Inky Interview Exclusive: Mark Sheeky on his new book release: 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People

Congratulations on your new book release, 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People. Can you give us a brief synopsis?

Thank you dear Editor, and hello and welcome to your readers. It is this tone that begins 21st Century Surrealism, because it’s a friendly book that takes the reader by the hand, and along a journey that explores art and creativity, and what art is all about. I began with a look at Surrealism as an art movement, and a look at why it worked so powerfully when it did, and why it died out as a powerful force in contemporary art. 21st Century Surrealism isn’t a history book, it’s more of a book about creativity itself, thoughts on what makes some art good, and some not, and makes the case for the art of the imagination; why it worked a century ago, and why it can work today.

I should point out that I was careful to include all art forms. Surrealism was originally a poetic movement, not a visual art movement, so the book isn’t specifically about painting or writing or music, but about general creative principles that can be applied to any sort of creative thinking.

The structure of 21st Century Surrealism has three main chapters: A Study Of Scarlet, The Tomb, and The Gardens of Elysium. Why did you choose this structure? How is the first chapter related to Sherlock?

This was my first non-fiction book, and so I had an infinity of structures of choose from. I wanted a tone that was fun and friendly, that felt, while you read it, that your mind was exploring an exciting new world. One reviewer commented that it was like an academic book written by a poet, which is a great compliment. The book argues that art should be exciting, emotive, and have a structure that is engaging, so it should itself embody its own principles. Any book about aesthetics should at least embody its own conclusions!

The Study Of Scarlet is a play on words. The first chapter is a study, an analysis, and perhaps the scarlet matter is the mind and the heart, but also I found a few quotes by Sherlock Holmes (well, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) that sum up some important and useful principles. One quote concerns the mind needing to store only the right components. We can only invent something using the palette of our experiences, the words and images in our heads, so the things we put there (Dali called this ‘eye food’) are very important for a creator.

In A Study Of Scarlet, you discuss several aspects to conscious thought. How would you describe conscious thought, and how do you apply it to art?

One important part of the book is a look at how the mind works because this is really important for imaginative people. Surrealism was based on a theory of the unconscious, so anything that analyses surrealism must analyse consciousness too. Consciousness is simply being aware of our thoughts, that is all. There might be a thing called the unconscious, a realm of thoughts that we are not aware of, but we must become aware of it at some point otherwise it might as well not exist. Ultimately, I make the case that dreams and strange imagery are no more or less ‘conscious’ or genuine than any other thought. Surrealism as a principle is a fraud. Imaginative thoughts are not more or less conscious than any other, and not better or worse for it either.

How important do you think emotion is in creating art?

This is a difficult question. In some ways emotion is vital because all good art moves us, so art needs to be emotional, but the emotions in an artwork are made by the dialogue between the artist and the audience. An unfeeling artist can still move a sensitive audience. We can feel sad at a broken cup, for example. I make the case that the good artist needs to feel and understand what he or she is trying to convey though, and not leave things to chance, so, for the perfect artist, sensitivity is vital. Emotional sensitivity is as vital to an artist as eyesight is to a painter.

Do you think art needs a political/social/philosophical message, or is it enough to just feel emotion from it?

Art with a political/social/philosophical message is often emotional… and it will help the audience understand it. Perhaps art that lacks those things must only be personal, but even then we must understand the experiences of the artist and the message. Is it possible to have art without a message that is still emotional? I imagine a Rothko painting, with flat coloured bands. People can be filled with emotions by those paintings, and perhaps they are picking up what the artist felt when he painted it (this is the aim of abstract expressionism). Isn’t that a personal message? Even in that most simple and most abstracted form of art?

Can you share with us an illustration from the book?

The book cover is from your own painting entitled God Being Killed By Thesists And Athiests. Can you walk us through the idea behind it, and why you chose it as a book cover?

