Paul Hanson Clark is a poet and he does some drawings. He’s from Omaha, Nebraska and does SP_CE and once published a horrible joke poem of mine in a collection of love poems his group did last year. I met him earlier this year in Nashville, as we talk about below. The best place for him is his Tumblr or his Twitter.
Do you consider yourself a ‘writer’ or ‘artist’ or what?
i’m not sure. the first thing i identified as was a ‘writer’. but later i started identifying more as a ‘poet’. i’ve been making a lot of visual art lately but i don’t typically identify as an ‘artist’. sometimes i identify as an ‘artist’ in the broader sense, and generally when i read abt artists i admire, i relate to their lives, regardless of the field they’re working in. me and justin like to call musicians ‘joeys’ as a mild shittalk, but lately i’ve been writing songs a bit, so i’ve been jokingly identifying as a ‘joey’. if someone asks me ‘what i do’ creatively i will generally say ‘i’m a poet’ then add some brief explanation abt how i make drawings, write songs, other sh*t.
Do you feel any baggage with the word ‘poet’? I think I would. I feel it with the term “writer” like people don’t really believe you compared to saying something like “pharmacy tech.”
when you say you are a poet to some random person you don’t know, 99.999999% of the time a look of palpable hatred registers on their face for roughly half-a-second before they pretend to be interested for about 30 seconds, then you’ll probably never speak to that person again. i carry myself confidently as a poet, though. i think the expectation is you are supposed to be ashamed of your art and i try to thwart that when i’m existing as a social creature. i feel good about this. but don’t get me wrong, i don’t go around proclaiming myself to be a poet, and if i get the feeling someone is trying to engage with some kind of small talk re: what kind of work i do i’ll riff with them about where i work before i start riffing about my artistic interests.
What are your main ‘outlets’ for writing? (social media, poetry, fiction…whatev else)
i tweet a fair amount. sometimes the thoughts i explore in my tweets make their way into my poetry. i view twitter as part of my practice as a writer but i don’t generally view my tweets as poetry. my primary outlet for my writing for the past several years has been poetry. i feel as though i’ve been a ‘prolific’ poet roughly since 2011. i write posts on tumblr, which are generally more thought out than tweets, but compared to a poem have Zero effort put into them. i write emails to people i am fond of. i view this to be closer to poetry than the writing i do on social media, and some of my poems are just edited versions of emails. lately i’ve been writing songs, but i ‘write’ those by making them up as i’m singing, so while it feels like writing, it also doesn’t feel like writing. with songs i find myself weighing the words i use a lot more. i don’t want to sing shit that doesn’t matter to me. i often write phrases on my drawings. recently on a drawing i wrote BE WARE THE CHAMPIONS OF LIFE.
One of the things i was thinking about lately was how when you came to Nashville, I should’ve planned better for your trip. Like, we shoulda hung out more, I think.
our trip was pretty great but i learned a lot of lessons about the viability of a ‘holiday season’ reading tour. it turns out the day you and i met, january 1st 2015, is a weird time for people to plan on hanging out. also everything in nashville came together rather quickly and strangely. of all our stops nashville or atlanta probably had the most ‘fast and loose’ planning.
me and rachel (bell) were talking abt u a bit recently and i said, “i liked josh he was someone who was more normal than i expected him to be.” i would’ve loved to hang out more. i enjoyed talking to you immensely. (justin) flowers also mentioned how interesting it was talking to you.
Thanks. “more normal than I expected him to be.” I should use that somewhere. I forgot it was new year’s day. I knew it was kinda cold, at least to me.
we had this hope that traveling south would be a nice escape from winter, and it was because it was like zero degrees in nebraska most of the time we were gone, but also it was pretty cold pretty much everywhere we went. which was a drag, but not so bad.
Are you from Nebraska or have you just lived there awhile?
yeah i’m from nebraska. i was born in a small town in western nebraska, and that’s where i grew up, but i’ve been living in either lincoln or omaha for awhile now.
