Poet Rick Lupert talks poetry, coffee, and pop culture.
Your new book – Making Love to the 50 Ft. Woman: Poems 1998-2015 – covers a lot of ground! Tell us about the collection.
Most of the books I’ve written over the last 17 years have been collections of travel poetry limited to the experience of being on a particular trip. Although those are awesome books, in a way it was sort of cheating to put out those collections limited to those trips, ignoring everything I had written the rest of the year. My last “true” collection of poems written over time was 1997’s I Am My Own Orange County. But lo and behold (yes both “lo” and “behold”) I didn’t stop writing poetry in 1997. This particular collection, Making Love to the 50 Foot Woman, sees me getting off my lazy author ass and assembling the first collection of poems that I’ve been sharing with audiences at readings all over LA and the world really since 1997. When choosing poems to go in the book, I used as a starting point all of the poems which were selected by other people to appear in various literary journals in print and online over the last 17 years. Then I decided to be my own editor (it’s kind of like being your own Orange County, except the pay isn’t as good…) and choose other poems to include in the new book which have received good reactions from audiences. I’m pretty sure there were a few poems in the book which received good reactions from no-one, but since I was in charge…well there you have it.
You do a great deal of performing, which fan favorites poems are included in the collection?
Actually the way that the poems appear in the book is based around set lists that I’ve used at readings in the past. Although there aren’t identifiable sections there are probably 3 or 4 reading sets contained within. Frequently after readings, people would come up to me, see my books laid out on the table and ask which one does a particular poem that I had read appear in. Since, as I’d previously mentioned, I’ve been lazy and have not put together a collection of poetry since 1997, I had to break the news to them that it didn’t appear in any book yet. Maybe a few rise to the top as “fan favorites” that I’ve been reading for years, such as the title poems and maybe “Cliches Gone Bad” and “How to Kiss.”
What poets do you continually go back to?
Mainly the ones that owe me money. But also in terms of actually reading their poetry, I can’t get enough of Brendan Constantine. I love Hal Sirowitz’s work and feel it’s such a treat when new poems come from him. Jeffrey McDaniel has always been one of my favorite poets and when he puts out a new book I buy it as quick as Amazon will let me. My favorite poet of all time is Richard Brautigan. And I think it’s so cool when new poets that maybe no one has heard of send me something to read for Poetry Super Highway, or I see someone at an open reading somewhere read a poem that just blows me away. There’s so much poetic richness, out there amongst people who have yet to be discovered.
How does pop culture impact your work?
Elizabeth Iannaci told me, and describing my work, that I basically just document my life. Pop culture is as much a part of my life as it is anyone else’s so, when something interesting, unique, or strange happens, or at least it appears that way to me, it’s bound to show up in a poem. I tend to focus more on humor, rather than the pain and suffering in the world, so pop culture is perfect fodder for all of that. Probably my poems which have received the most attention are the ones I’ve written to people who’ve passed on, my poems for Robin Williams, and Pete Seger for example. Those tend to resonate deeply with people who read them or see me read them. I guess what’s cool about pop-culture is that it’s shared by everyone, so if you can key in on those elements in your poetry then you achieve a certain baseline universality. I’m certainly not obsessed with it, and most of my poetry does not deal with elements or individuals in pop culture, but I’m certainly not against it.
Do you have any favorite topics you go back to?
Been writing a lot of poems about potatoes lately. I love potatoes. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing. You may have to read the book and determine what the common themes are. There certainly are a lot of poems for Brendan Constantine. My wife often tells me she wishes I would write as many love poems for her as I do for him. In my defense I think she’s well represented in the book as is my son, and did I mention potatoes? Now that I think about it maybe there aren’t any poems about potatoes in this book, I think I’m saving those for a future Jewish themed poetry collection. Forget I mentioned potatoes. (Please send potatoes.)
Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I am on Facebook! I am on Twitter! I’m on other things too! Like this chair, I don’t think it’s a social network but man it’s comfy! Facebook in particular has been particularly awesome in that it’s given me direct access to people who enjoy my writing. It’s usually the first place I’ll post something new, or a segment of something new, whether it’s a piece of a new poem, a funny thought (hopefully funny…), or a video of a poem. It’s amazing as a writer to be able to get the instantaneous feedback that comes with social media.
What are you reading right now?
Most of what I read on a daily basis is the volume of poetry that gets submitted to me for weekly Poet of the Week consideration on Poetry Super Highway. The book is a few years old at this point, I’m slowly reading through the fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Also, on my desk right now is a book called Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants. It seems important.
Last question, what’s next for Rick Lupert?
I’m going to finish this cup of coffee. That’s the immediate thing. I’m going to put out a book of travel poetry I wrote last summer in the north-east called Professor Clown on Parade. I’m going to probably write another book of travel poetry this summer in Ireland. I’m going to put out a book of Jewish seemed poetry, that might have the word “potato” in the title. I’m going to, hopefully, do a lot of readings for Making Love to the 50 Ft. Woman. But mostly right now I’m going to finish this cup of coffee.