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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Poems for All - Richard Hansen



I was not aware of this long standing stamp-sized poetry project until the poet Henry Denander sent me four of his amazing Poems for All work today.

The creator of the project, the book shop owner, Richard Hansen is a convincing & dedicated publisher of independent work. Listen carefully to what Hansen has to say here: http://sacfreepress.com/pfa/submit/

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Featuring John Sweet




this nightingale despair


all these days of bitter sunlight,
gets tired of saying i love you while
standing in the doorways of empty rooms

gets tired of the way the windows break and
the bones of ghosts piled up
in the corners

waits for winter like
his father taught him to and
the hills and then the river and then
the bridges that promise
nothing

the promises that lead nowhere

all country is enemy
country in the end




weep and retreat

find god face down in a pool of
holy blood deep behind enemy lines and
it’s good for a
small laugh if nothing else

gotta keep redrawing those maps to
make sure the poor & the
unwanted stay in their place

gotta keep reminding the children that
not all of them will survive

that no one will care

it’s been a long fucking time
since anyone’s death really mattered




the future as a broken mirror in an empty room

and you and i in brilliant
november sunlight,
all effortless grace and fragile hope,
all half-forgotten dreams

a city on fire or a
handful of ashes

someone’s lover found dead in a
stolen car at the river’s edge

i have measured my life in miles
and i have wound up nowhere

i have been the wrong person
for years on end

let the joke fill your heart
like a mouthful of blood

let the gun be aimed and the
trigger pulled with infinite kindness

we are nothing if not
merciful




the contrary

and when you died the first time
no one noticed and so
five years later you did it again

was sleeping when i heard the news,
fucked up and shot through with pure white light and
the children were crying for food

the question was obvious

wanted to apologize for the answer but
my tongue had been cut out

my book of maps had been stolen

93,000,000 miles from the sun and
moving in the wrong direction and when you
died the second time it felt like a weight
had been lifted from my shoulders

felt like my wings
had been nailed to the floor

woke up from a dream of jumping into darkness
only to find i was finally as blind as
everyone else

couldn’t stop laughing at the idea
that you were actually gone




these dreaming monsters

faded blue november sky with
contrails and silence up on burnt hill road and
what if god is nothing more than the
ability to tell the truth and what if truth
is nothing more than the road to beauty?

will you offer your churches to the homeless or
give your wealth to the starving or
will you continue to preach
the gospel of ignorance and hatred?

will you stop raping the children?

there is no end to the ways we can
disguise our lies as luminous truths



John Sweet can be found here: http://bleedinghorse.blogspot.com/


Read my recent review of Sweet’s award winning book The Century of Dreaming Monsters here: http://georgedanderson.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/book-review-interview-john-sweet.html

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Featuring J.J. Campbell


J.J. Campbell (1976 - soon) lives and writes in a small town in Ohio. He's been widely published over the years, most recently at Dead Snakes, Horror Sleaze Trash, Your One Phone Call, Chiron Review and ZYX. His most recent collection of work, Sofisticated White Trash, is available from Interior Noise Press and wherever you happen to buy books these days. You can find J.J. most days bitching about things he only cares about on his highly entertaining blog, evil delights. (http://evildelights.blogspot.com)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
an impossible challenge

i don't know if it
was your stunning
eyes, the high
cheekbones or
your beautiful 
black skin

but i could tell
you're obviously
a woman that
doesn't take
shit from
anyone

and i'm the kind
of guy that enjoys
an impossible
challenge

but judging from
the size of the rock
on your finger and
the amount of drool
running down your
child's face

i've learned over
the years that some
challenges are better
left for some other
unlucky soul
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
something that looked like a hand

a woman walking
her dog found a
body in a ditch
yesterday frozen
to the ground

the authorities
think it could
have been there
for more than
a week

the woman only
recognized it was
a body when the
dog started to chew
on something that
looked like a hand

welcome to death
out here in the sticks
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
making the world a better place

