DeWitt Brinson: Do you write with line-breaks or as a block that you enjamb later?

Mike Wall: To have rules, to hold yourself to a form is something I struggle with constantly. There is a great comfort in naming things, labeling, saying to yourself I am this person, I do this. One of the most mind blowing pieces of advice I ever received was during my first year in the MFA program at UMass. I was attempting to explain to Dara Wier what kind of writer I was by telling how I didn’t do some small, really nit picky thing in my poems because I thought it was dumb (I don‘t remember what the nit picky thing was).  She just looked at me and said Why not?  Before I could further explain she said that whenever a writer or artist finds out what they don’t do that means they should try to do it, that we should always be experimenting and pushing our imaginations as far as we can. I was speechless, it was so simple, but I was so rigid and so boring trying to follow these strange rules I constructed that I was missing out on a lot of amazing poetry going on around me. Ever since I have tried to remain open to new ideas and not let myself say I am this person, I do this.     

DB: Shut your eyes. Push your palms into your shut eyes. Unshut your eyes. Stare at a wall. Write a few lines about how your hands feel.

MW: I love the word hand because it can be a verb or a noun. I wrote a friend recently about how I felt like I could see his hands hidden in his poems. Like that weird time when everyone had those terrible calendars and posters that were just rows of strange colored lines. You had to stand there and un-focus your eyes for hours trying to look through the thing and not at it until some vague image slowly seeped forward. That sounded really negative, maybe a better way to say that is more like old Scooby Doo cartoons when the hands of person in a painting would rise off the canvas until the whole body apparition would jump out and start chasing Scooby and Shaggy until one of the other members of the crew would pull the mask off the ghost to reveal the night watchman. I feel like we all do this, we leave impressions, we run away from what we don’t fully comprehend, we rely on friends to show us something amazing that was right in front of our eyes or sitting in our hands.          

DB: Please list your choices:

a) Most Attractive Writer=
b) Writer Most Likely to Win a Brawl=
c) Best Shape For a Mirror=

MW: Peter Gizzi often talks about developing the interior, a notion about how what we as artists and writers take in directly informs what we put out into the world. I try to be open when experiencing art in all forms and read what others artists and writers recommend to me. I feel a sense of duty to be a sponge and mad scientist. To seek merit in every experience. This is too far off topic, I’ll just answer the questions:  a) a beehive on fire, b) Everett McGill as Stilgar or Eldon Robeson, c) The Battle of Waterloo.

DB: What's a poetry book that you reread?

MW: At some point in my life I fried my memory and I have like a 5% retention rate.  So I reread everything all the time.  If you want me to get specific here are a few I’m stewing in this summer:  Junk Parade by Anne Cecelia Holmes, A Basic Guide by Nick Sturm, Watch fiends & Rack Screams: Works from the Final Period Antonin Artaud trans. by Clayton Eshleman and Bernard Bador, Expeditions to the Polar Seas by Gale Marie Thompson, 0.174 The Complete Numbers Cycle by Gordon Massman, Flood Bloom by Caroline Cabrera, Moon’s Jaw by Rauan Klassnik, Poet in New York by Federico Garcia Lorca, Greetings from Hellville by Thomas Ott, My Life’s Work by Guy Pettit, Pop Corpse by Lara Glenum, Collected Poems of Joseph Ceravolo, Arkham Asylum:  A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, 20 Love Poems for 10 Months by Mary Austin Speaker, Shut Up & Bloom by Ben Kopel and Matthew Suss, and The Dream Songs by John Berryman and more and more and more.

DB: Rather be world famous for one poem or just have some solid books?

MW: I don’t want to be famous. I just want to write poems that my friends like.

DB: Strangers or friends?

MW: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”  Donne

DB: Nothing?

MW: There will be stretches of days where I just lay in bed listening to doom metal and watching youtube clips of people building canoes. This is what I sometimes wish my poetry was like, the interrupting of plans, seeking the precise wood and tools for the job, using guides to slowly cut the jigs that will hold the long pieces of wood in a curved shape.  Which will later be returned to for carving and sanding into something that is universally beautiful or at least universally accepted as representing the object know as a boat. I don’t think my poems are built this way, and this offers some odd sense of relief. My poems are messy and do not feel like I own them. I don’t feel like I wrote them it’s more like I found them in other places or they found me. Sometimes when I’m writing it is as if I’m experiencing a form of possession or I try to reach some level of trance state. Just total occult automatic writing that I have to later piece back together through being open to critique and by trying different forms of editing and trying to turn up the reverb or delay in order for it to be in harmony with other poems floating around.

DB: The shape of yourself interior?

MW: A dog bowl filled with a million demented dwarves who make offerings of blood sacrifices in order to receive more pieces of the eternal story.

DB: What do you care about that you could never deny?

TD: Some sort of devotion or fellowship with community of poets writers artists scholars and just every person around me or in my life. Being grateful that I live in an amazing place where there are face melting readings every week, sometimes everyday. Being forever in debt to all everyone I’ve met who have influenced or shown up in my work which is way too many to name and being grateful there are too many to name. Having the incredible opportunity to be able to share my work with amazing writers and everyone around me but more importantly being able to share opinions and feelings about the work and critiques and ideas of others who have shared with me in order to advance and grow together like the story of Telsa coils that disrupt matter and time and merged the atoms of men with the atoms of the boat they were standing on. I am forever disfigured in the best way and I am thankful for this opportunity to have my work shown and to be able to share my thoughts and to be apart of the poetry community.      

DB: Take a deep breath. Hold it. Write about anything until you pass out or give in and exhale.

MW: Thank you to the TENDERLOIN/Coldcuts crew: Mel Coyle, Jenn Marie Nunes, and DeWitt Brinson for supporting and publishing my work in their supernatural journal. I am honored to be in the company of such kick ass writers and artists.  Lastly if you are reading this thank you. 



interviewed by the tender, young, virile writer

DeWitt Brinson

Mike Wall’s poems have appeared in Ghost Proposal, Ilk, Interrupture a Journal of Poetry and Art, iO: A Journal for New American Poetry, Jellyfish, and The New Megaphone. He works as an Editor at Slope Editions and lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.