Interview with Judge Santiago Burdon by Dave Wolff
Who I am.
I’m a recovering Catholic
drug fiend and addict,
a drunk, a thief and ex-con,
musician, writer, half assed poet, and fighter,
a drifter, failed husband and father,
horrible dancer, an excellent cook, Atheist, well read and a scholar,
quick tempered, dog person, sports fan, crack shot,
I'm also an excellent driver.
a dreamer, jokester, gambler,
Known to be lazy, sometimes a liar,
Worked as a smuggler,
too old to do time,
Its the reason I've retired. -JSB
You studied Victorian literature at universities in the United States, England, and Paris before you started publishing your writing. Who were the authors you studied during this time?
I've always had a great admiration for the classics. I consider the Victorian Era as the time when literature reached its pinnacle. I read “A Tale of Two Cities” which I consider Charles Dickens’ best novel. Besides the book highlighting the historical event of the French Revolution, Dickens wrote with a flare of unpretentious arrogance and descriptive mannerism that instantly fascinated me.
The Bronte Sisters wrote verse that crescendoed into a chorus of emotion. One of my favorite romantic quotes, is from Wuthering Heights "You’re all of life to me. Let me be a single breath of it for you." -Isabella to Heathcliff, “Wuthering Heights”. Other epic authors from the era; Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde Tennyson, Bram Stoker, Rudyard Kipling. I personally never cared for Tennyson saw him as a self-absorbed hostage of his sadness although it seemed to me enjoyed depression. Always moaning, complaining, begging for sympathy. I followed the opinions of TS Eliot and WH Auden concerning Tennyson.
T. S. Eliot famously described Tennyson as "the saddest of all English poets", who’s technical mastery of verse and language provided a "surface" to his poetry's "depths, to the abyss of sorrow. W. H. Auden maintained a more critical stance, stating that Tennyson was the "stupidest" of all the English poets, adding that: "There was little about melancholia he didn't know; there was little else that he did."
I added him to the list as a reflex. I attended Cambridge University for three semesters until the Chancellor of Colleges requested I find some other learning institution. "Your renegade study technique doesn't seem to include any useful piece of practical wisdom. Therefore it is our wish you complete your scholarship at some university willing to tolerate your subversive agenda".
I voiced my disdain for Tennyson anytime an occasion presented the opportunity. I later discovered I should have done my research first. Seems Lord Tennyson was poet laureate of Queen Victoria. I was aware of that fact, it was my overlooking his other accolades that caused my early departure. He won the Chancellor's Gold Medal Award at none other than the University I was attending. He was a student of Trinity College Cambridge University.
Did you find the literature of the Victorian Era particularly compelling, or did the social and political atmosphere of the era also capture your attention?
Truthfully I found the Era boring. It was the writers of the time it produced. The Elizabethan era I find intriguing especially after I discovered my heritage can be traced back to Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex. He was beheaded by Elizabeth after attempting an assassination and unsuccessful coup. He was also the Queen's lover.
My interest in Victorian literature had waned since my freshman year of High School most of my study was completed during my junior high school years. I was into the "Beats" and radical thought of the time. It was the '60's man, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, Summer of Love, LSD Moody Blues, we're all Bozos on this bus Fireside Theatre. Buy a ticket take the ride.
It seems however my study of Victorian era Literature made me somewhat of a celebrity. The Librarian at my local library where I had worked on most of my research became a wonderful assistant. She would suggest literature or Magazine articles relevant to the period. I assumed she must have been single, having so much extra time to help a thirteen-year-old boy with such a boring subject. Someone mentioned she was a Lesbian, and I'm embarrassed to admit I had no clue to what that meant. I looked up the definition and wasn't surprised. I had prior knowledge of Greeks and other cultures participating in homosexual relationships.
(Let me cut to the chase: my study had caught attention of a professor of Victorian literature from the University of Wisconsin Madison. My librarian’s sister)
I was offered a free semester of study at the University. 15 and going to college. My teachers at school all signed off on it. Spent my semester at college getting high and taking part in protests. I wanted to write for The Cardinal University Newspaper and worked with two radical type guys, I made friends with Leo and Dave. Despite working hard for the paper the Editor never gave me an assignment.