The painting was about a battle between theism and atheism, with religion on the left, and atheism on the right. The interesting thing about the painting for me is that it has two different emotions and viewpoints, religious and areligious, at the same time, and appears as one or the other depending on your viewpoint. The crucifix on the horizon is either Christ representing rebirth, or a gravestone representing death. In visual terms the painting is also a battle between blue and red, light and dark, and many other contrasts. It is a dramatic and challenging painting that looks like what people think of as a ‘surrealist’ work, and so it made for a perfect cover.

The back cover is another one of your paintings, The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd, which is one of your best selling prints. Why do you think people are fascinated by this image? How do you apply your concepts in 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People to this image?

The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd is fascinating partly because there is a lot in it, there are always things to discover. It is based on, and is an homage to, ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’ by Dadd, and that painting is crammed chock-full of things: faces, plants, fairy creatures. People love images that are loaded with things for them to see and discover. Another influence on the work was Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. One of the principles in 21st Century Surrealism is that more information makes work better, and the Dadd painting, and Bosch too, really sums that up.

When and where is the launch for 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People?

I’m lucky enough to have a solo exhibition of my artwork in Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery this September, so the opening of that that will mark the official launch for this book. The exhibition itself will be called 21st Century Surrealism, and I’ll exhibit 21 paintings, including the original ‘God Being Killed By Theists And Atheists’. Some fabulous poets will be taking part in the exhibition too. Former Cheshire Poet Laureate John Lindley, Nantwich poet Helen Kay, and many poets from the extensive Write Out Loud group will be writing new poems to accompany the paintings. The exhibition will open with a launch event on Saturday September 15th at 2pm. A special poetry reading event will take place at 2pm on September 22nd, which will be filmed. The whole exhibition will be open to the public daily from September 15th until October 2nd.

What is next for you? I’ve heard on the grapevine that there is another book coming soon…

So much is coming. I have a new book for the autumn called Deep Dark Light, which is an odd combination of poetry, philosophical ideas (each on one page, like poems) and a surrealistic story. It is structured like a musical symphony in text, so is an unusual, experimental work, that is perhaps similar in structure and feeling to one of William Blake’s visionary books.

I have two music albums coming out this year too: The Modern Game is a pop album with a theme of how technology is affecting the world, and as the musical half of Fall in Green, Testing the Delicates is a ground-breaking recording which combines poetry and classical piano to convey a narrative about mental health, and what it means to care. My video show for YouTube, ArtSwarm, will continue every fortnight too, and, if I have time, I will find time to paint something.

Get your copy of 21st Century Surrealism: A Guide For Artists and Creative People by Mark Sheeky

Mark Sheeky’s Website

Inky Interview Special: Author Joseph S. Pete

Your literary or photographic work has appeared in over 100 journals. Can you tell us about your journey towards being a writer? What subjects do you photograph? Do you combine words and pictures?

As a bookish person, I’ve aspired to be a writer since childhood. I read constantly. I keep paperbacks in my jacket pockets and my pants pockets so I can read at any time I am not otherwise occupied. I even pocketed paperbacks at my wedding, just in case. Understanding at an early age that few are fortunate enough to write literary fiction full-time, I sought out a career in the media so I could write for my day job, to develop the muscle memory. I first started photographing as a necessity for publications with limited resources, where I needed to both photograph and write up assignments. I’ve since evolved into a prolific shutterbug, and am most interested in architecture, urban landscapes, urban decay, graffiti, and natural landscapes. My iPhone photo albums are largely devoid of people–for whatever reason, I’m more drawn to art, architecture and the like. I seldom combine words and pictures, but my writing and photography sometimes draw inspiration from the same subjects.

You are an Iraq War veteran. How much has this experience fed into your work?

Iraq was rough. I often strive to tell war stories, and experiment by trying to tell them through different forms. It’s something I feel I have to do justice to as a storyteller.

You are also an award winning journalist. How did you get into journalism? Have you advice for any of our followers who want to enter this field?

