RX Bandits – The Interview
By Stewart Grant
Please start with your name, what you do in the band, and the year you joined Rx Bandits.
Steve Choi. Guitar, Keyboards, percussion, vocals.
Rx Bandits have always been known for musical growth on each album, but your biggest change arguably came between 1999’s Halfway Between Here and There and 2001’s Progress. The band went from what is generally referred to as a third wave ska band to the band you are now. What caused the band to take such a new direction and was it a conscious decision or more of a natural progression?
It was definitely a natural progression. What more is there to say, other than that you must grow and evolve or die… especially creatively.
You have recorded large sections of your last three albums live. Explain why you decided to do that and talk about the process a little. Is it like recording a jazz album were you play each song through a few times and take your favorite version for the album?
That’s exactly how it goes down for us, we play the songs through until we get a take that has the feeling we and the engineer/producer can agree on. You have to compromise a lot of your objective ear while actually playing the songs. We choose to record live for many reasons; We love the sound of the songs being played and recorded while we actually play together. It gives it a living element that multi-tracking can’t accomplish. We have always leaned towards a more organic approach to music, both in our recording process and our creative philosophy. On a more simple and direct level, we just want the listener to hear our records and feel like they’re in the room, in the song, or lost in their own sensations while listening. The sonic nuances that live recordings provide is the only way to achieve that in our opinion, not too mention it makes the recording process a lot more meaningful and much less mundane and arduous, although making it much much much more difficult in many ways. Its waaaay worth it in the end.
Many of the members of Rx Bandits play in other bands as well. (Sound of Animals Fighting, Love You Moon, Bruce Lee Band, among others) When you go to write a new Rx Bandits record do you sit down and say, “Okay now it’s time to write Rx Bandits songs,” or do you just write music and it’s more of “This is what our new album sounds like.”
We definitely like to have a focus on what we’re writing for RX, however there is no ‘RX sound’ that we’re trying to achieve. Its more an acknowledgment of what we’re working with and what we want to play for our own enjoyment. The main difference in writing music for RX as opposed to music I write outside of RX for me, is that I keep RX songs much more conceptually locked down, whether they be visuals, themes, concepts or any combination of those. Writing music is already such a mysterious process that there are many tools to quantify it, but there is no structure to our motivation for writing music itself, regardless of what band or entity it is for .
You spent several years on Drive-Thru records in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, during a time when they were one of the premier pop punk labels, before moving to Sargent House and starting your own record label. Was it challenging being the only band on that label playing a very different style of music? Did you find yourselves lumped into a certain genre because of your association with Drive-Thru?
To be honest, we don’t even think about the time we spent on that one label.. but if I do think about it, yes it was very difficult for us which is why we left and why we are creatively free and doing better than we ever have before.
Coming from Drive-Thru records and the scene they are part of, Rx Bandits have often been lumped under the broad umbrella of punk music. Yet your style, particularly live, has a very jam and experimental feel. When playing live do you ever encounter negativity to that approach or do you find people willing to listen while you try new things on stage?
With our band, people either don’t give a shit, or understand what we’re after and give us love. The way we approach our music and our band, we feel that you can totally exercise your right to think our music sucks or whatever, but you can’t ever question our motives and how much we respect music itself, and I believe that shows wherever we are or whoever we’re playing to.
As a band that has toured around the world, do you find fans in different countries react differently to your music? Are there any places you particularly look forward to playing?
Being lucky enough to play our music for different cultures is an amazing experience. To write about all the differences from region to region, country to country would be a full dissertation within itself. However, I will say that obviously on the surface there are many differences from country to country, when we’re on stage and the crowd is into the music and we start to feed off of them and that exchange of energy begins, there are very very few differences between cultures. We’re all just people, getting into the music together which is a culture in itself and we’re all from the same place and speaking the same language at that moment.
Rx Bandits have always been known for your DIY ethic and have been on an independent label for your entire career. Mandala reached #117 on the Billboard 200 and reached #1 on Amazon’s Bestselling MP3 Albums on July 16. What does it mean to have achieved such success on your own terms?
It means that we can focus on music and our art and still make a living, which is a great reassurance to have when you’re laying it all on the line for your passion. It is also a great achievement for our label/management Sargenthouse which is able to release a record like ours and without corporate money or connections, get us into these avenues of marketing usually majorlabel glad-handing elite.
Rx Bandits have played some big festivals including, Warped Tour, Bonnaroo and Bamboozle; do you like playing those or do you prefer doing a club tour? How are the two different?
When playing festivals, you usually approach the performance with a little more ferocity, not just because of the pace of having hundreds of bands around, but just winning over a lot people who have never seen you or heard of you, which is a great benefit of festivals. We have a friendly-competitive vibe when playing festivals, which is driven by our desire to just put on a stellar and excellent performance.. we want to stand out, as I’m sure many bands do. Both Club shows and Festivals are great, but any band gets to really showcase themselves and do their thing far more at their own club show.
Many of the band members have creative endeavors outside of music. All four band members have been published in the Revolution on Canvas series. Do these other mediums allow you to communicate your ideas to a broader audience? How do ideas you have in one medium affect what you do in others?
Many things in creativity cannot be so cerebral-ized. I don’t think we think about the creative ramifications of all the things we do… we just like to be creative and express ourselves. Simply put; Sometimes its just cool to do different stuff and have fun doing it.
What does the future hold for the Rx Bandits?
We’ll be touring around the world for ‘Mandala’, our latest album and making music together as long as it feels good and natural. I see no immediate end in sight.
RX Bandits – No Immediate End
By Stewart Grant
“You must grow and evolve or die, especially creatively,” says Steve Choi of the Rx Bandits. The band; consisting of Choi on guitars, keyboards, and vocals, Matt Embree on guitar and lead vocals, Joseph Troy on bass, and Chris Tsagakis on drums, has vigorously embraced this maxim over their almost fifteen year career. Formed in southern California in the mid-nineties, the Rx Bandits began as a third wave ska band. Since that time the band has evolved their sound with each album creating a unique blend of punk, rock, reggae, ska, and just about everything else. “There is no RX sound that we’re trying to achieve. It’s more of an acknowledgement of what we’re working with and what we want to play for our own enjoyment,” says Choi.
Though they may not have a particular sound, one thing that has become a hallmark of the Rx Bandits style is their approach to recording. Beginning with 2003’s The Resignation and continuing on 2006’s …And the Battle Begun and 2009’s Mandala, the band has recorded large portions of their last three albums live in the studio. “We choose to record live for many reasons. We love the sound of the songs being played and recorded live while we actually play together. It gives it a living element that multi-tracking can’t accomplish.” On all three albums much of the guitars, bass, and drums were recorded live. The result is a more organic and energetic record than many of their contemporaries cannot achieve. “We just want the listener to hear our records and feel like they’re in the room.”
This warts and all approach also extends to the bands’ live show. Known for improvising during and between songs, the Rx Bandits take a jam oriented approach to playing live. To people unfamiliar with the band’s live approach this can sometimes lead to mixed feelings. “People either don’t give a shit or understand what we’re after and give us love,” says Choi. “The way we approach our music and our band, we feel that you can totally exercise your right to think our music sucks or whatever, but you can’t ever question our motives and how much we respect the music itself.”