Have you felt an impulse to leave?
yeah. when i moved to lincoln it was a big change for me, coming from a small town. then when i moved to omaha i felt like, “i should move somewhere bigger, omaha isn’t big enough”. when i’m in cities i feel very at ease, like i’m thriving. so i’ve thought a lot about moving to a major metropolitan area, one where my prospects for developing a career as an artist would perhaps be greatly improved. i’ve also thought a lot about moving to new orleans, because someone i’m very fond of lives there. i’ve also thought about going to grad school and moving for that. friends of mine who have taken the poetry mfa route seem to have had mixed experiences. you just get dropped into some weird town and yr supposed to form an artistic community w a bunch of randos based on nothing other than some older rando happens to vaguely enjoy all yalls poetry? seems like a stupid system. i’ve always felt like i’ve studied poetry a lot harder and worked it a lot harder than people who go to school for it. i feel like sum shitty institution shd gift me an mfa for all the hard work i’ve done. i’ve put more work into individual poems than some motherfuckers put into their mfa thesis poetry manuscript. i’ve had, and this is not an exaggeration, thousands and thousands of conversations with people about poetry. this is all to say i’ve got a pretty good thing going here in nebraska as a poet, and that’s part of why i stick around. but also i like being close to my family.
How is the SP_CE community going these days?
SP CE is going good. we relocated to a storefront that we’re calling SP CE Commons. it’s situated in the middle of a neighborhood that i and a lot of my friends live in. sum local bigwigs in lincoln, with the help of sum hotshot developers from st. louis, are attempting to rename the neighborhood “SoDo” and do all this yucky property redevelopment that will displace a lot of the ppl who live in the neighborhood. so that sucks. our first year at the new place hasn’t been precarious financially but lately i’ve been worrying abt Year 2. we operate 100% on individual donations. there’s a lot of community support for what we do but i always feel like we should be striving to do more for more people.
Anyway, i really admire anyone who can get something like SP CE going. i always have big ideas for organizing stuff, but I just can’t do it. i’m too much of an introvert, I think. are you guys still doing a journal too? I get confused sometimes.
i’ve found that if you show, over time, that you are committed to showing up and doing work, that that will make other people more likely to show up and do work. i have a lot of weird social tendencies that make the SP CE work i do very difficult for me, but i do love it. i’m still figuring out what i’m good at, when it comes to working with people. it’s cool to try different shit and learn what works and what doesn’t, what’s fun and what’s stressful, and so on.
as for publishing, we’ve done a three collections of love poetry, numerous reading-specific multi-author chapbooks, and a handful of single author chapbooks. amanda (huckins) has historically been our publishing guru but she’s taken a break from that to get involved more with community activism, other things. we’ve got a ton of LOVEbook submissions that are in a strange limbo right now. i hope to pick that project back up in 2016. i’m also working on a chapbook with ameen wahba. he’s a rad poet and musician from omaha, and all around great guy. it’s gone slower than i’d like because of my own lazy/busyness but i’m rly excited abt it. the place we do our printing has a perfect binding machine and the guy who runs the shop has quoted me some pretty reasonable rates, so we might be coming out with books with spines before too long, which is a very exciting prospect. in sp ce commons we have a bunch of rad letterpress equipment that amanda and others use to create cool poetic detritus that is distributed locally in strange and interesting ways.
you still work for the prairie schooner right? I mean this article says you do: http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/news/prairie-schooner-welcomes-web-editor-paul-hanson-clark
What’s it like working there?
it’s pretty chill. it’s part-time. i have a lot of respect for the people i work with, kwame and ashley, they are great. i also get to work with interns who are routinely amazing. working in an english department is odd and interesting. i often feel like i’m the only person who doesn’t have a masters degree or phd. i feel fortunate to have this job that is in line with my interests and pays quite decent for a part-time thing. but i still feel anxiety re my career path.
What do you feel anxiety about? like the making money part or the reputation part or both?
i feel a general anxiety about the viability of my current career path. i suck at making money. which is fine for a single brozo living in a cheap as fuck apartment who doesn’t spend money on booze and shit like that. but if i ever wanted to like, have a kid with someone, i feel like i would have to shake up my life pretty drastically.
How would you classify the type of work published there versus what you see in the ‘indie lit’ world?
good question. this is something i think abt a lot but rarely talk abt. funny story: at awp this year ps (prairie schooner) had a reading/reception thing. it was great. people of all ages, backgrounds, from all over the world, reading wildly different stuff, hanging out, having a great time. our editor, kwame dawes, has a real gift for bringing people together. later i went to a more ‘indie lit’ reading and the crowd was much more homogenous, as was the work being shared.
there were two readers who employed a ‘robot voice’ during their reading, for example. lol.
this was strange and interesting to me. ps perhaps has a reputation for being ‘old’ and ‘conservative’ and ‘indie lit’ perhaps has a reputation for being ‘young’ and ‘vibrant’, but in this instance, those reputations weren’t reflected in the reality i was experiencing. i guess to put it simply: i read vastly more non-american writers since i started working for ps. it’s been pretty great. i also read more writers who are ‘established’, but that i’d never heard of. i love ‘indie lit’ for publishing brand new work by brand new writers, there’s a certain rawness to it that i don’t see as often in ps, but ps publishes an interesting range of rly rad stuff that i don’t see talked abt in most ‘indie lit’ channels.
