POET INTERVIEW – ROB HALPIN
Funny how things work out sometimes. Last month’s guest was born in the USA, and is now in Germany. This month’s guest was born in Germany, and is now in the USA. Kleine Welt! (No, Walt. Not “climb Walt”. Kleine welt [“small world,” unless Google Translate is playing tricks on me]).
What a pleasure to get a chance to interview the brat donning earphones – Rob Halpin (a.k.a. Lorwynd).
MARIE ELENA: Before they start throwing tomatoes (or worse) at me out here, maybe you better explain why I called you a brat. 😉
ROB: I am an Army brat. I am proud of that. It does kind of define me. I learned discipline, respect, and a deep love for my country.
MARIE ELENA: You should be proud, Rob. What was it like? I envision a lot of moving around, feeling unsettled, and not being able to keep friends. Am I way off base? (HA! Inadvertent pun there. Walt will soon be firing me.)
ROB: I grew up boogie boarding in Hawaii, biking around the moat of Fort Monroe, hiking the mountains around El Paso, visiting old castles (had Prom in one), skiing in the Alps with the Boy Scouts, and spring breaking in Spain.
I don’t recall feeling unsettled … I actually miss moving. I guess it got in my blood. The movers always packed everything, so when we’d get our stuff delivered and I was in my room unpacking boxes, it was kind of like Christmas, wondering which of my toys, books, and knick-knacks I was unpacking. Leaving friends was tough, sometimes. Making friends was more difficult. Being an introvert, I didn’t just walk up and introduce myself to people. Being involved in sports, Boy Scouts, and going to school certainly helped with meeting and making friends. Unfortunately, back in the stone age, we had to resort to trying to be pen pals … and that never really worked for me. Everywhere we go, we run into someone my wife knows. She has a lot of friends and has memories of lots of things in the area where we live. Other than on the Internet, I rarely meet anyone I know from childhood … but I wouldn’t trade my experience growing up as an Army brat.
MARIE ELENA: I honestly didn’t expect to hear such fond, fun memories. That’s excellent! And you served in the US Army yourself, right? Where were you stationed, and what was your position?
ROB: Yes, I was in the Army for just under three years. I was trained to be a microwave communications systems repairer. After seven months of electronics/microwave systems training, I was sent to South Korea, to a remote site on a holy mountain with no roads. We had to climb the 3 3/4 miles up and down the mountain between our site and base camp. Now and then, we’d get lucky and our friends flying choppers would provide “elevator service.” I loved working on that remote site, and probably would have extended my tour in Korea if we hadn’t closed it down. Interestingly, on that site, was the only time I actually worked on any microwave equipment.
MARIE ELENA: So far it all sounds like a very positive experience. What would you say was the worst thing about it?
ROB: I’m not sure I really have a worst thing about being in the Army. I enjoyed it and had planned on being a lifer, like my father, until I got out to go to college and ROTC. The Army let me out of my enlistment early on the condition that I get a degree, finish ROTC, and get commissioned back into service as an officer. My, ummm, extended college plan didn’t fit into the Army’s schedule and I ended up paying back my ROTC scholarship. While I’m not a believer in predestination, I do believe that some things happen for a reason. If I’d graduated on time and gone back in the Army, I wouldn’t have met my wife.
MARIE ELENA: *sigh* I adore a good love story. Now would be a great time to introduce Aimee and the girls, if you don’t mind.
ROB: I don’t mind at all. They are the center of my universe, as much as my wife would have you believe that soccer’s my center, especially this year with the World Cup going on. Aimee is truly my Anam Cara, my soul mate. I mentioned earlier that if I’d gotten commissioned, I wouldn’t have met her. I should have appended “then” to that statement. I believe in soul mates, and that they will eventually find one another. I’d have been shipped off to a duty station at the needs of the Army, but somehow, somewhere our paths would have crossed and we’d be together. Soul mates. We’ve been married for almost sixteen years now, and have two daughters: Caeli who just finished seventh grade, and Kelsi who just finished fifth. Here is one of my favorite pictures of them from Caeli’s kindergarten Field Day.
I’m not sure if a love for reading and writing is hereditary, but our daughters have certainly been influenced by us in that regard. My wife also likes to write stories and is an avid reader. Caeli has loved to read since she learned how. Kelsi finally caught the bug after we finally found a series she liked. Caeli set a school record for AR (Accelerated Reader) points her fifth grade year and Kelsi, while not nearing her sister’s record, just finished her fifth grade year with the most in her grade level, and they both also like to write stories.
MARIE ELENA: They are just adorable – all three of them. I’m so pleased for you, Rob.
So, I’m interested to know how Germany fits in to your life’s puzzle. Were you born there? If so, what brought you to the States?
ROB: My father was stationed in Germany when I was born. We moved back to the States a couple years later, after my brother was born. We spent a few years here, moved to Hawaii for a few, and then moved around the continental U.S. a few times before going back to Germany, to Heidelberg. After three years there, we moved back to the States, and I enlisted. My first assignment was Korea for fourteen months. That was the last time I lived out of country. I’ve lived in Virginia since around the fall of 1992, when I started college.
