Category Archives: Interviews

Poetry Matters with Rebecca Schumejda & Dan Wilcox

 

GOING POSTAL

Once, when I was 10 years old, I saw my grandfather
sitting beneath a tree next to the Post Office.
He worked there as a clerk
selling stamps.
“Hi Grandpa,” I said,
“how are you feeling
His bluntness surprised me.
“Lousy,” he said. “Do you think I’d be sitting here
If I felt OK?” In a year or two he had cancer and died.

My mother worked there too
and when she died
the signatures filled two guest books.
They knew her as the nice lady
at the Post Office, selling stamps.

And my father was a mail carrier, the only job
I ever knew him to have.
The same routine in all kinds of weather wore him down.
He retired early to loneliness, cigarettes and beer.
But he never owned a car, he walked, like a mailman
or took the bus.

I delivered mail too, in college, at Christmas time
My father stayed inside and sorted the mail
I wanted to do as good a job as I knew he did.

Now mailmen have little trucks with steering wheels on the wrong side
or carts to carry the bags
and at the Post Office you can buy boxes
and tape and phone cards
and Bugs Bunny hats and keychains
and pay for it all with Master Card.
You can buys stamps, like soda, from huge vending machines.

But when someone says some guy “went postal”
I think of my father, of his father, my mother
going off to work early in the morning, walking to the Post Office
going postal, doing their job.



Would you discuss how this modern phrase helped you to create a poem that celebrates postal workers?

 

I thought that this phrase “going postal” was demeaning to postal workers, that there are thousands & thousands of postal workers across the country doing their job every day, hard-working, working-class people trying to make a living, & they are no more likely than any other workers to have a breakdown because of their job.  As poets we play with language & as I reflected on my own family connection to the postal service I thought about turning the phrase on its head.  The poem actually is a parsing or deconstruction of the expression “going postal.” 

 

As far as process and writing, did you write this in one sitting or did the idea resonate over a period time before finding its way to the poem?

 

I don’t recall specifically how this poem was written, but I typically have an idea that then “composts” or “percolates” over time before I put it down on paper, first handwritten, in a pocket notebook or my “poetry workbook,” then transcribed on the computer.  I read the poem aloud, try it out at open mics, revising, even revising years later when I return to it.  When I used to walk to work (“like a mailman”) I would have these poems in my head day after day until I felt inclined to sit down & write it.

 

Do you think working-class poetry is adequately represented in the literary canon? Do you think that is changing or will change? Why/why not? 

 

The literary canon is constantly changing.  Certainly when I was in high school & college there wasn’t much “working-class poetry;” I was told I couldn’t write my Senior (h.s.) paper on Allen Ginsberg because he “wasn’t important enough.”  This is certainly changing with students studying “working-class literature,” writing PhD dissertations on it, even departments of “working-class literature.”  And more people than ever before are writing poetry, reflecting the diversity of their upbringings.  Perhaps they were always out there, but now there are more opportunities to read & even publish one’s work.  That’s as it should be.


Dan Wilcox is the host of the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, N.Y. and is a member of the poetry performance group “3 Guys from Albany“.  As a photographer, he claims to have the world’s largest collection of photos of unknown poets.  He has been a featured reader at all the important poetry venues in the Capital District & throughout the Hudson Valley and is an active member of Veterans for Peace.

 


Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Waiting at the Dead End Diner published by Bottom Dog Press in 2014. Cadillac Men published by New York Quarterly Books in 2012. Falling Forward published by sunnyoutside press in 2009, The Map of Our Garden published by Verve Bath Press, Dream Big, Work Harder in 2006 and the postcard poem “Logic.”. Her first chap-book The Tear Duct of the Storm was published by Green Bean Press in 2001. She earned degrees from SUNY New Paltz and San Francisco State University. She lives, teaches, and writes in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can find out more at RebeccaSchumejda.com.

 


Poetry Matters with Rebecca Schumejda & Manuel Paul López

Excerpt from THE XOCO LETTERS





The Yearning Feed
by Manuel Paul López

THE XOCO LETTERS, juxtaposes a collaboration of voices that address a major controversy in this country, which I consider the lack of humanistic responses to the treatment of people. Can you discuss the various perspectives explored and your intention? Can you discuss what inspired you to write THE XOCO LETTERS?

First, thanks so much for the opportunity and the space to write a few words about this particular poem.

