Contributor Spotlight:
Interview with Rohan Buettel

This image features a selfie of Rohan sitting at the front of a bus. He is smiling and is wearing a red and white checkered shirt.

Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We’re intrigued by the dichotomy of a conscious human perspective vs. nature’s unconscious perspective of linear time in the poem “After the Rain.” How do you feel this ties into the human sense of waiting?

Rohan Buettel: Stuck indoors on a wet day, I felt a need to write. Casting around for a subject, I saw the raindrops adhering to the maple branch outside the window and decided to challenge myself to write about a single drop. I had to consciously force myself to focus on the drop, nothing seemed to happen and I was wondering what is there to write about? I looked more closely and started to observe slow, subtle changes which could form the basis for the poem. Notwithstanding this, it was all happening far too slowly and I felt a strong sense of frustration, boredom and a desire for activity. Yet a human desire for action has no effect on the inexorable processes of nature. There was nothing to do but accommodate myself to waiting.

RR: “After the Rain” closes with the potential for a repeated reading with the line, “Still I wait…” We read the end of the poem as inviting us to return back to the opening, rereading in a continual loop. How do you think time and circularity play out in terms of poetic form?

RB: A range of forms produce a sense of satisfaction in the reader. I think many people search instinctively for patterns, and they enjoy it when they find them in a poem, e.g. in a villanelle, pantoum or sonnet. Another example is the circular poem that at its end returns to its beginning, like a snake swallowing its tail. To convey a subjective sense of time passing, we use descriptors, meter and rhythm. Reading poems aloud gives a good opportunity to convey varying subjective rates of time, with not just speed of delivery, but lengthening and shortening vowels to change pace.

RR: What is your process or ritual when it comes to crafting pieces that focus on nature?

RB: When writing about nature, I try to closely observe the subject over a period of time, either taking notes on what I am observing or writing free verse lines as I watch or make associations. Subsequently I research the subject online, again taking notes. I think about what poetic form will best contribute to the poem’s effect. I write taking into account my observations and research. Sometimes I start in free verse and part way through realize a different form would enhance the poem and begin again, rewriting in the new form.

RR: We understand that you enjoy mountain biking, kayaking, and traveling. How have your outdoor expeditions influenced your poetry?

RB: I particularly enjoy encounters with wildlife (except being swooped by magpies, a regular hazard in the Australian spring where I live) and these can spark haiku or longer poems, or imagery to incorporate in longer poems. The slower pace of bushwalking is probably more conducive to poetic ideas than cycling. You cover less ground but see more.

RR: Who is your favorite author or poet to turn to for inspiration when it comes to writing about nature?

RB: Les Murray, the doyen of Australian poets, died a few years ago. He wrote much nature poetry and wrote with authenticity. A good example of his work is “Noonday Axeman” (found online), which captures aspects of Australian rural life.

Rohan Buettel’s work appears in Issue 9.2 here.