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David Estringel is Alien Buddha Press’ Featured Artist for November 2019

ABP- Thank you for agreeing to take this feature, David. Seven Months ago, Alien Buddha Press had the privilege of publishing your book Indelible Fingerprints. What can you tell us about that book? What went into writing it, and how do you feel about it today?

 

DE- Yes, I am incredibly grateful that Indelible Fingerprints found a home with Alien Buddha Press. I couldn’t have chosen a better publisher for my freshman venture. The entire content of the book is reflective of moments, situations that have left their mark on me—good and bad—so you can imagine how personal the collection is to me. The 40 poems and 3 short stories in the book were all composed in a relatively short time, but there is a lifetime of inspiration that fueled the work.

I work and hell of a whole lot so finding time to write has been a challenge, but enrolling in an MFA in Creative Writing program and, strangely, a brief period of under-employment offered me many opportunities to put pen to paper and come up with the collection.

How do I feel about Indelible Fingerprints today? I still love it. I don’t think that will change anytime soon. I do think that my poetry has evolved some and I like the direction it is headed, but my original poems are parts of me so I can’t help but feel emotionally connected to them, regardless. Maybe one day I will look back at them, sentimentally. But, for now, they are still tethered to me—heart, mind, and soul. Plus, many of them are still actively in reprint so they aren’t done yet.

 

ABP- We were also happy to include you in our music themed anthology Psalms of the Alien Buddha this year. Tell us about your contribution in that particular anthology

 

DE- Thank YOU for including me. The two pieces in the anthology, “Nothing Lasts” and “Grounding”, represent older and newer examples of my work. “Nothing Lasts”, which was one of the first poems I wrote in my MFA program, is one of my more somber pieces that speaks to the loneliness—randomness—of ‘being’ that I think all of us feel at one point or another. In a way, this is contrasted by a cosmic rhythm, order that somehow adds a sense of divine cruelty to the mix. (I was either really pessimistic that day or running low on caffeine) “Grounding” is one of my newer pieces from a series of haiku I had been working on this past summer. It is really a love poem to a friend of mine who keeps me in check when my mind gets away from me. She brings me down to earth when I fly too high or dance my way towards the entrance of the bell jar. Even when her words are blunt or harsh, they fall sweetly upon my ears. She helps me see. Friends like that are the most valuable things we can have. I love her…almost as much as my pups.

 

ABP- Tell us about “The Tripping Muse”

 

DE- The Tripping Muse is the lit magazine I plan on starting, hopefully this Fall for release January 2020. Starting a lit mag has been a dream of mine for some time now and I am finally moving towards making it a reality. So far, starting it has been a matter of the stars aligning a certain way and my just having the time for working on it. Conditions seem to be agreeable at the moment, so I plan on striking while the iron is hot.

The plan is to feature poetry and short fiction at first and then include essays, interviews, and book reviews later on. Ultimately, I want to showcase great writing (i.e. stuff people want, love to read) without prescribing to an explicit aesthetic. I think so much amazing work goes unnoticed because it isn’t “the right fit.” Writing should define the magazine, not the other way around.

Aside from hopefully starting a small press one day, as well, I have some other ideas rattling around in my brain, but I will keep those under wraps for now.

 

ABP- As a writer of both poetry and fiction, do you have a medium that you enjoy producing more than the other?

 

DE- That is a really good question. My original passion—back in the day—was writing short stories and I always figured I would do that, solely, but then poetry entered my life. I tend to think in verse, so it came more naturally, still does. I look at writing short stories, now, as a craft that I have to work at. Unfortunately, my process for writing short stories involves a lot of time (for me to obsess), which is a commodity in short supply right now. Hopefully, I will be able to return to this sort of writing this year with the same gusto I did in 2018. I have a few in my head right now that have already been written and rewritten many times. I think 2020 will be very fruitful.

 

ABP- From your website, I can see that you have appeared at many live readings in Texas this year. Would you like to tell us about some of those events? Do you plan on going to more readings in 2020?

 

DE- Normally, I am terrified of performing in public. After Indelible Fingerprints was published, though, I decided I needed to work through that phobia if I was going help promote the book. I probably shouldn’t have gone all “balls to the wall” and made my first event a poetry slam (Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival) but there you have it. I totally tanked it and quickly learned that I am not a “spoken word” type of guy. The events that followed were less intimidating and hosted in a variety of local haunts, like groovy coffeehouses, libraries, a local radio show, and an online chat room for TL;DR Press for the release of their Shades of Pride Anthology.

I think–for now–I am going to put public reading aside and focus more on participating on panels and such. I find I am more comfortable talking about my writing than actually reading it, which is weird since so much of it lately seems to be of the performance ilk. I am also toying with the idea of starting a podcast as a kick-off to The Tripping Muse. Ain’t life funny?

 

ABP-  Who are some of your biggest influences?

 

DE- Another good question, as I have to speak to this in my thesis’ critical introduction. I would have to say that in terms of literature, I am most influenced by Homer and Raymond Carver. Homer (or the poets known as Homer) really knew how to tell a story. I first fell in love with “him” after I read The Homeric Hymns in college. Then, of course, I was blown away by The Iliad and The Odyssey. If one looks close enough, they can find the Classical influence in my work.

Raymond Carver is God! Enough said.

 

ABP- Do you have a follow-up to Indelible Fingerprints in the works; will you be releasing another solo project in 2020?

 

DE- I sure do. Currently, I, along with Luca Bowles from the UK, are putting together an illustrated collection of haiku called little punctures. I reached out to him this summer with the idea for the project and he was all over it. We indirectly collaborated on a piece for Foxhole Magazine, where he created an illustration for my prose poem “When I Think of Him I Think of Black Coffee and Toast with Red Plum Jam”. He captured my father, who the poem is about, with freakish accuracy, so I knew he was the guy for the project. As of now, we have about half the poems illustrated. Hopefully, we will have it ready for publication by December 2019 for Alien Buddha Press.

While that has been in the works, Really Serious Literature published my chapbook “punctures” as part of their @rlysrslit Disappearing Chapbook Series (Issue #104). It is currently on Instagram and will disappear into thin air the first week of November. I have some other chapbooks in review right now at The Bitchin’ Kitsch and Fjords Review. Keeping my fingers crossed.

 

ABP- Thanks again for taking this interview, David. The floor is all yours. If you have any announcements to make, shoutouts, or if you would like to share any writing with our wordpress readers, please do.

 

DE- Ideally, The Tripping Muse will be up and running January 2020, so that will be a huge deal for me next year. I aim to have my third book done and published by the end of 2020. I am working on producing more content, largely fueled by my regular feature pieces at Cajun Mutt Press and other publications. I have also started contributing to Writing Workshops Dallas Blog, writing pieces on publishing and other aspects of professional writing this year and plan on continuing to do so on a monthly basis (as time permits). I will continue my regular gigs at The Elixir Magazine (Poetry Co-Editor & Artist in Residence), Fishbowl Press (Poetry Editor), Red Fez (Fiction Editor), and Cajun Mutt Press (Artist in Residence) indefinitely. I love this work: it keeps me sane. Most importantly, I should get my MFA in Creative Writing May 2020. It has been a long time coming. Totally psyched about that. Other that all that, I will just keep churning out my “little darlings”.

