Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Interview with Los Angeles Jerry Garcia, author of On Summer Solstice Road

I can’t think of enough good things to say about Jerry “Grateful Not Dead” Garcia, so, I’ll stick with the facts. Garcia, among his many accomplishments, is an L.A. native, a multidisciplinary artist, and one of the finest poets Los Angeles has ever produced. His poetry is magnificent, cinematic, and unforgettable. His first collection, Hitchhiking With the Guilty, is a must read for anyone who wants to become familiar with seminal L.A. poetry, and his second collection, On Summer Solstice Road (© 2016 Green Tara Press), is a long time coming, much to the delight of myself, and many who have been waiting for his next poetic masterpiece. As a multimedia artist, Garcia has also embedded a series of QR codes in his new collection that “link selected poems to short poetry films that can be played on a smartphone or tablet. “(via Grateful Not Dead website).

Garcia was kind enough, between work, writing, and gearing up for the book launch for On Summer Solstice Road, to answer my questions regarding his new collection, and his own artistic process.

1) This is your first poetic collection since Hitchhiking With the Guilty. What inspired the inception and creation of On Summer Solstice Road?

JG: On Summer Solstice Road is a collection of poems rooted in mid-twentieth century America and expands from that era of disruption and exploration. I had seen my parents fretting over the possibility of nuclear war, I saw a president and his brother assassinated and riots  spring up in my home city. I also saw the popularity of television, the rise of rock and roll, especially the Beatles and men walk on the moon. Over half a century later upheaval and terror, mixed with rock and roll, are still watchwords in society; so my poetry strives to balance stories of evolution, redemption and hope.

2) On Summer Solstice Road is set up in four parts: Exposition, Context, Passage, and Re-entry. This, of course, implies a poetic journey for the reader. What are the reasons behind this particular arc, and what message do you hope the reader takes away after reading your new collection?

JG: I spent my childhood fearing the bomb, was a teenager during The Summer of Love and studied film-making at a Catholic University during the Watergate Era. These are the circumstances that inform my writing with references to pop culture and mid-20th Century history.  I'd like to see the reader find his intersection of ideals and perceptions with those offered in my poetry.

3) Your poems document the changing landscape of Los Angeles in a fundamental and heartbreaking way, particularly, the poem "Interstate 60", which describes the destruction of your childhood neighborhood in the name of automotive progress. What are your thoughts on the role of poet as historian/witness to history, and is this necessary to the evolution of poetry? Why/why not?

JG: That is certainly how I chose to write the poetry in this collection.  I like that Michael C Ford calls me “a firebrand observer of urban grit” because it sounds like Carolyn Forché's “poetry of witness.”  But  I don’t think it is necessary to always be an historian or witness to write meaningful poetry and not all poems need to be “meaningful.”  One might ask if a poem is articulate with a good cadence and color, how can it go wrong? Well, to answer my own question, a body of work would be pretty boring if it were all just for fun.

4) You've worked for many years in a visual medium as a filmmaker/photographer, and no more is it apparent than in the gorgeous imagery in On Summer Solstice Road. How does your visual art influence your poetic process?

JG: I like to think that I can exchange one for another.  When my day job kept me busy working on other people's creativity as a film editor, I learned how words could be used to put images on paper as it was not possible to shoot photographs in the absence of light. Ironically, I have now started making short art films using my poems as scripts.  Some of these films can be seen by scanning the QR codes on certain pages of my book.

5) Some of your best poems "Lupe", "Pochismo Me", "Memory Preserved in a Blue Ceramic Ashtray", "Benediction", and "Lexicon", could be described as confessional, but there is an earnest tone that keeps it from falling into the confessional category. Would you agree with this assessment, and if so, why/why not?

JG: I never think of myself as a confessional poet though I like to make use of personal history in my work. Most poems I write about childhood, coming of age or failed attempts at love come from within the writing process itself.  Like the case of "Memory Preserved in a Blue Ceramic Ashtray"  that poem came from a workshop exercise where I stared at this inanimate object and envisioned a story starring a composite of ex-lovers and a particular incident.

6) Your poem "War Without My Heroes" is a summoning of some of the greatest luminaries in history (Diane Arbus, Edward R Murrow, John Lennon), to come back and fill the present day void that is our real/virtual reality. Your stanza,

"Prophets, poets
truth-tellers of our time,
unheard and vexed,
voices hidden'"

is a clearly a warning that the days of art and poetry may be numbered. What advice would you give to present day poets and artists to make their words and images survive an entropic onslaught?

JG: Just keep creating. Strive to instruct, entertain or baffle. You may not be heard globally, but just going through the process to put that energy into the ether supports the cause.  Oh and avoid cliché, triteness and over-sentimentality. (I guess those are three words that mean the same thing.)

7) You've worked closely with Laurel Ann Bogen, and cited her as a direct influence on your work. What other poetic influences have shaped you into the poet you are now?

