A Ten Question Interview With The Artist… J.J. Campbell

Why do you write?

I think writing is the easiest way for me to get my demons out. I think most people think I’m joking when I say I write so I don’t have to kill people. the older I get, the more I feel that is slowly becoming the truth. also, writing is one of the few things I have done that has actually impressed people. so it’s one of the few ways I can successfully feed my ego. and it is cheaper than drugs and therapy.

What books do you read?

I am a sucker for anything history related. I love reading biographies. and I will read any poetry book I can get my hands on. I tend to be reading more erotic books here lately. I’m also trying to read books in Spanish, just to see how much of my high school education I still remember.

What inspires you?

Ignorance. stupid people. how people act in grocery stores. beautiful women. loud music. I look for anything that will spark my imagination. it can be art, nature, just everyday life at times. I love being able to take the mundane and turn it into a poem that can either be funny or sad. sort of like creating art where there is no art.

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

I was a sophomore in high school and we watched Dead Poet’s Society in class. that certainly got the juices flowing. a friend of mine, Jack Hott, was writing at this time. I started to dabble in it and about a month later, I actually wrote something that he thought was decent. Jack also exposed me to the Beat Generation and I was certainly thinking I wanted to be the next Kerouac. then one day, I was sitting on my porch smoking a cigarette and Jack brought over Love is A Dog From Hell by Bukowski. I read 30 pages and looked at him and said, “holy shit, you can write like this and get published?” after that, I knew I just wanted to write poems that were like conversations; real, natural, the guts of life without the flowery language. from that point on, that was all I was put on earth to do.

How Do you deal with rejection?

Poorly on some days, better on others. I often think of the submission process like working at a factory. I’m the worker trying to find the right poems to go in the right box. they don’t pay me enough to be right all the time. so, often I will just think of rejection as I need to find the right box for this poem. now, when I write a poem with a certain place in mind and they reject it, I will get a little pissy. but that’s nothing that a tall glass of something strong and some loud music won’t cure.

Who are some writers you admire?

John Sweet, Debbie Kirk, Alan Catlin, Don Winter, Doug Draime, Mather Schneider, Ally Malinenko, Charles Bukowski, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, James Babbs, Justin Hyde, Rebecca Schumejda, Hal Sirowitz, Maggie Estep, Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck, William Taylor, Jr., Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Dylan Thomas, David McCullough, and probably about 50 others I could mention.

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?

I play the guitar and bass guitar poorly. I do dabble with watercolors from time to time. I also tend to think I’m a photographer. I have many interests, mostly because I have a brain that won’t shut off.

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

Stop worrying that your father doesn’t love you. have the courage to say yes when a strange woman asks you for a ride home from the grocery store. choose comic books over baseball cards. get in a car and just drive. eat a salad every now and then. learn how to dance. choose wine over beer.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never limit your imagination. keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. remember every name that said you couldn’t or wouldn’t. always question authority. dance with the devil every chance you get. and pick something else if you want to make money.

What is your writing process?

I have no set process. I like to write at night mostly. I tend to always write with some music playing. I don’t have to be in the mood to write, but I like it more when I actually have something to say. that being said, I will force myself to just sit in front of a blank page and come up with something every now and then. I tend to write in a notebook on my bed and then type the poems up later in the day or week. a good writing session gives me anywhere from 7 to 10 poems. after the poems are typed up, they go into a file and then I try to forget about them. that way when I start picking poems for submissions, I have a “fresh” set of work in my hands. once the poems get sent out somewhere, for the time being, my work is done.

campbell bio

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