 

estringel

The Austonian Spurious Conversations with Daniel Johnston

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“Do yourself a favor, become your own savior.”

  • the man himself

 

 

 

 

A Foreword by

PoetKen Jones

 

I first met Daniel Johnston in the early 1980s. My friends and I used to shop for used vinyl at a record store on the Drag named Sound Exchange. We started noticing this weird guy in a McDonald’s uniform following people around the store, asking if he could give them his tape. He finally annoyed my college girlfriend so much she came over to me one afternoon and said “Please get rid of this guy. He won’t leave me alone.”

Politely I walked over to him and said, “Dude, I’ll take one of your tapes but you have to quit harassing my girlfriend.” He excitedly handed one over to me. It was an original signed “Hi, How Are You!” with the alien frog drawing.

A couple years later, I started reading poetry at a club near UT campus called the Beach Cabaret. I fell into friendships with many of the regulars there, including two bartenders who became the guitarists in my first band Peace Corpse. Daniel used to gig there frequently, standing all alone on stage with just his guitar. It took a lot of guts, as back then, not many of the “hipster” punks liked him or his music. He took a lot of abuse but he persevered and played many times, eventually appearing on the famous MTV episode in 1985 tapes at the Beach Cabaret. And he also appeared on the album of the mid-80s punk festival Woodshock, with a good track called “The Marching Guitars”.

People began to take him and and music more seriously. There was a local promoter Jerry “Dog” Schadle who used to curate these multimedia gigs called “Flying Horse Symposiums”.  He would have some of the major bands of the scene back then such as Scratch Acid and Poison 13 play, as well as let me and others open for the bands reading poetry, often with exotic instrumental backing like bongos, violin, and harmonica. I still have some flyers and cassette tapes from those events, with Daniel and I listed on the bill together.

Dog also published a ‘zine titled Flying Horse where he would publish me, Daniel, Biscuit of the Big Boys, with other poets, visual art, and have interviews and articles with bands. Daniel would sometimes sit with me and Jerry at a table outside while we drank beer. I remember Daniel being a gentle soul with a quiet demeanor, and I never understood why people would be so mean to him.

Many years later in the early 2000s, after all the hoopla with Kurt Cobain wearing Daniel’s T-shirt (I sometimes wonder if Kurt came to Woodshock 86. I have a memory of sitting in the van of a Seattle band called the U-Men, smoking a joint after our set, with a quiet kid in the corner with a shock of blond hair-who knows?), my guitarist Mitch and I were living in Houston and we decided to see Daniel backed by a local band at a club named FitzGerald’s. After his set, Daniel was lurking around the back bar. I said, “We should go say hi.” Mitch said, “I doubt he remembers us”. We walked over and introduced ourselves as regulars at the Beach back in the 80s. He kind of cocked his head, looked at me for a second and said “You’re the poet. I remember you.”. “ That’s right” I laughed. “Daniel. I’m still a poet.” I guess we were all lifers in one way or another.

Hearing about Daniel’s death brought back a flood of memories. The fact he died at the same age as my Father (58), who was going through his last days in that era, only made the news more poignant to me. It also made me more determined than ever to release a book of my own 1980s song lyrics with flyers, press clippings and other memorabilia. Dustin Pickering of Transcendent Zero Press has agreed to publish it and we’re going to include some of those live tapes from back in the day as well. So Daniel lives on in his music, visual art, and his ability to inspire others to continue the legacy of our wild youth in the Austin alternative scene of the 1980s. R.I.P. Daniel Johnston. May your troubled soul find the solace we all deserve.

 

 

 

Red Focks

 

When I was young

I worked at a mcDonalds

I got a little older

& a doctor diagnosed me

with a schizoaffective disorder

& I got a little older &

I started drawing funny pictures on the wall

& I got a little older &

I believe in god

& I believe in the devil &

the devil knows my name.

 

 

 

 

John Drudge

Dan

 

In the thunderous bloom

Of attachment

And the whisk

Of mounting sensation

Where the only

Way out is through

The voices

The noises

And the things

That go crash

Captain America

And spider brains

The rush of discordance

Against the allure of dysfunction

Notes in the night sky

Bending into emptiness

And it’s all just love

Jeremiah’s dark blues

Downloading a dream

Behind the ganglia

Brain pains

On the planet of the dogs

A diaspora of the past

Institutions and dark places

As he breathes toward the light

Pages on fire

 

 

 

 

Marcel Herms

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“I’m a Sorry Entertainer”

 

 

 

 

Mark Hartenbach

in search of daniel johnston   

 

disturbing the difference with panther claws which

mark my words, mike my words. words developed

from black marks, ready-get set-go. shaving salt

block for dull-witted zombies. a call in the middle

of liver & onions saying keith richard’s internal

organs are in transplant poll & aren’t you lucky

because it’s your turn. my marching hairline will

stop retreating & charge forward to ‘street fighting

man’ while shriveled black fruit can pass for a b-3.

brass pipes are running under the choir & up the other

side or cheap chord organ. as i’m going under i hear
something about nocturnal discharge at half price

before the sun goes down. will it still be there when

i come to? dreams generating gravity from jury-

rigged clandestine repairs. ghostly presence is the star

of this show. smoking bone heat wilting in the heat

of tedious recreation. inventing sleep by drilling

boredom & traveling partner’s caress. aggravated

breasts are mulched into concaved multiple disorders.

poison kiss trying to lynch limbs on the sly. enflamed

blind eyes are jostling for a proposition. memorize

the title of this show. it will be one performance only.

flesh pajamas with seahorse sequel designs are

sweetening the pipes.

 

in memory of daniel johnston

 

encyclopedic knowledge of irrational thinking is

unbuttoning yet another dream slowly, seductively,

in what might pass for harmonious seclusion. collective

whopping was allegedly rooting out the problems

& was pulverized. jaded virgin claims to have the

key to unlocking authentic visions. however, body
of evidence suggests otherwise, & screams that

sprawling mounds aren’t for sale. rousing the

dialect with rattling floorboards, attics filled with

bad memories, & shavings from the final death poem

of dancing child. a string quartet for plodding plotlines

competes with columns of this year’s assets. boom of

confidence is frightening off all wildlife except for

buzzing metal birds which could be a spitting image

of tinnitus trying to silence fables like barge of fools

with nosferatu-looking shadows walking the deck
after the moon awakens. tarnishing repentance while

polishing the two-toned satellite which no one

believes in besides myself, yet judge my actions

with every flaming clause. whispering pines are

usually right on the money. but these are desperate
times. plowing ad infinitum for everlasting, not

eclipsed by evil eye. sheer quantity doesn’t feel like

a good bet. painful evidence, though once the so-called

scourge of light, is now viewed with a headless torso

which won’t argue my point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dustin Pickering

In the Basement [daniel johnston d. 2019]

 

unplucked boy of sagacious

spirit source

yr eyes wound with coils

wired to music it lit yr veins

with satisfaction

 

remember the haunted path

where faces bled music

in their ironic stare

 

you are now crossing the threshold

of heaven

seeing golden rocks

across the sea

 

yr mind a monarch

yr heart so much mischief

 

through the square apertures of time

lifts the translucent king

–  graceful as slow motion

–  strong as hypnosis

 

we pause before in the hereafter

strings plucked to raise our tombs

adam’s apple fallen from the neck

g-d lifted through the square apertures of time

 

a harmony lifted

dark descending chords

exprest the sympathies

of a faithless man

 

yr tomb empty as a shriek of a ghost

what love did make you boast

as sick softens the silence shifting

gone gone gone

are yr eyes

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“The Day My Soul Wept His Eyes”

