Denise R. Weuve

Ink Damage and Other Permanent Stains

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Nate Pritts and Dancing Poets. Yes, You Read Right.

As 2013 beckoned for new beginnings and resolutions to be broken, Long Beach was getting a gift in the poetry world.  Thanks to Markus Manley and Danielle Mitchell, Long Beach saw the introduction to a twice monthly Poetry Lab.  Everyone is invited, no one turned away, and poetry the goody bag all leave with.  Danielle Mitchell has conducted these labs that so far have consisted of thought provoking prompts, powerful workshops, introductions to amazing poets, kindred poetic souls, and even snacks.  Through her generosity of time, we have seen members of Cadence Collective become published, for the first time, but more importantly we found a network of like minded people that we didn’t know before.  

Nate Pritts Courtesy http://media.mlive.com
Nate Pritts Courtesy http://media.mlive.com

On October 5, 2013, this venture takes a step forward with the inaugural all day poetry workshop/class with Nate Pritts.  As Danielle describes him, he is a Renaissance man: teacher, editor, book author, and poet taking a Saturday to work with those writers that sign up for this opportunity. Nate Pritts is the author of five books of poetry.  Publishers Weekly describes his book Sweet Nothing as “both baroque and irreverent, banal and romantic, his poems […] arrive at a place of vulnerability and sincerity.”  It is not that often that one is given the chance to learn from a poet outside their immediate circle, one on one, so why haven’t we all signed up yet?  And did I mention, that after the workshop Matt Hart and Chad Sweeney will join Nate for an 8pm reading that everyone is invited to?  Not enough for you to sign up right now?  Well there is also a dance party afterwards.  That’s right: dancing poets.

What?  Are you still hesitating?  Let’s have Danielle help me out here. . .

Denise R. Weuve: How long has The Poetry Lab in Long Beach been running (2nd and 4th Thursday of the month) and what inspired you to start it?

Danielle Mitchell:  The Poetry Lab began in February (2013). The project was inspired by my love for the poetry community. In the past, I’ve worked on various shows as artist coordinator and producer and spent great amounts of time at my favorite So Cal poetry venue, The Two Idiots Peddling Poetry, reading at the Ugly Mug, and have always loved the idea of bringing something to the community whether it be an open mic, produced show, or a workshop, as The Poetry Lab is.

But in the beginning, it was just me visiting the headquarters of a friend’s new creative venture, that was Markus Manley and the project was WE Labs. WE Labs had only been open for a few months and I’d been following the project through Facebook as they posted photos of the space being transformed, etc. I felt it was finally time to visit so I set up a lunch meeting with Markus. We toured WE Labs and then I introduced the idea for The Poetry Lab to him over sake bombs!

DRW:  I love Ben Trigg and Steve Ramirez [of Two Idiots Peddling Poetry]. They are simply great guys who are so supportive of each other and writers regardless of where they are at on their personal writing journey.

Danielle Mitchell: Yes, exactly! And that’s something I’ve wanted to give back and to extend across county lines!  I consider the Mug my home base. Still.

DRW:  You are probably one of the most well read poets I know, and I think it is one of the wonderful elements you bring to poetry lab.  The Lab is not steeped in the house of one poet alone, or even one poetry style.

Danielle Mitchell: Thanks!

I would add that the idea for The Poetry Lab as a bi-monthly meet up group was actually Markus Manley’s and not mine…

courtesy Poetry Lab FB page
courtesy Poetry Lab FB page

DRW:  What was your original idea for the Poetry Lab? How does lab work?  Do you pay for the space?  I only ask because most workshops I know ask the participants pay, but you only ask for donations.

Danielle Mitchell:  First, I brought him the idea for what is now The Stranded Artist Series, but Markus, the start-up genius that he is, decided that it would make more sense to build and support the community before bringing in outside artists. So The Poetry Lab was born. At first, I had huge reservations about the idea of “teaching” a poetry class…and so I’ve set out to make sure that’s not what the Lab is about. It is (I hope) in every sense a shared experience. It’s my personal mission to read and interface with a lot of poetry books, like you said, but I hope that everyone’s knowledge is used and appreciated in the Lab. And, really, I’m just trying to put my student loans to work!

