Interview with Nick Romeo, multidisciplinary artist

1) In your interview with Pankhearst, you spoke of “hating humanity.” Are there ever moments when you love humanity by hating it?  [Note: Interview is at this site.]

 

“Hate” is such a mean word.  I should have said immensely despise, utterly detest, or immeasurably abhor.  But there are good people on this planet.  I appreciate Noell, Megatron, Mom and Dad.  Thanks for the help, and support.  Also a mad shout out to Craig Simmons, Laura Lutton, Mz. Misfit, and my fellow gamers Super Slugger, Purple Pancakes, Critical CalibeR, Calrip, and Violent Wedgie. 

 

 

2) What is your prime wish for your career in art?

 

To enslave humanity, and write a book entitled “2084.”

 

 

3) Sometimes I feel that being an artist is a burden. There isn’t much pay, you get a lot of criticism, and sometimes people think you are childish. What is it about being an artist, in your mind, that makes these things irrelevant? What is your motivation for continuing to write, paint, and create?

 

When I watch these documentaries on ‘successful’ people who set up businesses, starting from the ground up selling widgets and foodstuffs (you know, things people actually want)  I find myself wishing that could be me, then I’d be sitting on a beach in Delaware, or a mountain in Montana.   But I really, really, really, really, really, really, enjoy art.  I have considered stopping, and pursuing television viewing while drooling on myself like so many in western civilization, but I just can’t.  I have also contemplated quitting one form of art, maybe computer illustration, so that I could focus on the other arts I create.  I can’t do that either.  It is absolutely fun to create unique expressions, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  I enjoy all facets of my self expression.

 

 

4) Is there a moment when you feel inspired and start to create then? Is there a process you have created to build a habit of creating new art?

 

No real process to mention.  I do artwork every day, at least something / anything.  I bring a point-and-shoot camera and mini notepad everywhere I go.  It has become natural as eating, or using the toilet.  I wouldn’t say natural as sleeping.  Sleeping is anything but natural.  It takes me 75mg of Benadryl, two cups of warm milk, and 2.5mg of melatonin to get a sort-of good night sleep.

 

 

5) What is the worst comment on your art you have heard? What was your most witty comeback to a critic?

 

About two months ago, I received a message from a journal that my poetry gave Charlie Sheen AIDS – that I killed a TV icon.  I was confused and wrote back “Huh??”  The main editor whom I spoke with on occasion before, wrote back explaining a few things, and apologized.  The journal still published my poetry.  The most offensive part of this account was the reference to Charlie Sheen being an icon. 

 

About a year ago, Noell and I did an art show.  I always mingle with people who attend, thanking them for stopping by and asking them if they have any questions for me.  One person, in a rather brusque tone, asked, “What’s with all these digital works?”  Apparently he didn’t get to Noell’s part of the show – she works in oil pastels.  But I’m always ready for that question, since there are many who think any art made with a computer is NOT REAL art…as if we just turn on the computer and press a button and the art pops out, even automatically framed and matted too.  I spent more than a few moments explaining my process.  The pieces are drawn using mesh and wireframes, then I assign materials (glass, wood, metal) add lights, and pick a direction to view.  These images take a very long time to create.  After my lengthy explanation, he thanked me and told his friends my process too.

 

Several years ago my band received a rather terrible review from an online magazine.  The reason why I even sent them a Cd to review was the fact this magazine gave us an interview.  So one would think they liked us, but the reviewer was someone not really affiliated with the mag and lived in a different state, which we didn’t know at the time.  This guy also mentioned on his myspace page (this shows it has been a few years back) that he’s a fan of Rush, Led Zeppelin, and country-fried rock, which we didn’t know at the time.  So this narrow-minded genius is reviewing a gothy dark electronic music Cd… yeah, it didn’t go well for us.  The magazine emailed me and showed me the write up before it went online and gave me the choice to have it removed, since the editor-in-chief did care about us.  I took him up on the offer, but it ruined our relationship.  This experience taught me to look into the ‘opportunity’ thoroughly before submitting.

 

AND the witty comebacks always find their way into my poems.  Most times being successful is enough to silence any critic.

 

 

6) Why do you think popularity is so important to us social butterflies? The top of the dogpile is lonely and rough. It doesn’t solve our problems. Why do people want their song sung on the roof?

 

Social Butterflies, OR Social Wasps!  If I may quote from a man who had everything: Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.  – King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 2:11.   Life can be so monotonous and boring.  You get out of bed, eat, go to work, come home, eat, and go to bed.  That’s interwoven with paying bills, replacing broken things, all while being insulted for just about every imaginable reason.  It’s refreshing to shake up the routine by creating art, getting published, winning awards, seeing your music on compilations and radio playlists, then creating more art.  It brings color to a gray existence, and when people appreciate it, as in, when they are singing YOUR song from the roof, it makes you feel like you actually matter, and have contributed to life.

 

 

7) I wondered if you could tell me about the sacrifices that go into your pursuit of art.

 

Fortunately I have not sacrificed too much, yet.  My wife is very supportive.  When I lock myself in a room to create, she’s not trying to kick the door down, screaming, “Why aren’t you paying attention to me!”  In fact, she offers kind critiques and advice, since she is also an artist.  

 

I believe we can ‘have our cake and eat it too.’  Sorry for the hyper-cliché line, but if you plan and think critically about your goals, you can still hold onto the things already attained without trading them in.

 

 

8) How do you motivate yourself to sit down and create?

 

I made it a habit.  We all have bad habits, so it’s therapeutic to channel positive energy to a creative process – something that’s mentally stimulating and gives a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.  I channel all those who want me to fail in life, and those who want me to succeed, as a driving force too.

 

 

9) In your own opinion, what is the best poem you have written?

 

The most successful / most published would be “Cradle” (about a group of friends who beat me with baseball bats, and buried me alive), “Hydra 8” (about my trip to the ER due to dehydration), and Prom Date (see the answer to question 10).  These poems are tied for being published in three publications each.

 

My favorite poem is “North-Side Noah.”  It’s about an animal conservatory I set up to rescue abused and neglected animals.  My wife is in the process of illustrating each animal to match the stanzas.  It’s coming along beautifully! 

 

My least favorite poem I wrote is “Self Help.”  When I received the email that a version of this is getting published, I became depressed for several days.  It’s a rather ugly poem, but very real – too real.

 

 

10) You spoke of your poetry being made of “actual events.” I wondered what the poem about Medusa at the Ball reflected in real life.

 

It’s about the horrible, racist high school that I attended, (fortunately it was only one year, but it was one loooooooooong year).  It’s real tempting to mention it by name.  One girl asked me to go to the “Snowball” dance, (dumb name for a dance, unless you can hit fellow students with snowballs) since her boyfriend got beaten up by our schoolmates since he is black – she didn’t want to go through that again.  I was also bullied by these people, so I was quite understanding to her problem.  This situation also helped me think of the movie ‘Carrie.’

carrie1

 

11) Finally, is there any advice you can offer to the struggling creator emerging into the scene? What can you expect as reward for being an artist of any kind? What are the pitfalls?

 

 

If you are creating art for money and fame, stop now, and pursue a career as a lawyer, football player, or ‘reality TV star.’  Create art because you enjoy the arts and want to contribute your heart and inner feelings to the world. 

 

I appreciate discussions and questions raised from my creations, ranging from “This is amazing what was your inspiration?” or, “This is weird and demented, are you ok?”  It’s exhilarating when someone does purchase your expression, and when you see your name in print or on a marquee.  Again, these shouldn’t be the main reasons for creating, but it does seal the fact that your work is valued.

 

Pitfalls: the major one I urge everyone to watch how you spend your money.  Try and streamline your artistic process to keep your costs down.  Also be wary of others trying to take advantage, such as some in the visual arts scene charge a tonnage to display in their gallery, some in the music scene charge to “promote” your band, then of course writers are aware of the world famous “vanity press” people.  Now these outlets may not always be a bad thing, but each person has to get the complete story and see how it can fit with their career, and wallet.  Be patient.  Don’t jump on any and every opportunity that may seem fine without checking into it.  I have been screwed numerous times for jumping first – then thinking second.

 

 

You can read more about Nick Romeo here: www.pittsburghartistregistry.org/accounts/view/nickromeo

Advertisements

Interview with Troy Camplin, multidisciplinary scholar and creative consultant

518

 

1) Troy, you have recently endeavored to release a book from my own press Transcendent Zero Press. Perhaps you could tell us about the book, the process that went into it, and what inspired it.

 

Hear the Screams of the Butterfly is the story of what lead to the nervous breakdown and hospitalization Patric Molny as told by Patric as he is trying to recover. The story is put together by an anonymous friend, who introduces us to the story, and puts in the occasional note through the novella to keep us up to speed on his process of putting the book together from a combination of Patric’s writings in the hospital and rants and poems Patric had written prior to his being committed. The stated purpose of Patric telling his story is help him work through what led to his breakdown.

 

I got the idea for writing this novella from Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther – not just the idea of a young man telling the story of his falling in love with a woman he could not have, a plot point Hear the Screams of the Butterflyshares with Werther – but the reason Goethe himself wrote Werther, as a way for him to work through his feelings he had having lived through a similar situation himself. Patric is writing the story to try to help himself work through his feelings and, hopefully, recover.

