Interverses #4: Fernando Raguero

Fernando Raguero, featured poet at Fernando vs the World, is interviewed by Miguel Burr.


Inter-Verses #4: Fernando Raguero vs Verses

A stocky, bespectacled curmudgeon stands rigidly upon the stage. Greasy, pin-straight silver hair falls on his shoulders as he reads in a flat monotone. He holds the pages up firmly between himself and the audience like a concrete wall. He never even makes eye contact. These mannerisms may seem symptomatic of poor stage presence, but through some bizarre twist of inborn talent, this poet always wins over his crowd.  Madcap poems drip with deadpan wit, steely cynicism and a wildly comical view of reality, effectively ambushing the audience with full-force body blows to the funny bone. When Fernando Raguero takes the stage, good things happen.

In the dozen-plus times I’ve witnessed Fernando read over the years, reaction to his work has ranged from wildfire laughter to murmurs of heady amusement; the one consistency being that there is ALWAYS some kind of reaction. Raguero serves up irreverent verse with the earnestness of a journeyman wordsmith, but also terrifies us—like a mime jamming a loaded gun in his mouth. But rather than wallow in the pit of his despair, Fernando revels in it. He drags us along on a journey through his mucky world, his pen a whirling machete, clearing away unnecessary words and driving home killer lines.

Of all Vancouver’s slam poets, Fernando Raguero is the most consistently entertaining. When you catch one of his readings, prepare to be shocked and refreshed. Afterward, you will forever envy the uninitiated and the surprise they are due. For this reason I was thrilled when Fernando agreed to talk with me on a dreary Thursday afternoon, perched upon the back-alley balcony of my apartment over a steaming cup of tea. Here’s what he had to say:

Miguel Burr: I’m here with Fernando Raguero…is that your real name?

Fernando Raguero: Yup.

MB: Sid Macon is a made up name?

FR: Sid Macon is just a thing for Facebook.

MB: Really?! I thought it was the opposite.

FR: No. ‘Sid’ was from a girl I liked and ‘Macon’ was just ‘I’m makin’ it up.’

MB: (laughs) I thought for sure it was the other way around. I thought you were Sid Macon and Fernando Raguero…I thought Raguero came from spaghetti sauce or something…

FR: That’s my family name.

MB: (laughs) You learn something every day. Okay, so first of all, tell me about the upcoming Fernando Vs. the World show you have planned for the Verses Festival…

FR: Okay, we did this a couple of years ago. It’s me against whoever wants to read a poem. It’s really a gimmick to get people to read poems. Somebody would read a poem and I would look through my books and sheets of paper for a response to that poem…something with the same theme of that poem…something that might be better than that poem…

MB: Kind of makes it bounce…

FR: They say it’s a competition…the ‘versus’ thing…but I don’t think of it as a competition. I’m going to have all my books and all of my poems…which is like a thousand poems. And I will be looking through them. I will be on the stage as they’re reading…

MB: How many times have you done it?

FR: This is my second time. It was really fun…one of the best shows I’ve ever done.

MB: What kind of stuff do people come up with?

FR: A lot of it is something to put me down. Duncan [Shields] did a really good poem about a dark flower, describing someone who’s dark and evil. I guess he was trying to describe me.

MB: He thinks you’re dark and evil? What did you come back with?

FR: Well I had a poem called ‘Douche-Bag Giant’, but I didn’t have it with me at the time.

MB: I know that one! The guy following you on Granville Bridge!

FR: Yeah…that would have been perfect ‘cause Duncan’s like 6’6. I should have read that poem but…I don’t remember what I came back with.

MB: Did anybody slam-dunk you?

FR: Probably Duncan…Duncan got me real good.

MB: He’s very calculating, I think.

FR: He’s pretty clever.

MB: So there wasn’t a winner?

FR: Well, at the end they asked the audience who won and they said ‘Fernando won it.’ I don’t know…

MB: What was the attendance like?

FR: I think we had thirty people at Havana. It will be at Havana again. It’s an afternoon show.

MB: Anything different this year?

FR: I might bring my guitar.

MB: Same format though?

FR: Same format.

MB: I borrowed all of your chapbooks from Chris Gilpin, and I bathed in your world for the last three days—I read all of your work…

FR: I feel bad for you…

MB: I felt bad for myself at some points and I felt good at some points.

FR: (laughs)

MB: Your work is almost always tempered with a kind of cynical skepticism toward the world around you. Do you feel like you can see things more clearly than most?

FR: No, I don’t think so. I think I just articulate them. It doesn’t mean I have any more insight than the average person who isn’t a poet.

MB: Are you a nihilist?

FR: What is that exactly?

MB: Believing everything is futile…existence is futile and meaningless.

FR: I have moments when I’m like that, yeah. But not all the time.

MB: Did you see The Big Lebowski?

FR: Yup.

MB: Remember the nihilists? Those guys in black turtlenecks who’d run around…

FR: Once in a while I’m like that, but it’s like…even the crap around the world is good; otherwise we’d have nothing to write about. We’d have nothing to complain about. If everything was good we’d just lie in bed all day.

MB: If things were so good? That’d be kind of good. Maybe not all the time. But sometimes it’s fun to spend a couple of days in bed with somebody.

FR: (laughs)

MB: You’ve been participating in the Vancouver poetry scene for over a decade now. Is that right?

FR: 2001…yup.

MB: You know how to write to this scene, it seems. Has it influenced the way you write?

FR: To some degree. I don’t think I write for the audience. I’ve seen stuff that inspires me at the slam and think, ‘Oh, I want to write something like that!’ But it’s mostly to amuse myself. I think I’ve been lucky. Somehow people can relate to a lot of what I’ve written when I get on stage. It’s not for an audience. It’s for me.

MB: You mention Charles Bukowski in several of your poems, and I’ve heard you compared to him. In a lot of your earlier writing, it even seems like you’re trying to do a Bukowski-thing.  Have you ever caught yourself trying to re-live him?

FR: No. I would never.

MB: Do you know much about him?

FR: I’ve read his biography.

MB: Have you read all of his work?

FR: Most of it.

MB: Do you have a Bukowski section on your bookshelf?

FR: My bookcase…the top two shelves are Bukowski.

MB: Is he your favourite?

FR: Him and Henry Rollins.

MB: Let’s talk about Bukowski…Why is he your favourite?

FR: I like the economy of words, the way he can get something down in the fewest lines.

MB: What about the booze and the prostitutes…have you…

FR: No, I’d never. His life is not something I would want to live.

MB: It was a pretty harsh life.

FR: It was a harsh life, but he was able to write about it. He could have been doing something else…as long as he was able to write about it with humour…it wouldn’t matter what it was, or how he lived his life.

MB: It did matter ‘cause it was the material.

FR: For me it was the way he got it down. I’m not a drunk, I can’t really relate to that. I can relate with the loneliness…all the other things…love.

MB: The human aspects?

FR: Yeah.

MB: You seem to possess a personal morality that he lacked. For example, I was reading a poem of yours, ‘Full Time’, where you almost step in when a guy kicks his girlfriend in the ass.

FR: Yeah.

MB: That’s a kind of morality…

FR: Yeah.

MB: Whereas Bukowski…did you read Women?

FR: Yeah, I read Women.

MB: At the very end of Women, he picks up a black prostitute. Do you remember the way he treats her? It’s rotten.

FR: I can’t remember.

MB: That scene sticks in my mind, whenever I think of him, as the opposite of a redemption.

FR: There’s a lot of stuff he did that I couldn’t say I liked. But everybody has that.

MB: He’s a great writer…

FR: He was a total asshole, but he was a great writer, so what are you going to do? I mean, everybody has flaws.

MB: Sure. Did you ever read a statement by him that he ‘liked war’?

FR: Yeah, but you know, some of that shit he said, I think it was just to stir shit up. He mentioned that…sometimes you’ve just gotta go the other way, just to stir it up.

MB: I still like him too…but I really want to talk about him clearly. I don’t just want to talk about the good things. I think it would be a disservice to him, to just say, (pitches voice) ‘Oh, he’s a genius!’

FR: All that good stuff came because he had all that bad stuff with him. If he was just all good, his writing would be shit. That’s what I think.

MB: Or if he tried to make it sound like it was all good.

FR: The morality stuff…I don’t think I’m any more moral than him. He probably just hid it real well. You’ve heard his poem ‘Bluebird’?

            There’s a bluebird in my heart that

            Wants to get out

MB: Not off the top of my head…

FR: You should check that out. I showed that poem to a friend of mine who hated Bukowski…‘He’s a misogynist…he’s a pig!’ I showed that poem to her and she was like, ‘Okay, I can view him differently now…’

MB: Enough about Bukowski…about your writing process…Do you hate talking about your writing process?

FR: Not really. If somebody wanted to talk about it, I would talk about it.

MB: Kind of like Louis C.K., you write a lot about masturbating. Is jerking off part of your process?

FR: That’s my earlier work. I don’t do that as much…. Are there a lot of poems about masturbating? (gestures to a stack of his chapbooks)

MB: Oh yeah, I could pull out twenty examples or more.


MB: I mean, you have a book here called Why are the Pages Sticky?

FR: Okay, okay.

MB: But there’s more. Anyway, was it part of your process?

FR: I guess so. I think I used it in a lot of my earlier stuff just for the shock value. I don’t do it so much now ‘cause I think I’m a better writer now. I don’t have to go to that place and just shock people for the sake of getting a reaction.

MB: What caused that change?

FR: You just write more. You grow up. It’s not a conscious thing, it just happens.

MB: You didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I think I need write about jacking off less.’?

FR: There have been times when I have said, ‘I need to stop writing about this…cut that line.’

MB: One of your poems, you talked about having sex in a dumpster…Is that real?

FR: Yeah, it was real. She didn’t want to so…we just ended up on the beach. We were in West Van. We did it on a rock-face or something. There was a construction site across the road…There was nobody there…it was summer. Nobody was working. It was a clean dumpster. There was no junk in there, but she didn’t want to so I was like ‘Okay, we’ll just do it on a rock.’ That’s not in a book though.

MB: No, that’s from my memory. I think it was the first poem I ever saw you read…it was like, ‘I wanted to have sex in the dumpster’…

FR: I know that poem. I plan to have it in the next book.

MB: You’ve got a poem about suicide that references former-Canuck Rick Rypien [committed suicide in 2011]. You talk about your own suicidal impulses so frankly that I found it more attention grabbing than a thousand lines about dicks or poop. Does suicide occupy a place in your imagination?

FR: Oh yeah, sure. I think at some point everybody’s thought of that. Especially with writers, you’ve got a lot of alone time…and there might be a good reason you’re alone. (laughs)  So you think, ahh, what’s the point of all this? Why go on? But then the writing saves you. But it’s kind of fun to think about that…

MB: Well that’s why my point is that it can actually occupy a place in your imagination as opposed to other places, like emotions. It’s almost like people fantasize about how you could…and it’s such a consequence-less act…‘cause you’re done.

FR: Yup. You commit suicide in your head and you’re like, ‘Okay, that’s it, I’m good for now,’ instead of actually jumping off the bridge. I was thinking that if I’m going to commit suicide I’m going to do it in a funny way…Like death by bed farts, where you just get under the covers and just fuckin’ stay there, and have some beans or something like that…

MB: Kind of like the old carbon monoxide, except anal monoxide.

FR: That’s right…it’d be a funny suicide. The paramedics come and you would know what’s happened…

MB: ‘Oh, death by bed-farts!’ There’s a lot of possibility there. Are you familiar with Aaron Swartz, creator of the website reddit? He just committed suicide a couple of weeks ago…

FR: Oh, now I know who you’re talking about.

MB: He was facing 35 years in jail after an indictment by a grand jury for disseminating Medical Journal of Massachusetts or something…instead of going to jail he killed himself. Anonymous, the hacker group involved in OCCUPY (they wear the Guy Fawkes masks) hacked a government website and said it was for him. They said something interesting: [paraphrased]‘He killed himself because they were forcing him to play a game that he couldn’t win, and the only way to win was not to play.’ You have a poem called ‘Mountain Dolphin’ with a similar sentence…

FR: How is it similar?

MB:  (quotes ‘Mountain Dolphin’)

            I don’t have time to live life to the fullest

            I’m too damn busy

            There’s a lot of sleep I haven’t got yet

            There’s a lot of great crap on TV still to be explored

MB: That’s basically the same, like, ‘Why do I want to play the game…the only way to win is by not playing.’

FR: I hear other people needing to do things, go to Europe, see the world. So I decided to go the opposite route…why do I want to go to fuckin’ Europe, man? Why do I want to have ambition? Why do I want to chase this dream…like the white teeth…the girl with the big tits? Why do I want to do that? It’s all about finding happiness in the little things…not having to chase things. The last line:

            Sometimes the grass is greener on this side

            And you don’t have to mow it as often

That could just be the whole poem right there! It’s just a sentiment, a place that I went to. I don’t necessarily believe that all the time.

MB: Right, it’s not your philosophical treatise.

FR: No, it’s an exploration. But there are a lot of people who relate to it.

MB: What’s your most recurrent fear?

FR: In general?  I don’t think I have any now, ‘cause the worst thing that can happen has already happened for me.

MB: What’s that?

FR: My mother dying in September. So after that it’s like, ‘Fuck, nothing…that’s the worst thing that can happen.’ Even my own death…if I was paralyzed…that would not be as bad.

MB: Is your dad still around?

FR: He’s still around. But my mom…leaving like that…

MB: That’s almost like your umbilical cord being cut.

FR: When she was alive, my greatest fear was her dying…so now that she’s gone…I’m just like, ‘What’s there to fear now?’

MB: You’re fearless. How are you dealing with it?

FR: I have moments when I’m just sitting there at the computer at work and I start thinking about her and I’m like, ‘Ahhhh…she’s gone.’ Sometimes I can’t even believe she’s gone. It’s not real. It’s just a bad dream. But she’s gone. That’s the greatest fear. My greatest fear is done.

MB: What made you so cynical?

FR: Just living. Just waking up in the morning. You can’t help it. Stuff happens around you…and I guess it’s the way you react to it. Some people react violently…me, I was…the poets, they’re able to react with words.

MB: I’m asking because I’m wondering if there are formative experiences…

FR: There are probably a whole bunch.Maybe in high school. In high school I was always the outsider guy. I would always see the ‘cool kids’ badmouthing or teasing the nerd guys…I think it might have been at that point that I began to think, ‘this is bullshit’. And I would speak up. I would get chased, people would kick me and I would get chased around the cloak room. It was probably high school, like for a lot of people.

MB: You mention God in your poems sometimes…and it sounds like you believe.

FR: Yeah, I grew up Catholic.

MB: Are you a believer?

FR: You know what, the last few years, I’ll go to church at Christmas, but that’s the only time I’ll really go. I still believe…I believe some higher being’s out there. But I don’t follow all that church stuff. My grandfather believes in God but he never went to church at all.

MB: If you do believe…how do you balance cynicism and faith?

FR: That’s the toughest thing. How could you be like this and then believe at the same time? I’ve always had that…I try not to think about it too much…(sighs) ‘Cause that’s a lot of work in your head to try and balance that…so I’m like, ‘Whatever, maaan.’ Just go with it…go with what you’re feelin’ right now.’

MB: Your subject matter, and maybe this is your earlier stuff, but it tends to involve sex, genitalia, bodily functions, assholes, flatulence…where does this all come from?

FR: I think my earlier stuff was more for the shock value. I always figure shock is good, but at least be clever about it. At least be funny.

MB: Wiping your ass with Christmas napkins, people who use assbeads, people who have anal problems, and muffins are all reoccurring themes in your poems. What’s your fascination with these things?

FR: Nobody else is writing about them. Just to stir up the shit. Shock value.

MB: In a poem like ‘Fish Market’, it seemed like you were challenging yourself to be as nasty as you could possibly be.

FR: Yes, that’s true.

MB: Is that your nastiest poem?

FR: That’s probably one of my nastiest. There’s another one called ‘Without the Crust’, it’s a longer poem. It’s not in any book…oh no, maybe it is in the…it’s in Why are the Pages Sticky? Yeah, it’s in there. That’s one of my other nasty poems.

MB: Do you ever get complaints about your subject matter?

FR: Not really. Not that are verbalized to me. I’m sure some people don’t like that stuff.

MB: Have you never had people come up and criticize you?

FR: Not really, no.

MB: There’s a strong feminist element in Vancouver, in the poetry scene. Have you ever found yourself at odds with it, given the sexualized nature of your work?

FR: No, I have nothing against it at all.

MB: No, nothing against it, but have you ever gotten in trouble?

FR: No, I don’t think so. I say a lot of crude stuff. I guess as long as you’re somewhat funny, and witty, you can do that stuff. And a lot of people know I’m harmless anyway.

MB: Why are you harmless?

FR: I don’t know. I’m just a genital soul.

MB: A ‘genital’ soul?

FR: (laughs) Lots of people think that. I’ve never had any problems.

MB: Is your writing experiential?

FR: Yes and no. A lot of it, you make up stuff. A lot of it is a core truth that you exaggerate. That’s how I look at it. I think it’s both. You couldn’t just make stuff up.

MB: Do you seek out new experiences for your writing?

FR: No, not really. It’s just whatever happens. I don’t do it consciously…I don’t snort coke just to see what it feels like and write about it.

MB: Some people have.

FR: I’ve heard that. Just not me. You just walk out the door and you step on a piece of poem.

MB: Good line. Are you in a relationship right now?

FR: No.

MB: What have your past relationships been like?

FR: I’ve only had one girlfriend. I lived with her for like five years. She liked me ‘cause of my poems. She saw me at a Café Montmartre reading. One poem she liked in particular…

MB: So she fell for you from your poems…

FR: From my poems.

MB: That covers a later question I had…has one of your poems ever gotten you laid?

FR: Yeah, probably.

MB: That would be a ‘yeah’. It got you more than laid. It got you shacked up for five years.

FR: Yeah, I don’t know if that was a good thing.

MB: No?

FR: It was fun, but there were moments… It’s over now, so you gotta figure…I wrote a lot of poems with her as the subject matter, so that was kinda cool. Some poems she didn’t like; some poems she liked.

MB: Did she go through everything? Did she censor you?

FR: No. She’d get pissed off ‘cause I wouldn’t let her read or edit or help with the poem. You can’t do that. There’s one poem though that she did help me on. It was kinda nasty sounding…But then she looked at it and was like, ‘This could be a lot nicer.’ I agreed with her, and I did something, but that was just one poem. I don’t think women want to be with me, ‘cause they’ll end up in my poems.

MB: Once again, Charles Bukowski’s Women. I remember a woman getting mad at him about that. She said, ‘You just fuck girls and then write about them! That’s all you do.’ Which is pretty much what he did.

FR: I wish I could be Bukowski, but I’m not like that.

MB: Do you always want to be funny?

FR: Nope. I don’t.

MB: Do you decide when you’re writing poems whether you want them to be funny or not?

FR: A lot of times my poems start out serious, and then for some weird reason I’ll want to put some kind of twist on them, and they’ll end up being funny. But I don’t always want to be funny. I don’t ever wanna…people ask me to do comedy shows.

MB: Yeah, I saw one.

FR: But, I don’t think I could do that…‘cause when I read poems, or do a set, or do a feature, I don’t want everything to be one thing…I want funny, sad, cynical, whatever. But a lot of my poems end up being funny, even the serious ones.

MB: Are you going to keep reading in the comedy scene?

FR: Only when people ask me. It’s not something I seek out consciously.

MB: I don’t think I could do it…standup.

FR: It’s hard to be funny. I’ve seen a lot of crappy comedy. I’d rather go to a crappy poetry reading than a crappy comedy show.

MB: You said the same thing about Story Slam too.

FR: Yeah, Story Slam doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the stories are just not that interesting?

MB: They’re longer too. At the poetry reading it’s never going to be more than three minutes…except at open mic.

FR: Maybe it’s my attention…like I only have a three minute attention span.

MB: What’s more important to you in a poem, humor or truth?

FR: Jeez, I want both of them…but if I have to pick one, probably the truth.

MB: A lot of times they go together…

FR: If you can combine the both of them, you have the perfect mix.

MB: Do you think you’re becoming mellower or edgier with age?

FR: I’m totally more mellow. I don’t think I’m as cynical now. I used to be really critical of poets and poetry. But now I go there and I go, ‘Oh the guy’s just trying to do his best, whatever.’ I figure if he’s not brilliant, it’s not his fault. (laughs)

MB: You’re like a parent. I notice on Facebook you share a lot of folk, singer-songwriter music and blues tunes. What’s your connection to that music?

FR: When I first started doing this writing thing, I wanted to be Bob Dylan. I bought a guitar. I heard Bringing It All Back Home. I was like, ‘Fuck.’ That’s when I started writing, so ever since then, I guess I did the spoken word thing instead. But now I’m back to playing the guitar. And I always like good writing, no matter what it is. If you can be a good writer and have a song at the same time, more power to ya.

MB: Bringing It All Back Home is your favourite Dylan album?

FR: No! I can’t even say which one is my favourite. Maybe Blonde on Blonde. Highway ’61.

MB: Your poetry seems to have few boundaries, if any. Are there any subjects you will not write about?

FR: Probably not.

MB: Are there any words you will not use?

FR: I always said to myself I’ll never use the word ‘cunt’. But I have used it once. There’s a poem about me not using the word ‘cunt’. That was the only time I’ve ever used it.

MB: What was your initial reason?

FR: I think it was because it was offensive to women. Women didn’t like that word…it’s a pretty harsh sounding word.

MB: It is. It’s not the most lyrical word.

FR: I think you could find other, more imaginative words than ‘cunt’.

MB: What about your personal boundaries? Are they the same as your literary ones?

FR: Probably. Like sexual? I’m not into the weird stuff. I could never do that. I don’t do the drugs and I hardly drink.

MB: You’re a pretty clean living guy…

FR: I think so. I like sports. I still play sports.

MB: What do you play?

FR: I play baseball.

MB: What team are you on?

FR: It’s a North Shore men’s league. A beer league. Hardball.

MB: I heard you talk about ‘just doing your work and letting success or failure just come as it will.’ Do you have a sense of fatalism?

FR: What’s ‘fatalism’?

MB: Fatalism is fate. Whatever will happen will happen.

FR: Yup, I guess, yeah.

MB: You still see it that way?

FR: Yeah. People keep bugging me to send out a manuscript, to get published. It’s just not that important to me. At the beginning, when I first started writing, you know you have the…you’re just starting out…‘Oh, I’m going to be a writer. A real book. My name in lights.’ I would send out stuff and get rejected. Whatever man. Doing these books and readings in front of people; you get instant feedback, instant reactions. I’m happy with doing that. Maybe at some point it’ll change. It’s not something I have to make a living at, like some people.

MB: Do you know people making a living with writing?

FR: Shane Koyczan.

MB: Is he making a good living?

FR: I think so, yeah, he’s doing pretty well. I don’t know how much…it’d be relative. I don’t know how much a poet would make.

MB: Does he drive around in a Lamborghini?

FR: I think he drives a Honda.

MB: I enjoyed your piece about putting a little love in everything you do. How do you define ‘love’?

FR: Oh my god, that’s a hard question. Just caring. Like that piece came about ‘cause I got this taco. I was in the States and I got this taco and it was a mess. The guy didn’t put any care into it. No love into my taco. I was pissed off. So, whatever you’re doing, put a little love into it. Care about it. No matter what you’re doing. So I looked up on the internet all these weird jobs. Like an actual poo sniffer. Pig wanker. If you look it up, it’ll be on there.

MB: Have you heard of ‘ambergris’? 

FR: No.

MB: Ambergris is whale vomit. And apparently it’s ultra-valuable. Some guy just found a seven pound chunk of whale vomit on the beach and it’s worth over fifty-thousand dollars!

FR: What do they do with it?

MB: Perfumers use it. Apparently it smells terrible when it first comes out, but after it dries out it’s got some kind of scent that lasts a long time. It’s perfect for perfumers, they go crazy over it.

FR: How the hell did they discover that?

MB: I don’t know…I just saw it today.

FR: Some Eskimo got whale barf on him and it dried up? And he smelled it and went like, ‘Whale barf…fuuuck!’ What’s it called again? I’ve gotta look it up…

MB: Ambergris…amber-g-r-i-s. Another thing, an Eastern European tank manufacturer is making a luxury SUV and it’s over a million dollars…guess what kind of leather the interior is made of?

FR: What?

MB: Whale foreskin.

FR: Oh fuuuck! I could see that being really soft.

MB: Apparently that’s the plushest leather on Earth.

FR: I’m getting ideas for a poem now.

MB: So why poetry? Why not fiction or comics or graffiti or…

FR: Probably because it can be short. I don’t have an attention span for trying to write a book. And I like the part about being able to say something in the fewest words.

MB: What percentage of poems that you hear do you actually like?

FR: I don’t know if I can put a number to that…it’s not a lot. But I still go out, and once in a while you’ll hear a gem and it’s worth all the crap you were listening to before. You just gotta be patient. All that crap you listened to before doesn’t matter, ‘cause this thing came up.

MB: That’s the payoff.

FR: Yeah, that’s the payoff. And plus you listen to a lot of crap and you learn from that too. You don’t just learn from the good stuff.

MB: You learn from the crap?

FR: That’s right. You learn what not to do, and some of the crappy stuff will have good ideas that just aren’t executed right.

MB: Who’s your favorite living poet?

FR: I like Jeffry McDaniel. I think he’s from the Bay Area. He kind of reminds me of RC Weslowski. Yeah, check him out, Jeffery McDaniel, he’s really good, I’ve posted some of his poems on Facebook.

MB: In ‘Measuring Sticks’, you say:

             ‘A madman’s perspective can be the source of great art, though sometimes some of us just slip        

            through the cracks, and wind up in a mall with an AK-47 playing god, but just like anything else,           

            even insanity isn’t perfect.’

MB: So, given the increasing frequency of these types of shootings these days, can you offer any insight into what happens in the mind of someone who goes on a shooting rampage?

FR: They have no outlet other than to shoot people. I’ve always thought that…like if the guy had…

MB: No other outlet?!

FR: For them…I mean there is another outlet, but they never think of it. I’ve always thought, if I wasn’t doing poetry, what would I be doing? Would I be stabbing people randomly? I don’t know. I don’t know because I found something where I can have some release.  I can live vicariously through that. As far as these shootings, maybe it’s the convenience of having a gun, it’s easy.

MB: In China they use boxcutters a lot.

FR: There’s no other insight other than that. I’m only speaking for myself. You know Zaccheus Jackson? He was a junkie, he was in jail, but he found poetry; it saved him. Now he’s doing all these things…he’s doing poetry workshops, he’s clean. If that guy had this thing, this art, this thing that he could do, an outlet…that might be a simplistic thing…maybe these people have other problems that will not be solved by…

MB: It’s happening more and more…

FR: A lot of it is just the convenience of having a gun. A guy shoots his wife. They’re arguing over a TV…what to watch on TV…if he didn’t have a gun in the house, maybe they’d yell at each other. Maybe he hits her. But she’d still be alive.

MB: It is the age of convenience. I was thinking, do you wanna try a ‘versus’ with me right now, to promote your show?

FR: Sure.

MB: I’ll read a poem. I’ve got all your books here–you just grab one and read it back.

FR: Okay.

MB: II’ve already got one picked out. This is called, ‘A Zen Meditational Lowku’…I made up a new form…

            We all live inside one of God’s testicles

            Some people who die become sperm

            Impregnating a star

            Others die

            And just get prematurely

            Jacked off

            Into Infinity

FR: Okay…I’ve got a poem, but it’s not in these books…it’s:

            Maybe God doesn’t exist

            But I know for sure miracles do

            Just look at yourself

            You were once an egg

            You were once a sperm

            You beat out over a billion others to be here

            Don’t tell me you can’t swim

MB: Very nice! All right, what’s the last word?

FR: Come to my show!