Interview: Robin Wyatt Dunn

by Vatsala Radhakeesoon
Robin Wyatt Dunn is a teacher of English at college and he is passionate about creative writing. He is the author of various literary books and excels in poetry and novel writing. Here goes an enriching interview with a dynamic, daring and visionary author/poet from Walt Whitman’s land that is United States of America (USA).
Robin Wyatt Dunn
Vatsala Radhakeesoon:  Robin Wyatt Dunn, welcome to Setu!  Please tell us about your background, earlier life and actual life?

Robin Wyatt Dunn: I was born in 1979 in Jackson, Wyoming. I’ve lived in many places but California longer than any place else. Now I find myself trying to leave it!

V.R: In your life what/who has been the driving force that made you say “Yes I will be a writer”?
R.W.D: Ultimately the credit goes to the incredible cruelty of my beautiful city of Los Angeles—even though I’d written little bits off and on for many years—it was my personal struggles involved with surviving in Los Angeles that forced me, as it were, to recount my experiences. Nor am I the only one to encounter Los Angeles in this fashion:  Bukowski, and the man who inspired him, John Fante, both wrote about this aspect of my city.
Vatsala Radhakeesoon
V.R:  When it comes to writing, which one is your first love – poetry or science fiction? Why?
R.W.D: I think I loved them both very early; they serve different needs. I remember writing a story about an astronaut who meets a monster on the moon when I was in first grade, and being frustrated at all the words I didn’t know.

V.R: What are your sources of inspiration for writing on a regular basis?
R.W.D: Definitely music. Many of my books have large portions written where I just listened to the same song over and over.

V.R:  How does the writing process go for you – from the initial stage to the final crafting of a work?
R.W.D: Usually I finish a book in around 4 months. Once I begin a project I try to work on it regularly so that I don’t lose the thread, and the feeling of it.
Finding a publisher usually takes twice as long as the writing!

V.R: Is there any particular theme you enjoy bringing forth in your poems and novels? If so,  why?
R.W.D: What began me writing seriously was the corruption of Los Angeles—that combined with this city’s beauty makes for a very interesting combination. But I found that it was mostly impossible for me to deal with the darkness of my city in a realist fashion, for whatever reason. So all of my books contain some surrealist element.
That is probably a theme in much of my writing:  the search for meaning and a modeling process of how these meanings are made. How do we know what things mean? Why do they mean certain things and not others?

V.R:  Who are your favourite authors/poets and what impact do they have on your creative written art?
R.W.D: Before I was a writer my favorite writer was Gene Wolfe. And I still think he has done a tremendous amount for English letters and is somewhat obscure. I’m also a great fan of China Mieville’s. As for poets, I do love Whitman and Keats of course, but mostly I find myself reading my friends’ poems. That’s part of the fun of being a writer, I find, is seeing what your writer friends are doing.

V.R:  What is the actual position of poetry in USA? Do you think slam poetry is a threat to normal poetry formats?

R.W.D: Poetry was obviously traditionally oral, so slam poetry continues this tradition. I’ve been to many readings where the two forms are interchangeable, and blended. Just as literary circles like to sneer at genre fiction, some American poets do sneer at slam. But they all cross-fertilize each other; each has something to learn from the other.
I do believe English letters are undergoing a renaissance, concomitant with the general global economic collapse. Although people in all lines of work are being paid less and less, they have more and more to say.

V.R: Through your works one can sense a deep scream from the soul for a better America and better world. Please can you elaborate on this?

R.W.D: Certainly America is a force for great evil in the world. Whether this was always the case, I can’t say, but this has certainly been so at least since we joined in World War 1. So many of the things wrong with America are not unique to America of course, but we excel at them:  institutional racism, mass violence, manipulated elections, torture, poisoned water and soil and air and crops, the list goes on.
I am, in essence, against America, and no longer consider myself American. The problem is not only my government:  the American identity is founded on a kind of white supremacist exceptionalism that mirrors its Puritan roots, men and women who wanted to “civilize the Indians.” I admire Mauritius, for instance, in that I read the government no longer includes a racial category in the census. I would like to see the US get there for a variety of reasons.
Many people want a better world but no one wants to take the big risks. So we seem to have to make do with a series of much smaller risks.

V.R: What advice would you give to emerging authors/poets?

Keep writing.

V.R: What is your message to the world?

R.W.D: We don’t know who we are, nor are we likely to discover this. In unknowing, we may be building a kind of deeper knowledge. I wish I knew what it was.

V.R:   We sum up this interesting conversation with some of your poems:

Thank you for taking the time to interview me. Here are a couple of poems I wrote today:

who knows where we are
the voice of the sand and the weight of your memory
like barriers to the reef of my imagination

each color
a boy

and each sky
a girl

the wave of the night
over your face
fills me with fear

I am walking

the leaves soar waves
in your arms

each year
writing the trees
into sounds

barking at the full mar

licking its blood

over the sound of rain

Robin Wyatt Dunn

V.R: Thank you Robin Wyatt Dunn for joining us on Setu!

You are welcome.

Biography: Robin Wyatt DunnRobin Wyatt Dunn lives in a state of desperation engineered by late capitalism, within which his mind is a mere subset of a much larger hallucination wherein men are machines, machines are men, and the world and everything in it are mere dreams whose eddies and currents poets can channel briefly but cannot control. Perhaps it goes without saying that he lives in Los Angeles.

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