To hear him speak on art and poetry is to catch a glimpse of how intensely a creator loves. It’s a genuine love that exceeds even passion and purpose, and tumbles into pure joy. (A “giddy” state as he puts it.) It is one of the reasons why we reveled in this conversation and why we’re so pleased to introduce poet, author, professor and entrepreneur: Clifford Brooks III.
Many poets can pinpoint when writing went from a pastime to something more. Can you shed some light on your journey with writing and poetry?
My mom found the first short stories of mine when I hit 10-years-old. She was pleasantly shocked, and that happiness convinced me that words would be in my future. I knew the pastime would evolve into “something more” when I was contracted to write a book of poetry at 35-years-old. I was, of course, writing between the ages of 10 and 35, but it wasn’t poetry. Verse was insisted upon me, but it has made my prose sing.
Once my first book, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, landed and went farther than anyone anticipated, I ran into waves of haters. To avoid that onslaught, and prevent that from choking off any other genuine artists, I created the Southern Collective Experience. The business has been good. Art is a vocation deserving of respect, we as artists simply must deserve it.
How personal is your poetry? Is anything off limits?
My poetry is 100% autobiographical. I don’t lie or fudge details. Nothing is off limits as long as I can speak on it from a point of personal experience. Otherwise, the material sounds trite and clangs like a deaf bell. I shy from curse words simply because too often they are abused in attempt to sound edgy. If the “f-bomb” is the only term perfect for the poem, then it fits (that has happened to me more than once) and there is no fear of judgement.
Your first book of poetry, The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics, was released in 2012 and nominated for a Pulitzer! How did that feel? And what aspirations do you have in relation to your art?
It still feels surreal to be nominated for the Pulitzer. I have high hopes for my new book of poetry, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart. There is a limited edition book coming out at the same time, Exiles of Eden that acts as a guidebook from Broken Eyes to Athena Departs. Kudzu Leaf Press is the best publisher I’ve ever met in any arena. They thought up the idea of Exiles of Eden, and my tattoo artist, Sheena Bryant, designed the cover. All of this has been a joint effort.
Right now, my aspirations are to keep the train on the tracks. I [began] touring on 11/9/2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. From then until the middle of summer 2018, I’ll be on the road in one way or another every weekend, and most weeks. I’ll feature other members of the SCE on my tour, and my hopes that the Southern Collective Experience will grow as a company is always at the forefront of my mind. The past has been a blast. The present is a gift unlike anything I saw even six months ago. The future is a rushing ball of lightning that I feel close without trepidation or doubt. I see the years ahead with much excitement.
Can you speak on the origins of The Southern Collective Experience? Seven years after its founding, has your vision for it shifted in any way?
No. The Southern Collective Experience has only grown in its scope of influence and knowledge. I knew from jump street that the SCE would be a company. I wasn’t going to waste my time on a “movement” or “new school of art” that I’ve never seen make anyone money. Money isn’t bad; people are bad. The SCE is an LLC, and the members are coworkers as well as family. All genres of expression are represented. I’ve completed several interviews that focus on the financial viability of the SCE, and it never offends me. Few, if any, have pulled it off. I don’t say this with a braggart’s tone, or exclaim that I’ve reinvented the wheel. I took a practical business model and applied it to the world of art. It has been a headache, and caused heads to break, but nothing was ever achieved on the backs of anyone. All of our efforts have been rewarded fairly. I cleave to the motto once told to me by my father: You owe no one an excuse or an apology.
No cheating. No lying. Focus and never compromise your goals or standards. You’ll get what you want. There is no luck. There is no “favor” worth taking – or giving. Trust me.
What impact has your involvement with the arts community had on you?
It has made me happy to be alive. Whether in favor of my efforts, or hating the success of them, I am giddy every day I am able to crawl out of bed and think, “I get to write today”. I have written my whole life, but now I pay my phone bill, keep my lights burning, and steer a corporation of artists towards the same, gentle life. That life is often attacked, but with the right, solid, grounded artists around, life stays in perspective. These people who climb on board with the SCE, like the brainchild behind “On Poetry”, I am infinitely humbled to wage war over. However, these same souls I hold responsible and expect they beat me with a pipe if I ever say (to anyone), “Don’t you know who I am?!” We keep each other on the earth as reality dictates, but thrilled to see a family member/coworker succeed in their own right.
The art world is no small place. Small minds keep that lie going. The art world is as wise and deep as the minds starved to enjoy it. There are many. Think big. Dream bigger. Succeed in what Alexander failed to do.
You’ll get it.
We want to make sure we support your publication, the Blue Mountain Review. Please let our readers know what they can expect!
The Blue Mountain Review is the newest project of the SCE. We wanted to , and have, created a “journal of culture”. Yes, “Southern” is in our title, but that does not translate to mean that only that beneath the Mason-Dixon Line is of use to us. We drink in the culture of all those who write, paint, sketch, or play to the seat of their soul. No one says I’m sorry for being from the American South, but we by no means play ball with a myopic vision that a single area of one country can tell the whole story.
The BMR has music, literature, interviews, and visual art different in every issue. The only singularity is our shared belief that what we showcase is the best from its genre. If you visit the SCE website you’ll find the appropriate editor to submit. We have 4 issues a year. All our previous issues can be found on www.issuu.com. Starting in 2018, we plan to have one print issue per year with our mainstay remaining online. The [online] reach is far superior to print, but folks like to have something in print to call their own. The SCE feels that there is a delicate balance to maintain.
Your piece, The Salvation of Cowboy Blue Crawford, is so incredibly layered; reaching readers on a spiritual and intensely personal level. So much of your work infuses theology. Is this intentional?
Absolutely intentional, the overlay of mythology and religion, are a design of my personal life on paper. Blue Crawford is a Western set in the current day. It will be an epic poem released in the late summer/early fall of 2018. It’s been the most demanding, and ecstatic piece of art to peel off my fingers. I am only now about half finished with it. I am writing it in conjunction with my thesis for my MFA degree with Reinhardt University.
Where are you from originally? Which aspects of your hometown/upbringing have helped to mold you as a person?
I am from Athens, Georgia. I still spend a significant amount of time there. My childhood was spent just down the road for UGA country in Oglethorpe County. Right now I am in North Georgia where my teenage and college years were spent.
Every smell, sound, dirt road, beautiful girl, and loyal friend from the South has made its way into my writing. I have traveled far and wide, but Georgia is and shall always be my home.
What are some of the topics that you are most passionate about (even if you’ve never written about them)?
- Living life, happy, well, and thoroughly.
- Feel music.
- Love the self and love from others will come.
- God is real.
- Man is able to Create.
- Women are divine.
- Evil is everywhere, but so is our own good will.
What has been the greatest piece of advice you’ve received thus far (poetry related or other)?
Edit. Edit. Edit. (Let someone of expertise edit.) Edit some more. Edit.
Is there any additional information that you would like included?
To buy my new books, please visit the Kudzu Leaf Press site. I am more than happy to answer the questions of anyone at my email: Cliffordbrooks@southerncollectiveexperience.com. If you are interested in joining, the application process is spelled out on our website. If you’d like to promote and further the SCE cause, there is a GoFundMe account where donations are welcome as well as tax-deductible: www.gofundme.com/tscecollection.
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