The Rx Bandits have always had a fierce DIY ethic that extends to all aspects of their band. They have spent time on three different independent record labels and have grown their legion of fans through relentless touring. Their newest album Mandala reached #117 on the Billboard Top 200 and reached #1 on Amazon’s Bestselling MP3 Albums on July 16th of this year. When asked what it means to have achieved this level of success Choi responds, “It means that we can focus on music and our art and still make a living, which is a great reassurance to have when you’re laying it all on the line for your passion.”
When asked what the future holds for the Rx Bandits Choi answers that they will be touring in support of Mandala and playing music together for a long time to come. “We’ll be touring around the world for our latest album and making music together as long as it feels good and natural. I see no immediate end in sight.”
Prepare To Crash – Casey Quinn
Review by Lawrence Gladeview and Stewart Grant
Prepare to Crash is Casey Quinn’s second chapbook poetry collection; his first with Big Table Publishing. Quinn’s evolution in voice and environment from Snapshots of Life, his first collection of poetry, is refreshingly distinct and complimentary to the humor and honesty he presents in Crash. Through efficient, plain-spoken language, Quinn offers complexity as well as diversity in this second collection. From his trustworthy jack russell to the rural north carolina heartlands, Quinn’s weekday subtleties evoke quiet contemplation and a pull up a chair attitude.
The fourth poem in the collection, Holiday Breakfast Table, is a stellar example of effective word economy utilized to draw upon audience sensibility. The twelve line, four stanza piece illuminates the classical family gathering while simultaneously vocalizing the internal thoughts that accompany such occasions. Despite the jabbing, tongue-lashing truths of Holiday Breakfast Table, Quinn concludes the piece with delicate homage to what makes the institution of family safe and welcoming.
One of the last few poems in Prepare to Crash, It Is Raining, is also one of the best. The piece captures a serene moment enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Quinn perfectly articulates the joys of time spent in the company of the people and pets he loves. A quite night reading a book and waiting for dinner to cook is turned into a tender reflection of the small things that are important to us all. The matter of fact language allows the reader to easily insert themselves into the scene and sit back to enjoy that beer right along with Quinn. It Is Raining is one of the longer poems in the collection and if I have any complaint with the piece it stems from there. The third stanza brought a warm smile to my face and felt like a natural end, however the piece continues on for a few more lines that felt somewhat unnecessary. Regardless of this, It Is Raining is a touching meditation on the simplicities of life.
In the dozens of remaining poems in Prepare to Crash Casey Quinn touches on a diversity of topics that gives the collection an air of worldly experience. Never admitting too much, Quinn’s sophistication and coy charm flirt with the half-truths of weathered wisdom. His subtle use of language makes each idea and scene relatable and meaningful. Prepare to Crash has something to everyone, and is a touching, humorous, pointed tour of the world through Casey Quinn’s eyes.
Casey Quinn writes prose and poetry. His first poetry chapbook Snapshots of Life was released by Salvatore Publishing. Casey’s second chapbook, Prepare to Crash will be released later in 2009 by Big Table Publishing. In his free time he edits the online magazine Short Story Library.
Knuckle Tattoos – Puma Perl
Review by Stewart Grant and Lawrence Gladeview
Knuckle Tattoos is Puma Perl’s debut full length poetry collection, an outspoken manifesto in both voice and content. As the winner of Erbacce Press’ annual poetry contest in 2009, Perl’s Knuckle Tattoos constitutes the first prize selection of her chapbook, Belinda and her Friends, out of a field of over fourteen hundred entries. Her evocative language and confident form elicit the emotion of skewed adolescent optimism coupled with urban desolation. Through vagabond sensibilities, Perl sketches a poetic environment of urban attitude and swagger in Knuckle Tattoos.
Puma Perl’s Knuckle Tattoos exhibits effective enjambment throughout, integrating familial narrative anecdotes with prose verse. This method coaxes the reader to lament with Perl as she bares her long passed yet never forgotten youthful inadequacies, as seen in her poem Prelude,
skinny girl in striped bathing suit
wears stupid hat her mother bought
Kodak brownie snapshots dispel the lies
forced smiles turn faces to masks
hair turns to mountains, then falls
sad distant father looks like love
The poem reads like a polaroid, highlighting obscure nuances and muted colors that sear the page and the reader’s eye, bringing Perl’s childhood memories to the present, allowing the reader to digest and reflect.
Perl’s unique voice comes from the haunting comparisons she draws between the innocence of the past and the harsh reality of the present. By juxtaposing the hopeful optimism of youth with the bitterness of missed opportunity that often comes with age, she makes these stories of street life even more brutal. The poems are written mainly in the first person and often focus on a single character. This narrative approach gives the pieces a sense of authenticity and provides a glimpse into the life of the author.
In addition to her character driven work, Perl puts a unique touch on the often written poem about poetry. One such example, Box, comes early in the collection. The piece begins with the plainspoken,
in the box
under the streetlight
From here follows a fast paced, almost surreal listing of things seen and found by the narrator on the street,
The poem is both an interesting portrait of the realities and absurdities of urban life, as well as a statement of why a collection like this is necessary. Box is a perfect example of the veracity of Knuckle Tattoos, and the lack of posturing often found in poems about ‘the streets’. Box doesn’t tell the reader about life on the streets, it doesn’t preach about the difficulties or dangers; it simply presents and allows the reader to decide.
Knuckle Tattoos is a testament to unabashed adulthood development, amplifying Perl’s evolutionary poetic voice. Her tales of lost potential and journeys of humility place the reader in a grimy and exploratory adventure of female identity in the face of adversity and self-liberation.
Puma Perl’s poetry and fiction have been published in over 100 print and online journals and anthologies. Her first chapbook, Belinda and Her Friends, published in 2008, was awarded the Erbacce Press 2009 Poetry Award in a field of over 1400 applicants; a full length collection, knuckle tattoos, was published in early 2010. She performs her work in many venues, in and out of New York City. Puma lives and writes on the Lower East Side and has facilitated writing workshops in community based agencies and at Riker’s Island, a NYC prison. She believes in the transformative and healing power of the arts. She is a member of Harmattan Theater, a performance group dedicated to environmental and socially engaging theater.
Peycho Kanev – The Interview
By Lawrence Gladeview and Stewart Grant
MediaVirus Magazine was founded as a collaboration between two friends and writers. One of the ideas central to this publication is that different mediums of expression are not exclusive. Working in, or appreciating one medium will inevitably have an effect on what you produce in an entirely different artistic arena. Viewing a painting or film might inspire a new poem. Reading a short story could provide the insight to overcome a hurdle in the completion of a new piece of music. It is this interconnectivity of art that MediaVirus strives to explore.
In that vein, this month MediaVirus is proud to feature an interview with Peycho Kanev, co-author of the new chapbook collaboration ‘r’. He recently answered several of our inquires about ‘r’, and we excitedly share them with you here. This collection also features selections from poet Felino Soriano, with the photography contributions of Edward Wells II and Duane Locke. ‘r’ melds the poetry and photography of all four into a visual tapestry that excites the eye and mind equally.
