Beats! Ballads! Blank Verse! Book 7 is Existential Jibber Jabber by Marc Shapiro. Marc has previously had published by DEMAIN a Short Sharp Shocks! Let Me Take You Down. It’s always a pleasure to work with Marc. His BBB! Is out on the 15th October (though currently available for pre-sales) and has a cover by Adrian Baldwin. Prior to publication Dean and Marc sat down and jabbered…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to see you again Marc, hope life is treating you okay at this still very odd time. So let’s get down to it. For those that don’t yet know you – do you come from a literary background?
MARC SHAPIRO: Hi Dean. No. No. Blue collar, working class all the way. My parents read the newspapers and paperback novels but nothing real high end.
DP: So did you read poetry as a child?
MS: I was into horror and science fiction growing up but I did cross paths with Edgar Allan Poe on occasion. College opened the poetry world up to me. I took a class in English literature and got into the classic poets. I also joined a creative writing group whose instructor was big on the beats so I got a crash course in Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs and Ferlinghetti. Latter Bukowski came along and I was hooked.
DP: And what attracted you to poetry in particular?
MS: The freedom of it all. The spontaneity of it all. The notion of making your points and getting out. If there were rules when I began writing poetry it was that there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of rules and that appealed to me.
DP: I get that. Do you find writing poetry easy?
MS: Easy or difficult, it depends on the poem. I’ve written poems in five minutes and I’ve written poems that have taken days to get them where I wanted them. If its an idea that hits me emotionally then it can take a while. Two examples are from this collection Existential Jibber Jabber. ‘Dances With Dangerous Women’ is autobiographical in nature and took a bit of work. ‘Time/Lost’ is 90 percent autobiographical and 10 percent artistic license. In a creative sense I sweated bullets on both of them because they hit close to home.
DP: Two great poems there. With that last question in mind (and your answer obviously), does writing poetry energize or exhaust you?
MS: It’s usually both at certain points in the process. Poems are quick and to the point. There’s a lot of sweat equity that goes into getting it right. Mentally getting poetry where you want it is a lot of hard work. When it’s done to your satisfaction, it feels like a job well done.
DP: Definitely. When you write do you have to do much research?
MS: My poetry tends to be of the moment, of the now. If its something observational, research is a matter of jogging my memory. I don’t think I’ve ever had to consult a reference book when writing a poem.
DP: Nice – so how exactly do you begin writing a poem…
MS: The same way I do when I write fiction. A hook. You’ve got to snag a reader with line one so they will be interested enough to read the rest. The same goes at the conclusion of a poem. You don’t want to be overwrought to the point of burying your reader. Just make your point and get out. Words to live by.
DP: Makes sense. And how do your poems develop? Do you have a writing method? Do you show them to anyone as you draft?
MS: You’ve got to love the nuts and bolts questions. My poems develop quite organically. An idea, a thought, a line and we’re off to the races. The closest thing I have to an actual writing method is that I tend to write the first draft of a poem in longhand. Then I take a look, add lines, take away lines and trim it all to its bare essence. Nobody sees my work until I’m satisfied with it or until it’s been published. Acceptance trumps opinion every time. For the longest period the only people who have seen any of my final drafts are my wife and a used bookstore owner friend of mine. In both cases anything they have to say is valid. My advice to writers of any persuasion is to not show your work to family members or long standing friends. There’s too much pressure on them to be nice and to not tell you what they really think.
DP: Thanks. I’m quite interested in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing and what makes writers tick…okay, so, poetry – does it have a purpose do you think ?
MS: It has a purpose to those who write it, those who read it and finally those who get something out of it. That may sound a bit abstract but the reality is that poetry can mean anything to anybody and that’s part of the allure.
DP: Great answer! Let’s talk about your favourite poets.
MS: Poe, Ginsberg, Bukowski, Di Prima, Kerouac, Burroughs are my go to poets when I’m in need of a creative shot for what ales me. Two poets known more for their music than their words are Patti Smith and Tom Waits. Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman are powerful entries to my list. I’m sure there are countless others but these are the ones that come to mind.
DP: Some great names there – as I’ve said elsewhere I’m a great admirer of Rimbaud who I know influenced Patti Smith and I totally love Tom Waits. You reading any poetry right now?
MS: As in reading any of my poetry in a performance setting? I’ve done exactly one reading in my lifetime. 15 minutes at a book signing in Los Angeles for an anthology called ‘Duffus’. I think I passed muster. Nobody threw anything. Would I do it again? Sure. Make me an offer I can’t refuse.
DP: We’ll see what we can come up with then. I’ve always wanted to go to Rimbaud’s home town – you ever gone on a poetry pilgrimage?
MS: Never. But there’s a first time for everything.
DP: There is! Are you a regular reader of poetry…I don’t read enough for sure…
MS: I read poetry regularly but there never seems to be enough time in the day for the good stuff.
DP: So true. Where you first get published?
MS: The East Los Angeles Community College Literary Magazine. You could get a copy for 5 cents back in the day. The poem was called Treasure Diver.
DP: Hahah love it! I guess from what you said earlier you love meeting your readers?
MS: Absolutely. I’m a whore when it comes to getting out there. Anytime. Anyplace. Will answer any questions. Feel free to contact my publisher and he will pass your messages along to me.
DP: What is your best experience as a writer…
MS: Four weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. Four weeks on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List. Having one of my short stories appear along side a Charles Bukowski story in the anthology Sleeping With Snakes. Hooking up with DEMAIN PUBLISHING and getting my first poetry collection out there.
DP: Thanks for the shout-out and well done. Couple more to go: do you think poetry can change the world?
MS: Poetry is like any other creative form. It can inspire, educate, entertain and encourage people to go out there and do better than you. Change yourself and the world will most certainly follow.
DP: True so can every poem mean something or can they just be enjoyed for the language and the word?
MS: All of that. I’ve read poems that made me want to get out there and storm the battlements. I’ve read poems that made me want to say “Hey cool.”
DP: And finally Marc…any advice to give aspiring poets?
MS: Write. Read. Send your stuff out to magazines. Repeat. Trying to make a living as a poet is a hard hustle. But if writing poetry is your passion and you’d do it for free if you had another way to pay the bills…then poetry is your life. Jump on in.
Great advice indeed!
Thanks so much for your time Marc and all the best with your Beats! Ballads! Blank Verse! entry – Existential Jibber Jabber
Dean M. Drinkel