 

I finished writing the first draft of this novella about 20 years ago, after I dropped out of graduate school. I was studying molecular biology at the time, had grown dissatisfied with molecular biology because I was both bored with it and frustrated that I couldn’t do many of the projects I wanted to do. Further, I was beginning to read more literature and philosophy – Nietzsche especially – and I was becoming more and more interested in becoming a fiction writer. Actually, I had been writing fiction since I was twelve, when I attempted my first book. I had tried to write another novel in college, though it was definitely a piece of juvenilia. And I was writing short stories as well. Naturally, none of these works were very good, with one or two exceptions, but you have to write through the bad works as you learn to get to something good.

 

Other than a few poems and a short story, Hear the Screams of the Butterfly was by far the best thing I wrote at the time. That’s why it’s survived the past 20 years and various revisions and edits. It still managed to hold up, at least in my mind, and so I held on to it. Now, at last, I found a place I thought would appreciate the work, and given that it’s finally on its way to publication, it seems I was right.

 

Given that it was written 20 years ago, my memory on the process that went into writing Hear the Screams of the Butterfly are, to say the least, a bit fuzzy. There is a great deal in the novel that is autobiographical, in no small part because it was such an early work, and I was taking “write what you know” fairly literally. At the same time, I never went into a mental hospital, so I had to draw almost exclusively on imagination for that aspect. More than that, though, I did a great deal of research. Patric in a certain sense “knows” far more than I did at the time, because Patric was writing things off the top of his head that I had to look up. I researched the meanings of dream images, the language of flowers, mythologies of various cultures, the meanings of gemstones, etc. and used that research to try to create a network of symbols throughout the work. These all contribute to the meaning(s) I hoped to create within the work. And of course, it’s based on any number of things I was reading at the time, and to which I make reference in the work, including of course Goethe’s Werther and Nietzsche’s philosophy. So my writing process was really quite involved, if you consider all of the literature and philosophy I was reading and all of the research I did to create the networks of meaning in the novella.

 

2) What are your expectations for publishing this book?

 

Why, fame and fortune, of course! In all seriousness, I just hope I can get a few good readers, readers who will enjoy the novella, perhaps even love it. That’s all any writer really wants: to have people who want to share his attempt at beauty.

 

3) You are an outspoken libertarian. How does that factor into your writing? Also, you are called a “multidisciplinary scholar”. What does this mean exactly? 

 

I would actually classify myself more as a “classical liberal” than a libertarian, and that may not even be the most accurate term, since my ideas are not based on the same kinds of science and philosophy developed by the classical liberals. I make the distinction because libertarianism is a political position, whereas classical liberalism is a more complete world view. Also, there are some things a classical liberal might support that a libertarian definitely would not. The same is true of whatever one may want to call my current world view, which has some similarities as classical liberalism, but is founded on a combination of complex systems theory and spontaneous order theory, fractal geometry, chaos theory, bios theory, information theory, game theory, constructal theory, evolution, evolutionary and cognitive psychology, emergence, Gravesean psychology, J.T. Fraser’s philosophy of time, and similar ideas.

 

In this broader sense, it is impossible that my overall world view could not factor into my writing. I’ve never been a big fan of so-called political art, and I consider there to have only ever been one great political poet: Langston Hughes. The rest make their art subservient to their politics, and that destroys the artistry of the art. Hughes never makes that mistake; for him, the poetry matters first and foremost, and he engages in artistic problem-solving that all great artists necessarily engage in, with his problem he’s trying to solve is the integration of politics into poetry while retaining the poem’s primary nature as poetry. Pretty much no one else manages to do this. Even great poets whose poems are not typically political in nature.

 

That certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t weave in sociological or economic themes. Heck, I even sometimes crank out a terrible political poem. But the best art is always ambiguous in some way, is always slipping away from you the minute you think you have it. Overtly political art fails on precisely this point (Hughes being that amazing exception), and that’s why almost all explicitly political art is crap. As all propaganda, as all kitsch, is. Most simply do not have what it takes to deal with political issues in a way that fosters a variety of interpretations.

 

As I said above, my world view deeply affects my work, as one would expect. My world view is informed by a great many things, and that is why I typically call myself an interdisciplinary scholar, though more recently I’ve come to understand that what I do is more transdisciplinary. Of course, that means I now need to explain what multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary all mean, and what makes them all different. In short, a multidisciplinary scholar is someone who simply draws from multiple disciplines to try to understand a problem, but does not necessarily relate the disciplines to each other in any way. The interdisciplinary scholar, on the other hand, uses various disciplines precisely because there is an understanding of the interconnections among the different disciplines. One sees the interrelationships among the disciplines, and uses the understanding of those shared patterns to understand how to solve a problem. An economist who uses network theory and draws on evolutionary psychology and ecology to understand the economy would be an interdisciplinary scholar, for example.

 

This then gets us to transdisciplinarity. In transdisciplinarity, you see the deep patterns and interconnections among all the different aspect of reality studied by each of the different disciplines and you draw on them all in order to solve problems or understand phenomena not within any given discipline, but rather that cross several disciplines at once. My book Diaphysics is in many ways an outline of the different patterns we see in all of the different levels of reality, from quantum physics to the molecular to the biological, to the psychological, to the social. Given the fact that these levels all share certain patterns and rules, just at different levels of complexity, and given that they all interact with each other in different ways, and given that there are topics and problems that transcend the disciplines, it is important to have this kind of understanding available to open up new vistas in knowledge and understanding. This is my current approach, and it crosses not just disciplines, but cultures and paradigms as well. You can see the preliminaries of this way of thinking inHear the Screams of the Butterfly, even if I have more fully and consciously developed them more recently.

 

4) In spite of believing taxation is theft, do you still think it is a positive thing for government to give grants and fellowships to artists and students?

 

I suppose I should clarify what I mean by the statement “All taxation is theft” before I answer the rest. A theft occurs when someone if forced to give up their property to another party. If you don’t think force is involved, refuse to give up your money and see what happens to you. At the same time, there is a certain subjective evaluation taking place. If you don’t think you’re being robbed, you’re not being robbed, in the same way that a person isn’t being raped if they don’t think they’re being raped, no matter what it looks like. Some people are into rough sex. But even if a majority of people are into rough sex, that doesn’t mean society should force people who aren’t into it to participate. So for those who are perfectly fine with having the government take a certain percentage of their income, no theft is taking place. But for those who do not think that anyone, no matter who they are, has the right to take by force what is not theirs, taxes are a form of theft. More, I’m not even saying that I wouldn’t be willing to give what is currently taxed to support certain things the government does IF they were to ask for it, and IF my giving were entirely voluntary.

 

But that’s all issues of morality and the relationship of morality to government. Most people believe in the legitimacy of taxes, so our governments tax. Now, given the reality of taxation, the question is then whether it is a good thing for the government to give grants and fellowships to artists and students. That is an economics issue. Of course, it’s not really “the government” that gives grants and fellowshsips, but rather some sort of panel of experts who will give away money that had been earmarked for this purpose by the legislature. There are federal, state, and local versions, but it really doesn’t matter what level we’re talking about here, as the decision-making will be mostly the same in each case (though with the local panel, there is at least some degree of local knowledge that they can draw on). Since it is unlikely that the legislators are expert enough to select the experts for the panel, such panels tend to be fairly self-selecting. That is, there is a good chance that the panel will have people who mostly think of the arts in the same way. As a result, most of these panels of arts experts tend to support avant-garde art projects, as that was the dominant paradigm when government funding of the arts emerged in its current form. One result has been ongoing support for avant-garde art projects that have essentially stagnated the arts in Modernism/Postmodernism. This is reinforced by our universities, which also have these same experts teaching the arts, producing more artists like themselves, who in turn become art professors in addition to being artists. So one problem we see arising is the stabilizing of a given paradigm/movement within the arts because of this kind of self-selection. It’s hard to imagine how to get out of this, given the fact that one needs experts to recognize fellow experts.

 

Another and different kind of problem is that the choices made will tend to be conservative ones. The last thing a government agency wants is controversy. That’s a great way to lose funding. (Controversy in the market tends to have the opposite effect, interestingly enough: a good controversy can get people buying more of your art, more copies of your book, going to watch your play/movie, etc.) Any individual or organization who receives philanthropic money, whether it be public or private, is going to do their best to keep the funder happy. That necessarily affects the content of the art. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are many things that contribute to the content of one’s art, and keeping funders happy is one of them. The word “pattern” comes from the word “patron” after all, and artists are bound to pattern their work after whatever their patrons believe in and support. A variety of kinds of patrons – government, private philanthropy, universities, rich spouses, the marketplace, etc – will result in a variety of patterns of content in our arts. Unless, of course, any one patron tends to dominate, in which case we would tend to see the same artistic patterns emerging. The fact that the avant-garde tends to continue to dominate the arts suggests there is in fact a dominant patron, and that dominant patron is the government, though mostly through our university systems.

 

Similar to this problem is the problem of being able to identify worthy recipients. The very people who need money – people early in their artistic careers – are least likely to get the money, precisely because nobody knows who they are. This makes sense, because one doesn’t want to spend limited funds on unknown artists, who may or may not continue to even work as artists. Better, then, to fund known commodities. But if I’m known as an artist, that means I’ve been relatively successful without government funding. Government funding then becomes a reward for being successful in the market. Which seems an odd thing for government money to be spent on. The solution of spending this money on organizations like theaters follows the same basic logic. Do you want to spend government money on struggling theaters, for example, or more stable ones that have been around for a while and have proven their worth? Which needs the money more? Yet, which is the more sensible investment? Even government organizations are loath to continue throwing money at failure after failure. For all of these reasons, government funding tends to reinforce the status quo.

