Cross Country: An Interview with Del Ray Cross

By and | 29 August 2012

OS: What are you enjoying at this very moment?

DRC: I started writing poetry before I read it. And then I stopped writing, and didn’t start again until I was 29. Only then did I start reading, and I read like crazy. Starting late was a blessing because I’m a late bloomer all round. I’m not a stupid guy, but I didn’t get things. When I was 29 I started to get things. I would sit in the library and read everything I could. I still do the same. Now I like to buy books of poetry to read. I buy the books written by older folks: Berkson, Joe Brainard, Lyn Heijinian, Kit Robinson.

OS: You’re the editor of an online magazine and you still buy books?

DRC: Of course! I try to buy as much poetry as I can, and I spend way too much money on it. We’re not going to see hardcopy books for much longer. I’ve been preaching that happily for many years.

There is this feeling that books will never go away. But I’m like, I’m sorry. I love books, and I hate reading shit online, I mean really hate it. But we’ll find a medium that is nice and comfortable, and it won’t be paper. I’m still amazed at how much money small presses spend trying to get books out. I haven’t lost my shirt on Shampoo.

OS: What will happen with book sales? Will people buy e-books?

DRC: Oh, I hope not. It’s nice that people do make money from poetry, but I’ll never hope to make a dime as a poet. The few cheques one does get as a poet are only interesting and fun. But don’t expect them. That was the good thing about starting at 29. I knew and had the good sense to think: I’ll never make any money out of this, and nor do I want to. I don’t want to make money off poetry, and I don’t want to talk to any poet who wants to know how they can make money from it. It doesn’t interest me. But I know that’s not the norm. I firmly believe that my attitude towards being paid has kept Shampoo vibrant. It gives me HUGE freedom, the only freedom that exists.

Adrienne Rich died today. I saw her read in Boston 15 years ago. When I think of poets who make their living off of poetry, and made it well, I think of her. She is a rare gem though. There are many other ways to be an artist and make some money, if that’s what you’re in it for. Don’t think about money and poetry. Usually, it will make you an automaton.

DRC: Is there much money in poetry in Australia?

OS: Well, no. I don’t think so.

DRC: No. I wouldn’t think so either.

OS: Do you have a close relationship with Australian poetry?

DRC: Australia has always been very important to Shampoo. When I started the magazine I was reading Jacket voraciously, which had an Australian bias. I took Jacket’s location seriously so I was consistently thinking about Australia. And, as I said, I was getting amazing submissions from poets like Michael and Cassie.

OS: Do you have some favourite Australian poets?

DRC: Cassie and Michael, of course. John Tranter: I don’t know anything about him except that he’s a hero. He seems almost curmudgeonly – a man after my own heart. But Jacket was amazing.

There have been so many great Australian poems in Shampoo. I love Nick Whittock. I’ve published Jill Jones several times.

DRC: What about you? Are you leaving Australia to come join us in San Francisco?

OS: No. I’m just travelling.

DRC: Just around San Francisco?

OS: Actually, I’m heading cross-country in a car.

DRC: Really? I’ve done two cross-country trips on a train and two in automobiles. I never used to be able to fly. Fortunately I’ve since learnt to do that. I’m about to take the train across country. It’s great fun, but it takes so much time. But you’ll have a blast. Which way are you going?

OS: South. Through Texas

DRC: Really! That’s where I’m going. I’m from Arkansas. But my brother is in Dallas, and I’m going to visit him.

OS: What’s Texas like?

DRC: Vast nothingness on the far side. You just want to get it over with. But between here and Texas it’s beautiful. You should see the Grand Canyon. It will blow your mind. Are you going to New Orleans?

OS: Yes.

DRC: Oh good. I’ve only been there once in my life, and I was 20. It was for the New Orleans French Quarter Festival. I’m sure it’s so different now.

But Texas can be bleak. Austin is nice – a bastion of liberalism in the south. It’s more liberal than San Francisco. San Francisco is kind of past its liberal time. It’s a weird mix of conservative and liberal. The hotbeds of liberalism always come and go. But you’ll have a great time! Remember: visit the Grand Canyon!

*A big thanks to Michael Farrell for the email introduction to Del Ray Cross.

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