An Interview with Charlie Brice
Recently, as part of the Wellspring Literary series, poet Charlie Brice visited Mt. Pleasant and gave a reading. He is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos, and his poems have appeared in numerous publications. Keep an eye out for his upcoming book, Mnemosyne’s Hand. Amanda Larson had the opportunity to correspond with Brice regarding his work and experience with publishing:
Amanda: What inspires you to write?
Charlie: When I was in college, in those antediluvian days when dinosaurs still roamed the land, I had an English professor who, while not a particularly good teacher, taught us that, “anything can be a poem—anything.” His name was Bernie Beaver, and I think about what he taught us almost every day. Life is my inspiration and death as well. I very rarely can’t write a poem. I’m lucky that way. Recently, a friend challenged me to write a poem-a-day for 29 days. My logorrhea kicked in and I wrote 30 poems in 29 days. She sent along a prompt a day, but I only used three of them. So…everything inspires me. I love writing, revising, and editing my work. Also, reading other poets is a tremendous inspiration. My wife, Judy, also a poet, thinks that the sign of a really good poet is that her or his work inspires us to write ourselves. Recently I read books by Theodore Roethke and W. S. Merwin. I could hardly get through a poem without beginning a poem of my own.
Amanda: What is your writing process like? Has it evolved over time?
Charlie: I write every day or deal with my writing every day. If I don’t write a new poem, I edit old ones. Most importantly, I submit something every day. Submitting my poems is part of my writing day. Usually I begin my writing process by reading poetry in the morning. For me, reading other poets is an essential part of my writing process. In the afternoon I go up to my study and either write, revise, edit, and/or submit. Most of my poems are begun in my journal, which I also write in every day. I put them on the computer later. This works for me. I know plenty of wonderful poets who only write when the muse hits them and I think that’s fine. This is the routine that works for me. If other people have different writing schedules, I think that’s great too.
Amanda: Are there any themes or images that you find yourself returning to throughout your poetry? How do you feel these work within the poems?
Charlie: This reminds me of a wonderful conversation I once had with Jim Harrison. He said the themes that kept reappearing in his poems were bears, bars, food, drink, and bears! He had a terrific sense of humor. For me death, love for my wife, baseball, nuns, my disdain for religion, antiwar and progressive themes keep reappearing. I’m a narrative poet so I like to tell stories. In terms of how they work in my poetry: they seem to frame many of my poems. Also, I personally feel an obligation, as an artist, to speak up about the incredible problems the Trump administration has presented our country with. I really feel that to remain silent is to be complicit. Recently I’ve become obsessed with what I consider open season by the police on African Americans in our country.
Amanda: Could you talk about your experiences with publishing and how that process has worked for you?
Charlie: I do something with my poetry every day. If I don’t actually write or revise a poem, I submit them. I submit something almost every day. As a result, I’ve published over 80 poems in sixty venues in the last ten years or so. I love to see my work in print and I’ve been very successful in that regard. However, I certainly respect those who don’t submit their work. I’m not making a moral statement here, just letting you know that I really enjoy submitting my work. I never take rejection personally. It’s part of the process of being a writer. Obviously, I’ve had many more rejections than I’ve had acceptances. But those acceptances are sweet!
Amanda: What advice would you give to authors who are just beginning the process of submitting their work?
Charlie: First, good for you! Submit away. You will get many rejections. Don’t let that get you down. If a packet of poems gets rejected by a ton of journals, see it as an opportunity to use your revision and editing skills. Don’t ever take rejection personally, it will just depress you. Also, keep meticulous records of what poems you submit and where. Carefully follow the instructions of the journal as to how they want to receive submissions and what kind of poems they’re looking for. If a journal doesn’t want simultaneous submissions, either don’t submit to them (which is what I do), or make sure that you only submit to that journal. If you don’t, you will find out very quickly what a small world the poetry publishing business is! The editors will be plenty pissed and they talk to each other. Also, when you get a poem accepted, make sure to let the other journals that you’ve sent poems to know right away. Nothing angers an editor more than discovering they’ve spent hours deciding to accept your poem only to discover it’s been in print for a month. As I’ve said above, make submitting part of your writing day. Make it a routine and I think you will be pleased with the results. Also, don’t get intimidated: send to the big journals as well as the little ones. As the old blues song goes, “You can’t catch fish if you ain’t got no bait.”
Also, use Facebook, twitter, email chains, and whatever to fully market your work. Poets seem to have a difficult time with this, but no one will read your poems unless you let them know where they’ve been published. Marketing your work is a positive thing; it means you are proud of yourself and your work and that you have a healthy self-esteem. By the way, my book, Flashcuts Out of Chaos, is available on Amazon and at many bookstores in Pittsburgh (I’ll also sell it directly, for $15 plus $3.00 shipping. Email me at Charlie.brice(at)gmail.com). Watch out for my new collection, Mnemosyne’s Hand, which will be available from WordTech in May, 2018!