 

Given this situation, I would actually suggest something else entirely. I would suggest replacing all welfare, all payouts, all subsidies of all kinds with a basic income guarantee. With a basic income guarantee, each person would be safe from complete destitution, and many would be able to be in a financial position to pursue their dreams, whether those dreams be art or entrepreneurship. This would be a more indirect way of funding the arts, to be sure, but it would be no more indirect than Faulkner working at the University of Mississippi power plant at night to support his writing As I Lay Dying. We don’t typically think of working a job as funding our art, but the fact is that that is exactly what we are doing – we subsidize our own art work all the time, at least, those of us not independently wealthy. That could be done through a basic income guarantee, which would have the added benefit of freeing up time, which is always a premium for artists. If we want to better fund artists and make sure we are supporting upstart artists, a basic income guarantee is the way to do it. The way we do it now, through grants and fellowships, mostly rewards those who are already established, successful artists, or who know enough of the right kinds of people to get the recommendations needed to get the money. Which, again, only rewards insiders and those working within the current paradigm. If we want to get art out of the repetitive rut of constant avant-gardism, we have to get rid of the institutional structures that maintain it, and that means replacing government funding, direct and indirect, with a system that frees people from having to stick with the well-worn art we find around us today. A renaissance in art will require a renaissance in our institutions.

 

5) Aside from art, we recently discussed Arab Spring. You believed the protests were the result of students who expected jobs that never arrived, even after they were promised by the Mubarak government. Do you think the protests did any good in changing the government structure in Egypt? How does this relate to America’s dilemma with administrators moving into education, and government loans and subsidies fending off other options? How do think opportunity costs effect taxation, and why do you think government should stay out of it?

 

I believe you are referring in particular to my article on the student protests at The Pope Center, “Egypt’s Revolution and Higher Education.” I noted that the protesters were primarily students who had been given a free university education and a promise by the government that they would be able to get government jobs when they graduated. When there were more graduates than jobs, Egypt developed a large pool of highly educated unemployed, underemployed, and upset former students. The results of their protests was the removal of Mubarak and the election of a new government.

 

The question of whether or not the protests managed to create any real change is a complex one. On the one hand, Mubarak was removed, and he had been there for decades. However, he was removed by the military, which is widely viewed as the real power in the Egyptian government. The Egyptian military was the one who ended up, in the end, forcing Mubarak out, and the military retained its position and power in the government afterwards. The election that followed put a theocrat in power, but pretty much all the fears surrounding that turned out to be unfounded because the president was not a dictatorship, and the military was not going to allow the government to stray far from to kind of government currently in place. The main benefit of democracy is that it’s generally unstable enough that there’s not too much order in the government, meaning less can get done than one expects to be able to get done. That’s a good thing, because of the odd chance you might elect a theocrat. More specific to Egypt, with the military still in charge, there was really not much of a change. Still, the desire to keep stability seems to have resulted in the military being a little less tolerant of having someone in place for as long as Mubarak.

 

We have a similar crisis brewing in the United States with student loans. Student loans are a form of “cheap money” that allows people to direct a great deal of money into a single sector, in this case, universities and colleges. When this happened with mortgages, we got the Great Recession of 2008. Cheap money resulted in people buying houses, which resulted in a house building boom. When the boom turned to bust, people lost their houses and houses in construction were abandoned. Construction companies went out of business, and this rippled throughout the economy. Now, when you have cheap money going into colleges, what you end up with is a similar boom, but in this case the boom ends up being in administrators. The number of professors hasn’t increased, and neither has their salaries, which have kept up with inflation. What has boomed has been the number of administrators. The universities become essentially a money-wasting factory with no real increase on your investment. The quality of education is decreasing as well, primarily because when you have an increase in the percentage of the population going to college, you start moving up the IQ bell curve. Universities that used to teach only the very brightest now have to teach pretty much everyone with an average IQ or over. So the quality of education necessarily goes down to accommodate these lower IQ students. Who can all attend college because of readily available student loans. The problem arises when all of these people graduate with degrees that end up not meaning much because everyone has a degree. A college degree is about as useful as a high school degree was 50 years ago. The problem is that the prestige of college remains higher than that of high school, so when students graduate from college and cannot get jobs that pay more than $15/hour, they feel rightly cheated. When looking for someone to blame, they never consider the education they received, the cheap student loans they received, or anything of the sort, but rather end up blaming the people hiring them. Or failing to hire them. Some will make the connection to government, and so you end up with Occupy Wall Street on the Left and the Tea Party on the Right (yes, the Tea Party is as highly educated as is Occupy Wall Street). So far the protests have merely resulted in these fairly anemic expressions of dissatisfaction, but we have to wonder how long this will last.

 

To switch gears to your last question, there is no question that opportunity costs affect taxation. They certainly affect the amount of tax revenues the government takes in. At the most extreme, if taxes are too high, people will calculate that it’s worth not paying them in full in the hopes that they won’t get caught. Even going to prison for a while might we worth the potential savings. Or it might be worth leaving the country and going elsewhere. Or if it is your business being taxed, moving your business. Less extreme, you might spend a great deal of money on tax attorneys and accountants to find every loophole possible to reduce your tax burden. Above a certain rate, it becomes worth looking into any or all of these (and other) possibilities, with the result being that a higher income tax rate can in fact result in reduced tax income for the government itself. You cannot ignore opportunity costs. And it is for this reason that many people call for things like the flat tax or the fair tax, both of which can reduce opportunity costs and thus increase revenues.

 

That being said, there are better and worse taxes. From certain standpoints, the best tax seems to be a property tax. I don’t care for those because that means that the government really owns all the property and you are really just paying rent. And do keep in mind that when you subsidize something, you are encouraging it, and when you tax something, you are discouraging it. Which is why we have high taxes on tobacco, for instance. So when you tax property, you discourage property ownership (except among the wealthiest). When you tax capital, you discourage investment. When you tax income, you discourage work. When you tax sales, you discourage buying (and with sales taxes, you have the problem of it being a regressive tax). At the same time, sales taxes seem the most “voluntary” of all the taxes mentioned – and the regressive feature of the tax could easily be fixed with the aforementioned basic income guarantee. I would also argue that the worst tax by far are capital gains and other taxes on investments, as they undermine investment and, thus, economic growth and innovation.

 

6) Do you think a libertarian society would grant better opportunities to artists, poets, and the like?

 

My answer to this question is in many ways the corollary to question #4, of course. We went over some of the problems inherent in government support for the arts, including inherent conservatism, supporting those already successful, and artistic stagnation. This may not be a problem if we’re talking about Shakespeare Festivals, but it is a problem if we’re talking about the continued evolution of the arts.

 

In the past there were private patrons of the arts who supported artists. These, too, created any number of pressures the artists were often unhappy about. Imagine having to write poems whose topics were developed by your patron. Today, that might mean having to write plays based on whatever stories Bill Gates or Warren Buffet wanted written. Many of the artists in the 18th and 19th century welcomed the rise of the market and the demise of the patronage system precisely because they could then create the art they wanted to create, and they could then find or create an audience from among the general population. This freed the artists of the time. In plays, Church patronage resulted in the production of nothing but religious plays. Shakespeare was able to write on all his varied topics precisely because he had no patrons save his paying audience.

 

The fantastic thing about the market is that it promotes considerable heterogeneity. We are in fact seeing that more and more because of the addition of the internet, which allows people to find common minds even easier – and around the world. An audience is getting increasingly easier to find. To succeed as an artist, all you have to do now is get a strong following of a small number of people, and you can probably make a living. Or at least get by with it and an undemanding job. The market will produce products for any just-big-enough tastes. Go to the grocery store. Look at the choices there of vegetables alone. Beyond the varieties of vegetables, you can get organic or non-organic, fresh or canned. And that’s just vegetables. And if you don’t like the selection at one store, there are many more you can shop at. There is no panel of experts deciding what stores ought to be near you and what foods ought to be offered, and as a result, we have incredible variety. If you want to know what it would be like to be fed by your government, all you have to do is remember what your school lunch program was like.

 

The fact that much of our art is dominated by a single paradigm – avant-gardism – for so long suggests that a homogenizing force is at play, a single institution is dominating the arts. There is no reason our universities shouldn’t have a part to play in the artistic order, but we should be concerned it has such a dominant, overbearing role such that it even overwhelms the market. With two exceptions: film and television. Yes, there are the blockbuster films everyone goes to see, but it is very easy to get to see more artistic films. Especially when videos, and then DVDs, and now streaming movies came about. Netflix for example has not only revolutionized the way we watch movies in our homes, but has equally revolutionized television. They are producing some of the best TV, and that is putting pressure on both cable and the networks to improve their own offerings. We even see the networks starting to show live performances (The Wiz, Grease, The Sound of Music, Peter Pan), since that is something Netflix cannot do. Competition is driving innovation, and the customer is better off for it. And so, too, are the artists. People who really wanted to write more artistic films and television shows can now do so. And we are seeing the fruits of their labors. If we had more diverse institutions in literary fiction, for example – as we have with this magazine, by the way – we would have much more innovation in the arts. The fact that Transcendent Zero Press is a market player rather than a participant in the dominant university paradigm is one reason why different voices are being heard through it. And that is its strength. And that is the strength of the market.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly saying that the market is the one way to do things. There is also a role for private philanthropy. There are certainly those out there who want to support the arts, and who are willing to make donations to theaters, organizations, and small presses. Efforts need to be made to connect these groups to increase such giving, but the support is out there. Further, there are things like Kickstarter and other sites that allow people to crowdsource funding for their work, and for people to support project they find interesting. It’s a great way to truly democratize arts funding, because not everyone can support an artist on their own, but they might be willing and able to send a little money to an artist whose work they like. Right now we are on the cusp of many fantastic opportunities for artists to get support for their work, and the internet is the primary driver of it.

