Interview - Danny Baker


 Danny Baker - 100 Thousand Poets for Change 2012 - Photo courtesy of Apryl Skies © 2012



 

DANNY BAKER

1. Who are your favorite writers and how have they influenced your writing?


Most of my favorite writers are actually novelists and philosophers.  What they all share is
a poetic quality in their work.  A. Razor, of Punk Hostage Press, who along with Iris Berry
published my first book, Fractured,  once expressed that point to me- that whether or not
they've ever published 'verse' as such, the best authors are always poetic.  I'm taken by so
many, it's so difficult to catalogue, however among them are Hesse, Dostoyevsky, Miller,
Burgess, Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs, Heinlein, Carroll, Vonnegut, Camus, Hartenbach,
David Foster Wallace, et al.  


As I've been given the luxury of time, I've become a carnivorous book eater- still there's
never enough time in the day.  It would take page after page to name all those who've
influenced me, each in their own way- often it's not but a visceral response; something
subconscious that I'm unable to express in linear terms. Many have simply blown me away
with their streams of consciousness, near and dear as that's where most of my current work
is centered.  Often it's more easily to expound upon in concrete form as with Hesse, for
example- yet within his structure are some magnificent streams of imagery with a big story
to tell. Dostoyevsky's plots, philosophical exploration and dialogue resonate deeply with me.
Some have immense vocabularies- another interesting point for me is often my writing finds
itself questioning definitions of words; searching for their true meaning or even my own
contemplation thereof.  Clearly, I can take that to an extreme, though I rather enjoy it, so
instead of shy away, I prefer to expand my lexicon and love playing word games when they
fit organically (trite, I know).  I don't think I've come across a stronger linguistic force than
David Foster Wallace.  


Mark Hartenbach, like no other however, stands alone as the single most influential of all via
his extensive (understatement of the century) library and through a massive collaborative
venture upon which we embarked early last year.  It opened my eyes to a world without rule
nor boundary.  I'm not one inclined towards authority nor contrived 'tradition'.  Marko
opened the floodgates to a limitless universe.


I'm a hefty cab fare from the first to express this, but I think the best writing is a
manifestation of the sum total of all one experiences and all one absorbs through life itself.  
Literature is quite prominent in my existence and thus happily worms its way into that which
I lay down. I'm missing many, but as we've only so many sands left in the collective
hourglass, I think I'll leave it there with sincere apologies to the living and deceased I failed
to mention here.


2. What are your goals as a writer?


I guess I just need to write.  The voices and bats are constantly warring.  I am their food.  I
give them the ammo.  More than anything, I just try to keep them in balance.  Equilibrium,
in my opinion, is the key to all science whether physical, natural or human.  I don't attempt
to kill the demons.  I don't try to nurture the angels.  Writing is my way to keep their
numbers in line though it's a continuing process so it's never done.  I like to think I've found
my 'voice' but expounding upon it is something of a 'goal' for lack of a better term.  It's also
maddening to the point of near insanity as while I have but one keyboard, I find myself
constantly questioning the next step- whatever that means.  It comes naturally though leaves
my wondering- such the artistic quality that began with the beginning of time.


In regard to 'goals', I just want it to come to me.  When I enjoy a piece, it's almost invariably
something that took few minutes and even less intellectual contemplation.  I do find great
pleasure in horsing around with odd word pairings, sometimes self negating.  Non sequiturs
and 'book-ended' tracks are important to me, but again, the joy of them comes upon reading
them after the fact. If I 'try', I fail.  If I judge myself, while writing, I fail.  If I write to
connect with others, I fail.  I write for me.


3. What do you feel you still need to learn as a poet? What is the most
valuable thing you have learned thus far?


It seems to connect with the previous question.  They're inseparable it seems to me.  The
most valuable thing I've learned is just to write; to have no boundaries.  Finding that spot in
practicing my 'trade', whereby the Muse comes to me contrary to chasing her is probably
the single most important thing that I've come across.  What I need to learn, is less academic
- more of the same- just to refrain from judging myself as I put pen to paper and never
ceasing to simply scribble it as it comes.  Structure is less important to me than just about
anything in any endeavor I undertake in whatever medium, artistic and otherwise.  


Perhaps if there is one thing upon which I struggle, again repetition of the above, is
synthesizing styles within individual pieces, but controlling that is a brutal exercise that just
has to come.  I feel I get into a flow of what seems to be my 'voice', only to find that it
never stops progressing and accepting that while honing my craft is that constant struggle-
learning to deal with my own growth (or regression) is certainly my hardest task.


