Updated: Oct 18
By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Poetry Café features the work of poets of all ages from around the globe. This week, we highlight the life and poetry of Louis Efron!
Louis Efron is a writer and poet who has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Deronda Review, Young Ravens Literary Review, The Ravens Perch, POETiCA REViEW, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Literary Yard, New Reader Magazine, and over 100 other national and global publications. He is also the author of five books, including The Unempty Spaces Between (winner of the 2023 NYC Big Book Award for Poetry); How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love; Purpose Meets Execution; Beyond the Ink; as well as the children’s book What Kind of Bee Can I Be?
We reached out to Louis to talk about his work, passions, and, of course, his poetry.
Please Meet Louis Efron!
Annie Newcomer: Welcome to the Flapper Press Poetry Café, Louis. Congratulations on just winning the 2023 NYC Big Book Award for Poetry.
Louis Efron: Thank you, Annie. It is an honor to spend time with you and to have won the award. While I was born in Los Angeles, I spent 14 years on the East Coast, 3 of them living in New York City. As New York City is still one of my favorite cities in the world, this book award is extra special.
AN: Sylvester Stallone (the famous actor, filmmaker, writer, and, of course, "Rocky") has called one of your books, Beyond the Ink, “Colorfully and concisely written” and exclaimed that “Everyone should read this book!” What a huge compliment for a writer from such a well-known personality. Explain to our readers what it means to you to have your work described this way.
LE: In a few words, it is a dream come true! Creative writing and poetry have been a part of my life since childhood. From the time I first held a pencil to create simple rhymes for both my grandmothers, I appreciated the power and beauty of the written word to move readers to laughter, tears, reflection, and action. Having someone like Stallone and many other well-known and successful personalities, business leaders, authors, and poets comment positively on my work is remarkably moving. I am eternally grateful to them all for their kind words.
AN: Share what writing poetry accomplishes for you.
LE: While my poems are all part of me, they are not unique to me. Rather, they reflect what it means to be human through an expression of purposeful words, vivid images, and intense emotions. Collectively, my work tells a story of fear, pain, loss, beauty, love, and the environment surrounding us.
AN: Do you have a specific goal for your poetry?
LE: My goal in poetry and writing is to bring to light the details and mechanics of the human experience missed in the process of living.
My desire is to give readers a chance to stop and look between the distractions to appreciate all that exists in the spaces between, the essence and roots of life, shedding light on darkness.
While all my poems grow out of my experiences and capture how they moved me at the time, I believe our unique human experience is defined by how we each see what is before us. This is another beautiful element of the universality of art and why no two readers will be touched by my work in the same way.
AN: Given that you have traveled the world and lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Africa, and across the United States, is there one place that stands out to you more than the others as having an environment where poetry thrives naturally? Where it would not be unusual to catch a person with a poetry book in their hands? Or quoting and reciting poetry?
LE: This is a difficult question to answer, as there has not been a place I have traveled or lived that has not inspired poetry or where poetry does not naturally thrive if you are looking for it. I have seen poetry books in the hands of people on the streets, in trains, planes, pubs, sitting at sidewalk cafés in London, Scotland, France, Italy, Greece, and across the U.S. I have also been to meetings in South Africa where poetry verses were cited.
AN: Ever since I took a workshop with Joaquín Zihuatanejo, the current Poet Laureate of Dallas, at the Austin International Poetry Festival, I have been fascinated with how a poem looks on the page. Can you explain "white space" to our readers and share why you use the layouts you do with your poems?
LE: White space refers to areas on a page without pictures or print, and I love and use the space for many reasons. In a cluttered world where most people are on a treadmill 24/7, it gives readers a chance to stop, think, and reflect on what they have read and how it may relate to their own lives . . . to interact intellectually and emotionally with my poems. It also makes poems less visually intimidating and more inviting to readers who may struggle with poetry, which is not always easy for new readers. In addition, I use white space and word placement to create another layer of depth and art for my poems. A couple of examples are the telephone pole/cross in “Edge of a Wheat Field with Poppies and Power Lines” and the stormy seas in “Another Lighthouse.”
AN: How do you incorporate poetry into your speaking engagements and other corporate leadership work that you do?
LE: I use the structure of poetry in my speaking engagements, articles, and everything I do in life to hone my communication and help create images and stories for those I interact with. In poetry, one aim is to tell a visual story or illicit certain emotions in as few simple words as possible. Effective and engaging communication in our personal lives and leadership is the same. One of the most famous speeches in U.S. history, Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address, was only 272 words. Reading or hearing his speech always deeply touches me despite being removed from the incident by 160 years. His words are impactful, simple, scarce, and timeless, like great poetry.
