Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?
I first started writing stuff on paper when I was 17 or 18, but I think I was writing in my head long before that. Whenever I felt any kind of strong emotion it would keep me up for hours just sitting in bed and talking it through to myself. But it wasn’t really reasoning I was doing – it was like a cathartic expression to myself. More like a song I would speak to myself. When I started writing stuff down, I didn’t have any clue that it was “poetry” that I was interested in. It was more of a spontaneous physical sensation when I saw a piece of paper or felt depressed or read something – almost anything – for school or in the newspaper, etc. I just wanted to put words down. Sometimes I would copy passages from news articles or novels, or just try to describe something I made up in my imagination – like a city on an undiscovered continent or something. I would also write a lot when I felt ecstatic or lonely. I think reading Dylan Thomas was what first inspired me to actually start writing and take it seriously. Later it was old blues and folk music (and all kinds of music really), Rimbaud and the Beats, Bob Dylan, and then more contemporary people like John Ashbery, Philip Lamantia, and Douglas Kearney. Being around people got me to write as well. I loved just being in crowds and seeing people interact with each other.
How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?
I guess it comes to me out of the blue – like when I’m at a party or I look at someone or read a news article or mishear a phrase – but then I have to work to follow it. I used to stay up all night just following little appearances like that, but now I tend to slowly collect them and spend weeks or months ordering and reordering them while occasionally trying to consciously come up with lines to add in. I do find however, that when I am in the mood to write something but have no idea what, I can just start describing something I’ve seen or thought about recently and before I know it I have something that’s kind of interesting to me. Other times I just have this vague sensation in me and have to work to express it. Walking or driving around often gets me into that kind of situation. I think I used to see poetry as much more formal, romantic, and serious than I do now. I find poetry in absolutely everything today, whereas I had more of a solely Lord Byron idea of it in the past. I see poetry in statistics, in everyday conversations, on smart phones, in pop music, movies, and stuff like that. One thing I still haven’t lost though is the spontaneity that comes with writing. It’s always been a lightning strike kind of thing for me, even if I have to spend a lot of time on it later. I also see poetry as much more communal than I used to. I take phrases and ideas directly from multiple sources or listen to a song and immediately get the beginning of a poem out of a few of the lyrics. I think you can write insightful and resonant poetry this way because that’s closer to how all those old songs and epic poems that are still so important to us were created. It gives you a more immediate access to a collective experience that comes from your own time.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I used to be on Facebook, but people got mad at me for not responding to posts fast enough so I quit. I am on Instagram and Snapchat though. I love the idea of having these incalculable torrents of “information” tidal waving over me and everyone else constantly. I think you could print out anybody’s Instagram feed from a single day, blow it up, paste it all over a blank room and call it an installation. It’s using Snapchat that mostly fits into my writing style though. I am often inspired by images and quick, nonsensical phrases, and Snapchat is pretty good for creating pairings like that.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
I would say that I have a community of writers around me, but not in the sense that we do workshops together or anything like that. I have had groups like that in the past and learned a lot from them. The people I find around me today though express their poetry more through conversation than anything else. I feel like a quiet sponge around these people who are quite articulate in a spontaneous, poetic, spoken-word, comedic kind of way and have knowledge and interests beyond my own. I try to use that to expand my own thoughts, insights, and written expressions. Lately I’ve been into poets like Aime Cesaire, Saul Williams, Frank Stanford, Kay Ryan, Beck, Cat Power, Mazzy Star, Solange, Luis Bunuel, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Miyazaki, Key and Peele, and Louis C.K.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
I would say don’t feel shitty about yourself. You’re doing something that doesn’t fit into the financial structure of our world today, but it’s been culturally and spiritually important to humans since forever. Humility is important too, but I think that will come to you anyway if you’re trying to publish poetry. I also think it’s helpful to have a thick skin, put your head down, and keep going. Eventually your writing will resonate with somebody, or somebodies. Don’t be afraid of criticism, but also follow your own ideas and sensations before anyone else’s. I think if your writing inspires you, then it will ultimately inspire others out there somewhere.