I can’t necessarily call the impetus for THE XOCO LETTERS an inspiration. I think THE XOCO LETTERS was and is a reaction more than anything to the border politics that many times feels devoid of any human compassion. As the politicians in Washington stage their theatrics each session, people are dying in the deserts in very real ways. THE XOCO LETTERS began literally with the email that begins the poem. I found it one day online as I was researching different local humanitarian organizations for another project I was involved with. This particular email was posted on the organization’s website and was identified simply as a message received, along with others from people in support and in opposition of the mission of this group. I was struck immediately by the author’s willingness to advocate violence, but I was especially taken by the author’s suggestion to do harm to some of the most vulnerable among us, calling for an “open season” on those who clandestinely cross the border. Not only is this repulsive, but it is far more common than we might think. (We must not forget a certain Republican presidential candidate who suggested employing electrical fences to support better border security. He later called his statement a joke and apologized, but the damage was done.) After reading the email, I wondered about the note’s authenticity? Was it a gag? Was it propaganda? Or was it really the seething hatred of a racist psychopath? Nonetheless, I copied and pasted the letter into a Word Document and saved it on my desktop, opening it periodically over a year or two when I felt its tug. When you combine something like this with the constant vitriol in the comment streams that follow articles about immigration and immigration reform, it’s hard to stay composed and compliant, especially after the recent $46 billion dollar proposal to militarize the border with Mexico.

If I had it my way, THE XOCO LETTERS would read like a Google search, because that’s really what it is. It’s one person engaging torrents of information online and being affected by it.

Why did you decide to include the yelp reviews of XOCO?

Including the Yelp reviews in the poem was literally a result of having searched for things to do while in Chicago during one summer. I’ve enjoyed Rick Bayless’ PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time, so when his new restaurant at the time XOCO popped up in the search, I was curious to read more. I especially took interest, though, in the name of the restaurant, which I learned shortly after meant “little sister” in Nahuatl. I remember thinking to myself at the time: “Wow, what a beautiful name.” I must admit, I obsessed over it for some time, completely enamored with the sound of the word, and the associations that began to take shape. In the XOCO LETTERS, XOCO is the figure addressed, where various speakers ask for her guidance, support and love. After a quick Wikipedia search on Rick Bayless, I also learned he had completed some doctoral work in anthropological linguistics, which only added to the intrigue.

The planning of my trip to the city coincided with a number of border-related materials I was reading and watching at the time. This was also during the controversy surrounding Arizona’s SB1070, so my nerves were exposed and rubbed raw by some of the commentary I was catching in the media. In time, I started to think about how my online searches during this period, in addition to my other preoccupations might look if they were static instead of just a bunch of fleeting online activity, an act that says a lot in itself, no? I mean if you’d ask me to list ten topics I searched for on the Internet yesterday, I’d probably be able to name three tops, though I’m sure my browser would report hundreds. From silly, offensive and often times, clever YouTube comments, to endless Yelp reviews on places I’d never visit or eat, the information and time wasted is incalculable, but most frightening, irretrievable. When I paused things for a bit, I started to think and react to how the Yelp reviews behaved next to some of the other documents I had copied and pasted into an ongoing Word Document. After a while, I began to ask myself: What does this mean? What does this reveal?

Can you discuss the significance of the + poem?

The first time the + [crucifix] graphic in THE XOCO LETTERS is introduced is immediately following the Imperial Valley Press article by Silvio J. Panta entitled “Undocumented Buried in Holtville Cemetery.” As reported in the article, a section of the Terrace Park Cemetery in Holtville, California is designated for John and Jane Does, or unidentified people who died in the desert. As expected, a large percentage of those buried in this section (in the back) are undocumented migrants who could not be identified and therefore could never be returned to their families. I’ve been to this cemetery, and it’s overwhelming. Small wooden crucifixes have now been placed next to the original small rectangular concrete slabs that are neatly lined up to indicate that people have been buried there. The Border Angels is an organization that has provided these crucifixes; unfortunately, due to the continued deaths in the desert, they must continue to do so.


Manuel Paul López is a CantoMundo fellow. He is the author of Death of a Mexican and other Poems and The Yearning Feed. He currently lives in San Diego, California with his wife.


Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Cadillac Men published by New York Quarterly Books in 2012. Falling Forward published by sunnyoutside press in 2009, The Map of Our Garden published by Verve Bath Press, Dream Big, Work Harder in 2006 and the postcard poem “Logic.”. Her first chap-book The Tear Duct of the Storm was published by Green Bean Press in 2001. She earned degrees from SUNY New Paltz and San Francisco State University. She lives, teaches, and writes in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can find out more at RebeccaSchumejda.com.



Poetry Matters with Rebecca Schumejda & April Michelle Bratten

First Kiss

Sloppily, immaturely,
in front of a pristine mirror
in the men’s bathroom of my Baptist church,
I let that froggy-boy kiss me.

I remember the subtle
look of bewilderment in my eyes
as I clutched the wet sink
and allowed him to dive at me
with tongue and springy eye.

He did it without grace,
without the dented smell
of a flower in my pocket.

