He is the logical sort. He is a dreamer. He is, honestly, what a lot of us are, an everyday person who longs for the release of the mundane and to step into the world of the fantastical. Who is he? Well, he is David Woodruff, poet extraordinaire.
AJ: Who is David Woodruff??
DW: Well, that’s one of those questions you can spend a lifetime trying to answer. I’ll try to keep this simple. And let me say that I have two names: one, my real name, and two, my pen name, Kyle Hemmings. Let’s start with David.
Like many writers and artists, I have a day job that helps me survive. But there’s that other half that doesn’t find satisfaction with the routine of everyday living. I guess you might say that I fit into that category of Thoreau’s men who lead lives of quiet desperation. I think there is more than one world. There is the world we live on, the hard physical reality of it, the daily grind, so to speak, and the internal one. Some of us nurture that internal world and others do not. But since that outer world has left me so… how shall I say… wanting? As I have aged, I’ve given more time to that other internal world with its vast possibilities of imagination and the form of expression it can take. In my case, it’s words, words on a page. But in the future, I see myself moving towards visual art.
And that brings me to the invention of Kyle Hemmings, the embodiment for me of that inner world, the author of stories and poems, someone not exactly the counterpart of David Woodruff. Whereas David is practical and mundane, Kyle is dreamy and forever lost to this world.
AJ: Ah yes, Kyle Hemmings. I have seen your alias in several publications and, I believe you and I have appeared in a few at the same time as well. Since you use a penname, does all of your work appear as Kyle Hemmings or does it appear as both Woodruff and Hemmings, depending on the publication?
DW: Most of my work for lit zines/mags appears under the name of Kyle Hemmings. Only my book reviews for The Short Review were under the name of David Woodruff. And there was one story I had pubbed in Spork Press under an entirely different name for personal reasons. But all my stories and poems and artwork are pubbed under the name of Kyle H.
AJ: Let’s take a slight step back for a moment, David. I think you put it perfectly when you talk about the inner and outer lives of folks, especially those who spread their wings, so to speak, who let that inner being shine through, who develop that inner being. Quiet desperation is a perfect term for how many writers feel while at their day jobs or struggling through life’s mundane tasks.
Have you always felt that quiet desperation; that inner person needing to come out?
DW: Well, yes, I have. As a kid, I was always staring out of a window, wanting to be somewhere else rather than the place I was at. And by that I mean school most often. I used to daydream of music, fascinated by the sounds of the mid-late sixties music and got lost in that sound. Music became a kind of addiction for me and I always had this thing about poetry. In fact, one of the first books I ever bought and read cover to cover was Leonard Cohen’s Collected poems. I also remember reading Lorca’s Poet in New York, and Rimbaud’s The Drunken Boat. I was kind of too young to really appreciate either the way I did later.
Which is why I’m glad my first book of poems finally got pubbed and released Oct. 5. It’s published by Punkin Press and it’s called Fuzzy Logic, which I thought is kind of an apt name for the kind of thinking many of us do in stressful situations. It also has, I think, some of my best poems from the last three years. And I have another e-chapbook called Avenue C from Scars Publications, a free download. That collection is based partly on my experience of New York in the early 90s, and in particular my impressions of the East Village.
So to get back to your question, the answer is yes, I always felt that inner person stifled and wanting to come out in some way to impress others as if to say this is the real me, the one you never see.
AJ: I think many folks, writers, musicians and entertainers in general have that desire to show the world who they really are, to release that dreamer inside. John Lennon comes to mind—a tremendous dreamer who didn’t stifle that side of him, but let it live and… well, we all know the results. Music and poetry are hand in hand soulmates, in my opinion. Bob Dillon (Again, just my opinion here) is a tremendous poet. Not just a songwriter, but one of the flat out best poets… and to read lyrics he has written is like reading great poetry.
You mentioned Fuzzy Logic, your poetry collection. Tell me about it, how it came to be and the process behind getting it published.
DW: I was thinking of getting together some of my best stuff from the last three years, stuff that had been workshopped or pubbed. And again, I was thinking in terms of a concept, a vague one, the contrast between logical thought (as in Fuzzy Logic, which is a type of logic in philosophy/math) and poetic thought. And I loosely grouped these poems under this ironic category of Fuzzy Logic.
As you read the poems, I think you will hear the music underlying them. I like to think of it as a very loose Rock Opera but in poems, that kind of concept. And I’ve always been attracted to the notion of a chapbook. There’s also a diversity of mood in the book–from funny to sad to serious and puzzling. Like life itself.
I might mention this thing about Fuzzy Logic. I mean the system of logic. It runs on conditions usually rather than a stiff True or False scenario. It’s like with a programmed thermostat. If the temp is above 70F, then turn off the heat. If the temp is below 55F, then turn on the heat. If the temp is 70, then do nothing. That’s Fuzzy Logic, something more sophisticated than Aristotelian logic, something that tries to respond to the complex situations that life often throws at us. And my book, hopefully, addresses itself also to those complex situations but the narrators don’t often respond logically.
AJ: The title reminds me of a comic strip that I love titled Get Fuzzy. I can see that cat using his own logic–which he does throughout–in how he deals with things.
How did you go about finding a publisher for Fuzzy Logic?