end of the world
snowfall before
winter even begins

and then it's all
going to melt by
the weekend

these are the
moments where
i hope the floods
wipe out all the
cities on earth

and i know it's
not healthy to be
so bitter

but i'm not exactly
one of these fuckers
pretending he wants
to live forever

i've been wishing
for my death before
most of you were
even born

i can hear one of
you young hopeful
fuckers mumbling
about all the time
i could have spent
making the world
a better place

imagine how much
violence comes from
not being able to mind
your own fucking
business
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
the pain of not being good enough

adrift in exile

write out the
pain

may this be
the final note

the final
revealing
of my ugly
soul

no one
understands
the pain of
not being
good enough

my ego is not
strong enough
to demand that
others do so

slighted
and
silenced
forever

put a gun in
your mouth
and understand

if god loved
you

it never would
have come to
this
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
who's laughing now?

i once had a
dream that my
aborted child
came back to
kill me one
day

that always 
made me
laugh

as i always
figured she
never was
pregnant

it was just
a ploy to try
to win my
love

of course,
she's now
married
with a child
living happily
somewhere

and i'm all
alone

contemplating
the shotgun
leaning against
the wall over
in the corner
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
J.J. Campbell
51 Urban Ln.
Brookville, Ohio 45309-9277
USA

Monday, April 13, 2015

New Release: Justin Hyde AN ELEPHANT HOLE. Interior Noise Press, Austin Texas, 2014 (291 pages).


In An Elephant Hole you will find 154 lower case, free verse confessional poems in the collection, usually from Hyde’s point of view. This is Hyde’s largest collection & collates many of his online contributions spaning ten years. In the afterword, he acknowledges 66 small press publications in which the poems have previously appeared.

The writing is anecdotal and based on everyday incidents. The writing is highly accessible and it will only take you about 2-3 hours max to comfortably get through this book. A vast majority of the poems are confessional from Hyde's point of view.

Hyde treads his usual terrain- the emotional debris of dealing with his difficult partner, his relationship with his young son, his childhood memories of growing up, his evolving relationships with his father and grandfather, & more recently, his writing life & the new women he tries to root.

The most interesting poems in this collection are Hyde’s portrait poems which usually depict his conversations with his fellow shift workers in low paying manual jobs, or best of all, his chronicling of what his work release inmates reveal to him in his role as a parole officer.



Find a selection of links to Justin Hyde’s poems on NYQ Poets: http://poets.nyq.org/poet/justinhyde

Book Review/ Interview: John Sweet The Century of DREAMING MONSTERS. San Pedro, Lummox Press, 2014 (57 pages)


John Sweet, b. 1968, death in the distant future. Opposed to all organized religions and political parties. Not entirely sure he’d recognize a true democracy if he ever happened to see one.

John Sweet’s latest book of poetry, The Century of DREAMING MONSTERS won the inaugural LUMMOX Poetry Prize in late 2014. The collection consists of forty-four lower case free verse poems. Sweet’s overall vision is a bleak and despairing one. His landscapes are littered with broken people who lead wasted, purposeless lives. They are burdened by the emotional debris of their past relationships and are duped by a cynical government which keeps them in ignorance and fear. 

The cover illustration was created by Lummox editor RD Armstrong and features a silhouette of two medieval marauders on horseback which evokes the motif of “senseless human violence” we see in much of Sweet’s work.  In explaining the book's title, Sweet says in the interview which follows: “The Dreaming Monsters, to me, are the people who hold power in the world these days, the ones who abuse their wealth & their position. They’re the people who have the best chance of effecting positive change in the world, but they ultimately turn their back on this potential. They're bullies of course, and like all bullies, they're ultimately cowards who will run and hide when the odds are against them."