MARIE ELENA: What an interesting life you’ve experienced … especially in the eyes of someone like me, who has lived nearly all my life in Ohio, with the exception of spending my high school years in Florida. I also heard that you would like to move your family to either Germany or Ireland. What draws you to them?
ROB: Provided I had a job lined up, I’d move my family to Germany in a heartbeat. Times change, but from interactions with friends and co-workers who’ve been there recently, it’s still more or less how it was when I lived there, so I’d know what to expect. I’m sure my family would love it, as well. As for Ireland, I’m part Irish on my dad’s side, and have felt a need for a while to go there … like being called home … to a place I’ve never been. Weird, huh? My wife and I love Irish/Celtic music. My daughters took Irish dance for a couple years. I’m fairly sure we’d enjoy living there.
MARIE ELENA: Gosh, Rob, I don’t find it weird at all. It’s part of who you are. Roots run deep for some, and I understand that completely.
Do you think either would be a permanent move?
ROB: Permanent? As in, never living back in the U.S.? I’m not sure. I could see it going either way.
MARIE ELENA: Confession time: I’m a snoop, and I Facebook-stalked you. (Not to worry. I do that all the time … for my interviews. 😉 ) Anyway, you list high schools in both the USA and Germany. ‘splain, please? 😉
ROB: I actually attended three high schools: The first half of my freshman year in Maryland, the next year-and-a-half in Indiana, and my final two years in Heidelberg. I think I got a better deal than my brother, though. While he only attended two, he spent the first three earning a big name as a great wrestler before moving back to the States and relative “unknown” status for his senior year.
MARIE ELENA: Classic senior photo. How fun!
Well, now that I’ve grilled you about your personal life, let’s switch gears to discuss writing. Let’s start with the poems you brought with you. Please share each, and tell me why you chose to share that particular poem.
Meeting the Maker (a sonnet by Rob Halpin)
I ran into God last night at the bar.
I asked, “What’s up? Why you hangin’ out here?”
He told me he’d come to play the guitar
and sing us a song as we drank our beer.
We chatted a while then he took the stage
and asked, “How y’all doin’? Ready to rock?”
God was a poet -a lyrical mage
who had us all spellbound, slack-jawed, in shock.
Words of beauty and love He crooned all night;
whispery ballads that filled us with peace;
soul-wrenching odes of salvation and might.
I joyously prayed it would never cease.
The crowd was in awe, enraptured, and when
God’s set was finished, we all said, “Amen.”
ROB: I really like the casual feel of this poem. I’m not an overly religious guy, but I believe in God and have my own relationship with him, and this is how I think of God appearing to people, showing them his grace. Not specifically in a bar, per se, but in a manner that finds them open and receptive.
MARIE ELENA: Love this, Rob. LOVE IT, and for all the reasons you state.
In the Company of Myself (a Shadorma by Rob Halpin)
when my friends have fled,
with my thoughts.
I find I rather enjoy
ROB: I think this one kind of speaks for itself.
Poeming (a Shadorma by Rob Halpin)
poetic forms -why I love
ROB: You had mentioned a potential reason for picking a poem being “one that defines me as a writer.” This one kind of does it for me in regards to poetry. I find forcing my thoughts on a topic into a form makes me be more creative and produce tighter poems. Sometimes, it produces poems that are a bit forced or contrived, but I’m usually happier with them than with my free verse poems.
MARIE ELENA: All three are excellent. I can relate to your statement that form makes you be more creative and produce tighter poems. One of my favorites of yours, written about a year ago in response to a prompt from Robert Lee Brewer, is an excellent example of this very point:
ions (Lune by Rob Halpin)
The one atom teased
“You’re so positive!”
The other replied,
“No, I’m not.
You’re just negative.”
MARIE ELENA: In the few words allowed in these joined Lunes, you managed a science lesson infused with humor and double entendre. AMAZING.
You write far more than “just” poetry though, and even have novel aspirations. Do you remember what sparked your interest in writing?
ROB: Aside from a period of time that was most of middle school through part of my freshman year in high school, I have loved to read. I also enjoyed writing. I used to love the creative writing assignments in elementary school. My mom saved most of them, so I still have my original copy of “The Day I Bit A Shark” from second or third grade. My favorite class in high school was “Writing for the College Bound.” It was a great class and the teacher was amazing. I didn’t really start writing until I was working at the computer center at college, though. When it was slow, I’d open up Word and just type what came to mind. My first poem was “Song” (the version on my blog is a bit reworked from the original) and from there I just kept going. Before long, I had about a dozen or so. No form. No meter. Just poems. Some better than others. Some were complete junk. When I became a full time employee of the university, I took advantage of the ‘free class a semester’ once and took a class on writing poetry. I really enjoyed it. A couple of the ones I wrote there are on my blog, as well. Shortly after I got married, I enrolled in the Long Ridge Writers Group’s “Breaking Into Print” course. It’s a work-at-your-own-pace course that they say most students finish in about eighteen months. Again, I preferred the extended plan of about four years or so. Through the course, I wrote a handful of short stories that are, more or less, ready to send off to magazines. Much like my poetry, I’ve just not submitted it. Okay, it’s not quite the same. I know the stories haven’t been published, whereas I’d have to check magazine guidelines to see if posting on blogs counts as “published.” Pretty sad reason to not have stuff published, huh? Like I said in my Virtual Blog Tour post this month, “I’m quite a competent slacker.”
