My New Artist Interview!

Good morning, Poets and Poetry Lovers! Check out my recent artist interview where I answer some in-depth questions about writing, my inspirations, and women I’d like to spend one night with!



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

Burdens Q and A
with Charles Banks, Jr. (Author of Burdens)
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

Boy, I Wonder… (Writing as Curiosity)

Photo taken from the WEB

Photo taken from the WEB


I wonder how life would be if Martin hadn’t given his speech

in front of 200,000 plus and led the March on Washington.

I wonder how life would be if James didn’t make it cool to say

“I’m black and I’m proud!”

I wonder how life would be if Jackie didn’t step in and break

the color barrier in professional baseball.

I wonder how life would be if the invasion on Africa never happened.

I wonder how life would be if Africa were still what it used to be.

I wonder how life would be if my father hadn’t come to California.

I wonder what would happen if he stayed home.

I wonder how life would be if Thurgood hadn’t become

the first black Supreme Court Judge.

I wonder how life would be if Langston, Zora, Louis,

and the Duke hadn’t been born.

I wonder how life would be if Afeni Shakur hadn’t been pregnant in jail.

If Tupac hadn’t been born, hadn’t blessed the world

with his unique words and predictions of the future.

I wonder how life would be if my mother hadn’t left.

Would I be able to write this?

I wonder how life would be if the heroes of the past

didn’t sacrifice their blood, sweat, and tears for me

and future generations to come.

I Only Wonder…


© 2009 by Charles Banks, Jr.

Writing as Curiosity

Excerpt from page 58 of

“The Flower that Wasn’t Meant to Blossom”

Published by PublishAmerica, LLLP.

The Flower that Wasn't Meant to Blossom, Published by PublishAmerica, LLLP (December, 2009).

The Flower that Wasn’t Meant to Blossom, Published by PublishAmerica, LLLP (December, 2009).

Concrete Promises Interview (by Carla Westbrook)

“Concrete Promises”Interview with Charles Banks, Jr.

(Poet, Freelance Poetry Editor, Flyer Designer,

Budding Self-Publisher, Blogger)
Interview by Carla Westbrook,

in association with Spilt Ink Poetry.

Concrete Promises (Cover)

The weather is overcast; a Friday morning in February, a writer sits under a dimly lit lamp in an El Segundo, California café. He is intensely writing away in a notebook, only looking up to accept a steaming hot cup from a waitress. Generously, he accepts the cup with a nod and goes back to his writing. It is a shock that he is able to go back to his everyday routine. Just a month ago, he lay flat on a cold operating table as doctors conducted a fourteen-hour surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his salivary gland. From afar, you could not tell, but as I approached and introduced myself, the scars from his cancer fight reared their ugly head. Unable to use the entire right side of his face, his ability to smile, temporarily disabled, Poet Charles Banks, Jr. has found the strength to pick up his pen again. And with some slurred speech, he apologetically and graciously accepted my battery of questions.

Carla Westbrook: So, you have a new book…

Charles Banks, Jr.:  Yep, looks like it (slight chuckle).

Carla: Book five. What can we (readers) expect when flipping through its pages?

Charles: Concrete Promises is a simplistic approach to love, written in an uncomplicated fashion. When penning this chapbook, I did not want the writing to be clouded by any fancy language or the message points somehow lost in the translation that occurs from the time the reader reads the writing and the interpretation of the writing.

Carla: You wanted it to be matter-of-fact?

Charles: Exactly.

Carla: I have followed your writing and read your blog for a couple of years now, and there is a level of drama involved, theatrics. Why go against that now?

Charles: First of all, I’ve always been dramatic. (Laughs) I think more so as a child. Now I can utilize that part of my being in my poetry. In regards to this process, I simply made the decision that I wanted to write about how we (human beings) want the experience of love to be, not how it actually turns out. It’s how you would feel when you first meet someone. It’s blissful, uninhibited bliss. Simple.

Carla: As I read through your book I could not help but reminisce about my own first experience with love, and I recalled a bit of naivety. Was it the same for you? Your first experience with love.

Charles: I think so, but that’s pretty natural. It’s a normal process to be naïve to the reality of what’s going on. Sometimes I think people subconsciously or unconsciously focus on the good parts of their significant other—the attractive parts. I think we become blinded by the blissfulness of it all in the beginning.

Carla: Have you ever been in love?

Charles: (Pause). I’m not sure. I’ve had two significant relationships of note. You know, I think I know what love is if I saw it in front of me. For instance, my grandparents will be celebrating 30 years of marriage this summer. They argue and butt heads all the time; does that mean they’re not in love? To me, love is all about compromise and sacrifice and trust.

Carla: Concrete Promises, in essence, dismisses the detriments to a relationship: the arguments, distrust, apprehension.

Charles: Yes and no. The book was written with the beginning of a relationship in mind. It documents some of the things that may get in the way. Curiosity spends a portion of the book trying to convince his significant other to trust in their bond. In a sense, he’s trying to save her from herself. Her distrust, her skepticism. He deals with some of his own internal doubt too.