The Poetry Lab has since become what I like to think of as the “pro bono” project of WE Labs.  So, no we aren’t charged for the space and only ask for donations. The project developed in that way because we set out to meet the needs of our audience. And hoped that when the time came (the Stranded Artist Workshop) when our members would be asked to pay for the special privilege of working with a great, established poet, they would do so. Which they have! And I’m very happy for that. I think from the WE Labs side, everyone is happy to have the poets descend on the space twice a month. We are now WE Labs’ longest running event and we’ve gotten a lot of members from the WE Labs community joining us for workshops, which is another thing we had hoped for!

DRW:  And now, thanks to you, the Lab is hosting this wonderful event with Nate Pritts?  How do that come about?

Danielle Mitchell:  Nate Pritts is a Renaissance man of the poetry world. He is editor-in-chief of H_NGM_N books and runs their literary journal also; he teaches workshops having achieved his MFA at Warren Wilson.  But I met him last year at AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference. I went over to the H_NGM_N table to buy his new book, Right Now More Than Ever, and he happened to be hanging out there and we made a connection. He liked the look of The Poetry Lab card! And I asked if he’d ever be interested doing a workshop and reading in Long Beach. His answer was YES! He had a small So Cal tour already in the works and now we are all going to experience his awesomeness first hand!

This is the importance of networking in the poetry community at work!  The poetry community is a small-big community in the United States. Everyone knows everyone, and you can step into it. You just have to care, to educate yourself, be interested, enthusiastic.

DRW: Speaking of enthusiasm, I want everyone to be enthusiastic about Nate Pritts appearance with Stranded Artist Series.  What will the day consist of?

Danielle Mitchell: The day will be guided by Nate. He’ll come in with his lesson plan, which I’m sure will include poems he wants to share with the group, knowledge, and expertise he has in the field, general razzmatazz. There will be a critical workshop of participants’ poems, a lunch break with food will be provided by WE Labs, and probably a writing prompt or two throughout the day.

After the workshop Matt Hart and Chad Sweeney will join Nate for a public reading, which all workshop participants are encouraged to attend. Yeah, it’s a long day, but it’s going to be epically fun!

For those unable to make the workshop, all are invited to the reading.

DRW:  Is the workshop portion of the day bring a piece you have already written or will it be workshopping something created there?

Danielle Mitchell:  Bring something you have. The specific requirements will be emailed to participants before the weekend of the workshop, Nate will tell them exactly what they need to bring, how many copies, etc.

DRW: How many participants will the event hold?

Danielle MitchellThere are 15 seats available.  For a limited time we are running an Early Bird Special. If you sign up within the next week [by September 25th] it is only $55! Which is a great deal. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets: http://strandedartist.bpt.me

The coupon code has been posted on our Facebook page. All updates will be provided there, too. So the best way to keep up with all news regarding this event is to Like us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ThePoetryLab

DRW: Will the reading the take place at WE Labs as well?

Danielle Mitchell:  Yes, WE Labs at 8pm, Saturday, October 5th. Our features will have books available for purchase. And directly following the reading there will be a DJ & dance party (because that is how we do things in Long Beach).

DRW: Let’s sum this up, what is the single most important reason to go to the special event with Nate Pritts?

Danielle Mitchell:  Because he is a tremendously talented poet.  Right Now More Than Ever is a book that I go back to again and again. He creates a mood of stunning and eccentric beauty in his poetry, one that I’d stand in line in the snow to be a part of, but can be amazingly accessed in Long Beach–I am still a little in awe of that and I created the event!  If you’re not inspired by Nate Pritts, then I fear for the color of your blood:

God writes trees & reading is building a house
of trees God made. So I want you to stand
in this field with me. There is no shelter here.
-from Flamingo Poem Poem

 

Long Beach Poetry Festival Fundraiser~This Saturday!