In high school, I wrote an earth-shattering investigative exposé on how high school athletes used the dietary supplement creatine and how it was potentially harmful. Earlier in May, I received a prestigious Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club at the ritzy Union League Club in the Loop after watching a video presentation about the acclaimed Chicago Tribune journalist Anne Keegan, whose first high school story had been about birds nesting at the school, which somehow stirred up controversy with notoriously open-minded administrators. Anyone interested in entering the field should just amass clips, and use them to persuade editors of their writing chops. It’s largely all about what you can do. That being said, the transition from dead trees to online has taken more than a pound of flesh, and the carnage continues until they settle on a new, more viable business model. I’ve been sickened to see so many of my talented colleagues laid off, or just given up on a career that seems to be circling the drain and certainly has endured a great deal of political scorn over the last few years.

You were named poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest. Interesting! Can you tell us about this? What is the literary scene like where you live?

I get nervous reading my work at half-empty coffeeshops but somehow wasn’t daunted to read a dumb joke poem in front of thousands of people at the UIC Pavilion, including comedian Hannibal Buress and Chicago Bears players. I was also a runner-up in the PBR Art Contest for poetry, earning me a three-month supply of that hipster swill. For some reason I imagined a worker would dolly a few cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon to my door; instead, they sent a paltry check.

Northwest Indiana is the New Jersey of Chicago–it has a surprisingly vibrant literary scene that includes afew journals, the Zine and Small Press Festival in Michigan City, many lovingly crafted zines at cafes and boutiques, writers groups, the Indiana Writers Consortium Steel Pen Conference, open mics and more. Neighboring Chicago definitely has one of the best literary scenes in the country, with at least a few live lit events every week. Plenty of big-name authors pass through. I’m going to see National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward at the Chicago Humanities Fest in Hyde Park.

What is it you love about the short story form? What about poetry? Any preference?

Short stories are one of the most digestible and accessible forms of literature, a narrative contained in a convenient package. I love the soaring heights of language poetry can ascend to. No preference. They’re both great expressions of creativity.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

I write a lot about industrial decline, abandonment, alienation, war, despondency, injustice and other themes. While my work may be thematically dark, it’s typically leavened by a lot of humour.

Describe a typical day in your life.

It’s a grind. I write, write, write for my newspaper…at a bar, a fellow reporter recently introduced me as the “journalist who wrote the entire Times of Northwest Indiana and produced 12 stories a day.” That’s a comedic exaggeration, but not by much. I write journalism by day and write literature by later at night, often working on short stories or poems into the wee hours of the morning. I read as much as possible, try to walk as much as possible, and frequent plays, museums and other cultural events on the weekends.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

There’s so much that’s so profoundly wrong with the world, from poverty to inequality to sexism to racism, to senseless gun violence. If you put a gun to my head, I would probably call for more appreciation for media, literature and the arts. I say that partly out of self-interest but truly believe, however Pollyannaish it may sound, that most of the world’s problems could be solved if people read a book a week, kept up with the news, developed empathy for other people, and maybe spent a few hours volunteering. So many intractable issues seem to be at least partly the result of ignorance.

Who inspires you and why?

This is perhaps the toughest question. Any author I’m reading, any painter whose work I’m looking at. It takes bravery to create art in a cruel, indifferent world.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I was miserable for most of my youth but haven’t since attained any wisdom of note. Mostly, I would encourage my younger self to not be such a perfectionist with literature and just write. My biggest regrets are failing to submit to literary journals like Canvas at Indiana University because I held them in such high esteem and held myself in such low esteem that I didn’t think I was worthy. Now they’re gone and I missed the chance to develop as a literary writer, whether they accepted my work or passed on it with stale, dashed-off form letters that are almost always more error-ridden than the cast-aside submissions.

Tell us a story in five words.

