“Fail” does not fail to impress - these poems embrace a truth that includes success and screw-ups, love and loss, laughter and life.
Poems such as “Fly” and “For the 9-Year-Old Victim” make us think about what preciously short lives we have, those like “Keith Moon” and “The Old Depression” lead to reflections on dreams and purpose and chances and self-destruction, while poems like “Marathon Man” and “My Jump Rope Song” and “Poetry Rocks” remind us how vital it is to laugh (and laugh at ourselves).
These poems feel circular, as, after finishing the book, I came back to the first poem for the completion: “maybe / the only real question is ‘Is it / me? Is it truly me?’…” That’s the question all good poetry asks of us. If we answer “Hell yes” as Morrison does, we’re following the right road. And, if Morrison is your walking companion, you’ll enjoy a scenic, poetic view.
(Donna Marie Merritt, Poet at AvalonPress.co.uk, Author of What’s Wrong with Ordinary?)
Dave Morrison is wide awake and paying attention. This latest collection is a testament to his ability to transform ordinary scenes into potent, lively poetry. “fail” is loaded with poems that are honest, exuberant, and at times laugh-out-loud funny. Morrison’s imagination surprises and delights in poems such as “Fly”:
In one way was my father was not ordinary.
He could fly.
I was the only one who knew.
With “fail”, Dave Morrison invites us to a poetry party, where the guests are unique characters, and singular moments abound. You won’t want to miss it.
(Sudasi Clement, Poetry Editor, Santa Fe Literary Review)
“In the car wreck called poetry, Morrison tells us what it's like when life runs off the road. He lingers, examines, hobbles off, telling himself (and us) to breathe. Concentrate. Laugh. Do it again.”
(Michael Frias-May - poet)
Dave Morrison: 'When it comes, have your bucket ready'
Lynda Clancy - PenBay Pilot
There is very little academic about Dave Morrison's approach to poetry, and he is a rule-breaker. Don't talk to him about sonnets or sentence structure. His poetry is uncontrived, and it is like breathing, sometimes long and steady; other times, choppy and quick about the lungs. But always, there is rhythm, and uncompromising honesty.
Always, he is listening, playing, writing, recording, storing away in his mind those scraps of conversation and impressions that he will weave into a poem. On a rainy day at the end of September, he talked a little bit about the art of writing poetry — how he does it — in a short conversation in the attic of the Camden Opera House.
You're a musician. Is music part of writing poetry?
I am, or I was. Rhythm is a big part of it, how it sounds in your head, how it sounds when you say or read it. That is is one of the tools in the toolbox.
Been there always?
Since you were a kid?
I think so. As a kid I was always drumming on things. I always liked words. I liked to read, I liked to write, I liked to play with them.
Who inspired you when you were young, in your teens, early 20s?
Lyricists. Dylan, Springsteen, Richard Thompson, Mick Jagger, Pete Townsend. That was where putting the words together, stringing them together, had a certain effect. That led me to want to write songs, and that led to stripping away the music, just to see how much you can do with words. I think the first poem I ever read, besides the stuff they tried to make you memorize in school, like "The Midnight Ride" (of Paul Revere) was Bukowski.
Rolling Stone did an interview with him and had a little snippet of a poem of his [see below to read the poem "The Shoelace"]. It said something like, it's not the big things that send you to the madhouse, and then he lists things like the death of a loved one. But it is the shoelace that breaks with no time left. I heard a bell ring when I read it.
How old were you?
Fourteen, maybe. Then I got really deep into music and I wasn't really thinking of books. I was thinking of writing songs and writing lyrics. It was kind of a long, circular route back to written poetry.
Who are you reading now?
I like Stephen Dobyns, Tony Hoagland, Wes McNair, Betsy Scholl and Billy Collins. I read collections because I like to sample them and try to find new people. I still like Bukowski, bless his heart.
There's no one genre, no one generation?
I was not really drawn to the classics. I respect them but that is not where my pleasure lies. I like the voices of now.
Do you sense that there's more appreciation for poetry now?
The short answer is yes. The long answer: I am not a scholar or expert. There's a ton of literary magazines and online venues, and still a vibrant slam culture. I don't think poetry is ever doing that great in America but it is doing as well as it can. It is a pretty small slice pf the pie as far as where people go to get entertained or inspired, but those that are into it are pretty powerfully into it.
Where do you write?
Largely, it comes out of journal writing, but there is certain amount that pops into your head, that you write on scraps of paper. Mostly, I write with an intent to write. Sometimes it is off something that scrolls through your head, some snatch from a conversation that you have to grab before it disappears. Then you can come back to it to see if it reminds you of what you were thinking when you hear it.
Where do you write?
In a room, at home. With a desk and a lamp and a chair.
Do you have music playing when you write?
You keep a clear head when you write?
Mostly. Particularly as time goes on. There was a time when it seemed like it was helpful, to loosen the inhibitions. To grease the wheels. Less so now. It is more about your imagination and it works when it works. When it works it's great. When it doesn't work, I've sort of learned to leave it alone as opposed to, “I must write something”. When it comes, it comes. So have your bucket ready. When it doesn't come, don't stand there for too long.
You may wake up and say it's not happening today, but when it does, you may go to your room with its desk and lamp and chair, and computer?
I write long-hand, everything long-hand. Then at some point I type it in. That is sort of the first editorial step. Sometimes it’s the last editorial step, too. I am not a big rewriter. There are some who say it is a crucial part of the thing, you have to rewrite and that's how you refine it and boil it down. For me, I write like sort of a newspaper photographer. There's a moment I want to grab. I don't want to go back and tinker with it. I don't want to go back and say, 'could you stand over there like you were just a minute ago', I really want to recreate that moment. It is more like reporting on a moment.
Do you have anything you want to impart to a young poet?
What I would impart to anybody, but particularly a younger poet, is this: Toss out the idea of wrongness. I think if you are being true to yourself and expressing yourself, there is no wrong way to do it. There is tradition, there's guidelines, there's deciding who it is you want to please. But I am not a big rule guy. What I like about poetry, what it offers, is that you can kind of do anything you want: you can be structured or unstructured, you can be long or short, subtle or bang somebody over the head. As long as you do it as well as you can, as long as you're being honest, I think you're OK. That would be my two cents.
Don't worry about whether it has the right number of syllables or if it rhymes. I know there are folks who work in that area, and I'm not knocking it. But I think to get started, it’s like a siphon. You have to get the flow going first. Then you can go from there.