I heard of John Sherman a few years ago as we travel in some of the same “Hoosier” poet and writer circles, but I officially met him at a poetry workshop he conducted recently at Mounds State Park. It was a treat to attend the workshop and hear his stories, especially of teaching poetry to kids in schools throughout Indiana and abroad. I am honored to feature John on the Hoosier Authors blog so even more poetry fans discover his art and legacy of sharing the written word around the world! ~ Kathy G, Hoosier Authors
When did you start writing?
While I did some writing, mostly fiction and some poetry, in high school and even more in college, I truly began to write in Peace Corps, right out of college. Several years later, I found some poems I’d written in college, hated them, and threw them away. (This was in the era of typewriters; I had no carbon copies, so when I tossed them, they were tossed. Later, I wondered if I’d been too hasty, but when I happened to find one more poem from college, and hated it, too, I decided I had made the right decision. It, too, went into the wastebasket!) As an English and Journalism major at IU, I did a lot of writing, often for publication, so I had a lot of training in meeting deadlines and writing lengthy pieces; they were all nonfiction, but still it was good practice.
Why do you write?
I’ve been asked this before and I find it difficult to respond, as I really don’t know. I wrote well as a kid in elementary school and was often chosen to write something (for a performance, a class project, etc.) and that experience and the praise I received for some of that work encouraged me to write. Now, I would add, “I cannot imagine not writing.” It’s really a central part of my life.
What books have you published?
I’ve published three books of poetry, It Give You Something to Think About (sic), America is a Negro Child: Race Poems, and Marjorie Main: Rural Documentary Poetry. I also researched and wrote Santa Fe: A Pictorial History and Taos: A Pictorial History; a memoir, War Stories: A Memoir of Nigeria and Biafra; New Faces at the Crossroads (for the International Center of Indianapolis – a book on recent immigration to Central Indiana), and two ghostwritten books.
I also published two poetry CDs (on my website – under “art” where you’ll find the books, posters, photos) – one with my daughter Chi Sherman, Shades: Writings on Race Culture Gender and Home (poems about growing up on our farm in Jay County).
Where is your favorite place to write?
I am happy sitting at my computer, in silence. I find music distracting, so I don’t play any, as I will begin to listen to it! And, I don’t want to sit in a coffee shop, with a laptop and a cup of coffee. Silence is important for me. And my drink of choice? Cold water. Save the harder stuff for when you’ve finished and can celebrate! Besides, one wants as clear a head as possible. Cold water does the trick.
What is the last book that you couldn’t put down until it was finished?
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. She combined history and humor and I laughed out loud. I used to write a weekly humor column in Santa Fe, “Generally Sherman,” and I often wrote political satire, so I really enjoyed and related to her love of the details of history and her wicked sense of humor.
If you could spend the day with any writer past or present who would it be and why?
With the fear of being too close and discovering you really don’t like someone you have long admired, once you are alone with them for several hours, I’d still go with Mark Twain. A brilliant man. I would say little, but hope to listen and laugh and reflect. He had a sharp wit, a great writer, and a dismissal of the pretentious and hypocritical. Those and other skills and qualities I admire in him.
What is your next book project?
I have several, actually. I have a collection of short stories that I’d love to publish, and a collection of my humor columns, but what I want to get back to, after a few years, is a novel loosely based on my father’s family, going back to my great-grandfather who was a Union soldier imprisoned at Andersonville. His brother died there of disease and/or starvation. I sense the impact of that horror on my grandfather and then on my father and then on me.
What else would you like to share with fellow Hoosier Authors and fans?
I have written an opera, Biafra, which can be seen at my website. Nathaniel Blume scored beautiful music for the 20 minutes so far that have been performed. We are seeking to raise funds – the Harrison Center in Indianapolis is our fiscal agent – once that’s done, it will be available for performance on stage. I have a Nigerian colleague who wants to film it on location – and then we will have it translated into Igbo – it will be the first Igbo-language opera.
Where can we connect with you?
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. My website is www.mesaverdepress.com. There, you can see, in addition to the opera, dozens of posters I’ve created of my poetry and photography; many other photographs; and my latest poetry book, Marjorie Main, and War Stories.