Thursday, October 04, 2007

Writer's Corner

Hosho McCreesh
Each week it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to denounce any alliance with Guerrilla Poetics Project (GPP). I mean I am not technically one of the "operatives", but I find myself mentioning their fine work on almost a weekly basis. As I scroll down their poets page I find several past interviewees, and when I click on the operatives there are even more. Prior to today I had interviewed 6 GPP poets, but with each their connection to the GPP was more of a secondary focus. These men and women are tremendous poets on their own, and have come together to champion the small press and the tradition of the poem. Hosho McCreesh happens to be my 7th GPP interview, but this man is so much more than that.

Disenchanted with the state of the small press, Hosho all but disappeared from the literary circles five years ago. During that time he would publish small pieces here and there, and as we will find out even had a few chapbooks go unpublished. Attributing part of his renewed faith in the small press to the mission of the GPP, Hosho is poised for a comeback with two chapbooks, Marching Unabashed Into The Weeping, Searing Sun... (Bottle of Smoke Press) and A Ravel Of Branches, A Frozen Moon Fading, Our Frostsmoke Mortality, & A Pale Sky At Dawn... (Hemispherical Press) due out in late '07 and/or early '08, although no official release dates have been set.

Recently, Hosho took some time out to answer a few of my questions on his return, the GPP, and his views in general.

Orange Alert (OA): It has been five years since your last chapbook, Deep Surface Fissures Revealing A Furious Molten Core..., was published. What was the reason behind your absence, and what can we expect from your forthcoming books from Bottle of Smoke and Hemispherical Press?
Hosho McCreesh (HM): Well, it was never supposed to be that way...I actually had 3 different chapbook projects fall apart between 2002 - 2004...2 a direct result of rampant unprofessionalism by the editors involved. After that I just grew tired of the small press & its delusions, tired of wanting more for it than it wanted for itself. I stopped sending out lots of submissions, focused instead on sending work to the few places I admired, sent more stuff overseas. The simple fact is most people don't give a shit about the product they put out...they make a crappy little book then bemoan the fact that they can't hustle 100 half-assed copies of it to the infamously frugal small press buyers. At the core of every terrific small press publication–be it a magazine, broadside, or chapbook–is someone who genuinely cares about the work they put out–the writer caring about the words, the publisher caring about the design & production. I've said it before, but the small press really fails to capitalize on what it CAN do–which is make 50 fantastic & innovative books instead of 100 lousy fold & staple jobs. After self-publishing FISSURES–a book that came out beautifully–I decided that any book I put out had to be at least that good...& I wanted to place work with publishers with a lineage of quality stuff. Why put out a sub-par book if I can do a better job myself? So between 2004 & late 2006 no one knocked on my proverbial door--plus I am really uncomfortable trying to hustle people with blind subs of manuscripts--so I didn't put out any work. I think editors probably prefer to approach the people they want to publish instead of wade through thick submission slush piles...& the few books I have published have either been by invitation or self-published. Once or twice I've queried editor/publishers I admire...but I otherwise wait for those who are interested. I just don't like trying to "sell" my work to anyone--if they want to print it & will do a better job than I can, I'm happy to work with them. If not...well, I guess we go 5 years between books! There are a handful of publishers, the 4 Horsemen of the Independent Press if you will, that I'd work with sight unseen: Bottle Of Smoke Press, Hemispherical Press, Centennial Press, & sunnyoutside. They just make book after gorgeous book–& they are, I think, the antidote to what ails the small press. There's also guys like Verdant Press, & X-Ray Books–but they, of course, publish much bigger, more famous names. For short fiction & humor you just can't beat Johnny America--they've published a couple of my short stories & I never have a hard time finding something to enjoy there--& their print editions are very slick. As to my upcoming books from both BoSPress & Hemispherical: both are gonna be gorgeously designed, hand-crafted books. I am so excited to see how these books come out–the design ideas we've been kicking around are just glorious–I can't wait to see how they come out.

OA: I really enjoyed your recent broadside, Art, Love & War Will Always Favor The Brave ..., with the GPP. What is your opinion of the GPP's mission and tactics? Have you received any feedback from individuals who have discovered your broadside?
HM: Man, I love the GPP, I am all for it. Frankly, it took an idea of this magnitude to get me excited about the small press again. I am honored to be in the trenches with every one of the folks at the helm of this project & really honored to have work printed by them. They are an innovative, selfless, & insightful bunch. These folks just believe in poetry & always strive to do things the right way for the right reasons. It's been a trying but terrific first year–& now that subs are open to everyone who wants to be involved, I think we've managed to really make the machinery of the project match the spirit of it. I've had some really kind things said about the broadsides, mainly from writers I really respect...& it's those sorts of things that remind you, as a writer, that you're getting through to people. & beyond all the short-sighted, petty "competition" of the small press, that's what ultimately matters. The GPP has established such a unique, democratic, & inclusive approach, one that doesn't rely on sales, one that works if we're printing 1000 broadsides or 50, so we'll be able to keep doing this. My hope is it becomes THE PLACE for the newest & best unpublished work.