Fiction: Baby shoes, never worn

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I’ve frequently sought out literary sites, such as the Thurber House in Columbus, the James Whitcomb Riley mansion in Indianapolis and Jean Shepherd’s childhood home in Hammond, Indiana. I’ve frequented places like the American Writers Museum in Chicago and The Things They Carried exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum. The closest I probably ever came to a pilgrimage proper was my cross-country road trip to Fort Lewis by Seattle, which I fancied was a modern-day version of On The Road even though it was far less exciting.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

As someone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome, no matter how widely I’ve been published, I probably shouldn’t be proffering advise on this subject. But read, write and read a lot. That’s the ticket. Read widely, and keep trying to incrementally improve. Reading’s the key thing.

What are you reading at the moment?

Katey Schultz’s Flashes of War, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lost short story collection I’d Die for You, Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, Michael DeForge’s Very Casual, Sam Graham-Felsen’s Green, Nathaniel Rich’s King Zeno, Tatjana Soli’s The Lotus Eaters, Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. I’m also a professional book reviewer for a national magazine and read tons of books for work.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

Novels, plays, maybe even screenplays. I’m been slowly but surely working my way up to longer works, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m trying. Everybody’s trying.

Pantry Prose: The Young Man and the Sand (a contemporary homage to Ernest Hemingway) by Joseph S. Pete

Poetry Drawer: And All Of Them: To A.S.J. by Gabriella Garofalo

And all of them you’ll see dead, still dead,
All of them, cities, towns, hamlets
Dead still, life forever runaway –
So, please don’t fret, my grass, my trees, my friends,
I know what you’re looking for:
Death getting them as soon as the streets stop
Hugging homeless, beggars and cripples,
Death getting them as soon as the streets lock their walls,
Let’s throw away those who can’t afford the front-row seats
Aren’t all streets heartless gods or nasty stepmothers? –
No names, please, those blue twilights fighting like thugs,
Nor do you deserve the lost items the thugs gave you
To eject lost souls to a maze of harvests, pomegranates,
And who cares, souls are such foul fighters,
The choicest food for harvest celebrations –
Oh, God, you here? How nice! And whom is your cyder for?
Maybe for the renegade days,
Maybe for the minds shacking up with a rotten silence,
Or that tricky equation we call life,
Only it’s just a wild loss, so drop it quick, c’mon,
All his life the sky’s been stalking women, he know best,
The limbs deep in the water, the words junked from traps and blows –
Look, God, give your cyder to demise, as she never yields
To green briberies, or the white of clouds, you know?
No charm, no shape, no playing by deception,
Only hunger, the evil bite to our flesh –
I know, I know, green is bloody hungry, oh, and before I forget
Any use for his scraps of lives?
What a daft gift, a waste of colours while death
Runs fast to gather falling souls,
Look, don’t you worry for there is room
Where they shake like scared poems –
Trust me, the lovely porticoes rife with rain and flowers
Will get their gift, who knows, maybe an unchained river,
Maybe the earth dancing berserk in a game of one-upmanship –
Clashing like cicadas’ songs or, if you wish,
The wicked subtlety of mornings,
The witches trilling sweet lullabies while making
Gingerbread houses for the kids.

Inky Interview Special: Italian Poet Gabriella Garofalo

Poetry Drawer: Asymmetry At Full Blast by Gabriella Garofalo

Flash In The Pantry: Cooking Shows by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois


Americans are callous, hard-hearted killers, guilty of genocide and mass murder.


The flowers arrive smashed and broken. The FTD deliveryman stands on the porch of my farmhouse and stammers his apologies, and I launch into a rant, reminiscent of my son’s political rants, except I don’t have his gentle Mexican wife to put a hand on my arm and whisper, ‘that’s enough’.


One million Iraqi civilians dead in our War Against the Wrong Country.


I think of demanding that, in recompense, the FTD man repaint the floor of my porch, whose glossy grey paint is cracked and peeling. It would be an irrational request but so much of life is, like these flowers arriving mortally damaged. Someone wanted to express their love and make me feel better as my illness spools out.


