I first met Mark LLoyd about five years ago. I'm not entirely sure, but I believe it was at a reading he had organized at Rust Belt Books when the store was still on Allen Street. Since then I’ve attended a number of other events he’s put together, saw a couple of his plays and, currently, share the same local publisher. I was able to get him to talk a little about his writing.
Fred Whitehead - I know that besides writing poetry you also are a playwright.
How did you get into writing plays?
Mark C. LLoyd - When I was about twelve or thirteen I would listen to the radio show
“The CBS Radio Mystery Theater.” It came on after eleven in the evening. I’d curl up in bed with my small transistor radio near my pillow and hoped my parents didn’t hear it. I was intrigued by how much my mind could imagine when all I could hear were the words. It was around that time I had a few dollars in my pocket, and on one very boring snowy night I walked a half a dozen blocks to the drug store. I bought a black felt-tip pen and pad of paper and went home and wrote a three-minute radio play. It was awful. After several years of trying to write radio plays I went to writing stage plays. I had absolutely no courage to show anyone what I was writing except my parents and a few friends.
It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that a local theater lady by the name of Shari Posey introduced me to another theater lady, Ida Scott, who asked to read one of my one act plays. No one asked to read my plays in the theater community before. Finally, someone listed. Ida liked it. She gave me suggestions. Ida was a part of the Amherst Players theater company, and she not only got them to do the play but let me direct it!
FW - When was your first play produced?
MCL - My first play was produced was around 2000.
FW - What was it called?
MCL - My first play was a very quirky play titled "The Bench." A one act play about a man and a woman on a bench. He talks to the audience about his love for her. The woman resists his love.
I wrote it as a part of a workshop. I tried to write a love real love story. My mind took me to other places. It took me to love, sarcasm, absurdism and humor. I found my niche ... for awhile.
FW - Where was the production?
MCL - Harlem Road Community Center, for the Amherst Players Theater Company.
FW - When you are writing a play do you start with a basic story line and build from there or try to establish characters first?
MCL - I am very unorthodox. I can start with characters, ideas, setting…even a piece of music can spark me. I don’t suggest people do it my way. It isn’t the easiest way.
FW - Where do the ideas for your plays come from?
MCL - Many ways. I can overhear a conversation, see something. The one way that seems to be an ongoing theme for me is music. I tend to get a piece of music in my head. I will play it over and over and write as I listen to it. Many music soundtracks influence me. Music and the rhythms are a great inspirational source.
FW - How much editorial control do you turn over to the director?
MCL - That’s a tough one. I have directed ninety percent of my plays. The first time I let someone direct one, she did a terrible job. It was a play full of cheap jokes. The director had been around awhile but was not a person with a good comic timing. She also didn’t understand the quirkiness of the play. It was disappointing. I thought maybe I was too critical because it was my work. I waited a few years; another director did a show of mine. It was very good. Since then, for the most part, the plays have come out well with someone else directing.
Writing plays can be a very controlling process. A playwright creates a whole world and then someone comes in and puts it on stage with their own vision. Not always easy. I’m still working on that.
FW - You have recently started to co-host a radio show on Thinktwice Radio. How did you come to start this latest project?
MCL - I was doing Celeste Lawson’s Think Twice Radio show. We had fun. The very cool Richard Wicka runs Think Twice Radio. Richard and I chatted a bit and I asked him if I could have my own show, and he said absolutely. It really was that fast. At this point I have done four. One a month. I have a co-host Keirra (who also known as Goddess). I was going to do it on my own, but I knew it would work better if I had someone opposite of me that could help book guests, share opinions, and brain storm ideas.
FW - Is there any particular way you go about choosing the guests for your show?
MCL - It’s been working this way, I choose guests, and I have Keirra choose as well. They need to have a sense of humor. I am a little eccentric at times. I like to have fun with them. I’m not out to hurt anyone. There is no editing. If I say something wrong it stays in. That can be dangerous, with my mouth. I have been very lucky. Every guest I’ve had has been a blast. They seem to get what I’m doing. I want guests who are serious about their work but understand they need to enjoy their art and have fun with it as well.
FW - You've organized a number of well-received poetry readings in the past; any plans on doing more?
MCL - Yes. I have a chapbook coming out soon. I’ll need to promote it. Let’s face it…Poetry isn’t always an easy sell. If the poet doesn’t promote who will?
I enjoy setting up the occasional readings. I like to have experienced and very new poets all in the same night. After several years of doing it, I tend to only book poets who I like. I also like to give new poets who have never read before a chance to read. I don’t want anyone with an over inflated ego. I’ve been very lucky with the poets who have read at my events. I remember what it was like when I first started reading. It’s important to make a new reader feel welcomed and comfortable.
FW - All writers suffer from writer’s block from time to time. I know I have. How do you go about getting over it when it occurs?
MCL - That’s an ironic question. I’ve been dealing with it for a year. First time in at least fifteen years I’ve had this issue. It’s not easy. I find it actually stressful. I have things I need and want to say but something stops me from saying them. I can’t put them on paper. I’m blocked. I’m still working my way out of this block but it hasn’t been working.
FW - Besides your plays and radio show, you run a couple of poetry groups on Facebook. When did you start them?
MCL - A little over five years ago I came home from a reading. I was really pissed off at the cliquey behavior I ran into at that reading. It happened a few times. I wasn’t a new poet but not out there as much as many. New poets need to be made to feel like they are wanted at events. Fred, you are fantastic about that at your Dog Ears Readings.
FW – Thanks, Mark.
