It was Nietzsche that said "Poets are those who muddy their waters to make them appear deep", but that is not the case when it comes to the poems of Iowa native Justin Hyde. That is not to say that Justin can't litter his work with grandiose imagery and complex metaphors, but he chooses to cut to the center the of the issues and situations of everyday America. He tells the stories of his life, and having grown up in a trailer park and holding numerous blue collar jobs, he has many stories to tell.
Justin did not start writing, nor did he ever consider writing, until 2005. Since first being published in March of 2006, he has gone on to bring his Midwest honesty to many literary journals. Most recently, he has appeared on Thieves Jargon, been included in Laura Hird's Spring 2007 showcase, and the March issue of Zygote in my Coffee.
Justin recently answered a few of our questions on writing, getting published, and the odd jobs that fill his days:
Orange Alert (OA): I enjoy your straight forward word selection. How would you define your style of writing?
Justin Hyde (JH): I suppose I try to get at a thing without pretension or bells and swizzle sticks. In my opinion, a-lot of poetry is superfluous bullsh*t. But I also suppose a-lot of poets would say I don’t write poetry. I’d say I write compressed narratives that serve as a window into the multifarious hell that is us. But sometimes I cut loose and dance as well. That I ever became a writer is a mystical farce to me. I was twenty-seven when I wrote my first poem and up until then I’d never read a single poem that I can remember or ever had any desire to be a writer of any kind. I think that works in my favor. I like to think there isn’t any premeditation in my writing. I sit with a notebook, generally hungover, tucked in some corner of a coffee shop that gives me a window to watch all the cars going up and down the road to nowhere and also ready access to the paste-faces inside the place, and see what comes. I’m a very solitary individual, but for some reason I seem to write best when I am amongst the stench of the masses. This may be tangential, but I think a good writer realizes when nothing is coming on a particular day, and moves on to drinking and womanizing, or other recreational activities.
OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
JH: I grew up in a trailer park and my mother always had the Star and Enquirer around. Between the ages of7-12 I pretty much read every one of those suckers cover to cover. After that, I discovered Vonnegut in the high-school library and thought he was a funny son of a bitch... I have respect for anyone who can keep on laughing while the ship is sinking. Then in college (The University of Iowa), I discovered a taste for Dostoevsky. That was about the time that I decided the acquisition of knowledge was going to cure what was wrong with me. (I didn’t know exactly WHAT was wrong with me, but I knew something wasn’t right,and I’d known it from a young age) I poured myself into science, philosophy, history, etc, but that game proved to be a thin road leading straight up my own asshole. Writing is probably no different, but it feels good for now. Back to the point, I think I might be too vain to admit that I have any literary influences. If I had to say something though, life’s constant sucker punches and laughing back at them through bloody teeth are probably my biggest influence.
OA: How has the internet (blogs, lit mags, publishers, etc) affected you as a writer?
JH: I owe a debt of gratitude to various on-line poetry workshops (even though i've been banned from most of them for unseemly content) and poets. There I was, a twenty-seven year old shattered feeb of sorts trying to write poetry without ever having read any poetry.I knew most of the people on the boards were full of sh*t and just mother-titting each other to fill some need to interact, but I was smart enough to listen here and there as well... They quickly pointed out that I had a tendency towards extraneous exposition.Which I did, but am learning to curtail.
OA: Do you listen to music while you write? Who are some of your favorite musicians to listen to while writing and in general?
JH: I always listen to music when I write. I am a huge fan of Modest Mouse. I don’t even know the lead singer’s name, but the sheer gamble and lightning-force of his voice coupled with the striking lyrics are very appealing to me. They are the only band who’s CD’s I will go out of my way to purchase...yes CD’s, I haven’t made my way to Ipods, or even a cell phone for that matter. I’m backwards and behind the times in many ways and hope to keep it that way.
OA: I read that you have been writing for a couple of years, but how long did it take you to get your first poem published?
