The poetry from Steven Cottingham


There is not a better way to express feelings than writing. You can show your inner part without any prejudge; there is no right or wrong.

Steven Cottingham found his life in poetry. He started to write when he was young and thanks to poetry he could go through bad times.

He wants that his writings could inspire people and try to change a small part of human soul.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Steven spoke about his book “Just After Words”, his work in prison and wrote us a poem.

How did your interest in poetry begin?

I became interested in poetry at a young age. My grandmother, Josephine Zimmerman, was a painter/poet/actress. When I would visit with her she would read some of the most amazing poetry to me—many of which were hers. This brought a love of the written. And poetry invokes an emotion that fiction, or non-fiction lack. When I went to university I earned both a bachelor’s and master’s in poetry. Poetry is the second half of my soul. I’ve always been in love with words. And that love has always grown.  I didn’t grow up in a Christian house, so I wasn’t familiar with the bible. At a young age, maybe eight years old, I read a verse: ‘in the beginning was the word, and the word was with god. And the word was god.’ I thought all words– the written word– was god. I saw libraries and book stores as temples. And I viewed writers as sharing in co-creation with god. And those who would recite those words, the poets, as special.

What you write about?

I write about life; the beauty of life, its loss and pain. The common theme of my work is life. And at times, it’s funny. Here is a poem for you:

Patience is a Virtue

…I lined myself directly behind her making sure I could watch her reactions in the mirror.

…I told her to back up to me,

…I stopped her when she was in position.

…Slowly I eased it in.

…Only a little at first,

…Being careful not to cause any damage.

…It became obvious to me that I needed to get further in.

…I wanted to be patient.

…Once I had it all in I glanced again in the mirror.

…The look on her face assured me she was completely satisfied and excited at the same time.

…I closed the tailgate and we took our Christmas tree home.

Which is your inspiration?

My inspiration is twofold. The first part of inspiration is what I have endured. What I have seen and felt. What has made me laugh and cry. What moves me finds its way into my work. The other half is my family. They inspire me in ways too numerous to mention (and my wife, janelle robles-cottingham is an up and coming writer herself).

Do you live from your poetry or do you have another job?

I earn my living, such as it is, through my art. My poetry, photographs, paintings, and art installations.

What is your book “Just After Words” about?

Here is what I’ve written about my book: “how best to tell you something about me? Not an easy task and replacing the bio that was here… well, let’s give it a go. I studied writing at university (poetry, to be exact. earning two terminal degrees). To be the next poet laureate was always my dream. To bring poetry back to the hearts and minds of an indifferent society seemed beyond hope. But, hey, it’s worth a try. After graduation I was tossed out into a world who, for the most part, only recalls poetry as an unremarkable six week period in junior high school. But I was undeterred– poetry would once again be at the forefront of society. Then reality set in. I have found publication for my work in various journals and magazines. My first publication was at the age of thirteen; in ‘omni magazine.’ this was in 1983 (wow, i am getting on in years) I’ve had my ups and downs. And through it all, have had my poetry. But I almost lost my own hope, and faith. As this is a bit autobiographical, I’ll tell you the down fall. I caught my ex-wife having an affair. Days later, my son died from complications from a seizure he had. Ah, but I handled the stress poorly, and almost lost my soul. Eight of the darkest years followed those two events. My rage was fueled by anger, alcohol, drugs, and a stint in goal. But the dream was still there. During those eight years I began to produce new poetry. I regained my voice, and vision. And helped ignite a spark of hope in a few others. Join me on this journey. This blog is one venue for my work. I still find my way into print. And my book can be had on Amazon. Join me. The book can be found at . My website is

How is the repercussion in the people?

I hope that my poetry will inspire a thought, feeling, or a longing in my readers. As silly as it sounds, I hope my poetry will compel my readers to want to better themselves, and the world around them. Words have such power. They can drive us to war, or peace. And it is through my words that I want to change a small part of the human soul.

People can write you and their work would appear on Just After Words? How’s that?

Ah, I also publish a small poetry magazine by the title “just after words” the following is from the submissions section of the web page: ” just after words is a print magazine that is dedicated to the short poem. The magazine’s normal format, 4.28 x 5.5″, reflects its name and that focus. It is published quarterly, two issues at a time. Twice a year we will include a broadside featuring the work of a single poet”. I really have a love for poetry, and the short form of it. It is a wonderful art.

What is the work you do in prison?

What I do in prison is teach poetry and journaling. Most inmates, I have discovered, have very limited reading and writing skills. The classes I teach help strengthen those skills. There is an added benefit of teaching poetry. Many inmates have issues with anger, and expressing themselves. When they are angry, disappointed, or frustrated they will act out with violence. They feel this is a valid avenue for expression. The simply do not know of a more constructive path. By teaching them how to write, and appreciate the writings of others, they are equipped with a new level of expression. A more peaceful means of expression.

What means poetry in your life?

Poetry is what moves me. It compels me. Long ago poetry was used to tell the tales of heroes and villains. It was a means of spreading news, hope and joy. And poetry still possesses that quality. To me, poetry IS life.

Which are your projects for this year?

My projects for the coming year is to write my memoirs. This book will cover eight years of my life. I am also working on an art installation. This will be the human form in glass.

Samantha Schuster