National Poetry Month: Catching up with crime poetry editor Gerald So

NPM-2005-WhiteFresh from making an appearance yesterday at Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo event (Rhyming Picture Book Month), today I’m doing a 180-degree turn and interviewing writer and poet Gerald So, the editor of the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly. All month long, Gerald is hosting the “30 Days of the 5-2” blog tour which features poetry, discussions, and other info each day of the week – including this interview!

If you were around last April, you may recall I interviewed Gerald last year as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, so I thought it would be interesting to check in with him a year later and see how things have been progressing. You may not think crime and poetry have much to do with each other…but read a few of the poems that Gerald has published on his site as well as in one of his eBooks, and you just might change your mind!

First…a little bit about him:

Gerald So-Think-160Robert B. Parker’s Spenser stoked So’s interest in crime fiction and poetry in 1993, while So was a student at Hofstra University.  He helped found Hofstra’s literary magazine, Font, earned his M.A. in Creative Writing from Queens College/CUNY, and taught English at Hofstra for six years before turning to writing full time.

A member of the Academy of American Poets, his poems have appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Barbaric Yawp, Defenestration, Yellow Mama, Gutter Eloquence Magazine, and other provocatively-named venues.  So has served as Short Mystery Fiction Society president (2008-’10) and Thrilling Detective fiction editor (2001-’09). After developing the online crime poetry journal, The Lineup, he published an ebook of his own poetry, We Might Have.

His personal blog is My Life Called So.

So Gerald, get us up to speed as to how The 5-2 has been going over the past year: have there been any changes, or any new writers you’ve discovered? And how has the response been to The 5-2 eBook you published last year?

It’s hard for me to consider the whole year at a glance. Now 2/3 through its third year, I build up the site week by week, so most of the writers are new to me. Publishing this often, the site has a chance to change along with the world, the kind of change we don’t realize at the time, but that is clear when we look back.

I’m pleased with the response to the ebooks. It’s important to me that poetry have a place in ebooks along with prose.

What makes a good “crime poem?” What is it that you look for?

I leave myself open to each poet’s take on crime. I look for evidence of crime driving a poet inevitably to write. I don’t see strong poems as similar in any particular way except powerful execution. Weak poems, on the other hand, fail in their execution.

Has the subject matter changed over the past year or so? Do people tend to write more about fictional events, or real life?

Again, I’m less aware of gradual change, but I consciously try to bear witness to life with the site. I like all kinds of poems, but my favorite deal with real life.

What kind of response do you get from folks who are just discovering the 5-2? Are they shocked at the genre of “crime poetry,” or do they appreciate it for what it is?

Some are surprised. Some don’t get it, but that’s true of any creative writing. Every reader interprets and responds to it differently. That’s part of its value.

30Days52-2014-128ltWhat do you think is the most unusual or surprising thing that people discover about crime poetry?

I think people are surprised how well they can, unfortunately, relate to it. Who among us has never been, or felt, wronged?

You told us last year that the genre is growing…how far has it come, and where do you see it heading?

That’s another difficult question to answer from my week-to-week perspective, but I do hope poetry about crime is more accepted each day.

Would you mind sharing one of your poems?

Here’s one first published on the website Lunatic Chameleon in July 2005:

“Four Minutes”

I stopped breathing
for four minutes at
four hours old,
cutting oxygen to my brain
and sapping strength from
half my body:
not so much I’d never walk
or run or write, but enough
so I couldn’t catch the kids
who called me “retard”
and bloody them
until they stopped.

– Gerald So, all rights reserved
published with permission from the author

Wow, talk about packing an emotional punch! Thanks so much for sharing that, Gerald – and for your time. I’m looking forward to seeing what new poems you publish in the coming year! (And for those of you interested, I’m honored that a new poem of mine, “To the Accused,” will be published on the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly two weeks from now, May 5-11. I’ll be sure to share the link once it’s up!)


2014kidlit_progpoemRemember, Irene Latham’s 2014 Progressive Poem continues all month long! A different poet adds a line to the poem each day, and pretty soon we’ll have a complete poem!  Today it heads over to Amy at The Poem Farm, but you can follow along by checking in with each of the following contributors:

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life


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15 thoughts on “National Poetry Month: Catching up with crime poetry editor Gerald So

  1. Love to see intersections between poetry and other topics!
    Wise words: “Every reader interprets and responds to it differently. That’s part of its value.”
    I’m looking forward to reading your poem on 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly in May, Matt.


  2. Pingback: Poetry Friday: The poetry of Vladimir K. | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  3. Fascinating. So’s poem says so much in such a tight frame. Quite haunting as my mind continues of thinking where else once can go or what happened (internally to the narrator) after “and bloodied them until they stopped.”


  4. Pingback: “To the Accused:” New poem published online | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  5. Pingback: Poetry Friday: The 2014 Progressive Poem is complete (with audio!) | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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