Monday, May 12, 2014

INTERVIEW: RICHARD VARGAS


Name?

Richard Vargas

Location?

Albuquerque, New Mexico, for now.

How long have you been writing?

Long enough to know better, but too young to stop. It started at puberty. I believe there is a connection. Before that I wanted to paint, because I had an uncle who had some artistic talent, but I knew the gift wasn’t there and I lost interest. So there I was… a decent athlete, but not a standout. And I couldn’t play an instrument, so joining a band was out of the question. Then I wrote a poem in my 8th grade biology class, showed it to the girl sitting in front of me, who turned around, read it, then turned back around and looked at me like no girl had ever looked at me, and I figured, “Yeah, this works. Let’s see how far I can go with this.” When I got to high school, the teachers in my honors English classes didn’t have a clue about modern or contemporary poetry. One patronized me by giving me a paperback of anthologized rock n’ roll lyrics. That’s when I figured out my teachers, for the most part, were all style and no substance.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I sit somewhere between Charles Bukowski and Edward Field. Buk’s writing let me know nothing was off limits and “who-gives-a-fuck” if Poetry or the American Poetry Review never accepted my work, Field’s poetry showed me it was okay to wear my heart on my sleeve. I figured out the rest from there, with the help of Gerald Locklin, nila Northsun, Michael C Ford, Ron Koertge… to name a few. William Carlos Williams was an important early influence, and Robert Creeley.

Do you write as a career?

If you define it as something I’ve been doing all my life without making a living from it, then yes. Ask what I am, I’ll tell you I’m a poet. Ask me what I do for a living, that’s always something else. I’ve never identified with my job. Well, I take that back. I drove for UPS for 8 years. That was cool.

Do you write full-time?

When someone offers to pay me while I do it, I will.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

Hasn’t happened yet. Seriously though, anytime someone mentions reading my work, I get the warm fuzzies.

What is your ultimate goal as a writer?

Write what I want, when I want, and make a living doing it. But that boat sailed a long time ago. I just want my work to be read by as many people as possible. When they pronounce me a genius or an asshole, I’ll be satisfied.


What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Finding the time and filtering out daily distractions. Writing can also have a negative effect on relationships. I’ve had a few go south because I would not compromise what I do or what I write about. And that was probably for the best. But when you’re in a relationship that really matters, then it can get tricky.

What projects of yours have been recently published?

My latest book, Guernica, revisited, Press 53.  A poem was featured on the April 1st edition of Writer’s Almanac. And I’m in the process of setting up readings to promote the book. I’ll be in L.A. in August, hoping to read in the Midwest before the year is up. Would like to read in New York, if the opportunity arises. Check out the cover art by Mahwish Chishty. Her work provokes the debate on the rise of our drone culture and what it does to the people who become its targets.
http://www.mahachishty.com/Paintings.aspx

What are you currently working on and what inspired this work?

I’m trying to write a series of poems to my heart, brought on by my heart attack last summer.


       How often do you write?

Not nearly as much as I should. I’m doing call center work right now. It’s a paycheck, but the trade off is it takes up my time and energy. But rent and food are important, too. Throw in promoting the new book and editing and publishing The Más Tequila Review, and I guess you could say I haven’t written anything substantial in over a year. Actually, longer than that. I had to devote all my spare time to getting my book published, because until then I was doing a half-ass job. If you have any experience with the process, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a full-time job! And it kept getting rejected. So I stepped back from everything else and dedicated myself to finding a publisher. And with the help of William Pitt Root and Pam Uschuk, it finally happened. So now, marketing, promoting, and publicizing are taking up all my free time. I enjoy reading in public, meeting my audience, adding to it, and it’s the least I can do for the publisher who took a chance on my work. But it is time consuming, and I like my time.

     


 How do you react to rejections?

Fuck ‘em. Their loss. The irony is, as editor of a poetry magazine, I also get to write them. I believe in keeping them short and sweet. “I’m not taking any of these poems, feel free to try again. Good luck.” I don’t believe in writing explanations or critiques. I’m not running a workshop. If you’re submitting your work, then you should have the tough skin it takes to read the rejection, and move on. It’s not personal, because there is probably someone, somewhere, who will read the rejected work and think, “This shit is golden!” It’s just not me. No harm, no foul. It happens to me all the time.

       How do you react when one of your submissions is accepted for publication?

       I’m one lucky bastard.

      What is your favorite book?

       Factotum. I grew up in a blue collar home. I remember my sisters and I unlacing my Dad’s dirty work boots and tugging them off his feet when he came home from another day at the steel mill. He had that welder’s smell on him, his khaki work shirt had small holes from the hot sparks landing on his sleeves. He’d smoke Winstons and drink a cold beer at the kitchen table, talking about the union, the boss, overtime, payday… yeah, the conversation has always been about class. Race just keeps us from addressing the real elephant in the room. That’s how capitalism continues to thrive, otherwise we would have dumped that shit decades ago.

