Poems by Ian McMenemy
An Interview with Ian
Ian McMenemy interviewed by Luna Ulisa
Q: Do you have a pen name?
A: No, not really. Instagram has a pen name that I came up with in high school but I don’t really use it for real.
Q: Do you have a preference on which poem we post about?
A: “An Insomniac's Visit” and “A Letter to Uriel.” Really either one or both!
Q: What is your process of writing a poem? I know everyone has a different process!
A: For my writing process I take everything down on index cards, one stanza per card, with title at the top and a draft number. I go through it and write the second draft on another set of notecards. I got the technique from Vladimir Nabakov who would write paragraphs on notecards, and his wife would type them up for him later.
My inspiration comes from different sources. In general huge influences on me have been William S. Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, and Joseph Conrad, just to name a few off the top of my head. In terms of poetry “Letter To Uriel” was inspired by William Blake’s “Tyger”, “Insomniacs Visit” was inspired by my terrible insomnia. I don't have insomnia anymore so I don’t have that kind of inspiration any more. A lot of it is just what comes to my head and remember to write it down. Right now I’m getting most of my inspiration from musicians. At the moment I’m listening to musicians like Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, and even Iggy Pop, because their songs are both fascinating on a structural level, and on subjects I find interesting. They do a lot of the stuff I want to do in poetry. I try to structure my poems around the way the words flow. I base my poems on internal rhythm, and listening to music really helps me see what you can do with rhythm and flow.
I’m always trying to learn more poets though. My knowledge of poetry is sadly really small, and kind of confined to famous long dead straight white guys. I’m trying to expand my pool of knowledge to a more diverse range of voices and poets. If it wasn’t for college, I’d have never heard of poets like CA Conrad and Terrance Hayes. Obviously there’s room for improvement though.
Q: What was your inspiration for “A Letter to Uriel”? What did you want to share with that poem?
A: Besides William Blake, specifically his poem “Tyger,” the format was chosen because of a class I was taking. The opening line was inspired by Walt Whitman’s line “I am large, I contain multitudes” from “Song of Myself”. It’s probably the only poem that was already mostly formed before I actually wrote it down, with no real major changes. I find religions ideas about redemption, and penance interesting, even though I'm not very religious.
Q:Do you have a certain audience for when you write a poem? If yes, then who was “A Letter to Uriel” written for?
A: I don’t have anyone in mind, like I don't think this is gonna appeal to my “goth post-modernist” people or this is for people who listen to The Ramones.
Q: Would you technically be the audience?
A: - If it sounds intelligent, we’ll go with yes. If it sounds pretentious, then no. I try not to be pretentious if I can.
Technically the professor would be the audience, but it was really just me proving that I can write poetry. I never wrote poetry until earlier this year. When I was younger I had built up rules about how poetry had to be read for some reason, and they were so contradictory that it made it almost impossible to actually read a poem. Taking a class where a teacher actually made it make sense really helped. I actually consider myself mainly a prose writer, but poetry is different. A poem can be as abstract and free from constraints as you can want. I still find it difficult because I’m not used to thinking in a purely metaphorical and abstract fashion, so when I can make it work it’s really satisfying.
Q: How did you come to learn that you wanted to write poetry? Is there another genre that you’ve written?
A: I’ve always been interested in writing a lot of different genres, but to narrow it down, I've always wanted to write a Western because I love westerns, but I don’t want to just sit down and say “I’m going to write a western.” I feel like that’s a good way to fall into cliches. I want to write something that takes place in the West, but only because it’s the best setting for the story. At the moment I’m more interested in writing surreal stuff. Surrealism to me allows me to combine a lot of what I like about genres like Fantasy and Sci-Fi, where you can talk about abstract messages in a more direct fashion, while also allowing me the freedom to create scenes, setting and characters without regard to the confines of Realism.
Q: Is there anything you want to say about either one of your poems?
A: I think A Letter To Uriel is the strongest poem I've written, but I also think any future stuff is going to be completely different just because there's a broader reference pool that I now have.
Q:Inspiration quote you live by?
A:There’s always been this book title I’ve liked the sound of, “Death is No Obstacle.” It’s a book of interviews with a writer named Michael Moorcock, who has always been a huge influence on me.
Look out for more content by Ian McMenemy in the next issue of Over Magazine.