Dispatches | April 16, 2014
Working Writers Series: Adam Love
Welcome to our many-part series where we chat with Working Writers who have not had success in the traditional sense. No major awards, no books in print, maybe only a few or no publications, but are still writing. Our goal is to give voice to a wide range of writers, to learn from their experiences, and to open a discussion about living the craft. If you fit the description and want to be involved, please send an email to us at TMRWorkingWritersSeries@gmail.com
Today’s Working Writer is Adam Love.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. I went to school in Southern California, where my studies were engrossed into three categories: psychology, poetry, and surfing. I moved back to SLC after graduating and tried to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. I worked as a child therapist and a tutor for five years, while I decided to pursue the low-residency MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. I worked with many great professors, including Mary Ruefle and Sue William Silverman. I fell in love with the work of Frank Stanford and wrote my critical thesis on his work and how it relates to certain theories in the field of developmental psychology.
After I graduated, I ended up landing a job at Westminster College — initially just for assisting students in a new, distance learning program. After my boss discovered I was a writer, she hired me on as an adjunct writing professor to strictly help out our Bachelor of Business and Master’s of Business Administration students in terms of APA style writing. I’ve been doing this for about two years at this point. It’s a pretty good gig. In my other time I’m writing and reading, trying to find new writers whose work is moving. I read through journals (online and print) on the daily, find new places to submit poems and manuscripts.
Before working at the college, I remember having a difficult conversation with my father who wanted me to “find a real job.”
I wanted to say that I already had one — I just didn’t get paid for it. Artists, musicians, poets. I think we’d all want to make a living doing what we do best: creating.
It’s like we live a double life: we the professionals; we the writers.
Why did you start writing? What do you write?
It’s kind of a funny answer. As a teenager, I fell in love with the comfort I found in my favorite band’s lyrics. I was a huge fan Jesse Lacey’s words (vocalist/guitarist of New York-based rock band Brand New) and what those words could do as I listened to them in my headphones. I wanted to do that: to write words for a “punk band.” So I began scribbling down random thoughts/lyrics on sheets of scattered paper throughout the day. Even though I didn’t play an instrument or have any musical talent at the time, I thought I wanted to be a singer like Lacey.
Once I got to college, I had a few friends suggest I take a poetry workshop with Ralph Angel, based off my aspiration to jot down poems and thoughts in my journals. I hated what I thought poetry was at the time (rhyme-y, sing-songy, and otherwise abstract bullshit) and reluctantly signed up. But on the first day, my mind was changed soon after reading poems by Wallace Stevens and Sylvia Plath — you know, every writer’s first “crushes.”
Since then, I’ve mainly written poetry, but also have written a first draft of a memoir and have written short stories and other various, fiction-y things.
What I discovered out of my creative writing courses was that contemporary poetry could do for me exactly what great song lyrics did. It’s that adage we hear across all workshops, seminars, etc., whether it’s “saying the unsayable,” or “illuminating the ineffable,” or “telling what it means to be human.”
I think, ultimately, a reason why I write is that I enjoy the voices that speak to me, the voices that comfort, the voices that make me laugh or smirk–ultimately, all voices are saying one thing, I think: “I feel/felt this way, too.”
I write because it’s my way of communicating with all those other disembodied voices. It’s a way of saying, “I’m here, too.” And certainly, writing is therapeutic. It’s transcendental. And it’s a way to view yourself outside of the window of your own reality. Some times my poems make sense to me and sometimes they feel as if they were written by someone else. Some days I may connect with a poem I’ve written, some days it may seem like trash. Honestly, I’m not sure what to think of it all.
Poetry seems to be the form you’re most comfortable with. Has it been difficult to write in other styles and genres, such as memoir and fiction?
Poetry is definitely where I’m most comfortable. It’s a private act and, I think, results from solitude. Which is probably why I find it invigorating. I feel like memoir and fiction can easily be in that same category, as well. But since poetry was my first writing home, I think I’ll always find it comforting and secluding.
When working on memoir, it’s like having a conversation with oneself, trying to explain or make sense of one’s life. It’s sort of like when you’re on a long drive and thinking out loud to yourself, trying to reach some resolve about whatever may be on your mind.
And as far as fiction goes, I’ve only dabbled. But for me, fiction is the most “fun” because it feels the most creative. As if I get to weave a tapestry or play around and just have fun with characters/settings and see where they go. I guess it’s more exploratory?
