Interview: Nicholas Trandahl - The Outdoor Poet

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HJ - Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.

NT - My name is Nicholas Trandahl. I’m a poet. However, I also work as a newspaper reporter in the United States, in the State of Wyoming, but before that I was deployed as a soldier in the U.S. Army. I’m married to a lovely lady named Brittany, and I have two talented daughters with my third being born any day now. My first poems were published in 2011, and a year later I signed with my first publisher.

HJ - What prompted you to start writing poetry and why? What was it about the form that attracted you?

NT - I’ve always held a fondness for poetry. I can remember writing poems as a child, largely inspired by the songs in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and by Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry. As a child, I had a huge volume of Poe’s complete works, and I used to read it constantly. He enchanted me.

However, I didn’t start writing poetry again as an adult until I was deployed in the Middle East in 2009. When I was deployed I suffered crippling depression and anxiety, and I started writing very introspective grim poetry as a way of self-medicating myself and dealing with the things I was experiencing as a soldier.

These days, my poems are rarely grim or introspective, but I count those “soldier poems” as my first steps into being a contemporary poet.

HJ - What form does your poetry take? It appears to be quite loose & free, would you say you had a style?

NT - I’d certainly agree to the form of my poetry being loose and free. My initial forays into poetry were structured and rhyming, following in the footsteps of my beloved Poe. But when I discovered the meandering free verse of Walt Whitman, my poetry began to change. However, it wasn’t until I read my first Mary Oliver collection that I knew my poetry would never be the same. Now my poems are certainly free verse, sometimes even fragmented into “stream of consciousness” thoughts or quiet observations.

HJ - Where do you write?

NT - I write literally everywhere. I write in the car, at the doctor, during hikes, at a campsite, etc. When I feel inspired to write some lines, I need to write them immediately. But those are always my rough drafts. When it comes to writing manuscripts, it’s at my antique 1920s-era writing desk.

HJ - You describe yourself as an 'outdoorsman', can you expand on that and how it influences your work?

NT - I’d certainly say I’m an outdoorsman. And by that, I mean that I feel most alive and most myself when I’m hiking a winding trail up a mountain or through some pinewoods, or when I’m camping in a tent in the wilderness and cooking my own food on the campfire, or when I’m fly fishing for trout in a cold stream. That’s what’s great about the rural area in which I live; there’s so much opportunity for outdoor excursions and adventures with little to no chance of encountering other people.

As for the outdoors influencing my work, nature is the most powerful and endless influence that an observational poet like myself could hope for (aside from my wife). Every time I set foot outside, I’m influenced in some way.

HJ - Tell us about Pulling Words, which I believe reflects on quite a lot of your personal experiences? Is writing about personal matters something that comes naturally?

NT - Pulling Words was published by Winter Goose Publishing this spring. I’ve had poems in anthologies and a poetry collection published before, but with Pulling Words it’s safe to say that I’ve really found my voice as a poet. This collection does indeed reflect a lot about my personal experiences, as most of my poetry does these days. As for whether writing about personal subject matter comes naturally to me, there’s really nothing more natural. I write about the world and about nature, people, and places, but I can best illustrate these subjects by writing what I see and what I feel and how these things affect me personally. Those that have followed my poetry for a while know that I don’t shy away from writing about events that I’ve been through. I write best when I write from personal experience.

HJ - Are there any conditions that help you with the writing process, any must-haves?

NT - It may seem obsessive, but I require my old leather poetry journal and/or my vintage 1950 Smith-Corona typewriter (a family heirloom) for getting my rough drafts down. Some folks may think this old-fashioned or impractical, but there’s nothing like the visceral and physical creation of prose via the nostalgic clatter of a typewriter or handwritten lines in a battered journal that’s been on numerous adventures with me.

Also, not to sound too much like Charles Bukowski, but having a couple beers or cocktails at night really helps me write my own brand of free verse poetry in a natural way that doesn’t ever feel forced.

In addition, I see travel and adventure as a necessity for a poet. I’ve rarely felt inspired at my desk. I’ve got to go outside and visit unique locales that I haven’t ever seen. My wife and I are always planning trips, and I require them to keep the writing material blossoming.

HJ - In your opinion, why is poetry important?

NT - I’m unsure if poetry is important. It’s subjective really. It’s certainly important to me and my readers. Poetry, to me, is a form of literary art, and art is important in that it’s a snapshot of creativity at a certain time period and it serves as the legacy of a creative individual that once lived and worked among us. If poetry is important, it’s because poems, like art and music, are the purified observations and expressions of a human being.