This coming Saturday, September 21st, at Gatsby Books, Long Beach will be treated to a night of Local Poetry from the hosts of the Annual Long Beach Poetry Festival.  This feature will includes Anna BaduaDonna HilbertClint MargraveTamara Madison, Kevin Lee, and Paul Kareem Tayyar. Each of these established writers have countless credits to their names: books, chapbooks, anthologies, journal publications, community recognition, and are seasoned features.  All of these poets are more than worthy of their own feature at the Long Beach Poetry Festival.  Clint Margrave took a bit of time and let me ask him questions about the Fundraiser and the Long Beach Poetry Festival, which occurs October 12th of this year.

Top Row: Anna Badua, Donna Hilbert, Kevin Lee Bottom Row: Tamara Madison, Clint Margrave, Paul Kareem Tayyar

Top Row: Anna Badua, Donna Hilbert, Kevin Lee
Bottom Row: Tamara Madison, Clint Margrave, Paul Kareem Tayyar

Denise R. Weuve: Writing is such a solo event, and very self involved, so what made you become part of developing the community instead of focusing solely on your own poetry, as many poets do?

Clint Margrave: Kevin Lee. He said, “Hey, are you interested in starting a poetry festival in Long Beach with me?” Otherwise, I would have just kept to myself, honestly. The truth is, writing poetry is ultimately a solitary event, though it is nice to have such a warm and inspiring community here in Long Beach.

DRW: Why do you think Long Beach has such a strong showing of inspiring poets?

Clint Margrave: I’d attribute it to the poetry culture that grew out of CSULB back in the 1970s and 80s, not to mention the influence of Bukowski, who moved just across the Vincent Thomas Bridge in his later years, as well as to Joan Jobe Smith and Marilyn Johnson, the editors of the longstanding Long Beach staple Pearl magazine, who have kept the magazine going for almost forty years, give or take a few hiatuses.

The really amazing thing is that over the past 30-40 years, Long Beach has been able to sustain such a viable poetry community. One of the reasons is that I think Long Beach serves as the literary alternative to all the Hollywood hoopla just north of here. This community isn’t saturated with actors or academics, but instead is made up of real working class, un-pretentious people who enjoy poetry that is less interested in navel-gazing melodrama or trying to demonstrate how clever it is, and more interested in having something to say about life.

DRW:  This Saturday you and your co-host will be doing a fundraiser at Gatsby Books for the Poetry Festival. Talk about the features that will be reading.

Clint Margrave:  I’ll be reading alongside Anna Badua, Donna Hilbert, Kevin Lee, Tamara Madison, and Paul Tayyar. The features at this event will consist entirely of the festival organizers. Though every single one of my fellow organizers is talented, well published, and deserving of a feature at the festival, early on, the six of us decided in good taste that we wouldn’t read, so every year we do this as a way to have fun and raise money for the event. Featuring ourselves at the fundraiser, of course, is also the easiest way to do it without having to ask someone else to hustle for us!

DRW: Many of your hosts are also Cadence Collective contributors, and we are thrilled to have that connection.  Can you explain how you all pick your features, and performers for the Long Beach Poetry Festival?

Clint Margrave: There is really only one requirement for how we select the poets to read at the festival: that you’re a good writer. Since there are six of us, we also all have differing opinions and tastes, which leads to a greater variety of poets to choose from. We also try to bring poets from other states and even other countries as well, so it’s more of a national/international event rather than just something regional. This year we have poets from across the U.S. and even a poet from Chile.

DRW: How many fundraisers do you plan on doing prior to the festival?

Clint Margrave: As mentioned, this year’s fundraiser reading at Gatsby Books consists of the festival organizers. But in past years, we have held other fundraising events, one in which we featured two of our favorite Long Beach poets, Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss, both of whom were featured at our inaugural festival in 2011.

This year, there is only one at Gatsby on the 21st, so we hope to have a great turnout!   So please, anyone planning on supporting this festival, we hope you can make it down!

