Justin Phillip Reed


Poets and Writers - - The Literary Life -

HOW IT BE­GAN: It didn’t ex­ist yet. I don’t mean that to be snide or dis­mis­sive. I wrote the po­ems in In­de­cency be­cause I had not found them else­where. I needed text to rep­re­sent and then trans­form the way that my body and my many it­er­a­tions of self move through my life and its var­i­ous


IN­SPI­RA­TION: I’ve been prompted to write by so­cial-me­dia posts, news ar­ti­cles, sculp­tures, paint­ings, songs, and films (with po­ems in di­rect con­ver­sa­tion with Alien, Queen of the Damned, The Hitcher, The Witch, and a few porno clips). Most re­li­ably my in­spi­ra­tion has come through read­ing lit­er­a­ture, in­clud­ing es­says,

their whole heavy tongue slack in my own throat, opi­ate-slow. —from “Anes­the­sia Is a Coun­try

You Leave for Amer­ica”

nov­els, and plays, in ad­di­tion to po­etry col­lec­tions. I’ve found ven­tur­ing out of my liv­ing space and spend­ing time among nat­u­ral land­scapes to be an in­valu­able, pro­duc­tive prac­tice. My lo­cal parks and ru­ral land­scapes have prob­a­bly yielded most of the po­ems in my cur­rent manuscriptin-progress.

WRITER’S BLOCK REM­EDY: I re­vise, and I en­gage the work of other artists in var­i­ous gen­res and me­dia. From the fric­tion be­tween these two acts emerges the mag­netism of new work, typ­i­cally. What keeps me go­ing is a con­flict of awe and dis­ap­point­ment. Ei­ther I’m writ­ing a poem that I’m sorry to have never read or writ­ten be­fore, and/or I’m writ­ing to­ward a feel­ing of dumb­struck­ness—some­times to con­struct a sim­i­lar feel­ing (the “in­spi­ra­tion”), and some­times to cre­ate a sen­sa­tion that doesn’t else­where ex­ist in my life. I’m not ter­ri­bly in­vested, though, in the idea of im­passe. I can pass, and I pre­fer to—to write be­yond where I ex­pected to land in the lyric.

AD­VICE: Be pa­tient and re­spect your in­stincts. Write the book you never ex­pected to have in you. Con­test judges and pub­lish­ers, if they are right for you, can wait for that. Take time away from your man­u­script and re­turn with re­newed en­ergy. Re­cruit a few in­vested read­ers of your work—not many—and hear their feed­back. Re­mem­ber that you’re cre­at­ing an art­work with which you will, for­tu­nately, have to live. As­pire to a con­sis­tent book of po­ems where each poem puts in work and not for a hand­ful of col­lec­tions from which only a few po­ems apiece, if that, emerge. I will at­tempt to do the same.

AGE: 29. RES­I­DENCE: Saint Louis. JOB: An as­sort­ment of things that don’t in­clude “gain ex­po­sure” and do in­clude mak­ing art. I work as a server. I lead com­mu­nity po­etry work­shops when the time is right. I visit univer­si­ties to de­liver read­ings and lec­tures. I pub­lish es­says. I some­times win mon­e­tary awards for my writ­ing. TIME SPENT WRIT­ING THE BOOK:

In my body? My whole life. On pa­per? Let’s say three years. TIME SPENT FIND­ING A HOME FOR IT:

A lit­tle over a year.

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