three children. John currently works in the periphery of the Criminal Justice System. Poetry is his hobby and he has been writing "seriously" for the past three or four years.
John first contacted me in mid-March,2001 after discovering my site through a search for poetry. In his first e-mail he told me about several poems he had written about a mythical Scot he called the Traveler. I replied to his e-mail and told him that I was interested in seeing them. The next day he sent me "Massacre at Glencoe" and "Bannockburn Revisited" which I immediately liked. In mid-May, 2001 I decided to post them and had his permission by early June. Since that time, I have collected more Traveler's Tales for my website.
While there are several poets in queue to be interviewed, I decided to interview John R. Yaws for several reasons. First of all, his work is well written and very entertaining. Secondly, I have received numerous e-mails from readers who enjoyed his work and wanted to know more about the Scottish poet on my website. When I learned that my Scottish poet (and the brilliant creator of the Traveler's Tales) was not from Scotland after all - but from the American state of Texas, I knew I just HAD to interview him. I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to do the following interview.
I found John R.Yaws to be as interesting and entertaining as his poetry. He is talented, creative, and intelligent. John is well-read, well-traveled and also culturally literate - and has also been somewhat of an adventurer, having enlisted in the U.S.Army at 17 and spending his service in the South Pacific, working as a cowboy in California and Arizona, returning to Texas to serve briefly as a City Marshall, being a truck driver and an oilfield roughneck, working in the trades including being a carpenter and more. I think this interview will reveal him to be just as colorful as the Traveler of his Tales...
John has selected his poem "Forged In Flame" to be featured for this interview. "The Ballad of East and West" by Rudyard Kipling is his favorite poem by a renowned poet.
In the interview, John R. Yaws talks candidly about himself - who he is and what he is about, his poetry and his Traveler's Tales. I know that you will enjoy the interview. Remember that during the entire month of August the site will accept questions from readers to be answered directly by John. Your questions and John's answers to them will be posted following the interview.
I am pleased and honored to present my site's featured poet for August, 2001 - John R. Yaws. The following interview was conducted online via e-mail between July 25, 2001 and August 2, 2001.
Thank you. Poetheart
August 2001, John R. Yaws Interview sections you may visit (click)
Other poetry by John
Poetheart: John, give us a little background - Who is John R. Yaws?
John: I am a native Texan, with Scottish roots on both sides of my family, of which I am very proud. As far as I know, none of the rest of my family have any feelings about our ancestry either way. The paternal side of my family is a sept of clan Buchanan, and from my mother's side we go back to the MacQuarries. I really have only a sketchy family tree, but am proud of the Scottish blood which flows in my veins...along, of course with a mixture of Irish and American Indian. From a more personal viewpoint, I suppose you would call me a product of the Southwest. I grew up in an isolated rural atmosphere and learned to shoot by the time I was eight years old. My brother and I spent most of our youth in the forests (if South Texas Mesquite can be called that). I enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of seventeen and spent most of my service times in the South Pacific, on Oahu, Hawaii and Luzon, Philippines. I discharged in California and worked as a cowboy in California and Arizona until returningto Texas. I did a variety of other things over the years, including truck driving, working as an oilfield roughneck, City Marshall briefly, carpenter, and several other trades. I currently do volunteer Chaplaincy work in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division (i.e. a prison chaplain. I have been married for 28 to the same woman and am the father of three children.
Poetheart: Now tell us about John R. Yaws, the poet.
John: John R. Yaws, the poet, may be a little more difficult to explain. From an early age I have been an avid reader. I dote on swash-bucklers and highwaymen. I love historical fiction, especially "period" pieces. I wrote a little poetry in high school, and even had a couple published in the local newspaper. I virtually quit writing until about three years ago when I discovered the medium of the Internet. Since then I have written prolifically - basically as a means of expression and relaxation.
Poetheart: That is very interesting, John. In other words it was your discovery of the Internet which prompted you to return to writing? Please explain.
John: Yes, Jay, I suppose the discovery of the Internet played an important role in resuming my writing. How could it not? I found a ready-made medium for posting my work which was both low cost, and had a high potential for exposure.
Poetheart: Just how important is your heritage to you? Tell me - Do you consider yourself a Scot or a Scottish-American?
