Who is your favorite living poet?
OTHER THAN MYSELF (I know it sounds arrogant but my philosophy is to be your own greatest fan and this is what gives you the courage to bear your soul), I admire Patricia Smith.
Please check her out: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/patricia-smith
I come from a performance poetry world as well as a literary world. I’ve heard many stage poets critcize page poetry, and page poets criticize stage poetry. And in their criticisms there seems to be no real reconciliation. But when you read Patricia Smith who has been a 4 time National Slam Poetry Champion, and featued in the documentary SlamNation and has also been published in Poetry, Paris Review, Best American Poetry, and has won a Pushcart Prize, a National Book Award, a Gunnenheim Fellowship–the list goes on–she opens your mind to the full possibilities of what a poet can do if they think and write and perform outside the box. Poetry was always born to be out of the box.
Her presence as a poet resonates with me. Going through academia, I have felt that many traditionalists have not fully understood my efforts to link page and stage and I’ve had definately experienced my fair share of negative criticism for it. But I shut people up and shut people down by pointing to Patricia Smith. If ever ever ever I could be the male version of her, I’d be set as a poet and part of my mission would be accomplished.
Who is your favorite dead poet?
Hands down. Pablo Neruda.
I know that if I understood Spanish fluently, I would be able to tap into Neruda’s poetry more deeply, but his works translated by W.S. Merwin alone are enough for me to learn from. He, to me, is what a poetry should be. He embraced his present time, he celebrated the past and wrote of hope for a future. His diversity in themes are what I’m drawn to. His love poems, his political poems, his nature poems are all intertwined. You can write a love poem and sound sappy. You can write a political poem and sound preachy. You can write a nature poems and sound too sentimental. But Neruda understood POETRY. And when POETRY is injected into the love poem, the political poem, and the nature poem, the reader/listener is given the opportunity really get in touch with their feelings on a higher consciousness. We’ve all felt love, or political frustration, or admired nature–but to feel those things we all feel but on a higher conscious level takes a skilled tour guide to take us there. To be a skilled poet is to be a skilled tour guide.
What is your favorite poem of all time?
When I think of ALL TIME I am always drawn to my roots or my childhood or something that transcends image and “looking good or intellectual”. All time for me means something the equivalent of comfort food that brings memories. So I would definately say that the poem “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” by Eugene Field is my favorite of all time. And it’s funny because a lot of my poetry uses the same imagery as that poem. The moon, The night, dreams, the sea, the idea of pursuit. They say that your childhood affects your adulthood and with that I say that children’s poetry is a powerful thing.
Current book of poetry you can’t get out of your mind?
Bob Marley was asked who his favorite poet is and he said King David. I have to say the Book of Psalms in the Bible is my favorite book of poetry. Particularly the King James translation. Bob Dylan, Bob Marley were both influened by Hebrew poetry. King David is the Patron Saint of Poets and for good reason. I know many non religious people who still embrace the Psalms. To have that type of transcendence is wonderful. But for me it is something that I meditate on weekly. The same questions that we ask today, the same joys, and frustrations that we feel today are all expressed in the Psalms. And it isn’t just poetry to be pretty. It isn’t just poetry for the sake of wordplay. There is meaning. A lot of academic heads don’t like to use that M word: “meaning” when speaking of poetry, but truthfully isn’t that what we are all in someway seeking?
Best live, or audio, poetry reading you can remember.
Me and my band Totem Maples did a show at the Rainbow Room on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. This was back in the early 2000s. The event was called Poetic License. And it was organized by poets Larry Jaffe and Brandon Backhaus. The purpose was to put poetry in the same venues that rock artists played in. Poetry had been for a long time kept in colleges and coffeehouses. Why not read your poetry at a rock club. And so a bunch of Southern California poets read and perfomed.