Saturday, June 15, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Stuart Buck

Stuart Buck is a poet and artist living in North Wales. His debut collection of poetry, Casually Discussing the Infinite, peaked at 89 on Amazons World Poetry chart and his second book Become Something Frail was released on Selcouth Station Press in 2019. When he is not writing or reading poetry, he likes to cook, juggle and listen to music. He suffers terribly from tsundoku - the art of buying copious amounts of books that he will never read.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book was what you may call ‘a learning curve’. I only submitted to one place and they accepted but to be honest I should have taken my time and chosen more wisely. They shall remain un-named but suffice to say the book was riddled with errors despite me getting it proof read twice, they added and took away lines from my work without asking and to round it off nicely I never received a penny of royalties despite the book making it to #89 on Amazons world poetry chart. From my end, I put too many poems in that really should not have been there. I wanted to produce a full-length collection but really, I only had a chapbook amount of work that was worthy. It still received positive reviews and it was definitely a positive experience because I have learned a lot from it.

Compared to my first work, Become Something Frail is night and day. It is much shorter, far more focused and I think it tells a story rather than just being random poems. I actually took the time to focus on the flow of the work and it shows. It is probably the thing I am most proud of creating and for someone like me that pours everything in to their work, that is something special.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I was a chef for most of my working life. Ninety hour weeks were nothing special and I had zero social life outside drinking with my workmates. One day I just had enough, I put my knives down and walked out. I thoroughly advocate this if you can afford to do it, however I couldn’t really. So after several extremely rough months I managed to stabilise and started writing Haiku and Tanka. I had never written anything before but enjoyed the constraints of the short form. I started posting some online, then submitting to journals. A few got picked up and, because I had some time on my hands, I thought I would try longer works.

Poetry suits me far more than fiction or non-fiction. I have the attention span of a nine year old and, though I have tried in the past, can never anchor myself in to anything above a page or so. I admire fiction writers hugely, because it takes self-control and discipline. Something I completely lack.

Poetry allows me to work with what I have. I wear my heart on my sleeve and float around the clouds most days. I dream vividly and I think all this allows me a certain  freedom on the page that would not be present if I had to create characters, narrative ect. Most of my poems are vignettes. I will get a scene in my head and it literally will not leave until I create something from it.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
Quickly and like a bolt of lightning. My poems take about ten minutes to write on average. I do not edit my work at all, I am a big believer of getting the words out of my brain on to the page as quickly and painlessly as possible. I know it is an unpopular opinion, but I think editing adds a layer of dishonesty to your words. Or rather, it would to mine. I want people to read my work and understand what the hell is going on inside me. I want them to feel what I feel not what I have carefully selected for them to feel. Does that make sense?

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
It is hard to describe where an idea takes root for me. It starts as a image every time. A diner. A forest. A memory. Then I open up Word and it just flows out of me. I post a lot of my work online (on social media or poetry sites) and honestly, from the image flashing in my head until people are reading it can be just ten/fifteen minutes. It keeps my work current. Not topical, but current in terms of what I am thinking. I suffer from self-doubt a lot but I would rather write and create on my terms than any other way. I want people to enjoy what I write because I have lived  and breathed it, not because I am good at tailoring my creativity based on what is popular. 

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I do read sometimes at poetry nights. I started off an extremely nervous performer but now, honestly, I love it when I am screaming out my dirtiest secrets to a bunch of shocked people, their eyes boring in to me. Brilliant.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Life, the universe and everything. Everything stems from confusion I think. I don’t know who I am, I don’t know what happens when we die, I don’t know what effect certain events from my youth have on my adult life. I am scared and I think that is the best way to be. Look around. Everything is fucking terrifying. That is what my latest work, Become Something Frail, is all about. Letting people know that it is OK to be a mess. It is OK to allow yourself the time and energy to process what it is all about. And if you can't, that is OK too. It is OK to be weak, to be frail. Society projects this image on to us through social media, the news channels etc that the only way to function and get by is by being normalised, by fitting in to the pockets of humanity that have been prescribed by people that, let's be honest, have absolutely no fucking idea what the majority of us are feeling, thinking. What we go through.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Creative people in general are culture. I don’t think there is a larger culture. Everything stems from creation and that is what we are trying to do. Apart from that, all there is is conformity and acceptance.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I never edit my work and I wouldn’t be happy with anyone else doing it either to be honest. I have been extremely lucky in terms of my publisher this time round. She saw my vision and ran with it and for that I am hugely grateful. I want to produce art on my own terms. It’s naïve and counter-productive but that is me all over!

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
In terms of writing, the best piece of advice I have ever heard is read. Just keep reading.
In terms of life as a whole I find it very hard to go beyond Tom Waits - ‘I’d rather have a bottle in front of me that a frontal lobotomy’

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
None what so ever I am afraid. I am an insomniac extraordinaire, I sleep in patches when I can. I am also very dyspraxic which means I find it difficult to maintain any form of routine. Almost everything I create happens the same way, with my legs crossed in bed, laptop tilted towards me. But it can happen at 5am or 5pm. I am governed by my mental health to such a degree that I am often surprised I can do anything beyond make myself toast and brush my teeth.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Well recently I have started making digital art and that is a wonderful way to get away from words but still be creative. I have had some success with it despite only using a basoc program and starting it a few months ago. I have been asked to design book covers, have had art in journals etc. So I turn to that now. I also love arty-farty cinema. So Tarkovsky, Tarr, Lynch, Jodorowsky. Things like that. So much inspiration.

Oh and I juggle. Helps with my coordination and my mental focus (well, it is supposed to)

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Brilliant question. Modelling glue. When I was younger I was basically the kid from Salem's Lot (the model collector not the vampire). I made models, played board games etc. So whenever I smell modelling glue it reminds me of my youth and therefore my home.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I think everything should influence your words. For me personally, I love scientific discoveries. I read a lot of Reddit posts, mostly about what new rock they have found in outer space or (this is topical!) the new photo of a black hole. The first one ever. For me, that desire to know more and that passion fuels me. I want there to be so much more for everyone. I just wish we could pull together and explore space together rather than find new ways to destroy each other. Am I idyllic? Possibly.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
The very first poet I read was Ginsberg. I fell in love with his bombardment of fragmented imagery. I read poetry constantly and would struggle to name people who stand out for me, as I enjoy so many broad works. I love the work of Andrew McMillan and Kaveh Akbar so I will opt for them, but for me it has never been easier to access work that resonates.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Own a dog. I have never been in the right situation but that wholesome love and adoration that you would give to each other, that is what I am grasping for. I have been lucky really, I have travelled extensively, fallen in love, had my heart broken, lived in a cult, been scared, alone, as one. I have had a full life but I have never had a dog. Tragedy really.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
My skilled trade is cooking. I worked in some really good restaurants and held my own. But the hours and the pay were laughable. I was reading an article on Vice the other day about salary men in Japan working 60 hour weeks and thought ‘damn that’s not much’. It is honestly that bad. 

As far as another occupation, I would work with animals I think. Is dog-petter an occupation? Because if it is then that.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
The pressing need to release the stream of thoughts and desires in my head. I have found no better way to do it than through poetry. It is my one true love.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Last great book would be Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. His poetry is wonderful and his use of language and memory is really second to none.

Last great film was Werckmeister Harmonies by Bela Tarr. Amazing film, 39 shots in 130 minutes. Meditative and extraordinary.

19 - What are you currently working on?
I write. I make art. But I have no plan really. Just create and try to be the best I can be. The words will curate themselves when they are ready. My job is just to write them down.

Does that sound pretentious? I think it does.

I am a bit pretentious really.

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