4. Looking back on your previous work, would you say that the poetry you
have created still holds true to you?


Like anybody who's put brush to canvas, I often don't necessarily 'like' previous work.  Sure
it's cliché, but cliché is so for a reason.  I'd hope that it holds true in honesty; a place in time,
neither good nor bad, just real.  I think that much, at least, I've accomplished.


5. How many books do you have you published and how can we get copies?


I have two books out, including Fractured and my just released, Death In The Key Of Life.
Signed & unsigned copies can be obtained by hitting my website, dannybakerwriter.com
Additionally, I've been graciously included in various chaps and anthologies.  If I remember
correctly, I might have been in a journal put together by one Apryl Skies.  I have a few
copies (hit me on contact the author section of the website) or hit up Apryl- I hear she's
pretty cool.  After all, she let me slip in with a number of excellent writers.  I guess the
sentries weren't at their posts at the time.


6. If you could sit down for coffee with any poet living or deceased to pick
their brain who would it be?


I'd probably choose Ginsberg for the sole purpose of slamming his support of NAMBLA
and discovering why it is that any poem- any art, can absolve- at least in the zeitgeist, the
advocating of pedophilia.  I find it mind boggling that so many excuse simply anything in
separation of art and artist whereas the same would implore the execution of the entire class
of pederasts possessing non-poetic voices.  His words may be (and likely are) some of the
greatest, most influential of all time, but in my eyes, there are limits.  Charlie Manson has a
lot to say, some of which might be quite poetic in some minds (mine included, actually)-
how many are willing to ignore the horror of his actions, nevertheless?  How is Celine and
his explicit, virulent support of 'The Final Solution' any different?  Kerouac dug him.  It
doesn't matter to me.  There is plenty to read out there- so why should I bother with
someone who'd advocate my stroll into a final shower? I don't feel the need to sit down with
many though having a drink with Buk might have been nice or perhaps a visit with Scott
Wannberg just because he was Scott Wannberg.  Oh, and Bob Dylan for sure.  Enough said
about either- if you need to ask why, don't bother...


7. What do you want your readers to know about you that they may not already
know?


If I wanted an audience all to easily grasp everything, I'd not veil, subconsciously or
otherwise, my life within a sometimes surreal set of abstractions.The mind moves in many
places at once, it's all there if one pays attention and sometimes it's quite manifest and not
entirely notional.  As S.A. Griffin would say, it should all reveal itself in the poem.  Hopefully
there's enough open space within the density of some of what I write to allow for individual
interpretation. I'm open for questioning, I just don't particularly care if I'm ever asked nor of
the mortified reaction to my responses if I chose to give them.


8. Your poetry has a lot of musicality, what are some of your biggest musical
influences?


My musical influences are vast.  From the punk of my youth and recreation thereof in the
likes of the Seattle scene to guilty pleasures (I refuse to name- but they likely were rolling in
the credits of 80's teen flicks or containing some synthesizers- don't tell anyone, please).  I
dig old country, blues, rock, folk.  I think the musicality you refer to however, is the jazz. I
never quite understood it as I was raised on easy resolution.  The blues always give away the
next chord or note.  Most of the rock with which we're familiar is the same.  Jazz requires a
longer attention span.  It takes one from what can be a beautiful melody to off the charts, up
and down the scales, and generally resolves itself- bookends again, if you will.  It's unbound,
uncuffed yet finds home eventually.  I rarely listen to it when not writing however think if
there's one genre, it most closely runs parallel with what I hope my work accomplishes.  
Maybe a ton of Coltrane and Monk with undertones of X, The Adolescents, Angry Samoans
and lots of Dylan and Waits.  While writing though, it's almost always the jazz in form and a
mixture of all in sensibility.  Or at least I hope so.


9. If you were an animal aside from human what would you be?


A bear.  Grizzly & teddy.


10.What advice do you have for other writers and writers who may be
struggling or just starting out?


I don't know if I'm qualified to answer that, but keeping it simple, I'd just say two things.  
First, just write for yourself.  It's nice to have immediate gratification of a friendly crowd,
but eventually  you begin to write for them, rather than yourself and there goes the art and
purpose- expression of the joys and pains of existence or perpetual atavistic torture; or even
art for the sake of art which is good as any other reason to create.  Secondly, as Iris said to
me years ago- just write. Forget about publishing.  Forget about 'getting it out there', just
write and if you're doing your part, the rest will come in time.