Friday, November 19, 2021

Interview with poet and author Tanner Reiss by Dave Wolff

Interview with poet and author Tanner Reiss by Dave Wolff

You’re hosting the Youtube channel Lone Wolf Poetics where you started posting your work about a year ago. How often do you promote it on social media?
Yeah, it’s been a little over a year on Youtube now. I try and post something on my Lone Wolf Poetics’ Facebook (or is it Meta now?) page at least every day, but usually, it ends up being every other day or so. Unfortunately, I’m not quite as active on Instagram – though I reach a bigger audience on Facebook – as I would like to be.
On my Youtube channel, I post a new video almost every Friday, with occasional videos on Thursday if it’s important.
I also host a radio broadcast on Wednesday nights called Wolf’s Den Wednesday, on the Cosmos Astrum Radio station, where I recite my work and do a deep dive where I talk about each piece’s inspiration, why I decided to write it, how I wrote it, how I interpret the piece and share any funny or interesting stories that happened while writing.

Why did you feel the title Lone Wolf Poetics was fitting for the videos you posted at Youtube?
I had the channel Lone Wolf for years prior to starting to upload actually – just to comment on videos and that kind of thing – and I’ve always been a “lone wolf” in terms of keeping my circle of friends small and enjoying being by myself. So when I decided to start uploading videos – which were poetic in nature – it seemed easiest just to add “Poetics” onto my existing account name. Moreover, tigers and lions may be mightier, but a wolf has never performed in a circus.

Lone Wolf Poetics has a handful of subscribers at Youtube at this time. Do you invite people to subscribe as often as you advertise at Facebook? Do you think fewer people are interested in poetry on Youtube or is it the algorithms?
Yeah, I think I have seventeen subscribers right now. If I’m being honest, I think I actually invite people to subscribe to my Youtube channel more than I advertise on social media. I say that, but it’s never been about getting subscribers or becoming monetized or anything. I started my Youtube channel just for the helluvit. I think if I would have started the channel a couple years ago, I might have been able to grow it faster. For some reason, there seemed to be a big boom in spoken-word poetry on Youtube between 2017 and 2019, I’m not really sure why. That being said, I don’t think, that today, it’s a matter of either algorithm or a lack of interest in poetry as a whole. I write about very difficult and unsettling topics in a very raw and emotional way. In today’s society, people don’t want to be confronted with painful truth, which is what I always aim to deliver.

I’ve noticed that people are more comfortable being distracted and pacified by the media, being led to believe they’re with the right causes than being confronted with society as it is. Do you see fewer or more people speaking out?
Well, I think it depends on what you’re classifying as speaking out. If you want to include cancel culture, then yes, there are a lot of people speaking out very strongly. However, if you mean are people speaking out on things that actually NEED to be spoken out about, no, I find there are very few of those people.

What effect do you think the cancel culture is having on communities on and off social media? Have you written about this subject or have you considered writing about it?
I think it depends on what communities you are talking about. If you're talking about communities that need to be talked about cancel culture is having very little effect. If you're talking about communities such as Mr. Potato Head having a gender (ie communities that have no significance whatsoever) cancel culture is having a huge effect. I have written about the topic, in a slam poem called ‘The Dance of the Sheep’.

How long have you broadcasted on Cosmos Astrum Radio? Do you know how many listeners you’re reaching? Podcasting at Youtube generates audiences, so do you think you’d have more listeners posting videos of your program there?
My next broadcast (November 10) will be two months since I started broadcasting on Cosmos Astrum Radio. Unfortunately, I don’t know how many people actually listen in – the first couple of broadcasts I did, but something happened on the system’s – Live365 – end and I haven’t known the numbers for a while now. I actually kind of like not knowing how many people are or are not listening though, I find it takes the pressure off a bit. In terms of doing podcast-style videos on my Youtube channel, yes, it is possible I would reach more of an audience. However, since I read the pieces I’m reciting on-air, off my phone, videoing my broadcasts isn’t something I’m able to do at the time. I also use my phone to shoot and edit all my Youtube videos.

Did you know people at Cosmos Astrum Radio who helped hook you up, or did you find the station searching for outlets to promote your work? Is there an address where people can hear your show?
Yes, I have been friends with Matt and Alyson for a few years now; they are the ones who started Cosmos Astrum Radio. They have always been huge supporters of all my writing. Not just my poetry and spoken word, but my paranormal short story series as well – which I would not have without their amazing insight.

