Awful Interview: Robert Pfeiffer

7 Nov
Whether it be his thoughts on John Mayer, his own creative process, or in his own writing: Robert Pfeiffer is going to tell it to you straight. Just get a load of these poem titles from his poetry collection, Bend, Break.
  1. Tooth-brushing: A Love Poem
  2. Fishing off the Jersey Shore
  3. A Slaughter of Earthworms
  4. The Sound the Wind Makes
  5. The Fall of the Shit-house Writer
You see what I mean? You will love his sincerity too, especially after you hear him read at this Wednesday’s Vouched Presents.

If you saw John Mayer on the street, what would you do?

I would like to think that I would buy him a beer, and have a long , thoughtful discussion with him about how his breathy puss-rock is an affront to all things I respect in this life.  ..  But I would probably do something lame like ask for a picture with my cell phone

What kind of beer would you buy him? Also, what’s with the faces he makes when he sings?

A pint of something hearty and rich so we could talk for a while.  He strikes me as a microbrew drinker.  I can’t explain those faces.  You know, part of me thinks of him in a kind of tragic sense.  I heard him say once years ago that he wanted all of his music to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s”Texas Flood.”  Well then, explain that “Run through the halls of my high school” song!  He strikes me , actually, as a talented guitar player who fell into that sad trap of gearing all his music towards middle and high school students, rather than toward himself.  But maybe I’m projecting here.

How are you projecting? I wish all of his music sounded more like “Texas Flood,” or even more Allman Brothers-y… that would be amazing.

Projection may be too strong a word.  But I do think that anyone who toils in creativity had to worry about sacrificing the self for public acceptance.  Even in graduate school or in any other workshop environment, the poet might subconsciously, or consciously tailor work to be pleasing to a familiar audience, and that is dangerous.  When I started out writing I was composing what I thought was great, but was really just journal poetry.  Then I started working towards an audience, an I fear I went too far away from my own creative instincts. .. that thing no one can name that made me want to write. I think this is pretty common.  For a guy like John Mayer, you throw in the millions of dollars and the adoring fans, and he doesn’t stand a chance.

How did you manage to find your way back to your creative instincts?

Well I think I’m still on the way back there.  Being a bit removed from the who grad school workshop environment is a double edged sword.  On the one hand, they keep you writing and on your toes… on the other it’s kind of a fake reality.  Eventually you have to go back to full-time work and find time to write while juggling a family and a job and other responsibilities.  But for me  one ting that helped me in an effort to rediscover myself was simply seeing how some of the poems that were getting published were not the most popular in workshop, even though I liked them quite a bit.  There is so much subjectivity in the business of writing, a some point you need to start trusting yourself.

A fortune teller told me to trust my instincts a few weeks ago. Have you ever had your fortune told? If so, has any of it come true?

I never have, but I think it’s so interesting. I’d love to do it. How was it?  I’m sure there are a whole mess of phonies out there, but I do believe in a lot of the supernatural in many ways.  I totally believe in poets like Blake and Yeats, who were “seers”. Incidentally, and this is a total coincidence and nothing truly magical or supernatural, but I got a fortune cookie three months before the birth of my daughter (who was two and a half weeks early) which says “remember this date three months from now.  You will receive a special gift .”

Take that fortune cookie doubters! I’m glad to have had my fortune read. The fortune teller kept it a little vague, but there was enough specificity to give me a shiver or two. Overall the future was auspicious, so I choose to believe in her. Any forebodings would not have left me satisfied. Of course, she probably knew that.

Do you ever wish you were a ‘seer’, like Blake and Yeats, or do you feel there’s too many consequences involved with that?

 Yeah, if a fortune teller told me something like “Fear Death by Water”  I’d probably be paralyzed. It  Were you nervous at all?   seems like a conscious choice to believe in the positive side of the future, so I try to do that as well.  In some ways, being a seer would be great, but today we’d probably lock up or shun poets who claimed to be seers.  Yesterday’s seer is today’s  schizophrenic.

Did you know Kerouac was a diagnosed schizophrenic? That’s how he got out of military service so quickly. But I agree with you, mysticism isn’t exactly embraced in our culture any more.

I did know that, and I’m so glad you brought up Kerouac.  Speaking of getting back to artistic intent… Kerouac is my first real literary love.  I turn to him whenever I have writer’s block or feel like a phony.  His work is like a family member to me… Or at least a shrink.

Interesting and awesome choice of shrink. What do you think Kerouac would think of our upcoming Vouched Presents reading next Wednesday?

I think he’d be in to it!  When there would be readings in San Francisco  at the  Six Gallery or at City Lights,  Ginsberg or Snyder would be reading their poems, and Kerouac would be whooping the crowd into a frenzy, passing around his bottle of cheep red wine… just in  total ecstasy.  It must have really been something to behold!  Say what you want about Kerouac, and there are plenty of people who have lots of bad things to say … what with the idol worship and everything, but the man had an admirable, whole-hearted passion for art.  That is something we  should all hope to have.  It helps me remember why I ever sit down to write anything.  I love him for that.
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