Friday, February 15, 2019

Interview with poet LUKAS A. BRYSON by Dave Wolff

Lukas A. Bryson
Interview with poet LUKAS A. BRYSON

How long has your collection of poems The Lack and The Swell: A Book of Poetry and Madness been available? I noticed it’s being sold at Amazon.
It was published on September 20 of 2018 and is only available in print (there is currently no ebook available). It can be purchased from Amazon or you can order autographed copies directly from me.

Was The Lack and The Swell intended to be exclusively in print, or do you also plan to release it as an ebook?
I decided to publish exclusively in print for the first year or two, because I'd like to encourage people to own real books. I have always preferred real print books, for the tangibility and for the solid symbol of knowledge gained. Also for shareability! I may introduce a digital version sooner if I get several requests for it, but otherwise it will be a good while.

How many poems are published in The Lack and The Swell? How long did it take you compile this collection of your work?
There are eighty or so poems in the book compiled from twenty-some years of work. They were all written by me over the course of my life and during the many phases of my life, from high school to college, to touring with a band in California, to working in photography for many years, to becoming a Buddhist, and of course working through the many relationships and friendships I have gained and lost over the years.

Is this your first ever anthology? How much of a response has it gotten so far?
This is my first published anthology, so it contains the best of my work up to this point. A few of them were posted on social media over the years, but those accounts are long gone by now. The book was just published recently and I haven't done any marketing or signings yet, so the response has been minimal so far. I'm planning to push it this year and spread the word as much as I can (and do things like this interview!).

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start? At what point did you decide to start publishing your verse?
I have been writing since I was very young, so twenty-five plus years now that I'm in my late 30s. I was always a reader, so I think my favorite books and writers were my inspiration. Novels by Michael Crichton, Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett, some classics and others got me started on books in general. I also minored in Writing in college, so I studied many styles there. Poets like Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll and others have always inspired me to express words in abstract and rhyme. I decided to publish when I felt like I had done enough work and should probably share it.

How much of your material did you have to go through to choose what was published in your anthology?
When I was initially putting together this collection, I sorted through hundreds of my scribblings in old handwritten notebooks and journals, as well as my digital archives on old laptops and phones. I've always tried to keep note-taking implements around me for that reason, if a line, a poem, or a song comes to me I have to write it down right away, or it could be lost forever. Although that has happened many times as well, sadly. 

On what internet outlets are you planning to promote the release of The Lack and The Swell? Will you also be promoting it at bookstore appearances?
This is the third interview I have done for the book so far. The first was for a quarterly magazine at the corporation I work for (at my day job). The second was for my hometown's newspaper. I am planning to submit the book to several websites for book reviews. And yes, I have spoken with the people at my local Barnes & Noble about coming in for a signing. I'm planning to do several appearances at smaller local bookstores as well. Depending on how well the book does, I might be able to eventually travel and do a small book tour as well.

How many local bookstores are located close to you? Between those and the larger stores, which atmosphere do you prefer?
There's about twenty book stores here in the city of Boise, I think I prefer the larger stores, or even the smaller ones located in larger shopping districts. The reason being that with more traffic you can get more visibility for your book, and make better use of your time sitting at a signing table.

Of the bookstores located near you (besides Barnes & Noble), which are major outlets and which are smaller mom and pop stores? Can the smaller stores be good for promoting?
The largest bookstores around are Barnes and Noble Booksellers, and the rest are spread around the city under names like “Bargain Books” or “The Rediscovered Bookshop”. As I mentioned before, the smaller stores can be just as good as the large chain stores depending on their location. If a smaller bookstore is located in a large strip mall, or a busy downtown area, it can get as much foot traffic as the larger stores. The amount of foot traffic or visitors is directly related to how effective one’s time is spent at a table gaining visibility and signing books, of course.

Which websites do you have in mind for submissions of The Lack and The Swell?
I've found a few listed on which offer movie-style reviews of books, provided you can send them a free copy. I don't know much about them yet, as I'm just getting started, but it looks like it will be worth it. Getting a page on a website dedicated to your book is a helpful marketing tool, especially for online sales, simply because the more views your pages get, the higher your book will rank in various lists and searches.