MCL - It doesn’t mean I actually like you (Insert sarcastic laughter). I would go to some readings and felt like I was an outcast. I’d go outside with other new readers who would say the same thing. Many saying they won’t be coming back. I knew it wasn’t just me and my ego.
FW - Why did you want to start the groups?
MCL - On one particular night I was just pissed. It was midnight and I decided to start my own group. The group would be a positive group. The members could only post positive critique.
You would think that a positive group would be a good thing. I heard through many poet friends that there were many poets out there ripping the page to pieces. I had some poets who didn’t like the “no critique” rule. My response was they should start their own. They much rather be negative about mine. The funniest was the poet who actually said to me that the page was a danger to poets. Danger to poets? He may have skipped his meds that day. There are so many poetry pages, why can’t I run mine like I want to? I was upset at first then realized some people live to just complain at what they cannot do. It now has over one thousand members. Since then I created “Love, Lust and … Erotica” for erotica and “The DarkRoom” for the podcast.
FW. – You also do interviews for print.
MCL – Yes, I interview artist for Broadwayworld.com. I was originally asked to do reviews for theater, but I have too many theater friends. Plus, I am not comfortable putting to print a review on something I didn’t enjoy. I much rather promote the good this city has; so, I tend to interview established and new artists.
FW - Who are some of your biggest influences for poetry?
MCL - Robert Lowell, Billy Collins, Delmore Schwartz, and this little hairy bastard named Fred Whitehead.
FW - Ummm…and what about playwrights?
MCL - John Patrick Shanley, John Patrick Shanley and John Patrick Shanley. His book, “13 by Shanley,” is my guide to playwriting.
FW - Have you dabbled with screen plays for television?
MCL - When I was a teenager I wrote a television series idea called “Everett’s Place.” It took place in a bar and was centered on the characters who visit it. Now, since I had never been to a bar at that time it didn’t go much further than the idea. I have written a couple screenplays. They were not good experiences when being filmed. Next time I do that, I will have to have total control of it. There I go with the control thing again!
FW- What was it that brought you into the genre of erotica?
MCL - I actually grew up wanting to write one of those Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins potboilers. They were such a blast to read. Then Jackie Collins came along, and I lost interest. In my forties, I got back into it. Instead of prose, I did erotic poetry. I read one at an event. It was a good reaction, so I did it at several other events.
FW - A lot of your poems have at their core a feeling of loss or depression. Do you find writing a good way to get through hard times?
MCL - I have dealt with my share of death in the last several years. Grieving needs an outlet. If we don’t release the loneliness and pain, it can be dangerous. In 2004, I lost a very important person in my life. I began writing poems about her. It was extremely difficult to work up the courage to read these poems in front of people. I finally did it. Now the fear has gone. I write a lot about my feelings. I have no issue with what people think. I find for every person who doesn’t like my poetry, there is someone who does.
Writing is an important outlet. It doesn’t matter if the writer shows it to others or puts it in print or stores it on a computer or reads out loud. It has to be released in some way.
In many cases I have poems that are of the dark nature that have nothing to do with me. I’ll write them for someone I know to help them with their tough times. I also attempt to end each of these poems on a high…life isn’t easy but in most cases we can bounce back from depression and grief. We just need to keep pushing. I have to admit that isn’t easier as I get older and lose family and friends.
As writers we can be our own worse editor and are afraid to express ourselves fully. It’s my opinion once you forget what others think…write for yourself first…writers become better.
This question also relates to the question above on writer’s block. I have no doubt a few of the life stresses I’ve dealt with the last few years has made the block more intense. I’m my own worst enemy, and I put too much pressure on myself to break through the issues and write.
The wall will be knocked down eventually. In the meantime, I try to keep as busy as possible. I tend to over commit myself to personal projects. In the end, I want to be like all writers when they drop dead…I want it to happen halfway through writing a book. Make people wonder what I was going to say.
Here are some links to Marks radio show, poetry pages and books as well as a couple of poem.
Western New York Poets
Love, Lust and … Erotica
To contact Mark C. Lloyd:
“This Room Keeps Telling Me You’re Not coming Back”
It’s been three days since you died
and this room keeps telling me
You’re Not Coming Back
The lonely desk
and it’s uncomfortable
You felt like Alice
in her wonderland
My sweet poet
your old wonderland is now
lost to me
But this room still speaks
sometimes too loud to listen
I can still smell your perfume
and Thursday nights wine and cigarettes
and hear yesterday’s voice
You speak in whispers
and in laughs
This room is too full of memories
and memories can be cruel
And at times your laugh
and poetic charms
push away my fears
But this cruel room
And it keeps telling me
You’re not coming back
Mark C. LLoyd
“Black Satin on Elegance”
So, I stared at you
Have you ever looked at yourself?
Have you ever really looked at yourself?
Have you looked in the mirror?
Those wonderful mythical eyes
The sway of your walk
The arch of your back that runs to your neck
The lips so full I could drink them
I can only imagine how soft your shoulders must be
Your skin is more precious than silk
Black satin on elegance
but what I couldn’t help but notice
seem not to
I stare at you
Do I hide it?
Cannot help myself
I will stare at you at sunrise
I will stare at you at sunset
If it rains I will still see that glorious smile
The stunning beauty
So, I stare
If it snows I will stare at you
in snow boots and a parka
So, I stare
I stare and I stare
So, now I close my eyes
I close my eyes and stare
I stare from
and I still
see the stunning beauty
I still see
Black Satin on Elegance
-Mark C. LLoyd
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