Carson Pytell is Alien Buddha Press’ Featured Artist for October 2020

ABP– Thank you for taking this interview, Carson. Early this past summer, Alien Buddha Press had the privilege of publishing your book First-Year. The collection now has a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon, and has sold quite well. What can you tell us about “First-Year”? What was the process of writing it like, and how do you feel about the book 4 months later?

CP- My pleasure, Red. Thanks for selecting me to be ABP’s Featured Artist for October.

  First-Year was not so much written as it was compiled. What I did cannot really be called a process, as when I began writing poetry last summer the idea of a book of my own was little more than a pipedream. Therefore, I did not compose any of the poems in the collection knowing they would someday be part of a book. They were written as individual pieces meant to stand on their own. There is no overarching theme, no narrative to be found, and the only chronological component of it is that I chose ‘Tracks’, the first poem I was lucky enough to have published, to also be the poem to start the collection.

  As for how I now feel about the book, I must say I’m content. Not all forty poems within are high-test, but I do believe there are a few gems in there. And I of course will always have a soft spot for it being my first collection. If ever I grow critical of my early work, I believe I will at least always get a chuckle out of the title being both a literal statement that the poems within represent my first year writing verse, and also a bit of a sleight against me – First-Year could be taken to mean sophomoric. A few pieces I am particularly proud of are ‘Tracks’, ‘Musician’ (which began its life as a short story) and ‘Keatonesque’. I’m a silent film buff and Hart Crane fan, so that last one was fun.

  The ratings and sales are nice – encouraging and validating. However, the most meaningful approval comes from oneself. All the stars and sales in the world mean nothing if I feel I’m not producing writing to my own satisfaction.

ABP- This year, you also came out with a book titled “Trail” via Guerrilla Genesis Press. What do you have to say about that book?

CP–  The twenty poems comprising “Trail” were written in a full out sprint lasting only a week. This is due in part to the subject matter being very accessible – family. Between those covers I have constructed a largely imagined history of two sides of a family, beginning with their roots in the old world and climaxing when they finally meet and produce something (someone) similar to myself. As I mention in the chapbook’s foreword, the ideal way to read the it is the same way one would read something akin to a Carver story; in one sitting and with an eye for symbolism and masked meaning.

ABP- Are there any other books you have written that you would like to mention?

CP- None yet complete, only one in the works – tentatively titled “Sketching” – which I intend to be both my first full-length and my first book including prose. Fifty poems and fifteen pieces of short fiction is the goal. Currently I am about halfway done and aim to begin editing it by the end of 2020.

ABP- What are you currently working on?

CP- I am compiling a chapbook dealing with the relationship between nature and art which I am calling “The Gold That Stays”. The poems have already been written, I’m only just now ordering and editing them so that they have some kind of flow.

ABP- Who are your biggest influences as a writer?

CP- Stylistically I’d like to say I have none. For a poet to develop their own voice is paramount. My favorite poets to read, however, range from the high modernists (Eliot, Stevens, Crane) to the confessionals (Sexton, Berryman) to the Beats (Snyder, Ginsberg, McClure) to the contemporary masters (Perchik, Kooser) and almost anything in between which I can get my hands on. My hope is that by reading a wide spectrum of poetry I will end up knowledgeable enough to employ the same techniques they did but wise enough to make the work my own overall.

ABP– What is the poetry scene like in Albany NY?

CP– Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know. There is some kind of scene out there (please visit AlbanyPoets.com) but I’m yet to be a part of it. Having type-1 diabetes, COVID has made it risky for me to go out in public anywhere people have gathered, like readings. Hopefully that will cool down sooner rather than later and I can feel safe reentering the world.

ABP- Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Carson. The floor is all yours. Is there anything you would like to say or announce here to our wordpress readers.

Also, could you share a sample of your writing?

CP- Again, my pleasure. I’m honored to have been chosen as October’s Featured Artist.

  Only because I’ve been given the floor to do so, I’d like to plug a few things – one service and two poets. The service in question is called The Submission Wizard. It is a submission system in which you submit a form detailing your style, influences and goals in writing then receive detailed suggestions for where your poetry or fiction could find a home. There are three tiers of service. The first, for a measly $3, recommends 3 possible homes. The second, for $5, offers 5. And the third, for $25, is an expedited response of 3 possible homes for you to do some research on then 10 more once you look them up and return with any impressions on what you liked or didn’t like about them. For full details (including additional services for small fees) please visit the website: thesubmissionwizard.com.

  Now to the poets. The first, Zebulon Huset, actually runs The Submission Wizard along with a magazine of his own, Coastal Shelf, and a writing prompt blog called Notebooking Daily over at blogspot. Not only is he a fine poet himself (please see his wonderful piece ‘When Someone Suggested Mushrooms on the Pizza’ in The Southern Review for a taste) but also a very kind and helpful man. He and I have been in communication for only a short time, but in that time I have learned more about the potentials for and machinations of poetry than I ever remember learning in school. For more information on him and his writing please give the name a Google search, you won’t be disappointed.

  The second poet, and a personal hero of mine, is named Simon Perchik. Mr. Perchik has been actively publishing for more than seventy years and is, in my opinion, the most shamefully unsung poet of the mid-20th and early-21st centuries. Though his book ‘Hands Collected: Selected Poems 1949-1999’ was longlisted for the National Book Award and he has appeared in all the biggest names in literary journals (The New Yorker, Partisan Review and Poetry Magazine are only a few) still he is relatively unknown. This is a travesty. Not only is his verse unique in that it is entirely non-narrative, imagistic and felt more than understood, but his procedure to create his art is too. Rather than beginning with an idea, a pen and paper, he uses books of photography. Going one by one, he establishes an idea from each photo then confronts it with another, utterly disparate notion, thus imbueing all his work with a feeling of tension and duality.

  Again, as with Zebulon, Mr. Perchik and I have been in limited contact. At 96 years old (still writing and publishing every single day) he responded to an e-mail I sent him out of the blue asking for his autograph on a first edition of his first collection. Not only did he agree to doing so, he even sent me a little note saying he “very much enjoyed” the poem below, which I could not help but to send him for his opinion:

Redemption

Life, the iredeemer.

No wonder there’s a God; not unlike there’s hate

and always a dollar in St. Anthony’s change for a cigarette

from the Pakistani or Indian bodega kept up by a family

who kneels just the same to different names, and praises

the canonized coin in their jars writ with wishes

that God won’t stop depositing dimes or even quarters

for some beatific order; smoke, family, like love.

What cans to be had.

Once more, thank you, Red, for choosing me to be Alien Buddha’s Press’ Featured Artist this month. To everyone who has stuck around and read this far, please do check out First-Year and Trail, my instagram page: @carsonpytell, as well as my occasionally updated blog: carsonpytell.wordpress.com.

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