What is your writing process/routine? Do you write daily?
I don’t really know much about process, especially my own.
But I assume I have one — I just don’t know what it is, really. I know there are many, many writers who say that you need to write, daily. But that isn’t how I work; I have to be moved in order to write —and those moments come in waves. Sometimes there is a surge, when I’m churning out three (sometimes four) poems a week — or I can go months without setting my fingers to a keyboard.
I think I probably re-write more than I create. It’s a slightly obsessive habit, actually. Sometimes it consists of me staying up late and re-reading poems over and over again (sometimes out loud) and trying to find the weaknesses or moments that could be strengthened. Or realizing what I ultimately want the piece to convey and which is the best course to take to get it there. It usually takes me a few months to finally “let a poem go,” which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s finished — it’s just that there’s not much more I can do to it.
I guess there’s a lot of sabotage, self-degradation, and self-aggrandizement that needs to happen in order to really make a poem happen. But even then, I find that I’m always left with a little apprehension about a piece — especially if that piece ends up getting published. Because, at that point, it no longer really belongs to you. And you spend time worrying whether you glossed it over enough before you sent it out.
Writing is a really horrid thing sometimes. But I think it all works itself out when you get those moments of true creation to happen. Which are rare. But I think they’re what keep you chasing the dragon, so to speak.
What themes does your poetry explore? To put it more simply, what do you write about?
As far as themes go, I’d say a lot of my work is largely concerned with death and consciousness and an inquisitive nature with astronomy. My [unpublished] first, full-length collection (called Ex-Mormon in a Foxhole) is obsessed with cosmonaut imagery and, largely, the cosmos as a metaphor for death or mind/body discorporation. Whatever term is more accurate. And, as you can guess from the title, there’s a bit of an agnostic quarrel among the poems, struggling and searching to find meaning for the “grand scheme of things,” (if there is any). I mean, I think that it’s such a cop-out for any writer to say they mainly write about death, life/love — but those are, really, the only Two Things.
I mean, sure, the poems can be unpacked and discussed at larger levels — but in the end, what else is there?
There are the people and places, flora and fauna. Beings that we encounter — that we absorb, that enrich us or don’t. There is simply experience through the lens of the human. I write about the everyday. I write about the ineffable. Ultimately, I use poetry to try and explain (as one of my favorite poets puts its) “all the weird, theatrical shit” that happens.
Who are your favorite writers?
You know, I’m actually most hesitant to answer questions like these because once I list a name or a group of names, the reader(s) of this interview will automatically typecast me into some category of writer — or as a version of myself that isn’t necessarily representative of who I am. Or maybe exactly representative of who I am. Which is a natural thing —I do it, too. I see how I can identify with other writers based off who they read, as if it informs something about me by knowing I like a writer who other writers also like.
I think the way I tend to think of my favorite writers is equivalent to the way people participate in Fantasy Football Leagues. A writer’s favorite authors are all part of their ultimate fantasy football team —one that’s super stacked. And I don’t just limit the category of “writer” to poets, memoirists, and fiction writers. It’s all over the spectrum–including screenwriters, cartoonists, comedians, and philosophers. Or the writers who make me realize I have wasted my life trying to be a writer–those are the really good ones!
For instance, once I finished Breaking Bad (for the third time, all the way through), I realized I would never be able to do anything as well as Vince Gilligan and his team had done with that show. It was one of the sadder moments of my life. That’s how good that show’s writing is. And–for the record — I’ll go on paper stating that I do believe Breaking Bad is more than just a TV show — it is a visual novel.
So who’s my dream team? My ultimate fantasy football convergence of writers?
It’d have to be the ones who I feel have let me see every aspect of myself — and all the ones to come.
Also, I find that I have different favorite writers at different points of my life. So it’s hard to say exactly who are my favorites. Even writers I hate move me in some way, or force me to think about the world in a different light. So are my favorite ones really the ones that piss me off the most?
Or are they the ones I feel closest too, because my work tends to approximate theirs? Or is influenced by it?
I guess my favorite writers are really just the ones I return to.
Or the ones that offer me a new way of seeing things.
And even here, I feel like I’m failing. Can’t I just say my favorite writers are the ones who make me turn their pages — the ones whose books I just can’t seem to put down? The ones who make me realize that I still have so much more to learn about my own writing? The kind of writers who do something in their books that makes me say, “I really wish I could do that in a poem. Or in my memoir.”
Those are the ones for me.
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