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Borczon

Daniel Johnston

 

Danial Johnston

Was born the ghost

Of a lonely teenager

He died that way

 

It was from him

I learned how to

Ache like that

 

And I taught my daughters

To each ache like that

We share this together

And we know it

 

Like we share crooked teeth

We are real human beings

In a world full of

Body parts

 

We are the few

Real human beings

Who love and feel pain

 

Who sing in public and

Weep behind our outstretched hands

Who dance in supermarkets and

Kiss each other to sleep

 

Thank you

Daniel Johnston

Thank you

 

 

 

 

James Dennis Casey IV

 

The Artist Walks Alone Into the Ether

 

right this way to the museum of love

curated by the devil himself

artistic tragedy on display

recorded by a madman genius

hallucinogenic alien mixtape

 

singing to himself

lullabies of white noise dreams

behind a Red 100 held

between nicotine-stained fingers

 

when god is happy

and the sun is out

don’t forget to say your prayers

put the words on paper

and play the broken notes

 

in the end

if you go back

there’s nothing there

not anymore

 

choose to live

not to die

but Daniel always

chose the darker side and

some things last a long time

 

love comes and love goes

special thanks

to childlike minds

I’ll see you on the other side

 

 

CL Bledsoe

 

Worried Shoes

 

So many cars in the way as

I tried to get home before

the storm hit. I saw one of

the guys downstairs out on

his deck, watching the splatter

begin. He wanted to watch

other people get wet

and remember how it feels.

I could smell water on

the air as I rushed past,

the electric tang on the back

of the tongue. Inside, it’s time

to collapse. The thing about

people is they’re magnets.

No matter how you try to lean,

they’ll pull you in. All of it

is work. The clouds are tired

of bearing all the weight

they’ve been given by the world.

The guy downstairs knows

something I don’t. When they

let it go, we’ll all be healed.

Just a bit. That’s enough for today.

 

 

 

 

Heidi Blakeslee

Two-Headed Monster (for Daniel Johnston)

 

one head was jesus cavaliering through the streets of New York

banking up energy for the next rollercoaster down

 

every single moment of ugly

balanced with an equal measure of splendor

 

you were the real deal,

 

holed up

in a basement studio in your parents’ house in texas

 

you gave yourself over to the music

nonsensical genius poetry titles flowed from you, the other head

like consistent fire, in harmony

 

there was always more to create, more to burn

if you could’ve just gotten that one good thing down

 

then true love might’ve found you

in the end

 

 

 

Kurt Newton

 

TRUE LOVE WILL FIND YOU IN THE END

 

Days went by. Or were they years? Or just moments stretched to infinity?

Once again, Janus let his eyes roam, travelling from floor to wall to ceiling: seamless, circular, the room was one continuous crystalline white circumference in all directions. There were no windows, no doors. There was only the responder, which sat at the center of the room¾a small translucent device as alien and yet comforting as their surroundings¾through which they could “see”.

Mira sat on the floor across from Janus with a handful of crystals she had plucked from the wall scattered before her. “It’s no use is it?” she said, focusing on Janus’s upturned chin.

Janus looked down and closed his eyes. He fought back a moment of vertigo. It always made him dizzy if he examined the walls for too long. “I just don’t understand,” he said finally.

“Maybe it’s not for us to understand.”

“Then why else would we be here?” It was a question they always seemed to come back to, a circular argument like the room itself.

They had both awakened to find themselves in the room. They didn’t know why or for how long; they were just there, alone, abandoned it seemed, in this place that had no name. They had brought with them only their namesakes and fragments of their forgotten personalities. The only other thing they shared, besides their common fate, was a remembrance of some past event or experience neither could relate in specific terms; only that it was real, as real as they were at any given moment.

“Maybe there isn’t a way back.”

“But there has to be.”

Janus had tried many theories, the latest being that they had each somehow been separated from reality and one of the crystals contained the road back, if only they could find it. But, glancing around the room, at the thousands¾if not millions¾of crystals embedded in the walls, that hope now seemed nothing more than a distant glimmer.

Janus snapped out of his temporary fugue. “Try that one there,” he said, pointing to the collection of crystals at Mira’s feet.

“Which one?”

“That one there… the one with the flaw.”

Mira studied each one. “What flaw?”

She looked up and saw that Janus was smiling. Each crystal was as beautiful and perfect as the next.

“They’re all flawed,” Janus said. “Their perfection is their flaw. Any one, I don’t care.”

Mira still looked closely at each one of the crystals before choosing. “Then I choose this one,” she said.

“Why that one?”

“Because it is the most perfect, and therefore the most flawed,” she said, a note of triumph in her voice.

She held the thumbnail-sized jewel and rolled it between her two fingers; reflections sparkled off of its multi-faceted surface. She then got to her knees and lifted the domed lid of the responder and placed the crystal on the stem post inside. “Ready?” she said.

“Ready.”

Mira lowered the lid and they both placed their hands on the smooth surface of the responder. Arcs of light began to radiate from the center spindle and dance on the inner surface of the dome lid. The arcs gathered, coalescing beneath each of their palms.

The images began.

It was suddenly winter. Mira had become Stephanie; Janus: John. Beneath a heavy, white cloud cover they walked along a harbor surrounded by a park-like setting. There were bare trees with wire cages around their trunks, hardwood benches, a concrete walkway, a city skyline¾a mountain of glass and steel cut to precision¾across the harbor. Stephanie had her arm wrapped around John’s waist; John had his around her shoulder. They walked as one against the cold, their breath a white exhalation as they talked.

“Will it ever be the same?” Stephanie asked, her voice imbued with a distant consideration.

“Will what be the same?” John said in return.

“Oh, I don’t know¾you, me¾this beautiful, ugly day. Will it be here tomorrow? Will we be here tomorrow?”

John thought for a moment, the crisp, still air closing back in around them. In the far distance a ferry boat sounded.

As if that was answer enough, John tightened his grip on Stephanie’s shoulder and she leaned her head against his chest, and together they cut a path through the cold winter day ahead…

Mira sat, her eyes still closed, as the images faded. She felt the last of the warmth fade from inside Stephanie’s heart. It was usually like that: brief scenes¾snapshots of a life¾two people in love or in danger of losing love, but together, always together.

A sudden chill ran through her. What if all we’re looking at are memories of past lives? she thought. She remembered one particular image produced by another crystal they had played earlier: the image of a young couple just moments before their world ended, irradiated in a flash of blinding white neon.

“I’m tired,” Janus said.

Mira wrapped her arms around her knees and stared at the empty dome. Janus saw that she was shivering (although the temperature in the room was constant) and inched over beside her to give her some comfort.

“Maybe I’ll have better luck,” he said and reached for the crystals.

“No, I’m tired, too. Let’s leave it for a while, okay?”

“Okay.” Mira looked at him then.

“Janus?”

“What?”

She saw crystals reflected in his eyes, and in that moment she saw herself reflected in every one of them.

“Nothing,” she said. She offered a brief smile.

Janus smiled back. “I know. Me, too.”

He then wrapped his arm around Mira’s shoulder and she leaned her head against his chest, and together they made a place in a world where there once was nothing.

