“The new heart will rise”: An interview with John Reinhart

Jon Reinhart's piece, "Street Sign Language," appeared in our Spring 2016 issue.

Questions from both myself and Assistant Editor Brenton Woodward.

1. This piece is all about using art as a tool for social change. What responsibility do you think writers have in particular to enact that kind of change, either in their communities (as the protagonist does here) or in the wider world?

The old must be let down gently into the flames. From the ashes, over the eastern horizon, the new heart will rise. The stars will realign to play new harmonies and the earth itself will shine radiantly.

We all have a responsibility. A responsibility for ourselves, to ourselves, and in consideration of everyone and everything. The starving child in a forgotten corner of the earth. The neighbor who just lost his job. The leaves. The candy wrapper blown against a construction site fence. Every time we step out of our own heads and shake hands with another person, every time we climb down our marbled ladders and lift worms out of the street, every time we paint a new picture we transform a little corner of some accepted reality.

We have no direct power over the social ills of people we do not know in places we have not been, but we can summon the courage to do right. Now. Even if no one else is looking. Especially if no one else is looking.

2. I'm interested in your decision to use a variety of contrasting styles in this piece. We've got very short, staccato, often one-word sentences to describe the interactions with the city's homeless; we've got sobering statistics on homelessness; we have what reads like a support group testimony; and the poetry on the signs. Can you talk about the impact you intended this patchwork of styles to have on your reader?

Prose intends to articulate, describe, and explain. Poetry must go deeper. Prose may make someone itchy, but I want to alter the reader's inner rivers, create new tributaries, new sources, new oceans pulsing to new rhythms.

The different tones came about from different sources, both my own earlier work, and the sources cited. I never write in fragmented sentences. Except that here I did. The fractured thought remains open, even if slightly, as the quantum particles wave hello and goodbye simultaneously, shaking hands with the present.

3. Do you have any new projects in the works now? Any upcoming publications you want to tell us about?

I was just awarded the 2016 Horror Writers Association Dark Poetry Scholarship. This is an exciting opportunity to wrap myself in hundreds of yards of linen and wander aimlessly, sitting occasionally to scribble some help wanted, 30-year-old station wagon for sale, vampire poem.

I am a Frequent Contributor at the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review ( http://eretzsongs.blogspot. com/ ).

I have a short chapbook scheduled for publication later this year through Tiger's Eye Press.

4. Have you discovered any great new (or new-to-you) authors recently?

One of the fellow Frequent Contributors at the Song of Eretz, Mary Soon Lee, recently published an epic poem collection called "Crowned." Several examples of the poetry in her book are available online and I have found them unexpectedly engaging.

I just read David Eagleman's book "Sum," which was an intriguing read after just finishing Ursula K. LeGuin's "Changing Planes."

John Yamrus is an offbeat poet. Though he's been publishing for 46 years, I just discovered him through Wolfgang Carstens, a Canadian folk hero in his own right. Yamrus's poetry is truly like nothing else I have read. That's a compliment.

5. What are you reading right now?

I just read a truly beautiful article on Vin Scully in Sports Illustrated. I recently found a copy of Robert Heinlein's "Tunnel in the Sky," and I'm still attached to the collaborative poetry collection "7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book."