HJ - What is the relationship between your speaking voice and your written voice? Do you perform your work?

NT - I do not perform my poetry. I’ve only very rarely read my poetry aloud to an audience, and it was always an anxiety-inducing experience. I don’t see poetry as a performance art. I see a lot of poets blowing up these days and going on poetry tours and such because of their expressive and manic poetry readings. That’s just not me; I’m a quiet guy that keeps to himself. I prefer to let my written words speak for themselves. They don’t need me to be an actor flailing my arms about.

HJ - Do you have any upcoming work you would like to share?

NT - Well, 2016 was a big year for me in that Pulling Words, my first book with my new publisher, was released. But 2017 promises to be even bigger.

My publisher, Winter Goose Publishing, will be putting out my next collection Think of Me in April. Think of Me is a little more raw and unflinching than its predecessor, and it delves even more into nature and the outdoors, as well as topics like spirituality and sex. But, like Pulling Words, this next collection will again heavily feature my travels, memories, and personal experiences.

Also, next summer my first publisher, Swyers Publishing, has asked me to return to be a featured poet in a compilation called Heart of Courage, alongside three amazing poets (Kelsi Rose, Fiona Summerville, and Pamela Swyers). I have 75 poems in Heart of Courage so it’s essentially another entire collection!

HJ - Do you find promoting yourself as a poet difficult?

NT - I do. To be a poet that writes in the style that I write in the 21st Century is incredibly difficult. I’m not a “pop poet”; my pieces don’t translate well over social media. I’m not a master of one-liners and quotes. I usually write long observational pieces that need read in their entirety. That’s hard to market and promote to those that don’t already read poetry like that. I do what I can to market and promote my work to the best that my “old soul” mindset can achieve. The best way to get my poetry to people has been through personal interactions online or in person at my book-signings and such.

HJ - Who/What are your chief inspirations? Favourite poets/writers?

NT - Well, my chief inspirations for my poetry have always been my wife/muse, nature, adventure, and traveling. But I am also endlessly inspired by other writers. My writing style and themes are most inspired by Raymond Carver, Jim Harrison, Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, and Ernest Hemingway (my favorite all-around writer).

I’m also very fond of 19th Century Russian novelists, my favorites being Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Turgenev, and Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina being the finest piece of literature I’ve ever read).

HJ - Mythology featured in one of the poems you published with us, is that a theme you like to delve into often?

NT - Actually, I don’t usually visit mythology with my poetry. I used to write fantasy fiction years ago (in fact my first published book all those years ago was a fantasy novel) so I’ve a fondness for mythology and mysticism. With that poem you mentioned, “Trying to Get to Abu Nakhlah”, the entrance of Norse gods and goddesses into the prose was purely situational, based on what I was reading during the events discussed in the poem. I’ve become too much of a realist and observer these days to delve too much into mythology and similar themes.

HJ - What do you think of the indie publishing and mainstream publishing communities?

NT - To me, publishing is publishing. It’s a means to get your voice on shelves and into the hands of readers. Of course, a mainstream publisher has more reach and better marketing and can make a writer more money. But the personal touch of small presses and indie publishers is something to be desired as well. I’ve signed contracts with a few indie publishers, and something I’ve really enjoyed is having the final say on all aspects of my manuscript, right down to cover design. It enables an author to really develop and foster their own author brand which is beneficial in the matters of sales, marketing, and aesthetics. In addition the community of indie-published writers are for more reachable and interactive with colleagues and readers than mainstream-published writers. But I won’t kid myself and say that I wouldn’t love to land a deal with a large mainstream publisher in the future.

Nicholas Trandahl is a writer that lives in northeast Wyoming, where he works as a reporter for a newspaper. Trandahl is also a U.S. Army veteran. He is happily married to his muse (his wife Brittany) and has two daughters, with a third being born later this summer.

An avid poet, Trandahl draws inspiration for his poetry from his adventures, travels, and experiences throughout the world. He is known for the simplicity, honesty, and quietude of his poems. Trandahl has frequently cited his main literary influences as Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, and Jim Harrison, and his poems have often been compared to those of Mary Oliver.

Trandahl is published by Winter Goose Publishing and released his debut poetry collection, Pulling Words, with Winter Goose in April 2017. Pulling Words is available worldwide in paperback and eBook through Amazon. His second collection with Winter Goose, Think of Me, is scheduled to hit shelves in April 2018. Trandahl’s poetry will also be featured as part of a compilation called Heart of Courage that will be published by Swyers Publishing in June 2018.