 

THE END

LB Sedlacek is ABP’s featured artist for the month of October 2019

lb

ABP- Thank you for taking part in this interview, LB. Back in April of this year Alien Buddha Press had the privilege of publishing your poetry book “The Adventures of Stick People on Cars”. Can you tell our readers what went into the writing of that book, and how you feel about it now 6 months later?

 

LS-  This book of poetry was inspired by my travels and specifically those stick figure stickers folks like to put on the back of their cars of stick people families, pets, sports, other hobbies, etc.  I told my friends I was working on a car stickers poem and asked them to text me if they saw anything interesting.  I got the typical texts with religious stickers, school logos and the ever popular around my area: “OBX” (Outer Banks).  My very favorite one a friend saw on a car was “Sink or Swim bitches.”  I thought that sticker belongs in a poem and it’s in the title poem!  There are more poems in the book about lifeguards and beaches, snorkeling, fishing, clouds and thunderstorms, bears, receipts left in library books, premonitions, word poems (I write based on the word of the day), the government shutdown that happened back in February, an anti-War poem and a Stick people poem I wrote about all the stickers I saw while traveling through Virginia.  These days my poems seem to most often be place, travel or what I call natural type poems.  Looking back at this collection now 6 months later, it reminds me of how much I view life as just that an adventurous curiosity of sorts.  I’m very pleased with the collection and proud to have it published with Alien Buddha Press.

 

 

 

 

ABP– Also in 2019, you were one of 10 poets who participated in “Masks Are Never Enough” a third book in a trilogy of poetic responses to the art of Marcel Herms. Was that your first experience with writing poetry based off paintings? How would you compare it to your normal process?

 

LS- I truly enjoyed the challenge of writing poems in response to Marcel Herms clever and thought provoking artwork.  This was only my second experience writing poems based off of paintings.  I wrote a few poems last year for an exhibit at my local arts council in combination with an Art of Poetry project held monthly around the area.  My normal process is triggered usually by a word or situation I wish to write about, not so much something visual.  I gravitate to the words on the page more than images from the words.

 

 

 

 

ABP- Who are some of your biggest influences?

 

LS-Ted Kooser, Nikki Giovanni, Hart Crane, Coleridge, and Rilke are some of my favorites.  I like their use of language, their presentation in their poems and the power that lives in their words and personalities.  To me, they embody what it is to be a poet.

 

 

 

ABP- What do you have planned for the end of this year, and in 2020

 

LS-  I am working on a sequel to my locally set mystery in North Carolina, “The Glass River.”  That book was nominated for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award in 2018.   It’s become so popular around town, that I started a follow up to it.  I also will have a few new poetry chapbooks coming out as well.  I enjoy writing fiction but poetry is my first love.

 

 

 

 

 

ABP- Do you have any other books or projects which we have not already mentioned that you would like to promote?

 

LS– I have a new psychological thrilled called “Intent” that’s recently out.  Also one of my more popular books that combines poetry and literary fiction is “The Mailbox of the Kindred Spirit” about the famous mailbox on Sunset Beach in North Carolina.  I also had my first young adult novel published which is set local to my area too, it’s called “Cackalacka.”  My most recent poetry collections are “Things to Do on Vacation in Washington DC during a Government Shutdown” and its prequel “Things to Do on Vacation in Washington DC with your Dog.”  One of my favorite poetry books I wrote is called “Constellate.”  It’s all beach poetry about North and South Carolina beaches such as Ocean Isle, Sunset, Myrtle, etc.  I love being near the ocean, or near the water.  The beach makes me feel at home.   I also wrote a book about writing called “Electric Melt: (How to Write, Publish, Read Walt Whitman and Survive as a Writer and Poet).  So many people contact me to ask me about being a writing or how to publish, I wrote this in response to that.

 

 

 

 

 

ABP- Thanks again for taking this interview, LB. The floor is yours. Feel free to share any poetry, any announcements, shoutouts, or anything you would like with our wordpress audience.

 

LS-Thank you for featuring me and my work this month!  I so enjoy encouraging anyone to read or write poetry which means I really like talking about it too.  My website is www.lbsedlacek.com or you can find me on Facebook @lbsedlacekpoet or Twitter @lbsedlacek

I’ll leave you with one of my poems from “The Adventures of Stick People on Cars”:

 

 

 

Burger Worz Receipt Left in a Library Book

 

Served by Nathaniel

on July 24th

1 Chicken Sandwich

with lettuce, tomato

pickles and jalepenos

and sriracha mayo

with a small

drink and a

small fry all

for only $10

you, Miller Williams

William Miller we

appreciate your business

we thank you

so much even

though you didn’t

leave a tip

but kept this

receipt that you

left in the

poetry book I

checked out of

the library after

you.

 

Jeff, Laura, and Leo Weddle are Alien Buddha Press’ featured artists for September 2019

Leo, Laura and Jeff Weddle and a family of Alien Buddha authors. Leo’s poetry collection, Mr. You and Mr. Me, appeared in 2018, as did Laura’s novel, The Book of Vernie, and Jeff’s poetry collection, It’s Colder than Hell / Starving Elves Eat Reindeer Meat / Santa Claus is Dead. Leo and Laura are the parents. Jeff is the son. All hail originally from Kentucky, though Jeff now lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he teaches at the University of Alabama. Leo and Laura are retired professors from the University of Kentucky Community College System.

 

ABP: I would like to hear from each of you about what went into the writing of those books and how you feel about them present day.

 

Laura Weddle:   The Book of Vernie began as a short story designed  to explore the question of good and evil as it exists on earth, both universally and individually. The central character, Vernie, at a very young age, had begun to display traits of inordinate compassion and love toward others, both human beings and animals. While the short story raised the question regarding the whys and what ifs of such an individual, I soon realized that the analysis needed to go deeper, to explore such questions as:  Does there exist some sort of a balancing mechanism in the universe which holds up an example of the goodness seen in Vernie, against an equally evil example of such an individual as her minister grandfather who, in his misplaced fanaticism and narrow-mindedness has caused inordinate pain and damage to his family and others toward whom he should have displayed the highest degree of love and respect?

 

To this end I expanded the narrative, following the events in the young adult life of Vernie, her further spiritual life, her college experiences, and developing further her experiences with the metaphorical  demons which represent the efforts of that side of the equation, which is to destroy Vernie and what she stands for: that God is love, that He is the Source and the Creator of all that is, and that any religious tradition which embraces love at its center is as legitimate as any other.

 

I had a deeply satisfying experience delving into the lives and events in The Book of Vernie, and hope that it will provide food for thought and some degree of spiritual insight for those who read it. But even more important to me is the hope that those who read it will also enjoy it as a good read and value it as a satisfying work of fiction.

 

Leo Weddle: “Mr. You and Mr. Me,” the title poem in my book, was written on a cold winter day on a hill in Korea, where I was deployed as a Marine Corps machine gunner in that war.  I had been there several months, and like so many of my fellow soldiers, our warmest and most satisfying thoughts and fantasies were about home, our loved ones, and the nature of the people and places we had left behind, in order to contribute our own efforts as trained soldiers, to protect and defend it.  This poem represents my own hopes and dreams of what America meant to me. Writing as I was from the harsh reality of the shelling from the enemy and the deaths of my fellow soldiers on all sides, I poured my love of my country and the idealism of one in such circumstances into the words and lines of my poetic creation.  For these reasons I was so pleased when the poem appeared later, while I was still deployed, in the Marine Corps magazine Leatherneck, December 1952. I hope that it was my love for my country, family and loved ones that came through and prompted Leatherneck to publish the poem. The remainder of the poems in the book were composed over the years and reflect the feelings, observations and beliefs that sum up some of  the  most  the most important creative musings of my life.