DW: I went to Duotrope and I asked around. I tried some fledgling publishers who would take a chance on a poetry chapbook. Punkin emailed me that they thought they could do something with my material. It was pretty much hassle free. I’m already familiar with Joseph Reich, one of their pubbed authors. I felt it was a good match. My work fell somewhere between extreme avant garde and extremely mainstream. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
AJ: Where can readers purchase Fuzzy Logic?
DW: They can go to PunkinBooks.com and click on Poetry collections and Fuzzy Logic should be there. They can order from the site itself. Or they can also order it on Amazon.com.
AJ: Now let’s talk a little about your e-chapbook, Avenue C. First of all, for those of us who don’t know, what exactly is an e chapbook?
DW: Well, first of all, it’s a chapbook, meaning it can be anywhere from 10 pages to 50, depending on who’s publishing it and their guidelines and policies. Being an e-chapbook means it’s only available online, which saves the company publishing costs in paper, etc. So this e-chapbook can be downloaded for free from Scars Publication. And I might add they have some good writers pubbed there, like Kristine Muslim Ong, whose work you might be familiar with. I believe she has subbed to horror sites as well as mainstream.
Now as far as the chapbook is concerned. The collection is loosely based on my experiences and my observations of East Village, NYC, roughly around the time of the early 90s, when I was hanging around a lot in the NYC clubs and whatnot. I also based these poems on what one might associate with the kind of lifestyles in that area, which one might imagine as being varied, somewhat romantic in a Bohemian sense perhaps? And there are also some poems thrown in that differ in the voice and style of most of the work, poems like The Death of John Lennon, which might be more meditative and somber and wistful in tone in contrast to the edginess of most of the other pieces. But for the most part I tried to include poems that could be grouped according to location or theme, even in a loose sense.
AJ: A free download? That’s a treat for the readers. I know you’ve done a lot of poetry, but you’ve also written short stories, as well, correct?
DW: Yes, that is correct. I’ve written a lot of prose.
AJ: Being that you write both poetry and fiction, do you find that they go hand and hand?
DW: Yes, I find that even though distinct, writing one does influence the other. My experience has been this: My prose tends to lean towards poetry, rather than strict narrative. And writing fiction tends sometimes to force me to write narrative poetry or a poem that tells something of a story or to emphasize character. In other words, I’m not one of those people who could write a successful screenplay, although I did write one for school. And I find too that since I write a lot of flash fiction, which in some ways resembles the prose poem, that also encourages a kind of blending of these two genres.
AJ: I agree. Though I don’t write poetry, I’ve read quite a bit of it from folks who write both poems and stories and I can see how they influence one another.
You bring up flash fiction, which, in and of itself is an art form. If I recall correctly, you and I have been in a few of the same flash challenges. Which do you find more difficult, a poem or a flash piece?
DW: With qualification, I would say a poem because sometimes you are given certain requirements to write a poem in a certain meter, or syllable count, stress count, what have you. And then there’s the thing about form, traditional, ghazelles, sonnets, rondos, etc. But that’s my own personal take and others might have a different one. And I’m not suggesting that flash fiction is easy to write.
AJ: Folks, now you know why I don’t write poetry! Okay, David, do you have some links for us, so the readers can find some of your work?
And my new book of poems, Fuzzy Logic, can be purchased from Punkin Press.
AJ: Would you like to tease the readers with a sample of your poetry?
DW: Sure. These two are from the new Scars chapbook (and as I have just been notified, an ISBN paperback) Avenue C:
Goya’s Tenth Ave. Mistress
She spreads you thin across acrimonious days
splinters you against impressions of rain
loves you in turpentine prone positions.
A rat scuttles across the floor and again
you remind her that you are no subject for
the museum of national history.
With a palette knife and
a no. 12 sable,
she brings you to your knees.
Your other lovers are more or less
The Junkies of Gethsemane
The night air is thick with Tiger Bloom and heavy tropes.
Past the trimmed gardens, the clumps of Honeybells
or Blueangels, they crawl singlefile: The Frog Kings
and the Green Goo miesters, salt on their tongues,
the fingers like tubers, the breach of faith,
and now the impossible chasm between them and their
one time supplier of oyster suitcases and barnacle
clippers–Cyrthanthus. One of the betrayers, a man
wishing to be a woman who wishes to be a child, rises,
and says in low falsetto, “Master, where you’ve been?
You promised to teach us the miracle of The Sacred Hue.”
Slowly, Cyrthanthus turns, his beard full of bees,
dried petals from old lovers, and replies, “Why do you
deceive me? Have I not the elephant ears of an old woman
waiting for her son’s return from the sand wars? Did I
not feed you when your ponds went dry or your pastel
children went seeking sweet asylum in the oriental night?
Did I not command the oceans to give up their ruby queens
and imperial dwarfs for you? And this is how you repay me?
By giving my true name to the Dogs of Double Bounty?”And
with that each of the followers bow their heads and kneel,
while the flowers around them turn to Maneaters
and the only sounds for miles are the shuffling
of a woman’s feet, one who is carrying jugs
into town, and inside one, the cackle of an apple green
calyx that was once a human heart.
AJ: Outstanding. David Woodruff, before we part ways for now, is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience?
DW: Peace, and keep up the good fight. And thank you all.
AJ: And thank you, David, for the blood–I’m sure Herbie will put it to good use…
(Herbie’s Note: No dreamers were hurt during the taking of this interview. However, a little blood was spilled on the floor and now the dust mites seem a bit more… fuzzy…)