We should all abandon our lives, go live in monasteries and weep copiously night and day, and repent.


Instead I’m angry, frustrated, close to tears. I yell at the FTD man: Get out of here! Get off my porch!


Instead we entertain ourselves with superheroes and cooking shows.


He tries to say something about a refund or a replacement, but I won’t hear him out. My yells turn to shrieks and he flees. He gets back in his truck and drives away fast, roiling up dust on the country road.

Inky Interview with Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Inky Interview Special: Poet Karen Wolf from Bowling Green, Ohio

Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.

I wrote my first poem during recess, in first grade, with several classmates of mine. It was entitled “Poor Little Grass Seed” and mourned the fact that grass dies in the winter. I continue to write poetry to celebrate the good things, contemplate what confuses me, and emotionally respond to what moves me.

Tell us about your chapbook, That’s Just The Way It Is, which was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018.

In February of 2016 I sought out an on-line poetry coach for the purpose of getting my poems published. In a matter of months I had 15 poems published and my coach said that’s half of a chapbook, you are ready to get one together and get it published. I entered the Finishing Line Press Chapbook Contest and was lucky enough to have my work chosen by them to be published. The poems in my book concern social justice issues and what we can learn from nature about how everything fits together.

You live in Bowling Green, Ohio. What is the literary scene like?

The literary scene in the Bowling Green/Toledo area is thriving. Every week poets have the opportunity to share their work in open mic formats in four or five different venues.

You have been widely published in literary journals and magazines, including the Smokey Blue Literary and Art Magazine and The Drunken Llama (great names!) Have you any advice for writers about submitting their work?

Before being submitted, a work needs to be edited by another pair of eyes, someone who is knowledgeable about poetry and who can critique the ideas, format, and grammar/punctuation, etc. Also, look at back issues of the magazine you are submitting to in order to be sure that your work is a good fit. And follow all of the Submission Guidelines to the letter.

Describe a typical day in your life.

Every day begins with a morning run. Then I may have a pet sit to do. I am semi-retired from my own pet sitting company. Most days I do some volunteering for Nature’s Nursery, a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Yesterday, I went out and captured an injured Red-Tailed Hawk and brought him to the centre. I also work in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at the centre, where I feed orphaned and injured baby bunnies, squirrels, opossums, groundhogs, minks, birds, etc. For the real young ones, we have to stick a tube down their throats into their tummies and give them warmed formula. Most of them fight the tubing procedure, then totally relax and almost smile when the warm formula begins to fill their tummies. So very rewarding. And I spend time with my partner Chris, also a writer, and our 4 cats, and I visit my grandson at least once a week. Oh, and I write. Ideas come during my run and when I am driving sometimes, causing me to stop in a parking lot somewhere and write it down before it vanishes.

Who inspires you and why?

Right now I am inspired by the poetry of Billy Collins and Lynn Emanuel. They both have a way of taking the mundane and linking it with the profound in a breath-taking manner.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to follow your passion for animals in choosing a career. And share your poetry, don’t leave it hidden away for 60 years.

Tell us a story in five words.

Rock thrown, lesson—violent living.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I’m not quite sure what you are referring to here. Every time I walk along the Maumee River, which is a mile from my home, I become inspired to write.

Why do you think poetry is important?

Poetry is important because it makes everything matter, from the tiny spider mom carrying her white cotton egg sack, to denuclearizing atomic weapons. And poetry links all things together.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you write what is in your heart, you cannot go wrong.

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I am reading THE NATURE PRINCIPLE by Richard Louv. He presents the idea that being in nature strengthens one’s mind, soul, and social relations. The book is filled with examples and scientific proof of his thesis, truly a must read.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

At some point I would like to get a full-length book of poetry published, that would be nice.

