So, can you tell us something about the title? I know this is your third collection of poetry to be published and I’ve always wondered about how authors choose a title. Your other two were interesting.

Well, like my previous book Moth Wing Tea, the title was actually taken from a chapbook I put together

probably over fifteen years ago. I didn’t realize it then, but these chapbooks were like wishes flung up to the stars. At that time, getting published was just a dream, and well, getting to put those old titles on an actual book is realizing that dream.

 

Wow, that must be a great feeling, having manifested your work that way. Can you tell us what the title means?

Well, it comes from years of being completely fed up and frustrated with orthodoxy and the prevalence of religion in our society. So many people, entire societies sometimes, follow some scripture or another with total faith in literal interpretations of books they really know nothing about. Who wrote them? What was going on during that time? How many versions were there and who had final cut, you know?

Religious history is fascinatingly brutal. And so many so called devout know so little about what they live their lives by. So eager are they to relinquish authority in order to belong. I reject that. So in defiance, I mark myself, and everyone else with the villainy of our own actions. Honestly it’s really just a call to accountability. Does that make me a Satanist? Who cares?

 

Would you say the title reflects a theme in this collection?

Absolutely. The book is really about self-discovery, self-reflection, self-investigation. An attempt to dig inside and uncover my actual self. A terrifying thing to do if done honestly. No one wants to confront the sides of themselves that bring them shame, regret, sorrow, but I feel it’s the only way to grow, to truly realize your full potential. Secrets and denial can be such albatrosses, and, at my age, I just want to be as free as I can, and the best way to do that is by taking this spiritual and psychological inventory. I learned so much about myself writing this book. It was a very unpleasant experience, and though I’m proud that this book is out there, it doesn’t feel good. Not at all.

 

Some of the themes you explore in this book can be disturbing to some readers, how would you respond to detractors that might claim you’re just out for shock value?

The minute you start writing for anyone but yourself you’re finished. Besides, my defense has always been: Honesty. I write what I have inside, and I understand that it’s not for everybody. It’s not supposed to be. I don’t have some huge readership that I have to worry about pleasing so at the end of the day,

I just want to know that the writing was clean, honest and to the point. Of course not all people want to hear a poem about incest or murder but, if that’s what’s inside, that’s what comes out. I’m not one of those writers that sits there wondering: what would be a good idea for a poem? I just sit and let my mind bleed out, hopefully with a bit of elegance and grace.

 

I know this is kind of cliché’ to ask but where do you find inspiration?

Restlessness and pain. Finding art, music, cinema…you know, when I was younger, it was like a valve

had been shown to me. And once opened, so much darkness came flooding out, and I was surprised to find a version of myself under there I didn’t know existed, and there was beauty and tenderness.

I’ve been hooked ever since. Thanks to people like David Lynch and Tom Waits, Bukowski, Fellini, you name it, I was shown a way to navigate a perspective I thought was mine alone. But I wasn’t alone, and I want to help other people feel that they’re not alone. I want to participate in that realm of dreams that brings hope to hurt people. To the people that get left behind. People like me.

 

What advice would you give to young writers out there just getting started?

Write as often and as honestly as you can, and never forget that the key is clarity. Don’t get so caught up in style, craft and form that you lose the essence of what you’re trying to say, because no matter how beautiful it sounds, it’s worthless if the meaning is lost. Also, never let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t write about. You should always hold yourself to YOUR OWN authority. The subject matter isn’t the point anyway, the insight is.

 

Anything you’d like to say to your readers as we finish this up?

Sure, Thanks for venturing past the first page.

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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.

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

  1. Gabino Barrera says:

    Keep up the great work Dennis. Proud to call you my friend.

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