Thick With Conviction - A Poetry Journal
thick with conviction a poetry journal
 10 Questions with...Josh Thompson


Hi, Kristina here! It's good to be back and feeling a hell of a lot better now. Our new 10 Questions with... this time around is with poet Josh Thompson, who has been published here at TWC four times, so we must like him quite a bit! We sent over the standard questions to Josh and hoped he'd answer them, and he didn't fail us. So how exactly did Josh answer our questions? See for yourself?


1. What or who gives you inspiration and perspiration?

Charles Bukowski and Richard Brautigan have always been the main literary sources for my inspiration. But since they are both sadly departed, I look towards the city of New York and its inhabitants for inspiration. Being a bartender and writer in this city has thankfully given me more than enough exposure to the inner lurkings of the great city that spawned me. The women I have met in the bars have always given me great material to work with. I think the people and places you choose to have surrounding you determines what kind of work you’re going to produce. My gritty, humorous and sometimes obnoxious outlook of the world and its people comes directly from experiences with those living in or visiting NYC. I think we have the most fascinating and unusual collection of people here in New York City. Without them, I’d be short of material. On that note, those same people and places are the causes for my perspiration as well. Living in this city is a mixed blessing. Waiting on a subway platform in the heat of August is just one example of this. Try it once and you’ll never want to do it again. Frequent trips out of NYC are necessary for any artist who is trying to survive here. This is an unfortunate fact.

2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret desire for something else, like spelunking?

Caves frighten me a bit, so spelunking was never a desire of mine. Writing has always come very naturally to me. Since I was young, I enjoyed putting words on paper. Whether they made any sense or not was of little importance to me. Just to be able to get some inner angst out in a creative and productive way made me happy. I felt like by writing, the likelihood of me going absolutely mad was heavily diminished. I still want to be a rock star and a film director and a professional baseball player, but I have to be somewhat realistic about my desires. Dreams are great to have, but they must be attainable. I don’t see the Yankees signing me to play third base anytime soon.

3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there been any that you're particularly swoon-y about that you've gotten?

Unfortunately, I haven’t really been the recipient of any awards or accolades. I don’t think this is a bad thing, though. I have certain very important people in my life who really care about the work that I do. They look forward to reading my new material and they aren’t afraid to offer criticism when necessary. I value these people and their respect for me on a level far beyond that of an award. I write for people like me. I just want the reader to feel something… anything when they read me. If I conjure up a positive response, then great, my job is complete. If not, oh well… go read someone else. I’m not in this creative arena for awards or accolades although I wouldn’t mind it if someone wanted to give an award to me. But they are certainly not my motivation.

4. When you're not leaving your poetic footprint, what else in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?

Beautiful, intriguing women make me warm and fuzzy. Red wine and bourbon used to be a huge vice for me as well, providing me with both a warmth and fuzziness that I couldn’t live without. But I got sober over the course of eight months and now a good book or a well-made film can provide the same good feeling that alcohol used to. In the end, good company, male or female, is of the most vital importance to me. A good conversation with a fellow struggling artist can make my day that much better. Also, solitude, on occasion can be one of the best feelings imaginable. Silence and a blank piece of paper can really make for something magical. I value any time I get to spend alone. It’s when the “magic” happens.

5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your opinion?

There are a lot of them, thankfully. I still think the number of bad poets far outweighs the number of good poets, but there a few that stand out in my mind. I don’t know if these are “new” poets, but they’re amazing regardless. Duane Ackerson is writing shorties just like me. He’s got a knack for telling great stories without using a whole lot of words. I really respect that. The same goes for John Sweet. Corey Mesler writes some pretty wildly imaginative stuff as well. I really like Justin Barrett too because of his Charles Bukowski complex, which I happily share. Rick Lupert and his affinity towards Richard Brautigan has always made me smile. Rick’s doing great work with Poetry Superhighway and his poetry is just one of his many talents. Lastly, but certainly not least, my close friend Melissa Scalzo is writing some of the most powerful and inspiring fiction around today. Her level of exposure is steadily rising and I hope that it continues to. She writes of things I dare not go near with a ten-foot pole. I really admire and respect her for that. She’s a really exceptional poet to keep your eyes on.

6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?

I like the idea of someday winning a Pushcart Prize, only because I have recently discovered that Raymond Carver won it once early in his career. He was a stellar short fiction writer and his work has been very influential to me. Sharing company with Carver would be incredible. I don’t really know too much about either one though, because to be honest, I feel as if awards and prizes only help to enlarge the ego of young writers. I don’t need a panel of judges to tell me my work is good enough for a plaque or an anthology or whatever. I don’t write for the payoff. Recognition is great, but for me, it’s okay if it stops there. Plus, I’ve read some of the work named “Best of the Net.” Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. Not even close.

7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and what poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?

The poem “Bumming With Jane” by Charles Bukowski was probably the most influential of the hundreds of poems by him that really shaped me. His way of expressing his deepest, darkest emotions without seeming weak or clichéd always impressed me. He had a way of putting his heart on the page that I really admired. His pains seemed similar to mine. Seeing him write so effectively through misery and dismay was the only inspiration I needed. I said to myself, “If Hank can nearly starve to death and still get the words on the page, then what’s stopping me?” And that was that. At this very moment, I have begun rereading Richard Brautigan’s short story collection, “Revenge of the Lawn.” I know it’s not technically poetry, but his unique form of short, concise and playful prose proved to be far more effective than most poetry I have read in my day. It still remains my favorite book of all time. In particular is the very short “Pale Marble Movie,” which in my opinion may be one of the most beautiful love poems ever written. He tells you all you need to know about him and his partner in only 25 wonderfully crafted lines. I have always admired Brautigan’s silly, unordinary nature. He too, bled emotion from his fingertips, but never once came off as soft. He and Bukowski remain my two greatest influences to this day.

8. Are online poetry 'zines a crushing blow to traditional print 'zines, or are they the meat and potatoes of the poetry world now? Also, which do you prefer?

I was recently published in the final printed issue of a great British magazine called The Ugly Tree. Only then, seeing my words on the page and feeling the paper in my hand did I realize how wonderful books are. I prefer print ‘zines, but online ‘zines have become the best and for some, the only way of getting their work published. There are just too many people writing today. The only place that can house so many unique and important voices is the internet. Online ‘zines have proved absolutely necessary and I’m entirely grateful to any and all of those people working to keep poetry alive, both on the net and on the printed page.

9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in five years?

I’d like to be a published novelist in five years. That would be my honest answer. Realistically though, as long as I’m in a position to keep throwing the words down on paper in five years, I’ll be happy. I’m in the process of applying to graduate schools to further fine-tune my skills. It would help if there are still people around in five years who are interested in my kind of poetry. If that’s the case, then I’ll be satisfied. I’m still going to write from the gut, just as I do now. That will never change. It’s all I know how to do.

10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?

Not to sound clichéd, but I think inner pain and torment are the best ingredients for a good, tasty poem. Without those emotions, a poem can suffer from being ordinary or run-of-the-mill. I think it takes a bruised heart and a damaged head to produce good art. If you look at the great poets/writers of the last hundred years, they were all filled with anguish and misery. But the work they emitted from such a bruised place made for some compelling, eye-opening literature. Think of Bukowski, Hemingway, Salinger, Ferlinghetti, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Brautigan. These are writers/poets whose inner darkness created a gaping ball of light on the page. I don’t ever recall writing a good poem while in a happy, frenetic state. All of my poems have a sense of darkness in them, some more so than others. Pain makes for great art. It’s weird to say, but it’s true.





Current Issue: April 2009



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