By Jason Michel
Well now, … in the tradition of being a right contrary bastard, the magazine that swears not to feature poetry is going to, not only feature two of them there “poems” but also, interview one of them there “poets“.
This here Dictator has been a long time appreciator of Mike Meraz and his heartfelt working of the word for a good long while, and for a good long reason too. We discussed his new chapbook “43“, a retrospective of Meraz’s poetry so far.
Males and females, please welcome Mike Meraz to PULP METAL.
JM : Hello Mike. Tell me Sir, what drives a man to be a poet? Why do you lay your raw thoughts bare on a page for all to pick at, like crows?
MM : I suppose my need to communicate in a meaningful way. I have always been curious about the inner workings of human beings and life. What we say and see on the surface isn’t always what is going on inside. So I think poetry is a way to express this and search this out. There is always a sense of vulnerability when you are putting your head on the butcher block of the reading public. I have had more good experiences than bad. I don’t think I would write if I saw it as being picked at by “crows.” More like people wanting to read something meaningful and heart-felt.
JM : I’m fascinated by the so-called creative process. How do you distill all that sensory and internal experience into a couple of lines of text? Is there a conscious selection at work or is it intuitive?
MM : I think it is both intuitive and conscious. Although, most of my poems just “come to me.” There is really not a lot of work when I write a poem. If there was, I am not sure if I would do it. The only work I ever do in writing is in the editing, which is not usually much. For example, when I write a poem I could be walking through a grocery store and see a girl talking into her cell phone with tears in her eyes. A few words will pop into my head, let’s say “tears and technology don’t mix in a grocery aisle filled with foods” something like that. Then more lines will come. I think it’s mostly instinctive. I also muse off memory. Dramatic experiences of the past. Sometimes this is brought on by listening to a song, or something current will resonate with something in the past and a deep feeling will come to me which I will jot down.
JM : I understand that you wrote the majority of your poems in your latest collection in L.A. and New Orleans.
How much does environment impact on your work? What is it about those cities that inspired you?
MM : Environment does impact one’s work. I always seek out urban areas. I am not sure if I could write in the country. Or maybe I could but it wouldn’t be as interesting to me. Horses and the beautiful countryside don’t interest me. I’d rather write about the city, the underworld, and city life. Subcultures interest me. Both New Orleans and Los Angeles have aspects of this. Moving to New Orleans was a fluke, but a miraculous one. I didn’t plan on going there as a conscious decision to enrich my writing, but that’s the way it turned out. Luck has to play a lot in a writers or artists life. Things just happen.
JM : Which writers, or other artists, have influenced you, personally? Was there a point when realised that you had to break with them and find your own voice, or did it sneak up upon you naturally?
MM : In my late teens I discovered writers such as Bukowski, Richard Brautigan and Hunter S. Thompson who made writing alive to me. Later I read Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and others. Musicians and painters influence me. I love Francis Bacon, Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock. I was born in the 70’s so I think I grew up listening to a lot of great music. In my teens I discovered bands such as The Smiths, The Cure, Pixies, etc. who had a literary bent. I tend to be inspired by avant garde artists, not typical mainstream artists. The writers I read don’t change me. I gravitate towards them because they are similar to me and the ideas I have about life.
JM : Do you consider yourself an artist, or a craftsman? Are you constantly experimenting or are you settled in your form?
MM : I’d say both. In any good artist there is both structure and free flow. Just as a football player, there are the rules and the structure of the game, but the player, when he is actually playing, relies on instinct. That’s how it is in writing a poem, you know what you want to do, or where you want to go, but getting there is by instinct, with its twists and turns and leaps of faith. I am always seeking new ways to make writing interesting to me. Minimalism interests me, saying something profound or meaningful in a few words.
JM : There is still a debate as to whether the internet has been a good thing for artists, or not. With all kinds of content being so easily available, artists of all kinds are finding it difficult to earn a crust purely from their craft.
Where do you see this going? Has the internet, in fact, taken the power to express oneself and turned it into nothing more than democratization of mere opinion?
MM : The internet has only helped my writing. I didn’t start writing to make money, but to communicate on a deeper level. So the internet has been nothing but good for me. I can see how professional writers can hate what the internet has done to their craft, as everyone now is a “journalist” “artist” “genius” “writer” or “poet.” I say, let the truth will out, or rise. I trust, in the end, this will happen. The good will be around when all the fakes or imposters have been weeded out. This is the idealist in me speaking.
JM : And finally, what can we expect from Mike Meraz in the future?
MM : Probably less interviews, jk. I think more writing, more publishing. I had a new book come out this year on Epic Rites Press and another split chap coming out on Dog On A Chain. So, things are looking ok for the time being. The muse hasn’t gone away yet, I still write new stuff, I think as long as she’s here, I will be okay.