DRW: How can people who can’t make it this 21st event donate to this great fundraiser?

Clint Margrave: Thanks for asking that question. Anyone who would like to contribute and can’t make the event may do so via PayPal by entering the email address: ambadua@hotmail.com.

Top Row: Anna Badua, Donna Hilbert, Kevin Lee Bottom Row: Tamara Madison, Clint Margrave, Paul Kareem Tayyar

My gratitude to Clint Margrave for his time and all of the hosts for their organization of this annual event.  We are a community, whether here on Cadence Collective or simply by brotherhood of the art that is Poetry.  Anna Badua best explained the importance of this event and the need for fundraising, “Poetry should be accessible to everyone.  Donations allow us to keep the festival a free community event.  For us, this is a labor of love; all donations go directly toward the cost of the festival.  Each dollar reflects a contribution to our vibrant literary community.”  If you can’t make this event please donate at PayPal.com.

I wrote this article for Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets.

Featured Poem: whore

My poem is featured on Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets.Genre Lit journal

Stop by and check it out, if you have a moment.

 

*Originally appeared in Genre (CSULB)

The Art of Craft Beer & Poetry: A Conversations with Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo

Courtesy Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo

Courtesy Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo is best known as the co-creator of Bank Heavy Press, recently named one of the top 5 presses to know in Long Beach.  He, along with his co-creators (and now a bevy of editors), continue to run the press.  This press has included chapbooks and periodical journals that can still be purchased from here.  As Zack continues to traverse his poetry universe in a hopes of finding the next project or great craft beer, he co-hosts the monthly reading series at Gatsby Books in Long Beach called Bank Heavy Poetential Famous Reading held on the last Thursday of each month.  The next reading is September 26, 2013, featuring J.L. Martindale.  In this conversation he talks about how he picks poetry for his press and his latest project with PJ Santos, Insomniatic Umbrella Press.

Denise R. Weuve: I like to start the conversation by asking how Long Beach, as a community of writers, has formed the poet you have become?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  It has definitely had some influence on me. Some of my favorite poets are from Long Beach, and before I even knew who they were, I was reading their work. With the abundance of readings and critiques and/or encouragement I’ve received from some of those I look up to (i.e. Joan Jobe Smith, Clifton Snider, Jeff Epley, and Karie McNeley. I could go [on] for days), I’ve been able to play with my writing and try different things to really explore my own voice. I thank a lot of people for that.

DRW:  I would say many in the Long Beach scene feel the same way, particularly with the support of Joan Jobe Smith through her co-edited magazine, Pearl.  For many of us it is our first acceptance letter.

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Ha Ha. I wish Pearl had indeed been my first. Though it was my first rejection.  But, it was my first time submitting work as well.

DRW:  Don’t feel bad, they were my first rejection, but I’m stubborn and immediately sent back and got my first acceptance from them as well.

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  I think that’s great!  Honestly, any poet/writer can’t let rejections get to them.  You’ve got to build a skin to that and keep sending stuff out, even to those who reject you, if you’re really into the mag.

DRW:  So you feel a great deal of support from these fellow writers?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Greatly. Jeff [Epley] specifically jolted my reemergence into the love I had of poetry when I was in middle and high school. He showed me that what I had been writing (even the horrible shit upon shit in notebooks) was working toward something greater. And he was my first poet who I sent work back and forth to, and that began before Bank-Heavy even started.  Now it’s been years.

DRW:  I’m glad you brought up Bank Heavy.  Can you talk a little about Bank Heavy Press, which was recently sited as one of the 5 Small Press Publishers in Long Beach You Need to Know (LB Post).  What was the motivation behind starting this with your co editors Karie McNeley and Corie de Silva?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Oh man, I can’t believe we’ve been at it for almost three years. It’s amazing that we were included in that, we still think of ourselves as just a few poetry addicts trying to publish what we like and hopefully have an audience.

DRW:  That has to be the best motivation to publish: addiction.  Some addicts search for crack, others poetry.

