I recently caught up with author Damon Ferrell Marbut whose collection of poetry Little Human Accidents will be released September 1, 2013. During our interview on August 5, 2013 Damon talked about this very personal collection as well as his take on the art of poetry and his upcoming projects.
Q: What is the single most important thing you want readers to know about Little Human Accidents?
A: You never can tell what editors and publishers are going to want from you. I thought these poems were going to die in an attic box as an archive of my graduate school existence, running around the country with other broke poets and living at the top of our lungs. They’re narrative poems, and certainly raw. Pre-release reviews so far have been really supportive and positive, but I guess it’s good for readers to brace for a lot of drinking, some cursing, occasional abrasiveness and self-deprecation, lots of affection and complete honesty about that particular lifestyle back then.
Q: As a writer who works in various genres do you go through phases where you prefer one genre to another?
A: I suppose I do. I admit I get bored and feel unchallenged when I’m doing the same thing for too long a period of time. Even when I’m working on a novel sometimes I’ll want to get something accomplished but know I need to break from the manuscript, which is when I’ll work on a few poems. Then there are other instances where all I do is write a couple poems a day for weeks at a time if I’m sensing a theme of some sort is developing in my head and I submit to it. I think it largely depends on how I feel I can best convey an emotion or present an image in addition to what amount of space is most appropriate.
Q: Who are some of your favorite poets?
A: During my undergraduate years I remember being shown videos of Carolyn Forche, Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez (who I met) all doing great readings. I was introduced to Bukowski then, too. And then in graduate school the floodgates opened and it was anyone from Nikki Giovanni (who I also met) to Allen Ginsberg to Pablo Neruda. But I’d say my favorite poets are Sharon Olds and Dorianne Laux.
Q: Do you view your work differently now that you’ve had the opportunity to get so much feedback from readers and critics than you did before you were published?
A: I’ve learned it has had real impact on people, mostly positive at that. My novel frustrated some people because I created a character to tell a story in a very athletic conversational style that isn’t conventional or familiar. I’m sure that reaction will occur with Little Human Accidents as well because it’s not comfortable at times and the reader is going to walk away hating or loving to hate the person of the poems. But in terms of how I view my work, I still see each new thing I do as a challenge and incredibly important to get right in terms of learning how I can personally do it to my best ability. I was like that ten years ago when I was a first-year grad student. I suppose what’s changed is my awareness of a larger audience, but in terms of my work I’m still a kid in my head absorbing everything and learning as I go along.
Q: You recently pointed out that there exists a stereotype that poetry is not for the masses. Why do you think people have that attitude towards poetry?
A: I think poetry was such a powerful social and political tool in the 50s and 60s that when the country changed away from that era it kind of faded a bit with such evolution. And poetry continued on, obviously, but maybe some poets kept unsuccessfully trying to use it for political statement, whereas others buried it in the academy and started more or less writing it for each other. Little Human Accidents was written during a hugely evolutionary moment in my life, and I was certainly writing with an awareness that much of the poetry being written in my graduate school years was cliché or stuffy and inaccessible, which is disheartening when it comes to such an amazing genre. It’s easy to turn someone off from something if they’re allowed to feel unqualified to experience it. I credit a lot of editors and publishers for the lapse in the reception of poetry because they were the ones putting the stuff out there. But in the new publishing world, poems to individual liking are easier to find.
Q: What are your future writing plans?
A: I’m going to keep working on this nonfiction book. It’s about life with my partner here in New Orleans and it flashes back to stories of growing up in Alabama. I’m also trying to get this other collection of poems published along with a novel I wrote that’s based on life in the French Quarter. Other ongoing projects include editing a photographer’s coffee table book and I’m reviewing several poetry collections for a few big publishers. So much for a lazy summer.