Burdens Q & A (with Charles Banks, Jr.)

Burdens Q and A
with Charles Banks, Jr. (Author of Burdens)
 
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1. What was the inspiration behind this particular project? There were a myriad of themes for Burdens. At its core, this chapbook of poetry is about loss—loss of identity, of naivety, of self. I think the speaker in this book is struggling to make sense of recent events. Black Angel is trying to use past experiences to make sense of his current frame of mind. For a lack of a better term, he’s become a zombie of sorts.
2. How did this particular project come to fruition? For the past five years, you have written primarily as Curiosity. In fact, your last three books have been penned as Curiosity. So why shift over to Black Angel for the first time since 2008 for an entire body of work? In hindsight, I wanted to explore who Black Angel’s voice was in poetry before I committed to another project. I was working on another piece of writing, and a couple of months into the process, the vision in my head did not match the writing. I was telling a different story than I wanted to. This particular writing told a far deeper story of lament and anxiety and discomfort.
3. Discomfort? In what way? Meaning a sense of being unsettled. It’s well chronicled now that I had cancer last year. I can’t think of anything else that would make one any more unsettled than a life-threatening disease. In the last year, I have tried to objectively, emphasis on ‘objectively’, analyze my life. I’ve learned some new things about myself. And I think some of those newfound realizations manifest themselves in Burdens.
4. How did you decide on the poem sequence for Burdens? Well, I like to focus on the beginning and end. Meaning, I like to choose the first and last poem initially, and work in the guts in between. I felt the most impressionable poems, the poems that wholly encompassed the book’s theme were “Bedside Vigil” and “Finale.” It’s interesting because “Bedside Vigil” was the last poem I wrote for the book, and “Finale” was the first poem I wrote.
5. How difficult is it to write about such an emotional, human moment in time like you did in “Bedside Vigil”? That was probably one of the easier poems to write. Though, it was difficult to determine how much detail was too much. I had a difference of opinions with my editor about specific details. She wanted more! But I wanted the focus of the poem on Tony, his fading grip on life, and the narrator and his early deterioration into regret.
6. How real is the moment you wrote about in “Finale”? It was very real to me. I’ve never spoken to someone who had contemplated suicide before about the experience. I can only reflect from my perspective. I wrote that during radiation treatment, which was the greatest test of wills in my life. I was mid-way through a 37 session treatment, and had lost a significant amount of weight. I went from 200 pounds to 126 altogether. I was depressed! The radiation had damaged my taste buds, so I stopped eating. I did not drink water either because it tasted like lead. So I ended up at the beach one night. I don’t remember how I got there. In my frailness, I walked two miles at 3 in the morning with a knife and a suicide note in tote, and I sat at an empty life guard’s post. And for that short window of time, I contemplated the idea of dying. At that moment in time, I did not want to live.
7. Why do you think you did live? The pros of living outweighed the cons. My life felt incomplete. I can say that because I was 24 at the time. I mean, whose life is really complete at 24? My narrative would be incomplete if I had died on that night. So I made a conscious decision, in the wake of the most unconscious moment of my life, to live. Sometimes, the act of living is a choice. I chose to live.
 
*Carla Westbrook
for Spilt Ink Poetry
 
Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos
Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Announcement (3/24/2014)

Announcement:

It brings me great disappointment to have to announce that I learned on Friday morning that my cancer has returned, this time in my right lung. As of now, the only method of treatment is chemotherapy. I want to first thank everyone for their support in the last year during my first battle with cancer. I will remain persistently busy with work at Spilt Ink Poetry, diligently helping poets publish their work, as well as attending college. I look forward to releasing Spilt Ink Poetry’s Inaugural Newsletter in April, as well as working on the (re)publication of Melissa Medina’s first book of poetry. I am also collaborating on an erotic chapbook of poetry with Elizabeth Castaneda. Further, I have also signed on as an editor for Melinda Cochrane International Motivational Magazine: Summer Edition, 2014.

As I mentioned, I will remain actively involved in publishing, and I will reign victorious in my second battle with cancer. Thank you all again for your continued support, friends, family, poets and poetry lover!

Respectfully, Charles Banks, Jr.

 

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Beauty of Butterflies

I remember walking in haste
One sunny day in May,
As many of us often do—
Unattached from nature.
It was chance, I guess,
Or fate, I assume—though
I’ve always relied on the empirical,
That I stopped by this particular garden.
Rich in flowers and bushes,
It was like having an optical orgasm.
I fixated on a group of butterflies,
Five or six, resting on a bush with
Strange flowers. They were striking
Shades of red and purple and orange.
I found a connection with them.
“Maybe I am a butterfly!” I thought.
Maybe cancer is like the lifecycle of a butterfly.
Maybe my life before cancer is like
The caterpillar before the butterfly.
I remember smiling for the first time
In ages it seemed. I had something
To look forward to, life as a butterfly perhaps,
Colorful and vibrant, after the cocoon of cancer.

© 2013 by Charles Banks, Jr.
Writing as Curiosity
Published online at Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets.

Solace (Writing as Black Angel)

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Solace

To tune out the horrid sounds
of the outside world,
I will do anything!
It should be outlawed to openly discuss
celebrity tweets and political scandals.
Well, at least outside of coffee shops,
sports bars on Super Bowl Sunday,
and crowded Irish pubs on St. Patrick’s Day.
Such extraneous talk is not worth absorption.
I’ll settle for a dingy gray hoodie,
Beats headphones
blaring a symphony of Marshall Mathers
my encomium transmitters
of pertinent information
an outlet from impurity and bullshit.

© 2014 by Charles Banks, Jr.
Writing as Black Angel

Silent Mirror (Writing as Black Angel)

 
shattered-reflections
SILENT MIRROR

Why are you so judgmental?
Always smiling your little sunshine grin.
Why can’t you just mind your own damn business?

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall
why do you reveal the worst
images of them all?

In the graceful peaks of dawn,
you disclose a private side of me,
a side that no one should know
lingers in the pit of my existence.

Why do you judge me so harshly, Mirror?
Someone is going to railroad you one of these days.
When you least expect it, someone you know well
will strike and shatter you into a thousand
prickly pieces of pathetic sadness.

Your judgmental brow is always arched at me!
But why?
Oh, unfair Mirror!
Why?
You remain silent.

© 2014 by Charles Banks, Jr.
Writing as Black Angel
Excerpt from “Burdens”
Published by Spilt Ink Poetry

The Pits (Writing as Black Angel)

 
Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

THE PITS
 
I sink deep
into the nothing
into the meaningless.
 
Drenched…
in the bottomless wells
the unknown universes
the untamed jungles.
 
Trapped…
I deteriorate
into loathing of self
into torture of self.
 
Coerced…
into obvious depression
into blatant denial
I submerge myself.
 
Deeper…
I steer the sinking ship
into the treacherous waters
into submission.
 
I sink deeper
into isolation
into comfort
I immerse myself.
 
© 2014 by Charles Banks, Jr.
Writing as Black Angel
Excerpt from Burdens
Published by Spilt Ink Poetry