This underlying political message is developed in many key poems in the collection. The decisions made by politicians and other authorities are seen as trashing core American values and are having a harrowing impact on the personal lives of its ordinary citizens. In ‘song for no god’ the speaker wakes from a nightmare of his son bleeding to death & it prompts him to comment on the larger political picture, “the cities all rotting from/ the inside out and/ the empire in slow decline.”
‘Similarly, 'in the empire of failed ideas’ the speaker quips bitterly about how priests are running amok & how his fate has already been predetermined by corrupt politicians:

and wherever you are
the priests are busy fucking children on
beds of broken glass and no
matter what you believe
your future has already been decided by
politicians grown fat eating the
shit of their masters

In the last poem in the collection ‘imaginary poem for blind men staring up at heaven’ as the speaker thinks about leaving his children instructions on how to dispose of his body upon his death, he says didactically, “the government is/ your only true enemy// the rivers have all been/ poisoned in/ the name of progress.”

In the interview which follows, Sweet says he is concerned about the direction America is headed,

"America worries me.  It's a plutocracy.  The government no longer has anything to do with promoting the general welfare or insuring domestic tranquillity.  The government's #1 job is to ensure that it remains in power (granted, this is true of all governments).  Special interests rule the day, and money talks.  Politicians at every level aren't particularly concerned about their constituents.  They all have personal agendas, they all play the games of back-scratching and cronyism.  You see it on the news on a daily basis.  Personal rights are taken away in the name of security, yet no one seems to feel particularly secure."

Sweet’s also scathingly critiques the American government's involvement in a series of wars. In ‘madrigal’ “war becomes the/ solution to fear” in which the police and other instruments of authority “mow down the weak/ the starving/ those opposed” to war. Sweet's point is that if you are treated like shit, "like a sick dog in a small cage" by the government then your resentment will spill outwards & you begin "to hurt/ whoever loves you." In the satirical poem ‘song for empire’ the hypocrisy of war is stripped bare. Soldiers are awarded "shiny metals" for butchering children & pregnant mothers "for god and country." Similarly, in the deeply ironic poem ‘the immortal years’ war is viewed as opportunist and immoral as it provides “a chance for rape” or “the fine art of torture” without reprisal. With the use of "better weapons" soldiers can kill more people & “truly fucking shine.” The complex poem ‘double negative’ furthers Sweet's idea that our political and personal lives have been  intimately fused. In the amalgam of ideas which cascade down the page & as the locals search for a lost child, the speaker realises: 

ignorance


fear


these are the truths

your government
wants you to accept

this is the age of

crippled kings
reborn

they will always be

busy looking for
enemies who need
to be killed

In the interview, Sweet optimistically sees a way out: “All empires fall eventually, it’s really just a matter of time. I don’t think America will be able to avoid that fate. He sees education as the way forward, "Education is such an important thing, the need to teach children and adults to thirst for knowledge, and to make that knowledge desirable.”

Sweet’s general view of human nature is a bleak one. In the collection he explores suicide, the fragility of love, how people lie to & enjoy hurting each other, the falsehood of God & the lack of meaning in our lives. As Sweet expressed in an earlier Penmen interview (see link below): “I don’t write to shock or to titillate, or even to rub anyone’s face in ugliness. I need to get the words and the ideas onto paper…It’s sometimes like I’m picking at wounds and scabs, just trying to open them up and get the ugliness inside of me onto paper.”

The dark atmosphere of the collection is established through a series of motifs. Dead leaves, weeds, frozen mud, bitter snow and winter fog punctuate the text. When a thin shaft of sunlight finally penetrates a bedroom in 'laurel's blues' it is described as "a small piece of a/ larger emptiness." In 'poem of concentric circles' people have stopped pretending to care, in 'the easy way' love in "the age of plutocracy is a luxury" and the speaker in 'diogenes' hurtfully concludes, "i would give you hope if i could/ just for the pleasure of/ taking it away again."