As he groped the front of my jeans,
I thought about that summer
Hurricane Hugo destroyed my family’s
townhouse in Charleston.

We had to drag our belongings
through the grass and mud
to a new place,
smaller, ruder,
and somehow considerably more unstable.



It Broke Anyway
by April Michelle Bratten

This piece, presuming you are the narrator, is obviously a distant memory. Can you discuss how the piece came to fruition? What sparked the memory?

The majority of the poems that I wrote between 2009 and 2012 were memory poems, many of which ended up in It Broke Anyway. I visited with an old high school friend during this time who was interested in what I had been writing about. When I told him that my focus was mostly on my early adulthood and childhood memories, he became very enthusiastic. He wanted to know which of our middle and high school adventures made it into my writing. The truth was that none of them had. I skipped over that entire period of my life. He told me I was crazy for ignoring an integral part of my life, a time mixed with religious confusion, burgeoning sexuality, rebellion, and self-discovery. The complexity of this time might have been why I waited to write about it for so long. I wrote this poem, “First Kiss”, and a handful of others concerning that time, a few days after that conversation. The memories invaded me and simply would not leave me alone until I wrote about them. So, thanks, Josh Carlson, for challenging me to write about something I had been avoiding!

Can you talk about the juxtaposition with hurricane Hugo and how this came into the piece and the connection between the two events?

Hugo was the second hurricane I experienced, and I was only seven years old when it hit Charleston. It was also the second hurricane that forced my family to relocate. After Hugo, our home was not suitable to live in. We moved to another townhouse in the same neighborhood, in walking distance from our old home. We carried our things and walked to the new place. I remember feeling powerless and confused. I remember how everything was still wet, and how it smelled. It was a scary time for a seven year old, but I had to accept the change, adapt, and move on.

My first kiss happened in the 10th grade, at church. My beliefs about religion were still young and formulating. Mentally, I was stuck between wanting to accept what my friends and family believed, and what I actually believed. The kiss was no fun. The boy had no clue what he was doing, and it was very unpleasant, more so for me than him, I expect. It was a situation that I thought I wanted to happen, but when it began, I quickly realized it was not what I wanted at all. I found myself once again feeling powerless and confused.

Like Hugo, the kiss altered me in ways that I did not understand. It made me grasp for answers to questions I did not understand. It forced me to grow up a little bit more, and made me realize my experiences in life were going to be completely different from what I was expecting.


Can you discuss how location, setting, plays a role in this work and your current work?

In order for me to feel I have successfully written a poem, the atmosphere I create within the piece has to be spot on. Location and setting do not have to be named specifically, but their elements, and the feelings they impart, must come to life. In a lot of my writing, I do tend to specifically state where the poem is taking place, if not by name, then by description. Memory poems in particular, for me, are a tribute to places I have been. Those places helped shape me, and labeling those places, and using those places specifically, makes the memory more vivid, actual. I have lived in many places across the southern United States. I lived overseas for a spell, and now I am in North Dakota. My current focus involves zeroing in on and celebrating the uniqueness of these places.


April Michelle Bratten is a writer currently living in Minot, North Dakota. Her work has been published widely in both print and online journals. A few of her credits include Southeast Review, The Waterhouse Review, The Blue Hour Magazine, Beat the Dust, Thrush Poetry Journal, Santa Fe Literary Review, and The Fat City Review, among others. April received her BA degree in English from Minot State University and she is one of the founding and managing editors for Up The Staircase Quarterly, a literary journal online. Her chapbook, Raw Dogs and Other Metaphors, was released in 2012 from Maverick Duck Press.


Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Cadillac Men published by New York Quarterly Books in 2012. Falling Forward published by sunnyoutside press in 2009, The Map of Our Garden published by Verve Bath Press, Dream Big, Work Harder in 2006 and the postcard poem “Logic.”. Her first chap-book The Tear Duct of the Storm was published by Green Bean Press in 2001. She earned degrees from SUNY New Paltz and San Francisco State University. She lives, teaches, and writes in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can find out more at RebeccaSchumejda.com.



Poetry Matters with Rebecca Schumejda & Frank Reardon

THE MORTAL KIDS

michael lived
around the corner
from me
when he hung
himself.

it was said
that his girlfriend
dumped him,
so he went
into his
basement,
grabbed
a rope & bucket,
& jumped.

people said
his mother found him,
& she dropped
the 12 piece
bucket of chicken
she had bought
for dinner
by his feet.

she grabbed
his legs
& tried to push
him up,
trying to save his
already dead life.

they said
his fingers were broken
because when he dropped
he had changed
his mind,
putting his fingers
into the rope,
each one
snapping like
a twig
from the weight
of his swinging
body.

a lot of people
were at the funeral.
teachers who
did not teach him
& did not
know him
had a lot to say
about him,
girls & boys
who hated him
were holding
one another
& crying.

shannon & i
sat in the back
of Saint Teresa’s.
we did not say much
or do much.
we really did
not know him.

we got up & left
half way through
the funeral,
& we cut through
the woods in our
funeral clothes,
saying nothing
to one another.

