Member spotlight:

Greg Field, artist, musician, "a poet's poet"

By Ruth Fitzpatrick Michel

Black Heart, the long-awaited second poetry collection from Greg Field, will be released on August 1, 2014, by Mammoth Publications, Lawrence, KS. In describing Black Heart, Greg’s publisher says the poet “explores his mid-continent heritage, complicated by mixed Potawatomi Indian and Jewish families. How to survive broken histories? Try jazz. Try humor. Try speaking from the heart. This poet’s poet appeals to all readers.”

Greg Field

Greg Field

 Missouri’s Poet Laureate William Trowbridge writes, “Greg Field’s heart is in the wilderness, internal as well as external; the wilderness of dream, memory, and imagination, as well as grassland, river, and forest. These poems [Black Heart] demonstrate Field’s craftsmanship, his musician’s ear, and his ability to reveal, through close observation, mystery in the commonplace. Unlike many poets, Field combines his seriousness with wry humor.”

TWP: You write fiction, plays, and poetry. How would you describe your writing process/ journey?

 Field: Lines begin in my head, unbidden, and continue to assemble themselves regardless of the situation I'm in. I can be anywhere, doing anything, and suddenly the voice starts talking in lines and I have to find a way to stop what I'm doing and start writing them down or I lose them or parts of them. It is the same with painting and drawing--I'll be reading or driving or at work and an image will rear up in my mind and I have to at least sketch it or describe it, or capture it somehow before it fades.  Sometimes I let it all go and tell myself that if it was important it will come back. Sometimes the lines or the image will linger or return as strong as it first manifested itself--sometimes not. Sometimes they're not worth a damn.

TWP: Do have any words of advice or perspective for the poet starting out or for the poet who feels there is nothing left to say?

Field: The writer starting out has to discover his or her own process and then follow it. There is a lot of work ahead and a decision needs to be made as to whether he or she is up to it or not.  
If you’re at the point that you've said all you've got to say, then it's time to quit.

TWP: Your new collection of poems, Black Heart, will be released in August 2014. Over what period of time did these poems come to be?

Field: The poems in Black Heart come from disparate time periods. Some are more than ten years old and some are only a few months old. All of them have gone through a harrowing process of being butchered and rewritten and trimmed again and then rewritten many times--some not so much. Some poems that started out in the manuscript had to be removed because they really didn't belong with the other poems. Some were picked to pieces and the pieces reassembled into something so completely different that the parts will never recognize each other again.

TWP:  Do you enjoy giving readings, and where is the most interesting place you have presented your poems to date?

Field: I try to limit readings to one or two each year. They make me nervous, but with a new book, I'll probably do a number of readings over the next year. The Writers Place is one of the most interesting places to present work. It provides the perfect space for giving a reading. Almost everyone who shows up there likes the atmosphere of The Writers Place and the importance they give the written word. 

 Greg has been writing poetry since he was six or seven years old. He characterizes his early poetry as “terrible,” until he began to mimic “good poets,” such as Robert Frost and Randall Jarrell. He especially liked and studied Kenneth Patchen’s technique of weaving together the mixed imagery of sketches and poetry.

Greg has degrees in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

He is also the percussionist for the improvisational jazz band River Cow Orchestra. The band has just put out a new CD, "Finding Water.”  Go to and listen for free.