Interzone, the Naropa University writing & poetics department’s official newsletter, is published twice a year and usually features student, faculty and alumni news, plus a feature interview. This fall, the wonderful Megan DiBello (an MFA student at Naropa) interviewed me for Interzone and about half of our conversation ended up as the November, 2009 Interzone interview. You can see the entire issue here, or just check out the interview below:
Megan DiBello: When did you start writing?
Adam Perry: I didn’t start writing poems until I was about 19. I lived in West Virginia for about five months and hated it there; I felt really isolated and started writing mostly cut-up poems, having been a huge fan of William Burroughs. I began submitting my poems to small print magazines and online journals and had a lot of success, which led to correspondence with some really great and knowledgeable people, like Charles Potts (who ran The Temple Magazine out of Walla Walla, WA) and Steve Silberman, a poet-turned-journalist who was Allen Ginsberg’s teaching assistant at Naropa for a while in the late 70’s. When I made the huge decision to drop out of Pitt move to San Francisco at 21 years old–having never been west of the Mississippi before and knowing only one person in California–both my poetry and my journalism came to a near halt as I focused on “finding myself,” finding work and being in all kids of San Francisco rock bands as a drummer.
Last year, I decided to go back to writing again and finish my degree and figured Naropa was the best place to do it. I’ve been incredibly inspired not only by the unique and powerful teachers here, like Bhanu Kapil and Maureen Owen, but also the community of artists and activists that have made me feel at home. People like Joyce Joseph, Aimee Herman, Tiffani Parish, Rebecca Diaz and many others–they’re all creative activists and authentic warriors in their own way; they’ve all been able to not only prove they can do the “college” thing of retaining and regurgitating information, but they’ve also been able to develop original voices, which doesn’t happen at most colleges. So we all challenge and inspire each other, and I think we all feel like the sacred honesty we engage in together manifests in our work. I remember last April, when a bunch of us were celebrating the release of Fotographs of Bones, a collection of my work that ended up being the first-ever book from Monkey Puzzle Press. To me, it felt far better to have the poets I love the most in Boulder read a few things of their own and then read from my book than it might have felt to have a night of my own, celebrating me. Saying “you’re all in this book” to a room full of friends and meaning it was unforgettable.
MD: What is your involvement in the community?
AP: I’ve participated in a few marches and played a few benefit concerts as a guitarist and (sometimes) singer in the little acoustic duo my girlfriend and I started last year, but compared to my hardcore activist friends – especially the amazing Ryan Hartman – my involvement in the community is nil. Since returning to school I’ve returned to freelance journalism, having arts & culture articles published just about every week in Westword, Boulder Weekly, the Daily Camera and a few newspapers in New Mexico, and it’s nice to meet people who already feel like they know me from reading my articles or my blog, but I’m not sure if interviewing the Fleet Foxes and Girl Talk or getting into Red Rocks free to review the Flaming Lips really counts as community involvement. Being a musician and suffering from the serious affliction known as music geekdom is fun, and it gets me a little money and a lot of albums and concert tickets, but there have only been a few times when I wrote something that made me feel like I was engaged in the community. The sad thing is that I’ve had to fight to get those kinds of articles – like the ones I’ve done this year on Yoga World Reach or Naropa’s alternative spring break in New Orleans – into the local newspapers.
MD: How do you keep writing as a career while at the same time attending school?
AP: I could be doing a lot more freelance work if I wasn’t in school, but it’s been nice to have a steady stream of articles to add to my portfolio–having the cover story for Boulder Weekly twice in a few months ain’t too shabby–and steadily develop contacts at publications around the country.
MD: What will you do after Naropa?
AP: Well, the due dates are questionable, but around the same time as graduation in December I’m going to be a father! I met my girlfriend the day I arrived in Boulder, on a cold January afternoon, and the indescribable journey we’ve been on (as partners and independently as artists and people) will fittingly end with a beginning. I’ll be leaving Naropa with so much I couldn’t have dreamed of when I left San Francisco for Colorado: a daughter, a beautiful published book of poetry, a substantial amount of student loans to pay back, and an incredible woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. I’m looking for a more full-time job in media or academia, most likely in San Francisco, Boulder or New Mexico, although we’re fairly open to moving somewhere totally new.
MD: Pros & Cons of Your Career?
AP: Getting paid to share your opinions and your passions is always great. And yesterday I got a gracious email from Ween thanking me for saying some honest things about them in a recent article. That kind of thing is better than money, but obviously money is where the cons start when you talk about a writing career.
At the beginning of this semester I was offered the A&E Editor position at Boulder Weekly, the kind of steady job in journalism I’d been dreaming of for years, but as the reality of taking the position got closer and the details became more clear, staying in school made more sense. Not to steer anyone away from writing, but in many cases you can make more money working at McDonald’s, and that’s not an exaggeration. Years ago, a painfully low-paying gig as an entertainment editor would’ve been perfect for me– and the guy Boulder Weekly hired after I turned the job down is young, smart, energetic and perfect for the job – but with a family and student loans to take care of, writing the kinds of articles I write now might be something I do as supplemental income while I do something else. Writing about music in particular is something I’d be doing whether I got paid for it or not, as music is as valuable and integral in my life as oxygen and writing just seems to be in my blood, but I’m not yet sure if a career solely in writing is in my future. Honestly, I’d love to work at Naropa in some fashion if they’d have me. Some kind of journalism class and/or program here would be fun to teach, and the prospect of a Naropa student newspaper is really exciting. There are so many great writers here and so many interesting people to write about and stories to tell.