Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Versatile Literary Writer Bill Glose - Poetry Meets Military Combat in "Half a Man"

Christal Cooper    2,582 Words

“Cutting To The Bones”
“I edited (my poems) viciously, cutting, when possible, to the bones.  Early drafts give birth to passion, and later drafts provide thematic framing and artistic flourishes.”   
Bill Glose

         Military combat meets poetry in Daily Press Poet Laureate Bill Glose’s autobiographical book of poetry Half a Man ((http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwRtwtFQZG0)

         Glose, also contributing editor for Virginia Living (http://www.virginialiving.com), was born in Riverside, California to an Air Force Military pilot father and stay-at-home Mom on July 15, 1966.  Glose has no recollection of living in Riverside, but he does remember living in Okinawa, Japan, and England. 

         “I have fond memories of England  - a fish-and-chips truck (like our ice cream trucks) selling vinegar-soaked offerings wrapped in newspaper, playing on WWII air raid bunkers while jets screamed by in treetop level passes, collecting and trading decorative tea cards instead of baseball cards.”

         His saddest memories as a child were when he was 13, when his father was stationed in Iran for one full year, and the rest of the family resided in New Jersey.  

          “This was 1978, the year Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah and the Middle East was thrown into crisis. My mother was a wreck and for that one year took up smoking Virginia Slims, whose slogan at the time was “You’ve come a long way, baby.” We watched the news and fretted until my dad was airlifted, along with the last contingents, out of Iran.”

         The Glose family home is now in Poquoson, Virginia where his father retired from the military. 
Growing up, Glose wanted to become a fighter pilot like his father and never dreamed he’d become a writer, much less a poet.

It wasn’t until Glose took a high school English class that he was introduced to “adult” poetry:  “I was the class clown throughout much of school and I created raunchy limericks and other poems describing teachers and students in compromising positions. In some ways, my classmates were the best teachers at school. Kids don’t sugarcoat their bad reviews. I learned my first lessons of “less is more” on the playground as I sharpened my naughty verse, and that lesson has stayed with me through the years.”

         After high school graduation, Glose joined the ROTC program at Virginia Tech, but had to settle for paratrooper instead of pilot due to a failing eye test.
                  Pilots don’t wear glasses.  I have my mother’s eyes
                  vision too poor to drive at night.  I became, instead,
                  a paratrooper, jumping from cargo planes
                  that rumbled like buses through gray skies.
                  Floating beneath a silk canopy;
                  closest I could come to being him.
                                             Excerpt from poem  “Like My Father 
                                             Half a Man         
                                             Copyright granted by Bill Glose                                             

Glose graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in June of 1989 and for four months worked in that field until he had to report for duty at Fort Benning as a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division. 

The commissioned Army officer served as a paratrooper, qualified as an expert marksman, and commanded a rifle platoon in combat during the Gulf War and later commanded a Delta (anti-tank) platoon.

During the military service, he found escape by reading poetry by Mary Oliver, William Shakespeare, and William Blake.

         “Upon reflection, I would say I read to keep my emotions even-keeled. My exterior was as placid as a duck on water, but beneath the surface I was always paddling.”

Glose left the army in 1994 having earned Airborne, Ranger, Jumpmaster, and Combat Infantry badges. 

He moved to Chicago to work as a line supervisor at a bag factory.  After 2 ½ years, he moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts to be the production manager of a Laminated Papers factory, where he worked from 66 hours to 100 hours per week.  He found his career to be unfulfilling, but found fulfillment through writing.
“I could escape into a world of my own creation when I returned home. I would sit at my desk writing stories, and all the knots that had tied together in my stomach during the day would untangle.”
Poetry was also an escape to Glose, though he was a hidden poet, not showing his work to anyone, but using poetry as a way to handle pain and explore painful subjects. 
         “I felt like a poseur. After a while I found I had built up quite a collection and started sharing them with my writer friends. They encouraged me to read them at open mics, and it was the playground all over again. The coffeehouse crowds let me know what worked and what didn’t.”
In 1998, Glose made the big decision to leave his production career and become a fulltime writer.

