Every week, I’ll be doing a mini feature on my site (& blasting it on social media) on activists, artists, and educators who are doing important things in the world. Like Levar Burton says, the only thing these folks have in common is that I like them, and I hope you do too.
This week we’ve got Joey Gould, a poetry crush since our fortuitous and very chance meeting this Spring during #trashtour2018. Joey’s poems are as fierce as their leonine friendship: funny, sharp, satisfying. I don’t know where I’d be without this lion right here. I’m so honored to be featuring him here, and I hope you are too.
Hey, thx July. Your work & your help with my work have come to mean much to me over the past couple months.
The two conversations I most often have about poetry involve a) vulnerability and b) the social exploration that is poetry. Having friends who can call me on weak writing & help me better express poems is integral to my evolving (hopefully improving) practice. The advice I give my students is to accept critique from trusted collaborators, which is both social AND vulnerable. Any writer too proud to care about or listen to the perspectives of others is doing it so wrong.
Where can we find your work?
I don’t publish much—I prioritize other things & auno submitting is difficult & often heartrending for my fragile, smol aorta. That said, I have poems archived at DrunkMonkeys.us, GoldWalkMag.com, MassPoetry.org ’s Poem of the Moment, TheCompassionAnthology.com, & DistrictLit.com.
What themes or ideas do you feel your work engages with?
My poetry often riffs off of my emotional or historical reality. The speaker in my poems is often a version of me who is even less comfortable as a man than I am. They spent some time as a bird last year for a set of poems.
I LOVE double meanings & circling around an idea or object lyrically. I try to pull off surprising leaps of logic.
My poetry binkies are birds & the old testament. Birds have VERY specific associations for me, like, if I see a bluebird that means my friend Colleen’s spirit is visiting. My step-father is a moth, as you can read in The Compassion Anthology. o & I’m writing more queer & political stuff now but aren’t we all?
What were you like as a child?
Good god. I was *highly* ADHD. I ran around the house, screaming in Hebrew. I invented a really loud indoor hockey thing that my family called “The Boom/Crash Game”. I was in Special Ed classes, so frustrated by the repetition of skills I thought I had mastered that I’d cry inconsolably about schoolwork. I also loved playing alone—I’d run off into the woods near my house & get as dirty/muddy as I could. I’d forget playdates & wander off so that when my playmate arrived I wasn’t home. I remember walking out of the woods one time & this kid’s mum was driving him around the neighborhood searching for me. Being social came late for me so it’s extremely difficult for me to navigate boundaries.
Can you remember the first piece of art– performance, literary, fine, street–you saw/read that wowed you?
Welp, there’s an e.e. cummings poem my sister showed me when I was 11 or 12 that uses my name—joe gould—that was a novelty. So I did my e.e. phase. I LOVED “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town”. Reciting “May I feel, said he” led to me losing my virginity, like, of course it did! I also went through my Nirvana/Deftones phase. My poetry hibernated for a while & then the first poem that made me want to be a poet as an adult was Louise Glück’s “The White Lilies”. Best end poem.
What work do you do in the world that you feel proud of?
I love giving space to the poetry of others as a journal editor & event curator. So, the Mass Poetry Festival. We get about 1400 people to descend upon Salem, MA for three days of readings, workshops, & panels on poetry. I’ve been on the planning committee for eight (!) fests & every year it gets more impressive. With Mass Poetry, I also go into schools & nursing homes to lead generative workshops for ages 10-999. It’s a program that relaunches the importance of poetry in American society. Make Poetry Matter Again.
What’s keeping you embodied right now?
MY FRIENDS. They are writing terrific poems & I enjoy the crap out of clapping for them. As I write this, I’m putting together a poetry open mic for Salem Arts Festival & asking three friends to feature. I can’t wait! We’re doing the things.
Otherwise, I’ve found my summer bands: Chairlift & Phantogram. I like weird, sort of depressing, electric/eclectic stuff that screams in the background of dreams. Also, I’m reading Tommy Pico’s Junk & so should you. I’ve received ARCs of GennaRose Nethercott’s The Lumberjack’s Dove & Steven Sanchez’s Phantom Tongue, both of which are fascinating so far. I can’t wait to write them up in Drunk Monkeys.
Tell us a story.
I stumble out into Broadmoor, briefly checking out a field where the nesting boxes are full of swallows. Green streaks through the heavy, humid air. Next, down to the deck where I sit & decompress before walking into the woods of the park.
The sun on my shaking hands, I’ve overcaffeinated. Sips of water. Blackbirds fill back into the close marshlands the longer I sit, making their strange calls, less afraid the longer I’m still.
It’s summer & depression seems stupider in the sun. I am quiet. I am ready.
Following the deck across & through the gap of water, I make a left at the first split onto Mill Pond Trail. For years I’ve watched a stream gradually interrupt the path as land has morphed & eroded. Like when you leave music playing & when you come back to your desk a song has played without you.
Over the next bridge & over the new stream I pause, listening to the waterfall, looking up at the trees. Hold UP. There—a scarlet tanager. I am a heron & I have caught a fish. The heavy, humid afternoon suddenly shows a red psalm in its sky.
Joey Gould is a community organizer & writing tutor living in a former utopian community/mill town. His roles since 2011 for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival include stage manager/event producer, volunteer coordinator, emcee, handyman, set-up lead, carnival barker, drummer, & poetry whore. He leads generative prompts in schools across Massachusetts & attends Salem Writers at the Salem Athanaeum. Three of his poems are forthcoming in the Fall 2018 issue of Five:2:One magazine & his most recent publication, “We Were Teenagers, Akin to Being on Fire”, appears in Volume 4 of Memoir Mixtapes. He has written instant poetry with an improv acting troup, performed at American Repertory Theatre, & recited Louise Glück’s “The White Lilies” while juggling. He just quit his first job ever. Wish him well on Twitter @toshines or ig @joey.toshines & thx for reading 🙂