Always on the road, always writing, and always making, Jeremiah Walton and the Nostrovia! crew are poetry in the raw. They’re not afraid of where words might take us. I asked Jeremiah a bunch of stuff, but I forgot to ask about this. Go find him on Twitter and then pick up a book, why not.
Do you consider yourself a ‘writer’? like is that what you identify as?
When people ask me ‘what do you do,’ like in conversation with a stranger, I say, ‘I’m a poet.’ That’s what I focus on. Pretty much everything I do is centered around poetry at this point. The funky conversations it sparks are cool, too.
What are your main ‘outlets’ for writing? (social media, poetry, fiction…whatev else)
Writing poems, & street ciphers.
There’s intimate small group or one-on-one readings that happen as we travel. It’s a good feeling. There’s no stage. No boundaries. No one is better than anyone else, for reasons literary or otherwise. It’s human, people doing what they love, and sharing it with a spontaneous gathering.
Some friends and I, one cat traveling around the country in a short bus, my friend Neeko Ford, a hip hop artist I met in Tucson, and this awesome traveling poet named Clay Bugh all met up at Beast Crawl in Oakland. Clay and I were performing at different venues during the First Leg, and bumped into after performing outside of an open mic where they gave you a shot of bourbon to perform. We spent the night wandering around the Bay sharing poems and experiences and travel stories. The next morning, in San Francisco, we all sat around on the sidewalk for hours reading poetry and freestyling. We were in the Excelsior district. It was beautiful.
Why did you start Nostrovia poetry and what are your ‘goals’?
I was 15 when the Nostrovia! site first launched. It was initially self-centered bullshit. It wasn’t a publishing press. It was entirely built around a collection I was writing with the same name.
Quickly, that became a turn off. My poems were ripped down. The seeds for what Nostrovia! is now was planted thru watching the literary community + late night campfire singalongs + wandering the train tracks + hopping freight and tagging the boxcars. Doing what we loved for the value of doing it.
I spent years fumbling around, shaking up dust and biting at whatever project seemed a good way to get poetry to a wider audience. In 2013, we wandered New England with micro-chapbooks, hiding them in Barnes & Nobles and distributing them thru busking. This started cultivating Passionate Living > Making a Living, resisting monetary drive for its own sake.
At the 2014 NYC Poetry Festival, we launched the traveling bookstore, and Nostrovia! hit the road. Toward the end of the year, Christopher Morgan came on board. Major credit has to be given to him for where Nostrovia! is now. He stepped on board with our first Chapbook Contest, and thru that and other avenues, has helped shape Nostrovia! with a stronger foundation, teaching me more in depth about publishing and writing along the way.
I’m 20 now, so it’s been 5 years. Nostrovia! is chugging along, like it always will be, to encourage others to chase their dreams, to find reason to wake up in the morning beyond the alarm clock rattling.
Do you read a lot of other journals? Which ones?
Alien Mouth + Voicemail Poems + BOMB + Big Lucks are all pretty rad. All of these publishers have been a big influence on Nostrovia!’s recent development.
Do you submit to publications pretty regularly? How often?
I don’t submit anywhere anymore. I put out chapbooks sometimes, usually self-published, and distribute them at shows / open mics / busking / thru trades, like for wine or a wire wrap.
As an editor, are you now more sympathetic to when you get rejected?
What Nostrovia projects are you currently working on?
Books & Shovels, N!’s traveling bookstore, is preparing to relaunch in late September. We’re kicking off at Ghost Skullman Attacks! in Somerville, MA, on September 21st, then heading South to New Orleans, to Tucson, then to Lit Crawl in San Francisco. We bop around the country distributing lit + art at a ‘pay-what-you-can’ rate to avoid denying anyone literature over $. We accept trades too. A woman in Monterey, CA, traded us a song for a book. In Tucson, AZ, someone else traded us books + wine for a couple zines.
Right now Books & Shovels is looking for donations of chapbooks + zines + anything that exhibits passion. We don’t have many LGBTQIA voices on our shelves, so if anyone can recommend some great writers for us to check out, people who made an impact on your life, reaching out with recommendations would be great.