John: Interesting question. I suppose my heritage is very important to me, considering it plays such an important part in a person's self regard. Everyone needs something that they can identify with - a creed, a culture, something; and the fierce nobility and the pride of the Scots would be hard to top! (if you know what I mean!)...I suppose I consider myself a Scottish-Texan! (LOL)
Poetheart: (LOL) Great answer, John...On poetheart.com you are known for writing "Traveler's Tales" and there are several of these tales posted on the site. Do you only write these poems or do you write other poetry as well?
John: I write poetry about everything. Romance, heartbreak, historical, cowboy poetry, you name it. If I haven't written about it, it is because it hasn't occurred to me.
Poetheart: What got you started on these Traveler's Tales?
John: I am unsure as to exactly what caused me to start writing about the Traveler. Maybe he was always there in the back of my mind, I don't know. He is "every man" with the simplicity of the soldier of fortune, the audacity of the Scarlett Pimpernel, the romance of Cyrano, and the cynicism of every professional fighting man the world has ever known, especially those found among the ranks of non-commissioned officers. I suppose the tales are a compendium of all of the books I have read, places I have been, and men I have known. When I wrote the first tale, and the closing line, about hearing and heeding the Traveler's Tale was penned, I knew I could not let him die.
Poetheart: When did you begin to realize that you had a "series" of poems going, John?
John: I guess I knew that I had a series going when I realized that virtually every poem I was writing ended with "thus goes the Traveler's Tale."
Poetheart: When was the first Traveler's Tale? Do you remember?
John: I believe I wrote the original Tale in the autumn of 1998.
Poetheart: Obviously your rich heritage and the interesting history of Scotland are an inspiration to you. What else inspires John R. Yaws' (or your pen name John Buchanan) poetry?
John: Much of my poetry is inspired by reading. A lot of it touches on segments of my life, people I have known, experiences in my past. Sometimes I write in responses to "challenges" on online poetry boards.
Poetheart: How seriously do you take your poetry?
John: I suppose that I take it very seriously, but I try to never take myself "too" seriously. It is me, I suppose. What a man writes is what he is. I do not write for profit, since I have never published. I write because I have stories that need telling, and wish to be considered just that, a good storyteller.
Poetheart: How important is writing poetry to you? What does writing poetry mean to you?
John: I suppose that writing is very important to me, especially as I grow older. I don't want what I have seen and imagined to die with me. At least this way maybe I will live another generation in someone's heart. Like names chiseled along the western trails, on the walls of prison cells, graffiti in the cities; it is my way of saying "Kilroy wuz here."
Poetheart: Excellent answer, John. My sentiments exactly but you expressed it better and more poetically than I ever have.
Poetheart: How long have you been writing, John?
John: As I said before, I wrote a little in high school, a few lines of doggerel in the Army, but I really began to write seriously about three years ago, four at the outside.
Poetheart: Do you have a large collection of your poetry?
John: I currently have about seven hundred poems, but I have lost many of them, because they were merely posted on the Internet and never saved.
Poetheart: What a loss not to have saved the poems you posted on the Internet...You must have been very affected by this. This is a good lesson for all of us who write and post on the Internet.What are you doing differently to make sure that this doesn't happen to you again?
John: I was greatly disappointed at the lost poetry, but it was more of a "hindsight is twenty-twenty" thing. It really never occured to me to save the poetry when I first started. As for the steps which I am now taking to preserve my work: (i) I save my work to disk; (ii) I print a hard copy for my portfolio; (iii) I plan to purchase a CD-RW soon, and record all of my work to CD.
Poetheart: John, who is the intended audience for your poetry?
John: I write for those who long to see the other side of the hill, to cross the horizon, to see the world as it was, or maybe even as it should have been. I write for dreamers, the imaginative, those who "march to the beat of a different drummer."
Poetheart: You can understand how and why I (and many readers) thought the author of your Traveler's Tales was from Scotland. This is good for the success of the poems, as it lends a sort of credibility to the speaker in the poems. The language of your Traveler poems is very unique and seems to be authentic to me. John, just how authentic is the language of your poetry? Let's say a reader in Scotland read your Traveler's Tales...What do you suppose they would think of the way they were written and your dialect in them?
