with Carson Pytell:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Carson: I was roommates with a man named Larry for a short time in the Summer of 2014. I was into the Beats. I was reading William Burroughs Jr’s Speed/Kentucky Ham. He asked what I was reading and I told him something like: “The autobiography of a tweaker turned drunk.” He advised me against emulation. I told him the author’s last name and he was relieved. I still don’t know why. It was just what I said. Took a minute to tell him it wasn’t Burroughs Sr. too. I appreciated the advice, though.
So we began talking after that. He taught me chess and eventually asked if I had heard of The Columbia Riots. Of course I hadn’t. Being young, all I thought happened that year was the DNC in Chicago. Welp, he was one of the couple hundred or so students arrested. It seems that moment broke him. His parents drove down from Saratoga to check in, but he locked himself in his dorm room because: “[He] was just so fucked up.” That from a some one who favored pitchers of beer and cigars over pot or LSD before he was 21. “I liked my consciousness the way it was,” he’d say.
So he left a little while before I could, and left me his phone number. I’ve lost it. I wish I hadn’t. But Larry is not my first writing influence, not even close to why I began writing. I already had been, at least what I called seriously, for a few months prior to that Summer. Short stories that were sentimental, grandiloquent and embarrassing. Obviously, to me, they were gifts to the world so as soon as they were all rejected by those journals the things deserved to be published in, I got angry.
I stopped writing. In the Spring of 2019, aged 26, I started again. This time poetry. I began submitting as soon as I started and was lucky. In June of that year I had my first publication credit and just short of 200 have come in the two years since. Also four chapbooks. I’m unemployed going on a decade. Too much time on my hands.
But, to answer your question:
Kids started paying me to write their English assignments in middle school. By far the most money I’ve ever made writing. That’s really when I began. It was more serious to me back then too. Probably more so than it will ever be.
Also, my first literary influences were as aforementioned, the Beats. Hunter S. Thompson too. But I don’t do drugs anymore. Still, a portrait of Kerouac hangs on my bedroom wall.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Carson: I really wish I’d have put that Post-It with Larry’s number on it in a safe place. Literarily, however, today I cite the following artists as my foremost influences, far from only writers: Yevgeni Bauer, Constantine Cavafy, Erich Von Stroheim, Odilon Redon, Ian MacKaye, Henry Green, the guy who wrote the novel Stoner, El Cid, Emily Dickinson, Charley Patton, Hart Crane, Bukka White, Rev. Gary Davis, Townes Van Zandt, Wystan Hugh Auden, Victor Sjostrom, Ingmar Bergman, Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, anything on Boxing History, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Lauren Bacall, John Ford, Buster Keaton, Paul Strand, Henri Carier-Bresson, Mike Nichols, Fernando Pessoa, Van Gogh, Chopin, Andres Segovia, Artur Rubinstein, Dave Van Ronk, Francisco Goya, Thomas Cole, Edward S. Curtis, Eugene O’Neill, Simon Perchik, Ida B. Wells, Marco Panella, The 47 Ronin, Francis Bacon, Edward Burra, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Frank Stanford, Emil Cioran, Bertrand Russell, Philip Larkin, Nicolas Martin (painter based in Montreal), and my friend Zebulon Huset. Zeb is my biggest literary influence today. Do yourself a favor and check out his poetry (just Google his name), his journals Sparked and Coastal Shelf, as well as his writing prompt blog Notebooking Daily.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Carson: I’d like to say it happened when I cashed my first serious paycheck earned from my writing, but everyone would recognize the BS in that. Pivotal, though? No moment at all I could pinpoint immediately, just all of them together in retrospect. Nothing special according to me. If I must finger it, however, I’d have to say it happened when my friend paid me to write two poems for an assignment in community college. I wrote them, he turned them in. After a while he got his grade and texted me to come see him. I assumed we didn’t do well, but all he asked was whether he had my permission claim credit for one of the poems which his professor wanted to include in his next semester’s handbook. I was relieved. But, yeah, if not for that I’d have cited a good paycheck if it ever had happened. It won’t. Sorry.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Carson: By far and away I’ve learned most about the craft from my friend, Zebulon Huset. On second thought, Zeb is really the only person to have taught me anything about the craft.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Carson: I was born in Albany, NY halfway through the summer of 1993. I was the first baby my parents got to bring home. I was then raised in West Sand Lake, NY. I have been living there my whole life. Farthest I’ve ever been away from home was a week long field trip to D.C. either sophomore or junior year of high school. I think I’d like to visit other places, just only without all those people around. I’d really like to. But there’s always so many people around. So, given my lack of travel, I can say both that personal travel experiences never influenced me and that second-hand traveling has spirited me as much as a pot of pitch black coffee. Jack Black, for instance. No, not the actor. Jack Black, the golden age hobo, who wrote a book called You Can’t Win. I read that after all the Beat stuff I could find. All of it. My local library spent a month trying to find And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. They couldn’t find You Can’t Win, so I had to spend almost twenty bucks just to get to read it. I’d like to go hobo myself sometimes, but I’m a Type-1 Diabetic. Life’s a bitch, huh?
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Carson: Ehh. Nothing yet. Just practicing the art is the most meaningful work a writer can do no matter who and at whatever stage.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Carson: Pot is fun. Wine and Brandy too.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others? Do you have a favorite piece of art?
Carson: “The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.”
I paint also. My favorite painting recently is Edward Burra’s ‘Sugar Beet East Anglia’ (1973).
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Carson: Here’s a link to my books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Carson-Pytell/e/B08BMY7RCL
Other than those, I’ve been shopping another chapbook length manuscript around and also compiling what I’d like to be my first full-length.