 

7) What is your writing process like? What stirs your best work?

 

Twenty years ago, I was single and between dropping out of graduate school in molecular biology and starting graduate school in English. So I had lots of time to do lots of reading and writing. Today I am married, have three children between the ages of 4 and 9, and I do freelance writing, editing, and proofreading, so my writing process has become catch-as-catch can – and mostly on the weekends. Also, my focus has shifted considerably. I am now writing far more poetry, and I occasionally write verse plays. The former, being mostly shorter poems, can be written in a short period of time, or here and there. The latter take more time in plotting and writing. For them, I need huge blocks of time to even consider starting to work, and those are increasingly difficult to get for myself. So it’s been mostly poetry of late.

 

Great works inspire. Experiencing beauty makes you want to reproduce it, in your own fashion. When you read a great work and you discover an artistic problem – which may include how to tell this story so it fits today’s context – you are inspired to work on solving that artistic problem. When I stopped trying to express myself and instead focused on solving artistic problems, I discovered that my works improved considerably.

 

I have also discovered that I use different genres for different purposes. I use prose fiction to try to figure out something for myself. What I’m figuring out may be something emotional, something social, something cultural – I may hear about someone doing something and wonder how they could have possibly done that. So prose fiction is typically my trying to work out something, to try to understand it. Playwriting, on the other hand, is very different for me. When I write a play, I have typically figured out something, and I am seeking to figure out how to present it, how to stage it. This is an artistic problem of a different sort, of course. I not only have to figure out how to say it well through my characters, but I also need to figure out how to be true to each and every character, to make each one complex and interesting. Truth before ideology, always. In a real sense, there are no villains, because no characters ever think themselves villains. They are doing good, as far as they are concerned, and you have to always be true to that fact. And of course, there are always staging issues, movement of characters, and that sort of thing. Further, I tend to go out of my way to make sure I’m solving artistic problems by writing almost all my plays in verse – sometimes blank verse and sometimes in rhyming couplets, and sometimes in varying styles – and I introduce elements from other times and places. I have used the idea of the ancient Greek satyr play in two plays, and I have used the basic structure of Japanese Noh plays in another. Yet, these plays are almost always contemporary in nature, taking place in the present or recent past.

 

This then leaves poetry. My stimulus for writing a given poem is almost as varied as the number of poems I have written. I may be inspired by a physical landscape or an individual flower, a fragment of conversation, another poem (of course), a random thought, a frustration, love, curiosity, boredom, stupidity, music, a mathematical theory, silliness, stubbornness, anger, a daydream, the play of light on the window of a train I’m riding, joy, or fascination. The purpose is always to capture the beauty of the thing, the beauty of the moment, and to allow the form and content to co-create each other. The form often finds itself in the writing, even as the form structures the content. Which is why I write in form more often than not, as it forces me quite often to say what I could not have otherwise said, think different thoughts, and find the poetic truth through the phonemes.

 

8) Do you think it is an artist’s duty to understand his/her society, to challenge it, and to question its values?

 

Yes. But…

 

I believe that it is the artist’s duty to understand his or her society because art is always in service of beauty (even purposefully ugly poems are a response to beauty and thus in service to it). Truth is at the level of understanding; facts are at the level of knowledge. Philosophers deal in understanding; scientists, including social scientists, deal in knowledge. The combination of knowledge and understanding is beauty, and so, since artists are in the service of beauty, it behooves artists to try to gain as much knowledge as possible, to find the areas of wonder in the world that remain, to discover the degree of wonder that necessarily remains in the world in this age of such widespread knowledge. Further, it requires understanding as well – and understanding is always involved when dealing with anything as or more complex than yourself, which necessarily means other people and cultures, societies, economies, etc., one’s own and others. Further, only when you have come to understand them can you truly challenge your society. You need to understand history as well to do this.

 

And you need all of this for the same reason that poets ought to read as much poetry as possible, and keep reading poetry all their lives – so they can discover what has yet to be said and/or new ways of saying it to make it new. Unless you know what’s been done, you don’t know what needs to be done. In terms of art, you challenge the art that was by being as completely familiar with that art as possible. You need to understand what people did, and why. You have to read it all with an open mind, so you can discover why it is people were writing as they were writing, what they were trying to discover in their creations. You may still come away not liking a given poem or poet or style, but you should still be able to appreciate what they were trying to accomplish. And the poet is only ever always trying, trying to say, trying to find new ways of saying, trying to find the right word, the right sound, the right rhythm. If you could ever accomplish the saying, there wouldn’t be a need to write another poem – the pen would be forever put away. But we can’t, so it won’t.

 

So the artist is always a challenger. One is not creating art by saying what has already been said in the way it’s been said. Nor is it art to say what cannot possibly be understood. The artist must work on the edge of the known and the unknown, opening up the unknown to everyone. The edge of order and chaos is where all creativity takes place, whether it’s in nature, society, the mind, or in creating the work of art. This is why the artist is always working out an artistic problem – this is the fundamental nature of art itself, this working out of artistic problems. Not self-expression, which inevitably results in the same things being said the same ways over and over, but rather the working out something that can only be worked out in a poem, in a novel, in a painting, in a sculpture, in a symphony, etc. This makes the artist a member of the artistic order, in the same way as inventors are members of the technological order because they are trying to work out technological problems, and entrepreneurs are members of the economic order because they are working out how to get goods and services to people in the best, most cost-effective way possible. Philosophers work out philosophical problems, scientists work out scientific problems, philanthropists work out philanthropical problems, etc. It’s the same in every social order. And in none of these cases is anyone seeking to “express themselves.” A scientist trying to express himself is no longer doing science.

 

So when an artist is working out an artistic problem, there is always already a challenge to existing values – particularly, of course, artistic values. But art has content as well, and that content is typically a challenge to a variety of other values. There is no story without a problem, and the source of problems can be person-to-person conflicts, social conflicts, conflicts with nature, etc. or some combination thereof. The storyteller then is always in a position to challenge society. But, as noted above, that creates an extra burden for the writer, who then needs to master the natural sciences, the social sciences, philosophy, economics, political science, sociology, psychology, literature, grammar, syntax, and on and on. But only if they want to truly, deeply, fully challenge those aspects of reality in their storytelling.

Bird_Cardinal

9) What advice do you have for an artist trying to stay alive in today’s world? What approach do you think will grant them the most success?

 

Work, work, work, work, work, work, work. And get yourself out there. Promote yourself constantly. If you’re a painter, work the galleries. And do your research so you’re not wasting your time trying to get into a place that has never represented anything remotely like what you do. The same is true with writers. Write constantly, and do your research to try to find outlets that are open to what it is you’re doing. There is still always a risk, because you never know why someone turned down your stuff – sure, they may have simply not liked it or not thought it that good, but they also could have been in a bad mood or recently had a show or published something very similar recently. So don’t take rejection personally. Just keep working and keep submitting as much as possible.

 

And keep in mind that you’re working in the gift economy. That is, you are working to create gifts for others. Deep down you know that to be the case. At the same time, one does have to make a living, and the value of something is quite often measured in dollars. Not the full value, to be sure, because the person buying your work has to value it more than the money they are parting with, and the artist has to value the money more than the work they are parting with for there to be a transaction at all, but some measure of it. And you have to be willing to let people express their valuation of the work that way because, once they have made their investment in the piece, they will in fact show how much they value it by, in the case of visual arts, displaying it, or in the case of literature, reading and rereading it.

 

10) Do you think print-on-demand services have helped the book industry? Have they helped the authors at all?

 

They have certainly helped the book industry because it reduces waste, which reduces cost. Before print-on-demand was available, publishing houses had to be sure there was going to be enough demand before they would be willing to buy a work to publish it. They would do runs of several thousands, and if they sold well, would do another run. Thus we have first editions, second editions, etc. of books. With print-on-demand, books can be printed at the rate people want to buy them. This means that publishers are able to take more risks, since if a book doesn’t do well, they don’t have to print the next copy. It seems to me, then, that print-on-demand services are going to be very beneficial to authors as publishing houses realize that they are not taking the same kinds of risks as they had in the past.

 

11) Do you think agents are necessary to insure success in writing?

 

While I did say above that you really have to get yourself out there, the fact of the matter is that there are benefits to specialization. If I’m having to try to sell my book to publishers, I’m not writing. Historically, the author-agent-publisher situation hasn’t been ideal, because often you have to first get some things published before an agent will pay you attention, then you have to hunt down an agent and try to find one that is interested in what you’re writing and with whom you can get along, and so on. This alone is as troublesome as finding a publisher.

 

The internet has a great deal of potential to change this. So far it hasn’t – that old model is well-entrenched – but there is no reason it needs to remain that way. Imagine having a platform on which you could download all of your works without anyone being able to read them and agents putting in their information, and having the online platform match authors to agents. That would be the ideal situation, and there’s literally no reason it couldn’t be done today with the current technology. It needs to be done for the benefit of authors and agents alike.

