Andrew Stancek: Can we talk a bit about your poem “Cross“? What jumps out at me are the contrasts, on the one hand “cross,” “confession,” “faith,” “elevate,” and on the other “binge,” “shit,” “boots,” “mattress.” I am intrigued, eager for any elucidation at all.
Dan Jacoby: You have to remember that the word cross has all kinds of connotations. It is a measure of salvation, burdens, deception and grief to name a few. It can also signify a transition which is kind of what this poem is all about. It gets to the removal of all the labels. It’s the in-between, getting to some kind of peace, a dharma bum sort of quest to find what was lost or to deal with what one has become. Some people run away from themselves and spend lives lying to themselves, others search for meaning. It used to be called securing a heavy peace……
AS: Interesting. Can you tell us about your influences, or about poets and other writers who bring you to “zero at the bone?”
DJ: I must confess to not liking too many of the newer poets. John Logan, Kinnell, Ginsberg, Plath, John Knoepfle, Roethke are some. I started writing in the sixties but just for myself. It’s only recently I started submitting and publishing. I have read many of the beat poets and tend to like that style — seems to be more flesh on those bones.
AS: What about your routines? When during the day do you write? How do you work from the moment of inspiration to the moment you consider your poem to be ready to face the world?
DJ: Writing starts with an idea that pops into my head. I have to write it down because I will forget it. I find any kind of media (tv, my phone) to be idea killers. I have to get off by myself and just let it flow. The first of it usually gives me an end point and I work backwards. I go off for days at a time in the fall and sit in an old duck blind and spend the day writing. I find my inspiration in people and nature. A writer needs to get out of his or her own head to help him understand how things affect one another. I have been accused of being a southern writer because a lot of what I write draws on my country upbringing. But I have also lived a very metropolitan life. So the city also offers its inspiration. I write something and then I abandon it for a week or two. Going back to it makes it look fresh in my mind and I rewrite it. If it seems to come to life I will put it out for display. If not, I let it “cook” a little longer until I feel it’s done. I confess to falling asleep at the computer late at night.
AS: What do you dream of?
DJ: I am a dreamer of the first order. I like nothing better than to sit in a duck blind and watch eagles fish and spider webs on a soft south wind try to make the far bank. As a young man I floated on rafts in Macoupin creek and fished the day away. I have seen war, riots, and other terrible things. They have, in a sense, provided a balance to why I write and how I write. Art is about vision brought on by dreams.
AS: What does recovery mean to you?
DJ: Recovery is an interesting question. We are all damaged by life. We tend to remember the good things and forget the bad. But life has a way of reminding us. We never really get over great loss but we steady ourselves accepting it and sharing it. So recovery is having a funeral. It’s what the living do, until the next.
Andrew Stancek was born in Bratislava and saw Russian tanks occupying his homeland. His dreams of circuses and ice cream, flying and lion-taming, miracle and romance have appeared recently in Vestal Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Windsor Review, r.kv.r.y, Tin House online, Flash Fiction Chronicles, The Linnet’s Wings, Connotation Press, and Pure Slush. His novel-in-stories, starring a teenager named Mirko, set in Bratislava in the sixties, is nearing completion. Andrew joined our masthead after we published his excellent SOS piece “Elephants and Banana Leaves” in our July 2012 issue.