What did you want to write about when you began penning verse? How much more subject matter are you writing about now?
I really started writing poetry in grade nine (so, 2005-ish), and to be honest, my subject matter has not really changed a whole lot since then. I’ve always enjoyed writing about the topics that make people uncomfortable, but that need to be written about and discussed. Mental health, domestic violence, addiction, death, war. The one thing I have started writing about more recently is Indigenous issues, such as systemic racism, poverty, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (or MMIWG), as well as the legacy of Canadian Indian Residential Schools.

How much research have you done on MMIWG and the legacy of Canadian Indian Residential Schools?
That depends on what you classify as research. If you mean looking online and reading articles, none. If you mean listening to stories of Residential Schools and knowing what is being said is true, then about twenty-nine-and-a-half years. That is to say, I am Indigenous and had family members who survived the genocide of Residential Schools. Thankfully, I have never been touched by Canada’s MMIWG, but I’ve known from a young age the reality of it.

Do you remember any poets who inspired you when you first started writing? Or was there something inside you that you felt the need to release?
Not really from when I first started writing. I would definitely say that now, Edgar Allen Poe, Marianne Williamson, and Amanda Gormen are big influences on my writing today.

Edgar Allen Poe’s name often comes up when I ask poets who inspired them. Did anything he wrote, in particular, speak to you? How about Williamson and Gormen? How and why did you resonate with their work?
I don’t think there was a particular work of Poe that really resonated with me, more so just the darkness and creepiness of his work in general. With Marianne Williamson, it was definitely her poem “Our Greatest Fear,” which is something I just kind of grew up hearing – whether in full or just bits and pieces. Amanda Gormen, it was her overall style of writing that wowed me. She uses multiple very complex rhyme schemes in her writing, which gives her work a gorgeous fluidity and ease about it. I’ve tried to imitate her style in poems like “Lone Wolf Poetics” and “Dance of the Sheep” with my own personal twist.

How deeply did you dive into your inspiration when you wrote poems for Rememberance Day? Is the emotional rawness with which you write helpful in illustrating your point?
On special days like Remembrance Day, I will release a video on my YouTube channel even if it isn’t a Friday. This year, for example, November Eleventh falls on a Thursday, but since it is such an important date, my video will be released then, not on Friday this week. But to answer your question, this piece is about PTSD and how soldiers – after returning home from active duty – are oftentimes forgotten and left to fend for themselves. I didn’t really dive too deeply at all. The inspiration actually came from a metal song by Five Finger Death Punch entitled ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven,’ which is kind of about the same topics. ‘Forgotten Soldier’ is an amalgamation of five hip/hop song lyrics that I wrote. I didn't want to take a whole radio broadcast ta recite all five songs, so I decided to combine bits of all of them.

Are the things you usually write about based on personal experiences or things you saw happening in the world around you?
Both actually, I do write lots about my own experiences – Indigenous issues and mental health especially. However, most of my writing and inspiration come from what I see going on around me. I always say, writing is my way of processing – or trying to process – the world around me. I’ve always been able to pick up people’s emotions and I will even physically feel the emotions of others. So, I think when I’m writing about a topic that I don’t know a lot about, I can, on a spiritual level, put myself in that situation, which allows me to understand. It sounds weird, I know, but I never said I was normal. Haha.

Do you write about socially relevant issues after reading the paper or watching the news or was it more personal? What percentage of what you see on the news these days is truth or falsehood, especially with the Covid pandemic gaining so much attention?
I actually don’t watch the news at all, nor read the paper. A lot of what I write about when I’m writing about socially relevant topics comes from music, and more specifically only a few artists that will speak on controversial topics, but without ever taking aside. As for how much of the news these days is fact or fiction, I honestly think it’s hard to tell. To quote from hip hop artist Tom MacDonald, “We don’t watch the news cuz they lied to us for years, so how we know that this the truth”?