“I amassed a library of books on writing and became a regular at the library. The work has been just as hard, the pay significantly less, but I no longer dread “going to work” in the morning. I feel fulfilled.”
Glose moved back to Virginia, and, to save money, Glose traded his red sports car for a used Tercel and moved in with his parents until he could afford his own place.  Glose earned a living working as a writing coach and technical writer.
In 1998, Glose had his first piece published in an online fan site called HokieCentral (now TechSideLine http://virginiatech.sportswar.com) for the Virginia Tech football team.  He didn’t get paid for that first assignment, nor for the next 39 articles he wrote for them over a seven-year period.  

“It gave me the opportunity to get feedback from hundreds of site users. Later on, the website included paid content for subscribers and I was paid for a handful of articles. My most memorable paycheck was the $5 I earned for a short story (“Burnt Offerings”) published in Mystery Time Magazine in 2000. Just enough money to buy a six-pack of beer to celebrate.”
To date, he has written hundreds of articles, essays, short stories, and poems.  As a full time writer, Glose embraces all genres of writing – fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  
“Fiction lets me stretch my legs, take an idea out for a long walk and just explore. Non-fiction forces me to put more thought into the construct and the elements of a piece. Poetry forces me to not only try using the best possible word, but to also seek out the best possible combination of words to lyrically convey thoughts.”
Glose credits writing poetry in making him a better and more skilled writer/editor when it comes to non-fiction and fiction.  

 “Now I sound out sentences in my head and will alter the structure depending on how it sounds to my ear. Because of this, my stories flow better than they had before. When I edit, I now know better how to incorporate themes into my non-fiction and poetry.”
Glose finally felt like he could call himself “poet” when his first book of poetry The Human Touch (San Francisco Bay Press http://sanfranciscobaypress.com) was published in 2007.

Looking back, I wish I could slap some sense into my younger self. Nobody needs a published book of poetry, or even a published poem, to consider himself a poet. Publication is nice, but as long as you are writing and editing and crafting poems, that is enough.”
         Glose refused to write or talk about his military experience until his girlfriend at the time pestered him to share those experiences.  Glose responded in anger and took long runs to cool off, but, eventually, he started writing poems about his experiences in the Gulf War.  

The first poem he wrote was “Chemical Defense” in 2001.

Chemical Defense

In the desert, chemical alarms bray
with tinny music on the warm breeze.

We recall steel-chambered classrooms,
CS gas teaching lessons in a world

filled with fog.  Soldiers dive into
rubber masks.  Atropine injectors promise

renewed life if hearts seize, gift of time,
just enough for fingers to squeeze

triggers a few more times, before digits
become claws scratching at throats.

A test kits parses the air and everyone sweats
in charcoal-lined suits.  Lowest-ranking man

is surrounded, weapons pointed at his feet.
He surrenders his rifle, lifts rubber edge

of a gas mask, inhales.  Air seeps in
and seconds moan as we watch for twitches.
                                             Page 19, excerpt from Half a Man
                                             Copyright granted by Bill Glose

“We were staging in a defensive perimeter just south of Iraq’s border when the shrieking from one of our chemical alarms sent us all into panic mode.  Saddam Hussein had not only used chemical weapons on Iran during their ten-year war, he had used them on his own people.  This poem describes the steps we took to learn whether it was safe or not for us to remove our masks and breathe the air. What it does not mention—the absurdity I alluded to—was that the alarm had gone off due to a wayward goat pissing on it.”

         Glose spent the next ten years writing more poems about his experiences in the Gulf War.
          “I began with a distant perspective and slowly worked my way closer to the core of my experience. It was painful, but cathartic. The poems gathered in my drawers, and after many years I began to share them with others.”
         In 2013, Glose gathered all of the individual poems from those drawers and put together the manuscript of poems titled Half A Man.

         “Those poems still make me smile or tremble even after all of these years.”
         The most difficult poem Glose wrote from the collection is the book’s title poem “Half a Man”, which describes one of the many shattered and shredded bodies he and his platoon came across.