The following year just before entering my senior year in high school I was visited by the FBI and questioned for over three days without my parents ever objecting since I was a minor. Seems my two buddies Leo and Dave along with two other fellows blew up a building on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus killing one person.
I had no idea of their whereabouts or knew of any plans pertaining to the bombing. Although I do recall how pissed off Leo was about the Kent state shootings. He sent me a photo of the protest in Madison. Told me to drop out of school and join the New Year’s Eve Gang, whoever the hell they were. I never mentioned it to the feds. And they asked over and over again if I had any communication with them. I was pretty pissed off at my parents. They couldn't understand why. Unless I had something to hide from the FBI. Then my father demanded I tell the truth about my involvement. Asshole. This from a wanna be gangster who hated cops and was a criminal himself.
In what ways were you influenced by the Victorian era authors you cited?
Their influence on my style of writing or my genre is difficult to describe. I don't write romance, mystery, historical or horror books. These are the themes of the writers I studied. My genre has been described as transgressive fiction or dirty realism; I refer to my poetry and stories as "stuff".
If you want me to identify an influence from the study of the classic authors, I would have to answer it’s their detail of describing a character or place. And their use of dialogue is astounding. Dickens was master of both. I find myself using a page to describe to the reader a dust particle floating in the air passing through a beam of light pushing itself through a hole in the roof of the vacant house. I'm fortunate to have found excellent editors for my books. Arthur Graham is a god when it comes to editing.
Other than "A Tale of Two Cities", what else have you read by Dickens? Were his other writings as captivating as this novel?
I've read everything by Dickens, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations etc.
How was it that you were able to travel from country to country so extensively?
I was the recipient of grants and scholarships because of my study of Victorian literature. There were few studying the subject.
Which writers from other eras do you find compelling, especially from the 20th century?
Let me begin with a confession which may cause some to dislike me or question my literary knowledge. I've never cared for Jack Kerouac. Almost everything he has written I've read thinking there is something I must be missing, if he is so revered and popular. Never found anything to convince me of his talent. I’ve already mentioned the Victorian authors. Now I'll address the authors I’ve read during my life's scholarship in no specific order: Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesse, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Plath Sexton, Sandra Cisneros, Bukowski, Chuck Palahniuk, Greg Kelso, Pablo Neruda, Saadi Shirazi, Sandra Cisneros, Ann Sexton, Gregory Corso, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Dylan Thomas, Claudia Rankin, Linnet Phoenix, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Herman Hesse Siddhartha, Charles Bukowski, Tom Waits, Tom Wolfe (Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), Herbert Huncke, Nelson Algren, Hunter S Thompson, John Fante, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs), Hemingway, Malcom Lowry. I have read my entire life.
My top five from the 20th century are Sandra Cisneros, Herbert Huncke, Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs and Nelson Algren.
Is there a musical artist whose song lyrics are in the same league as the authors you've read?
Zappa, Jethro Tull, Rodney Crowell, Tom Waits, Louden Wainwright, The Fugs, Ramones and a variety of heavy punk shit.
What punk bands do you listen to for inspirational lyrics? Are these mostly early punk bands or are some more recent?
The Punk Era! What a fucking perfect remedy for the disease plaguing the youth of the planet at that time. Finally an honest sincere sarcastic expression of teen angst with an in your face voice demanding their ideology be heard. The Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Butthole Surfers, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, The Ramones and my personal favorite: Fear. Lee Ving with a voice of genuine emotion commanding the listener to hear what is being said.
"Spent my whole life in the city,
Where junk is king and the air smells shitty
People dying everywhere
But the Suburban Scumbags they don't care.
They just get fat and dye their hair.
I love living in the city"
That's twentieth century Shakespeare, trust me.
What made you decide to start writing poetry and fiction? When it came to describing locations and characters, how long did it take to develop?
I believe a writer is born with the desire to become a word slinger. Writers are cursed with an insatiable hunger manifesting in their souls with need to be recognized. When I read poems and stories from my younger days. I was so filled with anger, attempting to manage a mental illness and losing to Bipolar Disorder from back when it was referred to as Manic Depressive. Writing became a catharsis calming my madness.
