William James is not scared of the fucking f-word.
Who the fuck are you? Poet, aging hardcore kid, unbridled train enthusiast, flawed human
I have nothing to declare but my genius and … this meager collection of rebel hearts & restless ghosts which bears my name, and was brought into this world through the good graces of the folks over at Timber Mouse. It’s a book full of poems about discovering one’s own sense of self through rural, small-town,blue collar living, punk rock & hardcore shows, and the occasional dip into utter panic.
Why the fuck should we care? Because every poem in this book was born from a place where 99.9999% of the world has never heard of, from a scene countless people dismiss as valueless; because the boy who would grow up to write these poems used to sit and wonder why the fuck anyone should care, until he heard the album Witness by Modern Life Is War & suddenly realized that it was very much allowed to write what he’d lived, rather than what the world said already mattered. Because these poems really just want to show someone else – some kid sitting in their room wondering why the fuck anyone should care about them – that they really do matter.
What the fuck do you care about? Finding the inherent holiness & sanctity within the things that people largely cast aside as worthless or trivial. Seeking beauty in the ugly spaces. The first poem in the book has a line about seeking “refuge in what outsiders call noise.” I give a fuck about the noise, and how much it matters, very deeply, very powerfully, to those of us that hear it.
Oh, and trains. Anyone who knows me knows I give a fuck about trains.
You are about to be castaway with the author or fictional character of your choice. You’re going to be alone with them for a full year. Who would you choose? And why? Assuming I can answer this with any name, living or dead, I’ll go with Kurt Vonnegut, because he’s the single biggest literary influence on me as a person, and because as Typically White Boy as it sounds, Slaughterhouse Five changed not just my life, but who I am as a person, and because he always sounded in his books like the cranky-but-endearing grandfather you always wished you had.
If rebel hearts & restless ghosts was a song, a person, or a place, what/who would it be? And why? I’m gonna go with “place” here, and say that it’d be a shut-down steel mill, somewhere along an abandoned railroad line; with a long, desolate field of struggling crops as far as the eye could see, and a rickety farmhouse off in the distance, just barely in sight. Because that about sums up the spirit of everything I was hoping to do with the book.
I have seen the future of poetry and its name is … So, like…I’m supposed to name drop someone here who I think is hot shit, but really, I believe that the future of poetry is that nervous kid reading a badly written poem for their first time ever at an open mic, or that kid who brings a really amateur VERY rough draft to the workshop I help facilitate. I truly believe that the future of poetry isn’t [Internet Darling] or [Poet That Is Part Of A Popular Collective] or [Prestigious Award Winner] but the rookies, the sloppy writers who have 200x more enthusiasm than they have raw talent (however the fuck you even quantify that in the first place). Cliques are high school bullshit. Cool Kids Clubs were fucking stupid even at the literal lunch table. Poetry is way too goddamned precious and sacred to be sullied by that nonsense.
What is next for you? I was trying to work myself through the First Book Jitters recently, so I was going through my folder of poems that aren’t in rebel hearts…and realized I’m halfway to another manuscript. At one point it was going to be a chapbook, but I decided fuck it, let’s just get to work on book #2.
Have you come to terms with your own mortality? I mean…I guess? At least as good as any human can hope to? 99 days out of 100, I’m pretty cavalier about it. I kind of go with the attitude of “I’m gonna die eventually, we all do, and whatever is gonna be the cause of it is gonna be, I can’t stop it.” So I don’t get too worked up too often about it. I mean, I’m a survivor of two suicide attempts, and I think that anyone who is fortunate enough to come back from that ledge is going to have a somewhat solid grip on their own mortality. HOWEVER, I’ll lead from this right in to:
Tell us a secret. Lately, I’ve been having dreams in which I die. Or, rather, not that I die IN the dream, but the dream involves a scenario where I pass the point of no return, and death is imminent. I had a dream like that not long ago where in the dream I had done something (I can’t remember what) to cause my own death that also took away my ability to speak, and when I woke up, I kept trying to yell out to my girlfriend that “I don’t want to die” but in my sleep-addled state, I couldn’t make my mouth work right, and I though the dream had been real. It terrified me. It still does.
Say something outrageous. I don’t know, isn’t my earlier answer where I say how little time I have for cliques in poetry outrageous enough? I’m willing to leave it at that….for now.
William James is a poet, punk rocker, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. He is a contributing editor for Drunk In A Midnight Choir & the author of “rebel hearts & restless ghosts” (Timber Mouse, 2015). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in armchair/shotgun, Bird’s Thumb, Dirty Chai, Really System, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.