Poetry Drawer: Claustrophobia by Karen Wolf

Poetry Drawer: Who She is Not by Karen Wolf

Inky Interview Special: John Grey, Australian Poet, USA resident

Tell us about your journey towards becoming a poet.

Sometimes in my early teens, I had made up my mind that I was going to be a writer. I tried just about every variation on the written word over the ensuing years from short stories to plays and (especially) songs but finally poetry emerged as the one genre that fitted what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

What is it you love about poetry?

The immediacy. The compactness. How so much can be said with so few apt and original words.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

I write so much poetry that it’s impossible for me to get stuck on one particular theme. But, I expect, if I did a census, relationships would come out on top.

Describe a typical day in your life.

During the week, I typically work from 7 until 7. That includes writing and all the secretarial work that goes along with it. That includes coffee, lunch and exercise breaks. On weekends, I’m more flexible as I have to work around family requirements etc.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Am I allowed to say the current president?

Who inspires you and why?

Reading originally inspired me to write. These days, I can’t think of any particular author who stands out above the others.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t take rejection hard. Just let it make you more determined. And perhaps take up a more lucrative branch of the arts.

Tell us a story in five words.

The phone rings. Telemarketers. Slam!

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Not really. though I have visited various writer tourist spots such as Poe’s grave and Mark Twain’s house in Hartford.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find your voice. Have faith in yourself. Keep at it.

What are you reading at the moment?

I always find myself reading something that probably nobody else in a radius of 5,000 miles is reading at this very moment. Right now it’s The Education Of Uncle Paul by Algernon Blackwood.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

My next is usually a vacation I’m looking forward to. My plans are to keep on writing.

Poetry Drawer: An Awkward Meeting in a Coffee House by John Grey

Inky Interview Special: Poet (& Noise Maker) Robert Beveridge, from Akron, Ohio

Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.

It continues. There have been points along the way when I have said “okay, I made it, I’m a poet now” – a lot of them clustered around the late eighties/early nineties (my early twenties, give or take). But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the continual process of looking back at one’s old stuff–whether it be published or not–it’s that like anything else, a person’s art is mutable, and that doing this is a constant process of trying to make the next poem (or the revisions to the older poem) just a little bit better than whatever it was you did yesterday.

Which, I guess, with the context above, is an answer–writing as often as possible, and trying to ensure that what I write today is better than what I wrote yesterday.

[with the eternal caveat that “better” is in the eye of the beholder.]

You live in Akron, Ohio. What is the literary scene like?

Part of the reason I moved down here in March 2018 is that I discovered Akron’s literary scene, especially when it comes to poetry, has the same vibrancy as Cleveland’s did when I first moved to northeast Ohio in the mid-nineties. It’s wonderful to have a regular reading series to attend again, and there are a few others in the process of getting off the ground over the course of this year that look like they’re going to be regular. I’m over the moon with it.

You also, as you put it, ‘make noise’! Tell us about your noise.

How does one describe noise to folks who aren’t used to the idea of non-music as entertainment? [this is a much easier question to answer in the age of YouTube and Bandcamp, but bear with me.] I’ve always described noise as “imagine you’re in the middle of a firefight in a fully-operational steel mill”. While that only covers one aspect of the rather vast field of noise, it’s arguably the most representational, given that it’s a decent description of the most famous period of the world’s most famous noise artist, Merzbow. Given that I (like pretty much everyone else who does this) was profoundly influenced by Merzbow, it’s a good jumping-off point for describing my own work, but I try to run the widest gamut possible when recording–I’ve done CD-length pieces of minimal deep ambient, two-minute-long cassettes with ten discrete tracks in ten different subgenres, harsh powerelectronics… if it’s a recognized subgenre, I’ve at least attempted to play with it. Here’s a link to my bandcamp page.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I’m a programmer with a job a non-trivial distance from my apartment, so a good portion of a typical day involves either sitting in front of a computer or driving to/from sitting in front of a computer. When I’m not at work, there’s much less one can describe as “typical”; a given night can involve driving up to the Cleveland suburbs to spend time with my six-year-old, sitting on the couch reading for hours at a time, sinking deep into one of the games I play (there are a couple dozen I rotate between, but the current obsessions are The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and Tales of Maj’Eyal), watching movies ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, cooking, any number of other options. The one thing that doesn’t usually happen is boredom.

