Happy 2020! I’d like to welcome you all to a new decade at CCIQ Press, we have so many exciting ventures planned over the next year – announcements will be made in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, as you all know CCIQ Press is a non-profit press, that constantly seeks inspirational interviews of individuals within the writing community, who are not only talented writers but those who have also established themselves as advocates.
Peter Merriot, not only oozes lush relatable imagery but constantly uses his voice to promote those who he believes in. There are so many Poets out there who feel that they have no voice, when Peter reads these writers during his lives, he honours the words of others. I don’t think that there is a more precious gift than the desire to grow as a writer and want to genuinely applaud others on that path. The greatest bliss you can provide, is to honour their work via the portal of your own voice box. Peter genuinely does this with every fibre of his being, and I must say, given the list of writers that he provided below, he genuinely has flawless taste. For more information on Peter check him out on Instagram @petermerriot.
RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked? If yes, how did you overcome it?
PM: Of course. If there is a writer who hasn't been, I've never encountered them. My solution, such as it is, is to write something fun or silly: writing to a prompt, rewriting a song lyric, taking on a technically challenging form. I find (sometimes) that if I can focus on a piece of writing that is self-intentionally *not* important, I can get the words going, which can lead to other work that has more heft. Though we often write to express powerful thoughts or feelings, fun is a necessary component of all writing. So, go hunting the fun, and maybe the dam will break.
RMMW: We all must contend with an inner critic, how do deal with yours?
PM: An earlier, less mature version of me did all kinds of destructive acts, including deleting potentially good work and generally trying to burn the whole artistic building down around me to address my anxiety. The older (wiser?) me is aware that mood and attitude are affected by so much more than aesthetic judgement--hunger, sleep deprivation, work stress, family conflict, existential dread. On my best day, I don't know whether what I write is good, or good enough, or how it will be received. So, I'm certainly not going to achieve clarity about my work on my worst day. When the panic sets in, I have to buy myself time for the wave of anxiety or self-doubt to pass. I try to set aside a piece in progress until the next day (at the earliest), and turn my attention to other, non-writing activities. Also, unless I decide to record a reading of one of my poems, I almost never go back to read my old stuff. I don't need to stir up that kind of trouble.
RMMW: Do you have any artist rituals before starting a new piece?
PM: In this, I am a walking, talking, writing cliché. Most of my clearest ideas come to me in the shower or walking my dog. Something about those physical sensations unlock my mind a bit. The trick for me is to keep enough of the lines or thoughts in my head until I get somewhere to record them.
RMMW: At what age did you start writing? What was the catalyst?
PM: I have been writing off and on since I was teenager, which was quite some time ago. I have always loved reading and words and playing with them. I had a series of three amazing English teachers in high school who showed me what good writing was and could be, and didn't think it preposterous that I could produce some. Words surround me all the time. I think in words; I think about words; I try overly hard to be clever in mundane emails; the words are always there. And when they get unruly, I have to find a way to let them out. The world only makes sense to me--when it makes sense--in words.
RMMW: Out of all the writing styles out there -- what do you relish most about poetry?
PM: I'm not sure I could ever give an adequate response, but here are a few loose thoughts. (1) For me, poetry starts with sound and rhythm, where prose starts with sense; a poem that brings together sound, sense, and structure into an embodied whole is a minor miracle. (2) Poetry shines attention on (almost) every word and the possibilities for meaning that word contains; it requires care and attention from reader and writer; the rationalist in me enjoys the push-and-pull of trying to control that unruliness; the mystic enjoy me enjoys always losing the fight. (3) Poetry is play. And if you have kids or spend time with kids, you know that play can be deadly serious just as often as it is carefree. Play with language; play with what you see on the screen or page; play with what you think or feel; play with what you can prompt others to see and feel. (4) Poetry is argument by emotion -- an effort at persuasion, not by giving reasons, but by offering a vision, invoking pre-rational thoughts (which are often more feelings than thought). Like a good joke makes you laugh before you understand why, a good poem invites you to feel before you have any sense what you're feeling. That is why bad poems can be so painful to read. They don't just fail to deliver on their promise; they desecrate a mystery.