As to my present day feelings about this book as a whole, I hope readers will find in the collection poems and even random lines that may strike a reciprocal chord and provide a path to some of their own deeper insights into the human condition we all share.

 

Jeff Weddle: Well, you know. I just write. I write when I should be doing other things, I write and write and write. Sometimes it comes out okay. Sometimes not. After a while, when I’m lucky, I have enough decent poems to put together and show a publisher. I had seen a number of ABP books over the years by poets I respect, and wanted to be part of the gang. So, I put a manuscript together and figured out a punchy name for it. That’s all.

 

ABP: Other books you’ve written over the years?

 

Laura:   I published two books of short stories prior to my novel, The Book of Vernie (Alien Buddha Press, 2018 ) The first of these two books, People Like Us, Stories  (Wind Publications, 2008)  is a book of related stories set in Kentucky, in an area similar to the rural farm community where I grew up. The time of those stories was approximately 1933 to 1953. The central characters are a family of four, with the two young daughters, Lilly and Wilma, as the central characters in many of the stories. Most of the stories had previously been published in regional magazines throughout the country. While the stories are fiction, some are based on memories and impressions of a young girl looking back on emotions ranging from joy to sorrow, from happiness to pain.

The second of these books, Better Than My Own Life (Outskirts Press, 2015) is another short story collection. It offers insights into the later lives of Lilly and Wilma, little girls no more, but women grown to suffer the problems and joys, “the slings and arrows,” as the Bard reminded us, “that flesh is heir to.”

 

As my descriptions indicate, both of these books of fiction contain reflections and memories close to my heart. In addition to the Lilly and Wilma stories, Part Two of  Better Than My Own Life is made up of  unrelated short stories.

 

Unfortunately the publisher of People Like Us passed away and his press passed with him. The book is still advertised on Amazon, offered by various book stores throughout the country, which have been able to procure a few copies.

 

Leo:   In 2004 I published a memoir entitled As Time Goes By (Exlibris 2004 ) This book is a factual account of my life with descriptions of the history of people and places where I was born and raised, and of such events as my growing up, joining the Marines, serving in the Korean war, meeting my future wife in college, our lives as college teachers, the growth, development and subsequent success of our children, the arrival of our grandchildren, our current 25 years of retirement and everything else in between.

 

When we retired from the University of Kentucky in 1994, we had a separate travel fund to which we had added for several years. Within a few months we began to travel and for the next twelve years we went almost everywhere that we had dreamed of visiting during our teaching career.  One interesting outcome of all those travels was the many friends we met along the way. Two in particular were George and Teresa Trevino of Mexico City. We met them on a thirty-five day tour of Europe. By the end of the tour we had become close friends, and spent the next ten years visiting back and forth yearly alternating month-long visits between Kentucky and Mexico City.

 

My original reason for writing the memoir was to leave a record of our lives for our children and grandchildren, and that motive still applies. A surprising outcome remains as well. Now that almost twenty years have elapsed I find myself rereading parts of it, just to remind myself of things that have faded a little in the interim and which were such an important of our lives at the time.

 

Jeff:  My tenth book, Dead Man’s Hand, is due soon from Poetic Justice Books. It’s a poetry collection, as are A Puncher’s Chance (Rust Belt Press, 2019), Citizen Relent (Unlikely Books, 2019), Heart of the Broken World (Nixes Mate Books, 2017), Comes to This (Nixes Mate Books, 2017), Betray the Invisible (OEOCO, 2010), and of course It’s Colder than Hell / Starving Elves Eat Reindeer Meet / Santa Clause is Dead (Alien Buddha Press 2018). I have one short story collection, When Giraffes Flew (Southern Yellow Pine, 2015). On the non-fiction/non-poetry side, I’m author of Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press (University Press of Mississippi, 2007) and co-author of The Librarian’s Guide to Negotiation: Winning Strategies for the Digital Age (Information Today, 2012).

 

ABP-   Who are some of your biggest influences as writers?

 

Laura:    A major aspect of my job as a Humanities Professor at UK’s Prestonsburg Community College was to teach the great literature of the world. From the earliest examples of the written word to the present day–I studied and taught it all. I was influenced by so many of these literary treasures that I find it difficult to pinpoint even a few.  Of course I loved Beowulf, Chaucer, the Greek dramas, the Neoclassical rationalists, the Romantics–especially Wordsworth and Coleridge– but how could I not mention Shelley and Keats? I love all of them. Then there are the modern novelists–William Faulkner, a special favorite of mine and Hemingway, also a close favorite with such masterpieces as For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the whole body of his short stories.

 

These examples are only a few of those I loved and by whom I was doubtless influenced. My fondest hope is that some of my enthusiasm came through in my teaching, and that some of my students may share my enjoyment in their own lives–and that they might have passed this love of literature on to their children. I have had the pleasure to observe it in my own children, and consider it one of the most satisfying outcomes of my life as a teacher and as a parent.

 

Leo:   My major fields of study on my way to becoming a college professor was a combination of Psychology and Sociology. In addition to my teaching in these fields, I also held the offices of Dean of Men and Dean of Students at Campbellsville College (now Campbellsville University).  I also used the Psychology and Sociology in counseling students in my role as Dean. For these reasons I was influenced by the writings of Freud and Jung, Bruno Bettelheim, Rollo May and others. Since my creative writing consisted mainly of poetry as it related to human behavior, I was also guided by my emotional reactions to experiences and observations of events throughout my life. For example, while still in graduate school I did a semester’s observation-interaction at a local nursing home. I was so moved by the sadness and loss revealed in stories confided to me by many of the patients there, that I wrote numerous poems about them. When I was on the battlefield in Korea, where my experiences involved the most basic ones of life and death, I wrote poems about that. I also admired the poetry of such giants as Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, T.S. Eliot, and the existentialist writer-philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre. All of these writers exerted influences on my thinking and on my writing.

 

Jeff : I have to mention my parents first, of course. How could I grow up around these two and not want to write? Some others that have left their mark on me are Bukowski, Hemingway, Barry Hannah, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Richard Brautigan, John Fante, Knut Hamsun, Vonnegut, Larry Brown, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Frank O’Hara, Neeli Cherkovski, Gerald Locklin, Alan May, Raymond Carver, Etgar Keret, Dostoevsky, Ray Bradbury. Raymond Chandler, George Eklund, Denis Johnson, Sylvia Plath, Carson McCullers, and lots and lots of others for lots and lots of reasons. There are many excellent poets who publish work on Facebook every day, and many of them have found a home at Alien Buddha Press. I don’t want to start naming those names, because I would surely leave someone out and that would be awful. But I get inspiration and pleasure from reading the work of the wonderful writers who post on ABP and in a few other Facebook groups.  Also, if you’ve not read Andrew Hilbert’s weird and wonderful novels, you must. Death Thing is jaw dropping, as is Bangface and the Gloryhole. He has others, too. Jay Miner is a depraved beast who knows how to lay down the word, as is—as everyone knows—Red Focks. And one more thing: You need to read essayist Leona Helmsley. Trust me.