How much has helped sales of The Lack and The Swell? Are you marketing it on similar pages? Have you also considered releasing an edition for the internet?
As previously mentioned, I haven’t submitted anything yet to any websites, but I found some lists on goodreads of sites that offer book reviews if a copy is submitted. I have considered releasing an ebook edition but I decided to wait a couple years to support the tangibility and shareability of physical books, as a matter of principle.

People say that the Kindle and the ebook will eventually replace printed books. Do you see this happening or will there always be people who prefer physical books?
Yes, there are many, including myself, who believe that the ebook will replace printed books over time. They have already done so to a large degree. I do see it as an inevitable eventuality. However, as previously mentioned, I prefer physical books because having them on the shelf serves as a reminder of any knowledge you gained from that book, and also because you can loan them to friends and affect the spread of that knowledge, which is something valuable I think, that is missing from the digital format.

What classics  inspired you to become a writer? What do you believe makes them classics?
I collected many of the "literary canon" books while in college studying writing. Some of my personal favorites are "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde, and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll. I suppose they are considered "canonical" or "classics" because they are extremely well-written for their time period and the stories are exciting and memorable. I personally consider these my favorites because the stories are far-fetched, even to the point of being abstract, and deeply imaginative. I have always written in a similar fashion, maintaining readability but trying to stretch my imagination to its limits.

What do you find exciting, imaginative and memorable about Stevenson, Wilde and Carroll? How is your writing comparable to theirs?
Their work is full of abstract characters and worlds that stretch the imagination, from Wilde's magical painting that gives Dorian his immortality, to Carroll's entirely fictional Wonderland. My work is comparable only in that I try to write from a place of abstract reality, where there are no rules or constraints on what can be created.

Besides Wilde and Carroll, what about the transformation from good to evil in Stevenson’s novel do you find abstract?
The transformation of Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in Stevenson’s novel is of course a metaphor for humankind’s own schizotypal behavior, especially when imbibing alcohol or other chemicals. The metaphor is not necessarily “abstract” but the leap from man to oversized monster does fall into a realm which could be considered “abstract” because it allows for unpredictable outcomes. Once the author decided to portray Mr. Hyde as a super-human beast, he allowed himself to expand the limits of reality. The term “abstract” may not be apt in this case, it is usually reserved for more far-fetched ideas, although I think the term can be synonymous with fantasy or fiction in general, which does apply in this case.

What exactly do you mean by writing from a place of abstract reality? And having no constraints on what you create in writing?
Especially with poetry, where even the constraints of sentence structure can be bent, writing from a place of abstract reality would mean that there is no need for plots or characters to maintain adherence to laws of nature, physics, perception, or anything. There could be a flying monkey that breathes fire and eats penguins, but even that still only bends a few rules. There could also be a flying pine-cone that breathes sorrow and eats dreams. That one breaks more rules. Even further, there could be a flying sorrow that breathes penguins and eats jogging. That example gets into the more poetic realm of pure abstract, where the reader is expecting deep metaphors and images that are open to interpretation. It carries the risk of alienating the readers if there is no thread they can follow or relate to, but in good poetry which is done well, I believe it can inspire more amazing new thoughts than most other art forms.

Any examples of abstract reality in novels that you read recently, and that made a lasting impression on you?
Imajica, by Clive Barker is one I can think of that made an impression. That book (sometimes found split into a two book series) is a modern fantasy in which he defines a multi-dimensional world full of magic and mind-bending imagery. There are characters made of energy vortexes, characters with heads shaped like hands, assassin creatures who live between worlds and speak only by whistling. Amazing scenery like living oceans and impossibly tall cities as well. Actually anything by Clive Barker would qualify as abstract. He is most known for writing horror movies like Hellraiser, but his fantasy novels are often overlooked and extremely good. I have met him a couple times in California at his book signings.

