Do you feel inspired when you drink, Hosho?
I don’t usually drink and write…and rarely more than a beer or a measure of scotch if I do. So I wouldn’t say I’m inspired to write when I drink. I am, however, inspired to dream, and laugh and love and believe in the impossible despite this cold, hard, and ugly world; I get nostalgic for things as they happen, for the joy I feel with the people I am with when I’m drinking, out on the town, or–these days–home safe with family and friends; I’m more inclined to believe in the best parts of myself, and quicker to dismiss the lousy parts–so drinking definitely has it’s place. But working a goddamned job for 40 hours a week makes long stretches of writing (or drinking, for that matter) impossible. I carve out as many hours as I can–lunch hours in my car, for example–but otherwise try not to worry about how long all these projects are going to take, or how much creative time I miss while working. I write piecemeal–an idea here, a scene or poem there–hoping to someday amass all I need to fully realize a project…and then hoping to find the time to stitch it all together into stories, novellas, and manuscripts.
Whom are some of your favorite authors and poets, Hosho?
For poetry–Whitman and Bukowski, Li Po, Issa. For long fiction–loads of people, too many to name. For short stories I dig Carver, Salinger, McCullers, Don Carpenter, John Sayles. Non-fiction: Didion, Henry Miller, Bukowski’s letters. Of course I do tons of reading in the small press, and really love finding great little books and fantastic writers there. I love seeing folks like Tony O’Neill, Dan Fante, Mark SaFranko, Jenni Fagan, out Willy Vlautin out there on the shelves in big bookstores…they tend to be the only kinds of books I find in stores. I try to buy lots of small press stuff directly from the publishers or the writers themselves. Writers need to know that people are buying their stuff, that their work is getting out there–so that’s worth the extra few bucks to me. Every now and then I’ll get an email from someone wanting a book, or even just saying how much they like something I did–and I can’t tell you how much easier that makes schlepping boxes on a Monday morning. It’s a small thing…but most of life is small things.
Was “A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst” meant to be read as an one epic poem?
Not initially–though I certainly think it can be read that way. The larger story was something that emerged in the writing and editing. At the outset my goal was to simply recount all the drinking and experiences I could remember. But it became obvious as I wrote that the experiences and the deeper causes of them couldn’t be separated. Which was a pleasant surprise. The underlying structure of the book was something I worked hard at building once I realized the book could be more than simply the sum of its booze-soaked parts. In the end, the book–like all books, really–is about just two things: reconciling ourselves with love and with death. The drunken madness simply became the keyhole through which we peeped.
Do you keep notes as your travel and record your experiences, Hosho?
Years ago, say the late 90s, I tried to keep travel journals–mimicking Kerouac. But going back to read them after the fact, I quickly realized I never wrote down what mattered, so I abandoned the practice. I had much better luck simply living and experiencing things as they happen..and let my memory, as flawed as it can sometimes be, do the recording. When asked to, memory can be quite accurate. And as history has repeatedly taught us, who really cares what actually happened…how it is remembered is what becomes legend.
Is it difficult to recall, or write down reflections and experiences as they happen that contribute to your art? Do you see the world in a fragmented or fractured way, as pieces of a whole? What is your outlook on life?
Whatever has happened in my life or anyone’s lives–those things are ours. And good or bad, joyous or painful, I don’t think they’re difficult to write down or remember. The trick is realizing what, in your experience, is worthy of mention. Just because something happened to you doesn’t make its interesting. What’s interesting, to me, is the simple struggle to be human. I wouldn’t say I see the world in a fractured or fragmented way–to me, it’s all just one great big atomic soup, and we’re all just a minuscule little cog in it. We are a conglomeration of cells and elements. The notion that we are somehow separate or apart or self-contained is a joke…just as all the man-made concepts we’ve used to organize our world are a joke. Borders, ideals, gods, governments and countries and ownership and truth and freedom–these are all illusions. I suppose what I’d like is to keep my illusions simple. Cosmically speaking, the sun will likely one day devour earth and almost everything mankind has ever accomplished with it. That is an unbelievably refreshing thing. It means everything we’ve busied ourselves with since the dawn of man is temporary. It’s not a waste–not all of it anyways. It’s the best we could think of. So forgive us our trespasses, forgives us our adorable human limitations. Let’s not worry too much about almost anything. If you have to worry–worry about love and kindness, worry about your people, your tribe. The rest is just the rest.
6) Do you find that writing comes easy to you?
It does. And that’s a product of simply struggling to write for many years. I used to stay up late almost every night, say from 9pm to 1am, 2am, 3am writing. Flailing. I wrote any and everything I could think of: poetry, short stories, novels…I just tried to get the work out. And while I was productive, the work lacked focus–and I’ve jettisoned countless projects because the work just didn’t have it.
It’s like working a damn job. In America, we think clocking heavy hours on the job means we’re actually doing something, getting tons of work done. But more hours don’t mean more work…quite the opposite. It means more fatigue: decision fatigue, physical and mental fatigue–all of which compromise the work we do. We make mistakes…that we then have to fix…because we’re at work too long…trying to fix our mistakes! It’s ridiculous and inefficient.
These days, my time to write is a lot more fractured. When it happens, its usually only in short spells. But I spend much of my spare mental time thinking about the things I am writing. So when I do finally get to sit down, I know exactly what I want to accomplish. Like Ali’s rope-a-dope: I lean against the ropes; cover up while the world and the job and the mortgage and responsibilities just pummel away…all the while planning my next bit of work; and when I finally get that opening–say a lunch hour, or a couple hours after work, I hit it hard and fast, stick and move. Then I cover up, and do it all again.