RMMW: As a live reader of poetry on Instagram, what is the most fulfilling aspect of reading and sharing the work of others via the portal of your voice?
PM: First and foremost, it is fun. I derive a great deal of pleasure from it. The fact that people have responded favorably to my reading is both a surprise to me and a delight. All poems have a sonic flow. And some have a flow that intrigues me. I want to hop in a kayak and ride those rapids. And, unlike something I've written, the flow is not expected or totally familiar. And there is a risk of wiping out, which makes it exciting. If you want to know a poem inside and out, then you have to go for the ride. Which is, as I said, fun. And even the wipe-outs teach you something. And if, out of all of that selfish joy, I can raise awareness of good writing among good readers, that's a beautiful bonus.
RMMW: How many unfinished manuscripts do you currently have in your archive?
PM: Virtually none, at the moment. I have a vault full of ideas, but few that I've written toward systematically. See my answer above about the younger, hastier version of me and what he did with his work.
RMMW: Poetry is important as I believe it truly does fuel the human soul. How does scribing poetry make you feel?
PM: In the best moments, as close to self-integration as I ever feel. In the worst moments, like a stammering incompetent. In almost all of the moments, like I'm having fun.
RMMW: Have you ever interwoven secrets in your poems that few know about?
PM: My secrets, such as they are, are usually linguistic tricks. If you read my work, and have the right turn of mind, you'll find acrostics (sometimes in more than one direction); puns and partial puns; play with sound and sense. At the risk of spoilers, I have a poem titled, "II:II" that has a couple of examples. Although the title looks like 11:11, it is written with capital "I"s, and I read it as "Four Eyes," which is a play on the references in the poem to the speaker putting on and taking off glasses to see (or not). Also, there is a recurring line in the poem, "Time is a monster truck," which began in my mind as a garbled, toddler-speak version of "Time is a construct." That's the kind of stuff I put in my poems on purpose. There may well be other secrets that are also hidden from me.
RMMW: Emily Perkovich founded a wonderful new community called @wemadeyousomething on Instagram, how do you feel being part of such a diverse team of writers and live readers?
PM: I'm quite new to IG as a poetry platform. (I just checked, and I posted for the first time in early September.) I was flabbergasted when Emily (@undermeyou) and Drew (@_drewkowski_) approached me to join @wemadeyousomething. If you'd ask to me to make a list of IG poets and artists I most admired at the time, the whole crew would have been on my list--I am not exaggerating. In addition to Emily and Drew, I simply and candidly admire the work of @word_savvy, @alchemical.poetica, @bugxwords, @jle_word, @the.saint.atlas, and @sageandspirits as artists. They write things I can't write; make things I can't make; think in ways I can't think; and consistently challenge me to grow as a reader, writer, and observer of art. That talent level is matched by a generous commitment to championing good, new, and exciting work across multiple media with a minimum of fuss and ego. I still have the glorious kid-in-the-candy-store feeling to be part of this group of friends and fellow artists.
RMMW: Who are your favourite indie poets?
PM: In addition to the @wemadeyousomething crew, already mentioned, a short (and incomplete) list of poets whose work gives me joy would include the following baker's dozen:
RMMW: Is there a piece of poetry that you've read and ever though "damn, I wish I'd written that"?
PM: As I mentioned, I'm particularly drawn to work that has a force or energy that I'd find it hard to muster, whether that comes from personal experiences foreign to me or just a different cast of mind from mine. Two very different poems (of many) come to mind that fits this description. I recorded a reading of "Blue" by @wordsavvy, which was one of the most intense, draining, yet wonderful experiences I've had as a reader. The poem is a profound interrogation of loss, pain, and resilience. It is stunning. The second is a collaboration between @jacobmarleypress and @the.saint.atlas called "Cemetery & Seraphim." Both of those writers operate so easily in an epic mode that awes (and delights) me, and which is not within easy reach for me. Equally stunning, and completely different.
RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?
PM: The superpower I'd want to have is to know when people are lying to me. I'm not a fan of falsehood. The superpower that matches my actual experience is, for better or worse, invisibility.