Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Jason Baldinger is a poet hailing from Pittsburgh and recently finished a stint as writer in residence at the Osage Arts Community. He is co-director of The Bridge Series reading series, the author of several books, the most recent are This Useless Beauty (Alien Buddha Press), The Ugly Side of the Lake (Night Ballet Press) written with John Dorsey and the chaplet Fumbles Revelations (Grackle and Crow) which are available now. The collection Fragments of a Rainy Season (Six Gallery Press) and the split book with James Benger Little Fires Hiding (Spartan Press) are forthcoming. Recent publications include the Low Ghost Anthology Unconditional Surrender, The Dope Fiend Daily, Outlaw Poetry, Uppagus, Lilliput Review, Rusty Truck, Dirtbag Review, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Winedrunk Sidewalk, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nerve Cowboy Concrete Meat Press, Zombie Logic Press, Ramingo’s Porch, Rye Whiskey Review, Red Fez, Mad Swirl, Blue Hour Review and Heartland! Poetry of Love, Solidarity and Resistance. You can hear Jason read poems on recent and forthcoming releases by Theremonster and Sub Pop Recording artist The Gotobeds as well as at jasonbaldinger.bandcamp.com
1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry
It was high school for me. I believe sophomore year we had a very short couple week poetry module. I can’t remember what we read, but we were also assigned to write poems as well. I really liked writing, and writing poems came naturally, although at the time the poems I wrote were terrible.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I really don’t remember what we read in high school, except maybe Emily Dickinson and Bryant’s Thanatopsis and I didn’t follow up, even though I kept writing, with other poets until after high school. It was then that I found the Beats and Bukowski which was most of what I would read for years except for Whitman
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Really very little, I stopped writing in my 20’s and when I got back to it I didn’t write poems. I started song writing in my later 20’s, which is what led a friend to force me to do my first reading. That was 10 years ago, I’ve been doing a lot of filling in the gaps since.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I honestly don’t have one. If I’m un or underemployed I’ll take the day to do what needs to be done and around four pm I’ll get to work on editing or writing or whatever project I may have in mind. Most of the time, and with technology this is easy, if an idea starts I’ll use my voice recorder on my phone to start fleshing out the idea. Also, using notes or memorizing a line or a skeleton of the form until I can get somewhere where I can start to put the idea on paper.
5. What motivates you to write?
I write a lot of real life, a lot of road poems, a lot about what I see around me. I really can’t explain what it is that catches my brain but when something really tugs at my brain it feels like a tape recorder clicks on in my head.
6. What is your work ethic?
I’m not sure if there’s anyway to answer this than to say I work hard. Between writing, editing, submitting, working on manuscripts, reading and co directing a reading series you could say my schedule is nearly constantly full
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I’m still writing road poems but hate comparisons to Kerouac. I still write poems about alcohol and drugs but hate Bukowski comparisons. I’m cool with Brautigan and Whitman comparisons. realistically the style in which you write should be your own, I never wanted to emulate any writer particularly. As a reader though, what you read be it history, poetry, genre fiction et all will probably bubble up or get a nod in what and how you write
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Over the last couple years of traveling I’ve gotten to meet so many great writers who are happy making their art and doing what that do because its what makes them happy. I think that’s the right idea, ain’t none of us getting the standard rich and famous contracts out of this. Of that crew of writers I can shout out locally its people like Dave Newman, Lori Jakiela, Scott Silsbe, Bob Pajich, Jason Irwin, Kris Collins who all have all of what Pittsburgh is coming out of them in droves. I love Don Wentworth’s beautiful Hiaku’s and now his expanded Ghazals. John Grochalski and Ally Malinenko are both writing killer poems about the state of America under trump and running the fantastic blog Winedrunk Sidewalk. Missouri and Kansas writer like John Dorsey (a pgh ex-pat) James Benger (who I co authored a forthcoming book called “Little Fires Hiding” with) Jason Ryberg, Victor Clevenger, Shawn Pavey and Jeanette Powers. I haven’t even shouted out Matt and Mark Borczon and Sean Doughtery who write killer real poetry out of Erie. Damian Rucci and I met in Kansas City and its been amazing to watch how his writing grows. John Patrick Robbins is another guy who killing it and running the great blog the Rye Whiskey Review There are so many beautiful writers out there and I could talk about, and sorry to the ones I haven’t mentioned. Safe to say, the state of underground poetry in America is in really good hands.
9. Why do you write?
I think of it as social history at this point. Not to say my life is that interesting or revelatory, but never has there been so many people without means writing, publishing and documenting what’s happening around them. If any of this survives into the future there will be a really good view of what people lives were like and maybe that helps humans (if they last) better rationalize their experience. Then again, maybe not and all I’m doing is trying to remember or satisfy my own damn ego. Dealers choice
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Happy accidents, good drugs and penchant for self-destruction. I honestly don’t know. I’ll go with the Erie Poet Ron Androla’s advice “Live the Poem!”
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Currently working on the final edits of a split book with James Benger called “Little Fires Hiding” which will be released in the next couple months on Kung Fu Treachery Press. After that I should be getting started on formatting “Fragments of the Rainy Season” which will be coming out on 6 Gallery Press here in Pittsburgh. It’s been a crazy couple months of book publishing so who knows where it goes from there.