First Cut: Interview with Scott Cumming

book10The tenth book in the First Cut Poetry series, A Chapbook About Nothing by Scott Cumming, was released one year ago. To celebrate his book birthday, I’ve had a chat with the lovely Scott about his fantastic debut poetry collection, the books that accompany him through his literary life, and his future writing plans…

HLR: Scott, tell us all about A Chapbook About Nothing!

SC: It came together quickly with the poems written between December 2020 and April 2021 and marked my first foray into properly writing poetry, if you don’t want to count the teenage years I spent writing lyrics for bands that didn’t exist.

The title comes from the fact my book didn’t really have a theme and my love of television’s Seinfeld. I thought it spoke to the irreverence of some of the contents really well and maybe spoke to how I don’t have many illusions or pretensions, but that might not be for me to judge.

HLR: Can you sum up the main themes in your collection in 15 words or less?

SC: Poking at the darkness and laughing at the superficiality of things together.

HLR: What is your favourite poem in the collection and why?

SC: ‘A Universal Truth’ is my favourite because my fiance hates it and I got pulled on stage by a stand up comedian at a music festival and this was the poem that came to mind to read at the time, so it’s associated with a fun, bizarre memory.

A Universal Truth 

It is a universal

and unspoken truth

that most of us

have slept in

cum

at one time

or another.

© Scott Cumming / A Chapbook About Nothing (2021)

HLR: ‘A Universal Truth’ lives in my head rent-free – it’s so very fucking true. What are your writing habits like? Do you have a routine of some sort?

SC: Yeah, one of the most prevalent bits of writing advice appears to be to have a routine, but I imagine these writers don’t have small school aged children and on top of that then decide to add a puppy to the mix. That’s all to say I don’t have a writing routine at all.

I do prefer to jot things down and work on them in my notebook from there and it often makes it easier to combine a few things together that way.

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

SC: My fondest book from childhood is Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, who just had a way of being fun with disgusting things and ideas. Unlike most aspiring authors, I didn’t really read through my teens and avoided the likes of King and Harris based on what an English teacher said about them not being allowed for studying in book reports. I was 17 before I really got into reading again with High Fidelity and American Psycho really kickstarting things for me.

Currently I am reading the autobiography of Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, which is proving illuminating in terms of dealing with anxiety leading from creation and how to try and sell these things, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.

I’m looking forward to countless books, but the one at the top of my wish list is Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez. It is her debut novel following on from a couple of excellent short story collections dealing with folklore and supernatural tales in her native Argentina, which are written in that smooth, easy style that is so hard to perfect.

Screenshot 2022-12-30 at 12.50.55

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

SC: I’m not someone to wish I’d produced something, but my favourite poem without a shadow of a doubt is ‘An Ode to The Japanese Marilyn Monroe’ by Stephen J. Golds from his First Cut collection Poems for Ghosts.

I didn’t read poetry until Steve started putting together the 4.4 series at Close to the Bone followed in short order by the First Cut series, so it means a lot to have been part of it given I was inspired by it so much in the first place.

I’d probably put almost any poem by C.W. Blackwell into this category too because of his pure noir voice.

HLR: ‘An Ode to The Japanese Marilyn Monroe’ is my favourite from Poems for Ghosts, too. And C.W. Blackwell is the epitome of cool.

You released a Weezer-inspired poetry collecton the blue chapbook with Championship Press earlier this year, which I thoroughly enjoyed. What’s next for Scott Cumming? What are your future writing plans?

Screenshot 2022-12-30 at 12.59.42

SC: Having had the benefit of some professional advice as part of Book Week Scotland, I am on the verge of starting over on a novel for the third time, but without a routine it is difficult to muster the constant energy required.

I’m at a point where I keep doing this for fun or look to progress with it and have somewhat stalled of late, only submitting sporadically to certain submission calls that stand out to me.

There was a band called Pop Will Eat Itself back in the 90s and I think just now that indie lit is on the verge of eating itself with a raft of strong opinions (are there any other kind now?) about it being all about vanity and gladhanding each other.

I don’t see it as being any different to indie music or indie filmmaking, but the simple fact is that indie publishing doesn’t have the reach or the opportunity to reach beyond itself. Even those rare indie hits barely make a scratch on the surface of the publishing world at large, but some of the best books I have read over the last few years have emanated from it.

Modernist Dreams Brutalist Nightmares by LG Thomson is not the type of book I would ever think of reading had it not come from Outcast Press and it has turned out to be one of my actual favourites of the year.

I think I’m still content to have fun with things, but in some ways the fun is being sucked out of the scene as the old art vs commerce debate rages on. Hopefully I’ll have more work on the horizon whether through publishers or just via my own vanity soon!

About the Poet

Scott Cumming unsuspectingly went to see Garden State wearing his Shins tee. He has been published at The Daily Drunk, Punk Noir Magazine, Versification, Mystery Tribune and Shotgun Honey. His poem, “Blood on Snow”, was voted the best of Outcast Press Poetry Things We Carry issue and nominated for a Pushcart. He is the author of A Chapbook About Nothing (Close to the Bone) and The Blue Chapbook (Championship Press). Twitter: @tummidge Website: https://scottcummingwriter.wordpress.com

 

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Follow Scott Cumming on Twitter: @tummidge
Follow HLR on Twitter: @HLRwriter
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