Friday, August 14, 2009

Feature: Mike Finley Day 6

Thank you for sharing your creative spirit with us this week, Mike! Your poetry is fun and vivid. It is easy to get swept up in your scenery and to connect to a certain place, time or emotion. And though you express some frustrations about the craft that I'm sure many poets can relate to, the message is clear: as long as it makes you happy, keep writing. In my opinion, the sheer act of putting yourself and your art out into the world makes it that much easier to connect with others, and we are thankful you have chosen to do so here.

To our Readers:

For more info on Mike, check out his bio and links below. We hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

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The first is the cover pic from Mike's first book, LUCKY YOU, for Charlie Potts' Litmus, Inc, 1976

Mike was born in 1950 in Flint, Michigan. When he was 6 months he moved to Brook Park, Ohio. He is told his babysitter was the "Play Lady" from Mister Jingaling's holiday show for Halle's Department Store. His dad worked at the Cadillac Tank Plant, now the I-X Center.

As a little boy he moved to a series of small NE Ohio towns: Columbia Station, then Amherst, and finally Vermilion-on-the-Lake. He grew up in a rented apple orchard.

He did all the kid stuff. Euclid Beach, Geauga Lake Park, the state fair in Columbus, Marblehead Peninsula, the giant stadium, the serpent mounds, Put-In Bay. He loved Ghoulardi and the Stooges.

He saw James Brown at the Lorain Arena, and Chuck Berry and the Shangri-Las at the the Public Auditorium. And the Byrds jingle-jangling at Cedar Point Ballroom.

In high school he fell in with a fellow in Pepper Pike named Peter Dragin, who edited a 8x14 dayglo magazine called WEED, which was really great, and made a lot of people mad. He wrote uber-angsty teen idylls for Pete, and they became literary friends. d a levy, Tuli Kupferberg, Allan Ginsberg, the Velvet Underground, playing at La Cave, all were important in his life.

Mike worked summers as B'wana Mike at Jungle Larry's Safari Island, where he became grooming partners with a widowed hamadryad baboon. He once appeared on Captain Penny's show, carrying a macaw.

He found out at age 15 that his stepfather's stepmother's sister was a legal guardian for the southern Ohio poet James Wright. Wright became his hero and writing role model after that, with his sad stories about Hazel-Atlas Glass in Martin's Ferry.

He attended Wooster, where he fought the same National Guard outfit in a mock riot that attacked Kent State a year later. He met William Stafford, who taught him that writing is supposed to be fun.

Then Mike dropped out to become a mail order minister in Hollywood. He manufactured homemade soap (it said GOOD SOAP on the bar) for hippies to sell on freeway on-ramps, both to make some cash and to spread the notion that hippies were all for cleanliness.

In 1969, unwittingly following Wright, Mike moved to Minnesota and he has been there almost ever since. He has made his living for four decades writing for magazines and books. He is married and has two grown kids, and life is "good" -- but he still thinks of home.

Clevelanders are fundamentally more jaundiced than Minnesotans, they have seen too many things. He misses that. Their ferocious Ohioan inferiority complex, which bores deeper into them than sin, makes them lovable and human.

In 2003, on St. Patrick's Day, Mike's mom, who lived in Vermilion, died, and he has not been home since. But it is where his scruffy poetic heart remains, and he sends his brothers and sisters of the word a big hairy kiss.

NPR Photo


  1. I certainly enjoyed this week with Mike's poems and his thoughts on writing. An exceptional writer, and I'm finding out more as time goes by that he's an exceptional human being.

    Thank you for featuring him this week.

  2. iwishuhadachancetoreadmypoems
    God Bless u MIKE f

  3. The song about Jesus is pretty great!

    "He is like a mountie, he always gets his man!"

  4. Charles, How am I going to have a feature for you if you share all your poetry in the comments? ;-)