& when we arrived
at shannon’s house,
we took our clothes off
& lost our virginity.

no words were ever said
between us
as we both sat there, naked.

feeling like a couple
of mortals
for the first time
was more
than enough.


“The Mortal Kids” seems to be a narrative reflection; can you discuss what triggered you to write about a childhood memory? What is gained, if anything, from this process of reflecting in regards to the work?

To be honest the poem is about when I lost my virginity. The girl I dated way back when “friended” me in the social networking world and then it just hit me, it all come back to me, I had not thought about it in ages. The kid in the poem, Michael, lived at the end of my street when I was 16. Having lived in a small town, his suicide is all everyone talked about for weeks. It was strange to think about it after all these years, but it also had a calming effect upon me too. What was gained from it was a perspective of how I was as a teenager. I was able to bring my younger self into the older self. How I thought then, how alive and innocent I was, the whole act at the end, the last two stanzas, happened just as I wrote them. All the frustration of seeing death for the first time depressed us both. The only thing we could do was have sex for the first time, it was the only thing that could ‘trump’ the situation at hand. I recall neither of us speaking to one another, we just did what we could do to forget what it felt like being mortals for the first time. Reflecting on it now it seems rather ridiculous, considering I have seen death numerous times, but I see our actions as pretty brave back then. It was my only way out, for both of us, at the time.

In this piece death/life are juxtaposed, Michael’s suicide with the narrator’s loss of virginity. This is a powerful parallel. Can you discuss the parallel?

The parallel/juxtaposition was not intentional; it was how it happened. I remember when we left the church we cut through the woods to Shannon’s house, she was in a dress and I was in a shirt and tie. I remember branches hitting us, dress shoes getting stuck in the mud. We were in a huge hurry to get to her house, and not for the sex; we had no idea that was going to happen. We were running from death itself without even knowing we were doing so. Everything was so real for the first time in our short lives. I am not even sure we knew what we were doing. We ditched the ride back home and opted to walk, we could have even walked on the sidewalk, but we took the difficult route home. When we got to her house I remember just sitting in her living room not saying a word, at the time it just seemed like hanging out. When you are younger and losing your virginity is supposed to be this massive happening, it’s supposed to be one of the highlights of your high school years. I cannot remember what we said to one another, I don’t think it was important, but what I remember is that we just took our clothes off and let it happen. It was life happening, being 16 it was probably the greatest bit of life I had experienced up to that moment, especially after death knocked on our door for the first time.



Your new book, Nirvana Haymaker, Neopoiesis Press, is your second collection. Can you discuss the collection as a whole and one or two accomplishments that you made in the collection?

Well, the book went through so many changes. I remember at first it was a lot like my first book, which I am not overly proud of. I was going through a stream of consciousness phase and Nirvana Haymaker, at first, was just another one of those books. Whenever I am putting together a book I am also writing other new poems. Nirvana Haymaker, as you know it now, came from those other poems. I am proud of this collection because it’s the first time I was able to stretch my legs and try new and different things. Being locked away in North Dakota without much vice I was able to really look into myself and just write. The title of the book, for me, has a lot to do with facing the past as a fighter, but more so of the mind. I was a massive drunk and drug abuser for a long time. I hurt a lot of people and did some crazy shit because I refused to face those problems. I suppose writing Nirvana Haymaker helped me face a few of those problems head on. It was not easy writing. I was seeing a shrink, I was going bat-shit crazy because I had some of these poems locked up inside of me for 20 or more years. I typically don’t follow a set theme for a book, such as ‘Frank Reardon’s Boston poems’, but the book did keep with the same feel and the same time.

Some of it was horrible, while some of it was just joy. I never understood how people could find “enlightenment” in a moment’s time, for me it has always taken years; there was always some sort of fight or battle going on to get to a moment of clarity. I could write a hundred more books, maybe even win awards one day, but none of them will be as special to me as Nirvana Haymaker was and is. Writing the book saved me mentally, it showed me I was more than the bullshit lies I was shoveling onto people. It showed me I can do this sort of stuff for the rest of my life and be proud of it. I know the book wont win awards or gain anything beyond what it is, I have a long way to go as a writer, hell we all do, though writing this book and overcoming was and is a huge accomplishment for me. The new book coming in the fall was so much easier for me to write. A lot of the book contains peaceful observational poems, which I was never able to do before. Some are about the past like dealing with divorce. If I never wrote this book, I would not have been able to face and write about divorce or my daughter. I would have just kept it in and let it sour inside. The ease I am feeling with writing now, the joy I have when writing, the joy I get helping other writers who have just started out, is all due to writing this collection. I cannot ask for a bigger accomplishment than that.


