"I don’t choose the songs. They just arrive
like a stack of pizzas sent to the wrong address,
pizzas topped with nudie pictures..."
- Jeffrey Bean
The above excerpted poem will be in Quarterly West
Pirooz Kalayeh: What inspires you, Bean?
Jeffrey Bean: I’ve been thinking about this lately in terms of writing, and my answer, for now, is perhaps somewhat anticlimactic: reading.
Reading, more so than any other kind of experience, inspires me to write.
I didn’t always think this was the case. I used to think that it was other
kinds of experiences—meeting people, traveling to new places, jumping into
quarries in the middle of the night, taking acid and going to fireworks
displays—that fueled my need to write. Not to say that these kinds of
things aren’t important—just that they aren’t AS important as reading is to
my writing. I grew up as a jazz guitarist and a huge fan of jazz, and I
used to quote Charlie Parker like a mantra: “If you don't live it, it won't
come out of your horn.” I also grew up reading authors like Hemingway,
Kerouac and Ginsberg. These are authors whom I still very much admire, but,
for these writers, the image of “the author” is someone who has *lived*—who
has had important and interesting experiences and therefore has something
important and interesting to say. I used to buy into this image whole
heartedly, and I used to put pressure on myself to live up to it. I used to
worry that my experiences weren’t good enough, that they weren’t the right
*kinds* of experiences to write about. So I guess it has been something of
a relief to discover that reading is what’s most inspiring to me. And I
don’t just mean reading fiction and poetry (though that’s mostly what I’m
talking about). All kinds of reading: history, science, newspapers, junk
mail—these feed the imagination. And when my imagination gets fat with
reading, then I feel moved to write. I suppose reading, then, can be
construed as a kind of experience—an experience for the imagination. Maybe
my new mantra is from Adam Zagajewski’s "A River": "Poems from poems, songs / from songs, paintings from paintings."
Jeffrey Bean currently lives in Tuscaloosa, where he's an MFA candidate at The University of Alabama and an assistant poetry editor for The Black
Warrior Review. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in
Quarterly West, New Orleans Review, The Midwest Quarterly, 42opus, Poetry
Midwest, and Can We Have Our Ball Back. A recipient of a 2005 AWP Intro
Journals Project award, he was recently nominated by New Orleans Review for
the new anthology Best New Poets.