Robinson talks about the release of his new poetry collection Always More:New & Selected Poems (Horror, Sleaze, Trash, 2020),his development as a writer & publisher, his views on the alternative small press and about working through a tough job during a pandemic.
Can you describe the editing process in which HST editor Arthur Graham selected the poems for publication.
Arthur Graham was a complete joy to work with: he is an editor that has a good idea of how he wishes for the finished product to look like: Arthur is open and approachable and the ride was a smooth one: I initially selected some poems from all of my chapbooks and full collections and forwarded to Arthur: Arthur came back with some additional poems that he wished to include: From the cover and the title and the layout, sequence of poems, Arthur had his kindly pulse on the beat: I am extremely pleased with this collection and Arthur Graham is a wicked fellow with an editorial talent that is quite something else, let alone his own quality poetry:
Do you have a favourite poem within the collection?
This would have to be ‘Consultation Room 1’: I have been, amongst many other things, obsessed with cats from a very early age: I cannot ever remember a time in my life when I have not been around cats: Souly was the most charismatic and lively and entertaining cat that I have ever known/loved: Souly was fearless, truly, he had a grace and a style that belonged only to him: he was a teacher and I his student: Souly was the cool of James Dean and the meanness of Vinnie Jones : the poem reflects the agony of finally accepting that the end had come for him and the final journey that we took together: it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and certainly one of the hardest toughest poems I have written and it took many efforts to get the words down and tight and I’m sure that he would have enjoyed: he is an ever -lasting inspiration to me.
HST is an egalitarian publishing firm which provides a link to where you can either purchase a hardcopy of their publications or download a free download. Why are you are cool at releasing such a substantial body of your work gratis?
When my work first began to appear in online publications like HST and the wonderful BM, I was knocked out: I began with the idea that it would be such an honour to have my words accepted for publication and that others may enjoy: this seemed out of reach: a book publication of my work was way beyond anything that I could imagine: today, whenever I am fortunate to have something accepted for online or in print, I have the same sensation: I am so thankful and grateful to the editors, genuinely: I am passionate about poetry being accessible and affordable and HST offers both: I believe that if you are a book lover, then you will buy that book! : I do not own a kindle and will never own one: I am firmly locked in arms with friend, poet and publisher Martin Appleby of Paper & Ink fame: there is nothing that quite relates to holding a book in your hands, turning the pages, creative literary objects that you don’t need a charger for:
What are some of the biggest learning experiences over the last 5 years or so in your writing and in your role as publisher?
As a publisher it was working with Doug Draime’s widow, Carol and Doug’s son’s on a chapbook of his poetry Fire On The Mountain, some of which, were printed for the first time: this was a wonderful experience as Carol provided, literally open access to Doug’s unpublished work and I have future plans to publish a short story collection of Doug’s and Carol’s: I think I learnt, don’t hesitate, ask, make that move, at worst, you hit a brick wall: I have had some rather disappointing and awkward experiences with some well established poets, no names: but petty demands and a sense of preciousness sours quickly with me: I don’t like to fuck about too much – as with my own work, I am absolutely delighted with Holy&intoxicated Publications publishing catalogue that continues: I never expected this, or thought of it, it was more about the joy and pleasure of producing limited quality chapbooks of poetry and short stories: I think Holy&intoxicated Publications has established a good reputation within the small press scene: I enjoy ‘discovering’ new poets and reaching out to them and discussing potential publishing projects: the Holy&intoxicated Publications Poetry Card Series was something that I very much enjoyed producing and will consider doing it again in the near future: 10 series altogether: each series consisted of 5 poets: 20 Cards for each Poet: somewhere out there in the big world is 1000 Holy&intoxicated Publications Poetry Cards! Again, it was the making contact with other poets whose work I enjoyed and working with them: its like a drug addiction: I guess the down-side to publishing is not so much the printing costs but the postage costs can be crippling!! I am not out to make money but I am not out to lose too much either :
Many of your poems poke fun at the mainstream art industry? What is your view of mainstream poetry and how it contrasts with alternative small press publications?
Maybe I am wrong here and out of date opinion – but I have known a small number of artists/painters/ that have become nothing more than the gallery’s property: dictating and demanding works within a given time frame: and maybe similarly with writers and poets who have been ‘identified’ by the main stream publishers whose only concern is not with the quality of work but how much money they can make out of the poet/writer: it may be a contract where reading tours and lectures become a part of the deal: I have had some contact with an English poet whose money was generated, not by his poetry publications but by his children’s stories book sales and endless reading tours to promote them: it is like a club, an exclusive club that refuses entry if you haven’t attended a particularly level and system of education or/and know someone with influence: I think this is true here in the UK: there will be exceptions to this and so there should be: it may be different elsewhere: Poetry here is either high-brow intellectual pursuits/or a light hearted bullshit: nothing that interests the man in the street: the small press is for the man in the street - exactly that: there is no hiding or heavy demands placed on the poet: limited editions that can soon become collectors’ items: affordable: I particularly love chapbooks: because of the limited pages the poet has to ensure that every poem is going to scorch, to set aflame, inspire, piss-off, anger, humor the reader and when the poet gets this balance, they have nailed it cleanly and it makes for a solid book:
You have worked in housing the disadvantaged community for over three decades. What have you learnt about human nature in dealing with your clients, the general community and the various levels of UK bureaucracy. How have you been able to continue over the years?