Once we hit the road again, Emily Kask, a wonderful photojournalist, will be joining us to film a documentary on traveling kids and nombas in the 21st century America.
Fuck Art, Let’s Dance, an ezine N! publishes, is re-launching in 2016 as a bi-annual venue. We’re opening its doors to accepting more than just poetry, and working to strengthen it as an inclusive home for 21st century literature and creativity.
Chris and I are also working on 2016’s Chapbook Contest. Same as last year: it’s free to enter, books debut at the 2016 NYC Poetry Festival, and we aren’t announcing the submission window dates. So stay alert 😉
You’re going back on the road, right? What’s that like?
Driving thru Kansas storms late at night. You can’t see all that empty in the absence of light. Then purple lightning spider webs across the sky and you can suddenly see everything for miles.
Hitchhiking thru Vermont is quick. Fall there is beautiful. All the hills / mountains / forests along I-89 look like they’re burning. Within ten minutes of the first time I stuck my thumb out, two federal agents harassed me, seeing if I was a runaway or something. I was in a way, but not the minor they were hoping I was. This was in White River Jct. Right as the sun began to set, my first ride snagged me. This guy made unwanted sexual advances on me. I pulled a knife, and was let off in Brattleboro.
In Brattleboro, I fell in love with a woman who picked me up. We ended up dating, and bopped around together for a long time.
Pennsylvania was full of paranoia and fear. I was terrified of a man with a machete who I was convinced was out to kill me. He was just having fun. If he was out to kill me, he would have. But I was 18 and terrified, and madly in love with the woman who’d picked me up. She was friends with him before he snapped.
The Grand Canyon is imagination manifested as a physical place. Big Sur looks like someone else’s Eden.
Lost Boys & Girls in Tucson, where my soul grew fat with liquor and amphetamines, then struggled to empty. I left, came back, left. Tucson beat the shit out of me. Well, I did. I’m going back there though. That’s home. The family that formed out there, man, it was beautiful. We opened up a hobo haven, a place where travelers could come crash and grab a bite to eat. It fell apart quick w/ folks taking advantage of it, but while it lasted, it was beautiful. There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sounds of coyotes. Some of the greatest poets are out there, from sages of the desert, to young suburban writers with romantic notions of the road.
This is typed in New Hampshire. It’s all just bopping. The road is in control, weird opportunities manifest. We were almost carnies in Bradenton, FL. Living in Erie, PA, led to an opportunity to perform at the 2014 Snoetry Festival at Guide to Kulchur in Cleveland, OH. Oakland was full of fire and passion when we marched in solidarity with Freddie Gray on May Day.
Everything slows down. You’re more in the moment. You don’t have four walls to comfort you. Everything becomes more vibrant and new as you move. Motion is key, the inbetween is a great feeling, long car rides, rambling. There were five of us crammed in a three-seater pickup truck at one point, three up front, two in the truck bed, squished with the traveling bookstore and our packs. That was fun. My friend Neeko and I, we’d freestyle in the back, and go back and forth with new pieces.
Not everyone is on the road b/c they want to be though. It’s not always a choice. It’s not always beautiful. It’s often romanticized. We’ve met some amazing souls, both absolutely battered and strong. It does a toll on your body and spirit if you don’t care for yourself.
Do you find it hard to find venues and places and such?
Most times we just show up and go “hey, we do this, can we set up?” Usually there’s no issues. Sometimes people invite us out to gigs or to set up at their events. For larger festivals and events, we register. Street corners, we just set up. Sometimes we perform in public. We often end up having ciphers with cats we meet along the way. Rap battles in Venice Beach and dirty poet ciphers post-Beast Crawl in San Francisco. Small group shows are intimate.
What’s the best thing you’ve read in the past week or so?
9 Stories by JD Salinger
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Young Poets Bare All: What Is a Culture?, a post on HARRIET by Amy King. The writers’ answers to her questions are thoughtful and aren’t going to take shit from systematic oppression.
What indie authors are you really ‘into’ right now?
It really varies on mood and environment, but these are some folks that I share most often / greatly respect.