With poetry you can say a lot in very few words but can also say what can’t be said in an everyday conversation. I have noticed that in everyday conversations, people rarely talk about the psychological, the philosophical, or what’s underneath the surface. It’s mostly about the obvious: sports, politics, the latest gossip, and money, always money – how they’ve spent it, how they plan on spending it, what geniuses they are in the accumulation of it. It’s all just such a bore, and you feel yourself dying a little whenever you’re stuck listening to it. Poetry is the great reviver. It’s a cure-all from the dead chatter of your social group, your family, the masses, and it’s my favorite of all art forms. And when it’s going well it can be pure bliss. I get high off it like other people do off jelly doughnuts or bull riding.
Who are you currently reading?
D.H. Lawrence’s Mornings in Mexico. I love D.H. as a poet but love him even more as a travel writer. He just had so much depth and wisdom and was such a great painter with words. Few could bring a scene or landscape to the mind’s eye so vividly, it’s like standing in front of a Van Gogh or a Cezanne when you read him.
What poet(s)/artist(s) have had a major impact on your work?
The first poet was Bukowski. He’s the one who opened the door to poetry for me. Before him, I’d hardly read it, and because of him, I started writing it. Luckily, I realized pretty quickly he’s not someone you imitate. His personality was too huge, too overbearing and influential. I see him as a kind of modern-day Silenus, a drunken wiseman who only comes along every 500 years or so, leaving behind his untouchable little myth.
E.E. Cummings was next for me. He’s another poet whose words stand on the page like little paintings. I made my sharpest turn as a poet after reading him. And then came Horace, Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Pound, Trakl, Lorca, Tomas Tranströmer. From Goethe I learned next to nothing about poetry, but he taught me more about living, and about how to live, than just about anyone, including my father. The important thing, I think, is this: to be no less of a poet in your life than you are on the page. Most poets go to shit once they step away from their writing desks. Actually, they’re shit there too. They’re shit everywhere. Especially in their herds.
Where does a poem usually start for you?
With friction. My poems don’t usually come from a happy place. Most often they come from stress, anxiety, tics, anger, nightmares, paranoia, broken nerves. You need friction in the oyster to create the pearl and it’s the same with me and poetry.
What are a couple features of poems that you enjoy when reading?
My favorite poems are ones that a.) can be read again and again, and b.). don’t just dazzle with language, or wit, or some unconventional truth, but contain a whole life philosophy in them, expressed in just a few words.
Could you give us an example?
Here’s a famous one from Horace’s Carpe diem: “Be wise, decant the wine, and since our space is brief, cut back your far-reaching hope. Even while we talk, envious time has fled away: seize the day, put little trust in what is to come.”
Could you give us the story behind Dispatch from a Friend’s Sofa?
Sure, that happened at my friend’s summer house just outside of Berlin. I’d been drinking heavily all night and thought I’d pass out right when I hit his lumpy Ikea sofa. Instead, I just lay there despairing, hour after hour, my mind racing in drunken orbits. None of my thoughts were any good. It was all just recirculated trash, and all I wanted was to fall asleep before the sun came up. Then, to my surprise, just as the sky was lighting up, the moon appeared like a pearl in the window. It was a gorgeous vision, the neighbor’s roof, the tree, the pearl. It was as though my inner turmoil had created it and put it out there, this symbol that was so peaceful and beautiful it put me right to sleep.
I chose The Transient for the final piece as it feels right, but also because it has those features that you mentioned you enjoy. Could you pick a line or two in this poem and give us a “behind the scenes” or maybe a personal definition as opposed to the universal truths it contains?
The empty ocean, the buried moon,
your hand in my hair.
Love’s early light breaking through the window.
This was written when my wife and I first started dating and I wasn’t allowed to have even a milligram of sperm in my body, ever. My wife is 18.5 years younger than me, and this lasted for quite a while – me going around feeling old and torn up, without any milligrams. But I knew the whole time it was just a temporal thing, that where sex was concerned we were riding on the top end of Fortune’s Wheel and that the bottom end would come round soon enough. All we had to do was get married.
These poems feel like they were written closely together. Are they part of a larger collection?
These are part of a very large collection that’s been building up on my computer for several years. Most of the poems have been published somewhere, but the collection itself has no publisher. I haven’t really tried. I might self-publish it.
Do you have any other projects or recent publications that you’d like to point us toward?
I have two finished novels on my computer that I haven’t had any luck finding an agent for. Those too I might self-publish, probably this year, if I can’t find anywhere else to go. In the meantime, my poetry collection Hallucinogenic Dragonfly Intermezzo is available on Amazon. I’m still very happy about the work in that one which says a lot because I usually want to go back and edit my old stuff. There’s not too much in HDI that I would change.
As for my other projects, I love to draw and just started painting with oil. Oil painting is as tough as an Opa-Locka prostitute. It takes donkey’s years to master it. But at the ripe age of 51, I have set out. You can find some of my stuff on Instagram @mppowers1132