A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with C M Taylor “Charlie”

with CM Taylor

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

CM: I’ve been hyper creative forever: apparently I woke up singing every day and usually sang myself to sleep as a little kid. As far as writing, I started doing way, way more than was asked of me on assignments by the first grade. My teacher told my parents I’d grow up to be a writer. I was read to constantly as a child, so of course I was inspired by those early novels. My first real influences that I can see evidence of in my work today were all lyricists. We listened to a pretty eclectic range, but the Indigo Girls stand out. Emily Saliers’ songs in particular haunt me in the best way every time I come to the blank page.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

CM: In terms of writing, Richard Siken, Mary Ruefle, Chen Chen, Eula Biss, and Joan Didion, though there’s some love-hate to the latter. I’m astonished newly and overwhelmingly and daily by my friends on Twitter, especially Meg Pillow, Christopher Gonzalez, Khalisa Rae, and Taylor Byas, to name the tiniest handful of geniuses. 

As a bit of a jack of all trades, one of my strengths is pulling influences between forms. I’m influenced as a songwriter by all the poets I just named above, but I’m also influenced by Danny Elfman (his Oingo Boingo days) as a vocalist and by Matty Healy of The 1975 as a performer. When I paint, I often think about Richard Siken’s poems on painting but I’m also usually blaring pop music and dancing while I work. I try to let myself be moved wherever by whatever, and allow myself to switch mediums if an idea isn’t working in the one I’m trying to use.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

CM: There have been a bunch, but one that really stands out was in August 2019. I was perched on the edge of one of the cabana porches at Barrelhouse’s Writer Camp, the smoke was still clearing from the fireworks they do at the end of the weekend. I had quit a fully funded MFA fellowship in Creative Nonfiction in June and even though I was certain it was the correct choice, the gaping “what now” of it all had been catching up to me throughout Camp. I refreshed my email to an acceptance from Memoir Mixtapes of an essay I’d written in undergrad. It was like the whole universe grinning at me. I’d known for years and had reaffirmed over and over that I wanted to be a writer and an artist, but what was pivotal was receiving that little nod right as I was departing the “path” toward one version of myself in those identities and embracing a totally different one.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

CM: Jane Felknor, who taught at my high school and was the only English teacher ever to give me a “B” on an assignment: a world without her is a world in which I am half the writer I am today, and she laid the groundwork for my entire editorial practice. Cyn Fitch, who teaches at Knox College and who is as wise a writer and human being as I have known. Her sense of grace, her grit, her flexibility are invaluable to my work and my worldview. And Findlay McCarthy, whom I met at Knox, is the best second set of eyes I’ve ever had. She works in publishing now but even at nineteen could tell me what four words my twenty page essay was missing to make it sing.

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

CM: I was born in Placerville, California and raised in and around Boulder, Colorado with frequent trips back to California. As much as those places, California especially, show up in my work, I feel most geographically influenced by my time in Galesburg, Illinois. I used to just walk. For hours. Stand up close to a train, find myself in the cemetery again, wonder the backstories of old railroad money houses. Sit at the bar of the brewery where I worked and people watch alone. Look up at the statue of Carl Sandburg at dusk with his guitar slung over his back. That town taught me to sit still and keep seeing.

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

CM: Weirdly, a song I wrote in 2016 called “Porch Band.” It’s about and for this group of kids who used to serendipitously gather on a front porch in college some nights. I’d get a guitar, as would a couple others, and we almost always had at least one fiddle and usually some other instrument–once an oboe, which was wild–and a bunch of people singing and we’d falter our way through cover songs. The bridge borrows lyrics from a song my friend who died that year wrote. It’s meant to be bellowed by a bunch of half-drunk people over out of tune instruments and whenever I’ve gotten to play it that way is when I feel the most like my art matters. It’s a goodbye song and an ode to sacred community and I still cry almost every time I play it. 

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

CM: Improvisational dancing while I do other stuff, especially laundry. 

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?

CM: My first-ever poetry tattoo and my favorite ending of any poem, from “Visible World” by Richard Siken: “The light is no mystery,/the mystery is that there is something to keep the light/from passing through.”

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

CM: I’m heck-of proud of my recent writing on gender and sexuality in Salty and Honeyfire Lit, and I have an incredibly vulnerable essay about my gender and my legal name change still forthcoming from Honeyfire in their Milk Teeth issue. Juked Magazine will also be publishing my poem “Nonbinary Love Story” in the coming months. I am taking time off from traditional work at the moment and am itching to take on new collaborative and paid editorial projects: say hi to me on Twitter and let’s find out how we can work together!!

Links & Promos

How Getting Non-binary Bisexually Married Finally Sparked My Pride at Salty

There Is Nothing to Spin at Honeyfire Lit

Kissing Dynamite’s Featured Poet 

Bandcamp: https://carlymtaylor.bandcamp.com/ 

Social Media:

Twitter: @carma_t

Instagram: @fine_carma & for art, @capricorn.chill

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Adam Ai

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.

Thinner - By Stephen King (paperback) : Target

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.

Poem by Ilari Pass : “Air, Interrupted”

Watch Tower, Forest, Woods, Trees

Air, Interrupted (first published in Kissing Dynamite)

My son practices somersaults on the lawn
beneath our feet the yellow stars' glimmer
lights the way. The sun still shines, though
it glistens just out of reach. For those damn dandelions
unfurl; its hunger is another color.

Fists give births to cells
Red-spiked, protruding polka-dots
Rose out of them as if there were candles
That is surprising us
They illuminate nothing

to an invitation. I watched him
expel from one strut to the next, cartwheeling
ungainly to crump on the earth.  His tired
ears fell off at the sound of my voice
and we picked them up because our hands
were full of a thousand poems
that neither one of us knew how to read.

Bio: Ilari Pass holds a BA in English from Guilford College of Greensboro, NC, and an MA in English, with a concentration in literature, from Gardner-Webb University of Boiling Springs, NC. Her work appears or forthcoming in Rat's Ass Review, As It Ought To Be, Rigorous, Unlikely Stories, Paterson Literary Review, Triggerfish Critical Review, Common Ground Review, JuxtaProse, Drunk Monkeys, Sledgehammer Lit, The Daily Drunk, Rejection Letters, Free State Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and others.