Frank Reardon was born in 1974 in Boston, Massachusetts and spent his first 28 years living there. Since then, he has lived all over the country, in places such as Alabama, Kansas City and Rhode Island. He currently lives in the Badlands of North Dakota while still looking for a way to get out. Frank has been published in various reviews, journals and online zines. His first book, Interstate Chokehold, was published by NeoPoiesis Press in 2009 as well as his second collection of poetry Nirvana Haymaker 2012. Frank has completed his third poetry collection Blood Music and it is due out late summer from Punk Hostage Press.


Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Cadillac Men published by New York Quarterly Books in 2012. Falling Forward published by sunnyoutside press in 2009, The Map of Our Garden published by Verve Bath Press, Dream Big, Work Harder in 2006 and the postcard poem “Logic.”. Her first chap-book The Tear Duct of the Storm was published by Green Bean Press in 2001. She earned degrees from SUNY New Paltz and San Francisco State University. She lives, teaches, and writes in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can find out more at RebeccaSchumejda.com.



Poetry Matters with Rebecca Schumejda & Hosho McCreesh

In his new collection A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst, published by Artistically Declined Press, Hosho McCreesh deviates from his earlier conventions and delivers an unputdownable coming of age poetic memoir. On the surface, drinking seems to be at the emphasis of this collection, but as you ingest the work, you will find there are deeper philosophical meanings to thirst, a yearning that goes beyond the bottle. McCreesh starts on a facetious note, which is unusual, as the tone of his earlier work is overwhelmingly solemn. Although, McCreesh “maintains that [his] earlier work is “solemnly hopeful!”


In the first poem, the narrator and a friend are at a loss when they run out of alcohol and resort to drinking a bottle they find in the garage:

“Good christ, it’s awful,”
you say, passing the bottle
to your buddy.

He takes a hero-pull
then growls out of it,
and slams the bottle
down on the table.

You both nip at it awhile
as your younger brother
stares at you,
smiling,

And when the bottle’s
half gone, you say, “I
can’t do it man.
I’m not drinking
another drop of
that poison.

McCreesh captures a relate-able desperation in this piece then follows it up with an anecdotal twist when a month later his brother asks him if he remembers when he drank a bottle of his mother’s artisan vinegar. Then he recalls, “pulling mustard and dill seeds,/and maybe a long strand/of celery string/” from his mouth. When asked why he didn’t stop them, his brother confesses that he thought that they looked like they knew what they were doing.

Another distinct deviation in style is how McCreesh uses second person narrative, strategically thrusting the reader into the action. Often second person is difficult to pull off, but McCreesh is able to write from this point of view in a seemingly effortless manner. This first sip demonstrates how this collection has more breadth than a bunch of poems about getting wasted. I took the opportunity to ask McCreesh a few questions:

I feel that this collection is far more complex than a bunch of kids drinking and getting into trouble. Do you think running the full gamut of experiences made this book have many layers?

It had to be if it stood any chance of mattering. Every 13 seconds someone comes along claiming to be “the next Bukowski” because they’ve written a little chaplette about drinking and getting into trouble. Someday we’ll figure out that there’s much more to the man than the world seems to give him credit for. There are a million different things drinking can be, and can mean. This was everything I could think of it meaning to me. I’m no world-class drunk — nor do I want to be– but I’m no slouch either. It’s a kind of biography (and autobiography) by booze. And precious little one-note poems bragging up their idiotic drunkenness would’ve been death for a book like this. So I’m glad you see complexity here. I do too. Humans are both fascinating and infuriating…who else works so diligently toward their own demise? That amuses and horrifies me. Drinking is like installing a dictator in an oil-rich country somewhere: sometimes it works out, other times not so much. And if you’re talking about drinking, you gotta tell the whole story.


If you are familiar with his earlier work, you may be surprised how organically McCreesh takes on this narrative style. This ease is evident in a piece where McCreesh writes about coming to the defense of his brother, who got hit in the face by a coworker:

And you’re getting ready to charge him,
when the manager, a nice older lady,
gets in between you and says,
“Sir, you can’t be back here…
it’s for employees only…”

“Well hell¨C“ you say, “get me an application!”

Recalling our stories and writing about them from an older, “wiser”, perspective poses challenges, and taking on a more narrative style is a risk, so I asked McCreesh about his process:

These pieces are written from the perspective of a young narrator coming of age, can you discuss the process of writing this collection as an “adult”?

