Interview with John Tustin

The Chamber has published three of Mr. Tustin’s poems (“Dia de Muertos”, “Space Diminishing”, and “Steady on the Wheel”), all within the last three weeks.

Approximately 100-word (more or less) summary of your life: A life of minor aspiration, necessary loneliness and forced exile.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

Writing productively almost every night the last two years. For the first time since I began writing again I feel I’ve gotten to the point that I often actually say what I want to say when I write.

Why do you write?

I don’t know. I began writing poetry when I was fourteen. I didn’t have interest in reading poetry but for someone reason I was compelled to write it. I probably write poetry because it’s a good way for an introverted exhibitionist to express themselves.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

My process has changed over time. I used to scoff at people who took out specific time to write. I didn’t understand that it could work like that. I thought that you got the idea or the first line whenever it happened to come to you and then you just started writing. That still happens to me sometimes but most of my poems are written at a specific time set aside for writing.

It works like this: Almost every night I set aside one or more hours to writing. It’s very ritualized – I listen to music and read poetry, waiting for a line or an idea. The poetry definitely inspires me. Since I began doing this about two years ago I’ve written much more and much better.

I use Microsoft Word because it’s important to get the words down quickly. It also makes editing easy. As for revising and editing, I feel that most poetry is unfortunately revised into a shiny lifelessness. I tend to write a poem and rewrite/edit it in the same sitting. It can be no rewrites or a dozen. I also sometimes take small breaks while writing if I’m stuck on the next line or even merely feeling overwhelmed with what I’m writing. 99% of the time my poems are completed in a small timeframe. One thing I always do is wait a month or so after I’ve written something to do a final rewrite/edit. Most of the time I don’t end up editing/rewriting anything at that stage but when I do I’m mostly rewriting lines for clarity. When you get further away from what you’ve written you can edit more clearly.

I can see by the link to Fritzware that you provided, that you have had a lot of poems published since 2009. How do you keep finding new ideas, new motivations for poems? How do you stay original?

Charles Bukowski said poets write about the same few things over and over. I agree. It’s easy to get stale. I read a lot – especially poetry. Living a life and/or being well-read is the best way to get new ideas or find a new way to write something.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

No. I have a private Facebook page and I post my poems there as I write them but most of my Facebook friends don’t care about poetry. I had one friend who would constantly critique my poems unasked and I had to unfriend her. I don’t care for being edited beyond typos and it’s probably because my poems are so personal to me.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

As I write this I have poetry forthcoming in over thirty different journals, online and in print. I’m working on my first book of poetry and hope I will begin shopping it soon.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

I have poetry forthcoming in: Avalon Literary Review, Bare Back Magazine, Blue Unicorn, Cacti Fur, Chiron Review, Dalhousie Review, Eunoia Review, Euphemism, Freshwater Literary Journal, Garfield Lake Review, Horror Sleaze Trash, Impspired, In Parenthesis, Ink Sac, Lakeview Journal, North Dakota Quarterly, Pangolin Review, Perceptions, Piker Press, Prole, The Rail, Raven Review, Sparks of Calliope, Steam Ticket, Straylight, Tower Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review, Unique Poetry, Vaughan Street Doubles, Visitant and  Writer’s Block.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I want my poems to reach many people and make some of those people feel the way that I do when I read certain writers. I remember the first time I listened to Bob Dylan when I was about 16 and feeling like someone was expressing my own emotions and thoughts. That’s what I want to do. I want people to read what I write and feel good – feel not so alone. I want people to feel connected to my poems.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

The closest I’ve had to reviews are a few nasty or dismissive rejection letters from editors. I don’t take criticism well but I think it could be helpful. There are a lot of factors to consider.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Write. All the time. Write all the time and read much more than you write. Be open to anything and put down any line or idea you have. It’s OK to consider an audience when writing. I usually imagine a single person reading a poem I’m writing. Sometimes it’s an actual person and sometimes it’s an imaginary person. Reading is so important. Read a lot and not just literature.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

Life experience and reading/listening. Pay attention to what others write and what they say. Everyone is interesting if you write them well.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.) contains links to my published poems and is my promotional page. I post links when something I’ve written is published and I also post the poems of others I happen to be reading at the time.

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

I like my words being read by strangers and I like when they are touched in some way by those words. Thank you for reading my poems.

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