John Korn began writing poetry around 2002. He grew up and still lives in Pittsburgh PA. He worked in a second hand store for three years and is currently a social worker. John draws and paints on occasion, is interested in digital film making, and would like to attempt different forms of story telling, audio, visual and written word.
IAI: You grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The "P" in Pittsburgh must stand for poet because when I was going to college there, there were poets all over the place. What is it about Pittsburgh that makes one want to be a poet? Why did you become a poet?
John Korn: I guess there are many poets here. I see fliers for poetry readings and workshops and have been invited. But honestly most people I know are not poets. So I would not know why there are many here. I kind of stumbled into poetry. When I was younger I would draw and paint. I liked making things with my hands. Later I got interested in story telling. When I was a teenager I remember writing some poetry, but this quickly developed into writing stories. However, they were not very good, but it did help me sharpen some skills with imagery and symbolism. I tried narrative for awhile, and took a creative writing class in college. Even though the focus in this class was fiction the professor asked us to write some poems which I did. I eventually showed these poems to a friend, and he recommended that I submit them to an online magazine called The Hold. I was published there. After that I began reading a few small press poets. There were a few that really got my attention and I began writing poetry frequently for some time.
IAI: Pittsburgh poets seem loyal to the 'Burgh and write about its streets and bridges and the dialect—Pittsburghese. Is Pittsburgh your muse?
Korn: I can't speak for other poets from this area. Pittsburgh certainly makes an impression I suppose. Yes, there are many bridges and streets crowded with old style homes. Lots of which are set on top of large hills. Streets winding around mountains. Some streets seem to be in urban areas and one turn could send you up some narrow road into a heavily wooded area. The slopes in southside are pretty surreal and scary to drive on. Lots of areas look very surreal -- to me at least. Rich areas and poor areas are often side by side. Also there is a lot of local history. I tend to focus on small stories --things like urban legends and just strange little anecdotes and stories I heard via word of mouth, stories by regular people. It's a small city. Some parts of it feel like a small town. There is certainly a Pittsburgh accent. I don't know if that inspires me, but it is a strange accent. Mostly even the people from here mock it in a cartoonish way. I love Pittsburgh. I wouldn't say Pittsburgh is my muse; I don't think I have a muse, but you can't live in a place for so long and not be inspired by it.
IAI: If you could hang a poster of a poet on your wall—like how teenagers hang up posters of rock stars and actors—what poet would that be? Why?
Korn: Oh man. I don't know. Probably Albert Huffstickler. When I think of Albert Huffstickler I kind of laugh to myself because he has a good sense of humor in his poems even when dealing with brooding content.
IAI: Do you remember the first poem you wrote?
Korn: Not really. I remember a few I wrote in grade school, but it was only because I had to. I remember the first one I wrote for college; it was about a guy taking a walk during the fall season and finding a dead man under some leaves. He took the dead man home and made him soup and fed it to him. The man came back to life. That's all I remember. The dead man's name was Jim and that was the title of the poem -- Jim.
IAI: What do you hope to accomplish as a poet?
Korn: I honestly feel like moving into other mediums often. But before I do I would like to write a series of poems that tell a loose non linear narrative maybe following a group of people in a small city such as Pittsburgh. So I guess your questions about Pittsburgh have come full circle in this interview. It does influence my writing, yes.
John Korn's new book of poetry, Television Farm, is available at amazon.com.