Justin Phillip Reed
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.