Did you read The Hellbound Heart, the novel the Hellraiser movies are based on? If so, how much weight does it carry in the horror genre?
Lukas A. Bryson and Clive  Barker
I read it many years ago, and I remember it being closely related to the film, although the plot and characters were changed quite a bit, and the film lacked much of the depth that Barker’s writing contains. However that effect is common in most cases where a written work is translated into the visual medium. I think that most horror fans would place Clive Barker right at the top of the horror genre alongside Stephen King, despite that Barker’s works were not as mainstream as King’s. Certainly the Hellraiser series, being his most successful, influenced the genre in a massive way. It was, I think, the most direct and visceral portrayal of “demons” enacting their various tortures at the forefront of a film that had ever been seen in Hollywood. Not to mention its focus on sado-masochism as a plot device. It was a very bold film that definitely pushed the genre forward, and did so unapologetically. That particular book/movie represents the darkest of Barker’s endeavors however, the rest being more fantasy-based. I am a fan of both.

Are there any contemporary authors you would consider to be as imaginative as those you cited earlier?
I'm sure there are hundreds of modern fiction books that could be compared to the classics in terms of scope and imagination, most of them I haven't had time to read. The best example on that level that I can think of would be Terry Pratchett, considering that he created Discworld, a vast series of novels in an entirely fictional (and hilarious) world that makes up its own rules. He was entirely unconventional, even at times specifically writing to challenge conventions of reality. Unfortunately we lost him in 2015, but his books are among my favorites of all time.

How many novels were published as part of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld? Is this a science fiction series? How many rules do the author break and how many does he establish when it comes to writing? What challenges does he pose as an author?
I had to look it up, but there are about 45 books in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I have read many of them, but not all. His style is more “fantasy” than science fiction, but it also falls into the “comedy” category as well. His writing, like much of British humor, is intended as a parody of established politics, religion, science, society, or anything else he can find to deconstruct. His impressive series could be considered equally as derivative of Monty Python as it could be of Tolkien. He breaks any and all rules, but does in fact establish a few when describing the “Disc” where his characters dwell and his stories take place. As for challenges, I suppose he dares his readers to question everything they encounter, because there can be illusions and lies lurking around every corner in his books, and in life itself, of course.

In addition to Pratchett, do you know of more modern authors with unconventional approaches to fiction writing?
Some would consider poetry itself to be an unconventional approach to fiction writing, so I would point anyone interested in just that toward the poetry section. For books, there are certainly abstract authors to note, such as Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, Franz Kafka, George Orwell and the like. Most of these can be found sprinkled into modern reading lists, but they span the last century or two. For authors currently working, I think you could find several in the “science fiction” or “fantasy” sections that would qualify as unconventional, being that those two genres tend to break a lot of rules just by the nature of their subject matter. And of course, as you could easily guess, those are my favorite genres as well.

How about authors from recent years, from the 70s to the present day, whose novels you consider unconventional?
Besides those I already mentioned, like Terry Pratchett and Clive Barker, anyone interested could also check out Philip K. Dick or Chuck Palahniuk, both of whom write modern works that have been made into movies that are popular and unconventional, although not in the “fantasy” genre, their books are equally abstract and mind-bending in the same right. Another of my personal favorites is Michael Crichton, who wrote several novels which have been made into movies, including Jurassic Park, Sphere, The 13th Warrior, Congo, and several others.

Would you say your writing is somewhat similar to any of the authors you discussed above? And if so, in what way?
Yes, I would say my work is similar, especially in terms of influence, because all of these authors have inspired my voice over the years to be deeply imaginative, vivid, and unconstrained. They have inspired me to always write in a way that causes people to look at life from new angles, which I believe can help to balance people’s perspectives; and getting people to open their minds to new perspectives is so important these days, it could even change the world.

Edgar Allen Poe is an author often discussed in this zine. Would you say his work embodies the abstract reality you have been talking about?
Poe is a big influence of mine. His work could be called abstract I suppose, especially his poetry, although his themes were broad and tended to tell larger pictures of despair and tragedy, rather than writing to break the laws of reality for its own sake. My own admiration for Poe comes from his meter and rhythm. I was always mesmerized by the way his writing bounces and slides and smashes across the tongue, or in the mind, with perfect timing. Like a great composer, he was a master of using rhythm to add a dramatic edge to his stories simply by his choice of words and sentence structure. It’s a common reference, but “The Raven” is probably the best example of the rhythm to which I refer. I memorized that poem in high school simply because I was so enchanted by its effect.

