A Ten Question Interview With The Artist…MH Clay.

Why do you write?

I have always been enamored with language and the great satisfaction which comes from wielding it to communicate ideas and images well. As a young boy, my grasp of vocabulary and grammatical form excelled that of many of my peers. I found this to be detrimental whenever I spoke what was on my mind – more than once, a punch in the stomach would be someone’s frustrated reply (folks don’t appreciate having their grammar or word usage corrected, imagine that). So, I turned to writing for safety.

It is still quite safe, also necessary for the maintenance of my sanity. Watching all that transpires around me provokes response. If I say nothing, stagnation and decay ensue. Placing the best words in the best sequence to communicate story is immensely rewarding to me. Though, not all words chosen achieve desired effect, I enjoy the exploration, all the same. Can’t stop now.

What books do you read?

As a voracious reader since my childhood, thanks to my enabling parents who let me read any book in the house (and there were many), lot’s of authors come to mind.

In my early years, as I started reading more on my own, I encountered some great story-tellers and mind-expanders: J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake (The Gormenghast Trilogy is brilliant), Robert A. Heinlein (of course, Stranger in a Strange Land), Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood’s End was a real tweaker for me), Aldous Huxley (Brave New World & Doors of Perception; yes, I did inhale), George Orwell, et. al.

Poets: Dylan Thomas, Pablo Neruda, Bukowski (duh), The Beats (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, et. al.), Richard Brautigan (also a great novelist), Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Carl Sandberg, e.e. cummings, Artur Rimbaud; no particular hierarchy to this list, just as comes to mind.

These days, some great ones: Haruki Murakami (gotta read anything by this author; my favs – 1Q84 and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles); J. K. Rowling (I am not ashamed to say I read all the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them thoroughly); Stephen King (The Dark Tower series is greatness; storytelling at its best); Stephen R. Donaldson (also an engaging story-teller; his Thomas Covenant series [2 trilogies and 1 quadrilogy] got to be too tediously angst-ridden for me, but his 5-book series The Gap – incredible sci-fi space opera, better than Star Wars could ever be).

Make some recommendations. I’m always ready for new (to me) authors to read.

What inspires you?

The creative expressions of other artists.

I believe great art comes from conversation between artists. Musicians are the best example of this; those who have played together for a long time, listen to each other to perform great improvisational work, continually “wow” their audiences with a delightful listening experience. As a spoken word performer, working with musicians is exhilarating. The end-result can be “ho-hum” or real-time greatness. It’s always worth the gamble.

I also like to create with other poets. I’ve written a number of collaborative poems with poets I respect and admire. It’s another form of “the conversation” I feel is taking place among the artistic community.

Mad Swirl is a great example of this. We have “voices” from all over the world joining in on this conversation with poems, short stories and visual art. The diversity is broad and the styles unique. It’s a site worth surfing to see what I mean.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?

I wrote my first play in 2nd grade. I wrote poetry from grade school through my 20s; wrote songs while in high school and college. Then I exiled myself from creative expression for 17 years for stupid reasons; not worth elaboration here. Suffice to say, I extracted myself from that place and resumed writing. I told my wife, Sara, after my escape, “I feel like if I don’t start writing again, I’ll burst.” Her reply, “So, stop whining and start writing.” Duh!

That period aside, it has never been a matter of “wanting to be” for me. Writing is just something I have always done.

How Do you deal with rejection?

Briefly.

Mope, cry, wallow in self-pity – for 10 minutes. Then get on with your craft. Can’t please everyone. So long as you please yourself, you can’t go wrong.

Who are some writers you admire?

See above. Also, some new poets, recently encountered: Lev Rubenstein, Russian poet; Yanko Gonzalez, Chilean poet; Barbara Kohler, German Poet; Justyna Bargielska, Polish poet; Nils Christian Moe-Repsta, Norwegian poet; Lionel Fogarty, Australian Aboriginal poet; Tsead Bruinja, Dutch-Friesian poet – look up these folks: http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/collection/index/en.

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?

Nope. I play harmonicas and sing in a local Dallas band; I am an actor, having worked with numerous community and independent theater groups in the Dallas area (some for pay); I am an artist, painting mostly, putting ideas to canvas every couple of years. With all of these listed, I obviously have focus issues. Writing is the medium to which I devote the majority of my creative time.

What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?

Find your passion and devote your time to it. Allow no one to divert your attention away from that. Don’t let money be your primary motivator.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find your creative process with a discipline to work it. We can’t always coax our muse to appear on demand, but we can train ourselves to be ready for her appearance. Write (paint, sing, play) lots. Learn to edit yourself – not everything you produce will be “golden,” but could be with revision. Let first drafts “sit” for a day or a week or more. You can approach them more objectively if you come back to them later. Read lots of everything! Live life fully – eyes and ears open; art is happening all around us, every day.

What is your writing process?

I perform my editing work every week; reviewing and selecting poems to be posted for the following week (we post a new poem every day on Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum). For poetry, I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go; ready to respond when my muse appears. (I find music concerts to be the most conducive to muse sightings.) I strive to write something every day.

MH Clay is a poet, playwright, musician and spoken word performer living and working in Dallas, Texas. He is also the poetry editor for Mad Swirl, www.madswirl.com.  His poem, America, was published in Death List Five's America edition in 2005. His poetry chapbook, Perhaps This Rain, was published in 2007 with a second edition released in 2010. He has a poetry page as a Staff Poet at Mad Swirl: www.http://madswirl.com/author/mhclay/. His poetry collection, sonoffred, was published by Rebel Poetry in Ireland in March of 2015. He plays harmonicas and sings for the Dallas band, Pecan Tree, and can be seen performing music, poetry and theatrical works on stages and open mics around the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex and the world.

MH Clay is a poet, playwright, musician and spoken word performer living and working in Dallas, Texas. He is also the poetry editor for Mad Swirl, http://www.madswirl.com.
His poem, America, was published in Death List Five’s America edition in 2005. His poetry chapbook, Perhaps This Rain, was published in 2007 with a second edition released in 2010. He has a poetry page as a Staff Poet at Mad Swirl: www.http://madswirl.com/author/mhclay/. His poetry collection, sonoffred, was published by Rebel Poetry in Ireland in March of 2015.
He plays harmonicas and sings for the Dallas band, Pecan Tree, and can be seen performing music, poetry and theatrical works on stages and open mics around the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex and the world.

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