First Cut: Interview with Roy Christopher

The seventh book in the First Cut Poetry series, Abandoned Accounts: Poems 2020 – 2021 by Roy Christopher, was released one year ago. To celebrate, I’ve had a chat with Roy about his fantastic poetry collection, what he’s been up to since Abandoned Accounts was released, and his future literary plans.

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HLR: Tell us all about Abandoned Accounts.

RC: Well, I’ve been writing poetry since before I could write. I would shout them out in alliterative, repetitive, rhyming couplets, and my mom would take dictation. Once I started writing, I wrote poems, short stories, comic books, fake newspapers.

In high school, I took to making zines publicly and writing poems privately. Everyone I looked up to was a poet of some fashion. From the smart sense of Danny Elfman and David Byrne to the gothic verse of Robert Smith and Andrew Eldritch, from the street knowledge of Ice-T and KRS-One to the hardcore chants of Kevin Seconds and Ian MacKaye, poetry was the process, the worded frame for the world. So, I started writing my own again, stilted little stanzas of teen longing and angst, mostly designed to make me seem deep to my friends and interesting to girls.

When the COVID lockdown started, I found it difficult to focus on the larger projects I had in progress. In the months before, I’d started writing silly little poems about odd memories I had, tiny stories that didn’t fit anywhere else. I went back to those when I couldn’t think any larger. I eventually moved on to short stories and finally back to book-length writing, but not before I amassed a small collection of fitful, misfit verse.

Abandoned Accounts has those silly memories I started writing down, including reflections of walks in the woods at my parents’ house in the hinterlands of southeast Alabama, encounters with favorite bands and somewhat famous people, tales of travel and intrigue, and a few stray poems from as far back as 1990.

HLR: Can you sum up the main themes in your collection in 10 words or less?

RC: Lessons learned and unlearned in love, life, and travel.

HLR: What are your favourite poems in the collection, and why?

RC: I probably think about ‘Exhausted Explorers’, ‘Outcast Outpost’ and ‘Virga’ the most. The first two because they conjure up so many images with so few words, and the other because I worked so hard on the rhyme pattern and recurring refrain.

Exhausted Explorers

The grass has grown up around us

Blade by blade by blade
Like weeds or leads or leaves on trees
Cutting us low
We fight to translate this light
Filtered through the clouds
And the fog of talk

A choked sense of sense

With the luck of thieves
And the arrogance of innocents
We are exhausted explorers

Of a world spent spinning

 

© Roy Christopher / Abandoned Accounts (2021)

 

HLR: What are your writing habits like?

RC: I try to have a set schedule. I tend to get up early, make coffee, and get right to work. Writing is so many things. At some point it’s just you and the page, but there are so many other aspects to the work: reading, research, writing, editing, rewriting… What I do on any particular day depends on where I am in the process, but I try everything: outlining, mind-mapping, lists, diagrams, drawings… There are lots of activities that feel like procrastination but that are also helpful to the process. I work in notebooks and on whiteboards almost as much as I do computers.

Music is a constant part of the work. Whether it’s the subject matter, the inspiration, the soundtrack, or just background sounds, music is always on. I prefer a consistent vibe when I’m writing, whether it’s Mica Levi or Cliff Martinez, billy woods or dälek, Godflesh or Deafheaven.

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HLR: Name 3 books: 1 book from your childhood, 1 you’re currently reading, and 1 you’re looking forward to reading.

RC: I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (Ariel, 1962) in the 6th grade – way, way before I was a “reader” – and it has been a bigger influence than I could’ve imagined (my recent novella, Fender the Fallis a time-travel love story).

I’m currently halfway through Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plain (Knopf, 1998), the third book of his Border Trilogy.

I’m looking forward to reading my friend Scott Nicolay’s new short-story collection, And at My Back I Always Hear (Word Horde). His stuff is amazing.

HLR: What’s one poem you wish you’d written?

4399414RC: ‘Various Kinds of Fire‘ by Nate Pritts. It’s from his book, Honorary Astronaut, which brought me back to poetry in a big way when I found it. I drew the spaceman on the cover of Abandoned Accounts as an homage to Nate’s book.

HLR: What are your future writing plans?

RC: I published three books last year, I have three more books coming out this year, and I have three more in various stages of research and writing.

Last year, in addition to Abandoned Accounts and Fender the Fall (Alien Buddha Press), Follow for Now, Vol. 2: More Interview with Friends and Heroes (Punctum Books) came out.

The forthcoming titles this year include the non-fiction Escape Philosophy: Journeys Beyond the Human Body (Punctum Books); the edited essay collection Boogie Down Predictions: Hip-Hop, Time and Afrofuturism (Strange Attractor Press), and my short story collection Different Waves, Different Depths (Uncle B. Publications).

I’m currently finishing up my media-theory book, The Medium Picture for Zer0 Books, researching and writing a book about media allusions called The Grand Allusion, and taking notes for a novel called Hope for Boats (there’s a prologue here: http://malarkeybooks.com/free-samples/hope-for-boats-a-prologue-by-roy-christopher.

I’m just getting started.

*
About the Poet

I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan. I’m an aging BMX and skateboarding zine kid. That’s where I learned to turn events and interviews into pages with staples. I have since written about music, media, and culture for everything from books and blogs to national magazines and academic journals. I hold a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. As a child, I solved the Rubik’s Cube competitively. My website is http://roychristopher.com.

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