OA: Your three part essay, The Second Coming, posted on "Upright against the Savage Heavens" touches on many subject, but it mainly looks at two principles; the nature of beliefs and the global reality of basic human needs. Essay writing seems to be a lost art, how did you come to write this piece and what do you hope readers will take away from it?
HM: Fascination & disgust, really. I am constantly dumb-struck by what people will do–both beautiful & brutal–when they believe in something. I am amazed by how belief structures are built up & relied on–even in the face of evidence to the contrary, fascinated & disgusted by the sinister ways people engineer their own beliefs so as to justify inhumanity & especially the way people conveniently use their own beliefs to judge others as inferior. So many people are supposedly so sure about so many things in this world–while my experience has been the polar opposite of that: the longer I go, the less I feel I know. In my own life, I have found convincing evidence as to why I shouldn't even trust the things I supposedly believe–as I've genuinely convinced myself of things that were absolutely untrue–so I am immediately suspicious of anyone who says they believe in almost anything. Religion, history, patriotism–all of these are inexorably tied to the beliefs of people both past & present–& yet, at the core of all of it, is mankind–this bumbling, imperfect misfit–who has mucked up everything. Imperfect men created gods, borders, rituals, traditions, enemies, & heroes–& imperfect men continue to accept these imperfect ideas as scripture or fact–wage wars & other assorted campaigns against each other for the imperfect tenets at the core of their supposed beliefs & in the name of their invented gods & countries. Humanity, as a tribe, as a pack animal, is unlike any other animal: none work more diligently to ensure their own destruction. We march ourselves, giggling & farting, to the slaughter. That disgusts & amuses me all at once. Now, do I believe in things? Sure. I've built up a belief structure that works for me. But I refuse to believe that I am "right," that I actually "know" anything & I just do my best to challenge the things I think I believe, all while trying to understand & appreciate the things other people "believe" in. As to how it came about: Christopher Cunningham & I have been writing letters since I think 2000, & we've touched, many times, on things like this. He asked me to write something so I said sure. I think essays allow you to flex much different writing muscles than poetry or fiction does–& so I've always liked them as a change of pace. Some of the things written by Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, & Joan Didion just blow my doors off, so I suppose I tend towards them in terms of writing essays. They used essays effectively as a kind search & as a literary soapbox–a way to extol the virtues & expose the evils of the worlds they saw, something I think more should aspire to. Philosophy has been reduced to bumper-sticker & sound-byte–as if the world is so easily explained away. Ask folks to explain what they believe & you'll likely get a torrent of clipped, cliched justifications: "You gotta cowboy up" "Don't hate the player, hate the game" "Love it or leave it" "Git-R-Done" "Ask me If I Give A Shit" or some such things. It boggles my mind that people will so willingly let such a phrase define them as a person. If anything, essays delve deeper, refuse to take "just because" as an answer to the question "why." A smiling willingness to question the world & themselves--that's what I'd like people to take away from that essay.

OA: Your poem, 8 Nights & Their Subsequent Sunrises, is incredibly profound, but still maintains its straight forward simplicity. It paints such a dark picture, but then leaves a slight amount of hope. How did you decide on 8 night, as opposed to 9 or 20? How many of these night have you lived through?
HM: At the time I wrote it, I'd made it through 5 or 6 of them & I could easily anticipate a couple more nights before I could finally–hopefully–just accept the imperfect beauty of life, let go of all the things we convince ourselves to worry about, & just appreciate the simple cosmic mystery of being animate. So 8 was a best guess. As to the poem–I strive for a real balance in my work between the damnation & the redemption...& I think that poem walks the line well–even if it's too long & a bit undisciplined for my current tastes. It's a "young" poem–but, then again, so is the ideation behind it, so I like it for what it is. Suicide, as a concept, is very dark, very hopeless–& the decision to put it off is infinitely hopeful–it's just a stunning example of the duality of existence. is something fairly unique to the human animal–that we might willingly give up our lives over a concept or emotion, maybe even a bio-chemical any nature show on TV & you'll never see the gazelle just give up, stop running, & let the lion kill him. Humans, on the other hand, might. That is very interesting to me.

OA: Who are a few of your biggest literary influences?
HM: Bukwoski, Henry Miller, Vonnegut, Zen poets from China & Japan–guys like Li Po, Tu Fu, Po-Chu-I, Ikkyu...small press legends like Ed Galing, Winans, & Huffstickler impress me, Richard Krech, Anne Menebroker, as well as a few of my compatriots in the small press right now–Cunningham, barrett, Berriozabal, William Taylor, Draime. I bought a terrific broadside from the Palace Of The Governor's Press in Santa Fe by Naomi Shabib Nye...Kat Paul-Flanagan, Glenn Cooper...Michael Philips has a poem in the GPPReader that just crushes me...I dig lots of the work these people are putting out. Kaveh Akbar is doing some really surprising's just a great time to be reading the independent press–all these people, from giants to newbies, do things with words that I am envious of!

OA: What's next for Hosho McCreesh?
HM: Heck, I don't know...write, paint, eat, drink, sleep, laugh, live, learn to sculpt, learn photography, get a small letterpress up & running, travel to exotic locales with the charming Ms. Babineaux, enjoy friends & family more, stay current with my correspondences, listen better, remember less guarded, embrace more...stuff like that.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
HM: Almost never–it's a bad day if I am drinking coffee or soda pop. Caffeine has a pretty dramatic effect on me–if I have any past noon I'll usually end up staring at the ceiling 'til 4am.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy, and who are some of your favorite musicians?
HM: Jazz, Blues, Classic Rock, Classical music, Metal, Country legends, Big Band, Bob Dylan...heck, almost anything but modern country–that stuff is just awful, sounds like twangy pop. I usually write to jazz; I paint to jazz, blues, or classical; Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Monk, Ellington, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Jazz ladies like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitz, Etta James...Patsy Cline...stuff like that. I suppose my tastes are fairly pedestrian–I don't have albums by the latest up & coming bands no one knows about yet...that stuff is too hip for me.

For more information on Hosho McCreesh check out his profile page over at GPP.

1 comment:

christopher cunningham said...

can't wait for the new books; they're gonna be sick.