What does the unembellished, lower case title of ‘r’ denote?
Well, about that you have to ask the editor of this book Edward Wells II. He is responsible for the title of the book as well as other things such as the coordinating, the images, the layout, etc. I think that the decision for the title “r” is entirely his. Edward is the Senior Editor for the wonderful poetry magazine The Houston Literary Review.
How was ‘r’ developed and was the concept initially embraced by all contributors alike?
In the summer of 2008 and in the beginning of 2009 Edward accepted a few of my poems for publication in his magazine. And that’s how all started. After that, he told me that he had this upcoming project in mind and to be more specific, the publishing of collaborative poetry collection. He asked me would I be interested and then the other poet Felino Soriano. And yes, I believe that the whole concept of the book was initially embraced by both of us.
The snippets of photography featured throughout are abstract and anthropomorphic in nature, adding a visual dimension that compliments the voice behind the pen. Whose decision was it to include the photography and why are there no photos of Felino Soriano, the second poet featured in ‘r’?
Yes, I believe the vibes that the images produce are in some absolute unison with the poems. And for that we have to blame another great poet, photographer and visual artist. His name is Duane Locke. You ought to read his poetry. He is great. About my pictures… Well, in the beginning Edward told me to send him some photos of me that he could use in the book, but I didn’t had any. So I asked my girlfriend Nevena to take some pictures of me while I’m working on the next poem and drinking whiskey. I think she did a hell of a job. She is very talented opera singer, a beautiful mezzo soprano, and a great photographer too, as you can see from the cover of the book. But why are there no photos of Felino Soriano? I do not know. Maybe that was his decision.
A select few pages exhibit a peculiar appearance and structure, most notably in color and language layout, creating a contrasting environment and attitude in some of the poems. Was this an intentional conveyance and if so, are the poems in which this artistic expression appears uniquely significant?
Yes, I believe so. But I didn’t take any part in this. Edward just told me to send him the poems and after that he did his editor’s magic placing the exact poems with the right images and photos. I believe he has very keen eye for detail and structure. He is superb poet as well. And the reader should know that it is not an easy job because Felino and I, well, we are very different from one another. For starters, in my poems I go directly at the subjects, at the objects. I do not waste time for metaphors. I like to go to the bones, to the marrow of the bones of poetry. I do not dwell in metaphysics or the classics. I simply write my words as they appear in the box of my head. Clear and shiny like sharp knife. On the other hand, Felino is more philosophic and jazzy. His poetry is soaked up in poetic occurrences, philosophical causation, in jazz stimulation. He is an abstract painter with the brush of the words, and extremely prolific at that. Edward managed to graze completely different poets and to produce one perfectly homogeneous poetic painting. That is a great editor.
One of MediaVirus’ central tenants is that different artistic mediums, such as poetry and visual arts, can have a profound influence on each. were the photographs and poems in ‘r’ conceived separately, or did one’s creation influence the other?
In my own beliefs poetry always comes first. Before the music, before the paintings, before any other art form. Like the great poet Joseph Brodsky said once, that the universe itself subordinate to some very strict divine law which resembles the very art of poetry writing.
Did the various creators in ‘r’ work in conjunction or separately when creating their contributions?
We were working separately, of course. There is great portion of solitude that lives within every poet. I heard that Felino was the other poet a couple of weeks after I sent my batch of poems to Edward Wells II.
Peycho your poetry is uninhibited and uncompromising in subject and delivery. who are some of your poetic influences and do you feel your poetry is a product of their muse or rather furthers their literary philosophy?
Like every other poet I have poets that I admire. And they are more than, let say, fifty. But I follow the rules of writing poetry which one of them gave us. One of the best. They are: “ 1) Don’t tell the readers what they already know about life. 2) Don’t assume you’re the only one in the world who suffers. 3) Some of the greatest poems in the language are sonnets and poems not many lines longer than that, so don’t overwrite. 4) The use of images, similes and metaphors make poems concise. Close your eyes, and let your imagination tell you what to do. 5) Say the words you are writing aloud and let your ear decide what word comes next. 6) What you are writing down is a draft that will need additional tinkering, perhaps many months, and even years of tinkering. 7) Remember, a poem is a time machine you are constructing, a vehicle that will allow someone to travel in their own mind, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get all its engine parts properly working.” His name is Charles Simic.
Do you feel your poetic intentions are best captured in the still, candid environment of a photograph, or portrayed through actionable, illustrative written word?
I am not really sure. I mean, I am a poem. There is not other way about it. If I want to lay the words on the screen or on the sheet of paper in perfect harmony I have to live as a poem. You cannot be false about it or unreal. But you can’t walk upon this streets with all the poems glued to your forehead either. There is some thin line that lies in each and every poet, every creator and it cannot be crossed. The poet is like some photographer, but instead using some chemicals for developing his pictures, he uses the chemistry of the word.
Peycho Kanev’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Poetry Quarterly, Welter, Ann Arbor Review, The Shine Journal, The 13th Warrior Review, Mascara Literary Review, The Arava Review, The Mayo Review, Windmills, The Aroostook Review, Chiron Review, Tonopah Review, Mad Swirl, In Posse Review, 322 Review, Naugatuck River Review, The Houston Literary Review and many others. He is nominated for Pushcart Award and lives in Chicago. His collaborative collection ‘r’, containing poetry by him and Felino Soriano, as well as photography from Duane Locke and Edward Wells II is available at Amazon.com. His new poetry collection Bone Silence will be published in September 2010 by Desperanto, New York.
Steady As A Rock
By Richard Godwin
Norman was now a man about town.
Who never had been before.
‘Who cares? What’s a little mischief?’, he said, shrugging his shoulders with a tired resignation that spoke of too many nights behind the roulette wheel and a bad luck streak.
Except, Norman had always been a good father and hard-working husband, who came home at the same time every night for years and never took risks.
His wife Susie endured his occasional whinge about work, which wasn’t often, because she valued Norman as a good bread winner who never gave her any grief, paid the bills, looked after the children and was basically, her friends all agreed, a good all-round bloke.
‘Steady as a rock’, Mary said. ‘You should hold onto that one, there’s a lot worse out there.’
‘But he’s boring’, Susie said, stifling a yawn.
‘Are you nuts? Frankie’s husband’s beating her up, my old man ran out on me, and what about Billy’s husband?’
‘What about him?’
‘She finds out he’s been screwing around for years.’
‘Not only that, he’s got a kid by one of his ex-mistresses, and Billy tried to kill herself when she found out.’
‘I should call her.’
‘Leave it Susie, she’s still a little sore.’
‘Whatever you say.’
‘So, what I’m telling you is Norman’s a good guy, you treat him right. Settle for boring.’
Everyone liked Norman.
He told everyone what a good marriage he had, and the kids loved him. Susie always cooked his dinner on time and never troubled him at work.
His punctuality suited her, because unknown to everyone, Susie had been having a string of affairs for years. If you could call them that.
She had felt so lonely and unfulfilled once the kids had started school, that she began to pick men up in bars each afternoon.