       Who is your favorite author?

        Charles Bukowski

        If you could have dinner with one fictional character, who would it be and why?

Lenny, from Of Mice and Men. Just once I’d like to be that close to the beauty of pure       innocence.

        What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer?

I became bitter as I approached my fifties, because I was still trying to get my first book published. I knew my work was better than a lot of the poetry getting published. I started responding to rejection letters, and in doing so, I burned a few bridges. But it felt good, and I have no regrets. Just be aware of what you’re doing and choose wisely before you send that email or mail that letter. I took on someone who pulls a lot of strings, and I’m sure he’s had some influence on the doors that have been slammed in my face. Shit happens.

        What is your favorite word?

        “Yes.” Whispered at the right time and place, nothing beats it.

        What makes you laugh?

         The comedy of Chris Rock. Everytime.

    

     What makes you cry?

     The end of King Kong. Everytime.

What is your preferred drink while you write?

Used to be cognac. Now? A good red wine, doctor’s orders.



Beach or Mountains?

Born and raised in so. Calif. Spent my summers as a teen at the beach, lived for going to the beach. Coppertone and bikinis, getting tanned and listening to the sounds of FM rock on my radio. Body surfing the perfect wave. Mountains are a good time, but the beach is forever.

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/30/140070133/summer-sounds-ocean-waves

Cats or Dogs?

DOGS!!!!!

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

The Beatles were sophisticated, had a phenomenal effect on the evolution of rock. I can listen to their music over and over. But I attended a Stones concert at the Forum in L.A., when they “borrowed” Ron Wood from the Faces, and Billy Preston was on keyboards. They rocked that place for three freaking hours. They set the standard for rock concerts, and it hasn’t been matched yet. Listening to the Beatles vs. attending a Stones concert? (Back in the day, not now.) Stones. Hands down. Some Girls.


Jimi Hendrix or Frank Sinatra?

Ask me: Jimi Hendrix or Tony Bennett? I like that question better.

Shakespeare or Bukowski?

Shakespeare. And only because without him, The Godfather never gets written. I don’t want to imagine a world without The Godfather.


    Please provide as much or as little of the following information as you’d like.

Personal website/blog:

http://www.richardvargaspoet.com/

Facebook profile or page:


https://www.facebook.com/#!/rvargas54

Twitter profile:

Other page(s) or profile(s):

      Books for sale and/or press




      Anything you’d like to share about your country, its people, or native animals?
     
Sure… from Guernica, revisited.


we could be heroes

the immigrant frying my fries at McDonald’s is a hero
the person in customer service telling me there will be a
five dollar charge if she assists me paying my bill over
the phone is a hero
the guy using his gas engine portable leaf blower to
move his cloud of dust across the street at 7 a.m.
on a Saturday is a hero
the state policeman in New Mexico caught in broad
daylight on video doing the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am
with his girlfriend on the hood of her car is a hero
the Bank of (screw) America exec kicking sr. citizens
out of their homes and into the streets is a hero
the man rounding up shopping carts in the Piggly Wiggly
parking lot is a hero
the homeless dude passed out on the bench at the bus stop
is a hero
the lady behind the bulletproof glass collecting my money
where i buy gas is a hero
the attendant wiping down the machines at the laundry mat
is a hero
the hooker working Central Ave. by the sports bar is a hero
the sanitation engineer mopping the floor at the
VA hospital is a hero
the salesperson selling me two pair of eyeglasses for
the price of one is a hero
the plumber unplugging my toilet is a hero
the people who don’t know what a turn signal is for
are heroes
the mother shopping at Walmart with her teenage daughter
wearing bright orange Hooters’ shorts is a hero
the guy who shows up to figure out why my internet is
on the blink is a hero
the goofy looking young man who owns Facebook
is a hero
the Pope protecting pedophile priests is a hero
the neighbors growing their own tomatoes are heroes
the hipster posing in patio seating at the trendy bistro
sipping a microbrew is a hero
the people at home all alone in the dark watching porn
on their computers are heroes
the pro quarterback who corners an underage girl in
the women’s bathroom against her will while his pals
stand outside and block the door is a hero
the minute man racist who kills his girlfriend and then
shoots himself dead is a hero
the person with the keys to the closet where the banned
books are stored is a hero
the poet working at Starbucks with an MFA degree
in creative writing is a hero
the friend who lets the vice-president use his face
for target practice is a hero

heroes everywhere
heroes nowhere

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