AN: Louis, you are the first poet in the Flapper Press Poetry Café who has shared with us that he uses an agent to submit poetry work. Please tell us why an agent is helpful and how one best works with an agent. How did you select yours? Please tell us a little about this relationship.
LE: My agent, John Sibley Williams, has been a godsend to me and my endeavors as a poet. He knows and deeply understands the industry and marketplace, eliminating countless hours required for targeted searches and submissions. In addition, John is a well-established, respected, and award-winning poet, enabling him to serve as a remarkable mentor and coach to me. I grow as a poet with every interaction we have.
I chose John after a long process of collecting and submitting my work to agents. I was especially interested in him after reading and being inspired by his poetry and professional and personal profile. Based on his work, I felt he would be a good match for the type of poetry I enjoy writing, and I was delighted when he agreed to take me on. I also wanted to work with someone who was a good personality fit for me. John is thoughtful, kind, and always constructive and encouraging. He continuously inspires me to be a better poet and ensures my work is read and enjoyed by others, which is most important to me.
AN: You described your work to me in this way: "I write about the essence of Nature and the human experience, shedding light on darkness." These are beautiful goals and yet huge ones as well. Does having such lofty goals ever feel like a burden to you? How do you make sure to also have fun with your work and not allow it to swallow you with seriousness and responsibility?
LE: My goal in life has always been to make a lasting difference in the universe, so I take my work seriously and aim to elevate my message with each poem. However, I also love writing and the written word. While I certainly feel the burden of my endeavors on many levels, poetry, skilled storytellers, and the world around me captivate and inspire me to continue my work. Writing poems allows me to express my emotions, thoughts, and desires and tell stories in colorful, creative, and concise ways. For me, poetry is the ultimate word puzzle, a fun and unique way to create and build something lasting and beautiful that can emotionally move readers, using strategically placed and thoughtful words on a page. Finally, nothing is more gratifying than when my ideas grow into creations others enjoy and appreciate.
AN: I am reminded that Wallace Stevens (an American modernist poet, educated at Harvard and New York Law School) was an executive for an insurance company. Still he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems in 1955. I do not think that it immediately comes to mind that a successful man in business could be a celebrated poet. I was hoping that you could give your take on how a person could balance such two different worlds and find the time to be successful in each. And, since you do, how does one straddle two different worlds? Or are they really different?
LE: One of my favorite quotes is, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” Another favorite is from Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” These two quotes describe how I live my life. I do the things I love and work hard at them all to ensure I am living up to my full potential and purpose, ultimately fulfilling the legacy I want to leave behind. Writing, art, and business are core to who I am, and I have done them all since childhood. I can’t recall when I did not have a writing or creative project in the works or a business idea ready to hatch (from lemonade stands to an ear-piercing products' distributor). Add my important role as a husband and father, and I keep quite busy with a blessed life. In today’s terms, I am what is called a blender. Someone who integrates the different things they do in life daily versus having hard divides between activities (i.e., a splitter).
I could not imagine a world where any of these components were missing or where you wouldn't find me working on any one of them day or night. However, despite the perception that I live in two or more worlds, everything I do in life serves each other to improve all parts of my life and my endeavors. For example, my ability to leverage and relish the written word to tell stories and communicate concisely and effectively with others is core to my success in business. Still, it has helped my articles achieve #1 on Forbes, Twitter, and LinkedIn and gain praise and publication for my poetry.
Another example is my work as a theatrical director and producer. In the world of theatre, I secured the rights to great plays and musicals, cast the right actors for the right roles, engaging their hearts and minds. Then I hired costume, makeup, lighting, and scene designers and stage managers to help me create a world on stage to attract, delight, and move a paying audience. In my corporate life, I ensure that the organizations that I work with and for have the right talent in the right roles, playing to their strengths to engage their hearts and minds. This creates a high-performing organizational culture that produces the best products and services to attract and engage paying customers. It all comes together in the end to make one whole "experience" with the aim of making a positive difference in the lives of others.
For me, the key to success and happiness is finding out what you love and do best. Then I encourage you to seek out this passion and do it, working as hard as you can to get better at what you will end up doing every day. Everything else follows.
AN: I love the titles of your books and poems. Can you share some of your favorite ones and give some tips on how you create/select them?