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  It was the story of stories; I had an idea bubbling for a long time about starting a press. And, finally at a workshop I mentioned it to Karie & Corie, and long story short, here we are today!

DRW:   Is there a current project for Bank Heavy you want to plug?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  There always is. I swear Karie said it once in another interview, “The press never sleeps.” We’re currently finishing an issue featuring an artist (confidential) and writings by Chiwan Choi, as well as a split chapbook with Zach Locklin and Charlotte San Juan. Both projects are looking good, or as we always like to say “Fucking Snazzy!”

DRW:  Let’s talk about your new project, Insomniatic Umbrella Press.  I believe you are doing this with PJ Santos.  How will you be merging art and writing? Will it be the way Regardless of Authority does it: getting separate pieces of art and poetry and matching them up in a thematic sort of way?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  I’ve been stoked on this project, and the ideas that have poured from PJ and I both are just too much to handle. Unlike Bank-Heavy, Insomniatic is only focusing on one to two projects a year. Here’s the fun part, each project is it’s own unique artifact/art/writing piece. The two of us are the artists creating the “vessels” of the poetic interpreting the poetry and creating a unique format that we believe enhances the poetry. So look out for some pretty crazy stuff. We like to keep things top secret, but I can leak our first two projects, Karie McNeley and Paul Tayyar.  We wanted to think outside of the planet.

DRW:  As an editor, when do you know you have read a great poem? Seen a great piece of art? Know it has to be part of your world?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Oh man, it’s not easy to get to those. Honestly, it is a lot of reading. Trench-warfare for the editor, digging, is being shot at, high casualties. Then as the dust clears and I read, or see it, I just know. Usually on the first read I can tell if it is going to be in. And they [the poems] usually bombard me in astonishment. For example, we (against all stated and posted submission guidelines) received a postal submission, and well it’s pretty fucking amazing, so it is a rare exception, but I was just flabbergasted. It was quality, and creative and just bloody brilliant.

DRW:  How far into a piece do you have to read before you think, maybe?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo: Usually the first few lines. I always read all the way through, but those first pivotal lines are the attention grabbers. If I’m bored by the fifth line (longer if their Bukowski-esq lines) it’s more than likely a no go. I love poetry and I want it to speak on the page, if it’s not speaking then I feel it’s failed its job.

DRW:  I have to say I could have guessed that from your writing.  I notice that your poems grab quickly. For example, “Resurrecion’s” first line Jesus works at the tacos y maricos. I thought who doesn’t want to see where this poem goes?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo: Thanks! It’s not a conscious move, but I guess it happens to come out that way. And with a little help of editing.  I just want to be slapped in the face from the first line, and I guess it translates into my own writing.

And to think that [“Resurreccion”] was my “kicker” poem in that submission. The one I thought was okay, but good enough to be thrown into the submission.

DRW:  That happens to us all.  I have actually sent an editor a poem he requested, and two other poems as filler, he ended up taking what I thought was the C level filler poem and giving back the one he originally asked for.

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  It seems to happen a lot. Poets under estimate themselves.

DRW:  And your poem, “Morning Chili” does the same thing, and I noticed that the magazine Zygote in my Coffee celebrates the “slapped in the face” type of writing you were speaking about earlier.

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo: I’d been reading their mag for sometime before I finally submitted. I liked quite a bit of it. The editors there have [quite some] good taste.

DRW:  They have published quite a few locals, Kevin Ridgeway, Thomas R. Thomas, Daniel Romo, and others

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo: Yeah, they love us LB folks

DRW:  How do you see the poetry scene changing in Long Beach?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo: Well, it’s a slow progression. People are not the most accepting of change. I have noticed that more and more younger folks (my relatively young age and younger) are popping their heads into readings to listen, or participate. I guess the one part [of change] I’d like to see happen quicker (I believe it’s already started) is some unison between the slam and “written” people. Poetry is meant to be shared, and spoken, but to a point if it doesn’t present itself on the page better than it was performed then well boo. But the same goes toward a poem not coming to life for an audience. So there’s weight on both sides. In other words I think that the two non-warring, but non-participating sides should just get the fuck over it and hug.