Now the kind of men she met in bars were not the most desirable, as you can imagine. Out of work, alcoholic, they would see Susie stride in with her great legs, and sit down on a stool next to them, all dolled up and smelling of perfume, and she’d swivel her stool round, crossing her legs so they could catch a glimpse of suspender and ask them for a light.
She was a good-looking woman, and with a little make-up and in the right dress, could still turn heads. Busty and with a full figure, she knew men liked her and always used to say: ‘It’s easy for a woman to get laid if she wants to.’
And so she did.
For years she slept with as many as five different men a week, enjoying the sex and forgetting them as soon as she left the hotel room.
Except she’d begun to feel cheap.
And one incident turned ugly.
She’d got a little too drunk one afternoon, starting at about eleven o’clock and by one was feeling tipsy and picked a guy up in a bar she hadn’t been to before.
He was a trucker and she was bored of businessmen.
He took her to a seedy motel on the outskirts of town, a real dive, and once they got into the room, Susie began to have second thoughts.
She looked around at the grimy sheets, the dirty bathroom and wondered what she was doing.
The guy started to kiss her and made a grab for her boobs, and she pulled away.
‘What’s the matter hon?’
‘I’ve changed my mind.’
He grabbed at her.
‘Hey! Get off me!’
Before she knew it, he had thrown her onto the bed and pulled her dress up. She screamed and he placed his hand over her mouth.
She tried biting him, but he was too strong.
She lay there gagging and tasting engine oil as he pulled her bra down.
‘Nice tits’, he said.
Then he put his hand in her knickers.
After he raped her he got dressed and told her to ‘get’.
Susie saved her tears for home when she burst into floods and knew there was no point telling the police. Norman would find out.
She wondered whether the trucker had banked on this, guessing she was married.
She felt more alone than ever and decided to stop.
How could she treat Norman like that?
Over the next few days she tried to be the model wife. But slowly, she found her guilt turning to anger against Norman, and she blamed him for her affairs.
So she started again.
Different bars, different guys, until she met Tom.
Tom was different. When they went to bed together, she felt he was making love to her, not just screwing her.
She wanted to see him again, she couldn’t get enough of him, and even started seeing him in the evenings, using friends as excuses, leaving Norman’s dinner to get cold on the table.
He never complained, he never questioned her, maybe he didn’t care.
Then Tom dumped her.
She never saw it coming.
They had made love and she was lying on the bed when he said: ‘This is the last time, Susie.’
‘I don’t want to do this to my wife any more, this is the last time.’
‘You can’t just cast me aside like this.’
‘Yes I can and I just have.’
She stood up.
‘Tom, I can make trouble for you.’
‘Look at you. You’re not young any more, your body’s going. It’s over. Goodbye.’
And he made towards the door.
Susie launched herself at him, grabbing his hair, and riding around naked on his back as he tried to shake her off.
Eventually she landed hard on the ground and Tom stood over her.
There was something in his eyes she had never see before.
‘You’ll make trouble for me?’
‘You don’t even know my name, you don’t know where I live, you know nothing about me.’
‘I’ve got your business card.’
‘It’s a fake. Tom doesn’t exist. I thought Susie was a made-up name. You don’t know anything about me, you stupid fucking bitch. Do you really think I’m not going to find another fuck-thing?’
He left her sobbing on the floor and once again she vowed to stop.
And for a while she did, until the emptiness of her life became so overwhelming that she found herself going into a new bar one day.
She’d dropped the kids at school, and noticed it a few blocks away.
She went in and started drinking.
By noon she was out of it.
She picked up a guy who was sitting in the corner and asked him if he wanted to go to a hotel with her.
He was nice-looking, she thought, looked a little rough around the edges.
‘How much you charging?’, he said.
‘Nothing. You want some?’
He swigged his drink back.
‘You a cop?’
‘Honey, I’ll be whoever you want me to be.’
They found a room and she walked in and stripped off, standing there in her suspenders and nothing else.
‘You like me?’
‘No cop, see?’
‘Come on, let’s see what you got’ she said and starting undoing his trousers.
‘You don’t mess around, do you?’
She felt angry and aggressive and wanted to use him, but afterwards she lay there thinking about Tom and wondering who he really was.
‘You one of them nympho-maniacs?’, the guy said.
She got dressed and left and went back to the bar and drank some more and that night Norman found her asleep when he got in.
She told him she wasn’t feeling well.
She started drinking harder and harder and Norman didn’t seem to notice, returning home from work tired and playing with the kids. He loved his kids.
Norman told everyone at work he had the best marriage and was a lucky man.
He kept a picture of Susie and the kids on his desk and would look at it during the day when he felt lonely.
One day she found she was pregnant. She had no idea whose it was, and knew it wasn’t Norman’s.
Maybe another kid might change things for the better, she thought. It would stop me fooling around and I could quit drinking, never could stand alcohol when I was pregnant.
She told Norman and he was over the moon, she would just lie about the dates so he wouldn’t guess.
And in the meantime, while she wasn’t showing, she would have a few last flings.
She was getting a reputation.
All the barmen knew her as the no charge hooker.
Their regular drinkers would joke about the stories they’d heard about her.
She tried to find new bars and had to go further afield to preserve her anonymity.
Then she met Hank.
Tall, bearded, handsome, every country and western-loving gal’s idea of a real man, he had picked her up.
That was a first.
Susie always made the running, something which let her feel in control.
When she lay down with Hank she felt her head swimming, as if by being picked up something had changed and she wanted to run out and scream, but Hank went right away and fucked her.
Susie turned her back to him and sobbed when he was finished.
‘Aw, what’s the matter, darlin? Tired of bein the no charge hooker? Well, you ain’t that good, a little dry, if you ask me. Now I like my steak rare and with some sauce and I reckon your sauce’s been fucked right out of you. I pity your husband, assuming of course you got one, cause I can’t see how a dried up old hooker like you can make any money. Anyway, here’s a nickel’, he said, and tossed a coin at her.
She lay there facing the wall and listened for his engine to start and fade.
As she dressed she looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise herself.
In the cab on the way back she stopped at another bar, knowing she couldn’t let Hank ruin this for her.
She would have one last one, on her terms, picking the man she wanted and that would be it. She would have this kid and she would be good to Norman. She would follow Mary’s advice. She was right.
Over in the corner of the bar she spotted him right away.
Nice face, business suit, her type.
She had a drink and went right over to him.
‘Mind if I sit here?’
She uncrossed her legs in front of him.
He looked away, but must have seen.
‘Look, darlin’, she said, ‘I really like you. Is there somewhere we can go?’
‘Just like that?’
‘Just like that.’
‘Nothin. I like sex. That’s it. Men do it, why shouldn’t a woman?’
‘No reason, but this is too easy.’
‘That’s me. Easy.’
He looked at her, but wasn’t buying.
‘Don’t you like what you see?’, she said, running her hands down her bust.
‘I like you.’
He took a drink and stood up.
‘OK. I’ll pick the hotel. I’m gonna see what this is all about.’
But when they got there, she just stripped off and they had sex on the bed and he lay there laughing.