 

12) What purpose do the arts serve in human life? Faulkner remarked in his Nobel Acceptance Speech that arts can be a pillar for human survival. 

atomic-mass-3024

 

The arts present to us concepts as perceptions. Anything represented in art of any genre is necessarily idealized. As such any given work of art presents an ideal to us which we are invited to emulate in our experiencing of it. In minimalist art, for example, we are invited into a quieter space away from the increasingly more complex society in which we live. In a story, we are invited to empathize with the various characters, which in turn creates greater empathy within ourselves. The more we learn to empathize with others, the wider our moral circle expands to include different kinds of people, and the more moral we become. Naturally, the more inclusive we become of other people, the more likely we are to seek out peaceful solutions to problems, treat people as ends unto themselves rather than means, and appreciate the complexity inherent in human life and our societies and cultures. Now, if that is not a pillar for human survival, I don’t know what is.

 

Aristotle said in his Nicomachean Ethics that virtue aims at to kalon. The Greek word to kalon can be translated as either “the good” or “the beautiful.” To the Greek mind the two are related – and the two are in fact related. Can a work of art truly be said to be beautiful if it is not good, meaning well-crafted? If we say someone is a good writer or that we have read a good poem, do we not also mean that what we have read is beautiful, that the writer has created a beautiful work? The beautiful work of art, the beautiful depiction of human beings in works of literature, even of their bad attributes, their follies, their shortcomings, work to create ideals at which we can aim, to make ourselves more virtuous. With the good character, we aim to be more like her; with the bad character, we aim to avoid his mistakes. Thus do all depictions of all kinds of people provide us with models at which we can aim, to try to become more virtuous. Certainly if art can make us more virtuous, as I believe they do and can, the arts certainly serve an important purpose in human life. They make us more human, make us more comfortable with more complexity, help us see more and more complex patterns, and as a result make us more understanding and accepting of others. These are the very things we need if we are to continue to survive, and not just survive as living things, but to survive as fully human.

 

13) What are your expectations for Hear the Screams of the Butterfly?

butterfly-4

I have fewer expectations than I have hopes. I hope it will do well. I hope it will speak to people. I hope it increases understanding and empathy.
humanistic-psychology

14) Do you think creative expression is essential for life’s fulfillment? What role do the arts play in an average person’s life?   

 

I think creative expression is essential for the fulfillment of some people’s lives. But I don’t think it’s fulfilling for most people’s lives. That sounds horrifying to what is almost certainly an audience of almost nothing but creative people, but if we step away from the people who surround us, who are typically people just like ourselves, and really pay attention to what everyone else is doing, you will see that what I’m saying is true.

 

While in reality we have a spectrum that extends from pure copiers (completely uncreative types) through varying degrees of creativity to what one could consider supercreators (people like Goethe, Shakespeare, Mozart, et al), we can also group them into pretty clear categories. I would predict that if we grouped people according to copiers-relatively creative, we would get about 20% of the population as almost pure copiers with almost no creativity in their lives at all, and 80% of the population who engage in at least some sort of creativity. Equally, if we relegated creativity to only regular artists and inventors, we would get about 20% creatives and 80% copiers. This 20-80 split is found throughout nature and society. In pretty much every economy, 20% of the population holds 80% of the wealth, for example. Who holds the wealth varies considerably depending on the kind of economy one has, but the split tends to hold. When it varies from that split, the economy tends to collapse. This is an expression, as I said, of a natural relationship known as a power law distribution, and the 20-80 ratio is the simplest expression of the power law.

 

You may also note that way I proposed to split society actually results in 20% high creatives, about 60% moderate creatives, and 20% uncreatives/pure copiers. The golden mean ratio – the simplest kind of fractal, is expressed as the ratio 1:0.618. It may be no coincidence that the middle group, then, approaches or may even match that ratio as a percentage: 61.8%. Dynamics societies tend to have fractal geometry, power law distributions, and to exist on the border of order and chaos. A stable yet creative society would then need a core of conservative copiers (the orderly group), various degrees of creativity in the majority of the population, and another core of the kind of high creativity we find in artists and inventors (the truly chaotic group). In other words, most people do not need to be creative in the way artists need to be creative. If they were, society would fall apart from ceasing to be coherent at all. At the same time, if everyone were a copier, society would stagnate and eventually collapse into entropy. We need the full range to have a stable society in which creativity is even possible.

 

The role of the arts, then, is to provide the challenges to the status quo both within the arts and within the culture, society, etc. needed to keep society dynamic enough to remain stable. That is, they have a liberating effect, liberating people from the threat of ossification and stagnation. Things need to change to keep things stable. And the arts in part perform that role. Further, the arts provide a challenge to us to aim at the beautiful/good (which is also the true, as Keats tells us, and the just, as Elaine Scarry tells us) so that we may be more virtuous. And virtue, as Aristotle tells us, is a golden mean ratio between two vices. The one vice is often the very ideal the arts provide us as models (art is always immoderate), but at which we must aim to hit the target, while the opposing vice is the gravity that pulls down on us, dragging us, when we aim high, down to the target so we can in fact hit he bull’s-eye. So long as we don’t mistake the ideals for the real, as something which should be truly, fully achieved, but rather treat them as ideals at which to aim, but which can never be truly, fully achieved, can we live a life of virtue. Which is to say, we need to be wise when we experience the arts and not mistake art for life. For the light needs shadow, lightness needs gravity, order needs chaos in order for there to be true beauty in this world.

Interview with K. T. Billey, translator and poet

1) You come from Alberta, Canada originally. You describe it as “the Texas of Canada”. Did you feel at odds with your society? Was there a sense of alienation?
I did feel at odds. It is a very conservative place in terms of politics and gender roles. I was lucky to have some incredible mentors, classic life-changing high school teachers and a supportive if intense family that included very strong women. I always knew I’d leave that town, yet I didn’t feel alienated insofar as I was always in love with the landscape. Whether I’m in Alberta, New York City, Spain or Iceland, the prairie, the big sky, and the river across the field from our back door are really the foundation of my life.
2) What role can alienation play in a poet’s discovery of him/herself?
 
Well, it gets you reading! Books were the place I withdrew to, and how I came to understand myself as a writer The sense that one doesn’t totally belong feeds a person’s—a poet’s—curiosity. What poet doesn’t thrive on alone time? 
3) I sometimes wonder if poverty and humiliation fuel a poet’s passions. Do either of these things factor into your writing? Would it be a bold statement to say poets are the ascetics of the writing world?
It would be bold, but it would ring a bell. I do think poets abstain from much of the world’s goings-on, whether by choice, a tendency towards observing others, or sensitivity-based aversion. That said, poetry has appetites. I am certainly fueled by a kind of hedonism—a need to live fully. If I get humiliated in the process, at least I wasn’t a coward. And it does all becomes writing material.
4) Some writers move to more conventional modes of expression later in their lives. What do you think makes a mature poet? Do you think younger poets play a positive role in the craft in keeping it alive?
Absolutely, younger poets bring a zeal and belief that is vital for art, a counter to the despair that comes from being aware in the world. More than age, I think a mature poet is one who comes to know themselves, their tics and devices, and the particular thorns they’re always prodding and trying to articulate, if not remove. Self-recognition is an ongoing event. I definitely reject idea that youth is poetic and impassioned, and as we age or calm down, we turn to other modes. Blessing or curse, it’s not a phase. 
5) What is your work as a translator like? Do you feel the words ‘lost in translation’? What are the rewards of translating a poem? What are translation’s goals?
I don’t feel the words lost so much as multiplied—under the microscope of a translating mindset, I try to pull out every possible shade of a word, image, or idea. Everything expands, and it’s a challenge, but also a thrill to realize how rich even the simplest turn can be. I think it’s impossible to produce a replica. And really, that idea is absurd. Two readings of the same poem, even in the same language and by the same person, can range all over the place. I try to offer something as rich as the original, communicating the sense and tone. Priorities differ according to the priorities of the original—some focus more on sound, or form, or ambiguity, etc. Soledad Marambio’s project is interesting because our books (her second, my first) are both about our parents’ fraught personal and political moments—her father under Chile’s dictatorship, my mother in an abusive rural atmosphere. I’m looking forward to comparing notes when all is said and done.
 
6) You are a poet yourself. What subjects do you grapple with most? Do you have a favorite form you apply? What interests you in those subjects?
 
I grapple most with bodies, naturally. Everything I’ve ever written about—grief, desire, identity, place, beauty, aches and pains—it all leads back to our physicality, the fact that we are linguistic animals. I insist on being part of the physical environment. I think constantly about how we’re losing touch with dirt and rocks and the air, turning instead to pills, virtual realities, and intellectual, abstract living. Health becomes a struggle, time fritters by. How can we experience or communicate anything if we can’t place our own bodies in space? These subjects invite sprawling form, so I’m experimenting, though I like constraint and structure.
7) Are there specific literary techniques you employ often, and who taught them to you?
It’s not deliberate, but I am rather elliptical. I like to come at ideas repeatedly, from different angles and through various images, taking repeated stabs at what I’m trying to get at. That results in loops of metaphors and almost free association that I’ve been especially excited about lately. Timothy Donnelly and Lucie-Brock Broido had a lot to do with recognizing and informing that tendency. I also apply a formal discipline that I gained by studying with Derek Walcott years ago.
8) What sparks the creation of a poem for you? How do you feel, what are the initial sensations?
 
Language is always the spark. My mind takes a phrase or word of context and turns it over, unwrapping it, like examining a stone before skipping it across the river. Sometimes they stall, sometimes they fly. There’s also circumstance, and reading! The best books make me need to stop and make notes. I am also a major semiotic and etymology nerd. The notes build up into a restlessness or an emotion—usually anger, hurt, or being generally fed up—and that leads to the spilling out of lines.  
9) Now for a mystical question: is the “Muse” a real being to you? If so, what is a Muse, where does she come from? What else can inspire a poet deeply?
The Muse is real, and she broke my heart! 
 
