FROM Poesy Interview…
Did you feel more creative when you were doing heroin?
I felt very creative when I was using heroin. That doesn’t mean I was. It drops your inhibitions. Ironically though, I have written my best work since I have been straight. In my TALES of the TROLL stories, the heroes were heroin addicts. When you are on dope you are constantly on the run, trying to score. It doesn’t make for a stable writing environment.
When did you begin to write, and how did it play a role in your turbulent life?
I enjoyed reading. I read all the time. Some of my readings from my adolescence were: Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Junkie by William Burroughs, Confessions of An Opium Eater by DeQuincy, No Blade of Grass by John Christopher… to name a few. I had an appetite for reading like I had for heroin. Once in class, a teacher called me up and said, “Who wrote this?” “I wrote it.” She said, “Come on. Who wrote it for you?” I said, “I tell you what. Give me a topic, and I will sit right in front of you and write, while you watch. So she said, “You did write this.” After that, she worked with me after school for quite some time. As I said, I was a dark little kid. I wrote my first poem when I was thirteen or fourteen. Later in life, I read in biker bars. From 1982 to 1983, I was in prison for drug possession and sale of drugs. I organized a maximum-security tier poetry reading at Worcester County Prison, where I was incarcerated. The prisoners loved this reading. However, the guards were very edgy. I was reading some very provocative drug and crime poems, shouting out lines like “Just passing through this fucking state, my mind a cesspool of bubblin‚ hate…” The guys were cheering, arms raised, if the poetry reading went on that way for much longer, we might have had a riot. So I switched to love poems and they quieted down. Needless to say, that was the last poetry reading I conducted there.
Any favorite authors in the prison genre?
I like everything by Jean Genet and Jack Henry Abbot was interesting.
What was it like being the editor of Spare Change?
I was the only one available to do the job for the salary they were willing to pay, which wasn’t much. For the first year and a half (1994 to 1996), all I got for was two hundred papers a week to sell. Since I didn’t have time to sell them, other vendors would buy them from me. I was making fifty dollars a week. The paper didn’t have any money. When I was clean, I wanted to give back to it. I didn’t want to see it fold. We didn’t have a board of directors because everyone had drifted away. We had major upheavals in which the managing staff ripped off Spare Change to the tune of $30,000. As editor, I organized the format of the paper. I knew what I wanted the paper to look like. I covered the Marijuana Rally in the Boston Common, and the Bikes Not Bombs organization. I wrote a story on the underhanded dealings of Bush family, that I think was the first nasty and comprehensive story to come out of this ilk. Basically, the story dealt with Jeb Bush’s business loss to the tune of 4.5 million in 1985 in Florida. He took advantage of laws that were favorable to corporations and only had to pay about a half a million. The government covered the rest of the loss and the taxpayers suffered. It also dealt with George Bush’s use of insider information to dump a large amount of stock. As a result, many share holders of the stock suffered severely. George W. Bush once stated a few years back, “If this was a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier—so long as I am the dictator.” I think this is a very telling statement, don’t you?
Can you talk about your life as an activist and your political views?
I was extremely active against the Vietnam War. I was on Upsulla College radio; as a guest poet. I broadcasted even though even though I was high on drugs. We use to broadcast information about what to do in case of a tear gas attack by police and things like that. We were shut down by the F.C.C. because of Anti-American activity. I demonstrated over the years, and I was active with the anti-nuke group, the Clamshell Alliance in New Hampshire. I’ve been anti-violence for most of my life. Violence makes me ill. I think war is out of date for where the human species is today. I believe that at this point, we have to go beyond perceived differences. We have to step back and take a look. I think if we continue on the path we are on now, we will blow ourselves up, sicken ourselves, and regress to a primitive state. There will be a massive die-off and we will create conditions in our environment in which we can’t survive. My goal is to go to bed everyday without any regrets. My passions now are to write and to help other people with the illness of addiction.
What’s replacing the “high” you needed?
I don’t know if anything can replace it, really. I do a lot of work with the development of my spirit. I pray, meditate, and try to help people through service work. All of this gives me a good feeling. I’d be happy if one of my poems stood the test of time. I won’t be around, but my ghost would be chuckling away.