MARIE ELENA: Or as De Jackson puts it, a pro-crastinator. Makes me giggle every time. Have you begun that novel yet?
ROB: I started writing a novel about the same time I started writing poetry. I have a number of partial chapters written, but haven’t put much effort into it.
MARIE ELENA: Can you divulge anything?
ROB: It’s pretty standard fantasy – swords, magic, a kingdom being gripped by an evil scourge, and a band of heroes that show up to save it. I have a number of ideas, partial chapters, paragraphs of other stories that have popped into my head at times … and, again, they are all fantasy.
MARIE ELENA: From whom do you draw writing inspiration in general?
ROB: We always hear about how folks are inspired by other writers, but I’m not exactly sure what that means. Whose style/stories/poems do I really like and wish I could write like? I have a handful. Robert Jordan, the author of The Wheel of Time series. In the first book (of fourteen), I was emotionally involved with the characters. He also introduced a new way of magic.
Stephen King. I have been a fan of his since I read Skeleton Crew as a teenager. He has this incredible ability to turn normal everyday situations into horrific events, to turn seemingly harmless people into monsters, to make a writer never want to meet their ‘number one fan.’
George R. R. Martin. I love his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, known to HBO viewers as Game of Thrones, after the first book in the series. His series is so much grittier than of fantasy. Sex, profanity, misery. They’re rife. This isn’t a world where most people are happy with a few bad guys trying to cause trouble. This is a world where people live hard lives and try to find moments of happiness when they can. His characters are incredibly deep and over the course of the series so far, I’ve come to hate a person or two who I liked at first, and come to like very much one who I despised at first. And no one is safe. Main characters perish like everyone else. I love it.
Some other authors I like: Robert Frost, Dan Simmons, Brandon Mull, Edgar Alan Poe, John Keats, William Shakespeare.
Inspired by, though, would include Walt Wojtanik, Marie Elena Good, RJ Clarken, Robert Lee Brewer, William Preston and a number of others who I see turn out two or three poems for almost every poetry prompt.
MARIE ELENA: Wow. What a compliment. Thank you so much!
Do you find it hard to balance writing, career in Information Technology, and family? When is your favorite time to write, and how do you carve it out?
ROB: Balance? That’s funny. I have the mandatory work time – morning to late afternoon/evening – because we’re not independently wealthy yet. Then I have the family time, which is most of the time that I’m not at work. Coaching the girls’ soccer teams, driving them to activities, watching movies, family trips, even just watching TV with my wife at night. Sometimes she and I have our laptops out working on various things while the TV is on, but there is very little time that I’d say I “carve out” for writing. I love Evernote for Android and the Web. It allows me to work on writing wherever I am and have a few minutes.
MARIE ELENA: I’ve never heard of Evernote. It sounds like a great idea.
What is your writing-related pet peeve, and how do you deal with it?
ROB: I don’t really have one … probably because I don’t write as much as I should. Does not making enough time to write count as a pet peeve? I’m also not fond of the e-reader/e-book stuff, but I suppose that’s more of a reading pet peeve.
MARIE ELENA: Rob, thank you for this fun interview. It really has been a pleasure getting to know you better. Now, one last question … If we could know only one thing about you, what would you choose to tell us?
ROB: You mean, if you hadn’t already read this interview to this point, weren’t/aren’t friends with me on social media, and haven’t read my blogs? I guess you’re looking for something more intimate and juicier than “my family is my life” or “I love to read and write,” huh? I’m a soccer fanatic? Everyone knows that, too. I’m an introvert? No, that’s probably fairly obvious. I am really into fantasy and love reading and writing. That doesn’t exactly scream “outgoing,” right?
Okay, I think I’ve got it. I am a Paladin, minus the magic ability … and it really took a stupid online quiz for me to realize it. I have played Dungeons & Dragons since I was thirteen and I got my wife into seventeenish years ago. The character class I’ve always been most drawn to is the Paladin, a lawful good character with a strict moral code, guided by his faith. While I don’t always have to be out in front, I am a leader, a protector, and have a strong set of principles. I don’t like to be around people who behave contrary to my moral code, which is why I have so few people I call friends, and have such disdain for our society, as a whole, and the direction it is headed. I fear we’re following the path of ancient Rome.