What’s your latest creative project?

My new book is titled, Letters to My City. It’s a mix of essays and poems about Los Angeles and beyond.

The UCLA PhD candidate in History, Peter Chesney offers this synopsis on the book: “A street poet and a tour guide, through L.A. places and L.A. letters, Mike Sonksen means it when he says he’s going to share authority with folks at the grassroots in this multicultural city. Mike delivers on his promise and more, amplifying voices I for one might never have heard without him. That and he taught me, a critic of car culture, that an ethical manner of reading space, even as you drive through it, is possible. Props to a man who does the hard work of listening to the sound of the city!”

The Riots were the week before my prom
A month & a half before my graduation
Southern California was a time bomb

Race relations warring like Vietnam
My crew more like the United Nations
The Riots were the week before my prom

So Cal needed mindfulness like Thich Nhat Hanh
Multicultural coalitions for communication
Southern California was a time bomb

The poem featured here in TNB, “Catch,” like much of your work, involves childhood and parent-child relationship. You’re on in years, but still preoccupied with childhood it seems.

Yes, and it’s fair to use the word preoccupied—not only with my own childhood, but with this basic layer of our humanness that I feel we never outgrow. I work as a psychiatrist with a therapy practice, so, as you might imagine, I’ve seen what children we really still are beneath our apparent adulthood. And that’s not bad! Without our child-selves alive inside, we wouldn’t have any music or poetry, I’m sure!

Part of my preoccupation is the search for safe space for feeling sad or lost or helpless—space, creative or therapeutic, for feeling and expressing how it is without a dad there, or without a mom freed-up enough to be engaged. Whether we’re six or sixty, finding true holding for our distress can be as elusive as it is necessary. Many of us, young and old, trudge on without this, and it is, I believe, of great consequence. Much destruction comes of such secret lonely torment.

Catch

By Jed Myers

Poem

All the fathers are gone, under
the grass, above us in the earth’s
greenhouse haze, in stream silts
where the burial hills are awash
in the unprecedented monsoons,

some never found, swamped shot
in the rice marshes and ultimately
part of the crop, some taken in bits
as they sank into the mouths of fish
and bottom scavengers, some chopped

into manageable chunks and wrapped
to be kept from the air and stashed
behind Sheetrock while the cops passed
for unbroadcast reasons—all
the fathers, it sometimes seems, are gone,

Photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher

 

Hello Rick. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Oh, it’s my pleasure Rick, though, full disclosure I’m just answering your questions by typing. We’re not speaking out loud. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

On the Plane Home

By Rick Lupert

Poem

I
I would like to visit Budapest
I tell the airplane magazine
in response to its article titled
“Visit Budapest”. Send me a
paprika sample and we’ll
seal the deal! I’m not as
interested in the shirts
designed to be worn untucked.
Sorry, airplane magazine,
you can’t win them all.

 

Why did you give your book such an uncool title?

Yeah, I agree. It felt like it was related to the central concerns of the book, both myself as a father, but also the general concept of fathering, of responsibility. There’s a poem in the book with that title, that ends with the lines:

the children sleeping
alone in some
detention center
don’t need
our brilliant sincerity
it’s not enough
to give some money
make some calls
they are not ours
but they are
we are the first
new fathers
ours failed
where we cannot
stop waiting
there are no others

I was thinking about our founding fathers, and how they let us down. And all those fathers running things now, so destructively. And about what it would mean to be a new kind of father: what sort of fathers we all (regardless of gender) need to be now, to all kids, each other, the earth, ourselves.

Plus the word father seems very ancient and powerful, but also in need of renewal.

When I was fifteen
I suddenly knew
I would never
understand geometry.
Who was my teacher?
That name is gone.
I only remember
the gray feeling
in a classroom
filled with vast
theoretical distances.
I can still see
odd shapes
drawn on the board,
and those inscrutable
formulas everyone
was busily into
their notebooks scribbling.

 

Who are a few of your favorite saints?

Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Augustine, Saint Lucy, and Saint Theresa of Avila.

I’ve hurt you: I’ve loved you.
I’ve vacuumed all the rooms.
I have no idea what became of us, yet
there are endless possibilities for happiness.
Once, when my lover betrayed me,
I greeted him at the door with a knife.
Now I am on my haunches, unvalued and unused.
Am I to be blamed for wanting absolution?
Am I to be blamed for keeping what I conjure
in a vial of formaldehyde beside my bed?
Idiot savant, death is my downfall.
My students fail, repeatedly, to deploy
the correct conjunctive adverbs
in everyday speech. Consequently,
I fold my napkin into a perfect square.
Henceforth, the night ends so quickly,
bringing forth the vulgar day.
When images become inadequate,
I shall be content with silence.
When images become inadequate,
I shall separate the chaff from the wheat.
I feel I’ve learned so little, here.
The soul pressed flat is matter, unsexed.
The heart pressed flat is meat.

 

Your newest collection is titled something sweet & filled with blood, that’s a little creepy. How did you select this as the title?

It’s a line from the last poem in the book, the star painter & a sleeping nude. The poem is about watching someone sleeping just after glorious sex. There’s something haunting about the wee-hours before sunrise…especially when you’re sleeping in someone else’s bed…

Thomas Fucaloro, cofounding editor of great weather for MEDIA, suggested it. The editors and I thought it encapsulated the collection nicely. There are some very saccharine moments in the book: first kisses, something asking someone to dance, a ballerina en pointe, and the last moonlight before sunrise. On the other hand, there are also some terrifying moments that make your heart race, or cause the adrenaline to start pumping…like when “red hives mount/under an amorphous head” in the lollipop presents as a young girl.

 

Who or What inspired you to become a writer?

Writing was something that just came naturally to me at an early age. I remember writing poetry as early as the 4th grade. I remember telling my 7th grade English teacher that I wanted to be an Author. I continued writing throughout high school. Then in college, I took my first creative writing course.

Also, I think back on the literary influences that made their way into my childhood and I’m grateful to have had Hispanic females to read.
In school I was introduced to Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. I also found myself at a book reading of Michele Serros and actually recently found my signed copy of Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death. I must’ve been around 11 years old when I purchased it.

I am a wild woman
Greñuda woman
Shut your lips type of woman
Dance on table tops kind of woman
I am made from my grandmother’s stubborn rib
And my great grandmother’s had-too-much-to-drink liver
Made from the dirt on the faces of children at play
And from the sweat of my father
Working underneath a summer sun

Photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher

What is your philosophy towards your work?

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to call myself a poet. It is not something that came easily or even something I thought I could do when I was younger. You have to be really good at getting rejected. One of the best things I did for my poetry is to stop thinking of being rejected as negative. Instead, being rejected is proof that I put something out into the world – and it still surprises me that I can do that and that someone is willing to take the time to read it and sometimes include it in a publication.

They climb a slender ladder. From
stitched-together metal, my
daughters disappear into the plane, a mother’s
intuition wanting them to sleep
longer in their not knowing. I
want to conceal how people fell
from the sky, how bombs glided into
their targets, how it happened in the
daylight, so everything hit. This State,