with Jonathan S Baker
Bio: Jonathan S Baker lives and writes at his home in Evansville, Indiana with his two companions, a dog and anxiety. They are the author of head Work, It’s Always Been Like This, Roadside Attractions, and co-author of Fearful Architecture. Their new release is Cock of the Walk, a collection of poems about penises and sexuality.
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and biggest influences currently?
Jonathan: I started writing in college but I was doing it out of obligation then. It wasn’t until 2015 that I sat down to write a poem for the act of writing a poem. As far as my influences go I would have to say Stephen Dobyns and Sharon Olds are probably the two most influential poets on my work, because specifically “The Pope’s Penis” by Sharon Olds and Tenderly by Stephen Dobyns changed the way I looked at poetry. Before that to me poetry was all dappled sunlight and babbling brooks.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Jonathan: I wish I could say there were, except all of the validating experiences I’ve had come after I started writing. Having people share one of my poems, and tell me how it affected them, or coming up to me and congratulating me after a reading are things that reaffirm my decision to be a writer.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?
Jonathan: The women in my life who have pushed and inspired me to do it. Specifically, Julie Lockhart who is an amazing poet and writer herself who constantly has been a source of support and has repeatedly reached out to remind me how much she enjoys my poems and to assure me that my voice is being heard and is important to her.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Jonathan: I grew up in Southern Indiana and I have had a few opportunities to travel within the United States. I would say growing up here in Southern Indiana has kept me pretty grounded. I had a vaguely religious upbringing which definitely affected my work.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Jonathan: This year one of the pieces I released was a short book called Roadside Attractions. Each year since I started writing with purpose and focus I set for myself a goal or expectation. This year my goal was to collaborate with other artists which I’ve had multiple opportunities to do, but Roadside Attractions was the first work completed with that goal in mind. I got to work with local artist Kristie Jarvis who is amazing. She provided all the illustrations based on my poetry and horrible ability to communicate my wants and desires regarding the illustrations. It was also a big deal for me because I went to school with her and it allowed me to reconnect with someone and let me feel like I was boosting another artist.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Jonathan: The only thing that really relaxes me these days is the night I have set aside to spend with my partner. She’s also a huge inspiration for me.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others?
Jonathan: Don’t hate me for this but its actually a line from the Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock but not because I like that disjointed nightmare of a poem. Tommy Lee Jones uses the line in a movie, Blown Away, and it just makes me chuckle.
“I should have been a pair of ragged claws”
Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?
Jonathan: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of non mainstream country music specifically Nick Shoulders and other artists like him who emulates old country music from the 30s, 40s & 50s. As far as influences on my work go probably the biggest star either Cake or They Might be Giants because I’ve always had a very irreverent sense of humor and I try to infuse that into my poetry.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Jonathan: I mentioned Roadside Attractions. That released in September. Unexpectedly one week after that I released Fearful Architecture which is another collection of poems with co-author CS Mathews. And my most recent release just a month later is Cock of the Walk which started as a joke because I’ve written some poetry about my penis. Then someone sort of made a challenge to me to release another book this year and I saw what could be the cover art posted by another artist friend of mine, Nikki Jude, and I knew I had to release it.
Q10(bonus question): Are there any funny memories that you can recall during your writing journey or creative journey?
Jonathan: I wrote a poem about a local politician. It was not a kind poem. Then I was approached by another poet who I respect and admire. They mentioned that they had seen my poem and enjoyed it and then told me that they were house sitting for that politician this week.
Lines by Jonathan S Baker When I meet an artist who has seen this world as it is and said, "no" and changes the world by force to infuse beauty and truth, but somehow thinks things like borders are just normal it boggles my mind. Just like I write these lines, or you paint those lines, some bureaucrat charted lines. Throughout time men and women moved along just fine without passports or guard posts, and to think their descendants should just fall in line and learn to recognize the sovereignty of imagined lines is completely asinine. Why should the children of this land follow any law but that of this land? Because high minded men came on a boat with a flag? Because some two bit huxter shouted manifest destiny? As an artist who shapes reality you must know that's bullshit, right? We make the lines but those lines are not truth by which the land abides. Somewhere in Maine a Canadian moose is birthing anchor babies with no regards for lines. a tortoise slowly stretches his neck from Mexico to dine in US scrub grass. Yet here stands this artist painting within the lines.