 

ABP: What are your plans for the end of the year and of 2020, creatively?

 

Laura:   I am currently working on a project which I hope will result in another book of related short stories or a novel. It is the story of an Appalachian family, and their tragedies and triumphs.  This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart!

 

Leo:   I will continue to compose my poetry as the spirit and inspiration move me. I have no specific goal in mind, but my hope is that the spirit will move me with enough frequency that another volume will result.

 

Jeff: After Dead Man’s Hand comes out, I’ll be turning my attention to a couple of non-fiction projects that have been on the back burner for a while. Maybe I’ll get one of them finished before the end of the next millennium. Who knows?

 

ABP:  What is it like being a literal family of writers?  Do you or have you ever taken active roles in each other’s work; editing or bouncing ideas of each other?

 

Laura:   We are a very close and loving family, and it naturally follows that we have a great deal of pride in the accomplishments of each other. As for me, it was Jeff who first encouraged me to begin writing fiction.  Whereas I had taught the great works in all genres for many years, I had never considered attempting to create anything on my own. It was only after my retirement in 1994 that I mentioned to Jeff that I wished I could write creatively as he did. By this time he had published numerous short stories and poems in various publications throughout the country.

His answer? “Mother, you can.” And from that moment on he encouraged me to begin writing a short story. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but Jeff kept reading what I had written and giving me encouragement.  At first I had trouble finding the voice of my narrator. Again Jeff suggested questions I might ask myself that might enable me to hear that voice, and one day, out of the blue, I heard the voice, clear as a bell:  Hearing that voice I was able to start writing my story. With my narrator telling it, I was able to finish the story quickly, and after the usual editing, revising, having my husband and Jeff read it and make any suggestions they might offer, I sent the story to Appalachian Heritage, a prominent regional literary magazine. Not only did they accept it, but at the end of the year I had won an award for “Excellence in Fiction.”   Of course I was hooked, and have continued to write ever since.

 

This story illustrates the degree of interest and support we as a family have for each other’s writing projects. It is difficult to participate as closely as Jeff and I did with my first writing project. With the passage of time the three of us, like most writers, have settled into our own writing routines and have communicated about projects when they have been published or are about to be.  At those times our elation is extreme, and we communicate our joy in their success in the most heartfelt ways.

 

LEO: Since I had been writing poetry from a young age, long before I had my own family, I never communicated with my family in ways suggested by the question. In fact, many of my poems were written about members of my family, expressing my love for them, especially on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day , other holidays, and, when appropriate, joy in the fact of their birth. Much of my other poetry involves the observation of societal and individual problems, neither of which lend themselves to close communication of the ideas of others. Nevertheless, I regard the possible input of ideas, opinions or suggestions from my family to be of great interest to me, but in the very nature of poetry, its content has to that of the composer and his alone. Of course, since my personality lends itself to a personalized, less formal expression of ideas and content, there was no occasion for the kind of family interaction suggested by the question.  Indeed, in typical Weddle family form, they all expressed their delight in my publication success.

In other words,  “All for one and one for all.”

 

Jeff: I tend not to show anyone my work until I feel like it’s ready to send out somewhere, but my parents have always been my biggest fans and most generous supporters. A highlight for me came on my last visit home to Kentucky, when the three of us sat in their living room and my mom read a bunch of my poems out loud. She got to the heart of things. It was a great evening.

 

ABP: Thank you all again for taking the time to conduct this interview. The floor is all yours. Please take the following space to share anything you would like with our audience.

Leo and Laura: The interview has been great fun for us, and we especially appreciate the Alien Buddha Press for their interest in our writing and for their willingness to publish it and introduce it to the light of day.  These questions have given us delicious food for thought and enabled us to put into words statements about events and ideas that have been just below the level of consciousness. Thank you, ABP and may the Source be with you always,

 

Jeff: Thanks, Red! I think I’m done.

 

 

Mike Zone is ABP’s Featured Artist of the Month for August 2019

zone

ABP- Thank you for taking this interview Mike. Back in January of 2018 Alien Buddha Press had the opportunity to help produce your poetry collection “Void Beneath the Skin”. What can you tell us about that book?

 

MZ-It was a culmination of everything I had been going through the last few years. Starting with getting back to writing, I had gone through a bit triumph and a substantial amount of tragedy. There were character portraits involved, going through my working class antics of bouncing here and there along with the death of my mother and reaching a breaking point. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin like there was a space between my flesh and electromagnetically animated bone.

The title also refers to an abandoned sci-fi novel I wanted to write about sex-bots and the hollow act of pseudo intimacy.

 

 

ABP- Fast forward almost a year and a half later, you followed up with another chapbook “A Farewell to Big Ideas”, which ABP also had the privilege of releasing. What went into that book, and what are the biggest differences between ‘Farewell’ and ‘Void’.

 

MZ-I’m sort of on a mental reset. Whereas “Void” was this massive release. “Farewell” is my saying farewell not only certain ideas that alienate say the general reader or even just people but it’s about breaking patterns, this is almost embarrassing but after four years of not opening up to anyone except in my writing and a few friends, I encountered a woman and what we experienced may have been wonderful in  many aspects it wound up being a sort of deceptive whirlwind that instigated a massive shift in thinking and even composing for the page.

The biggest differences between the two works…”Void” is kind of a hodge podge of poetry, I’m throwing all sorts of shit at the wall just to see what happens in these emotional outbursts.

While in “Farewell” it’s kind of a search for something that’s been there the whole time and the revelation of discovery as you climb out of the mire.

I could be just bullshitting you right now and there really isn’t a difference…but that ending, huh?

Did he or did he not shatter his prospect at love? Perhaps we won’t ever know…

 

 

ABP- You have also been a big part of the “American Antihero” series as a writer. How has your experience been with that project?

 

MZ- It was so strange at first…not knowing if my style would mesh while in the midst of playing with prose again, which has by the way given me a prose boner again.

It’s been refreshing to say the least to work on something that isn’t your’s in terms of the onset of creation and yet help to evolve that world which I have generously been allowed to . I haven’t gone full balls out on it yet…but we might get there, should volume three ever rears it’s surreal head.

 

 

 

ABP- Who are your biggest influences as a writer?

 

MZ-That’s an answer that constantly fluctuates over the years but I have to go with; Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Erich Fromm, Noam Chomsky and Howard S. Thompson.

 

 

 

 

ABP– Do you have anything planned for the rest of 2019, and in 2020?

 

MZ– I’d like to kick out a few more short stories, I have about a half a dozen poems being published by Piker Press. I have a collaborative project I’d like to get off the ground with fellow poet Kevin Martin and see what we could do by the end of year in time for a December release date.

As for 2020? I’d like one last chapbook out for a while as I stray from poetry, I’m currently working on a couple screenplays I wouldn’t mind released as illustrated novels (hint, hint) amd my favorite a failed short story gradually becoming a novel about a mentally disabled man seeking God, who happens to be an alcoholic wearing paper slippers.

 

 

 

ABP- As a fiction writer, what is your favorite genre?