DRW:  Hug it out, as it were?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Exactly.

DRW: Okay, here come the Rapid Fire Five

1.  What art other than your own would you like to attempt?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Yikes! Craft beer! There’s an art in brewing. I’ve done it once, and I’d like to experiment more.

DRW:    2.  What writer do you constantly go back to as a reader?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Whoa, jease. I still always fall back onto Clifton Snider, or Walt Whitman. I never get sick of either ones writing.

DRW:    3.  Where is your favorite place to write?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Outside. A beach, a mountain, a riverbank. Hell, if I could I’d do it between sets while I surfed.

DRW:    4.  What is the hardest part of being writer?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Editing. It’s fun to write the initial creative impulse, but it’s real work to go back and make it open for reading to an audience, to make your initial thoughts and feelings jump into another person and relate.

DRW:     5.  And finally what advice would you like to leave fellow writers and readers of this article?

Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo:  Read in abundance, write in abundance, live life, and always end it with a good beer. My recommendation Beachwood Brewing; local amazingness.

DRW:  Excellent advice.  Thank you for your time Zack

Interview can also be found at Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets.

When an Insomniac Cannot Dream

I don’t sleep.  Not the way the normal do.  Tucked beneath their covers before dusk turns to dawn while Queen Mab flutters over their faces bringing dreams of lovers, money, and futures.  I stay on the edge of yesterday with my toe stretching out towards tomorrow.  It’s not like I’m afraid to dream.  I welcome dreams in all their arrays:  serene, falling, waking in my own sweat. But what I welcome and what enters is never the same.  So I don’t sleep.  The luxury of dreams are for others.

Once I was held by a man who swore he could make me sleep.  He knew the trick, so he said.  Wrapped his arms around my shoulders and weaved his fingers together, clasping them to form a lock as if being trapped in him would make me dream his dreams.  There was a story he planned to share, that had brought all he told to Bengal sized yawns.  And so I lay there waiting.  Telling myself his chest was a pillow, not a storage house for a heart that played an irregular rhythm.

At 21, your life should be made, at least in Bangalore, he said, but mine wasn’t.  I was happy mind you, days in my cubicle programming computers and nights at the Skye Lounge where all the Gori could be found.  But my father wanted more.  That’s when the beautiful red Alstermo suitcase came out.  It wasn’t American made, but that is where I was going.  In a little over 17 hours, I was being welcomed by cousins, aunts, uncles, that I did not know, in a city that still seems foreign, Glendale.  Removed by degrees and generations, and miles I could not count, they looked like me, but weren’t.  Those my age spoke without accent, and even now 18 years later, you hear my accent, don’t you Gori?

I did, particularly when he called me Gori, but I had learned it was not an insult, anymore.  Fair skin girls were trophies in the dark, and stories to shared over Johnnie Walker black in LA Lounges.

Courtesy janetstone.wpengine.com

Courtesy janetstone.wpengine.com

As my father wanted, I did,  all under the blessing of Lakshmi, who was so good to me.  Within 5 years I had my own software engineer company, and money could be sent back, even when not needed.  Time slipped away so easily here, with work, and building my life.  When I bought a home at 29, no one questioned why a single man bought his own home.  No one complained about the women I dated.  No one said a word if I ordered carne asada in a Cantina.  As if Indian men were supposed to be found in Cantinas.  This was my dream, one I enjoyed with eyes wide open.

Still awake?

I never get to stay awake.  I always find sleep that never lets me rest.  Every night just before I close my eyes I miss the rain in July, pulling a blanket up to my chin in August, or celebrating Independence Day on 15th.  I don’t go home enough, I know.  I feel like a tourist in my own country, a stranger to my father, who still calls unaware it is 3am here, because it is 3pm there.

By now you should have your eyes closed.  