Half a Man
                  Head canted back, resting
                  on a pillow of sand.  Just like
                  sleeping.  Except for empty
                  eye sockets, flies skittering
                  in and out of his nose.
                  No meat below his sternum
                  only a knobby string of spine
                  pointing at us, accusingly.
                  We stood in a half-circle,
                  willing our eyes             
                  to be just as lifeless.
                  “Fuck him,” someone said.
                  “He would’ve done
                  the same to you.”  True,
                  or not, nothing more
                  to say.  Carry on,
                  form a wedge, kick dunes
                  with desert boots,
                  search for someone to blame.           
                                             Page 9, excerpt from Half a Man
                                             Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Most of the poems from Half A Man were written on pads of paper in Glose’s Hyundai Sonata in parking lots.
         “Driving is very conducive to my creative process. Ideas will often come while I am in the car and I will bounce the idea around in my head until I can stop and write it down.  If I don’t have time to pull over, I’ll scrawl furiously while stopped at red lights.” 
Glose submitted Half a Man to 17 different publishers over a two-year period; some of the publishers he has yet to hear from and other publishers gave him constructive comments.  One of the publishers he sent the manuscript to, Copper Canyon Press, rejected Half a Man.
He was unable to take the manuscript because they were overcommitted at the moment. He then went on to say that he was the poetry editor at Narrative Magazine, and he wanted to publish four of my poems in their pages. Great exposure and a decent paycheck, and I didn’t have to go through the multi-layered reading process.”
         Editor and Publisher Diane Kistner of FutureCycle Press (www.futurecycle.org) accepted Half A Man, and the rest is history.

“Diane Kistner is responsive and author friendly. She spearheaded marketing campaigns, wrote press releases, and sent copies to numerous reviewers prior to publication. She’s made the experience wonderful.”
         Glose writes every single day, even when he has writer’s block, which he believes there is only one cure – to sit down and write crap.

“Writing crap gets your brain into the creative process and removes the blocks that are holding you up.  Knowing that you will have to edit sometime later is liberating. You don’t have to fret over every word. You simply need to get words down on the page. The fretting comes later when you have a completed first draft. If the draft is embarrassingly bad, so what? Scrape away the crap and you might find something artful underneath.”
         When not in his Hyundai Sonata, Glose spends his days in his writer’s studio where he transfers all his handwritten notes into a word document.

         “The words on the handwritten page will often circle back to earlier thoughts or jump ahead to something else. Gathering these thoughts on the computer allows me to assemble them in a more sensible order. At this point, I’ll often find that the germ of the idea has been lost and that the poem has spun into a new direction. I learned that if I let it roam free, the poem could pleasantly surprise me. And if it didn’t work out, it would still make for a good mental exercise.  Once I do have a complete poem that I like, then I begin to trim the fat. My poems will often go through many evolutions.”
Since Glose does the most intense writing at his home office (he’s converted his breakfast nook into a writer’s studio) he’s tried to make his home his own writer’s retreat.

 “A green globe that I made in a glassblower’s studio dangles in the window. On the walls are inspirational art and a couple of posters from events where I’ve spoken. Bookshelves line three of the walls, forming a U around my dining room table. Seated at the table, I can reach out with my right hand to the shelves of military books, Virginia books, and books in my to-read list. Reaching out with my left hand, I can reach the shelves holding all my reference books. Attached to the front of one bookshelf is a board listing assignment dates, pitches to make, and stories to work on.”

His most productive writing time is in the early morning hours, with total silence, or listening to soothing music (Enya), and a diet Dr. Pepper within reach.  He first checks his email, which preps his mind for writing.  He then tackles his big projects first, which normally involves rewriting bad first drafts and then he breaks for a late breakfast or early lunch, read, and then back to writing again.
“Then I’ll either convince myself to go for a walk or take care of chores. After that, it’s time to take care of “business matters”: sending submissions, conducting phone interviews, composing queries, calling editors, prepping lecture notes for an upcoming writers’ conference.”
Before Glose’s day ends he has to have some form of human contact, which usually consists of friends, family, and writing mentors, particularly Bill Walsh, whom Glose described as a “self educated genius” and his best critic.

Glose’s number one piece of advice for writers are the famous six words by Ernest Gains:  “Write, write, write, read, read, read.”  Glose has special writers he reads according to what genre he is writing at the time.

