Wapak inspires theme for poems

Growing up in Wapakoneta at the time Neil Armstrong walked on the moon inspired a Minnesota man to use the celestial body as the theme for a literary magazine he edits.

William Waltz started “Conduit” in 1993 after finishing graduate school at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.

In its latest edition, for the spring of 2012, Waltz said he addresses what the moon landing meant to him as a boy and as a writer in the editor’s note, which opens the new issue — Night Light: How the Moon made us human. Volume number 23 for “Conduit” includes 32 submissions, including Waltz’s editorial note, “Consider the Dark Window,” which references local businesses in this lunar town, as well as an eight-page interview with astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

“For me, Neil’s stroll was simultaneously miraculous and ordinary,” Waltz said of Armstrong’s moon walk, which occurred when he was a small boy growing up here. “It was miraculous because it was the moon, another world, and ordinary because he was practically a neighbor. The feat fueled my imagination and made the extraordinary seem very possible.”

Growing up in a small town can spark a child’s intellect and creativity because frankly, there’s a lot of time to imagine and contemplate, Waltz said.

“I can’t help but cringe when I see and hear of kids who spend their free time distracted by electronics when they could be daydreaming or exploring the river bank,” Waltz said.

Waltz said he started “Conduit” because at the time there were so few literary magazines he enjoyed reading.

“At the time — before the desktop revolution — there weren’t nearly as many magazines as there are today and cool ones were even scarcer,” Waltz said. “Crucially, I happened to know a lot of talented young writers, who weren’t getting published and who deserved to be championed.”

The writer and poet’s first book “Zoo Music” won the Slope Editions Poetry Prize. He has a chapbook forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press and another full-length manuscript looking for a home.

“Conduit” is distributed nationally and can be found at independent bookstores from New York to San Francisco, but Chicago is the closest place to Wapakoneta where it is available for purchase. Subscriptions and individual copies may be purchased online at conduit.org.

The publication has placed poems in the “Best of American Poetry Series,” edited by David Lehman, and has won a design award from “Print” magazine. Poems first published in ‘Conduit’ have gone on to appear in more than 60 books. It’s roster of writers includes Pultizer Prize winning poets, National Book Award winners, rising literary stars, and first time poets.

‘Conduit,’ which is published biannually, is described as “words and visions for minds on fire.”

The book’s editor graduated from Wapakoneta High School in 1979 and lives in St. Paul, Minn., with his wife, Brett Astor, who serves as “Conduit”’s deputy editor, and their two children, a daughter, Clark, 10, and a son, Hart, 3.

Fellow Wapakoneta High School graduate, Scott Bruno, also worked on more than 10 “Conduit” issues. The award-winning art director is a graphic designer living in Cincinnati.

Waltz is the son of Toni Waltz, who lives in Wapakoneta, and the late Fred “Fritz” Waltz, who died in 2007.