Really, key people and places have been Muses for me, or some kind of Muse-conduit in my life. Full of feeling in a beautiful, confusing, heart-wrenching way, those moments have been my most keenly suffered. They’re also what I’m most grateful to experience, not just as a poet, but as a person.
 
That spirit (beyond a ‘she’ for me, something Romantic with capital R) comes from a mysterious connection between people, or moments of experiencing ourselves in a vast, stunning way. For me it’s usually on the cusp of understanding—a grasping, a violent blossoming, or a push off an edge, seeing what happens when everything flings open. The Sublime, basically.
 
Of course this becomes a giant metaphor. If we could explain it, there wouldn’t be any art!
fa7e7131732e333d29391cc4ee746663

Interview with Gabriel Cleveland, recently published poet

1) You have recently had your first poem published. What inspired the piece? How long did it take to write it, and find it a home? With whom did you publish it?
My piece, “When I Look in the Mirror,” is one of those brief moments of surreal horror that I feel like everyone has when they’ve allowed their mind to indulge in imagination. Eventually it happens reflexively, in sudden flashes. I was getting ready one morning in early 2011 and my mouth opened to a bloody naval scene, something out of Moby Dick. The image stayed with me and a week later I was able to pin it down on paper. It’s gone through about three major revisions since then, and it’ll finally have a home by the end of the month amidst MUSH/MUM’s second issue.
2) How long have you written poetry? Do you have goals in mind for your poetry career?
I’ve been writing since high school or even right before that, which is somehow fourteen years already, but if I’m going to be honest with everyone, it wasn’t until halfway through college that I was certain I even wanted to give it a full commitment. If I’m gonna be even more honest, I didn’t really start writing the kind of stuff I could reasonably call poetry until my senior year of college in 2010. It’s been long and convoluted, but I’ve gotten to the point where I recognize poetry as an amazing opportunity for me to share my experience in navigating life with others – a way of giving others the chance to step out of their worlds and into mine, and so my goal is to share that chance with as many people as possible, preferably by achieving further publications and eventually getting a few solid books out there.
3) Who are some of your favorite writers? Who has inspired you the most and why?
Oh man, this one’s gonna be all over the board, so bear with me: TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Albert Camus, Roger Ebert, Bob Dylan, Jeffrey Harrison, and Li-Young Lee, the last of which originally set me on this path to begin with when I first read “I Ask My Mother to Sing” and “The Gift.” All of these writers have a deep sense of searching, of trying to peek behind life’s many layers of mystery and come to some sort of understanding. And even where there’s no understanding to be found, there’s always this sense of profound appreciation for the very attempt at it, and I aspire to match the clarity with which they tackle even the most unknowable. Jeez, and that’s not even to mention Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Meg Kearney, Kathleen Aguero, Dorianne Laux, Teresa Sutton, and Dzvinia Orlowsky, all of whom taught me so much about how to reach to the depths without getting lost in obfuscation and to embrace the joys and brightness of life through their writing.
4) As a newcomer to publishing, is being published what you thought it would be? Did you feel accomplished?
It’s a total rush, and I can’t wait for more, but at the moment it’s just the newest precipice that I stand on the edge of, like Cortez in Kurt Brown’s poem “Cartology,” or like me when I first saw the Grand Canyon. It’s awesome, in the traditional sense of the word.
5) What best describes your style of writing?
I try to shoot from the hip without too much pretense, letting my thoughts and feelings sprawl out on the paper with as much clear and evocative imagery as possible to indicate my frame of mind, while also not going overboard. I want to capture my readers’ imaginations without railroading them or leaving things unclear, so they can have a good sense of my world and make an informed conclusion about the commonalities and differences in our lives.
6) What is your academic background?
I spent four years at Wells College, where I majored in English with a Creative Writing concentration while minoring in Japanese and practically everything else I could take classes in. I went on to complete my MFA in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College’s low-residency Solstice program.
7) Do you participate in other arts? Do they help you become a better poet, and more in tune with yourself?
Absolutely. I recently changed jobs and have had the opportunity to learn more about painting and drawing, and I’m certain that the fine attention to detail sharpens across mediums. Not only that, but it’s incredibly therapeutic! In addition to that, I’m starting to get involved in film production and collage art as well, both of which are great ways of learning how to look at things from different angles and capitalize on the brain’s ability to reorganize even things it took for granted it knew inside and out.
8) Where do you see your poetry writing taking you in five years?
 
When I think back to where I was five years ago, I was still very much a follower in terms of how I wrote and motivated myself to keep writing. It’s only been the past couple years that I’ve truly been able to write for myself because it was something I could genuinely pursue without feeling beholden to anyone else. That was a big breakthrough for me, and I can only see myself becoming more prolific and inventive, taking on bigger challenges like the Poetry Postcard Month Paul Nelson runs every year in August and the heroic crown of sonnets I inflicted on myself a couple years ago. And like I mentioned earlier. Those books gotta happen sometime.
9) Do you read contemporary poetry? Does being published inspire you to look for other contemporary poets to read?
Of course. There are so many spectacular writers out there and it’s inspiring, intimidating, and enlightening to see how other people are making it through this new millennium so far. There’s nothing like reading a poem from your own time period and feeling like the writer held out their hand and welcomed you in.
10) What book is your personal favorite?
I think the answer I’ve been going with is Jeffrey Harrison’s “Incomplete Knowledge.” It encapsulates all those things I mentioned above which are obviously incredibly important to me: the searching, the insight, the clarity, and the willingness to say, “Here’s my take on life, in all its crazy, beautiful terror and wonder”
11) Do you feel your surroundings play a role in your writing?
Certainly. If I’m somewhere I’d rather not be, whether it’s occupation-wise or location-wise and I write a poem, it’ll come out a lot more rough, aggressive, or gritty. But I always try to capture the wonder and complexity of living, so it actually helps to have the juxtaposition of different places and frames of mind when I’m writing a poem. Sometimes I’ll even hold off on the second half of a poem specifically to write it when I’m somewhere that will draw a desired feeling out of me.
12) Please feel free to share inspirational words for other poets seeking to be published.
This process so often feels like yelling into the vacuum of space or, less dramatically, yelling at your vacuum cleaner. You put your heart and energy into a passion that few people share or even care to talk about and it can get incredibly lonely feeling like you’re seen as the one fool who thought getting a degree in poetry was a good idea, but at the end of the day, it was a good idea. It seems like a lot of people live life reactively without a great deal of contemplation or appreciation for the inner workings of being. Then they hit a certain age and that wall of questions about the meaning of it all hits them with the full force of every brick. As poets, we get to consciously build that wall through life and know each brick intimately. We get to develop a stronger foundation of understanding and insight, and, even though it doesn’t always seem like it, there is life out there somewhere, waiting like the space station for your newest transmission or, less dramatically, like a dust mite waiting for the next time you vacuum the carpet.
10556296_591610192512_3472549534805270851_n (1)

Editing and Writing Poetry: The Highs and Lows by Jack Little

 

Introduction

I have been editing The Ofi Press, a bi-monthly ezine, since 2010, around the same time that I started to take my writing seriously. Writing my own work and simultaneously  editing an ezine has beneficial to both in terms of the amount of new poetry that I read from around the world, the amazing new poets that I have met through being an editor and also understanding the editorial process which helps me to not take rejection too personally. This short article explores a little of my personal experience of the relationship between being an editor and a poet.

 

Starting out as an Editor

I started The Ofi Press, a bimonthly literary ezine in 2010 at the same time that I arrived in Mexico from the UK and that I started to take writing poetry seriously. The aim of The Ofi has always been to publish an eclectic mix of international work as well as translations of Mexican and young Latin American writers.

I had been studying a creative writing course at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and a requirement was to publish a selection of our work on the university blog. Reading the work on this site, I saw so much potential but like they say, “everyone’s a critic” and I was sure that I would be able to make a zine that I would be proud of, thinking of the design and content that I as a reader would want to read. I’m a bit of a control freak and I liked the idea of being a leader in something creative, as sad as that may sound. Also, at the beginning in the first few years it was a good way to keep me grounded with roots in a new country on the other side of the world where I had a small group of friends and no regular work. The Ofi Press would be mine and my link to the world beyond Mexico, especially to my poet mum.

 

The Benefits of Editing

Since starting the Ofi Press, I have read so much more contemporary poetry that I did before, whether it be through reading review copies to write up for the site, reading submissions or reading out e-zines and publications in search of new and interesting work.

 West Africa Ofi Cover

Collaboration

In 2011, I published some poems with Bakwa Magazine in Cameroon and it led to The Ofi and Bakwa running a special project where I published several poets, writers and musicians in English translated into Spanish from the English. Bakwa editor Dzekashu MacViban published several young Mexican poets translated into English for his Cameroon audience in his own special edition. This connection to the continent of Africa firstly led me to begin exploring and writing about my mother’s birth place in Tanzania and my family’s colonial heritage and impact there. I also have made several friends via social networks from West Africa which led me to have dinner earlier last year in Puebla with Nigerian author Onyeka Nwelue. Making these connections to poets from other countries and cultures at a personal level is very gratifying indeed and has also opened the doors for me to include elements of traditions and themes from other cultures in my own writing.

 

Connection

Onyeka Nwelue

Since The Ofi Press began, our team has also grown from one to four with the US translator and poet Don Cellini joining the team as our translations editor, Hungarian poet Agnes Marton coming in as our reviews editor and Puerto Rican poet Luis Cotto-Vasallo joining us as the lead organizer of our monthly reading series. I count all as very good friends. I’m not sure what they would say about this, but I feel like a have grown as a team player over these years and I’m not the control freak that I once was.