What is the ‘point’ of all this creative writing and promotion and stuff to you? Why do you do it?
lol f**k. i enjoy it, is one thing. i used to be more fucked up and afraid. i found that through art i found the space to push myself in weird directions that i was too anxious to go in my life. to communicate my true feelings, perhaps. this kind of laid the groundwork for me changing my life, maybe. i wrote for years abt alcohol before i quit drinking alcohol. this friend of mine vincent said recently “if you ink it, you’ll think it.” i relate to that. i used to go to readings and wonder “why are these ppl reading? what makes them so special?” at the time i was more self-centered, i wanted to be the one people were paying attention to. but the question still rings in my head and i try to push back against it in the work i do. i try to promote people because i think art can be a valuable part of a life, and it’s a lot easier to make art a valuable part of yr life if you have a support system of ppl who value you as a person and also value yr art. i think i’ve done a decent job of building such a support system for myself and a handful of others, but i still have a lot to learn. and despite what i’m saying i’m not all myopic abt it. i’ve always been drawn to performance because it’s always felt like the only space where i can be fully myself and ppl won’t think i’m strange or fucked up. so it all stems from a selfishness, yearning for a positive attention from people, and that yearning stems from some weird shit that is deep within me. #itsaprocess
What’s the best thing you’ve read in the past week or so?
i’ve been reading this book called Black Against Empire which is about the Black Panther Party. there’s a part where it talks about bobby seale and huey newton “policing the police” for the first time, how fearless newton was toward police, and how moving that was to people witnessing. that’s the best thing i’ve read in the past week or so. my friend bernadette johnson sent me a poem via facebook chat this morning at 5 a.m. called “speeding” & that was rly rad. that’s also the best thing i’ve read in the past week or so.
What indie authors/artists are you really ‘into’ right now?
i’m mostly into people who live near me. my friend justin ryan fyfe has long been a favorite poet of mine and i remain really into his work. i’m really into my friend jade lacy’s writing. she is a human being who lives in omaha and tweets rad shit and writes dope poems and is cool to talk to. i’ve mentioned ameen and bernadette. rachael wolfe is a poet from lincoln who also does zine making, drawing, singing, other stuff. she’s rly inspired my own creative branching out. i get to read her stuff pretty frequently cuz she still comes to writer’s group on a consistent basis. it’s been a really good year for poetry readings in omaha. there was a reading that re chang, blair emsick, daphne calhoun all read at. it was really rad, i’m really into all of their work, which i have limited access to via social media but am grateful. there’s this musician from omaha named david kenneth nance whose music i’ve been listening to. he’s not a friend of mine or anything but i think he’s rad. this omaha person named anna mcclellan released a tape recently and i’ve been listening to it. one of my favorite visual artists is my friend thalia rodgers, who i make collaborative drawings with. my friend alex savage is a really dope writer and visual artist whose work i enjoy a lot and whose ideas about art have been very influential on my own. my friend sarah pollard did a reading a few weeks ago that was kind of like, the dopest reading i’ve ever seen. sometimes when i listen to a reading i kind of, think about my own thoughts, but with sarah’s reading it was like she was pointing a laser directly at my brain. my friend bandido was working on an awesome long poem but i haven’t read any of his writing in awhile. my favorite indie author/artist that i don’t know personally is i think named jesse spears. her twitter is FUCKERS BOOKS @chericheri69 … i rt her shit constantly. she makes art and apparel and does other things that i pay attention to and routinely dig. another name i like to throw out is bill cassidy. he died a few years back but his poetry is some of the best. i only have a small amount of it but i find myself returning to it again and again. rip.
What poems by you would you suggest to people as “starter” poems?
Also any plans to do a book or anything? Do you actively submit manuscripts?
when i do readings i wish i had a book that i could sell people, or give to them. i don’t like selling things. like if i have a thing, and i want someone else to have it, it makes me feel weird inside asking them to give me $$$ for the thing i want them to have. i’ve been working on a long poem that i would like to exist as a small book. i want put together a manuscript of my individual poems. i’d like to self-publish both these things. there’s a printer who does good work on the cheap here, and he’s cool to work with. these are all just ideas though. i put together a manuscript a few years ago, submitted a couple places, no dice. more recently a couple publishers have expressed interest in putting something of mine out, but i haven’t tried very hard to make that happen. publishing has never been a big priority of mine, but it’s always in the back of my mind.