         When writing fiction Glose reads Tim Gautreaux, Richard Russo, Sheri Reynolds, David Schickler, and Stephen King.

When writing non-fiction, Glose reads Sebastian Junger, Jeannette Walls, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Bill Bryson.

“My poetry has been influenced by Jon Pineda’s examination of family, Billy Collins’ whimsy, Mary Oliver’s scrutiny of nature, Ted Kooser’s ability to make the profound accessible, and Natasha Trethewey’s exploration of culpability.”

Glose loves to hear from his readers via web at www.billglose.com, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bill.glose.7?fref=ts or email at billglose@cox.net

Photo Description and Copyright Information

Photo 1
Bill Glose.
Photograph attributed to Linda Walsh.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 2
Jacket cover of Half a Man

Photo 3
Bill Glose, age 13, at the pool
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 4
School photograph of Bill Glose, age 13
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 5
Ayatollah Khomeini
Public Domain

Photo 6
A 1978 Virginia Slims ad
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

Photo 7
John Glose commissioning his son Bill Glose into the United States Army on May 4, 1989.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 8
Bill Glose during his high school years.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose

Photo 9
Mother Nancy Glose and Bill Glose at his Virginia Tech graduation.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 10
Bill Glose at his Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets graduation
May of 1989
Copyright granted by Bill Glose

Photo 11
Jacket cover of Mary Oliver’s New And Selected Poems Volume One

Photo 12
William Shakespeare, oil on canvas
Believed to be attributed to painter John Taylor, an important member of the Painter-Stainers’ Company
Public Domain.

Photo 13a
Painting of William Blake in 1807
Attributed to Thomas Phillips
Public Domain

Photo 13b
Photo taken of Bill Glose and his platoon while in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War utilizing a disposable cardboard box camera.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose. 

Photo 14
Bill Glose in Iraq.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 15
Bill Glose
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 16
Bill Glose, left, watching the Hokies win the ACC Championship...again!
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 17
Bill Glose in his studio on the computer.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 18
Jacket cover of The Human Touch

Photo 19
Bill Glose’s platoon marching in tactical column.
Photograph attributed to Bill Glose.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 20
Bill Glose in Iraq.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 21
Image of Saddam Hussein from Iraqi state television.
Public Domain

Photo 22
Jacket cover (2) of Half a Man

Photo 23
Steve Martin, left, and Bill Glose in Saudi Arabia.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 24
Web logo of www.futurecycle.org

Photo 25
Bill Glose writing and editing.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose

Photo 26
Box of copies of Half a Man

Photo 27
Bill Glose holding the green glob he made in a glassblower’s studio.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 28
Bill Glose’s writer’s studio
Attributed to Bill Glose.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 29
Bill Glose and Bill Walsh.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 30
Book lover Bill Glose
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 31
Richard Russo at the American Festival in Vincennes, France.
September 27, 2008
Attributed to Camille Gevaudan
GNU Free Documentation License

Photo 32
Head shot of David Schickler by his wife.
GNU Free Documentation License and CCASA 3.0 Unported License

Photo 33
Stephen King on February 24, 2007
CCA2.0 Generic

Photo 34
Sebastian Juner speaking at the screening of his documentary film “Which Way Is the Front Line From Here”
On April 9, 2013
At the LBJ Presidential Library.
Public Domain

Photo 35
Jeannette Walls at the 2009 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas.
Photo taken on November 1, 2009
Attributed to Larry D Moore
CCASA 3.0 Unported License.

Photo 36
Barbara Ehrenreich in New York in September of 2006
Attributed to David Shankbone
CCA 2.5 Generic License

Photo 37
Bill Bryson in 2005
GNU Free Documentation License

Photo 38
Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books in La Jolla, San Diego, California
On October 20, 2008
Attributed to Marcela Noah
Public Domain.

Photo 39
Natasha Trethewey signing her book Native Guard at the University of Michigan.
March 30, 2011
Attributed to Jalissa Gray
CCASA 3.0 Unported

Photo 40
Fun jump at Fort Bragg.
Photograph attributed to Bill Glose, using a disposable cardboard camera.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.

Photo 41
Headshot of Bill Glose.
Copyright granted by Bill Glose.