Stuff I Write, Stuff I Like

Stuff I Like: Hosho McCreesh’s “A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst,” Margaritas, Taco Recipes, Bukowski, Bar Stories, and The Grace of Something Well Done

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2014 at 1:21 am

So my friend, Hosho McCreesh, is celebrating his swell poetry collection, “A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst” (Available from Artistically Declined Press) this month by doing a whistle-stop blog tour.

  hosho typewriter

He was kind enough to stop by here to answer some questions about his book, the state of poetry, his first love (painting or poetry), what makes for a good boat drink, and just what’s in Los Tacos de Hosho.

hosho book cover

“A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst” is a sweeping collection that is, on the surface, about booze and bars and drinking a lot, something the speakers in Hosho’s poems know something about. But what’s beneath the surface is what counts. The people in these sly, funny, often heartbreaking poems know that a bar is never just a bar, a drink is never just a drink. These are poems about being human, the heartbreak and joy and horror of all that. McCreesh – like Joseph Mitchell (see McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon), John Fante (Brotherhood of the Grape), and of course Charles Bukowski – knows that the truth comes up when illusions of control come down.

And get this:  as part of his blog tour, Hosho’s giving away a DrunkSkull Survival Kit ($50 worth of fabulous prizes!).

The Kit will include:
-a copy of the book
-a recycled wine-bottle glass with the DrunkSkull logo on it
-a jar of Fiery Gardens Artisan Jams & Jellies,
-a DrunkSkull fridge magnet,
-some stickers
-temporary tattoos
-a coaster
-a patch

Seriously. Look:

hosho skull kit

Go here to enter.

And now, Hosho…

***

LJ: The great West Coast poet Gerald Locklin likes to say if poetry were easy, every guy in the bar would be Bukowski. What do you think about that?

H: I absolutely agree. Poetry. Writing. Living period. To do anything with style and with grace there must be a unique combination of talent, approach, zeitgeist, and even then you have to sit down and do the work. And while everyone in the bar might have a story to tell, and might even be interesting, and have a unique approach to life…not every person sitting can write anymore than they could all remember trivia, shoot pool, or juggle. And even if they worked at it, it wouldn’t necessarily all come together for them. And even if they did have it once, it might not stay. And so it goes. If we’re serious about how we’re spending our time, if we’re using our lives to chase our dreams, then we do the best we can as we follow our hearts — writing what we’re moved to write, and hopefully someone somewhere gets what we were after. Lots of poetry is written. Lots of people call themselves poets or writers or painters or musicians. That’s great. I think there is real value in devoting our time to artistic pursuits. But do the work. Sacrifice for it. Finish that novel. And when you’re done, do all you can to get it in front of people. That’s the best we can do.

LJ: Your poems are beautiful narrative straight-talks at a time when a lot of other American poets are going the other way. Why? Who are your influences and what do you love about them?

H: I am not really sure why I write what I write. I suppose it’s to stay true to the experience of my waking life. These days I don’t think much about if or how my work is different from other work out there, mainly because it’s not productive in the long run.

LJ: It seems every day some critic proclaims American poetry dead. That prediction usually comes with some commentary that American poets tend to be obscure, to emphasize language-for-the-sake-of-language, or to navel-gaze at the expense of readers. What makes poetry come alive for you? What do you think poetry has to say to a general American audience today? In short, does poetry matter anymore – why or why not?

H: It’s always impossible to know why we are where we are when it comes to American poetry. I think the same people that proclaim poetry is dead are the ones who insist Bukowski wasn’t much of a poet. I think it’s true that, to the average American — poetry is almost always useless. Until they need words to express something they can’t express themselves — say at a funeral or a wedding. Then they Google “poetic shit to say” or some variation of that.

We’ve spent so much time teaching classics, and doing so by simply saying “this is poetry…go forth and appreciate it” that all but the most determined readers have said, “no thanks.” I do think a lot of poetry is written that is self-loving, self-important, self-involved pap, language for the sake of language — and that certainly doesn’t help. The only upshot is that I’ll often hear people describe something (besides poetry) as “poetry” — and they always use the term in a way that, to my mind, speaks to what it is in poetry that we need. It’s that’s the style, beauty, and grace of something well done. If anything, poetry at least still has that!

