Oct 18

Blot Lit Reviews: An Interview with Brendan Walsh

IMG_9726This week we reviewed Brendan Walsh’s Make Anything Whole (Five Oaks Press, 2015). Our guest reviewer, Miranda Morley, found it to be some pretty hip stuff.  Blot also got to give him the third degree on the really hard hitting questions–his favorite color is green (but blue for shirts).  You can find out more about him at his website and his blog.

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.
Well currently my physical location is New Haven, CT, though I’m more connected to the places I’m no longer in—mainly Laos and in a smaller way, South Korea. New Haven (and CT/New England) is often presented as the place I’m in but would rather not be, and I don’t think that’s fair to New Haven! New Haven is cool, but my art struggles with place, specifically the concept of home and why I have to be in any ONE place—I’m not sure that home is a place. Most recently I have a strong focus on Laos because I consider it my spirit home (yes, I just said spirit home). While living there I found so much to write about and spiritually indulge in: the trappings and freedom of certain forms of poverty, omnipresent Buddhism through temples and monks walking every single dirt road, a connection to earth and food, the cycle of life and death. These concepts are everywhere in my life and in my art—I think my current place is secondary to my memories of movement. The art is purely narrative, though not always personal narrative. I tell stories of others, of myself, in the voices of others and in voices similar to my own.


Who/What has impacted your work the most and how does that come through?
Toughest interview questions ever! How do I not say “anything and everything” that waking life brings? I guess my Mindful Movement around the world and within the US has clearly impacted my work the most. I’m fascinated by the nomadic spirit—it’s a fundamental part of my humanity and it’s in many of us, though not all choose to embrace it. I’m constantly stirring and seeking through travel, and writing is a necessary component of all travel experiences for me. Writing and travel both teach mindfulness, empathy, loving, and kindness, because both activities force attention to physical presence and the vast pool of emotion we swim in constantly. Without travel and writing I’d barely know how to swim.


How do you generate new ideas for your work?
I am compelled to. I can’t speak for everyone else, I know, but this world is such a trip. The sensual experience of consciousness is so overwhelming at times that I can barely function without writing. All days are poetic, so it’s my personal task to make my moments full of poetry. I’ll often document (in a notebook, or in my unreliable mind) poem-worthy turns of phrase used in day-to-day conversations by other humans, or specific images, events. I have to write, so generating ideas isn’t too difficult, but the execution can get me stuck. Instructions: 1. Live in this amazing-bizarre-heartbreaking-beautiful world. 2. Stand in front of computer. 3. Write what has been lived.


When have you been most satisfied with your work?
I’m most satisfied with my work when I’m reading it publicly. Any time I have a reading, whether I’m the feature or it’s just an open mic somewhere, I feel absolutely connected to the poem as a living entity—as a story worthy of being told. I’m a big believer in a poem as a transfer of energy—emotional, physical, positive/negative—as long as the poem transfers a huge wallop of energy then I’m satisfied with it. I find that my readings are massive transfers of energy between the audience and me, my fellow readers, and the atmosphere of the venue itself.


How do you know when a piece is finished?
When it’s published! Before that, though, I have a strong sense of endings for my poems. I love to craft a good ending, and if the final stanza/lines are not how I want them to be, I wouldn’t consider it complete and/or sending it out for publication. If the last few lines don’t give me goosebumps EVERY time I read them, then it isn’t ready. Once I give myself goosebumps I’ll send it out.


What has been your biggest failure and what − if any − lessons were learned?
Hm. In terms of poetry there are no failures—not because I’m some amazing writer, but because I don’t view anything in poetry as unchangeable. My biggest failures in life have involved, for whatever reason, my relationships with people (romantic and otherwise). Throughout my career as a social human I’ve been stubborn, foolish, lazy, unhappy, resentful, and I’ve learned that these are traits to recognize and work on every day. I learned that love is not enough. Love must be bolstered by action, every day kindnesses, shared passion—this is how it works with my poetry too, but poetry is much easier to care for than people. I find that failure comes when something is not fostered and cared for. I have a banzai tree that is almost dead; I didn’t look after it enough. I didn’t notice when the branches began peeling—any time I’ve failed to notice emotional need or suffering is a massive failure. Failures in writing, or professional/academic failures do not seem to matter all that much when I think of people I’ve ignored, or mistakenly assumed were fine when they were not. I want to write thousands of poems for the suffering among us, but they wouldn’t do enough to compensate.

An Iguana for good vibes.

An Iguana for good vibes. Rescued in Laos.


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 have my MFA community here at Southern CT State University in New Haven, which has provided me with a wonderful core group of writers and was a forgiving audience during my years as a student here. I try my best to contribute to the CT writing community through going to and hosting readings, open mics, buying the books of my former classmates, etc. I’ve done a few collaborations/readings with a local Tattoo shop and gallery here in New Haven—it’s not an even 1-1 exchange of tattoos for poems unfortunately (usually I’ll read more poems than they give tattoos, but I suppose that’s an unfair expectation). I often attend events at the Poetry Institute in downtown New Haven, which is a gorgeous venue with bizarre and beautiful minds. Writers HAVE to have a community, and that can be difficult for us. Poetry is a solitary process but a community celebration—I have to communally celebrate the work of others and myself, even if the act of composition requires solitude.

What is your biggest pet peeve with the writing community, trends, etc. today?
I’m annoyed at writers trying to justify their PASSION to others! If we are writers, then we write first and ask questions later. Lawyers, stockbrokers, doctors—these people never feel the need to justify why they do what they do, so what is it that makes every poet back-peddle when asked what they do? It’s obviously about $$, but fuck that. If you write, don’t feel the need to justify yourself in Op-Eds and to every friend/family member/stranger. You write because you love it; if you make money that’s awesome, but it’s not why you write. No justification necessary.
Secondary to that is Writers who don’t WRITE. Everyone wants to call themselves a writer, but very few have the patience and passion to sit-the-fuck-down and pound some keys or tear some paper. I think this has been the case ever since writing became a romanticized pastime of the sexy, absurd people who wrote and then called themselves writers. They were writers before they were sexy—so if you want to be a writer, write first then work on the sexy.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on my next collection called GO, which is essentially finished. It’s somewhat an extended version of Make Anything Whole, with further emphasis on Korea and also the JOURNEY as momentum and life as cyclical loss. I’m adding new poems to it every day though, so in a few weeks if it’s not accepted for publication somewhere it’ll just be this bloated word-monstrosity. I’m also working on a new chapbook called “There is Nothing” which deals primarily with loss, the devastation of returns, and some heartbreaking love poems.


What are you reading right now?
I’m usually balancing one piece of fiction, one poetry collection, and one non-fiction book.
Fiction—Amy and Isabelle, Elizabeth Strout (just started but it’s gorgeous)
Poetry—Uh Oh Time by Kenneth Hart and Tour of the Breath Gallery by Sarah Pemberton Strong (highly recommend both—read at the same venues as these poets and their work-presence-energy is equally fantastic and unique)
Non-fiction—The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman (for the science and biology obsessed HUMANS among us)

2 pings

  1. Blot Lit Reviews: Make Anything Whole by Brendan Walsh » Blotterature

    […] Blot Lit Reviews: An Interview with Brendan Walsh » […]

  2. An interview with Brendan Walsh and a review of his book | Five Oaks Press

    […] week, Blotterature came out with a review of Brendan Walsh’s Make Anything Whole and then an interview they conducted with him. The interview was jam-packed with so many thoughts about poetry, writing, and travel. Here is just […]

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