Peter Schenck, Cops and Underwear, 2009.
Luke Degnan You now live in Massachusetts, but you’re from Virginia. In Let’s Collaborate you write, “talking like my people who come from the country. / I said my favorite place is a road in Virginia.” How has Southern culture influenced your writing?
Jack Christian It’s interesting because I’d like to say that line is sarcastic, and in a way, it is, but in another way, there is an undeniable sense that I have of being from Virginia. Whether I like it or not, it seems to be inescapable in my world view, and it’s more pronounced, maybe, being in Massachusetts. Parts of Virginia are my favorite places in the world, and I think the most beautiful. The places that I picture when I write a poem, especially if I have pretty places in mind, are more than likely somewhere in the mountains of Western Virginia. My family on my dad’s side is a very Southern family. We’re very closely related to Stonewall Jackson. My dad, more so than me, has dealt with having to live that up or live that down as the case might be. He, in contrast with some of our other family, is liberal, very liberal. It is an anomaly of history who our ancestry is, and at the same time, Stonewall Jackson has some redeeming aspects, some qualities I wouldn’t mind having passed down to me. It’s complicated.
LD What are some other things that have influenced your writing?
JC Like a lot of people, listening to music—especially when I was an early teenager. At first I wanted to sound like Eddie Vedder. It didn’t take a very unique entry-point. I admired the impact that music could have on me and on my friends, but then being too lazy to learn how to play an instrument, or maybe being too personal or private about it. So that translated into poetry. I think there’s that, and I think there’s wanting to have faith in powers greater than ourselves, but not being able to come up with any plausible explanation, and so the experience of paradox and the uncanny and wanting to document it. And, also just a joy in putting shit together. If I put one thing together I can put it with this other thing. Maybe I can make this sentence do this. Maybe I can make it bend around or wrap around. When I was in pre-school, I made these sculptures, glued together, of all different scraps of wood they had for us. I think that those were the first poems that I was writing. It is just an enjoyment of putting oddly shaped things together.
Jack Christian is the author of the chapbook Let’s Collaborate from Magic Helicopter Press. His poems are upcoming in Web Conjunctions and have appeared recently on the web in Drunken Boat,Sixth Finch, Ink Node, I Thought I was New Here, and Cimarron Review. He is from Richmond, Virginia and lives now in Northampton, Massachusetts.