Was it the setting of Poe’s poem that held your attention, or the symbolism of darkness and despair, or a little of both?
Certainly a little of both, as well as the rhythm. The setting of “The Raven” is beautiful; a sort of victorian/gothic study room or “chamber” as he calls it, full of interesting books, furniture and trinkets indicative of the time period. That environment is itself a captivating setting, and does hold our attention because we often romanticize or feel some nostalgia for that time in history. Poe’s symbolism is one of the strongest features of his stories. This poem in particular uses the many features of the room to represent different facets of his life, and describes how his love and obsession for the “lost Lenore” affects every aspect of his life, and will haunt him forever. He will never get over it. Since we can all relate to being haunted by some type of memory, and because Poe’s rhythm and symbolic word choices are so fantastic, it could be one of the best poems ever written.

How do you intend to develop your own abstract writing in future projects?
Now that I’ve released my first anthology, I feel a sense of freedom to continue writing better and better pieces. I have a great deal already written that needs to be edited for the next book, and I will add to that several new works that I haven’t even conceived yet. I plan to read as much as I can of new authors in many genres to continually develop my style. I also have been planning to record an album that relates to the books, using some of the poems as a lyrical base. I have always seen songwriting and poetry as closely related, of course, they are essentially the same thing, and my background is as much in music as in writing. So keep an eye out for that! You can follow me on most social media platforms under my name for updates.

Are you developing the characters and storyline for your next book? How much of it has been worked out so far? How soon do you expect to start writing?
I’ve already started compiling and finishing some poetry for the next book, I will just need more time to add more works and complete others. The next book will contain larger sets of poems that are written in a series with a deeper storyline, whereas “The Lack and The Swell” contains more individual poems and shorter series-type works. If I had to guess, I’d say the next book might be completed by 2020 or thereabouts.

What poems are you thinking of basing your album on? At this point do you plan to release this project independently, streaming it as well as releasing it on CD? How many poems have you been digging up?
There are a few poems in the book that I always intended to be songs, and some others that I might convert. A few I can think of are “Three Inches”, “Bankrupted”, “Later”, and “Substance”. I am planning to release a few songs independently, probably streaming on YouTube as well as some larger platforms like iTunes, Spotify, and the like. However, I am planning to simultaneously submit several tracks to various record companies as well just to see what kind of response I can get. During the creation process I’m sure I will dig through hundreds of poems for song ideas.

Did you think about streaming the songs you would base the album on, as a means to promote its impending release? What record labels would you consider pitching the album to?
I do think streaming some songs is a good idea for promotion, and I will probably do that, or at least submit them to YouTube. I haven’t chosen the record labels yet that I think might be interested. But, from my initial searches, there are a handful of labels in the northwest USA that at least accept submissions of new material, so that’s where I will start.

What other ideas do you have in mind, that you would like to see come to fruition? How many of them are you prepared to develop at this point?
I have several ideas for more books and music that I have been working on for many years. I will be doing my best to develop them one at a time as I go along. An album will be next, as I mentioned, and after that the 2nd book should be ready to go. As for the extreme future, I might be able to add in some music videos or film projects if possible. It will all depend on time and funding, but like I said, I will do my best to keep going, one at a time.

How do you think your contributions to writing will be remembered? Would you like to change the rules of the game so to speak?
I think that my writing, especially this first book, will be remembered as being unusual. That, in a small way, was the idea. My hope is that readers might enjoy the new perspectives or clever turns of phrase, and open new channels of thinking and conversation, which is good for everyone, and the growth of our world. I also would like to “change the rules of the game” as you say, by associating the books with the songs on my future albums, interchanging words and ideas between them both. I’m not sure if many artists have ever done that, but I hope it might bring more visibility to both.

-Dave Wolff

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