John: Well, Jay, since I am not a Scot (ay least not by citizenship), I can hardly say what a Scot would think of the dialect. Maybe you can tell me? You said it seems authentic to you and I take that as high praise. I am not sure where the dialect came from. I believe that it belongs to the Traveler. I can almost hear it as I re-read the poetry I have just written. It just seems to fit the character of the Traveler - and it seems authentic to me too.
Poetheart: I know that the Traveler's Tales are fantasy but is there any historical accuracy incorporated into them?
John: Well, there is quite a lot of history woven into my Tales. "Bannockburn" and "Glencoe" (if researched) will prove to be very accurate, at least, inasmuch as the records have survived. I have woven bits from many periods of history into the tales of fantasy. While "Glencoe" is very accurate, with "Bannockburn" the historical accuracy is loose and I wrote more for effect in this piece than for anything else.
Poetheart: The references in your "A Tale for His Lodging" to "Bonaparte" "Mary Stuart" "Bess" and also "Cromwell" "Bonnie Charlie"...how do these fit together since they are from various places in history? And with "The Wild Geese" I gather that through these Tales, the Traveler is somewhat timeless. Is this true?
John: Concerning the references to various historical figures and events, with no particular chronology, you are absolutely right. The Traveler is a timeless figure. He was probably one with fur clad hunters, a Crusader, a Legionaire, a slave at the oars of a galley... He is 'everyman'. Timeless, immortal...a bit like Duncan McLeod of TV fame.
Poetheart: Who is your favorite renowned poet?
John: I have many favorites. I like Stevenson, the inimitable "Rabbie" Burns, Robert Service, Keats, Scott and others. Being forced to choose one, I would have to say Rudyard Kipling.
Poetheart: You were asked to select a favorite poem by a renowned poet and you chose "The Ballad of East and West" by Kipling. Why do you like this poem, John?
John: "The Ballad of East and West" was a difficult choice. A close runner-up was "The Grave of the Hundred Head" by Kipling. I have loved "The Ballad of East and West" for over thirty years. I ran into it in high school and loved the imagery portrayed. I enjoyed the bravado of the Colonel's son and the savage honor of Kamal. My favorite portion, if there can be one, was: "But if thou thinkest the price be fair, -- thy brethren wait to sup/The hound is kin to the jackal-spawn, -- howl, dog, and call them up!/And if thou thinkest the price be high, in steer and gear and stack,/Give me my father's mare again, and I'll fight my own way back!"/Kamal has gripped him by the hand and set him upon his feet./"No talk shall be of dogs,"said he"when wolf and gray wolf meet..."
Poetheart: John, I also asked you to choose one of your own poems to be featured and you did. You selected "Forged In Flame." Why did you choose that poem?
John: I chose "Forged In Flame" because I find it very descriptive of life. My life, your life, the lives of everyone. We are shapen and tempered by life's experiences.
Poetheart: How did you find poetheart.com? What made you submit your poems to my website for posting?
John: No mystery there - I was searching for a site I felt was a proper setting for the Traveler's Tales. When I found your site, I looked no further. I felt like you present a well maintained site, in a tasteful setting.
Poetheart: Thank you, John. I am very flattered by your saying that.
Poetheart: John, your own website (http:www.geocities.com/montcogunslinger/Traveler.html) is a place I have visited. Tell us a little about it.
John: My site "The Traveler's Rest" was created on a whim. I felt like I needed a fitting setting for the Traveler and the "Rest" was born. I once had a link on the page to the entire collection, but the domain on which they were posted simply disappeared. The page has some interesting links to poetry sites, and some Scottish resources. It also has a guetsbook, which, by the way, I appreciate your signing.
Poetheart: Your very welcome, John. I enjoyed your site...I can't thank you enough for this interview. I think we should take this to the poetheart.com visitors now and let them ask you the questions they might have. Are you ready for the Q&A?
John: Yes, Jay, I am ready for the reader response, and will attempt to answer all reasonable inquiries. Also, let me say that I am both honored, and humbled, by the fact that you chose to interview me, and I am very grateful for the readers' responses.
Poetheart: My sincere thanks to you, John. Nice job. Now we will move on to the Q&A.
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