Mark Weber's Interview with Smith - Christmas Day 1994

What religion were you brought up with? Are you spiritual?

Walked a mile to little 2 room wooden protestant church. Preacher was weekday carpenter and his wife and 3 children made up 15 percent of the congregation. He let me lead the singing. I'd have them sing Xmas songs in summer, Easter songs at Xmas.

Always searching I became Buddhist in San Francisco in '66.... still say my Nam Myoho Renge Kyo chant every day but waffle on belief. Tried the psilicybin, mescaline, LSD, MDA, DMT road to much avail. Believe all is illusion: one can walk on water with right mindset.

What sets you off writing a poem?

Words rubbing against each other. Last night I put new message on my phone machine... didn't know what I was going to say until "Small particles of truth: Truth machine 575-9943" came out. Now I'll write a poem around that.

Wrote NECK TIES after cleaning my glasses with my tie. Wrote OUR PUBLIC SERVANTS after one of the presidential candidates lied. Wrote UNKNOWN NIPPLE to a lady who wouldn't sleep with me (she never did either).

Once in '72 awaiting my wife I wrote down license plate numbers and if it were 14719 I went to the 147 page of the dictionary and used the 19th word. I talk like I write and rarely know what it's to be until I hear it and often steal from myself for poem.

Who are your all-time top favorite poets?

T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, e.e.cummings

What is the intent of your poetry?

Tickle thought, caress the tongue.

Are you musical?

I used to write music reviews for weekly Baltimore paper (Performance). Got tons of free albums and got to go backstage. Met Bill Haley of the Comets. Manager sez "Excuse me Mr. Haley but this man's here for an interview." Bill Haley looked up at me and said "Go away kid ... I'm counting my money."

Why do people throw chewing gum on sidewalks?

It's a clue for cleaner tools. You don't step in gum unless you are out of balance with the cosmic flow. The gum is a warning. Hot coffee in the crotch is a warning. But these are small warnings, more like hints. Recalibrate and it's cool; dawdle or dissemble and the hints get heavier. Once had to break both elbows and both wrists before I'd listen. You also get warned if you stay the same or in the same place too long.

Would you like to take a trip to the moon?

Yes... I'd go even if it were a one way trip. I'd do anything to get into space.

What is your favorite color?

Blue, especially Miles Davis' KIND OF BLUE and the blues and blue skies and blue melancholy and the blue of the sea and especially the blue copper corrosion I mix and use in my art.

Do the walls have ears?

Not as many as the TV and the telephone. If you come to THEIR attention, you're dead meat.

Is it true that you program computers?

In 1975 sick of selling women's shoes I decided if there were any future then computers would be part of it, so I walked in off the street to NCR and asked to program. They put me in the mail room and 2 weeks later made me a computer operator and 6 months later I was 3rd shift shift leader with 5 men under me. 5 years later in Cleveland I moved into Programmer trainee and so with no school now survive via data processing. It is boring but lucrative.

How important is coherence in your writing to you?

As long as it coheres to me. I realize that my words are extremely difficult to many but they do coalesce. But I also operate sometimes just beneath conscious thought - sort of mingling Roarshock inkblots into Jung's Collective Unconscious. And I don't mind if you overlay your own coherence over mine.

Do you use a thesaurus?

No. Tried a brontosaurus once but the sex was bad.

If you were catching a taxi and the cabbie was a drunken Beowulf would you take the ride?

Immediately. Maybe get a date with Grendel in the process. To live ALIVE one must chase CHANCE, romance RISK. You never know what is enough until you've gone too far.

What lyrics do you find particularly meaningful?

Dylan's "To live outside the law you must be honest" and "Twenty years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift." Also Kristofferson's "If you're heading for the border, you've got to cross the line" and Leonard Cohen's "They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom for trying to change the system from within."

If you were a car, what car would you be?

The Batmobile.

What is the essence of Cleveland?

3 vowels and 6 consonants: 2 closed conservative constants for every open mind.

What is the essence of creativity?

Mind set. Childe within. Belief in better. Other.

What is your favorite bagel?

Open sesame.

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