Hello, I’m Cliff.
My earliest goal (3rd grade) was to be President of the United States—the United States as a sort of reconstituted Confederacy–true to the tenets of the Southern Agrarians and, this time around, with slavery a proscribed capital offense. To that end I later trained in political science at Wake Forest University. But as fate would have it I ended up teaching in diverse settings—high school, prison, military—English, literacy, writing. On occasion I would cycle into home renovation. Building and fixing stuff is something I’ve always enjoyed not to mention the autonomy it proffered (i.e., my favorite music in the background; coffee and bathroom breaks as I pleased). Then I would get old with that and cycle back into teaching. Vestiges of my original interest in politics remain however in two or three sockpuppets I keep around for sociopolitical blogging. My favorite prose model is Charles Krauthammer, whose lucid, logical style I adapted to the presentation of my own views. As to poetry, I came by it in spates, usually under conditions of extreme tension. My prose, even my business communications, would begin to express in meter and rhyme, and so I sought to compartmentalize this tendency into a dedicated medium with the help of websites like PoemShape. It worked, otherwise you’d probably be reading this in mellifluous iambs. Coincidentally, though I have a genius-level verbal IQ you wouldn’t know it from my school performance. I almost flunked English in middle school and as a d/c student in college marveled (and envied) how my classmates could devour a book in one afternoon that I might kick around for a month or more. About this time I begin to find quick fixes of poetry a rewarding consolation for these deficits. I used it to anchor the vicissitudes of my working memory and to scaffold my intense and recurring emotional seizures. About those seizures: Though rarely, a few readers have faulted me for my putatively “dark” and “pathological” vision, as if all I’ve been doing lo these many years, since that blessed annunciation of my Neo-Confederate Presidency, is making the best of a schizotypal prodrome. That is their privilege: some of my earliest childhood poems do indeed seem inordinately concerned with death, and elements of my phenomenology, age for age, can make even Elyn Sak’s childhood terrors look like a trip to Disney World. In any case, the residual political scientist in me remains yet less concerned with a pill for any “problem” than with a land for it. And many of my poems are no doubt both symptom and prophecy of that life’s yearning. That said, I’ve had my playful moments, in art and life, and these too almost certainly inform my sensibilities as a poet to this day, beginning at age 3, with mud pies: