with Adam Ai
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Adam: I Started writing when I was a kid. My first influences – I remember around age 10 or so being absorbed in the Bible, also having a copy of Shakespeare’s collected works (didn’t get half a word of it – just loved the sound), as well as the Lord of the Rings. Stephen King books were a favorite. I was always in the library. I read everything I could get my hands on. As a teen I was into everyone. Dickinson and Whitman, Keats and Wordsworth, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks. WC Williams. ee cummings. Dylan Thomas. I would tear poems from books and pin them to the walls. The was room wallpapered in poetry. I got into the Beats, Ginsberg, of course Bukowski. Lucille Clifton, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara. Dante, Virgil. Now I read many new poems every day from contemporary poets. I read as much poetry as I can. Ocean Vuong. Amanda Gorman.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Adam: My biggest influences today are modern poets I admire – Jericho Brown is a favorite. Diane Seuss. Jane Zwart. Joy Harjo. Jean Valentine. Any poet that makes me feel like hey – I didn’t know words could do that, or is beautiful in some way, or gives me hope. Helps me be brave and keep working and submitting. Lots of others. I read many poems in the course of a day. Twitter has been a cool resource for that lately.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Adam: Los Angeles. The desert. The beaches. The people. The feeling of Los Angeles that exists no place but in Los Angeles, and so differently from what people might think. Great cities all have their own feel. L.A. is no exception. Such a big city – whatever you want L.A. to be, it can be – and you feel that. A sort of freedom. Something like magic. And maybe there is magic. It’s different for everyone. It’s everything. Fashion. Language. Sex.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Adam: I think my favorite – not speaking to it being meaningful to anyone but me, necessarily – is probably my poem “This is a Letter to God on a Stone.” I wrote it during the darkest period of my life, following my mother’s passing, and is literally a letter I wrote to God and never expected anyone to see. It’s the first thing I ever submitted anywhere. It’s a stone I wrote on and threw into the sea, never thinking it might be found. I sent it away and it was published in Chiron Review.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Adam: All I ever wanted was to be a writer. That or play for the Lakers. The Lakers never called. After mom died I realized all the poems I had written over the years were lost – I mean in the sense that she would never see them published – and it really felt like there was nothing left to lose. Nothing to gain, either. I don’t know. I don’t know why. It was something. I began sending them out to magazines because it was my only solution to the problem of living. I published 30+ poems in the 6 months or so following her passing. What bitter fruit. Writing is a struggle with faith. Seeing these poems published has given me a pulse. Writing saves me. It grows me up. It’s breath.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Adam: Playing games with friends is one thing I like. Poker. Dominoes. I go to the beach a lot. For the most part I’m really pretty boring. I write. I read. I play with my dog, Ghost. Living a steady, quiet life allows me to maximize writing time. It’s tough to write when your life is very chaotic, which mine was in the Old Days. If writing is simply daily routine I get more done.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
I have a poem coming soon in Kissing Dynamite Poetry – slated for release in July, 2021. I’m soon to be featured on the Micro Poetry Podcast reading my poem “The Prayer that Moves through All Things” published by Ancient Paths Literary Magazine, 2020 – watch @adamaipoems, (https://www.twitter.com/AdamAiPoems) for updates and more. I can also be found on Instagram @adamaipoems where I post published work (https://www.instagram.com/adamaipoems) and on YouTube, where I’ve taken to recording published work (http://bit.ly/3eMEKrQ). In 2021 I’ve been published in Stone of Madness Press, (“Secret in the Empty Gallery”) and Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art (“Burning Hands, II”).
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Adam: “I wonder where you dream and know nothing.”
From “This is a Letter to God on a Stone,” Chiron Review, 2021.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Adam: Poetry Editors, I think. Poetry editors are God’s chosen few – I have more respect and love for what they do than anyone. They’re in the trenches with words, giving people hope, saving them. The only way I know if anyone likes a poem is if it’s accepted. So I love them for that. They help me most, even in rejection. Maybe especially in rejection. Acceptances sure are nice though.