I cannot love this life more, yet I’ll go back one day, for good, not just a visit.  Live the life I was supposed to live married to a Sambo that no one else will have, at this age.  But rich, so a single word will never be spoken against us.  The model businessman, husband, son.  The one who left to return greater than all those left behind, and resented for it.  I will be the favored son who misses his waking dream, and is constantly sleeping to bring it back.

See, I told you it was boring, a man given everything he wants complaining about it.    Is there anything more boring, then the man who is trapped by a home he does not want yet is where he belongs.

Which home he belonged to I was never sure, but I am sure he forgot who he was with, the Gori who steals dreams to ink  them out as stories, because she had none of her own.

The First Five Words: A Conversation with Poet, G. Murray Thomas

 

Courtesy tellurideinside.com

Courtesy tellurideinside.com

G. Murray Thomas is a head Statesman of the Long Beach Poetry Scene. Since his arrival on the scene he has worn numerous writer hats, though I’ve yet to see a single fedora. He has been a publisher, putting together specialty themed books, such as the surfer themed, Paper Shredders, and the environmentally conscious, Polluted Poems. He has also seen his own books of poetry published, Cows on the Freeway, and My Kidney Just Arrived. He is a multitalented writer, who has been freelancing for Ground Control, writing reviews and LB Post writing articles. Thanks to Murray we in the community have known where to find each other for years, because of his groundbreaking poetry magazines Next (News Clips & Ego Trips) is a best of Compilation) and Poetix that list all the poetic events in Southern California monthly. Murray ran his own poetry reading once a month (that sadly came to an end August 13th). In the near decade of this reading, he has always been welcoming and gracious to new and veteran poets alike, and to no surprise of Cadence Collective, he graciously sat down for this conversation.

Denise R. Weuve: Let’s start with talking about what took you all the way from Brockport, New York to Southern Californian with pit stops in Spencerport, Amherst, Idaho?

G. Murray Thomas: I went to Hampshire College, in Amherst, for a degree in Creative Writing. I knew I wanted to be a writer in high school. And I could do that wherever I lived. So I got to choose places I really wanted to live. After I graduated, I contemplated moving to either NYC or Southern California. California had the greater pull, primarily due to weather. And I like the beach. I was actually on my way to California when I ended up in Idaho. I was supposed to only stay there for the winter, but stayed for six years. Idaho was an aberration.

DRW: 6 years! Whoa. What was Idaho’s pull?

G. Murray Thomas: Beautiful countryside. I was up in the mountains, and could walk out my front door almost directly into the woods. I have a strong streak of nature boy in me, believe it or not. But after six years, I decided it was time to finish the journey to So Cal. Landed in Laguna Beach.

DRW: Certainly glad you did. Laguna Beach is beautiful. Cadence Collective celebrates Long Beach Poets; how would you say Long Beach, where you now reside, has influenced your writing and poet life in general?

G. Murray Thomas: Long Beach has been a great place to be a writer. It has its ups and downs, but there has consistently been a good community of writers here. Even in the slow times, I could always find readings to go to, and other poets to socialize with. Not to mention the fact that Long Beach is a very diverse city. There are always interesting people and cultural events to inspire one. It’s also a lot more centrally located than south OC, so all the culture and poetry of LA itself is easily accessible. That was the original motivation for the move. Poetry readings are my social life.

DRW: How important has socializing with other writer’s been, for your own writing? Many believe in the solitary life of the writer, sitting at a desk with maybe a computer screen as their only friend.

G. Murray Thomas: Seriously, I think interaction with other writers is vital. They can inspire, and they can let you know when you’re not meeting your potential. Sometimes it’s overt, and sometimes it’s subtler. I pay a lot of attention to reactions when I read. And sometimes another poet will do something so brilliant, I know I need to rethink my approach. Many of my best poems were written on the way home from a reading.