‘Phooee!’, he said. ‘You are the easiest lay I’ve ever had, and not bad.’
He slapped her arse.
‘Easy come, easy go. Don’t worry, I’ll pay for the room, least I can do, but how about a bit more fanny?’
She let him do it again and thought about what she would cook for dinner.
Then she had a shower before leaving.
She didn’t ask his name, this last one.
When she got out of the shower, he was gone.
Unknown to Susie, he had snapped her naked before he left.
He worked with Norman and was a big boast about the office. A jock who liked to make sexist remarks.
The next day over by the water cooler Norman asked Rob what he was laughing about?
‘Hi Norm. Just telling the guys I got picked up last night.’
‘You got picked up?’
Rob had never been Norman’s style, but he played along with him. He enjoyed cordial relations with everyone at work.
‘I sure did’, Rob said. ‘Woman walks right up to me in a bar. I was having a drink after that meeting, unwinding, like you do.’
‘Anyway, she comes right over to me and asks if I want a fuck?’
‘No! She can’t have been much.’
‘Oh she wasn’t bad.’
Rob made a curve in the air.
‘Well, I took her to a hotel and fucked the arse off her.’
‘You don’t believe me. I snapped her. Good tits. Look.’
Rob passed Norman his mobile and he looked straight down at the image of his naked wife.
‘Good for you, Rob’, he said, taking a gulp of water.
Norman started to choke.
‘You OK?’, Rob said, hitting him on the back.
‘Must have gone down the wrong way. Catch you later.’
He returned to his desk and stared at his wife’s picture all afternoon and went home that evening and ate his dinner and went to bed.
He worked in a daze for a few days and the following week came home with a bag of shopping.
‘I bought myself a tux’, he said to Susie, who was startled to see him come home early.
‘Norman, it’s only two o’clock’, she said.
‘Yeah, I’m going out.’
And he went upstairs and came back down dressed in his tux and cowboy boots and went out all night, returning at six in the morning.
Susie was worried. Norman had never ever done that before.
‘What’s the matter darling?’, she croaked at him as he stumbled into the darkened bedroom.
‘Nothing, just been gambling that’s all, don’t worry your pretty little head I’ve not been out chasing pussy.’
Susie didn’t say anything and a half-hour later got up and fixed herself some coffee.
She tried asking Norman if he felt all right, if he’d been working too hard and he just laughed and said: ‘What’s a little mischief between husband and wife, Susie?’
He started going out more and more and one evening Susie followed him.
She tailed him around town, wondering where he was gambling.
She’d read about men having mid-life crises and thought maybe Norman should go on Prozac, especially with the new baby on the way.
But he just stopped his car in a disused parking lot and sat in it. Just sat there and eventually Susie drove away thinking he needed help.
‘I think he should see a doctor’, she told Mary.
‘Poor Norman. He works so hard, he need a break.’
That weekend she would talk to him about it.
They had friends over on the Saturday. Norman was his usual self, a good host and polite to their friends as always. But to Susie he looked distant, withdrawn.
In his eyes there was a flicker of something she couldn’t understand.
That night in bed she tried asking him if there was anything the matter, but he just rolled away from her and said: ‘What could be the matter? I’ve got the happiest marriage to a beautiful wife, lovely kids and another one on the way, that’s what I tell all my friends.
I’m very proud of you Susie, you’ve never given me any reason not to be, have you?’
She lay there thinking it over.
The next day when she got up Norman had gone out early with the kids and didn’t return till the evening, when he said he was tired and didn’t feel like talking.
Susie began to worry, wondering if he would be up to being a father again.
She thought about having an abortion, but it was too late.
Norman began wearing his tux more and more until he would lounge around the house in it at weekends.
One afternoon Susie asked him why the tux, but he just shrugged and said: ‘Why not?’
‘That’s not really an answer Norman.’
‘Can’t I do something different? Don’t you ever want to do something different, Susie?’
People started to talk.
Norman wore his tux everywhere.
Then one evening something happened.
Susie had decided she was going to confront Norman and get to the bottom of what all this was about.
She could feel the baby coming on and needed some stability around her, she needed the old Norman back.
So when he came through the door, she asked him to sit down.
‘What’s this about Susie?’, he said.
‘Norman’, she said, taking hold of his hand, ‘this isn’t like you. I’ve never seen you wear a tux before, do you think you need to see a doctor?’
He pulled his hand away.
‘Why would I need to see a doctor? I ain’t got the clap or nothing.’
‘That’s a strange thing to say, Norman, what’s got into you?’
‘Strangers are strange, Susie.’
She stood up.
‘Norman, I’m worried.’
‘We don’t make love any more, we-’.
She was stopped in mid-sentence by the shape of something flying over her head.
As she turned, a glass smashed against the wall.
‘Norman! This isn’t you. You’re always there, always the hard-working husband. You’ve always taken care of me. My friends call you steady as a rock. Please, talk to me.’
‘Steady as a rock, ha?’, he sounded choked, and Susie could see he was fighting back tears. ‘Yeah, good old Norman. I’ve worked hard all right, always turning up at every damn meeting. I don’t love my job. I loved you.’
‘Don’t you have any idea what’s bugging me? What’s breaking me apart?’
He held back bitter salt tears.
‘Have you met someone else?’
He stood there shaking his head.
‘Let me show you something. From work.’
‘So it is work’, Susie said, throwing up her hands.
He had downloaded the picture from Rob’s phone and then wiped it before everyone got to see his wife. Rob and Susie had never met and somehow Norman had spared himself that particular office humiliation. But since the dread of everyone knowing what a slut Susie was had subsided into relief, that had quickly been replaced by despair and anger.
So, that evening as the first leaves fell from the trees outside the window, he handed Susie something she thought at first was going to be a letter saying her husband had been fired.
In that brief moment that started to stretch like elastic as she opened the envelope, she ran through her mind how they would cope without his salary, and then she looked down at an ageing woman looking a little slutty lying on a bed somewhere with her legs spread.
She hated her on sight. Betrayal shot through her like an electric shock.
‘Is this her?’, she said. ‘Is this who you’ve been fucking, Norman?’
And she slapped him so hard across the face, he staggered backwards.
She was just thinking maybe she could live with his infidelity, that at least he hadn’t lost his job, when Norman put his hand on her arm.
‘Look again, Susie. Can’t you see who that is?’
And as she did look again she realised it was her, realised that maybe she had known the first time.
‘I’ve worked all these years believing you were a wonderful wife, and a colleague showed me that after you picked him up in a bar and fucked him.’
There was no emotion in Norman’s voice now, and Susie thought how self-controlled he was, and that maybe the tux suited him after all.
‘Steady as a rock? You smashed me, Susie, till I’m dirt. Why?’
She looked at him, and said: ‘Norman, I’m pregnant.’
‘Why did you do it?’
‘Norman, you’ve been a good husband -’.
And he brought his fist down on the coffee table. Magazines flew everywhere and Susie bent down to pick them up and as she did so, her skirt raised up and Norman saw she was wearing suspenders.
From behind her she heard a voice. It said:
‘Nice tits! You cheap fucking whore, do you know what they call you in the bars? The no charge hooker. My wife!’