Who inspires you and why?

Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. Someone will say something in a particular way, I’ll catch a headline, a song will pop up I haven’t heard in a while… I just transcribed the last batch of poems from my phone to my computer, and among the inspirations were Robert Smith (lead singer for The Cure), Donald Trump, Yumi Hotta (author), Yanni (musician), Andrzej Sapkowski (author), Ricardo Islas (filmmaker), Charles Whitman (the University of Texas sniper from 1966), and my girlfriend, along with some “what’s mixed in with the “who’s (one poem was inspired by ADHD, for example). So… everyone, really, under the correct circumstances.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

That “first publication” where they told you they’d publish you if you subscribed to the magazine? Yeah, that’s a scam just as much as the National Library of Poetry is. Hold out for another six months, you’ll get your real first publication soon.

(I’m ineffably happy I grew up when vanity publishing was a far more difficult and costly process than it is today. I’ve read a lot of POD-published volumes from people who likely felt the same way I did in my early twenties–that I’d made it, that I’d hit peak talent–and I have little doubt that some of them are already looking back on volumes published in 2003-2008 and saying “what in the world was I thinking?”.)

Tell us a story in five words.

You walked away. I stayed.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Not as a writer, but regularly as a reader. When I still lived at home, my mother and I would go on book-buying trips during the summers to various places within driving distance of wherever we were living at the time; we’d spend a week in Philadelphia, or Maine, or Kentucky, or what have you, combing through used bookstores. I miss it; I don’t have the money to do a good deal of travelling now that I’m older, and I certainly don’t have the same kind of vacation time I did when I was in school–but used bookstores are much fewer and farther between than they were in the eighties, as well.

Why do you think poetry is important?

I can never remember who it was who defined poetry as “elevated language” (Eliot? Williams? Maybe even Whitman?), but the idea that language can be elevated is a powerful thing, almost to the point of being sui generis. And I hate to make proclamations like this, because we all have to know we’re still in the frying pan, right?, and there’s always another cliff we can fall off–but “now more than ever” strikes me as appropriate when it comes to elevated language in an age of fake news, alternative facts, homeopathy and flat-earth coming back into vogue, etc. Part of elevating language, to me, is honesty, and that’s something we seem to be rapidly losing sight of in America as we continue down our current path.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The same I wish I could follow myself. That internal editor who sits in your head and tells you everything you write needs to be as polished a turd as possible before you stick it on a page? Find a way to shut that idiot down, at least as long as it takes you to get something on a page. You can worry about whether there needs to be a comma between those two words later. Just write.

What are you reading at the moment?

About a third of the way through John Ashbery’s A Wave, which somehow seems to have escaped me until now (I swear I read it in the nineties, but enough of it is unfamiliar that I’m questioning my memory).

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I spent a great deal of time not writing and not submitting, as in “measured in years”; I was semi-retired from writing for twenty years (1994-2014, with a couple of relapses in there) and from submitting for even longer (1994-2016). So to an extent, I’m in the “what’s next” stage right now; I’m still not nearly as prolific as I was in the early nineties, but I’m at the point of writing every day again, and I’m two years into submitting probably even more than I did back in the days of envelopes and stamps. (It’s wonderful not to be budgeting for stamps every month. Thank you, Internet.) What’s next from here? To continue. And, as I said back at the beginning… to keep trying to get a little bit better every day.