I can’t say I blame most readers — who don’t care about poetry, because the poetry they’ve been exposed to says nothing to them. If we accept more as poetry, them maybe the value of poetry will grow. Maybe not. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Poets will write poetry. And maybe it’ll be read — maybe it won’t. But that’s no reason not to write it.

LJ: Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, who is it? Who do you want to read your poems and why?

H: My ideal reader would be a curious reader — the kind that re-reads, and tries to study how a thing is written. But short of that, I want readers who have known and felt the things I write about — and, when they read the work, feel like I’ve told the truth. Christopher Cunningham and I used to say how we wanted our writing to “save one guy.” I think what we came to find was that we were the guys being saved…so it’s all gravy after that.

LJ:  Favorite poem/quote/inspirational magnet on your fridge or above your workspace?

Some Bukowski, a Saroyan quote, a Plato quote, this by Hubert Selby, Jr.:

A list of indignities

Birth

Death

This by Henry Miller:

“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.”

henry miller

And the imaginary movie poster for the film HELLBENT ON REVENGE…a movie my buddy & I want to write about how New Edition reunited to take down Bin Laden.

LJ: How do you know a poem-moment when you see it? In other words, what makes you take out your notebook? What is it that draws your attention in the world?

If I remember it long enough to get it down, that’s usually the indication I need. If I see something, and it just stays with me — I think about it a bit, and then whatever it means to me starts to come together. Some times I’ll think about a line or subject or poem for years before I actually get it to work. If I remember it, I’ll write about it eventually.

LJ: Favorite boat drink. Go:

First and foremost — the definition of boat drinks. Jimmy Buffet aside, I think of “boat drinks” as the kind of thing you’d make special accommodations for, picking up extra ingredients not normally on hand, etc.

)

So, if I’m shooting the works, and trying to really make a special cocktail — it’s either a Bloody Mary, a Tom Collins, or maybe an Old Fashioned. If a margarita is considered a boat drink — then it’s a margarita…though, try as we may, we’ve been unable to reproduce the terrific house margaritas (rocks, salt) from Casa de Benavidez. If you ever find yourself in ABQ, do yourself a favor and get yourself a carafe. You’ll thank me.

LJ: There’s the stereotype of writers and alcohol, of course. What do you think about that?

I think it’s fantastic. I think we suffer through some bad writing from drunks who can’t actually write because of it…but it’s hard to blame the booze. Writing can go wrong so many ways. In a crazy kind of way, I enjoy misconceptions about writing and writers. If we were ONLY drunks, we’d never get anything written. And if we only sat around trying to write, we’d have precious little to say.

LJ: Let’s talk artistic temperaments. You’re also a great visual artist. How does your visual art inform your poems and vice versa? If you had to choose between your art-loves, which would you choose and why?

Ugh — how to choose? These days, the pure enjoyment of creation I get from writing is hard to top. I don’t paint enough to keep the blades sharp, and, as a result, I think I struggle a little more to get the work done. If I was retired, and had equal time to devote to each, I couldn’t pick. Right now, writing has the edge because I can take my work with me, and do it on my lunch hour. Here’s a painting I like very much, though:

hosho painting

LJ:  Speaking of choosing between loves, can you talk a little about how you balance your writing/art lives with your family life? How do you navigate between the writer’s/artist’s need to be alone to work and the beautiful, necessary, insistent, imposing, everyday pull of the world?

There is absolutely no balance. Life wins, life takes all it can — and takes as much as it wants. Which is fine. Kids are only kids for a short time.  Work takes 40hrs a week; Sitting in fucking traffic takes another 5 or so. Cooking something, eating, grabbing a beer with friends, catching the occasional game — there’s never enough time for anything…not life and not art.

And so it shall remain until culturally we value art — writing, painting, music, etc — as something more than an ugly commodity. I don’t see America suddenly caring about art more than it does right now…in fact, it seems we care less and less as time goes by.

And to live an artistic life is to be at the very least misunderstood and, in the worst case, actually reviled as a do-nothing lay-about. We haven’t bothered to teach ourselves why art matters, and — not understanding art — it’s generally ignored. Of course, lots of bad art hasn’t helped. But bad art is infinitely better than good business…as a way to utterly waste our lives.