She stood up and turned into a fist.
She fell against the sofa and Norman inflicted sixty-four head injuries on Susie that night, breaking every bone in her face. She lay shaking against the foot of the sofa looking up at him and trying to speak, but nothing came out of her mouth except the blood and spittle that started to foam and froth a little.
When he had finished Norman noticed his tux had gone all red and started to cry.
Richard Godwin is a writer of crime and horror fiction. His first crime novel has been accepted for publication and will be available later this year at major bookstores. His poems and stories have been published at many magazines, such as A Twist Of Noir and Danse Macabre, as well as in the recent anthologies Back In 5 Minutes by Little Episodes Publishing and Howl by Lame Goat Press. He is also a produced playwright.
by Richard Godwin
Turgid as a bull elephant he stood and waited, tumescent in artist’s heat for her to enter.
He thought of what he would do to her, Rosalita, the waitress from the Cafe Des Artistes, her languorous form etched slowly into the minds and hearts of painters who thronged the corners of the sea front like marauding birds, hungry for flesh.
The still doorway promised an opening. And through the open window the light fell, slanting in rays like solid shafts, illuminating the bed and artist’s materials.
Rosalita, whose hair cascaded in a shower of glory and swung rhythmically from her shoulders in a cadence almost musical as she walked.
He waited, hungry for her and hungry for the change he would inflict on her.
He lit a cigarette and felt with pleasure its burning end at his finger tips, the smouldering heat stirring him deeper. He flicked the sable end of his brush with the hardened tips of his fingers, hearing the stiff snapping sound the hairs made as they bent and sprang to attention again. The sound of paint slopping and yielding beneath the brush was soothing, like the rocking motion of waters as they slap the bough of a boat.
His latest canvas stood in the doorway, an expression of some orgasmic rage at his wife, her shoulders flattened by the method, her eyes flying sideways in some ecstasy where paint brush yielded the form so favoured by him.
Worlds collided in his brain, the world of artists’ toil and darker forms, and a killer stalked the women outside in the savage undergrowth, his blade twitching like a merciless syringe.
He would soften her with colours and then impale her with some systematic lechery where she would be transformed and cease to be an object of desire.
‘Why is she taking so long?’, he muttered, and imagined layers of clothes being removed in some ritual of seduction.
He reassured himself with the memory that he was the only artist she had agreed to pose for, that all the others had been rejected.
And outside, the women tittered at some female amusement, their voices rising like bells in the hot air.
He thought of his models, at first exposed like delicate fruits, then stretched upon his canvas and transformed, no longer women he would want. His technique freed him from all that, the enslavement of flesh, their juices sly and acrid, foaming insanely on the shore of his mind, their plump cushioned bodies at conflict with his hardness, tumescent and enraged now like a bull.
He heard her moving in the corridor and waited, glancing down at the women below.
They carried armfuls of flowers fresh and perfumed from the garden, their hair luminescent in the noon sun, all fodder for his brush.
He saw one change from a beautiful gazelle to a hare impaled upon a spear, the blood turning into a shower of sunlight.
He remembered the time he first achieved the technique. His model had lain used and exhausted, her body limp and passive as a glove, while he felt his desire renew itself, and then, turning the perspective in his mind like the blade in the undergrowth, he changed her into his first true canvas.
The obsession gripped him like a dog’s jaw and he felt the silent pleasure of the teeth closing on his flesh in some animal urge.
The heat was becoming stifling in the small room and glancing below again he saw some of the women stripping off at the garden’s end and jumping into the stream, their naked bodies shining with promise.
The blade shimmered at the edge of the garden and he saw the killer moving silently in the shadows.
Finally he saw the handle of the door turn, and she entered.
She stood unashamedly nude, her breasts pointing at him like an accusation, her belly tight and brown, the soft hair etching away to the opening he sought to enter and rearrange on canvas.
He stood enraged with lust and touching her skin smelt the sun on her and entered her without ceremony.
Outside the splash of water baptised his desire as the women frolicked in the stream, the rippling water echoing their bodies’ tide, and he unleashed himself before taking up his brush.
He painted vigorously with swift, assured strokes, dismembering breasts, vagina, head and shoulders until, grotesque as a caricature, she saw herself defeminised and reduced, a spectacle of conquest.
‘Why?’, she said, standing when he had finished, the paint still drying.
He looked at her with eyes intense as two coals in a furnace.
‘It’s ugly! Am I not beautiful? Do you not desire me? I see you do’, she said, looking down.
He pointed at the canvas.
‘My desire is there’ he said.
She reached down and touched him, her face glowing momentarily in some renewal of power.
And as she squeezed her hand to gauge her appeal he moved her towards the bed.
Taking her from behind with cigarette clenched between his fingers, he put it out on her shoulder, the charred flesh smelling like freshly cooked meat.
After she left he watched as the women returned, naked and wet.
Again, his desire stirred and he knew he must paint another canvas.
So from his window, he sketched the swimmers, rearranging them with his brush.
And when he had finished, he called one of them up.
She stood with a towel around her and he withdrew it, falling into her saltwater desire.
In painting her he found the canvas that satisfied him the most.
And he reached out to touch her, his need for a solid body crackling beneath the surface of his skin.
They lay exhausted, the room smelling of stream and sea.
‘I do not like it’, she said. ‘Why don’t you make women beautiful?’
‘I paint female desire in its hallway of mirrors.’
She saw by the look he gave her it was pointless arguing and she left him to his work.
He continued to paint all afternoon, until the evening fell like a black cloak, bringing out the fireflies and insects to their orgy of glory.
In the ambiguity of twilight he stood back and admired two of his finest canvases.
He knew he would do another tomorrow and another the next day and thought about going down to the waterfront.
The first canvas looked like a scene of a massacre and the next time he saw Rosalita she would be just another dumb waitress.
Rosalita, who he had desired and wanted for so many months. Now she was paint.
Outside the women assembled for their supper and laughed, chattering about something.
He stood at the window of his studio and watched, as at the garden’s edge one of them fell into the arms of the killer.
A firefly bombed a tree sending a shower of blood into the night air. The evening scene seemed some montage of beauty and desire, as if a spectral knife were moving flamenco and brushlike, the blade glancing shadows of portraits and colours from its polished, shining surface.
He looked at his day’s work, satisfied.
And below, voices called him:
‘Come and join us for supper.’
‘Yes, I am hungry.’
Richard Godwin is a writer of crime and horror fiction. His first crime novel has been accepted for publication and will be available later this year at major bookstores. His poems and stories have been published at many magazines, such as A Twist Of Noir and Danse Macabre, as well as in the recent anthologies Back In 5 Minutes by Little Episodes Publishing and Howl by Lame Goat Press. He is also a produced playwright.
An Interview With Lyn Lifshin
by Stewart Grant and Lawrence Gladeview
The series of poems is intimate and sincere. What are the inspirations behind these pieces and did you find writing these poems a cathartic experience?