Who is Tom MacDonald and which of his lyrics besides those you cited do you find you most closely relate to? From listening to hip hop and metal lyrics, how many similarities if any do you see between the genres?
Tom MacDonald is a 100% independent artist in every sense of the word. He writes, records, produces, all his own music and lyrics, promotes everything himself, makes, packages, and mails all his own merchandise. His girlfriend shoots all the music videos – the sets for which he builds in his house. He’s also known as “The Most Controversial Rapper” because he talks about what a lot of people think, but won’t say. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a song of his called “Snowflakes” wherein he says “If you lied to the government, they’ll put you in prison, but when they lie to all of us, it’s called being a politician, you think taking guns away will stop the killing, but your pro-choice, abortion kills way more children.” I think the biggest similarity I see between rap and metal is the attitude towards…well, society for one, but also caring if the lyrics piss people off. Depending on the band, both genres can actually be very poetic as well.

Have you been writing hip-hop lyrics as long as you’ve been writing poems? In what ways does that enhance your approach to verse?
Longer actually, I started off in grade 8-ish writing lyrics. Um, I’m not really sure writing lyrics helps my ability to write poetry, its more that it gives me another avenue to be able to write. Sometimes I’ll intend to write a poem, but will keep hitting walls, however, if I switch to making what I’m writing into a song, the ideas will just spill out of me.

Cite some more poems you’ve recited on Youtube and on Cosmos Astrum Radio, and explain why you chose to share them online.
The broadcast I did for Rememberance Day, I’m doing two songs, both entitled “The Un-Enlisted War” (Part 1 and 2) that have videos already on my YouTube channel. I will also be reciting a satirical essay I wrote a few years ago entitled “Wasteland of Heroes,” which was one of the first videos I uploaded. Finally, I will recite the spoken-word version of “Forgotten Soldier.” I chose these pieces because they all show a very different aspect of war. “The Un-Enlisted War” songs are about how, when a parent goes off to war, how it affects the children. The songs also have a twist that the teacher is also a Veteran. “Wasteland of Heroes” is my take on Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay “A Modest Proposal.” Finally, “Forgotten Soldier” is about a soldier who is discharged – and forgotten – due to PTSD.

When did you first start writing paranormally-themed short stories and where did the inspiration come from in this particular case?
Ugh, I think it was in 2014/2015 around there. I currently have ten stories written front-to-back. If I remember correctly, the inspiration came from watching The Conjuring. Ed and Lorraine Warren have always been idols for me in terms of my love for the paranormal. With my stories, I also incorporate my poetry into the story.

When did you first become interested in paranormal subjects? Did you have any personal experiences with the paranormal or was it mostly a fascination?
Actually in grade nine. I went to a Catholic high school, so I had to do mandatory Christian Ethics classes all throughout. In grade nine the teacher showed us an episode of a show called “Paranormal State.” (which was like the original Ghost Adventures). The episode was about a teenage girl who was being possessed by six demons. It may seem strange, but the teacher’s reasoning was there’s two sides to every story. Shortly thereafter I had my first of many Paranormal experiences, though I didn’t know it at the time. Within the last five or six years or so, I have come to realize that I am an empath and medium so, to have unexplainable experiences is pretty common for me now.

Did you expect your Christian Ethics instructor to discuss the episode of “Paranormal State” in such a way after showing it? Did you come away interested in the series?
Honestly no, not at all, I was amazed she even showed us the episode at all. But, yes, I did get me interested in the series, although the show didn’t last long after that episode.

Looking back on the paranormal experiences you’ve had, what do you think opened you to them? What about those experiences convinced you of your empathic abilities? Are you considering exploring those abilities further?
Honestly, I didn’t even know I had any abilities until my first couple of weeks of college. My roommate and I were in our dorm room just kind of hanging out, each in our own little worlds. I remember I was playing a game on my phone and out of no-fricking-where I felt my heart just SHATTER. I remember I dropped my phone and saying to myself: “Oh my God, [my roommate] is getting a call, someone’s dead.” Within two or three seconds of me saying that his phone rang, and he was told that a close family member was on their deathbed. I have, and continue to explore my abilities both as an empath and as a Medium further and actually really enjoy it. Oddly enough, and maybe this was an early sign of my abilities, but the two sisters in my short story series share my abilities. Kyra (the wife, and younger of the two) is the medium, while Keisha is the empath.

How have you gone about exploring your abilities as an empath and medium?
Honestly, the biggest way I explore them is by paranormal investigating, which isn’t really hard since spirits tend to follow me around haha. My abilities kind of make me like a magnet for spirits. But I’ve also done what I call “readings” for friends and strangers who I’ve offered to help after seeing a post they made reaching out for a medium.