Carla: Two poems come to mind instantly. Not Just Yet and Captain Savior.

Charles: Yeah.

Carla: Tell me about those poems.

Charles: Well, it took me quite a while to develop a finished version of both poems; ten or so drafts of each and two or three years of editing. They are key poems in the chapbook. Both help to display very real traits of a budding relationship: cautious skepticism and a sense of obligation to be a savior of sorts.

Carla: What do you say to someone who says your book might be ‘cliché?’

Charles: Funny. In a lot of ways, I’d probably agree with them. That was one of the hurdles I encountered while writing. I treaded along a very thin line, often times crossing over to cliché often. I would respond ‘Yes, there are a number of cliché moments, but it all plays to my intended goal for this book… simplicity. Love should be simple, in my opinion. Often times, that’s just not the case. But how wonderful it is to yearn for that. To imagine it. Maybe it’s just the hopeless romantic that dwells inside of me.

Carla: You recently experienced a life-altering event. Most all of us know of someone who has, or have personally experienced the horrors of cancer. How has this trying time affected you?

Charles: Aside from the obvious, it’s been a tough situation. I’ve seen more hospitals than I care to in the past couple of months. It happened so quickly. Up until November of last year, I was relatively healthy, and then in the blink of an eye, it seemed like my life rapidly began to change. I lost a lot of weight. The right side of my face became paralyzed. And the pain from the tumor growing on my jaw… definitely the lowest point of my life.

Carla: Has cancer changed your writing in any way?

Charles: (Pause). No. The doctors took a piece of my jaw, not my ability to write… to think, to articulate my thoughts. If anything, I’ve developed a slight paranoia, my senses have heightened. I am more in tuned with my surroundings. My eyes have been opened to small things I otherwise would not have seen or paid any attention to.

Carla: What’s next for Curiosity? The light-hearted, soft-spoken, tender character you have created.

Charles: Well, Concrete Promises is the first installment in the Spilt Ink Poetry Collection, which is a five-part collection of poetry chapbooks. I go back and forth writing as both Black Angel and Curiosity. Chapbook number two belongs to Black Angel, but Curiosity will be back in the third installment: Midnight.

· Carla Westbrook

Concrete Promises Q & A

Concrete Promises Q and A
with Charles Banks, Jr.
(Poet, Editor, Self-Publisher)
July 6, 2013

1. The cover of your book, Concrete Promises is a beautiful drawing of two hands intertwined. Who drew it? An old Facebook friend a couple of years ago. I remember connecting with her through our affinities for poetry, and I told her that I was looking for an artist to design the front cover to my book. She told me about some of the sketches she’d been working on and emailed that particular one. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it!
2. What inspired Concrete Promises? I wanted to write a chapbook of love poems. That’s what I began writing at age twelve. It’s my return to that hopeless, innocent time in my life. When everything seemed to be simple. Adulthood accompanies drama! Love should not involve theatrics.
3. What is meant by ‘Concrete Promises?’ It’s a promise that’s set in stone; it cannot be penetrated by doubt or skepticism. Even though those detriments are often present, attempting to create a tug of war, love prevails. It always will, in my opinion.
4. What’s your favorite poem in Concrete Promises? Timid Lips. That particular poem took two years and ten drafts to complete. It describes vulnerability from the male perspective, a rare thing in today’s society. I wanted to show Curiosity’s vulnerable side. He’s timid to give in to this very new feeling inside of him. He definitely cares deeply about his significant other, but he wonders just how real it is. He eventually succumbs to his emotions and learns to trust.
5. Do you see yourself one day finding this simplistic love that you so eloquently write about in Concrete Promises? I am not sure. Only time will tell, I assume. But I do aspire for as much. My heart does yearn to be loved by someone… genuine love, not the fake stuff that’s bombarded by television and music today. I am also aware of a few personal defects that tend to get in the way at times. Maybe when I become a better man, I’ll find the right woman to grow really old and gray and wrinkly with.



Concrete Promises Update

Good evening, or morning, whatever it may be. I hope your lives are well and good. I am proud to announce that my chapbook, Concrete Promises has sold 30 copies in the first week. If you do not know, I am selling copies from my home at $6.00 a copy. I’d like to thank everyone who has already bought a copy of the book. It was a long, grueling process, filled with low points and high ones. The publication of it is definitely the highest point. I received a review courtesy of Julie Catherine, who graciously read my book and bestowed upon it, kind words. Aside from all things Concrete Promises, I will be celebrating six months cancer-free on the 28th of July. Thanks again to everyone who has sent well wishes my way. I certainly appreciate it. In honor of the landmark moment in my life, I will be posting two new poems Never Haste and No Vacancy. Hope everyone enjoys reading on the 28th! Thanks again everyone!


– Charles Banks, Jr.


Link to Concrete Promises Review:




Concrete Promises (Cover)

New Spilt Ink Poetry Blog Post (“Not Just Yet”)

Hey guys, check out the newest poem on the Spilt Ink Poetry Blog, titled “Not Just Yet.” Thanks again for supporting my work!

– Charles

Photo taken from the WEB

Photo taken from the WEB