JG: Ah, yes. Laurel Ann Bogen taught me how to put a poem together and she inspired me to pursue that skill. She introduced me to the greatness of poetry and to the “greats" of poetry. She introduced me to Michael C Ford who has acted as mentor, editor and promoter. He introduced me to the work of Patchen and Carver who gave me a “grown-up” perspective. I never met Ferlinghetti but would like to think he and I would have great ‘woodshedding’ sessions. Then there’s Billy Collins for sentimentality-laden irony, Philip Levine for grit,  Carolyn Forché for her “poetry of witness” and ee cummings, for the way he pictures a poem on the page.

8) Your poem "How to Bury Your Dad", is a humorous, beautiful, and loving last will and testament as to how you want your remains to be interred, and with the hope that your daughters will grow stronger and closer together from the experience of your parting. What prompted you to end On Summer Solstice Road with this particular poem?

JG:First of all, thank you.  I couldn't have explained it better than you just did.  This poem describes the end of a journey and the beginning of a new one which is right where I wanted to leave the reader.

9) Many authors described feeling disconnected/divorced from their completed books once they are published. What are your feelings on the completion of On Summer Solstice Road?

JG: My feelings are mixed because I may never revisit these poems; they are now part of a book that will sit on a shelf to get sold and read and sit on another shelf. I does seem like a child who has left home. Now I want to package a new set of poems. You know, let’s go! On Summer Solstice Road is a compendium of experiences. Perhaps my next collection of poems should focus on the sensations during the experiences themselves.

10) You've got some appearances coming up in the next couple of months. Where will you be performing, and where can people purchase a copy of On Summer Solstice Road?

JG: The official book launch was on October 16, 2016 at Beyond Baroque where you can purchase the book in the Scott Wannberg Book Store.  It is also available at Amazon.com. Future readings will take place at the Studio City Library, Malibu United Methodist Church, The Second Sunday Poetry Series in Universal City and I’ll be leading a workshop at the Pasadena Library in December.  Dates and times can be found on my website www.gratefulnotdead.com.

On Summer Solstice Road, Jerry Garcia, © 2016 Green Tara Press,
  • ISBN 978-1945085031, 108 pages, $14.95

© 2016 marie c lecrivain

Saturday, October 15, 2016

David McIntire's No One Will Believe You: Songs of the Aftermath

“Poets are, in fact, the only real  time travelers that our culture has ever managed to produce.” - David McIntire/No One Will Believe You: Songs of the Aftermath

I’m sure the above quote has been written/will be a thousand different ways by poets past/present/future, but there is truth in these words, just as there is truth in all good writing - it takes the Reader (universal) into a place and time where they’ve not previously occupied. Poetry brings the reader into the truth of the moment, sometimes euphemistically, other times approximately, but the poems in McIntire’s new chapbook, No One WIll Believe You: Songs of the Aftermath (copyright 2016 International Word Bank Press), put the reader square into the savage, instant, raw pain of death and loss.

According to McIntire, No One is centered around two simultaneous incidents: the death of his marriage, and the death of his ex-wife, poet, Cat Angelique McIntire. McIntire states that these poems do not need to be read in a linear fashion, and he’s correct, as death and loss are not a linear experience. Open any page in No One, and the theme of death and loss, the grief that binds them together, is also the fuel that powers McIntire’s passionate poems. This is not an easy chapbook to sink into, and it’s not supposed to be, but the strong and unvarnished tone of McIntire’s words makes it an unforgettable experience, as in the poem “Dark Wind,” which expresses loss that is happening in the moment, and the loss that is yet to come:

the loosened threads should not be pulled
and yet
we pull
we think we know better this time

we do not know better this time

the tatters we call memory
are cruel and sharp
the dregs we call love
are bitter

we simply do not know any better
than the last time we stood
on the edge of this strange darkness
this mourning that ruffles our hair
and loosened threads
and the tatters…

and we pull
and watch as our world flutters to the ground
wet with our regrets

No One is not just about death and loss, but it also answers the question, at least for McIntire, and more likely, for the reader, how/ what the person becomes as grief shapes them into something, or someone else. In a sense, the poems in No One document the rebirth of McIntire as a poet, as he, and the reader, rediscover that part of us which cannot be overcome - our humanity - which, in the end, is all that’s really needed to keep moving forward in life, as in the poem “Death Poem #9”:

i have been instructed
to weep
to wail
to tear the skies
from the broken willows
upon which they drape so sadly
so darkly
i have been instructed
to lean into the grief
to roll the confusion into balls
and learn to juggle
i smile at strangers
and talk to seagulls

this is how I know I am still alive

No One Will Believe You: Songs of the Aftermath, leaves me with only one question. Who will McIntire become, ultimately, as a poet, and as a human being, a question that we all must ask ourselves, if we are to become better than what we are, at any given moment. I look forward to reading more of McIntire’s work in the future.   

No One Will Believe You: Songs of the Aftermath, © 2016 David McIntire, Baxter Daniels Ink Press International Word Bank,www.internationalwordbank.com, ISBN 9781537236490, 99 pages, $10.00    

© 2016 marie c lecrivain