Damon Ferrell Marbut
About the Author:
Damon Ferrell Marbut is a southern novelist and poet. Originally from Mobile, Alabama he now lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is author of the coming-of-age novel Awake in the Mad World and the collection of poems Little Human Accidents.
Connect with Damon:
MF: When you were here last, we discussed your contemporary fiction novel. This time you’re here to discuss your book of poetry, Little Human Accidents: Chaos Poems from the Brink. Tell us about this collection.
DFM: This was a tough book to put out. It’s a collection of boozy, argumentative and conflicted poems from the life I lived during graduate school. I was shocked when a publisher picked it up, but at the same time I’d forgotten how deeply involved I was in the experience of these poems as they were written, and in that I also forgot how others might react with their own understanding. It was a really pure writing process. And so I’m happy they’re being published. My colleagues and I lived a hard life to get these poems out. We all went on to do extraordinary and different things. Most of them are professors now. I’m still a dirtbag, but I’m also not fighting for tenure.
MF: Are the poems autobiographical, products of outside influences or a combination?
DFM: The poems in this book are autobiographical. It states in the beginning that it’s a work of fiction, but honestly it shouldn’t be taken as such. We were such addicts, assholes and deviants back then. But we had enormous senses of love in our hearts, no money, and we were all hope. I suppose I was a sort of ring leader. A drunken Pied Piper encouraging everyone around me to write endlessly, and to write their best, to grow, to ignore everything else. It was the most romantic period of my life.
MF: How do you balance fiction and poetry? Is it difficult for you to transition from one to the other?
DFM: It comes down to how I feel I should tell a story. In poetry I get to be somewhat obscure, though an obligation exists when it comes to message and moment, so a commitment to clarity is present. There’s a dare involved when it comes to my audience, as if to assume they have the athletic ability to run through the lines for some further assumed depth. So, “getting it” is all on them, as I write for myself and not to please public perception. In fiction I feel blessed by sentence structure, and the types of description fiction affords me. Writing poems loosens the constraints of fiction though. It’s actually not difficult to go back and forth anymore. When I was in graduate school I struggled with both, only because I wanted to write it all it at once. I was being youthfully impatient. But it came.
MF: What types of poems do you find yourself writing most? Do you have a recurring type?
DFM: I write poems about my life. About coming into a moment and either consuming it or being consumed by it. I think existence is this incomprehensible bit of art. We stay in it, react to it, write a few lines and then pass on. I can’t see myself writing poems about something that doesn’t matter. Poems for poems’ sake. Best to tell a great story with our best and most real languages and move on.
MF: Name two or three poets you admire. Do you try to emulate them in your own work?
DFM: I love Dorianne Laux and Sharon Olds. I also love Allen Ginsberg. I missed a chance to meet him in the mid-nineties, but a friend of mine played guitar with him. A poet friend who’s also a shrink. So I take that connection as it is. But as for the former, they’re brilliant poets and really represent poetry, in my opinion, as the important art form it is. Ginsberg was a human jewel. He knew he was a poet. But I don’t try to be like any of them. I write my own works and deal with my influences without assuming thoughts or processes of people I don’t know.
MF: What do you think poets such as Terrance Hayes, Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren and Wendy Taylor Carlisle would think of your poetry?
DFM: That’s a great question. In truth, who knows? I’ve never been gifted at determining my audience, and I don’t really worry about it mainly because I can’t predict who’ll like anything. So when it comes to the bigger names, literary personas bigger than me, I’m just a guy writing poems. They can react in real time or come back from the grave and speak their minds. I just write poems to tell the truth of my era. Walker and Warren, in my opinion, wouldn’t like what I did with these works. Hayes and Carlisle, I don’t know. It’s hard to predict because in poetry we all do such different stuff. I’m like a character actor with what I write, so each book of mine is based on moment and not creating a set style. So they might hate this collection but love my new one I’m selling. No way to know.
MF: Is there a theme that emerges naturally from your work?
DFM: I’m not sure. I work from a core of curiosity concerning the stuff of people, if that makes sense. I think I found it best expressed through my publisher, some time ago when I was asked about what it is my poetry “does.” The blurb was that I write about the merging point of imagination and reality. I like that and suspect it’s the better way to discuss theme in my poems. But if I do have a theme or common thread, it’s a nod to the observation of people.
MF: How do you begin a poem?
DFM: It either begins with a line in my head, or it’s the product of an afternoon I plan to devastate by camping out in front of the typewriter. What I have inside me is always a beginning, never a finished product. It’s amorphous and unrecognizable most of the time, until I start from the line and let it run. It becomes something I appreciate way later. When I’m done I seek friends and scream at them that I finished a poem. I’m a child through the entire process. A real selfish asshole. Look at this! Look at this!
MF: What can we expect from you next?
DFM: I’ve got another novel and a shorter collection of poems that are with publishers right now. And I’m writing a nonfiction collection of personal essays/memoir stories.
MF: If I gave you an elephant, where would you hide it?
DFM: In the oven with Plath?
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