LE: Thank you! “A Candle with Two Wicks,” “Matchstick Trick,” “Arcadian Eyes,” “Empty Attics,” and “Requiem without a Score” are a few of my favorite poem titles. I spend a lot of time thinking about and finalizing titles. They are the entryway to get readers interested in reading more. Sometimes, a title I dream up will inspire a poem. Other times, I will write the piece and then name it later. In all cases, I take great pains to ensure my title reflects the tone of my poem or book and captures the essence of the story or message. This often requires revisions as I read and rewrite a poem. It is essential to be flexible and open to scrapping a title you may love when it simply does not fit the piece. However, I always keep such titles in a file on my computer, as they may inspire new poems later. Finally, I always read my title before reading my entire poem. This practice helps highlight the connection or possible disconnect between the two.
AN: What do you want our readers to know about you and your poetry that I haven't covered through my questions, Louis?
LE: My beautiful Scottish wife, musician our two remarkable daughters, aged 10 and 15, and I reside in Parker, Colorado. In addition to writing, I love having fun with my family, exploring, traveling, good food, running, rollerblading, hiking, playing tennis, riding motorcycles, and building Legos. I have written every day since childhood and have always had a poem or writing project in the works since I won my first creative short story contest at age 10.
AN: We are excited to introduce you and your poetry to our readers, Louis. So the time has come for me to ask you to select 3 poems and include their backstories. We hope that you will stay in touch and share more of your work with us in the future.
LE: Thank you, Annie, for your questions and Elizabeth for your beautiful lay-outs! I am truly honored to be here at the Flapper Press Poetry Café and very grateful to you both. Thank you for sharing my poems with your readers. Like all my poetry, these poems are deeply personal, but they also serve as an invitation to my readers to connect with me on a human level.
While no two lives can be equally compared, the paths we travel in our hearts and minds cross and, at times, intertwine.
I am glad ours did the latter. I would be delighted to visit this café again to continue our remarkable conversation. See you in Act Two!! Cheers!!
I have always reveled in the beauty of nature and frequently think about how humans impact and interact with our environment and the planet. On my family's recent Denver Art Museum visit, I viewed Van Gogh’s “Edge of a Wheat Field with Poppies.” I began to imagine how this exquisite painting and scene would have been impacted by the power lines we see in front of most picturesque fields today. Also, what do these poles and cables represent and provide, both good and troubling? From this, "Edge of a Wheat Field with Poppies and Power Lines" was born.
Edge of a Wheat Field with Poppies and Power Lines
Inspired by Edge of a Wheat Field with Poppies by Vincent Van Gogh (1887)
a cloud-brushed Parisian horizon
blue-cast shadows upon a glistening
fragmented field of God’s once golden wheat
scarlet poppies sway below
pencil-thin branches and
buzzing threads meant
to power a village
burdened broad limbs
p o w e r l e s s
to feed the dead
This poem captures a thirst for meaning and purpose that can pull us away from the beckoning arms of safe harbors and inspire us to continue our search even as we grow weary of rough and uncharted waters. Like my poem "Life After Death," "Another Lighthouse" was inspired by my desire to make a noticeable difference during my time on Earth, even when the journey can be frightening.
like outstretched arms
break through raven
fringed translucent cotton-white
an unbroken hope
even in darkness
we will be noticed
her light flickers
over unclimbable peaks
and frothing murky valleys
as our pulsating veins
like a sustained drumbeat
beneath our thin, wet skin
to one more sun-kissed horizon
inspiring our stirred souls
to look back
towards unbuilt places
A college music professor once told my class, “If you want to live forever, create a great piece of art.” "Life After Death" is inspired by this sentiment. Memorable art often stems from intense pain or emotions, imprinting lasting images, music, and words. As a writer and artist since childhood, I have and do experience life and the world around me in a profound way. I lean on this connection in my poetry to move my readers today and others long after I am gone.
Life after Death
razor winged butterflies
beating in our gut
like tormented muses
laboring to twist wounds
into radiant verse
helping us escape
like cherry blossom trees in spring
long after we are gone
Annie Klier Newcomer founded a not-for-profit, Kansas City Spirit, that served children in metropolitan Kansas for a decade. Annie volunteers in chess and poetry after-school programs in Kansas City, Missouri. She and her husband, David, and the staff of the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens are working to develop The Emily Dickinson Garden in hopes of bringing art and poetry educational programs to their community. Annie helms the Flapper Press Poetry Café—dedicated to celebrating poets from around the world and to encouraging everyone to both read and write poetry!
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