For The Love Of Reading
How does an honest day’s work go for an author, singer-songwriter, photographer, and award-winning poet like Nathan Brown?
When I first wake up, I have a strict regimen that involves hand-pouring coffee, toasting a piece of bread, lighting a candle on the writing table in our library, and getting to it, for however long it takes to feel finished for that day. Unless I’m on the road, which has its own set of writing rituals, that will happen every day. No exceptions. Not even for holidays.
Afternoons are reserved for editing and, sadly, marketing, bookings, and self-promotion, which causes me a physical pain.
Is it easier or harder for creative people to find remedies to overcome cynicism? What are some of selections that have proven effective for you?
I believe the artist’s job, in large part, is to intently and relentlessly observe the world, and then respond to that in some way. Cynicism, at least to me, is an unavoidable, albeit terrible, byproduct. I fight it every day in my work. And I find my wife, daughter, animals, and the earth to be the remedies. They remind me that cynicism is a dangerous luxury. It requires little energy or effort—the easy way out. Therefore, the artist who rises above it, as often as possible, is bringing much more of the good stuff to their creations. If nothing else, by having to work harder.
Photo credit: Russell
Why is poetry and literature important even to those who are too busy, too important, too uninterested in the arts?
I’ve always told my students, “Read books. You’ll be more interesting at parties.” This will sound presumptuous, but when I’m out in the world—at readings, conferences, concerts, cocktail receptions, etc.—I can spot the people who do not read. The ones whose only recent encounter with the arts is to have watched Game of Thrones from beginning to end. Religiously. They have one story, and one joke, and they repeat them. Yawn. (There are other reasons too. But this one is my favorite.)
How do you feel about today’s reality vis-a-vis your work schedule and collaborations?
I believe that a huge part of the current decay in society, decency, and any sense of brother or sisterhood is a direct result of our spiraling down into intentional, if not prideful, ignorance by way of focusing on, among other problems, the three to five-inch screens that we hold in front of our faces all the time. That focus is a very small one. And our brains are shrinking to match it.
That’s why I make a deliberate effort to spend at least one hour—but usually more like two to four hours—a day outdoors.
Would you like to share with us one of your unpublished poems for our ongoing campaign #ForTheLoveOfPoetry?
* * *
The Ides of March Are Upon Us
The Ides of March are upon us,
so the live oak leaves have finally
started to fall here in South Texas.
They hang on to their dried up ideas
long and hard, as any good Texan.
Then, when new life and growth
leave them absolutely no choice,
they let go in a grumpy resentment,
dropping to the ground like hailstones.
The world needs Texans like theater
needs its critics—or like any decent
construction site needs jackhammers.
They’re the Sound and the Chevy, the Ford
and the Fury, of the world’s great stage.
* * *
One of your book’s is titled I Shouldn’t Say. What shouldn’t you say as often as you but can’t help yourself?
I’m a world-class cusser. I love colorful, foul language. But I believe it too is the easy way out in communicating and storytelling. So I should do less of it.
Where do you go to shake off deceptive ideas of reality and look for something new?
The road. Driving really helps me. But I also have an extra lot by my house where I’ve been doing a form of Irish dry-stacking for years now. It’s a type of stone-stacking that uses no concrete or mortar. It takes an incredible amount of time and patience. But I now have a very extensive complex of fire pits and a “spirit garden” of two to six-foot stonewalls that has become a bit of a tourist attraction in our town. For better or worse.
Who are the perfect match for your definition of a well-lived life?
Those who go the extra 1,000 miles it takes to discover what they were meant to do… what their soul was built for… and then do it. No matter the cost. No matter the loss.
Can you share with us the titles of one or two or three songs and poems you listen to and read to be carried away to a better place?
Any book by Stephen Dunn. My favorite poet writing in the English language today. And the main theme song to the soundtrack of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
And your thoughts on #WhatMatters?
To bring poetry back to the people… to all people… the wider audience of those who are dying for what poetry has to offer but do not understand a single line, let alone stanza, of the arcane academics or the acolytes in desperate search of the big prizes who write to impress the judges (who are, for the most part, unimpressible). I write a poem every day. I publish at least one book a year. And I travel and tour full-time now in order to spread this word to that wider audience.
For more, you can visit Nathan's website here