DRW: I really love what you just said about how others inspire and kind of help you know when you are not reaching your potential. Only good friends can do such things. But in your case I think you exceed all potential. I think a lot of people in the community look at you for inspiration because we (and yes, I am including myself) think you are so brilliant and non-stop. You put many of us to shame for doing too little. You have so many hats in the writing community: fiction writer, press founder, publisher, editor, MC, Music reviewer, journalist, novelist, and poet. If forced to choose only one to embody for the rest of your life, which would it be?

G. Murray Thomas: Honestly, my true love is writing fiction. But it’s also the hardest for me.

DRW: How so? There are times when I read your poetry and I feel like I am hearing this lovely narrative that could go on for days.

G. Murray Thomas: One is idea. I can write a poem out of a single idea, or even a single image. But even a short story, let alone a novel, takes numerous ideas. Not to mention characters, and (ugh) dialogue. But luckily I don’t have to choose.

One of the things I’ve discovered from my writing life is that my inspiration comes in waves. I run out of poetry ideas, so I move over to fiction. Then to reviews. They feed off each other, and enable me to keep writing.

DRW: I completely get that, particularly the characters. However when I read My Kidney Just Arrived I sat through like it was a novel, completing it in one sitting.

G. Murray Thomas: Thank you.

DRW: You sectioned the book into four parts and each so intricately put together like a novel. I marvel at the positive spin that touches everything you write. In the poem “My Two Names” which seems like it could go really negative as you talk about how the ill George part of your life battles with the poet Murray part of your life. Then, nearing the end you give the reader the lines “And every time George ponders death/Murray loves his life more.” All that to ask: is this a conscious effort on your part, to always bring out the positive? The hope within your words?

G. Murray Thomas: I’m just a positive person. That’s how I’m wired.

A good bit of how that book went together just came out of the poems I was writing during those years. It was until I was putting them together that I really saw some of the recurring themes. There were a couple of poems written specifically for the book, but for the most part they were just what was on my mind.

DRW: That leads me to music and you, which has been on your mind a lot lately. I have read quite a few of your album reviews and one that stuck out to me very recently was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito. I sat there reading it and was actually amazed about how you put the titles together and made the comment about them (the band) trying to cover phobias or pull out our (listeners) fears, and then bought the album. How does music influence not just the journalist side of your writing but your writing in general?

G. Murray Thomas: I always write with music playing. I have since high school. Part of it is, I just enjoy listening (to music) so much that I can’t spend much time without it. But it also energizes me. It gives me something to focus on when I get stuck. I do believe the rhythms of whatever I am listening to sneak into my writing, even though I don’t feel I write very rhythmic work. On the other hand, once I started performing my poetry with musicians, I discovered rhythms I never realized were there. One of the ideas I’m considering for my next reading would be to have musicians there to back up all the poets. I’ve got the musicians (or some of them) I just need the venue. And the time.

DRW: That would be amazing. I think a beautiful mix of the mediums instead of first we hear a poet, than a singer. I think everyone will be onboard to help out or just be apart of that.

I’d like to end with the final five rapid-fire questions

1. As much as you love music, what band would you want to be a member of?

G. Murray Thomas: Assuming I had any musical talent, I would love to work with [David] Bowie. I think he’s a genius. And he always gets great work out of his sidemen.

DRW: 2. What writer do you constantly go back to as a reader?

G. Murray Thomas: It used to be Fitzgerald, but a lot of his work now disappoints me. Gatsby is still brilliant. Joan Didion when I want precision; Faulkner for the opposite.

DRW: 3. Where is your favorite place to physically sit down and write?

G. Murray Thomas: At my desk, looking out at my backyard with its hummingbirds, bumble bees and stray cats.

DRW: 4. What is the hardest part of being writer?

G. Murray Thomas: The first five words.

DRW: 5. What advise would you like to leave fellow writers and readers of this article?

G. Murray Thomas: At the risk of sounding clichéd: Write. Actually do it. But don’t forget to also live.

DRW: Amen. Without fully living you have nothing to write about.

G. Murray Thomas, thank you so much for your time.

This conversation can also be found at Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets who first  suggested I do interviews with Long Beach Poets.

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