How would you describe The Conjuring to readers who have never heard of it? Where can readers find out more about Ed and Lorraine Warren?
The Conjuring is a whole universe now (I think there are eight or nine movies in the universe now). The original movie is about one of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s most well-known, but also darkest investigations of their illustrious – and controversial – careers, the Perron Family Haunting. It’s also, for my money, one of the best horror movie franchises in recent memory. I’ve seen it probably close to thirty or forty times and it can still make me jump. I would say the best place to learn about Ed and Lorraine Warren would be to get one of their biographies or I think Paramount Network (if not Paramount than Detour [Travel Channel in the States]) did a documentary about the Warrens not too long ago.

How much information about the Warrens was provided in their documentary, and where can people watch it if they’re interested?
I the documentary is called “Devil’s Road: The True Story of Ed and Lorraine Warren” and it was a part of the Travel Channel‘s Shock Docs series. The actual run time of the show is a bit under ninety minutes, so it doesn’t cover every single case they did (their careers were fifty-plus years), but it is really informative nonetheless. I’m not really sure where you could find it, unfortunately, maybe Amazon Prime or Netflix. I would think the best way would be thru the Travel Channel streaming app (if it’s available in your Country).

Are there documentaries offering information about other cases involving the Warrens?
I don’t think so, it wouldn’t surprise me though. I know there are books they’ve written about not only the cases that feature in The Conjuring movies but also other famous cases of theirs.

Could you tell us about the ten stories you've written and any details about the plot?
Yeah, so the main plot is about a family of paranormal investigators – husband and wife (yes, inspired by the Warrens) and the wife’s sister. Each story is a new case and in a new location, some of which are completely made up, others like in my second story are set in actual haunted locations. I try and stay very true to how a team of investigators would actually go about an investigation – that’s actually how I met Matt and Alyson Ford, after reaching out to the P.A.S.T. Saskatchewan paranormal team for insight on how the equipment works and how to REALLY investigate. I also, try and combine aspects from different haunted locations into whichever location I’m using for my story. For example, in my fifth story, “Road to Hell” the first third of the story is set on a place I’ve actually investigated here in Saskatchewan called McKim Road. And I use my own experiences as the experiences of the characters. The second third is the team walking through a field that leads to the final setting which is a made-up cabin inspired by the Blair Witch House.

Did you contact Matt and Alyson about insight on investigating paranormal occurrences?
I didn’t contact Matt and Alyson directly, or at all actually since they became part of P.A.S.T later on. But the members of P.A.S.T I did talk to were amazing and more than happy to share their knowledge. And the same goes for Matt and Alyson today.

Who in P.A.S.T. were you in contact with directly for the information you needed? How helpful was the knowledge passed on to you?
It would have been Cory who I actually got in contact with me first. I sent them a message on Facebook I believe, and Cory gave me a call or a message (can’t remember which) within a couple hours.

How many poems have you incorporated into your series, and what was your purpose in including them?
Just to avoid confusion, my short story series is called MPC, or Mortchwood Paranormal Crew. Over the span of my ten stories, I’ve used a total of eighteen unique poems (although I have only made videos for three of them). Normally, I choose which poems I’m going to use before I even start writing because I use the poetry as the demonic antagonist character’s voice. I also like using the poems to present red herrings and small hints the main characters have to figure out – so the poetry is very much a part of the stories narrative.

Who are the main characters of MPC and how do their personalities differ as they interact with each other?
So the series kicks off with just Kyra and Gavin. Kyra – who grew up being haunted along with her elder sister Keisha – is the more experienced of the two in terms of the paranormal. She is also simultaneously headstrong and caring. Gavin is the techy and is logic-minded, though he does believe in the paranormal. Both Kyra and Gavin are very much in love with each other and have an unshakable connection for each other – Not unlike Ed and Lorraine actually. Keisha is the founder and lead investigator of MPC, ever the professional when it comes to MPC, but a very caring and friendly person outside of MPC. As a team, Gavin, Kyra, and Keisha are a dream team together. Keisha may be the lead investigator, but Kyra and Gavin have equal weight in the team. Keisha will pull rank if she has to, but far and away, the three trust and complement each other perfectly. Later on in the series, Gavin’s younger sister Gabriella, or Gabby, joins and she acts as a rookie and skeptic (though she too believes which is a storyline in a couple of the stories). When Gabby joins the team, Gavin becomes more hesitant and protective as an investigator.

