From the Locker Room

“Stag at Sharkey’s” by George Bellows (1909)

Joyce Carol Oates is right: it’s not talent, it’s people interrupting me that is preventing me from being a great writer. That’s all it is. People interrupting me.

The other day, to avoid having my writing interrupted I took to reading some stories in a collection (blurbed by Joyce Carol Oates, coincidently) titled Rope Burns, set in the world of boxing, the gyms, the arenas, circa late 20th century.(One of the stories was the basis for the hit movie “Million Dollar Baby”) The author’s pen name is F.X. Toole (Jerry Boyd.) The writing gets down to business, vivid descriptions of the world of boxing, and the minds of its inhabitants. Although trouble waits for us everywhere, bad actors are probably more concentrated in milieus like boxing, where the training and business that matters is conducted mostly indoors; the participants in “the game” don’t get out much. When they do, it’s mostly a harsher world than I live in now, but I’ve been there, the unglamorous, unfortunate parts of Los Angeles, and F.X. Toole is right on the money in his narrative.   

It was just what I needed to take my mind off things, to insert me into a different place for awhile.  I noticed on the dedication page of the book there is special thanks to Howard Junker, the founder and editor of the literary magazine Zyzzyva, for being “the first to give me a Shot.” That brought back a memory because Howard Junker, while not being the first to give me a shot, also published a story a wrote. I remember the editing process with him, being astonished as he just dismissed certain paragraphs, cutting a page, page and half of the manuscript and either discarding it or telling me to replace it, “just take something from something else you wrote.”  He forever changed my attitude about the “preciousness” of my writing. And while nothing I’ve written has ever been turned into a movie, appearing in Zyzzyva did put a bounce in my step, for a few months, anyway, probably in 1995 or so. (Zyzzyva is still in business.)

My fiction writing didn’t last much beyond that. At some point after 2000 I started writing this poetry stuff. Don’t know why. It just seemed natural to me. And then, the lyrical, more traditional long form poetry I stopped writing and started on the micro poems. Why? Again I don’t remember. I just went that way. That’s the way I tell my story. And with few exceptions, that’s been the way it’s been since then.

So, yeah, absolutely, stop by.

© 2020 Randy Stark

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