Contributor Spotlight: Roy Bentley

Two poems, “Searching for Signs” and “The Year Elvis…,” by Row Bentley, appeared in Issue 25 and can be read here.

We’d love to hear more about these two poems.

I don’t know what to say about either poem. For me, poems are like puzzles you work so as not to be in the world. Also, since most of my poem-puzzles take years to complete, to nail down what I intend at any one time—well, it would just be dishonest. I can say, with some confidence, that the year of my birth—1954—has always fascinated me. It matters to me that Elvis wasn’t quite famous but was right on the verge—and out plops this kid-Roy… The other poem “Searching for Signs of Hannibal’s Route in DNA from Horse Manure”evolved out of my grieving the death of my cousin Bob who I was pretty close to all my life, and was a true friend. I hated that he had to die so young. His suffering with sarcoid—I went through all the stages of grief, once or twice… Likely, a poem of mine is really about making sense of what it is to wake up every new morning I’m lucky enough to do that.

What was the most difficult part of writing these poems?

“Searching for Signs…” risks everything in being about bodily functions. So you start there. (Ah, the democratization of shitting and pissing!) The tough part of any poem of mine is deciding whether the poem has earned its existence, or whether it’s Another Act of Futility in the Face of Human Suffering. Finishing a poem involves making that judgment, all the while keeping in mind that a mediocre poem is about as useful as waving at an ocean.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

Anything by Michael Connelly, which I will follow by rereading The Great Gatsby…

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

Michael Connelly—because that’s always been my dream: to work in movies.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

A short story called “Grumpy Bird Completely Transformed by Love”—which is causing me to have to learn a bunch about parrots!

Our thanks to Roy for taking the time to answer a few questions and share his work. Read Roy’s poetry, “Searching for Signs” and “The Year Elvis…,” here:


Roy Bentley, a finalist for the Miller Williams prize for Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is the author of eight books; including American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who is bringing out a new & selected in 2021. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner among others. Hillbilly Guilt, his latest, won the 2019 Hidden River Arts / Willow Run Poetry Book Award.