.John Dorsey is the author of several collections of poetry, including “Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer” (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), “Sodomy is a City in New Jersey” (American Mettle Books, 2010), “Leaves of Ass” (Unadorned Press,2011). and, most recently, “Tombstone Factory” (Epic Rites Press, 2013). He may be reached at email@example.com and http://paladinmusic.com/johndorsey.html.
Interview by: g emil reutter.
GER: You graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Did your stay in Philadelphia influence your poetry and the presentation of your poetry during readings?
JD: Well, when I lived in Philadelphia I spent the majority of my time working on screenplays, and didn’t really return to poetry full-time until after graduation, though I did read at the Painted Bride Arts Center a bit back in those days, and yeah, I was deeply influenced by my time in the city after the fact. I can still feel the corner of 12th & Spruce in every step I take. I first found the work of Ted Berrigan and Charles Olson there and for that I am forever grateful.
GER: As a screenwriter, playwright and poet do you find each of the genres influence the other when you are writing?
JD: That’s an interesting question. I do think that poetics plays a role in every form of writing I take on. The connection between play writing and screenwriting is much clearer, but the poetry is in there too. It’s always been a real push and pull for me, in terms of which one gets my attention, I can’t really do all of them at the same time, so I will end up taking breaks from one or the other every few years
GER: You write a column for the Toledo Free Press, Glass City Muse in addition to working as a staff reporter. Share with us what you write about and how you develop a column and article.
JD: I got into newspaper journalism by accident a number of years ago, all of the articles I write are arts based, gallery openings, theater reviews, ballet, concert previews, film openings, celebrity interviews, they come my way through friends, contacts, social networking sites, and I approach it very much like a business, very by the numbers who, what, where, when, how much, and get a few great quotes. The column is strictly literature themed, mostly poetry, about books, readings, my experiences, anything I feel like talking about and is much more organic and emotional.
GER: You have said that Berrigan and Corso have influenced your poetry. Are there any other poets you would add to the list as of today?
JD: As you said, Berrigan and Corso are the big ones for me, but yeah, S.A. Griffin, Kell Robertson, Ann Menebroker, D.R. Wagner, Scott Wannberg, they’re all wonderful.
GER: Tell us about Tombstone Factory and how the collection came about.
JD: Sure, Tombstone Factory came about because I had done a number of small chapbooks after the 2010 release of my full-length collection Sodomy is a City in New Jersey that had, in many cases, very small press runs and I really felt like a lot of my work was falling between the cracks, so I contacted Wolfgang Carstens, the founder of Epic Rites Press, at the beginning of the year and told him I wanted to put together a selected works that covered 2010-2012, as well as about 20 pages of new work and he agreed immediately. It really was one of the great working experiences of my life.
JD: On Boxcar Poems 1-12, that book came about through my longstanding friendship with Bottle of Smoke Press founder Bill Roberts, who first took me to meet Ray and Jill at Lead Graffiti after my Fox Chase reading with Rebecca Schumejda in 2011, prior to that they had printed a broadside for me and had expressed interest in doing a book together. A few years passed, just because people get busy, and then they approached me again in March of this year and I wrote the whole book in my friend’s Missouri farmhouse in about 2 hours and was as shocked as anyone when it turned out to be something I’m very proud of, and the book itself just looks amazing.
GER: You hit the road from time to time on the poetry circuit. How valuable is it for a poet to tour and read their works and do you find inspiration while on the road?
JD: I travel constantly. As far as how important it is, that really depends on why you’re out there. Do you want to sell books? Are you attempting to build lifelong friendships? Unless you have really bad social anxiety, I think everyone should try to get out there. I myself need the book sales to eat more often than not, but the friendships that I’ve made outweigh $10 here, $20 there or some silly idea of fame, when 99 percent of people could care less about poetry anyway.
GER: You have lived in an artist community in Toledo. How has this impacted your writing and what type of interaction occurs between artists of different genres?
JD: Yeah, I lived at the Collingwood Arts Center in Toledo, OH from 2003-2012. In my last two years there I also served as their Marketing Director and then their Program Director. I also spent several years on their Review Board, selecting incoming artists. To answer your question, we did have bi-annual resident shows that the artists were/are required to take part in. Outside of that people would work together from time to time, but mostly it was a very isolated experience, I did collaborate with a few filmmakers there, as well as the painter and graphic artist Terry A. Burton. I’m currently looking for another residency, if anyone is interested contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
GER: What projects are you currently working on?
JD: I have a book coming out of Hydeout Press titled Twenty Poems about Girls, which is due in October, I’m working on pieces for a three poet collection Dog On a Chain Press with Mat Gould and James H. Duncan, I’m working on pieces for another collection with Lead Graffiti, a split collection for next year with Adrian Manning on his Concrete Meat Press, which will be dedicated to our late friend James D. Quinton, another book for Hydeout with D.R. Wagner called Dorsey/Wagner: 24 Poems, a book about my friendship with Gregory Corso on 48th Press, a book on Spartan Press with Jason Ryberg, Jason Hardung and Seth Elikns, titled Motel, Diner, Liquor and a collection of my early works due on Kilmog Press in New Zealand. I’m always trying to keep busy.
You can read the poetry of John Dorsey in The Fox Chase Review at this link http://www.foxchasereview.org/10su/JohnDorsey.html and
g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa.