We have recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremiah Walton, a poet travelling the United States with the goal of broadening the poetic community. Below are three of his poems, followed by a discussion about his writing, travelling, and upcoming projects. His poetry takes an activist slant, putting the stark reality of the world we live in at the forefront of his writing. The language is sharp and direct, and the use of imagery creates a visual of contrast and tension, cutting the reader open and bleeding them dry.
What’s In Your Wallet?
When will America be discovered?
Why is its wallet full of hung men and school shootings?
Why is the atom bomb used like a fake credit card?
Who stole your I.D.?
It wasn’t foreigners or homosexuals
but they’re the ones handed cuffs
among other ants
under a magnifying glass.
Should Santa be black
or a penguin?
I’d rather him be a Walmart
because that’s what Christmas is all about.
I have no understanding
of how even with so many stars
I can find life so boring.
Starve me of sunlight
So I may be moon,
a night light
refusing to cure any nightmares.
I’m no longer a dreamer
has been rolled into a scroll
This is not me complaining
This is not me observing,
Get Me Outta Here
I am no exception to blood
I haven’t found anyone who is
Where are those mad to live?
I am being spoon fed the Eaters’ leftovers
Night is prison-poking holes in my throat
Snags clog the openings
with sound of Machinery.
Moonlight no longer comes in
Uvula burns out
A daisy’s lips are bruised by two lovers prying their faces together
I stabbed Gatsby to illustrate hopelessness, how hopeful!
Our poetic community is Chinese finger trap
Our intellectuals dissected
creatives are bees too
Frogs of the classroom
become flies of the world.
Our culture is composed of drunk 7 year olds given wrench and glue
Art is reverse aging, till miscarriage
stumbles in the room and kisses us,
the orphans of stars.
This matter of opinion is broken.
the decay of culture is just change,
a collective sneeze.
Egos are Tieneman’s tanks
Buddhists trying to teach Buddha
The middle line is squiggly.
The American Dream is a cop story where the cop shot two black kids in spite,
and got away with it
I dug wounds hungry to be wounded and shoveled disgust in them
I wasn’t careful with my shovel,
or my dick.
This poem is venereal,
filthy, abandoned pregnant on a street corner.
This is another piece of art
that should be burned.
What sparked your interest in writing?
I don’t remember what sparked my interest in writing initially.
My sophomore year of high school is when I started pushing myself with poetry, trying to build up a readership, and jam myself into the publishing community.
Tell us a bit about when you decided to take your writing to the road.
I was nervous as hell, but just went with it. I needed to start participating in new communities and meeting new faces to scream poetry at. It’s been a real kick in the balls.
You’re quite involved in the writing scene, managing and editing for several publishers. What are some of the challenges you face with handling these projects while travelling?
Libraries are my best friend. I’m probably staying where I’m at for a little bit to financially recuperate, get my license, and focus on the aspects of publishing that are difficult on the road. There’s some good jazz coming out of Erie right now, and I’m stoked to be a part of it.
What’s the hardest part about being a travelling poet?
I don’t think being a poet makes anything more difficult. It comes down to the person traveling, and the methods of traveling. The biggest bitch out of all of this is the amount of spite people harbor for the homeless.
After reading some of your writing, there is a clear activist edge to your work. What motivates you to write on the subjects you do?
I don’t plan anything. Most of the books I put together are haphazard, and only take a couple hours. I don’t work much with drafts.
I just write about what’s in front of me. People are interesting, I think we’re all amazing writing prompts. Conversation is what I wanted to write for a long time, but now I’m enjoying provoking emotion through imagery. A poem is only as good as the feeling it produces within its readers and writer.
I just write.
After reading ‘What’s In Your Wallet?’, I instantly thought: Ginsberg and Vonnegut. Who (and what) are some of your other influences that you feel have made a large impact on your work?
The submissions I receive to my publishing projects have been huge influences. That, and aimlessly running around with friends looking for adventure. I used to hang out by the tracks, build forts in the woods, and run around all over the place. Graffiti and street art were big parts of my childhood.
All of these were bigger influences than more notorious writers like Ginsberg and Vonnegut, though they did play a big part intitially, along with Anthony Burgess, D.A. Levy, Tao Lin, and Carlos Williams (a slam poet responsible for the amazing piece Wet Paint, not WCW).
You have a chapbook coming out entitled Witch-hunting Gatsby’s Children. First off: wicked title. What drew you to this image/idea?
The Gatsby theme happened with Gatsby’s Abandoned Children, and has stuck with me since. I like the malleability of it.
What kind of work can we expect in this new chapbook?
I have an upcoming chap I’m throwing together for fun called The Smell of St. Joan’s Flesh Burning. I’m more excited about this collection. I’ve tried to make the chapbook itself into a poem, annotated it, and experimented with my imagery and writing.
Witch-hunting has similar annotations and literary graffiti throughout. It’s a stepping stone, or a stone kissing a pond, something like that.
What are the next steps in your adventure as a writer?
I’m trying to figure that out. I have absolutely no idea. I’m starting to make video poems, but right now, I’m exhausted. Poetry has exhausted me. I need to get some sleep and find something else to do, because all I’ve been doing is poetry, and that’s really taking a lot of the joy out of it. I’m thinking of hitting the spray cans again or learning to dance, maybe an instrument, or work on my prose, after Nostrovia! Poetry launches. I’m starting to condense. My mouth is full, and I have some chewing to do.
Jeremiah Walton graduated High School the spring of 2013, and hit the road hitchhiking the following Fall. He manages Nostrovia! Poetry, W.I.S.H. Publishing, The Traveling Poet, and works as an editor for UndergroundBooks. You can obtain a free advance copy of his upcoming chapbook Witch-hunting Gatsby’s Children here, and can check out his blog here.