Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jake St. John

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers 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.

JSJ Book[119348]

Jake St. John

writes out of New London, CT and is the author of several collections of poetry including Workingman’s Odyssey (Analog Submission Press, 2018), In All The Cities The Same Faces (CWP Collective, 2017) and Rotations (Night Ballet Press 2015). His poems have appeared in print and online journals around the world. He can be found wandering the streets of Coyote Territory in SoHo, New London.

Book Links:

In All the Cities the Same Faces



Our World Is Spinning with ROTATIONS by Jake St. John!
NightBallet Press is an independent small press, interested in the musicality of language and the originality of expression in poetry, with a commitment to excellence.

The Interview

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I was writing song lyrics all the way back in high school.  There was a group of us that would write down lyrics together.  As I got older, Jim Morrison’s lyrics and poetry really grabbed me.  Bob Dylan too.  It all kind of started in college when I spent the day out in the woods reading a Morrison biography.  There were references to On The Road and so I went down to the used bookstore and grabbed a copy.  That’s how I found Kerouac, through Jim Morrison. From there it was all the Beats.  Kerouac, Snyder, Baraka.  I was reading everything I could get my hands on.  I loved the way Kerouac wrote.  I’d never seen anything like it.  All these poets and writers opened my eyes wide.  I started to really see the world.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I kind of found it on my own.  I got turned on to The Doors when I was pretty young.  Watching the Lost Boys movie, which featured a Doors cover of Riders On The Storm.  That pushed me toward The Doors and I discovered Jim Morrison.  Morrison’s words and poetry was something I was drawn to.  It was different, he was different.  Like I said, Jim’s words introduced me to Jack’s words which brought me down the highway.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I wasn’t really aware of the poetry world until I met Tom Weigel in New London back in 2004.  We met at a Sunday afternoon reading in the winter.  Tom became my mentor and my friend.  He put books of poetry in my hands at the right time.  He turned me on to Ted Berrigan, Pete Spence, Tom Clark, Bob Kaufman.  Tom introduced to me to Joel Daily in New Orleans and Dick Martin in Boston, Through Tom, I met John Landry, who has stayed a friend and mentor still.  Once I met Tom I was introduced to this world of poetry and poets that just keeps growing.  When it comes to older poets, Tom was the single greatest presence in relation to my poetry.  He pointed me in the right directions.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I try to write a few lines every day.  It’s tough some days to get real work completed. I have two kids, a family.  I might get 3 lines down one night and the next I might get 3 poems finished.  I try to use the time I have appropriately and make the most of it when I get it.  If I’m unable to write, then I read.

5. What motivates you to write?

My motivation is getting the voices that are reciting poetry in my head to stop.  There’s a poetry reading that happens at any time.  Out of the blue.  Driving down the highway, mowing the lawn, taking a walk.  They just start.  They’re recited over and over in my head until I can get them on paper.  I write them as I hear them then I go to work editing and revising until the image is what I hear in my head.  With each poem I feel like I’ve learned something, discovered something new, connected in some way.

6. What is your work ethic?

I try to do something poetry related every day, even if that means reading a book.  When I get stuck and I’m not hearing the words, I’ll grab a book of poems and start reading and soon that poetry reading in my head starts and the words are bouncing around.  Tom Weigel always told me, “If you want to WRITE good poetry you need to READ good poetry.”  That’s the best advice that I’ve ever received when it comes to poetry. I just finished reading John D. Robinson’s new book Echoes Of Diablo (Concrete Meant Press, 2018).  That’s a book everyone should read.  It just tore me up.  Every poem, perfect.  Really moved me.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I still go back to all the writers of my youth.  I’m always grabbing a Kerouac book or Gary Snyder.  Kerouac’s Dharma Bums puts me in a different world. Makes me want to get back into the woods.  Snyder’s RipRap & the Cold Mountain Poems makes me want to get back into the mountains. I never go anywhere without a book by AD Winans.  I got a copy of his North Beach Poems Revisited years back and it just changed the way I saw poetry.  Winans wrote the kind of poetry I had been looking for.  From Winans I found out about Jack Micheline. I reread Great Gatsby often.  I was in my thirties when I really discovered Bukowski.  I stayed away for years (Tom’s advice) until I was pulled in and just fell in love with his novels.  I feel like you need to reread your influences every few years and see how they speak to you.  Sometimes it’s the same message and sometimes you discover something new even though you’ve read it multiple times.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

There are so many great writers out there.  Right now I have Adrian Manning, John Greiner, Victor Clevenger, John Dorsey, Todd Cirillo and Ryan Flanagan books in my heavy rotation.  Flanagan is just prolific, it’s tough to keep up with him, he’s always got something new out.  It’s great to see.  Makes me want to write more and more to keep up.  I just really dig how those guys play with language.  There is a familiarity in their works that pull you in and make you feel part of the poem.

9. Why do you write?

I write because I have to.  Like I said before I have to write to get the words out of my head.  They will stay there reciting over and over until I get them on the page.  And when the voices come they come with a whole set.  I end up with 3 or 4 poems at a time when I’m really listening.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I don’t know.  I guess to me, you either are a writer or you’re not.  It’s an innate thing.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I haven’t made any official announcement yet but I have my first full-length poetry collection, Lost City Highway, with the editor now.  I’m real stoked for this book.  It’s about 10-15 years of poetry in one collection. Jon Dambacher for A Jabber Publication is putting it out.  Really captures my time living in New London and travelling America on the back roads.  I’ll be making an official announcement soon.  I’m really looking forward to getting this book out.  Another book I am real proud of is In All The Cities The Same Faces.  CWP Press put that out last year and it’s still available from the publisher.

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