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
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