Don has opened up many avenues for me with relation to Latin American poetry with his encyclopedic knowledge of young writers in the region and his many contacts. Since arriving in Mexico 6 years ago, I have become fluent in Spanish and also become naturalized Mexican which has led me to read a lot more work in Spanish and to write in Spanglish, exploring the space between my two homes. Working with Agnes has also been fantastic, opening up the Ofi to work from artists and poets from all over Europe. Agnes came to visit Mexican as part of a master class in Tepoztlán just a few weeks and spent a week with my wife and I here in Mexico City. We had the chance to talk about our mutual friends in poetry, current projects and of course to get to know each other in person after having worked together online for the past three years! Luis Cotto is a fantastic poet with a big heart and a real flair on the stage.

Enemigos CoverAs a poet, my first ever publication of a poem was with 3:AM Magazine in the UK edited by S.J. Fowler. Of course that was a great feeling, having those poems chosen and later on, in 2013 when I worked with Steven Fowler and Rocío Cerón as an associate editor for the book ‘Enemigos-Enemies, Contemporary Poetry from Mexico City and London’ it was an amazing feeling to have worked alongside this Steven as a poet and editor whom I greatly respect on this book.

 

Making Submissions

As an editor, I occasionally receive submissions which in the bio, announce the poet as ‘one of the most important poets in X location’ which of course usually means that the poetry will be pretentious tosh. I occasional receive replies to a rejection which are filled with snarky passive-aggressive comments to which, these days, I just let go over my head. When I make a submission I try to always be very polite, thank editors for taking the time to read my work, and also send a thank you note after the work has been accepted or rejected. All very important!

When submitting my work, I can find it very frustrating to wait up to three months and sometimes more for a reply so I try to get back to poets with an answer either way within a month and more often than not, much more quickly than this. I try to personalize my response in some way, whether with a comment on the poems or mentioning other work of theirs that I have read. I like it when editors do this for me so I try to do the same for people who have taken the time to share their work to us at The Ofi.

 

Dealing with Rejections

Finally, the last thing that being an editor has helped with related to my writing is dealing with rejections. Does a rejection mean that my work was crap? Quite possibly. But more often than not, I imagine that it could be due to something else: the theme of the poem, the style, the editor reading the poem on a day when that poem just didn’t work for him or her… I might just be kidding myself but if I am being honest, these are reasons that I might say no a poem by someone else, a very good poem but just one that doesn’t resonate with me personally. Rejections are part of the parcel of writing and being an editor myself, it takes the edge off when one (or several) naturally arrives to my inbox.

 

Conclusion

Sometimes I worry that working on my editorial projects takes too much time away from my writing but overall, it definitely helps me in my writing and in my life. Editing The Ofi Press has led me to read more work than I would ever have, meet like-minded people from all over the world and also ground myself when receiving both acceptances and rejections for my work. Editing the Ofi has opened doors to me as a poet and person and for these reasons, I couldn’t recommend being involved in poetry editing enough!

 

 

 

Jack Little Bio

Bio: Jack Little is a British-Mexican poet, editor, translator and primary school teacher based in Mexico City. Jack is a fluent Spanish speaker and in 2015, he participated in the International Book Fair in Mexico City. He is the founding editor of The Ofi Press, an online cultural journal with an international focus now in its 46th edition. Jack will publish a series of e-books of young Mexican poets in translation throughout 2016. In 2014 he was an associate editor for the Enemies Anthology, a collaborative project between poets from London and Mexico City. His first pamphlet ‘Elsewhere‘ was published by Eyewear in the summer of 2015 and his most recent work has been published in Periódico de Poesía, Otoliths, Wasafiri, Lighthouse, M58 and Numero Cinq. Jack will graduate with a Master’s in Education in the summer of 2016 and will then go to Achill Island in the west of Ireland to take up his first writing residency.  @theofipress

Interview with Lyn Lifshin, “Queen of the Small Presses”

1)    Lyn: you have been involved in small press circles for a long time, and have even read alongside famous writers. So far, what is the greatest reward of poetry composition for you? Is it more rewarding to see a poem in print or to read in front of an audience?

 

For me, the most rewarding part of writing, is the writing itself. And, if it on a subject I research, I love the research: whether it’s about the various horses I’ve written about: Ruffian. Barbaro and Secretariat, or the adventures on the Silk Road. I loved reading about the various old historic houses I’ve written about—the houses in: PLYMOUTH WOMEN, THE OLD HOUSE ON THE CROTON, AUDDLEY END, SHAKER HOUSE POEMS etc. I have often done workshops at the New York State Museum (and other centers and museums) and based the workshop on the exhibit. At the same time, wandering around, taking notes, reading books about the exhibit. Among the exhibits that triggered poems and books were MIRRORS (my book Mirrors), THE STORY OF DANIEL, A HOLOCAUST EXHIBIT (my Blue Tattoo), AND MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS (“The Daughter I Don’t Have”  as well as sections in many of my books). And stories about women in war, an exhibit at the museum that triggered many poems of mine. I like assignments: research on poems I might never have written:  HOTEL HITICHCOCK, FOR THE ROSES (POEMS AFTER Joni Mitchell) had there not been a call for poems on that subject—-so many books and chapbooks have been written from request I might never have written. But they ended up as books and chapbooks:

BATHROOMS ANYONE? and JESUS IN THE FLESH  and JESUS ALIVE AND IN THE WORLD, MARILYN MONROE, BARBIE, REMEMBER THE LADIES. And of course one of my latest books, FEMME ETERNA, poems about Enheduanna , Nefertiti and Scheherazade—they came from a planned work with an artist who asked me to write about these woman and then we would do a project together—which never actually came to happen. And my recent MALALA came from being asked to write a poem for an anthology about her when she was first injured. I became fascinated by her, as I did Barbaro when he was racing then injured, and followed both stories as they unfolded. 

 

 

2) What do you think distinguishes a poet from other members of the populace?  I actually think many more people write poetry than publish—I don’t know—maybe they are over sensitive, trying to remake what is as they would like it? Not at all sure about this.

 

3) What moment in your life defined your calling as a poet? I don’t remember when I felt that but I’ve been told that when I was three we were driving on a back road and I said it looked like the trees were dancing. And my mother, who named me Rosalyn Diane, said, “Well, if she doesn’t become an actress (what she longed to be) maybe she will be a poet!”

 

4) Does being praised by a popular poet like Robert Frost validate or energize your abilities as a writer? I suppose so—I didn’t really start to write much right after that comment but it probably got me scholarships to graduate school etc.

 

5) What else have you done to subsidize your poetry career? I’ve taught, edited anthologies: TANGLED VINES, Beacon Press (Mother and Daughter poems) ARIADNE’S THREAD, (Women’s diaries and journals) Harcourt Brace and UNSEALED LIPS (Capra Press) given lots of workshops and sold my archives to Temple University Samuel Paley Library)  and at Texas University Harry Ransom Library and I’ve written some articles.

 

6) Do you think a solid education develops a poet’s skills? Is poetry something that can be taught? Is there a method, or rhyme to the reason? I don’t know—I’ve had nothing to do with all these Doctor of Arts or creative writing courses— they all seem to graduate thousands each year who then go on to teach thousands of other young poets to be like them—maybe that’s over the top but I think it is not what it was working outside academia. But it seems rather cliquish.

7) What moment in your writing career made you most proud? I couldn’t answer that—I have always been excited when a press I admire, and there are many, accept a manuscript! 

 

8) What sort of thoughts run through your head as you compose a poem? Are there antagonisms or voices? Is there a feeling in the gut before a poem leaves you?  No voices I don’t think –each poem, each group of poems is different—I don’t think there is a gut feeling.

 

9) Poetry is not the most financially rewarding career. What rewards are there to being a poet? I think the main reward is the act of writing. There are lots of frustrations, disappointments in being a poet. It’s a job I never leave after 9 hours— I wish I could take more breaks. I had planned to  take a real break  after I finished several books at once almost: MALALA, A GIRL GOES INTO THE WOODS, SECRETARIAT, FOR THE ROSES, FEMME ETERNA—my plan was to take a real break and just dance—esp. Argentine Tango—but also all the ballroom dances and to get back to ballet—my second love. But some things got in the way and tho I take dance of some sort almost every night, I’d planned a more intensive immersion in dance. I loved having Black Sparrow as a publisher: the plan was I would publish with no other publisher so I stopped submitting and only worked on a book for John Martin. The plan was a book every two years.

 

10) Please tell me about your academic background. I grew up in Middlebury, VT and went to elementary and  high school there. Got a BA at Syracuse University, won a scholarship to Bread Loaf School of English, received my MA in English at University of Vermont and did additional graduate work at Brandeis University and University of New York at Albany.

 

11) Some writers are involved in other forms of art. Do you think it is necessary to participate in other arts to better understand yourself as a poet? I am very involved in dance of all kinds and I used to paint a lot—some of my water colors are on my web site www.lynlifshin.com.  

 

13) What is your creative process like? Do you write every day? Does writing flow or is it sometime tedious? It varies—the documentary about me, LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF GLASS shows a typical day in the film. But it always changes—when I moved down here to DC and then Vienna, I wrote on my hour metro to ballet at 8 am and then on my return trip – I had two hours of writing and since I got up early, 5:40—I got much done before I went to dance in the evening. Now I’m writing but also want to type up about 60 notebooks I have, hand written and never typed up in the shelf above my desk—going from 1990 to the present…I wish I wrote at the computer. It is never tedious.