 

MZ-The stark secret is, I’m all over the board with this…entertainment wise and writing wise.  I do enjoy vintage sci-fi like the original Star Trek and Twilight Zone but I also love  crime fiction not that formulaic Law and Order stuff but more The Shield and Breaking Bad.

I guess you could say when it comes to reading, I like what the beats and Thompson did with creative non-fiction, the blurring of reality while examining society’s ailments but I’ll always have a soft spot for Shakespeare and Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” along with Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea”

Writing wise, I tend not to think of genre…I feel trapped if I think of genre and then the story goes all to hell but then again, I probably need to get stoned and relaxed more often…

 

 

 

ABP- Thank you again for taking this interview Mike. The floor is all yours. Please share anything that you would like with our wordpress audience.

 

MZ-Buy my bad poetry books and read my subpar stories!

Honestly, it’s hard to close out an interview, you want to leave the audience with some sort of words of wisdom or leave them entertained in some slap -sticky manner of which that’s not really you being you but rather a representation of what you want people to perceive.

Fuck, don’t go out to impress anyone, write or read just to read, if it doesn’t come to you right away or you hate something… discard it,  you have your entire life to render your style, your identity the way you desire and it’s not too late until you’re dead.

Be creative only when you want to and don’t produce just to produce to “get out there”.

Same thing in personal relations, screw the successonomics models, we’re not pre-packaged commodities, nobody  has to sell anything to anyone that mentality has been gradually killing the mechanics of  society for over a century end rant.

Take care and thanks for the soapbox.

Vatsala Radhakeesoon is ABP’s featured artist for the month of July 2019

ABP- Thank you for accepting this feature, Vatsala. Just under a year ago in August 2018, Alien Buddha Press Jr had the privilege of releasing your children’s book ‘Smile Little Butterfly’. Tell us about that book.

VR- Thank you Alien Buddha Press for featuring me as artist of the month of July!
Smile Little Butterfly is a poetry book for children. It consists of 25 poems with black and white illustrations by Ammi Romero, Red Focks and Dustin Pickering. Inspired by the tropical background of my native island Mauritius where the sky is often blue, I wrote the nature poems featured in that book. However, in Smile Little Butterfly nature is seen from the eyes of a child who explores nature through animals and plants.
This book also contains poems about toys and games that children love to play. Inspired by my little niece Abha, I wrote the poems Smile Little Butterfly, Hide and Seek, Our Puzzle, Plasticine Penguin and Little Barbie, Little Barbie.

 

ABP- This past February we also had the chance to put out another poetry book of yours ‘Unconditional Thread’. What can you tell us about that book?

VR- Unconditional Thread is my shortest poetry book that I have written up till now. It consists of 28 philosophical poems. Human beings, their surroundings, other creatures and the whole universe are interconnected. Therefore, there is an invisible thread. As we look at life itself from a philosophical angle rather than from the mundane eyes we realize that various conditions break one by one and life becomes much simplified gradually. Life has an unconditional element that predominates.
This book is mainly divided into two parts: Love’s Psyche and Breathing Freedom/Birth Rights. True Love is often associated as being unconditional yet a deep connection of souls and hearts. Freedom and birth rights rid human beings of all stressful conditions but they remain part of the globe. This book emphasizes on the basic philosophy that everything changes with time and everything is temporary. Thus humankind must be tolerant, flexible, think out of the box and avoid being entrapped in the engulfing chains of limitations. This book is for everyone who believes in the philosophy of progressiveness.

 

ABP- You work as a translator. You’ve translated poetry in two ABP books by Stephan Bohdan. How could one go about retaining your services in that field? How many languages are you fluent in?

VR- Being born in Mauritius, I have learnt English and French from Day -1 of my pre-primary school. Then I can speak and write my native language that is Mauritian Kreol. I also learnt my ancestral language Hindi from Grade 1. I’m fluent in 4 languages – English, French, Kreol and Hindi. In Mauritius, translation is part of our studies from Grade 10 -12 at school.
Last year I also completed a short online translation course from Open University, UK.
For the time being, I mostly translate poetry and prose books from English to French and
French to English. Further details about my translation services can be found on my new blog: vatsalaradwritingworld.home.blog

 

ABP- Can you tell us about these nifty mini chapbooks you put out with poems-for-all?

VR- I learnt about Poems -for-All from my poet friend Mike Griffith’s post on Facebook. Then I contacted the director of Poems- for -All, Robert Hansen and gave it a try with a little chapbook. I decided to select some poems from two of my published books that is,
Smile Little Butterfly and Guitar of Love and my upcoming book of haiku. I think this is a good means to share some of my works with book-lovers.

 

ABP- Who are some of your biggest influences as a writer?

VR- William Blake and T.S Eliot are my favorite British poets. I have always admired Blake’s simplicity of language and his spiritual/religious side to express depth in poetry. T.S. Eliot’s complex language carries me in a world of mysticism and profound philosophy. I also feel some poetic connections with the classic French poet Victor Hugo and contemporary
American poets, Scott Thomas Outlar , Heath Brougher , Dustin Pickering and Ann Christine Tabaka as they share my philosophy of integrity, truth, and compassion as poets.

 

ABP- What do you have planned for the rest of 2019, and 2020?

VR– My upcoming book “Tropical Temporariness” will probably be published in August 2019 by Transcendent Zero Press. It will be a book of 42 haiku and some photographs by Mauritian photographers and cover art by a popular Mauritian artist.
I have fallen in love with haiku… I guess and I will probably write some more haiku books for the rest of 2019. I have a short stories book still in need of some editing. So I will come back to that in 2020.

 

ABP- Once again, thank you for accepting this feature, Vatsala. The floor is all yours. Please take the following space to share anything at all that you would like with our audience.

VR- From the core of my heart, I would like to thank Alien Buddha Press for publishing three of my books. The quality of your books and especially your artworks are wonderful.
Thank you Red Focks! You are all a great team. One artist of Alien Buddha Press who always catches my attention is Ammi Romero. Her artworks/paintings so beautifully express the soul and heart of womanhood and feminism. She has a unique way of blending all those colors.
I would also like to tell all my fellow poet/author/artist friends to stand up for Arts, believe in you and always selflessly support each other. Even if you are the most successful artist always remain humble and humane. Arts survive with those basic qualities.vtslardhkesn

