Jack e Lorts, ex Southern California suburbanite, fled to Oregon in the 1970’s to teach in rural schools. His poems have appeared infrequently since the late 1950’s in a wide variety of literary magazines. Much of his recent work, particularly his “Ephram Pratt” poems, appear on-line in Haggard and Halloo, Elohi Gadugi, Literary Juice, Locust, Poetry Breakfast, Dead Snakes, etc. He is the author of three chapbooks including “The Meeting-Place of Words” (2010) from Pudding House Publications. Lorts has been married 56 years, and has 3 daughters and 21 grandkids.
Literary Juice: You have been published before in Literary Juice (January 2016; Ephram Pratt Sings from the Word Box). Who is Ephram Pratt? How is he important to your poetry and everyday life?
Jack e Lorts: I first met Ephram Pratt in a poem back in 2008; I didn’t know him previously & he is not related to a minor historical figure I’ve since found on the Internet. He is in all likelihood of the Tribe of Ephram in the book of Numbers, and I also think he may be an alter-ego or doppelganger of mine who talks about things I may feel somewhat reluctant to deal with in my poems. Since meeting him, he has assisted me in writing something short of 800 of my “Poems of Ephram Pratt.” I have been writing seriously since the 1950’s, but the past several years Ephram seems to be monopolizing the bulk of my writing time.
LJ: What does a typical day of writing look like for you? Do you have a set routine?
JeL: The day after I graduated from college and started teaching in 1962, my wife and I had twin daughters, add another daughter 18 months later, and our life for the next quarter of a century became teaching school and raising kids—my writing taking a back seat for many years. However, over those years I did find time to continue some writing and had poems appear infrequently in various obscure places as well as magazines like English Journal, Kansas Quarterly, etc. In those earlier years, my writing took place late at night when the rest of the house slept; now in more recent times, my writing & reading time begins 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. and runs through mid-morning. For the past 15-20 years I’ve written primarily on my computer, whereas earlier it may have been in longhand or on the typewriter. There’s a well-known story told about Ruth Stone, how her poems chased after her and it became her challenge to capture them before they were gone. In similar manner, my poems come when they come, and I need to be ready to nab them.
LJ: According to your biography, you have been published since the late 50’s. When did you know you wanted to be a poet? Do you remember the moment specifically?
JeL: I began writing poems during my high school years in the mid 50’s. I found I loved to play with words, I returned to Mother Gooses, then found Robert Service and Sandburg, and in 1957, I came across Allen Ginsberg and the beats. Ginsberg blew the top of my head off, and I’ve never been quite the same since. As obvious, I live a very different life-style than Ginsberg, but admire his values and the great power & playfulness of his language. I’ve inherited much from him.
First published in the late 1950’s, in one particular issue of Nomad, the LA based avant garde journal, I appeared alongside Ginsberg, Cid Corman, Larry Eigner, Russell Edson, Marvin Bell, Denise Levertov, Gael Turnbull, Ron Loewinsohn & Clarence Major, also appearing about that time in Ron Padgett’s White Dove Review. I often wonder what happened to me, when many of those poets went on to become among the most significant poets of the era.
LJ: What do you feel sets a good poem apart from a bad one?
JeL: What a difficult questions! A good poem for me must have a musicality of joy, which makes me want to read & read & read it, over & over & over again, sheer joy in its sound. It also must admit to some kind of insight, a great insight as in Dover Beach or Anecdote of the Jar or an insight so slight that it floats lightly on the thin skin of a bubble, thin as air, but real as the rings of a tree.
LJ: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can readers look forward to from you in the future?
JeL: Although all kinds of poems chase me down from time to time, as I mentioned earlier, most of my time the past several years has been spent with my Ephram Pratt poems. I consider my Ephram Pratt poems an extended surrealistic sequence, also being influenced somewhat by the “language school.” In most cases, the poems come unbidden, they just begin to happen and they flow in an almost automatic writing manner. They touch on strange, esoteric and unrelated subjects and have almost exclusively been arriving in unrhymed couplets. I love to wallow in them, not knowing what or where or when or why they are going where they’re going, but loving every minute of them. One of the last projects Jennifer Bosveld of Pudding House was working on for me before her untimely death was a chapbook selection entitled “The Love Songs of Ephram Pratt.” The book is again seeking publication in an expanded version, as is a kind of a retrospective of my 60 years of poetry, “A Space of Ignorance.”