14) What is the most bitter and scathing rejection letter you ever got? I can’t remember anything too terrible—one funny one early in my writing career from a prestigious magazine said “you write about politics, love, family—none of these are of any interest to me?!

Interview with PW Covington, veteran and Beat poet

1) You were stationed on the ground in Mogadishu. If you don’t mind, would you tell what this experience taught you about life? About government? About friendship? Most of all, does this ever factor into your poetry?

I was an Air Transportation Specialist in the Air Force, assigned to the 2nd Mobile Aerial Port Squadron, a specialized unit that established and conducted airlift operations in austere or hazardous environments. Mobile Aerial Porters were among the first military personnel of any nation, on the ground in Mogadishu, beginning in early December, 1992 as a vanguard of the UN famine relief and peacekeeping mission called OPERATION RESTORE HOPE. Our immediate tasking was to ensure that the airport was safe and able to be used by transport aircraft that would later bring both humanitarian relief supplies and the security forces necessary to ensure their distribution.

I was 18 years old at the time and had only been in the Air Force for about 6 months. The things I saw and did there are never far from my memory. Seeing human beings without even enough food to avoid starving, and knowing that it was a the breakdown of basic government services, combined with a “might makes right”, religiously fueled, over-armed, “strongman/warlord” culture that led to such suffering made me very grateful for the advantages that most in the rest of the world take for granted.

My experiences as a peacekeeper in Somalia led me to a complete rejection of all Deistic religious myth, an appreciation for those that serve others, especially when doing so involves great personal, kinetic, risk.  Some life-long friendships were forged with fellow squadron members. We were such a tiny, specially employed, group, that very few others, even in the military, and especially within the Air Force at the time, could understand or appreciate much of what we did or how we did it. We were about as autonomous as it is possible to be and still be members of a conventional military unit.

I learned that no matter how difficult a job is, when others are relying on you, you must do whatever needs to be done to ensure it is done. I learned to never accept “No” as an answer, and I learned that almost all of the things most people consider “necessities” are, actually, luxuries and creature comforts.

Themes from this period of my life do often work their way into my poetry, especially my earlier stuff.

 

2) You have said “Poets can be rock stars.” Define what you mean. Do you think America favors poetry less than other countries? The ratings appear to say so. What do you think will revive poetry’s popularity in the popular imagination?

Poetry is as popular as we make it. I have been lucky enough to read and perform my work across several Western states, and it’s rare to hit a town that doesn’t have a vibrant, Progressive, counter-cultural poetry or spoken word scene. I believe in the energy of an attentive, slightly intoxicated crowd. I believe that poets first need to take themselves seriously, then take their art seriously, then demand the same from others.

As performers we have a responsibility to those that come and hear what we have to say. Our competition is NOT other poets (FUCK Slam!)…our competition is the television, a ballgame, a night in bed with a lover, an evening at home alone with the cat. Whatever it is those folks in the audience gave up to come hear me, I better give them something back that is at least as valuable. I know my poems, I wrote the fucking things; I’m not reading for myself…I’m reading, hopefully, in a way that shows those listening the same respect they have shown me, by being present in the space and listening.

Poetry will be part of life, as long as there is life. Shit, even the cosmos has its own poetry. Some poor, confused, fuckers anthropomorphize this universal flow of poetry and name it “God”…Doesn’t matter what you call it, really. It’s going to be there, regardless.
For a long time, I didn’t care for that word; “poetry”…These days, I believe it is the very core of reality.

Poets as rockstars?

If you’ve got any soul or experience at all, and if you’re worth the time you spend in front of an audience, you’d BETTER understand how bad we NEED rockstar poets out there to salt this post-literate landscape.

 

3) You advertise yourself as an “uncensored Beat poet.” What is Beat poetry to you? How has it inspired you?
Beat is oatmeal, served at 3:30 in the morning, on a plastic, state prison, feeding tray. Beat is the number of hours it takes to panhandle enough money for a tank of gas in the Tucson Flying J parking lot. Beat is a night of three-hole sex with a hotel hookup, before going home at 6am and truly enjoying the embrace of your wife or girlfriend. Beat is four days and three nights, alone, in the Santa Fe wilderness with a half ounce of Sativa and a star chart.

Beat has never inspired me, but I have been letting it drive me around for the last couple of decades…since before I even knew who cats like Kerouac or Ginsberg even were. Beat, more than anything else, to me, is the freedom and permission I found within myself, to live and be, according to my own discoveries and understandings. It’s taken me to some scary and wondrous places, but it’s never left me without hope in whatever comes next.

 

4) Did you write poetry while in the service? What themes intrigued you, if so?
I spent a little over 23 months on active duty, before leaving the Air Force, under Honorable conditions, as a service connected disabled Veteran.

Almost every day of my military service was spent in an intensive, specialized, training environment, or deployed, working 12 hour days on high priority security or contingency operations.

I didn’t have much time to write….I was still doing a lot of research about the world, back in those days…lol

 

5) What has made you the most proud as a poet? What makes you feel accomplished?
Accomplishment, to me, is measured in community. I am incredibly honored by the respect and encouragement other writers and performers have extended me over the years.  I’m proud of the friendships, some decades old, that poetry has brought into my life. We stand in front of groups of people and expose ourselves beyond any mere physical nudity, night after night, year after year…in that setting, friendships and resentments form…hopefully it’s the friendships that last.

 

6) Let’s pretend you are talking to the latest generation of hipsters. What should they know about writing poetry?
Shave your fucking beard.
Wear clothes that fit properly.
Get off my lawn.
(No…not, really)

Read poetry, read prose, read translations, read The Bible, read the Koran, read smut, read maps, read the classics, read every section of a good newspaper, every day. Get rid of your television. Read. Read. Read.

Don’t worry about “writing poetry”…if you’re a poet, and you just keep reading, you’ll be scrawling out your own shit, soon enough. If you’re not, count your blessings.
Never use or employ poetry as a means to any end greater than a blow job or a quarter bag of weed. If you do, you’ll be disappointed and die a cold, bitter, shell of frustration.

 

7) What is your relationship to academia in general?
I have many dear friends that fund their writing habit by teaching and inspiring young minds.

 

8) When you are in doubt, is there a book or song you turn to? Is there a ritual you have to build your motivation to write? When do you write best?
I write best when I simply CANNOT NOT WRITE. Honestly, my jail and prison terms have been incredibly productive periods.

No real ritual, but I have found that a several hundred miles of multi-state highway, Bourbon from disposable, motel cups, and a bit of herbal combustion can sometimes shake something worth developing from somewhere inside, but, usually a phrase or a word or two will come to me in response to an overheard conversation, a news story on National Public Radio, a Facebook post.

Then, there there are those pieces that bust forth like a PRCA, prime-stock, bull at the Vegas finals…I couldn’t control that process if I tried.

You gotta either jump off, or hang on.

 

9) What spurred your novel Dear Elsa? What message were you giving to the reader?
The book pretty much answers those questions. Read it.

 

10) What is it like to travel and read poetry? What reactions do you get from audiences?
All kinds.
Travel is a tonic. I thrive on it.

 

11) What advice do you have about promoting yourself as a poet/writer?
Believe in yourself first.
Find people that you can learn from and study them like your art depends upon it. It does.
Believe in yourself first.
Never be afraid of forming creative relationships with fellow performers, regardless of genre or discipline. Suffer no fools, but accept anyone that wants to listen to or read your stuff. Respect anyone that sits down in front of you.
Believe in yourself first.
Believe in yourself first.

 

12) How does your political activism factor into your poetry? Is this something you keep separate or do you feel a writer’s life should include political duty?
I’ve never considered myself any kind of activist. I just wake up in the morning (or afternoon), and try my best not to a dick that day. Increasingly, I’ve been pretty successful.

It’s not activism to treat people that I share time and space with decently, nor is it activism to call bullshit bullshit, to defend those that can’t defend themselves, or to challenge authority and privilege wherever it’s found, especially within my own habits and beliefs.

None of this is activism…it’s just the tax I pay to be the lucky son of a bitch that I have been, so far, in life.

 

13) What are some of your favorite literary journals active today?
Harbinger Asylum is the best journal ever!

 

14) Finally, is there anything a poet writing on the margins of society should realize? How do we face adversity and make something of ourselves?

 

Give yourself permission to grow, evolve, to change your own narrative. Go out and DO before you sit down and write.

We are ALREADY “something”, man…it took billions of years and massive amounts of mystery to make our little toenail. We can’t improve upon or alter that in anyway, but me, at least, I’m ALWAYS ready for whatever is next, whatever is over that next rise on the horizon.

Never define yourself as anything but the most present reality. When it changes, joyfully change with it. You’re going to change anyway, we each get to decide whether that change is decay or evolution. Don’t fear anything.
Don’t fear yourself.
Ever.

Opening the Vault

The mysteries of being a poet! What is the daily life of a poet? How do we live, and what brought us to the craft?

I believe the craft chooses you. The Muse spreads her dark wings over the poet’s face, obscuring the world partially and inviting her own world into your mind. Poetry seeks to bridge the realm of gods (heroic, unstable, violent, and beautiful) with the realm of the human (burdened, shamed, lying, and tricking).

This blog will feature interviews, essays, and discussions between poets about poetry, the life of the poet, life, and the art of creation. What poets believe, what poets struggle with, what brought them to the craft.

Please see our blog at http://www.transcendentzeropress.org. Thank you. Share with others!