Gin, Poetry, and Slaying the Devil: Joel M Toledo Interviews Lourd De Veyra

By | 1 October 2020

JMT: Your earlier work is markedly informed by jazz, the Beats, and the Surrealists. Is there any particular poet that influences the recent style, or do you think it’s still consistent with that or your previous work?

LdV: The new stuff has significant amounts of prosy, discursive lines. Damn, my late mentor, Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta was right – it’s more challenging to write discursive passages because there’s that perennial risk of sounding too prosaic. I still love the Beats, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all that proverbial jazz and weed and incense, and to put on the brakes, although there’s one poem called ‘Shabu’. Anyway, if I’m going to be specific about influences, there’s this one poem by Ahmit Majmudar called ‘Kill List’ – and it’s literally a list with a killer last line – whose simplicity blows me away.

JMT: The political commentary behind your recent poetry is palpable. It begs to be asked, do you think Marka Demonyo is your most politically charged work?

LdV: I would say so. I find it difficult to stay silent about what’s happening. Or I may just have been spending too much time inside the newsroom.

JMT: How do you feel about the rise of what purists call ‘Instagram poetry’? And please comment on the current trajectory of spoken word.

LdV: I haven’t done that spoken word thing in almost a decade. I could count with the fingers of one hand the number of poetry readings I’ve attended so I can’t really comment. I suppose the kids are getting better and better and the audiences getting bigger. And … what the hell is ‘Instagram poetry’?

JMT: Well, it mostly refers to accessible, oft-love-themed poems that are posted on social media. I guess the poetry of Lang Leav, Rupi Kaur etc. are good examples. They’re very popular with younger audiences; quite the rage of late.

LdV: Well, Joel, I know what you’re up to and you’re not going to extract snark out of me. I’ll just crush your mean, snobby soul with this line from Rupi Kaur: ‘You do not just wake up and become the butterfly – growth is a process’.

JMT: OK. The sarcasm is palpable. Anyway, your band Radioactive Sago Project has been awfully silent lately. Are you planning on coming out of hiatus and making songs again down the line?

LdV: It’s on hiatus; before THE pandemic, the bassist and the brass section were busy with a soul-funk band. So I went back to my first love and now play guitar for a band called Kapitan Kulam, an experimental sludge metal quartet. We play stuff that’s similar to listening to Black Sabbath without the ‘Ozzy vocals’ but on industrial strength-dosages of diazepam, with occasional blasts of hardcore punk. Does that make any sense? Anyway, it’s a different, relatively underground punk-leaning audience.

JMT: Any other book plans or similar literary projects forthcoming?

LdV: The pandemic and my mother’s death last May have resulted in a collection of poems. The process was relatively fast. And I may have just woken up and became not a butterfly, but a damn bat. That or a flea.

So, do you think we managed to sound like a Paris Review interview?


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