Poetry Drawer: The Drowned City by Robert Beveridge

Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Obama hits on the Swedish Prime Minister. She’s got that ofay blonde hair and legs that go on forever. They’re not longer than Michelle’s, but Big O’s gotten caught up in the celebration of Mandela’s death. He’s slid into his African self, as if he’d taken a few good draughts of nitrous oxide or absinthe drinks loaded with wormwood, as if he’d torn pieces of Ethiopian spiced goat meat off a larger hunk with his sharp teeth. All the goat meat in the world, he thinks, is his. He’s the most powerful man in the world. He can eat and drink as much as he likes. He can blow up to be as fat as a deposed dictator.

Big O is looking for a slam dunk. O, this Swede is hot. Michelle is staring daggers. She’d kick the Swede’s ass in a felony fight. She reins in her man before he can scandalize himself. He’s already gone too far. He’s been leaning in, taking selfies of himself and the Swede as a couple, cheek to cheek, here at South Africa’s party to send off their Saviour.

The looks Michelle’s giving him can curdle milk. Everyone in the world sees it and knows she can be a real ball-buster. She’ll show no sweetness tonight. 

Meanwhile the translator for the deaf is hallucinating. He sees angels in the stadium, archangels carrying Mandela home. He’s scared—where are his medications? He’s suffered “anger issues.” He’s next to all these powerful leaders, but are they really leaders, he wonders, or just so-called leaders?

He knows no sign language, but he’s depending on God to carry him through. He’s three feet away from Obama, three feet away from the most powerful man on Earth. He grimaces as Obama brushes by him.

The Swedish Prime Minister knows there’s little chance for a hook-up, but maybe after they’re both out of office…

None of this shit is supposed to be happening, but there’s a warp in the fabric of the Universe caused by Mandela’s death. He was filled with spiritual power. Now unleashed, that power is having wacky effects on people, even presidents and prime ministers. That warp needs to be closed, muy pronto, before all hell breaks loose.

Inky Interview: Poet & Theatre Director Gary Beck, from New York

Describe your journey towards becoming a poet.

I had a difficult childhood and led an isolated life. I read fiction and drama early, but didn’t really delve into poetry until my early teens. I wrote terrible imitations of the English Romantics, Byron, Keats, Shelley, discarded them and started the search for my own voice.

Can you tell us about your poetry collection Rude Awakenings?

Rude Awakenings, unlike much of my recent work, which is often issue oriented, has diverse explorations of intimate themes, as well as broader areas of expression.

Tell us about your time as a theatre director.

It would take a long, long, long time to describe my work as a theatre director. I translated and directed the classics, as well as issue plays. I ran my own theatre from 1976 to 1996 until it was devastated by AIDS. It was the only job I ever loved. I’m currently directing one of my own one act plays and really enjoying it.

What kind of art did you deal in?

I worked for a number of galleries, then became a private dealer specializing in art of the sixties.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I write. I send out material to be published, with which I’ve had growing success. I play speed chess several times a week, and I’m working on multiple projects at the same time, novels, poetry collections, essays, plays.

Who inspires you and why?

Intelligent people trying to understand our disturbed society, for they’re the only hope for the future.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I try to never second guess myself.

Tell us a story in five words.

I build hope for tomorrow.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I once went to Baudelaire’s tomb, more of a visit than a pilgrimage.

Why do you think poetry is important?

Poetry can touch the mind and spirit more directly than any other creative form and hopefully lead to illumination.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If it’s important enough, persevere.

What are you reading at the moment?

Herodatus and T.S. Eliot.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

More novels, essays, poetry, plays, hopefully more directing.

Gary’s website


Poetry Drawer: Who She is Not by Karen Wolf

Like drool down a teething
baby’s chin, pleasantries roll
off her tongue. Her flattery soothes
the broken-hearted, encourages
the frustrated, comforts
the lonely—
part of who she is or who
she’s taught herself to be, not always
truthful, but expected.

She longs to strip
away her façade, level
the playing field with cruelties,
lies, baiting comments
drenched in satisfaction. Her
only moments away.