Who coined the term transgressive fiction? Does this term accurately describe your work?
I have no idea who coined the moniker. But I would consider fantasy, sci fi, punk noir and others as transgressive. I have no idea if my writing can be considered that either. I've been compared to authors that are identified as members of those genres. My writing is shit I experienced or imagined, I can't even tell the difference anymore. There's so many different sides to living it all begins to appear like a M.C. Escher drawing, distorting one's perception of what they believe is real. What happens is a natural occurrence of selection. Then there's moments I'm so caught up in my stories I believe they are real or actually occurred. It is a writer's syndrome many have experienced the same anomaly.
The existence of life's underbelly that most would rather ignore brought to light. My writing was described by Fleurimont Tilghman the editor of The Remnant Leaf: “Judge's writing is a sophisticated slap in the face. The imagery induces you to clear your throat and shift your weight from one side to the other. Judge doesn't waste his words in an attempt to make you comfortable, he delivers defined grit and structured devastation.” I write about events most don't want to accept or believe as actually existing. There’s an entire reality of what some describe as the underbelly of life. I've been places where God wouldn't go.
Which publications were among the first to print your work? Which of your writings were published and how much exposure did you get in the beginning?
Some of the earliest were Poetry Corner. Remnant Leaf, Spillwords, Heroin Chic and others. There are poems I wrote another lifetime ago. “Sibling’s Father”, “She Bleeds for Brooklyn” and “Desolation Angel” during my dark period. They are still getting exposure but I find them somewhat depressing and self-absorbed. I honestly don't give a fuck about exposure or how many people read or even like my bullshit. I have written about my expectations of writing in many short stories. “Naked Truth”, “Wake Me Up When I'm Famous” and more.
How did “Naked Truth” and “Wake Me Up When I'm Famous” convey your expectations when it comes to writing?
The only expectation I have is completing something I said I was going to do. If good things happen from my writing, great. I will not be disappointed if I am not famous. Both are stories of the best part of truth being lies.
Raven Cage E-Zine is a publication we’ve both submitted poems to. How did you discover this publication and what made you decide to submit poems to them?
Jerry Langdon the editor at Raven Cage had noticed some of my work and contacted me. I read some of Raven Cage and love the magazine and it's incredible. I was happy to submit and honored to have my work published.
Have you been submitting your work to Raven Cage E-Zine for a long time? Have you had your work published in other publications?
I just respect Raven Cage with genuine admiration. The magazine is always professionally laid out. The photos and illustrations are exciting and inspirational. Jerry Langdon communicates with prompt response and the date of launch has always been on time. And the kicker is he doesn't make a fucking dime from putting it together. It is truly an unselfish labor. His benevolence is a rare commodity. I don't submit quite as often as I did two years ago simply because it gives others a chance to be published. Thanks Jerry.
I should add you’re now submitting poems to Asphyxium Zine. Tell the readers how you discovered this zine and what made you want to send your work. Was there anything posted at the zine that stood out to you?
It's not that I'm arrogant now that I'm receiving a small amount of recognition for my writing. I never really gave a fuck I was well liked or not. I wrote for myself to please no one but myself. You start writing with the intention to get the attention of some group of social hipster assholes you're setting yourself up as a pawn. Five rules to writing:
1. Fuck what they think.
2. Write what you know.
3. Have a mirror so you can watch yourself starve to death.
4. Just because it happened to you doesn't make it interesting.
5. Never take a mine's word for it.
So to get back to the main theme. I can pick and choose zines I want to submit to rather than feeling there are those that I need to have my work presented in. I get a fucking large amount of rejections.
You fucking know what the attraction is to Asphyxium. The name first off reminded me of a sexual experience I took part in the past which was really quite exhilarating. Your publication at first sight instantly creates confusion that attacks your senses with an understanding of confusion you've been missing in your life. The writing is visceral, real, raw and gritty. No bullshit or maybe all bullshit. It's an anything goes piece of literary trash defining the real existence of nothingness being something it thrives in the underbelly of pleasures misery. No bullshit I fucking dug it. But you rejected everything I submitted. [JSB told me this last was meant as a joke, and I have accepted his submissions for future posting. -DW]
To date, how many collections of your work have you published independently?