I don’t know if it’s the years so much as the mileage. Writing them now, as opposed to when I was younger, probably just means I’m a little better at getting out of my own damn way. It’s a terrible thing — thinking that just because something happened to us, that means it is interesting. And that’s the curse of bad writing — at any age. I think the first drafts tend to come out better when you’ve been writing for a long time. Doesn’t mean they’re any good yet, just that they start off better, and there’s often less work to do on them to get them shaped up. But a blank page will always be a blank page…a place filled with both terrifying potential and no easy answers. It ain’t no trip to Cleveland.

The pieces in A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst are more narrative than your earlier work. Can you talk about this shift?

I know that, as a collection, it’s gonna feel like a seismic shift from my past work…but I honestly can only guess as to why. I published my first “funny” poem a few years ago — a byproduct of a conversation with justin.barrett. He asked me why I’d never written funny poems. Frankly, I didn’t have an answer for him. I guess it just never occurred to me. To me, poems were something else — more of a battle-cry than a giggle. Justin, of course, had a much more wry and clever approach to poetry — so I owe a lot of this shift to our conversation. The rest was born of my personal life. For the first time in my life I truly understood what Henry Miller meant when he said “I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.” Call it a just-don’t-give-a-fuck aesthetic. And so began the Henry Miller years.  And so began the dancing on filthy corpses, so began joy as the only excuse, and love as the only aim. Anytime you’re worried about something, remember this: someday the sun will devour everything we have ever done or made — save the 3 or 4 pieces of space-junk we’ve blasted beyond our solar system. That is terrifying, sure, but also very liberating! We have no business worrying, and judging, and hating, and ravaging our way across this planet, or each other…we are but a Pale Blue Dot, in a warm little cast of cosmic dust…and, honestly, it doesn’t fucking matter. None of it. We were made for two things: love and creation. The rest is white noise, it’s too many people trapped in their concepts and mythologies. Love your people. Do what you love. “Everything’s gonna be fine…even if it’s not.”


“Everything’s gonna be fine…even if it’s not.” resonates throughout the collection in McCreesh’s quirky humor. As seen on page here:

At a late-night hot dog cart,
and a pretty girl,
drunk and ravenous,
asks, “You wanna
bite of my hot dog?”

But before you can answer
your buddy says,
“You know what’s
in that don’t you?
Lips and hooves!”
and she doesn’t think
it’s nearly as
funny as
you
do.

By now, you’ve noticed that titles have not been quoted, that is because the collection contains no titles. The lack of titles is also a major change for McCreesh, who is infamous for titles that are at times longer than the actual poem. This in conjunction with his non-linear approach in ordering the pieces create the effect of a long and crazy drinking binge. Titles often make you stop and consider the message that the author intends the reader to receive, by eliminating them, McCreesh gives less direction, allowing you to interpret meaning for yourself. I asked McCreesh about his decision to go title-less and about the process of organization:

None of the pieces are titled, which is quite a departure from some of your earlier work (especially where some of your titles are as long as the poems) Can you talk about this decision?

Yep — no titles from “the title guy.” Almost all my artistic giants utterly refused to stay in one place, refused to stop pushing themselves — it’s a quality I deeply admire. It’s easy to rest, it’s easy to do what’s worked in the past. Maybe I’m done with long titles, maybe not — I suppose time will tell. To me, the answers are in the work itself. And at no point did I ever feel like titles would add anything to this book. It made keeping track of the poems tricky business, for sure, but nothing — not the first line, or even the first few lines, not some memorable phrase — nothing felt like it could stand a title, and nothing felt like it needed one. So instead of wrenching up the entire natural feel of the work by imposing something on each piece — I just said to hell with it…no titles and just wrote.

Did the pieces ever have titles?

To keep them straight, so they could be edited and eventually ordered, I used numbers…but I never intended to keep them. I did know I needed a way to re-find poems…and, after months of worrying about it, I posted an ad at The American Society of Indexers. They were awesome — and I immediately had an army of talented folks to pick from. I settled on a great guy named John Barkwell, who was so excited by the book and had so many ideas, that I knew he was the right guy for the job! Poetry is rarely indexed, so that combined with the source material made for an interesting project. The book will be indexed by specific drinks, locations, first lines, and other memorable details and phrases — so that the reader will hopefully be able to say “I want to read the vinegar poem again” and immediately be able to find it. I think it’s that final piece of the puzzle, one that will make this book a scream from start to finish. And that idea never would’ve happened if I’d slapped some titles atop each poem because “the title guy” was supposed to…so I’m glad I didn’t try to force it. I’m really pleased at how it’s all worked out. See what I mean?– better at getting out of my own way!

How did you go about ordering the pieces?