JH: That’s a good question, I hadn’t thought about it until you asked. At first, I had no intention of publishing my scribbles. I started writing around March of 2005 after I quit my job as a bank examiner with the Federal reserve bank of Chicago, drifted wayward and homeless for a bit and then moved into my parent's basement in Ames. I was going through arough patch, contemplating the merits of suicide and what-not and just started writing out of sheer desperation. I googled “poetry” and found a bunch of on-line poetry boards. At that point the whole thing was just a cathartic release and I figured that was all it ever would be and that was good enough for me. A poet named Jill Chan, who was a frequent contributor on one of the boards I frequented, posted a call for a zine she was editing. I was very drunk (as is my heritage) and sent her some poems. To my surprise, she accepted them. That was in March of 06, I just now reconnoitered google and found them here, they area little rough, but that’s fine by me: http://www.poetrysz.net/issue19/poet2.html#hyde
After that a poet named James Lineberger (who has been instrumental in my development) said I should send some of my stuff to Thieves Jargon. I peppered the editor Matt DiGangi with slivers of sh*t and he finally accepted a poem in June of 06: http://www.thievesjargon.com/author_details.php?author=349
After that, my vainglorious nature sort of took hold and I’ve pretty much started submitting everywhere...getting rejected plenty, most recently by the New Yorker.
OA: What's next for Justin Hyde (i.e. Publications,readings, etc.)?
JH: I hope I never read a poem out loud. Something aboutthat seems inherently wrong. In my opinion, any magic in this game exists somewhere between the reader and the page, anything else is mouth to ass posturing. But I have a mortgage (thanks to my wife’s good credit and indefatigable insistence that we buy a house) so if someone flashed me enough cash I’d probably get real drunk and do the thing.
I do have a chapbook coming out through TAINTED COFFEEPRESS (publisher of 'Zygote in my Coffee'). The editor Brian Fugett and Co editor Karl Koweski haveboth been very receptive to my work and I greatly appreciate that.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite kind ofcoffee, and what is your favorite coffee place?
JH: Black, cream and splenda. There is this place called Bruger’s bagels in Des Moines that I go to quite often.
OA: I've read that you have had a lot of different jobs, which has been the most unusual and why?
JH: My current job as a Parole Officer is pretty unusual compared to the general factory or cubicle grind. Spending my days trying to rehabilitate criminals of all shades can be trying to say the least. I’ve got this red emergency button in my office that I’m supposed to push if a guy ever decides to go hammer-fist on my face. I’ve never had to use it, but I’ve changed out the box of Kleenex I keep for the guys on the end of my desk plenty of times, if that tells you anything. I won’t make excuses for their decision to break the law, but most of my client’s had such horrific and stunted childhoods, stuff you couldn’t even begin to imagine... It's the first job I've had that isn't constant drum beat-hell... Being a bank examiner was a special shock of pedantic-nut-thumps. My office was in Des Moines, but they often flew us to headquarters on Lasalle and Jackson in downtown Chicago for meetings. They always had an open bar after the meeting. I vividly recall standing at the window with my rum and coke, loosening my tie (that my future father and law taught me to tie when I was interviewing for the job) looking out at the city and laughing myself silly. How had I gotten here? This has to be a joke, I thought to myself... For sheer lunacy though, a job between my sophomore and junior year of college takes the cake. It was me and this Turkish guy that answered the ad in the paper. It was this old Jewish guy in Iowa City that owned a bunch of rental properties. He wanted us to put a new roof on one of his duplexes. The old coot was stone-paranoid that the city was stealing his garbage, "Turk" and I would be up there nailing shingles and he'd bellow "git, git, git" and the two of us had to shimmy down the ladder, pick up one of the disposable cameras he kept in a pile on top of are frigerator and try to get the license plate of whatever car that was going through the back-alley (to support his lawsuit against the city)... I sh*t you not... but his checks for $15 an hour always cleared. What else can you ask for?
For more information on Justin Hyde just send him an e-mail.