WRITING LIFE

A Visit with Medium Writer and “No Crime in Rhymin’” Curator Joe Varadi

“Another major driving force in my poetry is the love of my native language, Hungarian, and its incredibly rich poetic tradition.”

In June 2007 I stuck my big toe in the water as regards blogging. I wanted to understood what it was, and no better way than by doing. From that first June entry to the present I have been sharing here almost daily for 13 years. In June 2018, after spending a year being a top writer on Quora, I stuck my toe in the water on Medium, an ad-free platform for writers who could not only have a soapbox, but get paid for their blogging and self-expression efforts. It’s been an interesting experience.

One thing I liked was how easy it was to recycle your other online writing. Ev Williams, founder of Medium, had also been the co-creator of Blogger and Twitter, thus he understood how to do the backstage magic that permitted writers to re-publish their work without being penalized by Google’s search algorithms.

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It’s been a rewarding experience meeting so many interesting writers from all over the world. One of these is Joe Varadi, whom you can get to know here.

Since childhood, on and off. I didn’t speak a word of English until the age of 10, when my family moved to the United States. I would write long descriptive letters, in my native tongue, to my relatives back in the old country. With five years of English under my belt, I wrote a review of the movie Harlem Nights, as a high school assignment. It turned out well enough that my English teacher pulled me aside and accused me of plagiarism. That’s when I knew I had a knack for it. I am a regular — almost daily — writer since July of 2017, when I established my Medium account. Let’s face it, the social engagement aspect of that platform is wonderfully and deeply addictive.

EN: Are you a writer for a living, or is writing something you do as an avocation or side gig?

JV: I work in banking and technology, and I write 50 emails or more a day, and contribute to documents and slide presentations of all sorts, so writing is an essential work tool. But my creative writing is strictly a hobby, a labor of love.

EN: Is your interest in poetry whimsical or serious?

JV: Is there a clearly delineated difference? I hover on the border of these two realms, my poems tend to be humor-infused, playful and satirical, as a quick way of making a connection with my reader, and when they think the coast is clear, I ambush them with a thought-provoking insight or revealing confessional.

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Another major driving force in my poetry is the love of my native language, Hungarian, and its incredibly rich poetic tradition. I began to rediscover this tradition, ironically, when my kids were born, and I began to sing to them children’s songs from my childhood to get Hungarian into their ears. It turns out that many popular children’s songs are drawn from folk art, or from well-known poets of the Romantic period and the Modern era. They are beautiful, vivid works with charming rhyme and meter. I began making attempts to translate them, challenging my self to come up with works that retained musical, rhythmic qualities.

The year 2018 so far has been my most productive period for translations. I published 33 pieces that year, many of them children’s songs which can still be enjoyed by all age groups, and a few more adult-oriented, introspective, lyrical poems: https://medium.com/the-junction/translating-poetry-2018-aac849f28718

EN: How long have you been blogging? What motivated you to start?

JV: I’ve already mentioned Medium — as my writing, my state of mind, my imagination is deeply intertwined with that site. It has become my second home, my refuge, my choice destination for a happy hour, since I joined two and a half years ago. As for my initial motivation, I was looking for a digital home for an essay I wrote inspired by Pride Week 2017. I published it on Medium, and the next day it got picked up by an obscure publication out of the U.K., before I ever knew what Medium publications were.

As a side note, I really dislike the term blogging. To me it implies a kind of casual, self-indulgent practice of flooding your audience with half-baked ideas, something I termed “word pollution” in my rant below: https://writingcooperative.com/no-do-not-publish-every-day-44ccd39173c9

EN: Who are your favorite writers of the past 40 years?

JV: This question strikes a nerve — it threatens to reveal how little “traditional” reading I do nowadays, what with digital channels of information and my ever-growing addiction to producing rather than consuming content. I now read online news and investigative journalism, and my daily dose of essays and poems from fellow Medium authors, but don’t remember the last time I finished a novel. When I pick up a book, it is mostly historical, scientific and technical non-fiction.

The books on my night stand, which I may never finish, are: Prediction Machines, by a cabal of business and Artificial Intelligence professors at the University of Toronto, and John Stauffer’s Giants, about the intersecting lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

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EN: Do you have a big project you’re working on for 2020?

JV: Last year a translation of mine was picked up for an anthology by a British publisher, The Emma Press. I proudly display this little booklet in my home and office, and plan to write more for them. Another children’s verse translation I did was accepted into CRICKET Magazine. I am working on securing the rights from the author’s estate, and it is proving to be a difficult uphill battle. Stay tuned.

My loftier ambition in the world of writing is to find an agent and eventually a publisher for my original poetry. Call me old fashioned — I’ll continue to pursue that route rather than the rabbit hole of self-publishing.

Follow Joe Varadi on Medium @https://medium.com/@joevaradi

You can also follow me on Medium @ https://medium.com/@ennyman

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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