Like the kick-ass film this book should be! It’s a kind of spiritual order, if anything. The imposition of an external chronology didn’t feel right — but, if we’re learning things as we grow and age, then a chronology does exist. Basically we start as rubes, and eventually we begin to know better…start figuring out how to avoid similar mistakes. But booze, like anything, is just a vehicle — a way to know more about who you are, and how you fit in the world. It’s a way to find your limits, and push through them. Sometimes. Other times it’s just a drunken, idiotic punch-up. You just never know! Anyhow, a spiritual journey was the only way I could see to really tell these stories, and then piece them together into a much bigger yarn.

When you ordered the pieces, how deliberate were you? Did you labor over the decisions?

Very deliberate. It wasn’t a painful process, but it was a very specific one. Early readers helped me with the poem order after we’d talked about the very specific vision for the book (msm, & T especially). Spiritually, life is one long discovery…and that’s the only real narrative to be found in our experience — the only order that made any sense…even though it’s one we all make after the fact. Like Buddha, it’s a liquid kind of knowledge — changing as it absorbs more, lets go of its own outdated concepts in favor of the present. It’s like the scene in the film High Fidelity when Cusack says he’s gonna reorganize his record collection “by biography.” We’re lost, all of us, and only the bright ones really admit it. And the moment we stop discovering, the moment we stop asking questions, stop being curious about ourselves and each other — we die. If not physically, then emotionally and spiritually. That’s a compelling human story right there! I cannot stand people who think they aren’t lost…think they have all the answers, people who refuse to revisit the bullshit they think they “know.” No one deludes us better than ourselves — because we know all the best tricks, know how best to bamboozle ourselves. And people who don’t appreciate that are exhausting. There are things we “learn” based on “the shifting phantasmagoria that unfolds before us” — but to assume that any of them are “true,” and will always be true is one of life’s cruelest, dumbest jokes. Judging the world based on our experience is simply our best guess…it’s what we’ve got…sure. But it’s ridiculous to believe that it’s anything more than a card trick we pull on ourselves, then intentionally forget how we did it. This is the essence of a spiritual journey, and this is how and why these poems were ordered — to chronicle one.

I felt like the pieces, ending then beginning created a feeling of one long drunk night….was this intentional?

Absolutely. If you didn’t come to drink, get drunk, and maybe fall off your bar stool — you picked up the wrong book! I wanted them to run together as one long mosaic — as so many of those nights tend to eat their own tails and fold back in on themselves! We’ll likely stick a tiny glyph at the end of each individual poem to help signal the reader, and keep drastic changes in location from poem to poem from being confusing…but otherwise, it’s not strictly a point A to point B narrative that Cronkite could report.

I also liked how sometimes it took a second to gain your footing in a piece, because of the shifts, was this also intentional?

I definitely wanted the order of the pieces to keep the reader off balance. Like a bar in Mexicali where they pour tequila in your mouth then shake your head, it should feel dazed, and confused at times. No one should know what’s coming next — not even me — that’s the whole fun of the damn thing! I wanted the reader to be jostled around: New Orleans, Switzerland, Albuquerque, Nogales, Japan, Cannes, Edinburgh, Pensacola, Juarez… For years I was able to live like a “jet-setting vagabond” so that all felt like a natural way to write: fast and lose, who knows what’s next, any and every drunk story I could remember — all of it part of one long story.


In the midst of drunken lunacy, life goes on, and life ends. One counterpoint to the comedic moments is when the narrator discovers that one of his best friends died via a phone call from another friend looking for contact information:

And your buddy
needed to know
if you had any
contact information
for his parents,
the cops needed it
they needed to
notify them.

And you couldn’t do it.

You just couldn’t do it.

You couldn’t search
through the address book,
or the goddamned phone book,
you couldn’t remember
their names, or the
streets the parents
lived on,
and you were
on your knee,
and your brain
was still screaming
no no no no no
no no no no
no no no
no no
no,
and you had to
tell your buddy
you’d call him
back.

McCreesh’s ability to skillfully interject sobering moments, like this one, into the collection adds depth, proving he is not simply writing poems about being drunk. He is writing about life and how at times our thirsts are ravenous. We want to be able to escape the sadness that settles to the bottom of our glasses, even though we know that this is an impossibility. I asked McCreesh about his decision to start the collection with humor and end with a picturesque moment:

You are able to capture a great mix of drunken moments, some that are hilarious, some that desperate. Can you talk about your decision to start the book in a humorous way, the vinegar poem, and to end it as an “adult”? Why did you do this?

