John Reinhart: Arsonist Under an Ashtray

My original introduction to John.

I met John Reinhart under an ashtray on the Queen Mary Cruise ship during StokerCon 2017. He was just laying there, waiting for a pick up.

I was curious as to what kind of man waits to meet people from beneath an ashtray, so I did pick him up… and fell in love.

From that little origami pocket book I have found an eclectic new friend who has opened my eyes about what poetry is. My literary world has blown open.

I have found a poem is so much more than a little ditty to be read at the local open mic and then trapped in a chapbook. Poetry is meant to come off the page and walk among us.

Poetry is obstinate. It can’t be hushed. It thrives in crowds and closets. It can be born on a scrap of paper or just a breath. It opens minds and doors with equal adeptness. Poetry can wait in an unexpected place, like under an ashtray, and forge a friendship.

Courtesy of John Reinhart

And now, I let John Reinhart, a man of words, use them to introduce himself.

John—I’m an arsonist by trade, poet by calling – it was actually an interstellar message in binary runes– and average humanoid, a little like Dorothy from the historical annals of Oz, trying to make connections, thereby illuminating the truths cowering in the shadows.

Primarily, my time is divided between the three small humanoids for whom I bear most responsibility, caring for a small menagerie on our farmlette just outside Denver, Colorado, talking with teenagers across town for whom I also bear responsibility. I make time to talk with my wife, write, and occasionally sleep.

How did you start with poetry? Has it always been a passion?

John—I started writing poetry in grade school, even submitted a few poems, had a couple published. I wrote relatively little poetry between then and my early 30s. My resurfacing as a poet coincided with the birth of my third child. Curiously, I completed some kind of creative project with the birth of each child, perhaps as a sympathetic desire to create new life, who knows.

The first project was a long shelved project to document my grandmother’s recipes. The second was my second traditional Texas-style fiddle album, and the third was my first poetry manuscript, which spawned the new wave of poetry.

I’ve always been a writer, always fascinated with language. I spent years wanting to be a journalist, so poetry seems like a reasonable development from that ; -) Observation lies at the core of both, as well as precise language, and the marriage of form and creativity.

I first met you because I found one of your origami poetry books underneath an ash tray at Stokers. Is this something you do often, and what prompted you?

Courtesy of John Reinhart

John—My poetry appears on buses, in coffee shops, in grocery stores, anywhere I can leave a poem where it might be found, hopefully read, and maybe kept, passed along, or left again for the next innocent bystander.

I recently wandered the small city of Berlin, New Hampshire, with a little book of poems about the city, dropping copies at whatever junction I thought someone else likely to pick them up: subversive litter, with emphasis on the verse.

These poems take the form of the origami-style books you mention, editions from Poems-For-All, and scribbled notes I leave. My contact information is usually on the poem, but you are the first person to contact me after finding one of my poems.

What other things do you do create? Art, music, sculpture etc.

John—I grew up playing fiddle music. It’s been six years since I released my last album, but I still play occasionally. When I get the chance, I like to collect garbage (this was the inspiration for theme 7/15/2017 issue of Eye to the Telescope that I edited) which I then resurrect as collage. I’ve had my art shown in the historic Santa Fe Arts District in Denver. I also maintain a 6 foot high, 30 foot long art fence on the north side of my yard, a giant collage of a sort.

You have referred to yourself as an “arsonist by trade.” Do you mean that in a figurative way or do you actually set fires?

Courtesy of Sydney Lewark

John—William Butler Yeats often gets credit for this quote, but it was originally a Greek philosopher who said “education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” I light children on fire.

I don’t actually teach students. I do my best to create a context and an environment where the students can learn. Learning occurs in the conjunction between experience and love. That’s where I provide tinder and sparks. The students bring the rest.

My latest collection accepted for publication is entitled “arson.” It’ll be out from NightBallet Press later 2017 or early 2018. I won’t give it all away, but the opening poem is a syllabus for Arson 101.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

John—My upcoming chapbook “arson” was my most recent favorite. Because so many people ask about my being an arsonist, it was a great opportunity to explore what that means to me.

Courtesy of Sarah Box

What’s your creative process? Do you need music, silence, coffee etc.

John—I don’t have time for creative process, so I make everything I do an act in the service of art, as much as I can. I write on anything, anywhere. I try to pull over if I’m driving, though I’ve also recorded ideas while stuck in traffic.

I tend to spend most of my writing time late at night or early in the morning, times when my children are not awake. Because my working stretches tend to come in short bursts or while activity is swirling around me, I tend to write shorter poems.

Coffee is essential. Not necessarily for writing or creativity. Just essential. Ok, not essential. But I like it a lot.

What do you find particularly challenging about creating in general?

John—Bills.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

Courtesy of John Reinhart

John—Being awarded the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship by the Horror Writers Association was a definite highlight. I’m still a bit stunned about that one.

I’ve been honored to have my work nominated for the Rhysling two years in a row, including two poems this year. One of those nominations, The Butterflies of Traxl IV, was published by Pedestal Magazine, one of only 14 poems that issue from over 1,200 submissions. I’ve been writing like mad for four years.

Find more about John Reinhart through his work and other links here—

You can also find John on Facebook

About Angela Yuriko Smith

A former news journalist, Angela Yuriko Smith retired to write fiction. Her prose and poetry have been published in several print and online publications. She has nearly 20 books which include dark and speculative fiction for YA and adults, books for children and two collections of poetry. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” has been nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. When not writing, she teaches creative writing at Northwest Florida State College.
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One Response to John Reinhart: Arsonist Under an Ashtray

  1. Pingback: Reviewing Reinhart | AngelaYSmith.com

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