Each time a reader opens a book, it provides the opportunity to learn more about the author’s thoughts, feelings and ideas.In experiencing Walter Donway’s works, it’s obvious that the East Hampton poet and novelist is passionate about his subject matter. His latest book of poetry, “How Glad I Am for Man, Tonight,” is no exception.
During a recent interview, Mr. Donway explained why reading and writing have always been important to him, even during his teenage years.
“My dedication is to make poetry musical,” he said. “Like the kind I fell in love with in high school,”
especially those composed by the Romantic poets William Wordsworth, John Keats and Lord Byron. Their work, though diverse in tone, content and structure, is known for having celebrated the idea of the individual, since it provided readers with the poet’s personal thoughts, emotions and insights into the world and its beauty, Mr. Donway explained.
Such is the type of poetic voice that he frequently chooses to implement in “How Glad I Am for Man, Tonight” and his other works. Throughout his newest book, readers can find the poet fondly recalling profound childhood experiences, many of which, the author admits, have important ties to own life.
“All art has an element of autobiography,” he said, “since all art comes to us through an artist’s consciousness.”
Though elements of autobiography appear throughout the book, Mr. Donway’s writing provides universal appeal. The book contains recollections of young romance, the simple joys and wonders of childhood, learning important life lessons from a parent, and the rich experience of looking out the bedroom window and daydreaming.
There are also moments when Mr. Donway’s poems examine life in the here and now. One such poem, called “My Facebook Wall,” examines the role that social media plays in everyday life. It asks the reader to consider if a “soul’s immurement” can be found in the “homes” being built now in cyberspace.
Equally as important as what the poet writes in “How Glad I Am for Man, Tonight” is how he says it. One of the characteristics that distinguish this local writer’s approach is his preference for writing poems organized by meter, or poems that, as Mr. Donway says in the book’s introduction, have “a beat that the poem establishes.”
His predilection for writing this way is what sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. More often than not, today’s poets construct poems without a distinguishable rhythmic pattern, electing instead to write lines of various lengths without special attention to form, he said. Such poetry is not only avoided by Mr. Donway, he said, he also critiques it.
“Each art form needs a definition” he said. “And a definition needs to lay out a strict characterization of a term. And poetry’s defining characteristic is meter.”
The benefits of creating metrical poetry are ultimately what define a substantial portion of Donway’s poetic style. Working with metrical verse allows him to add melodic qualities to his words—a fact that he accepts wholeheartedly, he said, adding that a poem is essentially a “construction of sound.”
“When I write any poem, I am composing with sounds, trying them out aloud or with my inner voice. I am trying out how the combination of sounds affects my feelings about the sense of the words,” he explained.
In the end, readers are left to examine the decisions that the poet makes concerning the sound of his words. With the promise of sharing in his personal experiences as they are recalled to the tune of melodic verse, Mr. Donway asks his audiences to accompany him on an intimate poetic journey, one he said he hopes is as personal as it is relatable and as expressive as it is musical.