CEE is a failed short story writer, failed novelist, and failed playwright. In the early 2000’s, he developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, forcing him, by 2007, to fall back to the shorthand of poetry. Over 1,000 of his poems have since seen or will see some form of media. He has been printed in such diverse publications as bear creek haiku, Jerry Jazz Musician, Children, Churches and Daddies, Tales of the Talisman, The Storyteller, Barbaric Yawp, The Iconoclast, Poiesis Review, and Dreams and Nightmares. His poem, “It’s An Old Story,” received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2009. He is the author of 17 chapbooks, including 12 times 12 equals Gross, Und ihr Habt Doch Gesiegt (You Have Finally Won), I Am Not Sydney Carton, tomB Baby (with Hot Robert Toddy), and Gunther.
ALTERNATING CURRENT: Describe your writing style to someone who’s never read you.
CEE: Memoir and manifesto, in symbiotic shift. If you believe inherently that abject Reality in the First Person, that Self’s POV, is flawed because Others “taught” you that? Then, to you, I am maudlin, and a crank. If you emerged from the furnace as whole, if you are the actual, original definition of “selfaware,” and there is no deformity … then, and only then, you may take CEE in. A good litmus test on what you believe to be fully human as Self as realized, is to try any one of my titles. And reactive “anger” is not yet a FAIL. Your answer to the ‘why’ of said anger, might be.
There was one kid for everyone, somewhere in school, who sat outside the circle and did not give The Salute to default Community “is.” Hi.
How would The New York Times categorize your writing?
I have no interest in being “defined” by yellow journalists. The New York Times is a newspaper, because it isn’t good enough to be a book.
What was the catalyst that made you start writing?
Early 1976, Language Arts, Morton Junior High School. Writing exercise, inspired by Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Lights off, blinds (2nd floor) open, watching a slide projector VERY SLOWLY switching from one oceanside picture to another. This goes on for a couple of weeks, as we write our “Sea Books,” constructing through images or ideas evoked. Our teacher, Mr. Gary L. Roberts, offered several jumping-off points, or writing perspectives, from which to choose. The linear story, as it must link all the slides sequentially, is the hardest, he advises. It’s the one I choose. My story is the one read to all his classes, after project’s end. The Peoria Journal Star does a Sunday story on the project, Mr. Roberts, and 5 of us whom he considered to have nailed it. They end with me, setting it up with the business about linear writing being “the most difficult.”
I did something better than Others. It got me the corn kernel. I rest my case.
Your favorite —
Whisk(e)y: Reinstatement of the 18th Amendment.
Wild animal: Anything attacking Jim Fowler, while Marlin Perkins is delivering the Mutual of Omaha spot.
Waffle topping: An upended plate or lid, so the waffles can be set aside while I enjoy my pancakes and bacon, with extra bacon. And my side of bacon. With extra bacon.
Poem: Throughout life? “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson … It means even more, since reading the personal account of a participant in the charge itself. As Connery says in The Untouchables, “What the Hell, you’ve gotta die of somethin’!” Given eventual choice, shove your nursing home.
The past 20 years, many things by Yeats. He manages to sound Victorian, pagan, atheistic, and Lovecraftian, all at once, depending on who reads it aloud. Next to him, I sound like Joe Montana in the SNL sketch, re: “what a person’s really thinking.”
Scientist or inventor: Thomas Alva Edison. We would live on an entire planet covered with ice, eating one another, grunting and farting, were it not for Thomas Alva Edison. He invented everything ever made. No, I don’t care to discuss it.
Broadway musical: I bear the mark of the Arthur Miller School. Give me a good living-room play, any time. Coburn’s The Gin Game, is my answer. Please don’t kill me.
Badass getaway vehicle: The Black Beauty, original Green Hornet series, 1966.
Movie to watch alone: Any movie I’d care to watch in the first place. I can’t watch shows with anyone else anymore, including Mrs. CEE. I have no patience for linear entertainment — and DVDs and TiVO have ensured I can’t be forced.
Quote: From Oliver Stone’s Nixon, the part where Dick is crashing, wandering the White House, talking to the paintings. As he stares at the martyred JFK, he says, “They look at You, and see what they wanta be … and they look at Me, and see what they are.” I frequently imagine myself saying the same thing, standing in front of a portrait of Ms. Angelou.
Tell me about your favorite books or authors.