In Sweet's world, time often shuffles between a blurred, troubled sense of the past & the silent, inevitable "blade of the future". In the opening tome 'arthur ave poem' the speaker laments: "when the river dries up there are only our/ bitter pasts to swim and drown in// lifetimes spent waiting for/ something better to happen." The poem symbolically concludes with a clock on the floor "hesitating just a/ fraction of a second before/ stumbling forward." In the poem 'in the empire of failed ideas' the blending of dream with reality ambiguously leads to "the possibility of a/ different past leading to the same present." In 'hesoid's chaos' there is "never/ the future and only the past as it's/ incompletely remembered." Many poems, including 'painting from memory,' point to the realisation of a wasted life: 


time spent drowning


spent crawling up and down the rotting steps of

third floor apartments, back and forth
between dead end jobs and always these
failed plans of escape to
tie yourself to

always these lies to buy yourself

a little more room and it was
funny finally waking up one morning
and realizing that none of it had
ever really mattered

it was funny waiting for the sound

of laughter that never came

In the interview, Sweet acknowledges the difficulty of rejuvenating America but the way forward is through the actions of individuals rather than through “hives”: “Individuals need to fight the garbage fed to them by the media and the government. Knowledge comes from living, from exploring, not from lying down and being forced to accept the opinions of others as your own. Individuality is pretty tough work in this sea of conformity, but it’s a catalyst for change.”

What is most compelling to me about Sweet’s poetry is how he structures and layers his ideas. He uses a variety of different perspectives and voices to create a composite vision. Although there are elements of auto-biography in the collection, Sweet makes it clear he is not a confessional poet, “I tend to free-associate when I work, I like to mix biography, autobiography, history, surrealism, black humor, landscape painting, concrete imagery, cubism.”

The poems seem to evolve as a series of fragments and work independently of each other but have a powerful accumulative effect on the reader. There are some straight-forward underground poems such as ‘painting from memory’ and ‘late night poem in a one-room apartment’ but the more satisfying poems are ones which require a more dogged & intensive study. The best amongst these include ‘uncertain poem while missing st maria,’ ‘over/out,’ ‘year zero, counting backwards,’ ‘this need to breath,’ 'hesiod's chaos' and ‘dawn.’

These are complex, multi-layered intensely political poems which will benefit from multiple readings. John Sweet is a serious and evolving poet in whose hands meaning becomes fluid but whose writing is always grounded in real experience. 



INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SWEET 9 APRIL 2015

BM: Congratulations John on your book The Century of Dreaming Monsters being picked the winner of the 2014 LUMMOX Poetry Prize. Is the final product close to your original submission or was it necessary to make extensive alterations?

Thank you!  I think there may have been one poem that RD asked to be removed, everything else is the original manuscript as I submitted it.  He's a dream editor/publisher, has total faith in the author's vision.  He did mention the overriding bleakness of the collection after I'd submitted the manuscript (and he was 100% accurate), but he stood behind it.  The man is a prince.

The cover design of your book depicts a silhouette that appears to be of medieval men of war on horseback. Can you briefly explain the background to the design and the choice of the title The Century of Dreaming Monsters?

The cover came from RD, but I love his choice.  The silhouette seems to reflect a dream state, and senseless human violence has always been a recurring theme in my work.  The Dreaming Monsters, to me, are the people who hold power in the world these days, the ones who abuse their wealth & their position.  They're the people who have the best chance of effecting positive change in the world, but they ultimately turn their back on this potential.  They're bullies of course and, like all bullies, they're ultimately cowards who will run and hide when the odds are against them.

Your literary style appears to be an amalgam of different perspectives and voices to create a composite of what you want to achieve. This vision is layered and is best understood on an emotional rather than rational level. Is this a fair assessment of your work?