As far as you know, has your approach to fiction with poems being an integral part of the narrative been attempted by other writers or are you doing something completely new?
I can’t recall other authors who have used poetry in their fiction off hand, but I know it has been done. From the one or two examples that I’ve read, however, the poetry always seemed unnecessary. That’s why I always try and find some way – even if it’s just one or two lines out of the entire poem(s) – that tie the poetry into the storyline. If nothing else, I make sure the only time I’m using poetry is for the demon’s voice.

Which of your poems incorporated into Mortchwood Paranormal Crew have been released on your Youtube profile?
Now that I think of it, I’ve made videos for four of the poems I use in the MPC series. Those poems are titled: “A College Where Spirits Dwell” (this is the very first video I ever uploaded to YouTube), “Capegoat”, “A Place No Longer Sacred” and “Genesis of Evil”.

Are you planning to write a new installment to your series? Do you have an idea what poems you’ll incorporate next?
Kind of, I’m working on a second MPC series currently where I change up the format and structure of the stories. One of the ways I do that is by NOT including any poetry at all. This is actually my second attempt at this second series. I had to scrap my original idea because it was way too close to the discovery of 250 Indigenous child remains at the sight of a Canadian Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia at the time I was writing it.

Do you know what the new series will be about at this point? How long has it been in development so far, and how many installments are being planned?
Yes, it’s more or less about the same things as my original MPC series. The difference is, however, the new series is based solely in one central location (think a closed tourist resort out in the country that has a bunch of buildings). This series will have five installments, with each story progressively getting darker and more intense. I think it’s been about a year or so since I originally thought of this concept. I had actually written a full first draft and started the second story before I decided to scrap the series. I’m still using the original completed story. So, I’m going through and making the necessary changes to fit this new storyline.

Did you consider submitting your poems to regular publications or publishing them in book form?
I have, the thing that holds me back is a lot of my work has a specific voice or way they are meant to be read. A way that, unless you hear it, you are not going to know exists. Take for example, “A College Where Spirits Dwell”: everyone who reads it, reads it normally – which sounds flat and makes the poem sound horrible, but if you go and watch the video for that poem, the way it’s meant to be recited – which is with a harsh emphasis on every capitalized word, it makes the poem sound eerie and threatening. But, if you’re just reading it on paper, how are you ever going to know that?

How much more effective does emphasizing capitalized words make your poems as opposed to reading them “normally”? Maybe an audiobook or spoken word CD would work?
Well, to answer the first part of your question, I think you need to go and watch the video for “A College Where Spirits Dwell.” It really is a night-and-day difference though. That technique however, has only ever been used for that poem. I do have another piece entitled “Voiceless Tongues,” which is about rape that uses different capitalization, italicizing, bolding, and underlining for different voices. The prose for that one is powerful even read normally, however the in order to get the real intention of the piece, the different voices is key. Something like an audio book or CD is an interesting idea, though. I’m lost on how to go about creating something like that, but it is an interesting idea.

What other projects involving your poem and/or fiction writing would you consider taking on?
That’s a great question actually. Honestly, I don’t even know really haha. I’ve always wanted to get the original MPC series published – I knew that when I started writing “The Curse of Satan’s Baptist,” other than that though, yeah, I have no idea.

How would you feel about having your work recognized aboveground if this were ever to happen?
I think it would be amazing to be recognized in a more mainstream way. That being said, as much as I want the recognition, “Take heed my advisory, I wish NOT to be legendary!” recognition from mainstream yes, fame and celebrity status, no.

How would you want to be known and/or remembered for your writing, today or in the future?
I love this question, all of your questions actually. This has been a really enjoyable experience, so thank you for that. To answer your question though, I would love to be known for never being afraid to write about hard topics. For sparking conversations and shattering misconceptions. For giving a voice to the voiceless and for doing it my way – regardless of whether it was the “right” way or the “popular” way. I know this might sound weird, but I honestly do not care if people remember the words I write, as long as they remember the IMPACT my words had. To quote Kid Rock: “If it looks good, you’ll see it. If it sounds good, you’ll hear it. If it’s marketed right, you’ll buy it. BUT…if it’s REAL, you’ll FEEL it.”

-Dave Wolff

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