Someone who was helping me organize my stuff after I was becoming noticed my books had been released, said my work has been published in over 150 online zines, literary journals, podcasts, anthologies and blogs, and so on. Good to know but not important although I enjoy it when people like my writing. There are three books that have been published by two different small presses. Horror Sleaze Trash and Impspired Press, two short story collections of cautionary tales and one collection of poetry. I have a fourth book ready to go to press; I’m just looking for a publisher.
Talk about the three full length books you had published and how well they were received. What do you mean by “cautionary tales” you included in your short story collections? What were those short stories about?
My son inspired "Cautionary Tales". He sent me a Father's Day card with a picture of me settled at a bar I owned between to hookers their bare asses showing to the camera me facing the camera. His caption read. My father is not a role model he's a cautionary tale. Happy Father's Day Santiago. I loved it. Cautionary Tales they are.
Actually I didn't expect much of anything from their launch. Then I started getting what I consider a large amount of attention. The books were selling like crack on Saturday night. And people actually wrote reviews and accolades voicing how much they enjoyed my work. Got a great amount of naked photos from women and a few from men. I wasn't sure how to react sister and brother who I end communicated with 10-15 years even made contact with me expressing how much they enjoyed my writing. So "Wake Me Up When I'm Famous" and "Naked Truth" are pretty close to nonfiction.
Do you remember to this day the reviews that people wrote about your work?
Yes I do. The complimentary as well as the negative comments which have no basis because the context makes it obvious they didn't read any of my work. If you're going to give me a negative review a least buy the fucking book! I have more positive reviews on my books than I could have ever imagined. And from some well-respected authors and poets, I've been reviewed in a couple magazines too. I appreciate the consideration for taking the time to voice your opinion.
Which of your writings did you choose to include in your poetry collections? Were they mostly older works or newer?
My publisher really was the one who made the decision on content. I gave him sixty or so poems and some unfinished shit which he included in short stuff. Altogether he published thirty-five full length poems and forty or so short works. I'm happy with the result Steve Caste editor did a diligent job with selection and layout. But it was my title I believe that captured the attention of readers. "Not Real Poetry", a perfect choice. It came about years ago when my old man asked or TOLD me to read him some of my poems. While reading he looked down shaking his head. After two poems he stopped me saying I'll never make a living with the shit I write because it is not real poetry. That's all I needed to hear it gave me the motivation to show that son of a bitch. But I got to thank him for the title.
Do you have information for interested parties who want to order your published collections?
Not particularly thrilled to promote Amazon but they have been helpful to my publishers. Amazon, Goodreads, Indie Bound Books (available in over 1,000 independent bookstores), Walmart.
Judge Santiago Burdon
Stray Dogs and Deuces Wild Cautionary Tales
Not Real Poetry
Due to be released in July 2022:
Fingers In The Fan
(Having issues with Publisher)
If anyone is interested in publishing my book. Please contact me.
Inform the readers anything you want to reveal about your fourth collection. Do you have other projects planned for after it’s released?
I'm told my stuff keeps getting better and better. Fingers In The Fan is a bit different than the others. This collection contains a couple stories involving my children. Also a couple dealing with my battle with Bipolar Disorder. I was diagnosed at eleven when it referred to Manic Depressive. But I couldn't leave the stories of adventurous mayhem out. And the majority are included. I have had quite a few inquiries for publishing but it is important to develop a tight relationship with your editor publisher. I was so fortunate to have Arthur Graham Editor Publisher of Horror Sleaze Trash publish with two of my books. He gets me ya know what I mean? Steve Cawte of Impspired Press published my book of poems Not Real Poetry. He did an amazing job putting it together and selecting content.
I have just finished my book "Imitation of Myself" a nonfiction piece telling about my life as a drug runner for a Mexican Cartel. It's more dark humor that I'm unable to stray away from.
Thanks for this opportunity Dynamo Dave
"It could be worse it could be raining."