Determination and passion: I have self-taught the UK law and legislation with regards to homelessness as there is no ‘internal’ training referencing housing: any form of injustice needs to be challenged and I have done so countless times over the years: Human nature – I think that, it is inherently and initially good and peaceful, caring, and reflective and philosophical, intelligent: that’s the light and we’re all aware of the dark side of human nature – the cruelty, the greed, the selfishness, the blood lust for power and money and control and the blind faith that drives humanity towards certain obliteration of the planet as we continue to rape and poison and desecrate it every which way for monetary profit: that is not intelligent but dumb, stupid and harrowingly ignorant. The people I have worked/supported over the years have given me an education that could not have been learnt any other way: beautiful and enlightened people that may have had no chance from day one and the expectations can become overwhelming and destructive but most have fought and challenged their situations and circumstances and progress was possible, they leave the risky cold and mean streets and seeing the smile on someone’s face when they are handed a set of house keys is something special: we all need a home: you look around, wherever, you live and see huge empty buildings – what’s going on here!!: Mitakuye Oyasin is a Native American – Lakota Prayer – this literally translates as ‘we are all related’ – that is, all that has life, whether it walks, hops, skips, jumps, crawls, slithers, flies, swims: so there are no strangers here: we are all one: this way of looking at this life has inspired me to continue over the years: my wife and daughter also: poetry and writing and painting: cats: alcohol and chemicals also: hope, that before its too late, that we wake up out of this hell we’re creating for all of life:
What have been some of your more memorable writing successes or failures?
I consider every poem and book published a success, be this online or in print or within a collection of work/anthology: like a great deal of people, I started out with not a clue and without any ambitions or dreams that I wanted to achieve – like I have mentioned. several years ago, a collection of my work in printed book form was unthinkable, beyond my imagination: something that I would have never considered possible and it astounds me that I have a body of work out there and that I am being interviewed by the wonderful George Anderson about ‘Always More’ ‘New and Selected Poems’: I can’t explain how this has happened but I have loved and will continue to love this world of poetry and contributing to it whenever I can: we all know of rejections, in one way or another: having poems returned always stings, but it is also refreshing and invigorating and adds grit and determination to carry on with what you love doing: there has to be failure so there can be success: I submit work expecting nothing back, so if the poem/s work for an editor this is a bonus: just to mention here, that I have been most honored and fortunate to have had a poem included with The Ragged Lion Press Journal #5 which is available now:
How has your writing evolved since you first started tossing it to the world?
I would like to think that it has remained honest, direct and humorous and passionate, insightful: I would like to think that any subject can be written about, no matter how dark or depressing it may seem: writing is like an exorcism: if something needs to be expressed then so be it: I have never deliberately written a poem or short story for the ‘shock’ effect’: that is bullshit: truth hurts but it also enlivens and informs and creates a different space, not always comfortable: I have never deliberately written a poem to offend/attack: that is bullshit also: ultimately poetry is about love, it is always about love and that will always be a good starting point: I shall never lose sight of this:
How have you coped in southern England in the last year with covid-19 restrictions?
Personally, it has not really had a great impact upon my life: Prior to Lockdown, the only socializing I would engage in was going to work and meeting staff and visiting clients and of course the visits to the medicine man: I have been working from home since March 2020: I do occasionally miss that contact and having a laugh and mocking the circus I work for: I have pretty much been working on becoming a recluse for a good few years now and the restrictions have aided this I think: I love humanity, but ‘people’ I have no time for, the shitty boring droning small-talk: the emptiness behind the eyes and the narrow world of watching t.v. and celebrity gossip and shitty glossy magazines that promote this bullshit: I stay away from people in general but I am always up for meeting fellow poets as I know the company will be interesting:
What's next for you?
More of the above I hope and thank you George: very much appreciated and valued and I thank you for your time and wish you well:
Download or buy John D. Robinson’s poetry collection Always More: New & Selected Poems (Horror, Sleaze, Trash, 2020) 170 pages here:https://horrorsleazetrash.com/2020/11/23/always-more-by-john-d-robinson/