Definitely.  It's very cool that you picked up on that.  The poems come across as gibberish to a lot of people, but I write them this way for a reason.  I'm not good at poems w/ concrete subjects, "a poem about a cat" a poem about a flower", that sort of thing.  I tend to free-associate when I work, I like to mix biography, autobiography, history, surrealism, black humor, landscape painting, concrete imagery, cubism, etc etc.  I switch tenses a lot, I've noticed, and points of view, in mid-poem, but I like the effect.  Maybe it's abstract expressionism, that sort of "all-over" result, or maybe it's Combine Poetry.  I like every phrase and image to carry a lot of weight, whether or not they work with whatever else is happening in the poem.  I've done some experiments in the past with "simultaneous poems", 2 or more poems overlapping on the page, all of them simultaneously working together and pushing against one another.  They're a bitch to format. I write everything out longhand when I work, then finalize the formatting when I type everything up.  Stanzas get juggled around occasionally, sometimes several shorter poems get merged into one, or a long one is broken into multiple shorter pieces.  It's all pretty fluid.

In the collection, you explore suicide, the fragility of love, how people lie & enjoy hurting others, the falsehood of God & the lack of meaning in our lives. What is your view of human nature and do you see a glimmer of hope in our resurgence anywhere?

Human nature is such an unexplainable thing.  It's tough to separate pure unadulterated human nature from the stains of monetary/ acquisitory greed and the hunger for power in this golden age of whatever media-invented bullshit we're living in right now.  I like people on a one-to-one level.  This is where any hope for the future lies. Groups, I neither like nor trust.  Hive thinking is a frightening thing.  Unfortunately, it's the hives that seem to wield the power.  I just don't understand why people feel the need to amass a billion dollars or force their way of thinking on others.  Or, again, why the media needs to portray greed and the artificial power of wealth and celebrity as a positive thing (or as actual relevant news, for that matter).  Individuals need to fight the garbage fed to them by the media and the government.  Knowledge comes from living, from exploring, not from lying down and being forced to accept the opinions of others as your own.   Individuality is pretty tough work in this sea of conformity, but it's a catalyst for change.

In the collection you make many references to the rot of America, the injustice of war and how the government is the real enemy. What is your view as to the current state of the United States and how do you represent these ideas in your work?

America worries me.  It's a plutocracy.  The government no longer has anything to do with promoting the general welfare or insuring domestic tranquillity.  The government's #1 job is to ensure that it remains in power (granted, this is true of all governments).  Special interests rule the day, and money talks.  Politicians at every level aren't particularly concerned about their constituents.  They all have personal agendas, they all play the games of back-scratching and cronyism.  You see it on the news on a daily basis.  Personal rights are taken away in the name of security, yet no one seems to feel particularly secure.  Politicians constantly spout racist and homophobic slurs.  Women's rights are taken away by senile old men.  Minorities are discriminated against, wars that cannot be won are fully funded while the poor are told "tough shit" when it comes to receiving government assistance (from the same politicians who line their own pockets with both tax and kickback money). 

Yet these same bigoted, cowardly hate-filled assholes who create and pass laws all consider themselves good, God-fearing Christians.  They will defend their ignorant points of view by stating that these points of view are supported by the Bible.  Is that funny or what?  And they keep getting elected, so I suppose the blame needs to be spread.....

What's most interesting is how all of the dystopian science fiction writers from 30, 40, 50 years ago turned out to be pretty damn perceptive, as did Devo.  Who could've guessed?

Turning to your poetry, I was wondering if I could include one of your poems in full and then get you to take us through it. If so, ‘hesiod’s chaos’ would be my pick.

Sure.

hesiod’s chaos

he is lost right there in
plain sight is naked against the
dead leaves and bitter snow

a lifetime of wasted days and never
the future and only the past as it’s
incompletely remembered

only the spaces between houses

the vast empty fields between
the towns and the dying cities and
he is there on his hands and knees

he is crawling
towards brighter lies

is blind in late winter sunlight and
waiting for news that the
war has been lost

a pet
but a good one

the missing child of
indifferent parents

sister on a dirty warehouse floor
sucking cock for her internet fans and
sometimes it just feels like an act
of kindness to say the overdose
was accidental

sometimes the distances between
collapsing stars are best
left unmeasured

state forest a few
miles past the airport

mass graves and shopping malls and
this dog has its eyes shot out
by some kids with a .22

face of the virgin mary appears on
an interstate billboard just past
the jerusalem hill exit

he is right there in the
shadows cast by
its unquestioning faith

(republished with the permission of the poet)

*

So John, what’s the poem about?


