Jim Russo is a poetry activist. For the last year he has been managing Central Coast Poetry Shows—a social media based platform for new and seasoned poets.
CCPS provides valuable experience and exposure for poets as well as introducing poetry to a wider audience. As CCPS celebrates their successful first year, I was privileged to catch up with Russo to find out more about the man behind the mission.
Jim, please tell me about yourself as a writer. What do write and why?
Jim Russo—My background in writing began as a student of acting in Los Angeles. I also studied scriptwriting and later rewrote and wrote scenes to perform. To be honest I’m self-taught. I sat in the back of poetry readings listening for months and one day it occurred to me, I can do this.
I began writing three poems a month for my five minutes of open mic time. I got hooked because I could affect the audience as an actor would–with my own words. I’m comfortable writing poetry because as a narrative poet I can tell complete stories in a short amount of time. Sometimes I have the last line of a poem and the puzzle is how to get there.
You are a strong advocate for poetry. Everyday you post a poem from a new or established writer on your site, Central Coast Poetry Shows. How did you begin doing this and why?
Jim Russo—When I began planning the Central Coast Poetry Shows my cousin suggested a companion Facebook page. Because the shows were delayed I began putting one of my poems on the page daily and then asked my guests and others to post their poems and soon we began receiving poems from all over the world– Ireland, Nigeria, India, and Wales and now it stands at over 5000 people in forty-seven U.S. states and over one-hundred countries that follow the page and contribute.
Jim Russo—Yes, anyone can be featured for a day. We do ask that no hate speech be submitted and we remind writers that we also have a teen-age audience.
Submit poems to: facebook.com/CentralCoastPoetryShows. A new uncensored feature poem is posted daily at 12:30 pm. We are now at about four hundred and fifty days.
What are some other ways you are active in the poetry community?
Jim Russo—I hosted a monthly poetry reading, Poet Speak, in Santa Cruz for three years. I hosted the induction of my friend, Jerry Kamstra, into the Beat Museum on Broadway in North Beach, San Francisco. I’ve been a featured poet in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, San Jose, and San Francisco. I helped produce 100,000 Poets World Wide (2012) in Santa Cruz. I have been reading and attending readings all over the Central Coast for over 15 years.
I’m now producing and hosting two thirty-minute television poetry shows each month with two poets per show at the three-camera studio of Community Television of Santa Cruz County. The shows are televised on Tuesday nights at 10:00, and available on our Youtube channel and our website, CentralCoastPoetryShows.com.
Your 31 Days of Poetry Prompts books are tools to help writers explore new territory, get past mental blocks and hone their skills. Why did you decide to write and publish those books?
Jim Russo—Many poets use prompts at some point in their maturity and instruction. Often the prompts are a little too open-ended and we thought it would be helpful to supply the seeds or theme of a poem—something that could act as a first line or prompt a more evocative response.
After brain-storming we came up with the 31 Days of Poetry Prompts book series and it seemed like a good fit for my Sky Bolt Circus Press. We currently have 5 themed Poetry Prompt books with journal pages and plenty of room to write and experiment.
We see these books as tools for instruction in the classroom, in poetry groups, institutions and therapeutic settings. When you’ve completed one of the 31 Days of Poetry Prompts books, you can submit it to Create Space and self-publish your own book of poems.
What advice do you have for fellow poets that may not be covered in your books?
Jim Russo—My advice to poets is this: to help your poems and your readings, read out loud at home first and listen to the sound of the words. Better to find a mistake in bed with your feet up than standing in front of a room full of strangers.
As someone who provides inspiration to other poets, where do you find your inspiration?
Jim Russo—I am inspired by everything around me. An artist must hone their senses to take in the smells, the sounds, the light, the voices, the turning of the world. It seems I have something to say about almost everything. Sometimes it’s one word from a poem I heard or a lyric from a song.
A few years ago I wanted to write an environmental poem. I mulled it around in my head for days but I couldn’t find the voice. Then one morning I was warming up my car with the local college radio station on and the next song was being dedicated to Sally on her tenth birthday and first day in the fifth grade. Ah Ha!…that was the voice I was looking for, Nicky– “From the Mouths of Babes.”
Jim Russo—The future will bring more Central Coast Poetry Shows (presently 27), more poetry collections, more 31 Day Poetry Prompt books and a special project that is in development– I want to produce an international poetry show, inviting all the poets who have submitted poems to our pages to submit video to be turned into 30-minute television/youtube compilations. And most importantly a future of more fun and more poetry.
You can find more information on Jim Russo and Central Coast Poetry Shows by following these links below…