Back in June, I put out a somewhat-emergency call for submissions – Fresh was just starting out, and it needed a bit of a boost. Trevor Scott Carlson was amongst the scrabble of poets (yes, I’ve just decided that’s our collective noun) who submitted work in that frantic four-hour period.
He was a brand new name to me, and his concise but stunning poetry punched me (gently) in the solar plexus. Because he’d also sent the magic number of three poems, I asked if he wanted to be Fresh Featured in September.
Trevor has sunbathed with alligators and sang karaoke in South Korea. He enjoys disappearing into the wilderness, attempting to untangle moral and philosophical conundrums, and juggling fruit in the produce section of grocery stores. But most recently, he’s answered a few questions for us about poetry, writing, and cutlery…
KG: Trevor – thank you for being our Fresh Featured poet for September. How long have you been writing?
TSC: A long time. I used to make up ghost stories and illustrate them with spooky doodles when I was a kid, because I was obsessed with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I took my writing more seriously in college, and I’ve been drifting into spells with it ever since.
Museum in Hell
Relics of my childhood are on display
at a museum in hell.
A loop of drunken laughter
weaves the air
through the static hiss
of a broken speaker.
A colorful mosaic of pills
depicts an eyeless face.
from my old dirty magazines:
a perverse collage
commemorating my first orgasm.
My birth certificate
hangs from a noose
above the emergency exit.
KG: Do you ever write anything other than poetry?
TSC: Yes. I’ve been toying around with flash fiction lately.
KG: Do you have any favourite poets, or other wordsmiths (songwriters, novelists, spoken word artists – anyone who works with words) of any kind, who have influenced your life as a writer?
TSC: Jeffrey McDaniel’s poetry has spoken to me the most. His writing is so wonderfully strange and surreal and funny and heart-breaking. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is one of my favorite books, and I feel like his voicehad an impact on me. I’m really into music, so as far as songwriters go, a lot of bands lent a hand in raising my love of language. Early on it was Nirvana and The Beatles, then into indie territory like Christie Front Drive and Modest Mouse. These days, I’m listening to a lot of Kurt Vile and Yo La Tengo. Good music always sends me into a daydream. I feel like I am continually moved by the power of language through different mediums every day, and all of them shape my thoughts, so it’s difficult to do this question justice.
KG: What is your favourite word? And do you have a least favourite word?
TSC: Tonight, my favorite word is vivid. I love the rise and fall of its sound, how it’s concise yet conveys something grand.My least favorite wordsare those that come from people filled with intolerance, greed, hatred, and racism.
Think about the Fourth of July
death wishes almost granted
in some morbid jubilee of flaming
viscera and imaginary patriotism—
how we lit bombs in our palms,
aimed them into heaven,
the smoldering wreckage
of tragedies raining down
the street, scattering like deadly
confetti to meet in this moment:
my words a broken body
deep in the rubble,
voice calling out in the chaos
to let you know
I’m still here.
KG: What tends to inspire your writing the most?
TSC: Sparks can come from anywhere. Reading good writing.New experiences. Reflecting on the past. A dream.
KG: The poems you sent us for Fresh have some wonderfully startling lines (‘My birth certificate / hangs from a noose / above the emergency exit.’). My question is – why poetry? Is it easier to say some things in poems than it would be in prose? Or is it just a style preference?
TSC: I like the challenge of trying to communicate something in a small space. I tend to feel at home with the mysterious and themes that are open to interpretation.
Bang on the door like a stranger
with a hidden gun.
Drug your blood in the moonlight
and learn to only sign your name
with invisible ink. Pour gas
on the book of your past.
Light it with a torch
made of the straw
from the chamber in your chest
that will beat you to death.
KG: And finally – tell us any other thing you’d like to tell us: a favourite quote, some wisdom you’ve picked up along the way, something you want to say to put the world to rights…
TSC: Don’t bring a spoon to a knife fight.
I don’t know about the rest of our editors, but that’s a piece of advice I can endorse. Thanks so much, again, to Trevor for being our September Fresh Featured poet.
If you’re an emerging or unpublished poet, and would like one of your poems to appear on our weekly blog, Fresh, find out how right here. Fresh Featured is currently full until March, so I won’t be considering poets for this again until January – but we always need new weekly emerging poets (which comes with a chance to be in the best of Fresh anthology next summer). So don’t be shy – send them along!