I always try to make anything I write seem tremendously personal and true. In a new collection, All The Poets (Mostly) Who Have Touched Me, Living And Dead: All True, Especially The Lies, I have poems about riding horseback with Sylvia Plath, a romance with Dylan Thomas at the White Horse Tavern, spending Halloween with John Keats, musky nights with Garcia Lorca and running through damp wet grass with Emily Dickinson in our white but not prim dresses. I am always pleased when someone asks what was Dylan Thomas like and did Plath ride well. On my website, I have an essay called “So You Think I wrote About You” that might be of interest. When I wrote the poem “Tentacles, Leaves,” about a poet who staggers out of California to come east with broken shoes, 30 poets wrote me, sure I wrote about them. Any poem I write, even the least seemingly personal, is cathartic. I’m a little obsessive. If time goes by and I don’t write, I feel wrong.
But, especially with the mother and daughter poems, I think I could not have chosen to not write them. I feel some of my strongest poems are mother and daughter poems. I had not started writing them, until I edited Tangled Vines: An Anthology Of Mother And Daughter Poems. Then I began to write many and they continued through the time of my own mother’s illness and death and later too. Yes, they were cathartic to write: on the day my mother was dying I sat by her bed and wrote titles on every page of a spiral note book, filled the book. I never went back to write the poems.
But to this day, many years later, she comes back as a subject. Often I am stunned, can’t believe it has been this long since we talked, this long since she complained that I wore my hair wrong or my dress was too short or I was too nice to men. I write a lot on the metro going to ballet classes, a two hour ride coming and going. Lately it often seems the only place I have time to write. Yes, unlike some of my poems, unlike recent poems promoted as “true stories,” the mother and daughter poems tend to be. In her last months on her birthday she was amazed, received too many cards. But then, what do you get the dying? And when she said, “why don’t you save them for another time,” it stung. My third Black Sparrow book, from Black Sparrow at Godine, focuses a lot on my mother’s life, our relationship, and then, after her death, looking back. Here are some of the sections in the book: Slippery Blisses; a Love of Blueness; from Another World; The days Between; Interlude; Flickering Light; Returning in Autumn; Things Behind the Sun; Darkness in the Light; The Wind Won’t Carry Us. Glancing through, I am amazed that each section, with a few exceptions, is full of poems about my mother.
I think the image of a parent, a mother becoming what they were not, becoming smaller, dissolving, becoming frail, is an archetype and it haunts almost everyone. In “When My Mother Felt Like a Balloon Getting Smaller” — so many things triggered that poem but I did think of how when she was not even that old she could sprint up Beacon hill in 5 inch heels. When, in her last months she had to sit down in the mall in what she called her “old woman’s shoes,” it was shocking.
Last Halloween, for a costume party, I decided to buy a sexy Spanish costume. It reminded me of the one my mother made for me. She didn’t sew much or like to do it but for me she took a white long dress, dyed it red, pinned and made it into a pretty costume tho I always felt too plump in it and I think the Halloween parade was on a very cold night so it probably was covered up! Unlike most poems this one takes few liberties with facts (in the end, I did not wear the new costume this last fall or go to the party!) Maybe another poem in that.
Do you find it easier to write when you have such intense, personal involvement and emotion to pull from, or is it more difficult?
I am not sure I would find it impossible to write about any subject. In fact, I like assignments: several of my books have come out of a suggested, requested subject, for an anthology, for example. Rick Peabody was doing anthologies on Marilyn Monroe and on Barbie. I had nothing on either subject, would never have chosen to write about either. But when asked, I not only wrote poems for them (or hopefully) for them but ended up with Marilyn Monroe Poems, a book of my own and Barbie. I really knew nothing about either. I had just moved to DC when I was writing about Marilyn and roamed the amazing museums and made up poems imagining what Marilyn would have been feeling and thinking. Marilyn Monroe fan clubs later were amazed at the facts they never knew. For Barbie, I did serious Barbie research. I did the same thing for requests for Denise Duhamel’s anthology for Jesus poems and recently, my beautifully illustrated collection of Jesus poems, Light At The End came out, a rather wild book. The request for poems for the anthology Dick For A Day, led to several poems in my various Black Sparrow books. So for me, something I would not have chosen to write about, is a wonderful trigger. Even if the poem doesn’t end up in the anthology I wrote it for, like “Condom Chain Letter” it is usually a strong poem and gets me out of the trance I might have been in. When asked for poems for a collection about not having children, I wrote a series “The Daughter I Don’t Have” — so many of these suggested or requested poems have ended up in collections.
The poem, “The No More Apologizing, the no More Little Laughing Blues” is one poem I remember writing no in any “tranquility recollected” but in the middle of rage. And it worked. It is a signature poem. There was certainly a lot of emotion to draw from. But another signature poem, “Arizona Ruins” was written later, calmly. Both are central pieces.
But as I said, I do feel some of my strongest poems are mother and daughter poems. They are almost in a different category. When she was young and strong, I could explode at her wanting more closeness, less boundaries, more time together, more accountability than I felt was ok. But as she began to age, the poems I wrote in anger and frustration, evolved. She always was supportive of what I wrote, even if not flattering to her. The only thing I could do to upset her was to have a magazine come in the mail when she was visiting and somehow try to hide it, worried she’d be offended. Whatever I wrote, she knew I loved her.
I think the emotion, the strangeness of the last days, the intensity, the fact I was pretty much isolated with her for much of the time when I would sit with her for hours talking, jotting things down, capturing her words made it easier to write. In her last two years, I interviewed her. I have 12 tapes that I have not yet listened to. It is probably time to.
These three selections are composed with the coherency and voice of a self -reflecting, yet still searching young woman. Does addressing these sentimental moments through poetry serve as a coping mechanism in dealing with loss?
As I said, I think all writing is a way to cope — even poems that are seemingly not personal. When I wrote The Licorice Daughter: My Year With Ruffian about the famous race horse, I spent a year living, dreaming, fantasizing her. It was an extremely essential way for me to cope at that time. She became my world. And when I wrote about the race horse, Barbaro, injured in the Preakness, nationally watched for many months as people hoped for a recovery, I was in that zone.
But probably my mother and daughter poems have connected with even more people. I get many letters about how my poems helped not only me get through some terrible times and loss but have helped others too. I think that is why Tangled Vines stayed in print over 20 years and still sells! In teaching workshops, I find that it is almost impossible to have students not write good poems on the subject: it is the most intense, most ambivalent relationship and I think that mix almost guarantees something interesting. In the most adoring poems, always a sliver or darkness. And in the most angry, something that suggests the daughter still wants connection. I get some of the best writing in this workshop. Writing about this reminds me that before John Martin at Black Sparrow took my first book and I agreed not to publish others, a press had a collection of my mother and daughter poems but it kept being delayed and delayed. At that point I wrote that I had agreed not to publish with anyone else for a while and with drew the book. Time to look at it and listen to the tapes of my mother. My website has so much more, photographs of us together, an award winning piece that won a Writer’s Digest award: Writing Mint Leaves At Yaddo and many poems.
An Interview With Mike Perkins
by Lawrence Gladeview and Stewart Grant
Robust overtones of mortality are present in your selections Timothy Leary and the School Bus as well as Rain on a Tin Roof. Is the end of life something you contemplate as a husband, father, or poet? If not, do you find that composing poetry about life and death can provide perspective for readers whose own mortality weighs on their mind?