Well, first and foremost, things have to be fun…otherwise we won’t do them. From seeing movies to cooking to exercising to having sex — we basically do what we want, as much as we can, for as long as we want to. As it should be. And drinking is a lot of fun. Always has been, for me. I wish America was more like Ireland. I wish the way we knew each other was through an afternoon pint, and little music, some fumbling, drunken kisses, and some laughter. It’s not without its drawbacks, of course, but booze is — at it’s best — something really fun. And so these poems had to know that, reflect that accurately. And, for me at least, part of the fun is how it can turn on you: an afternoon can go sideways on you, and the next thing you know, you’re mixed up in a real jackpot…trying to figure out how the hell you got there. More so when we’re young — but truly, it’s the kind of thing that cannot be completely owned or controlled or outwitted. Sometimes that fucking scorpion stings you — it has to, its in its nature. Drinking, like poetry, should delight and surprise you! Sometimes it will be sublime; sometimes it will be awful. Just like life.


McCreesh absolutely captures “just like life” in this propulsive work. In addition to a great piece of literature, McCreesh, is also an incredible artist. You can buy shirts, sweatshirts and other merchandize with his artwork here. I asked him about his art.

Can you discuss your process as an artist and how it impacts you as a poet?

I suppose I paint the same way I write in that I do it when I am motivated to do it, I don’t force too much, and I paint what I feel like painting. Sometimes it’s huge flowers on a big canvas; other times it’s watercolors of one of my artistic or spiritual heroes. I’ve been commissioned a few times, but even then I try not to force it, and don’t paint the pieces until I “see” them — which probably frustrates some would-be art owners! But I want it to be a genuine expression from me, not some blank, unholy product. I want to be invested in the pieces and give the projects my best. So, apologies to everyone who is waiting for pieces…I promise you I’ll finish them someday! As for how that impacts my writing, I guess I’m the same: it’s not written until it’s written, and it’s not done ’til it’s done. Like many writers, I rushed to get early work out — I was ambitious and impatient. Looking back at some of it — it’s embarrassing. But it’s my truth, it was genuine, and it was as well as I could do at the time…so I won’t go back and change it much — like some trickster archeologist trying to rewrite history with a new Holy Grail. Being free to do your work without rules or restrictions is about as good as it gets. As soon as it is commodified, and other people have some sort of stake in what you’re doing — it gets complicated, and, in extreme cases, compromised. That alone is a tremendous reason to give up on ambition.


Artwork has also been a pivotal component of the promotion of this book. The DrunkSkull on the cover of the collection, which was created by Ryan Bradley at Artistically Declined Press, has been adopted by McCreesh as his logo. You can purchase merchandise bearing the logo, like shirts, necklaces and earrings can be purchased here, here and here. This type of innovative marketing in the poetry world is refreshing to see.


You can check out his worldwide promotion on Facebook here & on Tumblr here.

Needless to say, McCreesh is extremely prolific. I asked him about upcoming projects and his new collection co-authored with Christopher Cunningham that is due out from Bottle of Smoke later this fall.

What are you working on now?

For the last few years, I’ve been working on longer fiction: a book of short stories (a few are available on smashwords); and 4 different novellas. I have one more poetry manuscript basically put together — but haven’t tried placing it. Who knows when any of them will be done — but I’m enjoying the process, and the work. It’s amazing how much goes in to a longer piece. Even this book of drunk poems, as Bukowski-fat as it is, was originally done in a burst. Poems are like that — they are hard, tight diamonds reflecting facets. In longer fiction subtly reigns…so there’s lots to consider. But I love all of it. Jezus, I love writing.

Can you talk a little about the letters that Bill, from Bottle of Smoke, will be releasing?

The forthcoming BoSP book is actually poems and paintings — all of which were born from the book of letters Cunningham & I had printed by Orange Alert Press —  a companion book, we’ll say. Chris and I plucked lines from each others’ letters — and each wrote poems using the lines as titles. These poems were included on the “double-sided manuscript broadsides” that came with all the hardcover copies of the book. I typed my poems on one side of some nice laid cardstock, signed them, then mailed them to Chris — and he typed and signed his poems on the other side. Until now, that was the only place you could read any of those poems — if you owned one of the 26 lettered hardbacks of the book of letters. The paintings were done for the “presentation clamshell” copies — given to all the principles involved. So Chris and I both did seven paintings, and each clamshell got one from each of us. Collecting the poems and the paintings is a great way to bring that entire project full-circle.


A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst is a must read and will be available from Artistically Declined Press and his poems and paintings book with Christopher Cunningham will be available from Bottle of Smoke Press. You can find more about Hosho McCreesh at HoshoMcCreesh.com.


Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Cadillac Men published by New York Quarterly Books in 2012. Falling Forward published by sunnyoutside press in 2009, The Map of Our Garden published by Verve Bath Press, Dream Big, Work Harder in 2006 and the postcard poem “Logic.”. Her first chap-book The Tear Duct of the Storm was published by Green Bean Press in 2001. She earned degrees from SUNY New Paltz and San Francisco State University. She lives, teaches, and writes in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can find out more at RebeccaSchumejda.com.