This interview was published in the Lummox Journal in July of 2001.
Harry Northuphas had six books of poetry published, the most recent, The Ragged Vertical –
Cahuenga Press.He has been an actor for over 24 years, appearing in 36 films, including Taxi Driver, The Silence
of the Lambs, Beloved, and In Cold Blood.Thanks to Scott Wannberg for suggesting
RD: Tell me a little about yourself.
HN: I was born in Amarillo,
Texas, in 194O. Grew up in Sidney,
Nebraska.Did the lead in the community theatre
production of "Our Town.”Played the lead in the Jr. class play, "Headin'
for a Weddin'."Played baseball in every l
eague from age 5 to 17.After graduating from high school, I joined the Navy, became a radioman, advanced to E-5,
RN.After being discharged from the Navy in '61, I attended Nebr. State Teachers
College at Kearney,
where I acted in many plays, including playing Reverend Hale in "The Crucible" & Billy Brown in O'Neill’s
God Brown." In 1963, I went to
New York City to pursue acting as a
RD: What inspired you to become a writer'?
HN: I studied Method acting with Frank Cosaro in
from 1963-1968.In 1966, Lee Hickman, a student in the class,
& I decided
to do a scene together.One day, after rehearsal, he put a book in my hand.It was THE NEW AMERICAN
POETRY, Edited by Donald Allen, published by Grove Press,
1960.I took it home & read it.
At the same time, I was supposed to act in two Off-Broadway
plays & they both fell through.
I had all this emotion inside
me, and it had to
Method acting is my base & Lee Hickman turned me on
RD:How does being a publisher effect you as a writer?
I work hard on my poetry & I work hard for Cahuenga Press.This morning before
, I sent out 4 things regarding
Cahuenga Press.Our press, Cahuenga Press, is a poets co-operative, & I enjoy the camaraderie of the other 4 poets & I
their poetry.The press is a blessing.
Was there a single point or event that inspired you or was it a slow process of transition?
Inspiration is always based on something real.In Method acting, I learned to
base my approach on real life
experience, not books. The New American Poetry brought poetry down to the ground. A person didn’t
have to be a
college professor, or John Milton, or an intellectual to write poetry.A person could compose poesy from his, or her,
own life.Using one's experience,
one's imagination, one's memory - including very important, sense memories.Just
like Method acting.The gods in the roots of the trees, in the tips of the flowers,
mystical visions seen on the subways.
RD: How did you arrive at the work you're doing now?
By writing regularly over the past 34 years.By nourishing myself with
Paterson by Williams; The Bridge
The Cantos [Pound]; H.D.’s [Hilda Doolittle] work.By being humbled
& by receiving grace.& by allowing the emotion to
take me where it will
in my work.By my deep interest in the long poem.By having a deep passion for poetry. By blood,
love, work, & by having a deep passion for poetry."There are two ways," to
learn how to be a poet, Paul Blackburn told
me in 1966 at St. Mark's Church, "reading
RD: You also have a background in acting. How does this impact on your writing/publisher schedule?
HN: I just finished a guest star role in “E.R."
& the job went down so fast that I had to concentrate solely on working on my
character. Television waits for no man.
I have made a living as an actor for 26 years, acting in 36 films.In films,
get a little more advance notice & the shooting
isn’t quite as fast.In my next book, REUNIONS, I include poems about working
as an actor in "Beloved," directed by Jonathan Demme, & "BrokedownPalace," directed by Jonathan Kaplan. Poetry has given
me confidence in writing & taught me concision
& how to use time & space, make good use of it.I have worked with great
film directors: Scorsese, Demme, Kaplan, & they have all allowed me to contribute ideas & writing to their films.
RD: I’m fascinated with the way an idea becomes
a reality, even if only on paper... tell me about your own creative process.
"Loss," which is a section in my last book, THE RAGGED VERTICAL, begins with my 16-yr-old son running away.I live in
East Hollywood & I would drive to
Santa Monica &
look for him & come home empty-handed.I would sit at my
typewriter & cry & write about this journey.The original work which includes
other aspects of my son's struggle & my
to help him learn &
grow up amidst divorce, drugs, love,
despair... turned into an 81 page work. When
I finally completed
"Loss" I had cut it
down to 9 poems.
RD: Does living with another creative soul (Holly Prado)
help to keep the “fires burning”, or is it by necessity, a lonely path?
Holly is very supportive & loving.I fell in love with her writing
before I met her.Her writing drew me to her.
She is the mosthealthy writer I know.What is poetry'? It's a loneliness
I can't escape from.
RD: How important is the creative process to you?
HN: Creativity is very important.It's primary.Acting & poetry are the two fields I spend
my time in.Working & studying.
Bob Dy1an say something like, “he who isn't being born is busy dyin'”?
RD: Have you been able to make a living (modest or otherwise)
RD: Do you think it's possible in today's
"Mega-hit" oriented entertainment
business/society for an artist to actually
living within the avant-garde arena?
RD: What about the Internet?
HN: I do not have a computer.One of our Cahuenga Press members, Jimm
Gushing, is putting together a web site for
RD: Who do you draw inspiration from these days?
HN: My wife Holly, whom I love, cherish & serve.Work as an actor.My son.My cat Joey.The broken heart in loss.Spiritual
love for Ann Stanford.The poetry of Williams, Crane,
Olson, Ginsberg, Prado, Stanford.Living & walking in East Hollywood.
RD: Got any new projects planned?
HN: My seventh poetry book, REUNIONS, composed from 1995-2000,
will be published in July 2001.An intimate long poem.
What's your home?Where's your home? Everybody has a home.My home is poetry.
i have been enriched by the sea flowers of h.d.
ravaged yet beautiful
she's personal memory & mythic, concise, learned
eloquent...sometimes i think she is the best 20th
century poet, lucid, fresh, religious impulse,
HERMETIC DEFINITION is in my pantheon
PATERSON, by williams,
THE BRIDGE, by crane, FOUR QUARTETS, eliot
whitman& dickinson, of course, & frost
ginsberg, snyder, blackburn, hickman, stanford
those above me, those before me
may i hold the ring & say i stumble may i stay
in study may i nourish the legend that says deny
deny the hat. the belly, gossip, ringing phone
i define it by saying honesty
this morning i read
DREAMING THE GARDEN, ann
stanford’s forthcoming book
the returning calls the returning calls
last night i read poems for an hour
i read poems the way most people watch tv
i read them over & over. words have meaning to me
by study & tradition & individual talent
harmony origin forms ear breast bone god
coffee shop subway notebook museum movie
even the movie where the seats are uncomfortable
i define it by simplicity erudition ethics morality
morality meaning to be faithful to words ideas "in
dreams begin responsibilities"
RIPRAP, snyder's precision, work, dreams, nature