DS: Are you going on a tour?
AG: Well, what kind? I’m …
DS: Book tour … as such, per se
AG: Not really … I’m here, this week, seeing you and some others, and doing some TV .. and then LA next week , to do the Carson show and sing a couple of tunes in mixed two careers … and between these two weeks that’s it, I’m not going to Houston and Chicago … because right after that I’m going to Europe to do singing … I’m going to do a set with one accompanying instrument, something I’ve never done, keep the background very lean, and see if I can break in that kind of show. I’m gonna work Germany and Spain, Holland …
DS: What’s the instrument?
AG: Me and piano … No I’m not gonna play. I’m going to work with Nicky Hopkins.
DS: I see. Well let’s talk a little bit about you and some of the events leading up to Still Water … You grew up in Queens and uh, this of course was your first book of poems. I can see through the dates at the bottom of each poem that you have been writing these for quite a few years now. What kind of family did you , did you have a.., literary type family, a musical family or what?
AG: Musical. Not professionally so. But dad and mom sang and harmonized around the house, just informally … my dad would play piano by ear … (sings) ‘oh how we danced .. da da di’. They were not literary and they did not go far in their schooling … the fact I went to Columbia College and then read a million books after school got me somewhat literarily … a little literarily inclined?
DS: That’s correct.
AG: And uh, words began to come to me a little freer … and so the choice of how to say various things I might want to say was somewhat at my command by the 80s … and I began to write these to my surprise when I had finished touring with Paul. Cause Paul Simon and I had done the concert in central park in ‘81 and then the two years of touring around the world. And as that was coming to an end, I began to look at my open schedule, and I remember being on a motorcycle in Switzerland, thinking we have one more show to do, I’m gonna get ready for my next activity creatively. I think I’ll spend this whole afternoon on the bike writing a poem about the stages of descent in the Alps. I’m coming down from 12,000 ft to this town. Let me see if I can describe how the landscape changes in each of the different stages. And I felt I had a bit of embryo talent for it by the time I was finished. And that got me off and running. Next … two days later, I had another inspiration for another idea. This was the first time that I began to be creative in the sense of bringing something into existence that wasn’t. Because all the work I did with Paul Simon was with Paul as writer, and the two of us as singers and as producers. So here I was for the first time creating fully, and so I was beginning to get that kick of speaking from my mind, and my memories, and my angst.
DS: It’s interesting, that story is interesting. It reminds me a little of the way James Dickey the poet started. It was in WWII, he was in the Philippines. He was walking along the side of a very dusty road, and he saw a row of flowers, and on those flowers was a fine sheen of dust, and Dickey looked at it and he said, that’s remarkable, he said, somebody should write about that. And then he said, no, I’ll write it. And he did. He did. Of course he had a stint as an advertising man in Atlanta, Coca Cola was one of his accounts before he became a full-fledged poet. He also wrote I think the movie called ‘Deliverance’ which he played the bit role of sheriff at the end, Dickey himself. Herbert Gold, who is a novelist based in San Francisco has refused to show any of his poems to anybody, but he has decided that every day of his life, he will get up in the morning and write a couplet. Something he feels, something he sees, something he observes. And that’s a wonderful way to express your ideas and thoughts even though he has declined to seek a publisher for them.
AG: I wonder if he shows them to wife and family or friends, because to write totally …
DS: He’s had many wives (chuckle).
AG: (Shares the chuckle) They all know his work … To write completely for oneself doesn’t seem to be true. We write, when the pen hits the paper, there’s some notion of someone on the other side of the paper.
DS: It’s a form of communication isn’t it?
AG: So you have some idea of who you are communicating with, even if it’s vague. To say that the person you are communicating with is the public at large, that is a leap of commerce. And that is an odd one, that requires some kind of ego, expansion, need, or something. And I guess I’ve got that bub.
DS: Well, a poem is an expression, not in every instance, but in yours certainly, an autobiographic effort to express a hurt, a longing, a feeling, a desire, a goal, an observation, and some of these things you can only do in poetic form, you just can’t do it in any other way.
AG: To care, to write it out, and to get it published, would it not be fair to say that you are trying to be of service to the human community, to risk and to be brave enough to tell your truth and risk the reviews of magazines so that you can add to common understanding what one person’s honest truth is about, so surely that has to come from some kind of wish to be of service to the human race?