This is my input as part of an international blog tour. Each writer is asked the same four questions.
1) What am I working on?
I’m working on My Last Will and Testament, which is recollections of significant experiences in my life, captured in words and poetry before I die.
The poems are on-going, inspired by feelings, thoughts and sights. For instance, I recently wrote a poem called “Rosie Loves Fur,” inspired by those words cut into a concrete sidewalk by someone sometime.
The poems are an on-going thing that occur when a thought or a feeling hits me. I will then write a poem, right then.
I recently completed my memoir-based novel, 7th Street Jump, set in swing time, 1940s Oakland, about a 16-year-old boxer torn between his love for his boxer-brother Manny and his 7th street girl and between his love for both and his vow to his dying mother to get an education.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’ll leave that up to posterity. All my poems are a spontaneous reaction to events and thoughts in my life, whatever they might be, from the long ago past to what happened today, which includes descriptions of places that inspired me but always about my feelings, which is the main topic of all my poems, no matter whether they are lyric cries of emotion or thoughts about politics and murder, meaning all the governments that seek to keep order according to their needs, whatever they might be.
In answer to the question on how my work differs from others of its genre, the word “differ” implies an academic and critical view of my work. I don’t have an academic view of my work. I leave that to the future, whatever it might be. Deciding how it differs implies a critic’s view of my art, which I don’t have, whether it’s poetry or prose, short stories or novels, which I continually keep writing. I have about three or four unpublished novels that I’ve never tried to get published because the publishing world is based upon competing with other writers in order to get published and get exposure. If I’m fortunate enough, though I won’t be around to see, people will continue to read my work after I am dead, and maybe some of these books will get published that I don’t care to fight ambitious battles with other writers over who gets published now.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do so that life is worth living. We will all be gone quickly. And existence will cease forever for us. I try to leave a tiny mark of my existence in a void of the unknown, which is a sure fate of all writers because they will die and won’t be around to enjoy future generations of admirers.
I try to capture existence when I write. That’s the main thing, to make some peg/spike/hammer/nail on the evanescence of our existence so some part of me will live on.
Suffering is what made me begin to capture evanescent existence. And extreme joy. It hurts when people die and I want to capture those moments of joy to convince myself that I exist. All of this springs from the deaths of my mother and my brother, my mother when I was 12 and my brother when I was 19. I loved them both with all the feeling that I had and when they died, I suffered no matter what I did. So all my writing is an attempt to capture my existence before it doesn’t exist. That’s not fatalism. That’s fear of that time when I won’t be here. So writing is only an attempt to leave some part of my past around when I’m gone. This is realistic because I will be gone. Time is short. Always. No matter how old you might live to be. The fact is that the only answer to existence itself and why existence exists is a question mark that will never be answered by anybody and forever. And all religions and hope for extended life are an attempt to deal with that big question mark of, “What’s it all about?” All religions are just an attempt to alleviate this reality. There is no answer to existence. There is only a question mark.
That’s why you shouldn’t die. Because there’s no answer and there’s no second chance at life. Why? What? Where? …are unanswerable. That’s why people pray, because it’s a blank yet overwhelming density that we exist in.
4) How does my writing process work?
It comes from feeling. Feeling impels me to write, in order to assuage the need from which the feeling sprang.