Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jake Berry

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.

final cover

Jake Berry

is a poet, musician and visual artist. The author of Brambu Drezi, Species of Abandoned Light, Drafts of the Sorcery, Genesis Suicide and numerous other books. He has been an active member of the global arts and literary community for more than 30 years. His poems, fiction, essays, reviews and other writings have been published widely in both print and electronic mediums. In 2010, Lavender Ink released a collaborative book, Cyclones in High Northern Latitudes, with poet Jeffrey Side and drawings by Rich Curtis; and Outside Voices: An Email Correspondence (with Jeffrey Side) was released by Otoliths also in that year. Phaneagrams, a collection of short poems, was published by Luna Bisonte in 2017. He regularly records and performs his compositions solo and with the groups Bare Knuckles, The Ascension Brothers and The Strindbergs. Mystery Songs, his tenth solo album, was released in 2016. Ongoing projects include books four and five of Brambu Drezi, a new book of collaborative poems with Jeffrey Side, and a wide range of musical projects.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?
It was so long ago that I’m not sure I can say. I could feel the arts calling, but I didn’t know where to go or if I would be any good at any of them. At age 14 in school several of us started writing verses as a joke. I felt like I had the knack for it so I tried writing something serious. Everyone that read it responded positively. It was just adolescent drivel, but I felt I had connected to something important.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Probably my mother. She used to read poetry to my brothers and myself as we went to sleep. When I was nine I discovered Edgar Allan Poe by way of a school assignment. I was hooked.

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

That depends on what age. At first all I knew about was what was in our literature books and what I could find in the very small library and in the one poetry collection we had at home. By the time I started publishing I had a sense of what was out there, but I hadn’t read most of it. Most of the work that appeared in the major poetry publications seemed to be lacking compared to my favorites like Rimbaud, Whitman, Dickinson, Blake, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, et al. But I quickly met several older poets through the mail that were amazing. People like Jack Foley, Ivan Argüelles, Larry Eigner.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have a time set aside every day to work. You can’t make poetry happen, but you
have to be available for it. When I’m not writing I’m catching up on emails, working on musical projects or revising.

5. What motivates you to write?

Breathing. I’m sorry if that sounds cliché, arrogant or pretentious, but it’s true.

Poetry is a way of being in the world. You live it all the time. Sometimes you’re in tune and all is well. Sometimes you’re out of tune and you have to wait, make adjustments, and find the right harmonics again.

6. What is your work ethic?

Every day except for when we go out with friends visit or those rare occasions when I’m out of town.

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

They are still very much present, but they are so deeply integrated that I don’t think about it. I still read most of them and I’m always finding new favorites.

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

There are so many. I’ve mentioned Jack Foley. We were published on an audio tape together in 1985. For a long time I had been wondering where the successors to the modernists were. I loved the Beats and the Surrealists that were current at the time, but most of them didn’t seem like a natural continuation of modernism which I still feel was the last movement that really shook the ground of poetry. When I heard Jack and his wife Adelle reading I felt like I was hearing what modernism had become. Later, thanks in part to Jack, I discovered Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Charles Olson and many others. Ivan Argüelles has been doing incredible work with lyrical intuitive streams for decades. Hank Lazer has been filing notebooks with fascinating visual poems and meditations. I still love every thing that Michael McClure writes. More recently I’ve read large amounts of Adonis, whose poetry I think is as good as anything ever written. A friend recently introduced me to Mary Oliver. I’d never heard of her despite the fact that she’s one of the most popular poets in the world. Once I started reading her I fell in love with her approach and what can be discovered through her work. Shelia Murphy is one of the finest living poets known to me. I’m currently in the process of reading Wendell Berry at length for the first time. The list is endless.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Because it makes me feel connected to something vast, something far beyond the
individual self. Everyone has a way of making that connection. For me, it’s in the creative moment.

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

It depends on the person and why they are asking the question. Generally, I would say you have to do the obvious, start writing. It doesn’t matter what it is or if it is any good. You have to start the process. You have to put the desire into practice.

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

Two books came out at the end of last year: Trilogy: Kenosis and Nerve Figures.
I am in the process of recording audio and video versions of material from those books to help promote them. I am also writing and recording a series of songs with my
brother, Jeff, under the name Six Mile. I also continue to work on the lifelong
project Brambu Drezi and write various short poems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.