Local Author Spotlight

By Matthew ARAT

Poetry has a unique way of capturing the feelings of a writer that are then distilled into core concepts and short stanzas that make it a form of writing all its own. Engaging with the reader in such a concise style can be difficult but the burden is lessened when the writer has been doing it all of his life.

Bill Cushing is a Los Angeles writer/poet who started his writing days as early as college. Known then as “the blue-collar poet” to classmates, his military experience and enthusiasm for sports shone in his first works from “Fighting Gods and Nature Below the Waterline” to “Kareem.” As time went on and life brought many challenges, Cushing’s output became more personal. His later works reflected more on his relationships, family struggles and his wife’s life-long battle with cancer; the poems (such as “Chantey for Chantey” and “Blurring All Lines”) became more experimental and nuanced with long passages and shrinking stanzas. Cushing continues to write at 70 years old with his most recent book “Just a Little Cage of Bone” reflecting on his life.

“I never expected to end up in California,” Cushing said. Cushing’s upbringing in a military family led him to travel the world through his surface vessel tasks in the Navy. Eventually, he landed in Los Angeles where he took on English teaching positions at Mt. San Antonio, Pasadena City College and East LA College.

The process of writing his poems is, according to him, “all over the place.” Pieces either come through repetitive editing or “little revision.” Inspiration can come at any point, so Cushing finds it easy to “jot them down on napkins and then write to my journal.” Group sessions with other poets online have helped him improve and adjust his writing, finding new ways to express himself and capture the feelings emoting through his work.

Cushing knows his age plays a part in the making of “Cage of Bone.”

“I’m a 70-year-old guy,” he said. “I’m closer to the end than the beginning. [It’s] time to take stock.”

Although Cushing recognizes that he’s reached an elderly age, he believes his life experiences can attract anyone.

“Older people identify with it, but high schoolers can read ‘Cage of Bone’ and say, ‘So this is what it’s like,'” Cushing said.

When asked which of the many poems included in “Cage of Bone” is his favorite, he responds, “I’m pretty happy with all of it.”

“It’s a very loose book, not organized like some of my others,” Cushing said. “The first half is more analytical, the last half is more personal.”

Bill Cushing will be attending LitFest in the Dena, held at Mountain View Mausoleum, 2300 N. Marengo Ave. in Altadena, on Sunday, May 7. “Just a Little Cage of Bone” and his other books are available for purchase on Amazon.