Vending Machine Press Presents Interview with Raphael Maurice

  1. What was your early life like? Where did you grow up?

It depends on the time I reflect on my early life, memories being shifting things. I would like to focus on the highlights. I heard T.S. Elliot on an L.P. at a very young age. While listening to Prufrock and other poems – I had no idea about the meaning of so much of his Elliot’s work – I was swept away by the sounds and rhythms in such a bodily, visceral way. I grew up in Gerald, Missouri, in a small house that overlooked acres upon acres of fields in which horses would often approach our wire fence. I liked fishing in ponds, getting lost in the woods, smoking a surreptitious cigarette when able.

  1. What made you want to write?

There were a lot of books in our house. From poetry to philosophy, history and fiction, I was attracted to the look and feel of these objects. Of course, one wants to sound smart (and often does, much before one is smart.) It was a love of reading and listening to music that first stirred this horrible inclination to type and think and write.

  1. What are your writing habits like? Are you always working on a story or poem?

I work quite often with Midrash. What I mean is that a text troubles me or excites me, and then I work at my typewriter for a first draft. Everyday. It must be done, for me at least, everyday. From a decent poem to something that has only the relationship with the trashcan, one persists. I think there’s a good deal of worth in planting your rear in your chair, listening to the typewriter, and, a la Jack Spicer, waiting for its commands…

  1. Can you discuss your literary influences, or at least name some writers whose work you greatly admire?

Cormac McCarthy. Chekov. Milton. Villon. Lowell. Berryman. Bellow. Gass. Bishop. This list is endless, so I’ll end with an irony: Borges.

  1. How important is community amongst fellow writers, do you get along with other writers?

I don’t seek the company of intellectuals. I seem to prefer and admire (these days, at least) a sort of true blue kindness and sincerity in the circles of friends I have. I enjoy bull sessions and such, and I work and teach at a college, but in short, fellow writers are as good as fellow drinkers and travellers and lovers.

  1. If you haven’t already, do you think you will ever write a novel?

I highly doubt it.

  1. Do you feel a sense of home? Is there a place like that to you?

Yes. Washington, Missouri, with its anonymity, the river down a block from my house, the bars along the main street, my friends and family, etc. All here. Missouri in general. I like the feeling of knowing that somewhere, someone much more clever than I, is laughing at me. Scoffing, even.

  1. Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions, before you start to write? 

Pray to the muse. If you can’t, pray to God. Wait. It will come.

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both.

  1. Are you a science fiction fan? If so what attracts you to the genre?

Stanislaw Lem is a genius. His elevation of language is enough to make me a fan.

  1. Do you think literature can help readers make sense of their lives?

I’m not sure. Often, the opposite seems true. Just read a biography of Fitzgerald or Hemingway et al. Writers, (this is a tired but true thing) are often personally in shambles.

  1. How autobiographical are your stories/poems.

Sometimes extremely “confessional,” shall we say, at other times, though my heart is working and pumping, there is a good distance between the writer, his personal life, and the page.

  1. I would be remiss if I did not ask. What is your favourite films and TV shows?

Anything with Richard Burton, from The Little Prince (we had this on record when we were small as well) to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. TV? Didn’t have one for twenty years until my woman moved in recently and brought one. I like documentaries and True Detective – season 1, of course.

  1. Are you political? What do you think of the current political climate?

Poetry – my job – is suprapolitical. It can go deeply into politics without drawing attention to that. Z. Herbert and C. Milosz were masters at “political” poems. But, you’ll notice they seldom if ever mention the specific guts and fibers of the political world. I think today that if we’re going to get to normative political claims and claims about justice, truth and the good, we have to start with clear and distinct descriptions about how we got where we are. It does little good to immediately polish halos by distancing ourselves in a rhetorical way from “the other,” perhaps a Trump supporter, perhaps not. I think my general feeling is that I don’t like the tone, shall we say, of either side, of most of the spectrum. Go back and read Orwell and Mencken. They could not only face what was unpleasant about the political world, but more importantly, what was unpleasant in themselves. The latter is much more difficult than virtue signaling and arm waving our about our good intentions and immaculate decisions come election time, come the apocalypse.

  1. How do hope your stories/poems will affect people? 

I hope they read them.

Raphael Maurice is a poet, translator, and reader.  His full-length book, “The Idiot’s Calendar,” will be coming out on Spartan Press in January.