99% of the poetry/prose I’ve read in my more than 50 years, has been shit. It either was shit from Page One, or became shit by the final line. I loved a few for a number of years, until they murdered that Love by what they further wrote. I won’t dignify anOther, by naming them.
I read nonfiction, exclusively. And only works written before they fictionalized all That.
If you could witness or participate in any historical event or time period, what would it be?
The murder of John Lennon, on December 8th, 1980. I’d try every which way I could think of, to get Chapman to aim a little to the left.
Weapon of choice:
From Warhammer 40k: a conversion-beam projector. Try and think of the transporters in ’Trek, but utilized as a weapon hefted by Rambo. In my early paranormal work, I called my tweak a “Reorient.” I’m ashamed of that name, now, but I could use the thing, and sleep the sleep of babes.
The perfect soundtrack to your writing:
The first few years I was hitting the poetry gig, I began every day, with all my Rat Pack LPs, until I’d exhausted them. First choice, was usually Jerry Lewis Just Sings.
As for my weird tales, Ms. Anne Dudley of The Art of Noise, did an amazing throw to antiquity, in the ’90s: Ancient & Modern. My review on eBay, reads as puerile … but, you have to go that far “CEE as Conan the King,” to grasp how I view Life in its essence. So, I have mixed emotions, re: the life of Thomas Alva Edison.
Which literary figure, dead or alive, would you want to —
Take tea with: The Bard. I’ve always wanted to meet Sir Francis Bacon.
Arm wrestle: Hemingway! What’s the point in mano-a-mano, if you can’t hit it like you’re in a Stallone movie?
Ice skate with: I can’t/don’t want to learn to skate, in any way or type or fashion. Or weather. I’ll kind of guess that Farrah wrote something, if only on a cocktail napkin. I’d sit in the rink and watch. And I’ll stop the fantasy there.
Drink under the table: God Rest Mrs. Carry A. Nation. Next Q, please.
Get a blurb from: The Great Ellison. But that’s idiocy. I’ve done so much “for the love of it” work, and eventually with visibility, he’s probably the one who stands outside our windows and stalks us, here, at home. And, yes, there is a person who does.
Beat in a duel of wits: Bill Maher. I’d beat him before we debated, so we wouldn’t debate.
Have on your side in the apocalypse: Dr. Walter R. Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute and author of the all-time bestseller, The Kingdom of the Cults … and, yes, I display bias and a team uniform, there, but there’ll be an actual apocalypse, and someone’s going to win it. I made my choice. I don’t give a damn what y’all choose.
Write your next book for you: The person with the connections, influence, or power to open all the nailed-shut doors to all the Old Boys Clubs, and move damned good writing past the grasp and control of those who are supposed to be gatekeepers, but who are often censors. Then, I expect all rights to revert to me, and if challenged, will say they’re 7 kinds of a liar from the pit of Hell, it was mine, all along. And I’m a better actor in situations like that, trust me. It can get frightening, if you consider that line very long.
The one thing in your writing routine you couldn’t live without:
Dorothy Parker: “…having written.” I think text slang is Ubbie-Dubbie Talk for the 21st Century, but when I write and see my stuff on the monitor, “LOL,” applies. I will sometimes literally shout and skip around.
Set the perfect scene for you to write your next masterpiece.
Home finances, 100% stable and not likely to tank, again, but for a bolt from the blue. Mrs. CEE keeps the kitchen stocked, and there’s no danger of having to look at another pizza guy, for 10 years. Our 3 cats, grow just a smidge more fuddy-duddy, and leave me the-Hell alone. Contact, when I’m working, is initiated Only By ME, even if the house is burning down. Give me the Above, I’ll give you any book or chapbook I can conceive — and it’ll Sell.
When writing makes you rich, you will …
… find out exactly where Salinger disappeared off to, and move there. Live then as he did, writing the rest of my days, but with Zero Danger of contact uninitiated. Money as enough to be rich means, in open professions as The Arts, Others know. And I know The Other. It’s a big reason I write in the first place. If a certain something, Long Ago, had spun the other way, I would live as in the dream of the Jehovah’s Witness, i.e. “in Paradise on Earth.” And would have never written a word. Nor cared. “Being happy” wasn’t my Fate. Being Right was the best thing I had left. I’m an externalist, 1,000,000,000%. Read your Deci & Ryan. If you believe you control anything, even yourself or personal choice … for that, I can only be sad.
Interview originally published on 4/26/15