In which we interview writers asking the same questions
asked of Ashley Tisdale by Juliette, editor of Miss O and Friends; see the
original interview here.
Close to 20 years ago, Ernest Hilbert and I attended to the same satellite Rutgers campus in Camden, NJ, but at slightly different times. People would mention Ernest to me, and people would mention me to Ernest.
It wouldn't be 10 years until we finally met. I thought it would be some diva encounter between Linda Evans and Jackie Collins, both of us sizing each other up the way writers do; instead, we just drank 100 beers and made jokes about death metal bands and our old teachers.
Ernest, or Ernie as he is known to friends, wears so many hats he qualifies as a freaking milliner. He works for Bauman's Rare Books, the antiquarian bookseller that takes those full-page ads on the backs of issues of The New York Times Book Review. He runs E-Verse, a multiplatform website empire that is email, video, and blog all wrapped in one. And he's editor of Contemporary Poetry Review, a smart, idiosyncratic publication dedicated to poetry criticism.
Oh, and he's an excellent poet. His first book, Sixty Sonnets (Red Hen Press), uses a sonnet form of his own tweaking, and name-checks everything from Zippos to Star Wars figures to Plato and Thomas Eakins. Franz Wright calls it a "touching and intelligent book." Ernest took time out from his hat-wearing to talk about important issues of the day, and we're glad he did.
Birthplace: A violent but inspiring midnight storm, in Philadelphia. “Once more to seem slight and alive / Since in lightning and rivers I began.”
You may know me because: I have a blog and vlog called E-Verse Radio, a book called Sixty Sonnets, and a tendency to be the last one at the bar still gabbing when they throw on the lights and lock the doors.
My house is: a lovely century-old brick Colonial Revival right next to the tracks that divide West Philly from South-West Philly. You get the idea. Still, it’s a place to keep my books and my cats.
My cell phone brand is: Verizon, BlackBerry, big silver brick, a work phone, hardly ever carry it, rarely answer it when not traveling for business, so don’t call, e-mail.
About my pets: lovely sleek ash-tortoiseshell Xaipe and big bruiser fat tabby cat (Wicked) Lester (Bangs), both rescues, both subjects of poems I’ve written, both spoiled and probably not as smart as we make them out to be.
I exercise: twice a week at a Bally’s that costs next to nothing and smells like a ham hoagie with mayo left under a radiator for a week. Listen to raw death metal and aggressive hip hop at extraordinary volumes while lifting weights. Soon to be deaf.
Lately I’ve been surprised by: my ability to continue making mistakes that I should have stopped making as far back as high school. Written poems about that too, such as “Dear Plato.”
Book I’m reading: Trading between Paul Johnson’s behemoth Modern Times (started reading from 1970 to the end, then started again at 1919, now at 1940) and Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. I still haven’t talked to anyone who’s read the Lowry. It’s a book more often talked about than read, I believe.
I was so excited when this came out on DVD: Spinal Tap anniversary edition. Ditto Blues Brothers.
The cereals in my cupboard are: Some healthy stuff that Lynn, my wife, eats. I generally stay away from cereals these days.
Heaven on earth is: Impossible, so far as I can gather. What goes up must come down. I’ve written poems about this, too, such as “Cautionary Tale; or, What Comes up Must Come Down.”
For dinner, I like to make: A big curry on a cold night. Hot as hell. And creamy too. With a lager.
I’ll eat sushi, but not: I have a palate that astonishes many of my friends and loved ones. I have yet to encounter the item I will not eat, even at the Korean supermarket. Try me.
My coolest article of clothing: I would like to cite one of the many designer shirts I purchase on Kensington Road in London each year (too many), but the one I really love is a free grey t-shirt I got from a poorly-planned (and copycat) e-commerce startup in 1999 called Urbanfetch. They didn’t last long, but their promotional merchandise has. I have fallen in love with this shirt. I got it as a gift when I ordered from the company, the only time I ordered from them, and some poor delivery guy had to schlep a Carly Simon CD up to me on the 38th floor of the World Financial Center in downtown Manhattan. Sadly, the shirt is now falling to shreds. Despite my wife’s insistence that I put it into the rag bin, I always believe it can take just a little bit more before it gives in altogether. In that sense, I can relate quite intimately to it.
My most prized possession: Since I must assume this refers to an inanimate object, as opposed to a person or animal, I have to say that I don’t really have a most-prized possession. I have never cared much for objects of any sort aside from books, but even they can be replaced.
My TV screen is: Not very impressive by American standards. And we’re still using rabbit ears. And the screen is quite dusty with a heart drawn on it by an unknown visitor. However: I would love a huge flat-screen to watch movies on.
When friends come over, we: drink beer, wine, whiskey, etc., talk, continue to turn music up louder and louder until my wife—who has likely turned in by this point—appears at the top of the stairs and asks rather irritably why we don’t go to bed.
My favorite TV channel is: Don’t really have one. Should I?
My first financial splurge was: Ummmmmmmmm, never really had much extra cash to splurge but . . . yes, I have: I have an outrageously big print of a painting by Baroque maritime artist Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, and the frame cost damned near $250. It hangs in my office at home, and I have yet to tire of looking at it. It depicts a Dutch warship tearing through a sudden squall, while the crew struggles to batten her down. I relate to this ship in much the same way that I relate to the Urbanfetch t-shirt.
Wackiest fan encounter: Can’t really say, but just today a teenaged girl from the elite charter school in the city contacted me on Facebook to tell me that she’s using one of my poems to audition for a play in a few weeks. I immediately worried about which one she had in mind. Still no idea, but some are not appropriate for minors . . . oh, and I was spotted at the gym by a middle-aged (male) college professor who recognized me. Sigh.
TV show I never miss: There is no show I feel I need to watch.
Before I die, I want to: Write one good poem. Just one.
The best perk of being a celebrity is: How the hell would I know? Free drinks, I think.
Celebrity whom I’d ask for an autograph: Megan Fox, but that will change by next week.
Dream car: Any car would do. I haven’t had one since I sold my first car, an Escort, in 1994. But, if I must: I wouldn’t mind pulling up to a cocktail party in a 1999 DAX Cobra.
When I fly I have to have: A book by Hunter S. Thompson, vodka.
People would be surprised that I: Am not always a hopeless fool.
Favorite cartoon: I get a warm feeling when I realize that Hagar the Horrible still exists. Now there’s a guy I can relate to. But I also love the graphic novels of Joe Matt.
My iPod playlist: Too advanced and hip for anyone to possibly understand, and far too complex to replicate here.
I can’t start my day without: I’m sure lots of people say coffee, but I have to go ahead and say it again. Not very original: give me a fix and I’ll be able to take a shower. Someday a very sophisticated future society will look back and tsk tsk at our unabashed drug addiction (and beige teeth).
If I had to spend $10 at my favorite fast food joint, I’d order: As many cheeseburgers as that would buy. I’d gladly pay you back on Tuesday.