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So how long have you been writing?

Since kindergarten. isn’t that when everyone learns how to write?

 

No, I’m sorry, I meant….you know, creative writing. Like what’s in your new book.

How do you know about my book?

 

My friend Rich told me about it. Is it any good?

That’s a strange question. Like if I told you I saw a car accident on my way here today, and then you asked me: was it any good? I wouldn’t know what you meant, you know?

 

Are you saying your book is an accident?

No, what I said is that your question is strange. why are you asking me strange questions?

 

Sorry, look….maybe we got off on the wrong foot…

Which foot are you talking about? you’re not into feet are you? because that would be weird, because I’m kind of into feet. Well, not all feet, just pretty women’s feet. I’m sorry, what was the question again?

 

Dennis, is this interview making you uncomfortable?

You know, it wasn’t at first, but then you brought up feet and I was frightened by that because I thought maybe we were going to start….you know…I thought maybe it would be a coincidence, and I’m afraid of those. They tend to occur in succession for me…one after another and I get really caught up in trying to decipher whether or not there might be hidden meanings because I don’t believe coincidences are accidental and then you asked about accidents and my book and getting off on feet…..wait….you never answered my question about why you were asking me about feet.

 

I wasn’t asking you about feet, I said: perhaps we got off on the wrong foot, it’s just an expression.

Well what kind of foot are we supposed to get off on? I thought we were going to talk about writing. or about my book that you haven’t read? why aren’t we talking about the right things or the writing things.

why aren’t we talking?

 

I’m sorry, I think you’re misunderstanding me. Let’s start over, tell us about your book, where does the title MOTH WING TEA come from?

Well the book is about……the things that happen, the things that have happened, things I worry might happen and the title is about…well…..my wife’s grandma used to tell her not to kill moths because….when people died and……if they got lost….and couldn’t find heaven….their spirits would…you know….jump into moths, and I guess if you killed the moths….their souls would be kind of trapped…in limbo for eternity…..which is really….kind of messed up. So of course I thought, what if I not just….you know, killed them……what if I actually steeped their wings and then drank …. you know…..what would happen? would it be like what happens to schizophrenics? I’m afraid of that I guess. I guess the book is about fear. other things too, but mostly fear.

 

Do you ever get the feeling that your writing isn’t yours?

All the time. not in the way you hear about, I mean…someone else doesn’t take over….i know I’m writing it, I just don’t always know if I’m the me I think I am. I wonder if there are several of me. Not like a personality disorder, but more like an identity categorization/filing glitch. I mean we all wear different masks every day. work mask, driver mask, guy that buys beer and milk mask. So when I’m writing, I wonder: who is this guy? Because I don’t always recognize the ideas in the work. If that makes any sense.

 

A little. tell me about your mother.

Everything you need to know about her is in the book, next question please.

 

Alright, your wife tells me that when you two first met, you used to write with your typewriter on the window sill and let your poems fall to the street, were you trying to make some kind of statement?

When were you talking to my wife? In answer to your question: not really, it’s kind of embarrassing to think of that now. I guess I was just being young and stupid. I really had myself convinced that I needed to learn to not care about what I wrote and just concentrate on making writing a habit and a ritual. it was kind of a discipline exercise, and then there was always the fantasy that some beautiful woman would find a poem down there in the street and come looking for me. it never happened.

 

Why do you write? or what do you hope to achieve with your writing?

I knew you were going to ask me that. I don’t know…I write for a variety of reasons. the first being: to learn something about myself. my mind gets crowded, and writing helps me sift through all the noise and get to the real stuff. who I am, why I think I’m here, what I value and how I can change and progress. I also write because it makes me feel less alone. It’s something that follows me everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a beautiful family and lots of great friends, but there is a loneliness I can never shake. Writing helps to ease that. As far as achieving anything….i hope to achieve a little peace of mind from time to time, for me or the reader.

 

Tell us about your new book. how did you get involved with punk hostage press?

You know, that’s an interesting story. Sometimes the stars just seem to align and that’s how it went down for me with this book. A.Razor and Iris Berry hosted a reading at beyond baroque with Me, Danny Baker, my wife (Annette Cruz) and the two of them, and it turned out to be a pivotal moment for all of us. I guess they decided that there were writers out there that needed to be heard and they took it upon themselves to do something about it. I mean, something happened that day. There was an energy created in that room that could be felt for days afterward. Then one day I get a call from A. Razor saying him and Iris had decided to start an independent press and would I be interested in having them publish a book of my work. The rest is history.

 

I feel like you want to talk about something I’m not asking you. If you were me, what would you ask yourself.

This is getting strange. I’m not sure what you mean. That would be like talking to myself, and that’s what schizophrenics do and I happen to be both deathly afraid of, and obsessively fascinated by schizophrenia. My uncle has it and when I learned it was hereditary, I was sure I would develop it.

I mean I think I want to talk about my new book MOTH WING TEA but I also fear that it’s just a thought about a feeling so…..plus I’m not even sure I would know what to say about it. I know I wrote it. I know it represents my struggle to cope with life after my mother’s suicide….and well……I am proud of it but also

afraid of it a little. I just don’t know what you want me to say. I can sense you wanting something from me but I don’t know what it is so it’s confusing. What would YOU want to be asked if I was interviewing you?

 

You are. I mean, I am. I mean….we both are. Aren’t we?

See what I mean? This happens a lot in my book too. There is a vague sense of being constantly lost, or trying to find my way back from somewhere I don’t remember going. wait, what was the question?

 

Is your book about mental illness?

Not exactly, but it’s definitely about fear and paranoia. I have this theory about fear being a kind of….well I don’t want to say because I’m afraid if it gets out then I won’t be able to …… I’ve said enough.

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DENNIS CRUZ has been writing and performing his poetry for over 20 years. Born in Costa Rica and brought to the United States as a young boy, he inhabits the voice of the perpetual outsider and the purely American dissident. Cruz is the author of No One: Poems 2009 and Moth Wing Tea. He has been published in numerous anthologies as well as online publications including THE CHIRON REVIEW, The Nervous Breakdown, Crush Fan Zine, and Sensitive Skin Magazine. He has lectured at the USC Community Literature Initiative, the Harvard-Westlake preparatory school, as well as the LA County Jail for men and women. He was also selected as one of the newer poets to watch in 2009 by the ALOUD series at the Los Angeles Public Library. He lives in Northeast Los Angeles with his wife and son.

4 responses to “Dennis Cruz: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. Carol McGovney says:

    Raw, beautiful, frightening because I identify with many of his feelings

  2. 310mar says:

    Dennis Crus is one of my favorite poets. past/present.
    Great interview.
    I’m looking forward to getting mi manos on my copy of Moth Wing Tea

  3. Scott Taylor says:

    Dennis,
    I am trying to locate your contact info. I am putting together a panel discussion in January 2015 and want to discuss your participation if you are interested. Please email or call me for details.

    Thanks,
    Scott
    551 655 7474

    • Dennis Cruz says:

      Oh man, My apologies Scott! I am just seeing this now! Anyway, thanks so much for your interest, so sorry I wasn’t able to respond to your initial post, sounded like it would have been a great experience. Take care out there. Dennis ([email protected])

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