The ocean, the desert, and the pen: 2 more questions for Buzz Poverman

When last we met, Buzz was paying tribute to his friend and colleague Steve Orlen, who passed away last year, and we were promising to run the rest of his "2 or 3 questions" interview in a later post. In the interim, we've run the second installment of Buzz's novel Love By Drowning; the third will go live tomorrow, with the fourth and final excerpt to follow later this month. Now, as promised, that later post, i.e. 2 more questions for Buzz - these on the ocean, the desert, and how each finds their way through his pen to the page. Or not:

You've had a great deal of success as a short-story writer—what made you return to the novel for Love By Drowning?

All the time I’ve been writing, which is since college, I seem to have written stories, novels and later, screenplays, in a kind of rhythm, moving from one into the next, sometimes interrupting a novel to write a story, each form somehow feeding and breaking ground for the next. So, I’ve never really been away from the novel, though it can understandably be hard to correlate when things were written with when they appear since it’s not always a chronology.

You've spent more than three decades now in Arizona—how has that changed your writing?  And has it, by chance, left you longing to be near the ocean—and marlin fishing?

I’m sure that my time in Arizona has changed my writing, or rather pushed it into places and awareness it never would have gone had I not lived here. I’d spent a year in India, several years in Hawaii. But Arizona was not a place I would have imagined myself to be; I had a job teaching at the university here in Tucson. This is where I met my wife, where I had children. Working and raising children takes you into the social weave of this other world. But, it’s not a landscape which I’d initially felt attracted to—the desert. Yet possibly for those very reasons, it’s brought things to life in me that might never have been. In the end, who can ever say what influences you? Everything influences you. It’s just your life. It’s what you know, and it has, in a way, the same inevitability as a story. It’s up to you to discover its meaning, to find the beautiful, the lyrical, the truth of every place you are. At times when you walk in the desert, particularly in the valleys outside the city, you have an acute awareness that the desert was ocean bottom—in geological time, very recently—and you have something of the sense, still, of being in a vast, primordial oceanic space. That being said, I grew up ten minutes from the ocean in Connecticut. There were always boats in my family from the time I was a kid, and all my life I had a connection to water. At times I have an almost physical craving to see water, feel its open space and horizon. Often in winter when I was living in New England and nothing else was right, I’d drive down to the shore to stare at the water—just feel drawn to it. My father brought boats into my life—or literally, put me in boats from the time I was a two year-old. We spent a lot of time when I was growing up sailing from Maine to Florida, and though my father’s been gone for years, often still when I get back to the ocean, smell the water, feel the wind, hear the gulls, I have the overpowering sense that my father is near, more than near, that he’s there, and though I don’t think I believe in an afterlife, I feel him there, completely present. I have nothing like this with anyone else.