This is the stream-of-consciousness style that I favour.  It's how my mind works.  The title comes from Hesiod, who gave us the myth of Pandora and Pandora's box.  The chaos is self-evident.  Since the poems aren't linear and rarely have one topic, the titles don't necessarily describe them 100% accurately.  I was reading an article on Pandora's box at the time I was working on this poem, and the title came to me from that.  It seemed to fit the restless theme of the poem.  Again, everything is first written out by hand.  Any editing comes when I type work up.  This one, I think, had a few cross-outs while I was writing it, but no major rewrites at the typing stage.  I will occasionally elaborate on some of my stanzas or go back in and add a few new ones to make transitions between settings cleaner.  In this one, Hesiod isn't the "he".  Occasionally it's me, but not always.  Landscape and daylight are huge factors in my writing.  They definitely help set tone.  The actual stories (sister on her knees, dead man in the field, etc) are placed against these settings.  The geography is real, as are the things that happen.  The billboard is real, the dog is real, I try to work them into a constantly unfolding and evolving narrative that circles back on itself even though, again, the "he" in the first stanza is not necessarily the "he" in the final one.

The poem, to me, feels true.  There's more to life than existential bleakness, obviously, but this bleakness needs to be addressed by everyone at some point.   How do you know you're a good person, or that your life has value?  Who or what do you compare yourself against to get a sense of who you truly are?  It's not a passing of judgment I'm looking for, but a list of possibilities.  Good and bad things are always happening, but why?  Does the concept of human nature that's embraced by someone who would torture an animal need to be the same concept you or I accept as a good one?  I try to be aware of the bad things happening around me, but not get stained by them.  It's tough for everyone.
(FURTHER AUTHORIAL NOTES
Title- Hesiod, contemporary of Homer. Myth of Pandora’ Pandora’s box and the chaos within.
1st verse comes from a news story about a dead man in the snow who lay unnoticed for several days.
Leads into the 2nd verse, how winter sucks the life out of me, how the future always seems unobtainable.  My long-term memory is kind of spotty, so things are sometimes remembered differently on different occasions.
3rd and 4th verses reflect the neighborhood, town and surroundings where I live.  Rural, very bleak fields in winter, lots of dying industrial towns in upstate New York.  It always feels particularly bleak here in the winter. 
Stanza 5 is me, leading the way into Stanza 6 - There is always a war going on somewhere, and none of them ever seem to end with victory.  Yet they continue….
From here, I start to mix things up as much as possible.  Childhood.  Mine was ordinary, but I remember being unhappy a lot of the time.  Not everyone survives, of course.  THE INTERNET AS IT ACTUALLY IS vs. THE INTERNET AS IT WAS INTENDED TO BE.  Some stats I saw on the percentage of porn stars who die violently or by their own hand.  This particularly story just seemed to flow into the collapsing star image. 
Stanza 11 pulls things back into a more concrete description of more local geography mixed in with news stories.  The Virgin Mary seems to appear on a lot of billboards.  The dog being killed was a local story.  Jerusalem Hill is about an hour away from me. 
I end up with a vague, non-specific “he” as part of the shifting narrative and differing points of view in the poem.  It’s not necessarily the same “he” throughout the poem.  Again, I try to keep things factual, but not everything is autobiography.  Some of the best lines in poetry are the blurred ones.)

