Hi David, thanks for answering a few questions. Firstly... where did you grow up, and does that still influences your writing now?
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1962 to 1972, age seven to seventeen more or less. Memphis was undergoing great change. Martin Luther King was killed there; it was segregated for much of that time, but it was also a prosperous time in the US, the dawning of the '60s, an optimistic time in some ways and I write often of Memphis and have great memories of the time; of the music, of the suburban quiet, the tranquillity of childhood, the lack of responsibility, the turmoil, yes, but also the great memories of childhood.
Can you remember writing down your first structured words at school?
No, not at all, but I do remember penning an article for the local paper at age nine on the subject of the small caged animals at the local zoo which lacked room. I was quite the animal lover at that age, and wrote a little piece. I do not remember the act of writing it though, perhaps a teacher helped…I just don’t remember.
Did you have a love of words back then?
I had a love of sounds, even in the crib. I was great with nonsense sounds; singing, tuned in to passing conversation. I loved then and still love the regional usage that marks that area of the US, the Mississippi Delta and the Mid-South.
Did you go to University?
I did my undergraduate work at UC, Berkeley, then on to grad school in LA, finally I did a PhD in English via distance learning in Australia.
Berkeley was a big factory university. I do not have great memories of the place, save for my own studies. I read a great deal and loved the town, but I didn’t like the large lecture courses. At Cal State University, LA, I had small seminars and wonderful classes; a lively time, a superb faculty really, and again lots of reading. Finally, the dissertation through Charles Sturt University... I finally got into a groove and did some very satisfying work, but it was a lonely process. For company, I took a few seminars at the NY School of Social Research and at UCLA. I am at my best in the company of others.
Is writing your full-time job?
No, I have made my living as a teacher. I taught in public schools, then in junior colleges, and finally in universities, first in New Jersey, then Saudi Arabia for six years, followed by some time in China and now in Tokyo.
Tell me about your very first writing engagement.
I wrote plays throughout college. There may have been a few poems or stories here and there, but it was plays for a good ten years. I was into Pinter and Albee at the time, and I wrote a derivative play on similar themes about a friendship, modelled rather directly on Pinter’s Old Times. I had plays and readings quite regularly and loved the rehearsals but hated the productions, the rest of it, the people, really the money, the tensions. I came to understand well why writers like Saul Bellow and Wallace Stevens shunned the theatre.
Tell me about the projects you are working on at the moment.
I have a collection of poems being published this year of some fifty poems and I am excited. I have half of my memoirs completed, a narrative of my teaching experiences over the years.
What do you most love to write about?
I love to write about my childhood, about Memphis which seems so lost, so gone…about the engulfing, unfolding catastrophe of American decline. The sentences appear and I have to get them out, take dictation really, before I forget them. I feel that I am reading sky-writing or something. Once I get going, there is work, sculpting, carving…but at first, it is not work; it is listening and hoping I heard it correctly.
Do you have a particular writing location?
I like coffee shops for the first draft. I can refine at home, at work even, but I can’t write a first draft in total quiet. I prefer the distractions of a coffee shop. I write notes on the bus.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, just now it is pouring out. I hope there is more. Can one plan? But, again, I do hope to see my poems published this year in book form. I prefer paper to internet publication.
Name your THREE most favourite books and why.
Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift - I love Bellow’s habit of mixing the high and the low, primarily the Jewish intellectual in conflict with low-life swindlers, hoodlums, and so on. The lush life and the street... this was his life, of course, in Chicago. I find it hilarious.
Faulkner’s Light in August - Faulkner’s world is so full of daring. Is there really anything like it in American letters, this world of raging sexual tension? Faulkner’s treatment of the nympho - maniacal white widow and the black stud is simply breathtaking... how it was ever published, the world that allowed that…today it would be torn apart of finger-wagging prudes of PC sensibilities. That he captures such a conflict, of lust and shame, is wild.
Tennessee William’s Night of the Iguana - Williams wrote about all sorts of women but most were mentally ill. Here, for once, is a click of a totally sane women, all making perfectly good sense and wanting things that are noble. This is his best work.
Lastly... what does writing MEAN to you?
At this time, writing is purging, it is expression, it is release and relief. I need to get it out… I find it refreshing, like losing weight.
Thanks so much David, and thank you for your wonderful contributions to BETRAYAL. Don't stop writing!
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