The spectrum of poetics in Buffalo is wide indeed. Any style, flavor, and genre can be, and is, found nightly at the many venues that now showcase this city’s poets. It was at Rust Belt Books, back when it was on Allen Street some four or five years ago, that I first heard Jeffrey Charles Naish read his work. Poems that pushed back moth eaten curtains to reveal some darkness, perceived or otherwise, that churns in whoever or whatever resides behind them. I wanted to ask him a bit about himself and his work. I hope this article gives you an idea of what he is about, but it is best, of course, to go and listen for yourself or pick up one of his books.
Fred Whitehead - How did you first come to poetry?
Jeffrey Charles Naish - I wrote a lot in my teens and stopped for about 10 years after graduation, in the period I call "The drug years."
F.W. - Times like that, if one survives, tend to be a good source for material. Your work seems to draw from that and there seems to be a Bukowski-esque bent to your poems. Would you say he is an influence?
J.C.N. - Indeed. I believe Bukowski is the greatest poet of all time because he wrote about real life, real experience. He didn't write for scholars, he kept the language simple yet genius.
F.W. - Who else do you think had an influence on your writing?
J.C.M. - I'm influenced from any of the poetry books I've read. From Li Po to Jim Carroll, and even you Fred. Poetry is like music to me there's so much amazing stuff in the world, you'll die before you get to it all. There's a lot of shit out there too, but you'll find something you can relate to.
F.W. - Are you from Buffalo?
"Poems that pushed back moth eaten curtains"
J.C.N. - I grew up in Lockport but left after school to be in the city, closer to the clubs where my band could play.
F.W. - When did you get interested in playing music?
J.C.N. - My parents always had music playing and they had different tastes so I was exposed to a lot of great stuff from rock to soul and was fascinated by my father's record collection, so by 16 I was bugging them for an instrument.
F.W. – Were you always a bass player or did you play other instruments as well?
J.C.N. - Always the electric bass, though I wanted to play drums, but bass was cheaper and the volume is adjustable. No turning down a drum kit.
F.W. - Did you write songs with the band?
J.C.N. - Since the first day I ever picked up the bass, I strove to write my own original music. Cover songs didn't interest me; it was about creation.
F.W. - Did you write lyrics as well as the music?
J.C.N. - I've always kept my words and music separate; why, I'm not sure. I guess to give whoever was singing at the time some creative freedom as well.
F.W. - What genre did your bands play mostly?
J.C.N. - I love any music I can feel, so I've been a part of a variety of great projects over the years. I've been in rock, metal, punk, funk, jazz and hip-hop groups.
F.W. - Are you still in a band?
"Cover songs didn't interest me; it was about creation."
J.C.N. - I just stopped playing last year when I turned 40 after twenty years of playing on and off. I still love to entertain, there's just not as many egos to deal with in poetry.
F.W. – Who would you say is your favorite band?
J.C.N. - Again, this is tough because I love so much music so I'll just say three of my favorite artists of all time that made several brilliant albums: Miles Davis, Peter Tosh and 311. I chose those three only because of their completely different styles, but at the end of the day, it's all just great music.
F.W. - How many books have you published?
J.C.N. - To date I've published six poetry books and self-released one chapbook, which I'm in the process of re-releasing in a little better looking second edition soon.
F.W. - What is your latest book?
J.C.N. - The latest book is titled Experiments in Expression and is exactly what the title says. This is my only book that doesn't have an overall theme, but is divided into three chapters, each with their own theme and as always, the last poem generally ties it all together, Naish style. I would like to add that the "Experiments" cover design is based on your book Orbs, how the entire book itself is a piece of art with the painting on the front and orange wrap around background completely canvassing the back, no writing. I said something like, "I want it to be a piece of art like Fred Whitehead's Orbs," haha.
F.W. - Thanks Jeff! Do each or any of your books have a theme?
J.C.N. - This is my only book that doesn't have an overall theme but is divided into three chapters each with their own theme and as always the last poem generally ties it all together, Naish style.
F.W. - Where can your books be found?
J.C.N. - I have an author page on Amazon.com, and various other online distributors. I don't do social media any longer, though I do have a blog on Wordpress, just to post poems in appreciation for those who still enjoy literary arts in this, the digital dark age. ...also if you see me at a literary event, I usually have books with me as well.
F.W. - What kind of process do you have when it comes to writing your poetry?
J.C.N. - No process really, I just don't force it. It comes like transmissions from the cosmos.
F.W. - Any daily practice or particular space you like when writing?
J.C.N. - Wherever it comes to me, could be at a job or driving, or just staring at the wall in deep thought. I keep pens and notepads everywhere.
F.W. - What are some of your favorite venues for readings?
J.C.N. - Anywhere the vibe is good and the people are receptive, not playing with their phones. I like your spot at Dog Ears Bookstore and Rust Belt Books on the West Side . I've also read at a couple bars, obviously that was a cool experience.
F.W. - Okay, let's say the apocalypse is about to hit and you had to choose one book to take into the bunker, which would it be?
J.C.N. - The Tao Te Ching, philosophical and poetic, probably the greatest book of thoughts ever put together and probably the book I've read the most.After that, probably Bukowski's Last Night of the Earth Poems, of course.
Here is some of Jeff's work.
Possibly the worst way
To ensure a life of misery
But convincing others of this
Is quite difficult
Because most people need labels
To identify themselves
As something special
Above and far more learned
Than the rest
Herein lies the problem
By creating and segregating oneself
In these categories
You’re basically destroying
Everything that was achieved
In the battle against inequality
And organizing your group
To help only one another
Identified by their labels
Unconcerned for the rest
Is perpetuating the prejudice
You’re preaching against
Nothing will be achieved
Lest we can learn
To relinquish the labels
We wear like armor
And be the best
The decline of western civilization
Is more evident every four years
During the overly televised campaign season.
Stupidity is thrown at you
From every direction, unavoidable.
The candidates or lack thereof
Make up a small portion
Of what’s gone wrong here.
The vanity and ignorance
Of the sleepwalking people
Supply the rest.
Now, with social media
When not taking pictures of themselves
Can show everyone
They’re a political Plato
And make a poor attempt
To prove their party right.
I don’t get excited, nor worried.
I’ve been through many elections
And I can tell you first hand that
Not a congressional tongue,
Not a rapist's hand,
Not a killer's conscience,
Not the emptiness in your wallet,
Nor your stomach,
Don’t Bring the Drama Club to a Knife Fight
Blunt force drama
Like blindly stepping
On the end of a shovel
Dirt-encrusted rusted metal
Taste of decay and
Dangling flesh dripping pus
To turn at the sound
Of footsteps closing in, a target
For misdirected misery
I tend to disappear
I don’t pretend to care
“Surviving 8 hours” he said
…but I know I will
That’s how I’ve scraped by
For nearly 2 decades
Of tyrannical Dukes
In occupational hazards
Grinding through the gears
Of a faulty program
A means to an end
Because nothing lasts forever
On the material plane
And I pray a learned soul
Shouldn’t have to return
Meanwhile, I await the call
For the week’s ending
As it echoes from the mouth
Of an empty bottle
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