Dreams feature frequently in your work. What role do dreams play in your poems? 
Dreams play a huge role.  I've always had incredibly vivid, disturbing ones.  Never really nightmares in the traditional sense, but always very disorienting, always filling me with a sense of dread or unease.  Sometimes it takes me a few hours to really get into the reality of the day after I wake up because the dreams just cling to me. Writing them down and pushing and pulling them into new shapes, incorporating them into the fabric of poems, seems to help me deal with them.  They're usually very easy to interpret, the symbolism hews pretty close to reality, but they always fuck me up upon awakening. 

In an early Tryst interview you said, “Maybe people spend too much time being frightened and confused without doing anything to change.” Similarly, in a more recent Penman Review you explained your exploration of our dark side as follows, “Acknowledging the darkness seems to me to be a step towards maybe confronting it and taking action.” How can we change or take action to confront our darker side, especially in view of a society which is based on inequality and injustice?

I wish I knew.  It frightens me how many peaceful protests these days end in police-incited violence.  The people in power seem to be actively trying to phase out the right to peaceably assemble in America.  Lawmakers are constantly creating and passing new laws to ban peaceful protests (the Wall Street sit-in comes to mind), police are attacking protestors without any reprimands of consequence.  What are these people afraid of?  It can only be the possibility of losing power and/or wealth, the fear of giving up the oligarchy/plutocracy that America has become, of having it morph into a true democracy where the middle class and the poor have as much voice as the elite and the wealthy.

All empires fall eventually, it's really just a matter of time.  I don't think America will be able to avoid that fate.  The internet and television have truly joined religion as the opiate of the masses, but not everyone wants to be stoned.  When does the small scale violence that we read about in the news every day become something larger and more structured?  When does the public stop turning on each other and start turning on the power structure?    I know I can't be the only one worrying about this. 

It's interesting that our country was founded by people looking to escape religious persecution, and how quickly that idealism fell apart.  Now we have assholes everywhere spouting off about the need to be the right kind of person, to have the correct sexual orientation and religious beliefs, the proper blind respect for authority. 

Education is such an important thing, the need to teach children (and adults) to thirst for knowledge, to make that knowledge desirable. Having government officials and politicians decide educational policy is a terrifying concept. These are people who place "agenda" and "personal beliefs" over "truth". Education and intelligence are vital in confronting the darkness of human existence. When the people in power favor, espouse and endorse oppression, racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious dogma, bigotry and a rejection of scientific fact, what can you do to educate yourself but turn your backs on these fools?

On a lighter note, have you come across any writers for the first time in the last few years who have impressed you?

I've been lucky enough in the past few years lucky enough to have some collections published by Bill Shute's Kendra Steiner Editions.  I've read nothing but good work by the people he chooses to publish.  MK Chavez is a particular favorite, although she's woefully under-represented in the small zine scene.  Amazing work. 

Leonard Cirino, who unfortunately passed a way a few years ago, was another great writer.  An incredible range of moods and ideas encompassed in his body of work.  He was gracious enough to send many pages of unpublished work to his friends, I cherish every one he ever sent me. 

Additionally, I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of Tree Reisner's upcoming collection, EK.  Highly recommended. Seek it out.

Where do you go from here? What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I'm always gathering my work into manuscripts.  I have a few out to different publishers right now.  I have a blog (http://bleedinghorse.blogspot.com/) where I post news, reviews and poems old and new.  One good product of the internet age is print-on-demand publishing.  I have a few collections available directly from me, and another bunch available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/bleedinghorse99My work, I hope, is constantly evolving.  It's good therapy, helps keep me on an even keel.

What general advice would you give to talented young writers of poetry?

Just keep writing and rewriting. Just keep honing your work and questioning the world around you.  Don't become complacent.  Writing is about personal fulfilment, about personal truth, not financial gain or applause. Once you lose sight of that basic concept, you're screwed as an artist.

Thanks John!


For more information about Lummox Press books go to: www.lummoxpress.com/lc/


Further Research


Tryst 2002 interview/ poems: http://www.tryst3.com/issue2/sweetview.html


Review of The Kingdom of Oblivion: http://nyqreviews.org/tag/john-sweet/