The man hiding in the sunshine is Matthew J. Hall. Ironic, since our review of Pigeons and Peace Doves is all about his honest and intimate portrait of life with depression. Hall was nice enough to answer some questions for us, and now we want to share them with you! Aren’t we nice?
Blotterature has a strong connection to our place – industrialized Northwest Indiana – and it is reflective in our writing. Tell us where you are and how your place fits into your art.
I have been living in Bristol for about three years. It is the largest place I have lived to date and like most cities it has its own beauty and its own ugliness. Bristol is a creative city, known for its art and music. The pigeons in my chapbook Pigeons and Peace Doves are – at least in part – a representation of trying to adjust to city life and dealing with the dark and ugly parts of life, in general. City pigeons are often referred to as flying rats because of their parasitic nature and disease spreading potential; but they are only like that as a consequence of the way urban culture functions. They are dirty because built up areas are dirty places to live. They are parasitic because we are wasteful. They often have missing feet, contorted legs or some other disfiguration because urban life is aggressive, self-serving and fast. I relate to these pigeons, yet I am disgusted by them, which is the other part of what they represent in this collection; my own contradictions, anxieties, depressions, etc. and so forth.
Who/What has impacted your work the most and how does that come through?
Writing book reviews has had a profound effect on my creative writing. I have learnt so much from analysing the work of my peers within the small press. I don’t have any formal education to speak of so I guess reviewing has kind of been my education. I think reading and re-reading a variety of prose and poetry gives you a better idea of where you are at as a writer and where you would like to be. Also, reading all those books has destroyed that myth about MFA writers being stale and uneducated writers being cutting edge, or formal poetry being dull and free verse being alive. To hell with who wrote the poem or how they chose to do it, all that counts, for me at least, is whether it provokes an emotional reaction. That is what I’m looking for in what I read and that is what I’m striving toward when I write. My chapbook is dedicated to my wife, Peppers (one of many nicknames I have for her). The best poems I have ever written are either about her or for her. She has had an absurdly intense impact on me. It is all about her.
How do you generate new ideas for your work?
I wish I knew how to generate new ideas for my work. It’s easy for me to get frustrated when I go through an idea drought, but I try to switch between projects according to what I’m inspired to work on at the time. When I’m lacking in ideas for my creative writing, I focus more on reviews and reading, and when a burst of inspiration comes, it consumes me.
When have you been most satisfied with your work?
Having this little chapbook published through a small press is a dream realised, so that is quite satisfying. I am particularly proud to have the artwork by Marcy Erb of www.illustratedpoetry.com on the cover of the book. Her illustrations have always brought my words to life and collaborating with her is incredibly satisfying. Also, I set out to focus more on writing short stories this year. Out of the many I have written there are nine I am very happy with. So far they have all been rejected and are now in their second round of submission. We shall see.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
What has been your biggest failure and what − if any − lessons were learned?
I have a general sense of failure in almost everything I do which hinders my ability to enjoy the successes along the way; that is my true failing. It’s a common theme represented in a lot of my work. As soon as I have had a piece of writing published I have that little voice saying, “That’s not good enough. Do something better. Don’t just sit there grinning, get on with it.” I don’t want to be self-congratulatory, but I am trying to learn to celebrate my achievements.
Tell us about your commitment to the writing community. Outside of your work, what else do you have going on? Or what do you see starting up in your future?
I write book reviews for The Small Press Book Review and for my own blog www.screamingwithbrevity.com. I read new authors regularly and share writing that I like. I should be more active in spoken word and so forth but I have never enjoyed giving a reading. In fact, the last time I read I was so nervous that about three quarters through the story I paused and thought to myself, “I’m going to have to apologise for wasting everyone’s time and run for the door, never to return,” I managed to get to the end of the story though and it got the warmest reception I have ever experienced.The warmest of receptions would never really justify the social anxiety involved though. Even if my reading inspired raucous cheers, wild yelping, high-fives and chest-butts. I would still rather not have to go through with it.
What is your biggest pet peeve with the writing community, trends, etc. today?
My biggest pet peeve is writers who have no interest in promoting other writers. The main thing that pricked my interest in the chapbook contest that resulted in the publication of Pigeons and Peace Doves was Blood Pudding Press’ and Juliet Cook’s propensity for promoting writing they are not immediately affiliated with. There is nothing more tiresome than a writer’s social media feed full of their own accolades and achievements. Or, even worse, an author having no presence online at all.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working through some anger issues. In addition to that, I always have some poems on the go, a review is usually around the corner and I have been putting effort into writing a collection of short stories this year.
What are you reading right now?
As a rule I only read one book at a time, rules are meant to be broken though, right? I’m reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’m about a third of the way through so the jury is still out on this one. I’m coming to the end of John Berryman’s The Dream Songs. Berryman was a tricky customer; sometimes I want to rip this book into pieces and burn it in someone else’s fire, at other times I want to kiss and cuddle it. I’m reading Sam Pink’s The No Hellos Diet. I love Sam Pink. His books are the best. And finally, I am re-reading Matt Rasmussen’s Black Aperture; I will probably review this themed collection of poetry as it is quite beautiful and very sad.