The truth is, we write when we can — accomplish things when we do…and it’s nothing short of a miracle. And the average joe thinks that, because we aren’t paid for the work, it has no value. Then again, the average joe thinks reality TV is compelling.

LJ: Describe your writing space.

H: I tend to write on my lunch hour, and after work…grab what time I can on weekends. The space is whatever quiet spot I can grab…often the back of my car at lunch. On weekends, and after work I like to unwind and tinker on the computer while in bed. I have a terrific writing room in my house. But as I don’t really live at my house, it sits there, filled with all my books, and assorted little messes.

hosho writing space

LJ: Where’s your favorite reading spot? (Mine’s the bathtub. I was very excited to learn that there’s actually a national Read-in-the-Tub day.)

H: Bed; the backseat of the car; the bathroom; occasionally the tub. It’s hard for me to find a good spot outside — the New Mexico sun is punishing. I used to take a train to work and I loved reading and writing on it. I saw Amtrak might offer occasional seats on trains to writers — that is an amazing idea. Kudos to them if they actually do it. May all American industry take note!

LJ: What are you reading now?

H: Just finished Tony O’Neill’s Sick City; I’ve got John Sayles’ Dillinger in Hollywood half done next to the bed; Studs Terkel’s Working at work for motivation on long, hard days. Re-reading On the Road.

LJ:  What’s on your to-read list?

H: Dave Newman’s Two Small Birds; Willy Vlautin’s The Free and Becky Schumejda’s Waiting Tables at the Dead End Diner are probably next. And have felt like reading Bukowski’s Hollywood again. And there’s always a few small press folks with new stuff out — so I grab that up as time/money allows. In terms of my big boy reading, this year I’m gonna try to really tackle Analyzing Prose and The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

LJ:  What’s on your to-drink list?

H: Dear god…all of it? I named the hardback copies after all the things I usually drink. But drinks are, to me, a seasonal thing: Summer drinks, winter drinks, fall drinks, etc. — so it’s always changing. Then, too, I get caught in eras or periods where I want the same thing over and over. Been on a horsekick-of-a-local-brew lately called Luna de Los Muertos Stout by Tractor Brewing Co. — 9.2%, I’m telling you, it gets it done! I’m loopy after a couple…which is saying something! But my lifelong sentimental favorites are Guinness, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Jameson, tequila, gin, and/or vodka drinks.

LJ: Since we’ve (and your poems) talked a lot about drinking, it makes sense we should eat something. Favorite recipe?

H: It would have to be a taco I invented — Los Tacos de Hosho:

A flash-grilled soft corn tortilla stuffed with carne adovada (usually pork in a red chile sauce); smothered with my aunt’s chile con queso; fresh chopped white onion; + a squirt of Sriarcha. They are very bad for you, and worth every damn bit of it! Take a couple with some Spanish rice and your favorite Mexican beer, and that’s one fine meal! But making it anywhere but New Mexico is probably tough sledding — as you just won’t find all the necessary ingredients. Guess you, Dave, and the kiddos will have to make your way to NM someday, and I’ll make you some.

LJ: Best bit of advice anyone’s ever given you about writing or living or both.

H: During some of the harder years, a good friend of mine used to say “Everything’s gonna be fine…even if it’s not.” Life makes it hard to remember the sage-like advice we’ve amassed throughout our lives…but this has been a steady and constant refrain for me…and it’s always helped. And always will.

I also find tremendous comfort in the idea that someday the sun will devour everything we humans have done — save the Gold Record and few pieces of junk we’ve shot out into the void. It reminds me how small my problems are, and how useless toil is…how important happiness, day to day, becomes, how important it is to live and dream and love and not worry so goddamned much.

Didion says “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” So to hell with any story that has us suffering needlessly. Let’s tell ourselves the best and most impossibly happy stories instead. That is a much more serene and euphoric enjoyable lie.

Hosho McCreesh is currently writing and painting in the gypsum and caliche badlands of the American Southwest. He has work appearing widely in print, audio, and online. Books available from Alternating Current, Artistically Declined Press, Bottle of Smoke Press, Mary Celeste Press, sunnyoutside, and Orange Alert Press.

 

  1. Lori — you’re a peach. Thanks for the kind words, and for the fun questions…and thanks for being part of the blog tour. You done the book up proud!

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