with Catfish McDaris
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and who are your biggest influences today?
Catfish: I started writing in 1971, while in the army, mostly letters describing shooting cannons and visiting different countries in Europe. I just missed Vietnam and ended in Germany for almost 3 years. I am from New Mexico and have always loved Westerns, so Louis L’Amour influenced me, Ivanhoe, Steinbeck, Zola, Pearl Buck, Poe. Currently I read Tolkien, since our books are archived together at Marquette University. I love Bukowski, Jack Micheline, Seaborn Jones, Adrian C. Louis, and mostly poets and storytellers I’ve become acquainted with over the past 30 years of my writing.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Catfish: My mother and grandmother believed I had talent and my wife, Aida of 38 years has put up with me vanishing into a tale or going out reading, now it’s the Zoom reading craze.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?
Catfish: My wife and daughter and writer friends.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Catfish: I grew up in Albuquerque and Clovis, New Mexico, but after the army moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I hitchhiked and rode freight trains across America and down into Mexico. When in Europe I was in the 1st Armored Calvary and when not playing war games against the USSR. I traveled mostly in West Germany and Amsterdam. I love Milwaukee and retired from the Main Post Office after 34 years, lots of excitement from workers going postal and bombs mailed to Jefferey Dahmer while he was in prison. I always miss the mountains and plains.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Catfish: I try to keep my next work my most meaningful, but my part in Prying in 97 with Bukowski and Jack Micheline was popular because of Buk and it is currently being reprinted in Germany by Newington Blue Press and another solo book: Valentina Mezcalito Blues is coming out soon from Laughing Ronin Press in Kentucky.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Catfish: I quit drinking and smoking weed 16 years ago. I do like strong coffee, nature walks, thinking of new writing ideas, being with my Mexican wife, people watching.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others? Favorite artwork or music video?
Catfish: I did a tiny book called: Making Love to the Rain and I thought about farmers with hope in their eyes watching their crops grow. That’s always hit me hard. Favorite artwork would be damn near anything by Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo, I’ve written extensively about both. Music video is Red Hot Chili Peppers Hump de Bump.
Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?
Catfish: Well, I got to see Jimi Hendrix twice, Little Feat, now I like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joe Satriani, Kingfish Ingram, Gary Clark Jr.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Catfish: I mentioned my 2 books coming out. I’ll be Zoom reading Nov 3rd for Montgomery College, MD at an English 101 class my little chap called The Impala and maybe Cobalt from Prying and at Wounded Knee, SD probably some Frida Kahlo poems. Lots of stuff always come along, remember what’s on Buk’s tombstone “Don’t Try”.
Bonus Q: Are there any funny memories that you can recall during your writing/creative journey?
Catfish: There was a local music/reading long ago in the gay district of Milwaukee. I was reading with a sax player, named Big Frank, we had each other’s six. His warning for danger was he’d start playing Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. The Emcee was a guy with a dark beard wearing a wedding dress. He had a briefcase of fake $3’s after every performer read or played their instrument, he handed them a stack of money. This handsome blonde man kept staring at me rather strangely. After we did most of our thing, I grabbed the case and threw all the money in the air, people were squealing and jumping, but not blondie, Big Frank hit Take Five. He pulled his 357 from his horn case as blondie grabbed a handful of fucking chapbooks. We split posthaste. A month later the cops caught Dahmer, after he’d eaten most of 21 men. The cops came knocking at my apartment, they found 3 of my books at Dahmer’s house. I let them search, even the freezer. Sick huh?
Poetry by Catfish McDaris:
In three days, I see a new doctor maybe he can help me I’ll try to explain the anxiety and panic How I’m paralyzed by fear How prayer doesn’t seem to be the cure How I wonder if God has turned His back on me How no one seems to understand the terror How I love my family but even their love can’t stop the monster.
My grandparents lived in the
Panhandle of Texas, there were
guns in every room because of
a long-ago feud that resulted
in prison time for my grandpa
We’d eat white bread with sugar
and milk called graveyard stew
and sleep in the mule barn guest
Room, grandpa would wash his
face with pumice soap to try and
remove the carbon black from work
They’d drink home brew on weekends
one night granny threw her tit over
her shoulder and her prune nipple
Hit grandpa in the eye, she started
laughing when he yelled and fell out
of his chair and shit his pants.
Cochise’s dry hot tears
skeletons of buffalo
windstorm ghosts dry death.
Heat waves dance in dearth
forests are matchsticks waiting
animals on edge.
The heat of summer
beckons fireflies to sparkle
crisp plants beg for rain.
There But For the Grace of God
The Honduran immigrant
staggered into the meeting
speaking only Spanish, he
said he needed help
His entire body was shaking
from alcohol withdrawals, I’d
seen men like him, near death
some recovered, he sweated
out a pure booze stench
One hundred people prayed
for him, he died before midnight
It took Jose twelve years to
find his family in Chicago
and give them some closure.
Bio: Catfish McDaris is an aging New Mexican living near Milwaukee. He has four walls, a ceiling, heat, food, a woman, one cat, a daughter, a typing machine, and a mailbox. That’s enough for him. He writes for himself and sometimes he gets lucky and someone publishes his words. He remains his biggest fan. He’s been sliding in the shadows of the small press for 30 years. Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award. His work is at the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors were related to Wilma Mankiller from the Cherokee Nation. He’s on vacation from selling wigs in a dangerous neighborhood in Milwaukee. Van Gogh and Catfish were both born in ’53 and Vincent died on his birthday July 29th. Cat’s hometown is Clovis, New Mexico, Gauguin’s father and son were named Clovis.