Geoffrey Gatza, 40, has published 210 poetry books through BlazeVOX, the online literary business and Web magazine he launched one decade ago. A poet first, Gatza is publisher, editor, writer, cook, cookbook writer, children's author. A former sous chef at the Mansion as well as cook for thousands in the U.S. Marine Corps, Gatza also caters for Just Buffalo's Big Night poetry readings. He lives in North Buffalo with his girlfriend Donna White.
>PeopleTalk: Cooking came first.
Geoffrey Gatza: Cooking was a real craft, but people were dragging me away from it because it really wasn't considered a high-class profession the way it is now. So for two years in high school I went to the BOCES program. From there I went to the Marine Corps, specifically to cook.
>PT: You joined the Marine Corps to cook. I love it.
GG: They had the GI Bill, and would cover a portion of my college. I learned to cook for 2,000 people outdoors in a tent, three times a day. The first Gulf War happened at the time, and I went from there right to the Culinary Institute of America. I graduated first in my cooking class, and then I worked in Manhattan. It was the most difficult time I ever spent.
>PT: How did the Marine Corps change you?
GG: It changed what I wanted to be and how I saw cooking. I was depressed when I left because of the war, post-traumatic stress. That's how I came on to poetry. Cooking just wasn't enough of an art form for me to express things.
>PT: What do you do for a living?
GG: I run a poetry press. We do print-on-demand publishing. We have nationally known poets all the way down to people who are just coming into the scene -- putting it all under the heading of "poetry that doesn't suck." We're being Walt Whitman right now.
>PT: Where did you get the name BlazeVOX?
GG: My cat Blaze, a little orange tabby, would sit in my lap when I was writing. I'm a silly cat person. Just go with this. She would put her paw on my arm if something was good, an excellent editor, a 21st century voice.
>PT: How do you find authors?
GG: They find me. Right now I have 1,200 manuscripts in my inbox, but I publish a lot of books, and my accounting degree helped out a lot.
>PT: What would make you feel good about a day?
GG: Clearing out my e-mail box. We publish a lot of books for a lot of people. Poetry in the main stream of life isn't really a necessary thing. Robert Creeley used to say: "It's kind of like having a harmonica player." Our poetry books sell maybe 300 to 1,000 copies. That's the way a small press works. It goes out to a small group of people to make them happy.
>PT: Buffalo is a literary town?
GG: Thanks to the University at Buffalo and its literature program, starting in the '70s with Robert Creeley, and Charles Bernstein in the '80s. Now, you have Steve McCaffery and Myung Mi Kim. Generations of their influence thrive in Buffalo. Buffalo is a writers' city going all the way back to Mark Twain.
>PT: What would you never do?
GG: Run in formation, unless I'm being chased. I try to never, ever run because in the Marine Corps we had to run a lot, and I think I'm too tall. It's just too awkward.
>PT: When is your prime time?
GG: Late at night. I work strange hours, probably from 1 to 4 in the morning. It's calming but also very productive. I'll go for a walk and think about things. There's a sense of mental ownership.
>PT: You don't drive?
GG: I don't like to drive so I take the bus. There's always somebody friendly and it's warm. It's one of those things, I try to pull myself out of parts of society, but not too much, like I work for myself.
>PT: How crazy can you get?
GG: That would be better for Donna, but I'm focused and energetic and pretty in control about a lot of things. I have a manuscript that's getting ready for publication right now. It's of Sherlock Holmes poems. I'm a Sherlock Holmes addict.
>PT: There's something about poets and mystery novels.
GG: It's like a deep kept secret. People will tell you about affairs before they'll admit to liking Lawrence Block. Right now I'm into the audio books, and I've gone through my seventh different person who reads them. There's 60 [Sherlock Holmes] stories, and they're such satisfying fiction. T.S. Eliot loved them, too.
>PT: Your last meal?
GG: Either something very fancy or McDonald's. I love the Big Mac, but I like the McDLT better, because when we were kids, my mom was divorced and she was working to raise us. If we went out for a treat meal, it was McDonald's. My love of literature came though my mom. She was an English major.
>PT: You see the world differently.
GG: Yeah, I love rainy days. It brings out the colors. It's very exciting to me. Sometimes when I get complex ideas, it comes out as wild patch of multicolors. It's weird and hard to describe. It's me.