Thomas Kozumplik has a retired U.S. Army officer for a father and a riding (horses) instructor from Wiltshire for a mother, so he is from Atlantis. Although he was an extremely naughty boy at school, he now has an MA in Philosophy, which allows him to teach peoples of all nations. His hobbies include playing the harmonica and discussing Spiderman comics in Czech. As a boy he planned to be World Emperor, although it now seems clear things are not going according to plan. Thomas was once upon a time a decent rugby footballer. He is, and has always been, the world’s best Stratego player. Ever. Thomas was married, but soon got over it and now lives with his trusty Staffy guru, a Chinese spy and 26 suspicious fish.
Hi Thomas, welcome to Just Books,
Tell us, please, how long you've been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was 15, but only writing anything worthwhile since 30. I didn’t know I was so bound by multiples of 5.
Do you remember the first poem you wrote?
Oh some awful Poe-esque tripe about pools of an unrequited love’s eyes. Uggh.
How do you begin a poem?
I don’t have a set way to begin a poem. Going for walks with my dog lets my mind wander into poems. I took a photography class a few years back and it definitely helped me become more observant. Some poems come as sparks that are reactions to other writers' work. As I'm reading, it becomes a conversation or a match- either using a similar theme or as a jumping point for a different tangent. It's sometimes like a courtier duel and sometimes simply as if the writer has driven me to some previously unknown place and left me to describe as he or she burns off in their car far away. Looking at idioms and proverbs from other languages is like putting on a new head. This frees your mind from cliché cages, and helps you develop you own new idioms and proverbs that have never lived before.
What does poetry mean to you?
Good art does one of three things to and in my mind.
1) It explains something you have experienced, but have never really been able to explain coherently. It names, tames and binds through this explanation. It gives meaning clearly and deeply.
2) It allows me to experience something (albeit in a less intense way) that I have never or will never experience. I will never live Macbeth's or Medea's life (thankfully), but in a way I can.
3) It shows me something I have seen every day but from a completely different way- one that would never occur to me. This perspective not only makes life richer in experience but it makes me look for other ways of looking at that thing or feeling.
I think good poetry does one or all three of the above but is often not so clear and demands your participation in another's very personal experience. It is a sly storm at the edge of consciousness, like a dream you are trying to catch upon waking that might or might not slip away.
If you had to convince a friend or colleague to read this book, what might you tell them?
Feel something you haven’t, understand better something you have...this book is cheaper than a beer in a pub and lasts much longer :) These poems are scissors for blindfolds, kites to be burned, keys to netherworlds and sails cross nomad seas. Climb upon this paper horse- a storm is coming.
Tell us about your process: Pen and Paper, computer... how do you write?
Who are some of your favourite poets?
- Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath for rhythm,sound and creating new words- changing nouns into never before seen verbs
- Rumi for spiritual depth, longing and unusual images...religion wed with palpable sensuality
- Dickinson for originality and intensity.
- Neruda for wounding words that lick your lips
- Kryl for lost causes, lost loves and empty bottles
- Li Bai for his light hand and precise details that touch the deep.
What do you want the world to know about you?
I don’t think I’m particularly bothered that the world knows about me- fame doesn’t drive me nor does the value of my work have much to do with learning about me. I hope my poems do what I mentioned above when answering the question what poetry means to me, that’s all I want my readers to experience.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Eleanor of Aquitaine
What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?
Waking up next to the one I love, her eyes heavy with last night sleepy and still moon full, we vine into composing a thunder lullaby beneath the duvet clouds. Walking off the leash with my dog into the sun just ahead of the storm,as English weather slices day. Scoring a try and post match wind ups over pints that crease the eyes with laughter. Guffaws and thumps tickle ribs of future Eves. Meeting up after with my love and just a few mates in village pub snug against the rains armchair enthroned in front of the fire, dog dreams asleep running at our feet, smoking pipes we share the silly mysteries of our lives as the evening stretches into a smile as long and dark as the Norfolk horizon. Climbing to bed, my dark cave lit by a beacon beckoning with a book, I fall asleep between its pages, carried on an ark full of animals extinct but safe in dreams.
What is your most treasured memory?
Too hard a question- too many.
Here are two from the hoard, deep inside my chest
One treasured memory is the view from the Moral Philosophy Department's Library at university up in St. Andrews. It faced out onto the North Sea and it was always suitably moody. You expected fish-tailed lions and other sea monsters to appear from the mountain waves. Sometimes the sky and the sea got confused and swapped places, cloud and wave mimicking muddles. I'm pretty certain that if you sailed too far out (say, to the top of the window) you'd fall off the end of the world. Up there you could see the Northern Lights at least once a year, so leaving our dorm rabbit hutch hides from the sky we would sit in its seeping thrall, and although its swirling explosions were silent we made up our own whispering soundtrack. So a question for you readers- what view would you choose?
Another treasured memory is when I stayed at my friend Duncan's. His place is in splendid decay. Even I thought twice about taking a shower in his bathroom. However, despite being a complete pit, it is fascinating because there are towers of books everywhere, Every nook filled by a vertebrae of interest.. spines stretching like roots so that his pad looks overgrown. It's one of those places, where you want to spend a whole weekend with some good beer pouring over different books.
Duncan doesn't live far from Bury St. Edmund's Abbey, so every morning Lucy and I walk past the Norman tower along dark paths through the graveyards; every afternoon she plays with her kong on the grass by the side of the Cathedral (where she also leaves her own little poo pagodas, to be wrapped and buried away); and every evening we walk through the mist past the graves, old teeth biting through the damp and sea of nettles that are gradually swallowing them. We have definitely been spoiled by these trips back in time.
When did you last cry in front of another person?
Thinking about the fact that my dog Lucy is so mortal (14 now) made tears well up the other day.
What is the best gift you've ever received?
A sitar- it’s several works of art in one- lovely to look at, smooth with unknown memories and full of the promise of lost and future songs….and since I don’t know have any idea how to play it there it sits a beautiful challenge
If you could invent a new flavour of ice-cream, what would it be?
Turkish Delight? Crunchies in something…
What foreign country would you most like to visit?
Spain- I'd love to see the Alhambra
What is the best book you've read in the last three months?
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima
Were you ever in a school play? What was your role?
I was Banquo in Macbeth- it was a bit of a blow.
Thank you for an interesting, and poetic, interview Thomas.
Discover more about Thomas and his poetry on his Website, and find his books - Djinni Hunter and Honeycomb Poems - on Amazon