I contemplate the end in all those venues. I am 54 years of age with four children, my parents are in their seventies and it seems like every week they go to a funeral. Last year my best friend’s daughter died of cancer after a four year struggle – she was a senior in high school. The year before that a family friend died of breast cancer after another four year struggle. As I get older I accumulate more deaths of friends and loved ones. That was only a partial list. My own demise becomes more real, and the greatest fear of any parent is to, God forbid, lose a child before they pass which is the most chilling fear I have ever had. When I was young death was remote and abstract. Now it is closer and more of a reality.
I do not set out to teach or communicate anything other than the truth and honesty of what I experience. As best I can. I think poetry is cathartic and it is a way of expressing truth. Poetry is a bromide for those existential things that ail you. It is a way of expressing things which you would not speak of otherwise. Two of my favorite poets, Tennyson and Bukowski, both dealt with aging and getting older. Tennyson did it in Ulyssis which is absolutely splendid. Can poetry get any better than that? Bukowski did it with Helping the Old. Poetry lets you talk about the hard things. Deborah Warren in her poem Anna, Emma took my breath away in how she handled sexuality in that poem. It was so startling. I remember looking at her picture and wondering to myself how that poem came out of her. Prose is great, and certainly pays better, but you cannot say the things those three poets said any other way.
So many poets’ reach seems to extend further than their grasp. They attempt to capture monumental, life-changing moments with monumental language only to fall short. Here, you take ordinary, common experiences and make them feel grandiose. Do you often see the extraordinary in the commonplace?
The commonplace is the extraordinary. Between the margins of great things is where life is lived. Only a few people make the Olympic team, play professional basketball, win the Medal of Honor, or get elected to a high government office. They are statistical anomalies. Freaks of nature. They make good books (sometimes) but pretty poor poetry. An example of a poem about a very common everyday thing is The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams.
Your piece Home From School is a playfully sophisticated take on the coveted “sick day” throughout elementary and secondary school. The narrator’s epiphany seems logically beyond his years, without being overstated. Is this an autobiographical anecdote, or a maturity onset revelation?
The poem Home From School is a reflective look back at what it was like for me as well as what I have seen, and experienced vicariously, with my own children. The poem is a blend of autobiographical anecdote and unabashed nostalgia. I still have this magical belief in the medicinal powers of 7-Up. Although, as an adult, after some experimentation, I recommend Ginger Ale and Seagrams 7 if you can get it.
I loved skipping school. The whole concept still appeals to me if it is not overdone. A way of taking back at least part of our existence which is over controlled in the institutions society has created. When I had children of my own I even gave them days off – vacation days. I let them have one or two mental health days off a semester without asking too man y questions. I never bought into that perfect attendance thing as a child or as an adult. It seems silly to go to all that trouble for just a certificate with your name and “Perfect Attendance” scrawled on it along with somebody’s signature.
An Interview With Zach Hamilton
by Lawrence Gladeview and Stewart Grant
Your poetry has an abstract, almost stream of consciousness feel to it. Do you take a Kerouac-ian, spontaneous prose approach to writing, or are these piece edited?
Every piece I write, I write twice and then print or publish on line, then re-write again. If I ever take a break from a piece of writing it loses its gloss and I scrap it for parts, so to use those parts for other pieces. “Pave over it with sterile wax.”
Throughout literary history the use of substances such as opium and absinthe has been debated as to their place in the creative poetic process. Do you think that drugs, legal or illegal, are a legitimate muse?
I use drugs to visualize secret places I could normally not see,I like the kaleidoscopic patterns mushrooms produce, and I have not do pcp, mescaline, or d.m.t. But I love acid dearly. The patterns, man the patterns…Dear friends of mine have these open mics that they run where they serve “drugs” around. It creates this sort of atmosphere that “the lowest of the low” can function inside. I like this atmosphere for writing poems and reading poems. I write in the weirdest places, squat houses, abandoned and condemned warehouses, though, on the greyhound, in a graveyard in the middle of a town, stuck hitchhiking. I write on drugs, mostly uppers: coffee, 3c’s, d-amphetamines, Nodose RX, anything that will keep me alert. I am like that guy in Neuromancer, wandering around a strange hallucinogenic world popping speed pills in my mouth and fucking girls with razor blades for finger nails. Cigarettes and booze. Acid and mushrooms…I spend time with these later , after re-viewing my mind map In this stage of the writing process I coordinate myself through my stories. Thinking of them while high. Speed just helps with the first drafts, speed and rum.
These pieces both create very strong images despite the metaphysical language. Are these selections inspired by concrete places and experiences, or are they more of a capturing of ideas and concepts?
I spend a whole lot of time in strange, murky places living in Portland, Oregon. There is a whole plethora of these types of spots around the city, worn down by water leaks and grime, I’ll sit up in a cafe for like twelve hours working on one of these poems until it is perfect. I hope to inspire people so they will climb up into my mind with these works as steps.
An Interview With Lawrence Gladeview
by Stewart Grant
This piece has a very conversational tone. Is this based on an actual experience or is it apocryphal?
This piece leans more towards apocryphal rather than actual. I used the father and son dialogue to convey a greater truth derived from a conversation among friends. In this instance, the casual tone of conversation contrasts the political and social perspectives of different generations concerning American consumerism. My poetry does not and never will have an agenda, however as with any writer, personal stances and opinions will underlie the attitude and atmosphere of some poems.
When I read this piece I can practically feel the catharsis oozing from the words. Do you find poetry to be an outlet for angst, and a chance to say things you never had a chance to actually say?
I absolutely find poetry to be an outlet, and not just for angst. Poetry enables the poet and reader alike to express themselves creatively without repercussion of derogatory judgement or violence. I can recall quite a few situations in which I had a few choice words for the individual or group of people I was in the presence of, yet held my tongue. Why? Social norms and politeness I suppose; no one wants to be told they are an ignorant jerk or misinformed preacher. For me, poetry offers closure, a chance to air a grievance or jab a joke, sparing potential confrontation.
An Interview With Stewart Grant
by Lawrence Gladeview
Since its inception jazz has been linked to deviant behavior, such as substance abuse and defying traditional social mores. Do you find this to still be true today and if so, is there anything wrong with that perception and the listener’s subsequent personal conduct?
I think given the amount of jazz musicians known to have done drugs, and to have died from their use, the genre still carries that stigma. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with that perception. Many styles of music are associated with drug use but i believe that people are responsible for their own actions.
Many writers frequently cite other poets and authors as inspiration when composing their own verse. Is your poetry and fiction more influenced by other writers, or musical artists?
I find myself influenced by different things depending on what I am writing. Often my fiction is influenced by other fiction I have read, novels, short stories, and comic books. Recently, I have found indie comics and graphic novels to be a particularly rich source of story ideas and inspiration. My poetry is typically very musically influenced. In particular, jazz and blues really get me in the mindset to write, and provide me with a wealth of ideas and devices to use in my poetry. I really try to draw something from everything I experience.