1. How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Getting my chapbook published reinforced an idea I was already a strong believer in, and that is with the quality of resources available to writers nowadays, such as Duotrope’s Digest, Poets & Writers, and of course electronic submissions, it is up to the writer young or old, established or beginner, to take advantage of the seemingly endless opportunities to read all sorts of new literature and submit work to markets that are spread across the globe. In regards to my writing, I feel I’ve stylistically evolved as many writers do: from reading and gleaning as much as possible from literature old and new, whatever strikes me as the reader and challenges me to improve my own work. I’ve been seriously trying to write for about nine years now, so I have more than a few collections of poetry that will never see the light of day – but I do look back on them for the occasional recycled line from time to time. Anyway, thematically I’ve stayed on a fairly linear course, but as my influences have doubled and tripled and so forth, I like to think I’ve developed a stronger, more aggressive voice to go with a concise, poetic approach to anything I write.
2. How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I was drawn to poetry from a young age, and by the time I reached my middling teenage years, it was all I wanted to read. I was bored with high school fiction for the most part, and poetry inspired much more thought. Over time, as I’ve repeatedly read what I feel to be a blend of poetry and fiction, my interest in fiction has grown to the point where I’m as likely to form a piece of very very short (flash, hint, etc.) fiction as a poem – and most of my poems are prose poems these days.
3. Where does a poem or piece of fiction usually begin for you?
I’m not a fan of sitting in front of a blank page for any extended amount of time. Nor am I a big believer in inspiration if that denotes sitting back and daydreaming time away. Ideas, words, sentences come to me regularly during three common events: when I’m working out, when I’m reading and when I’m trying to sleep. The first two events usually make for a seamless translation onto the page but often I make it out of bed to my laptop only to find whatever I had is not keen on light.
4. Do you employ the device of public readings? Do you feel they aid your work?
I have and will hopefully continue to do public readings. I think it is important to hear yourself read your words, although reading aloud at home and/or recording your work is a good idea before you set yourself before an audience.
5. What kinds of questions are you usually trying to answer for yourself during the course of any given piece of work?
How does each word sound? Do the sentences take risks? Do they connect enough to be considered coherent? Do they risk enough that the reader has to form personal opinions/connections? I also have to answer very basic questions for myself regarding verb tense and things of grammatical nature – I try to cover all bases and hopefully fail better every time I write.
6. How do you feel writers contribute to society at large? Where do you think the writer fits into the global perspective?
Writers are artists and artists are people and people live in some form of society. That said, every person, every writer and society is different – contributing includes making art, sharing art, supporting art, (many verbs fit here) art. I feel artistic expression is a gift, and that subjectivity reigns is a positive because I can’t name a single piece of art that isn’t appreciated by someone on some level. Globally, I think the idea is again that we as writers glean from many things but of course new work from new, possibly foreign perspectives is a must if writing like many things is to evolve. On a contribution level, the number of writers and writer organizations are high and the ability to impact not only the artistic community but combat universal issues such as keeping the Earth as healthy as possible, reducing poverty and finding cures for diseases is something that writers have not only the ability to comment upon but also to unite against as members of the human race.
7. How do you feel about working with editors?
Without editors, I’d be up shit creek. We all would. Once I started submitting frequently, my rejection skin thickened and I honestly have to say I rarely if ever have had a uniquely bad experience with an editor. Those Dear Writer, impersonal rejections aren’t to my liking but no one’s torn me to shreds, yet.
8. What is one quote/piece of advice/song lyric you can’t live without?
“Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself/When you’re old enough to repay but young enough to sell?” It could’ve just as easily been a Ryan Adams lyric but Neil Young is an idol of sorts. Looking forward to seeing him in a couple of weeks.
9. Do you have a writing routine?
I’d love to say I write every day or even every other day but I go a week or so sometimes without writing. It’s a little sporadic, but there are times I feel a bit drained and need a break from my own creative endeavors. That said, I’m writing, editing, working on something normally several days a week.
10. Do you prefer a certain type of setting to write?
I rarely write around other people, and almost never around anyone I know – so usually I’m alone in my apartment at my laptop. Sometimes I write on campus or in the park, but that also requires a good bit of silence and just a bit of observation.
11. David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
It’s hard to say what doesn’t influence my writing – I frequently listen to music, Nature is unavoidable and very wonderful in many cases, etc…I’m not a fan of the opera, so I guess that’s one form that’s yet to affect my writing.
12. What writing or writers do you feel are essential for your own writing or your life in general?
Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Keats, Sylvia Plath, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Richard Yates, Elizabeth Bowen, William Carlos Williams, W.S. Merwin, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel, Kim Chinquee, the list goes on and on…
13. Laptop VS Pen: Where do you stand?
Almost exclusively laptop for several years now.
14. What would you like to do in your writing life that you have not done yet?
Write for the rest of my life. I don’t really have any novel aspirations, but I do feel like many collections of work are waiting to be realized and I do not see my passion for the craft going anywhere but up.
15. Do you have another occupation or do you write full time?
I am a full-time English major at the moment which does afford me quite a bit of time to write – I’m not sure where I’ll be in a year or so – perhaps a graduate program – but I know I am lucky to not have to squeeze any midnight to five in the morning writing shifts in currently.
16. How natural is the craft of writing for you? Was it something you picked up gracefully from a young age or has it been a lot of blood, sweat and tears to mold a talent into something significant?
From a very early age I devoured books and I’ve always enjoyed writing creatively and even sometimes academically. It’s only a grind personally if I start thinking too much about it or attempt to force myself when no idea is readily at hand. I have a good, fairly confident relationship with writing, and most importantly one I feel works for me.
17. What was the last great book you read?
Airships by Barry Hannah.
18. What are you currently working on?
I am routinely working on a prose poem or five any given week but I’ve also been working on a collection of various or alternative forms of sonnets. Three or so hundred words of short fiction will rear up occasionally.
Thanks to Parker for diligently answering my questions. I’m hoping to see much more writing from him in the future. Also, thanks to Rob McLennan for unknowingly letting me feed off of his lead on interviewing writers. The questions really derive from his own.