Joe Farley is best known for partnering in the Keystone Tombstones biography series about famous and noteworthy people buried in Pennsylvania. Recently, Joe has released his first poetry volume: Song Poems in Search of Music, published by Sunbury Press. Following is an interview of Joe conducted for the Ernest and Edgar Literary Blog:
EE: For your Keystone Tombstones fans, a Joe Farley poetry book will appear to be somewhat of a diversion. Have you been a poet, and they didn’t know it? How do you hope they react?
JF: I would hope they would react favorably. As a matter of fact I’ve already received positive feedback on some of the poems.
EE: The poems span many decades. What is your reason for compiling them at this time?
JF: A couple of reasons, first after along period where I had stopped writing poetry I started again and that got me thinking about some of the older poems. When I dug those out and looked at them the thought occurred to me that maybe it was time to do something with them.
EE: Is there a favorite poem among the lot?
JF: I’m not sure I have a favorite but I do like Perfectly Pennswood and Burning Ash (Sharon’s Song). The latter is an old poem while the former is a new one.
EE: How did your work evolve over the years?
JF: I think the newer poems are more straight forward than the older ones. I’m pretty sure That I couldn’t write some of the older ones today, like The Degradation Inn for example.
JF: I’ll probably give it a rest for a time, but sure, I’ll write some more in the future.
EE: You have included a couple poems by your son Corrigan. Tells us a little about him.
JF: Corrigan’s my oldest son. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh a year ago, got married last summer and is currently living in Vancouver and working for Amazon.
EE: Did he want to be included, or was this your choice?
JF: It was my choice but I cleared it with him first.
EE: Regarding On the Lost Legends — which legends have been lost? Are you referring to a particular person or group of people?
JF:Lost Legends isn’t only about people, it includes ideas, inventions and theories.
EE: The Dark-Eyed Girl seems to have left quite an impression. Was this a real person in your life?
JF:The Dark-Eyed Girl is about several women, some are still around and some have passed away.
EE: Anthracite is one of my favorites. But, it sounds very bitter. What happened to your father?
JF:Anthracite will probably rile some of the folks back home. The reference in the poem to fathers is talking about grandfathers as well as my dad. My dad did pass away at a very young age.
EE: Some of your best lines are in The View From Oblivion’s Corner. I really liked this portion:
The drunkard at the river’s edge duels a maze of misconception;
I guess he never found a bargain when he bartered for affection.
There’s a note inside a bottle, but it breaks not far from shore.
Your sailor sweeps the waters clean, while the drunkard drinks some more.
What would I find on that note in the bottle?
JF: It’s up to the reader to decide what message was contained in the bottle.
EE: The Degradation Inn reads like an assignment from a Philosophy class in college. What was the origin of this?
JF:The Degradation Inn was written in the 1970s and was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan. Like I pointed out earlier I don’t believe I could write one like that today.
EE:The Stubborn Memory Blues is probably most ready to be put to music. The refrain makes it a potential country or R&B tune:
I’m not saying that I remember;
It’s more like I can’t forget.
Do you have tunes in your head when you write some of these?
JF: I had a tune in my head when I wrote that one but that is generally not the case.
EE: Anything else you want to leave us with?
JF: Well I’d like to thank my wife Sharon who took the photos that are included in the book, she really supported me on this project. In addition I hope that the readers enjoy the song poems.