John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Harpur Palate and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.
Check out John’s poem: COWBOY BOB
How does your chosen picture reflect who you are as a writer?
My picture is part of my study. It’s my home within my home. It’s where the writing gets done.
In your poem, Cowboy Bob, we see a generational conflict between the ideals found in old American Westerns and current comic book culture. What was this theme inspired by? How much of this reflects your own experiences?
The theme is certainly inspired by the way one generation sees the others, in this case, the older man and the young kids. Pop culture has always been a separating factor whether its music _ crooners vs rock and roll versus rap or, in this case, movies. Like anyone else, I grew up in a specific cultural environment but I’ve always been curious about what came before and what came after. So I’m familiar with the Saturday matinee western and its grownup version like the films of Anthony Mann mentioned here. And I’m also cognizant of the latest Spiderman.
As a person, Cowboy Bob is seemingly characterized as someone older who is confronted with a great physical challenge, yet the poem focuses more on Bob’s own viewpoints on virtue in culture—he seems unable to come to terms with generational change. What do you believe to be Bob’s greatest source of hardship?
Like most of us, our concept of what makes a hero is typically formed in childhood when such role models are part of the growing process. As we grow older, that’s how it remains. My heroes were the rugby and cricket players of my Australian youth and then, a little later, some of the first writers I really got into. His were those cowboy stars. (It hard to believe these days how popular they were.) We may admire present day hero-types or, as in Cowboy Bob’s case, we may not, but they never become part of our aesthetic DNA. (For example, I’m a big New England Patriots fan but I wouldn’t call Tom Brady a hero.) Bob’s greatest source of hardship is really his own mortality.
Our first issue’s theme was on the hero. How would the character of Cowboy Bob define what it means to be a hero? Would you as the writer agree with him?
Cowboy Bob’s idea of a hero is someone who sticks to his code, never does the wrong thing, wins out time and time again over the villains. Now he himself is facing down something so much more threatening than any gang of western bad guys. But he can’t relate his own situation to the bravery, the fearlessness, of the guys in the white hats. He’s no hero to himself which is emphasized in the last two lines. But I, as author, beg to disagree with him.
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your writing?
As a child, I went through periods of sickness where I was laid up and mostly solitary. I can’t think of a bigger influence than having nothing for company but a boy’s imagination.
Do you have any upcoming projects or publications?
Mostly I publish in small magazines, either in print or on-line. I had 900 plus poems accepted in 2018, so I am always busy.