Robert Ragan is ABP’s Featured Artist for the month of June 2019

ABP- Thank you for taking this interview Robert. A year ago in June of 2018 ABP had the privilege of releasing your collection of short stories, Mannequin Legs. Please tell us about your experience writing it, and how you feel about the book a year later.
RR- I wrote poetry for ten years, then started writing fiction when I was twenty-nine. The stories in Mannequin Legs were all written over a seven or eight year period. The title story itself was one of the first short stories I wrote when I was experimenting with fiction. Looking back on it a year later, I’m still proud of it. But with me when it comes to writing I always try to out-do the last story. So I hope that I can put out a much better collection with my follow-up.
ABP-  Your fiction has also been featured in several of ABP’s zines and anthologies. Is there one of those that is particularly memorable for you?
RR- I love appearing in anthologies and zines a long side great writers. As far as my work I have to say my favorite story was “The Jar of Death” published in zine #2.
ABP- What is the literary scene like in Lillington, North Carolina?
RR- I used to attend a Writer’s Workshop at the library in Lillington NC with a group of older writters. Some of them have been published but their styles were more suitable compared to mine. Other than that,  I’ve come across a few aspiring writers and poets here and there. Unfortunatley, they don’t take it as seriously.
ABP- Who are some of your biggest influences as a writer?
RR- There’s so many, I dont know where to start. William Burroughs, and Kurt Vonnegut to name a couple. Lately I’ve been reading more stories and poetry written by my peers than more famous authors.
ABP- Aside from writing, you are also a visual artist. Tell us about your journey In that regard.
RR- My whole life I’ve always had a fascination and love for all types of art. Writing, music, and visual arts. Obviously, writing is my true passion but I was very excited when I got up the nerve to experiment with painting. I dont look at myself as a visual artist, it blew my mind when people actually asked about buying them. I write and paint all for the love of art. I would give them away, but I cant duplicate them. So I keep them for my private collection.
ABP- What do you have planned for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
RR- Being back at my old job I cant write as much as I had been. But in my spare time, I’m always working on new stories for anthologies and online magazines, as well as my follow-up collection.
ABP- Once again, thank you for taking this interview. It was a privilege to feature you. Please take as much space to share anything you would like to share with our WordPress audience
RR- One of my newer short stories “Right On The Hole Part”
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Right On The Hole Part

 

I call it like I see it. Sometimes though, I wonder if maybe I’m hallucinating.

This morning on the way to work. A diehard Duke Blue Devils fan says, “For every game Zion misses we will murder two young immigrants from Nike’s sweatshop.”

A couple of guys on a radio morning show ask, “Is America taking sports and entertainment too far.”

Wow, that’s cutting edge; very groundbreaking.

I turned it to something else and caught the end of the commercial, “O O O O’Reilly’s…Auto Parts….OW!”

Pulling into my parking spot…in hell, I see a couple of coworkers smoking cigarettes by the front entrance.

As I walk by, I hear one of them say, “Man you went down on that chick while she was on her period? That’s some nasty gross shit!”

 

The other guy says, “Man, she tricked me. She said she was just lightly spotting.”

For so long I was trapped in my own head. To save myself from my reality I started listening to everything anyone said around me. I couldn’t describe the smell, but I swear I stuck my nose into everything.

I don’t know why these people hired me. I’m hardly even qualified to stack boxes on the end of this assembly line. Before taping each one, I’m supposed to insert an instruction sheet.

The customers bitch and complain because I forget to add the instruction sheet in at least one box on every pallet.

How am I to worry about a sheet of paper, with so many thoughts racing through my head?

My body is in this warehouse for 10 hours a day. But my mind is far gone. I pay attention just enough to get by.

Most of the time I’m taping up boxes and thinking up rhymes in my head about all my co-workers.

I’m lucky no one can actually read minds.
My face is the book cover..open it up and my brain is filled with memories and fantasies turned into stories. Conspiracies tattooed on the soft tissue.

When I was younger my mother tried to prove I was mentally disabled in order to get a monthly check.

Psychiatrist admitted I was dumb as a rock and off in the head; but not to the point that I couldn’t be a functional member of society.

My mother swore I’d commit suicide or take a gun to school. After being turned down a few times, she vowed to take it to one more hearing.
My father had just died…A wannabe writer and painter, he was hardly ever in my life.

She said, “Well, he’s gonna be at that hearing.”

When the day finally came we sat in front of the administrative judge. He wanted to deny me again, you could see it in his eyes behind those thick lenses.

Just like mama said, I looked off to my right and asked the air, “What did you say, daddy?”

The judge ignores it and asks about my grades and if I ever I thought about hurting myself.

Ignoring his questions, I looked to my right again and said, “I don’t know..I’m not sure.”

My mother just stared at the judge wearing her best fake smile.

He asked her, “Who is he talking to, ma’am?”

Setting up straight she clears her throat and smooths out the wrinkles on her skirt.
She said, “He’s just started doing this recently. His father died and he swears he can see him and talk to him.”

This grey-haired old judge laughs. He then shouts at me, “Hey, kid, you can knock it off, I know this is all a big act!”
Breaking eye contact I say, “Yes daddy, I put on clean underwear right before we left.”

My mother goes into panic mode, “Come on! Can’t you see he needs help?”
Squinting her eyes trying her best to produce tears she said, “He needs some type of medication and I can’t afford it.”
Turning my head to look at her I say, “Mom calm down!” Daddy said he’ll take care of everything.”

Things didn’t go as we planned, I was not approved that day. The judge said there would be an emergency hearing sometime in the next few months.

He said, “That was a nice try, you people must think we’re stupid.”
As we walked out I now looked to my left and said, “You’re still taking me for ice cream, right Dad?”

On the drive home my mom didn’t stop for ice cream as she’d promised. “That was to celebrate if you got approved,” she said.

Later she informed me that I had to keep doing the imaginary dead father act everywhere I went. “Just until this next emergency hearing,” she said.

Everyone at school already called me a retard. But oh man, it really got worse once my invisible dead dad started showing up at school every day.

It wasn’t all bad, I got a date for the prom.
An awkward chubby pimple faced girl, her dress barely fit. We were like the biggest losers in the school.

Teri actually believed and thought it was cute that I was so close to my dead father.

On the floor in the gymnasium with other couples dancing all around us. I looked to my right and said, “Dad, she’s my date but I guess you can have this dance.”

Teri was graceful dancing right by herself.
Her dirty blonde hair bounced with each step. When the song was over she walked back to me and smiled.

She said, “I swear on everything it’s like I could feel myself in his arms.”

Teri didn’t have anything to worry about, she was already on disability and taking all remedial classes.

 

She and I broke up after she asked what I thought about having sex while she had a yeast infection. It pissed her off when I said, “I don’t care as long as we don’t make a breadstick.”

I carried on this act for so long, I really started believing it.

I came to the conclusion that my mom was trying to make this more than an act. I stopped doing it and she and I went to war.
She took my cd’s, my comic books, and even my best porno mag. Next, she took my Playstation. After that I was like forget this.

I went AWOL, tried to run away but she found me and beat me with a switch in the Food Tiger parking lot.

When the emergency hearing came around I was denied again.

My mother flew into a rage, “You crooked heartless bastards won’t help my son.
But yet, I know someone’s kid who gets disability just for being in a wheelchair.” she said, “It’s just not right.”

After that, she gave up and told me my dumbass better get a job flipping burgers or something.

Basically, that’s how I ended up here at this stupid warehouse job.

Hell, I don’t even know what’s going on half the time. At least once a week they threaten to fire me if I don’t get my act together.

My mama said I better stop forgetting to put them damn papers in the box.

Plus, she said I need to get my license and proper insurance on my junk car before I get pulled over or go through a roadblock.

When the alarm clock goes off, I bitch and moan and contemplate calling in dead to work.

She says, “It ain’t my fault you stay up all night watching dirty movies then don’t want to get up in the morning.”

Every morning it’s, “I tried to get you some help but you couldn’t follow along.”

Just the other day we went to see my grandma at the nursing home. Granny calls 50 times a day saying, “Call down here and tell ‘em to turn on the heat,” even in the dead of summer.

As soon as we walk in the door we can hear her down the hall yelling as loud as she can, “Help…Help!”

My mom’s always saying, “I’ve got enough to worry about with your grandma, I don’t need to deal with your shit too.”

 

Everybody is always picking on me, but momma and everybody at work can kiss my ass!

 

Right on the hole part…