by Justin Devane
Q. You write fairly lengthy poems. Do you know how long the poem will be when you start it or is its length something that you chose not to have much control over?
A. It’s because of the roots of it. I started with writing songs and doing open mikes in college. And the songs were generally about three minutes long. Then I found out about poetry slams where I didn’t have to torture people with my guitar playing or singing. And poetry slams have a time limit of three minutes and all of my stuff fell within the time limit and that ends up being about two and a half pages typically. But within the last couple of years where I’ve given a shit less about slam, certainly with no disrespect towards it, and focused more on telling stories, I’ve written some stuff that’s about four-and-a-half or five minutes long. But then I’ve also written things that are about a minute long; just short little things to get the crowd warmed up.
Q. Do you find that certain subjects often recur in your writing, and do you go with these recurrences or do you fight them?
A. I don’t fight against any of it. What comes out comes out. What’s necessary is necessary. When I look at my breadth of work or I’m doing an hour set, I do notice there are some recurring themes. Religion and death come up a lot.
Q. Do you feel that there are any subjects that are taboo when it comes to poetry or is everything fair game?
A. No. That’s ridiculous. I lost what I thought was the love of my life because I talked too much and he didn’t have the ability to communicate. And sometimes talking about too much was too much. So, I guess in real life and in real relationships with real people who aren’t as comfortable with vulnerability as I am, then, yeah, that applies to personal relationships. But, in poetry or art; no. There’s no limits.
Q. Do you prefer the process of writing poetry or performing it?
A. Well, I have to write it to perform it. You know, after ten years of being asked this question, you’d think I would have a better answer, but I don’t. There’s no real process to it, I just sit down and write it when it comes to me, which is why I’ve written so little over the last year. There is a lot of cutting and pasting and editing and revising, though.
Q. The following can be answered in a word, a phrase, a sentence…Name a writer who is currently making you jealous.
“What comes out comes out. What’s necessary is necessary.”
A. Here’s a quote by Oscar Wilde: “It is easy to sympathize with a friend’s pain. It takes a real friend to sympathize with their success.” I’m not trying to get too intense with that, I just think that jealousy is a stupid way to look at it. But who I’m most excited about right now is Derrick Brown.
Q. What kind of child were you?
A. A chubby, awkward, rambunctious, insecure, imaginative, only child.
Q. What is your relationship with rejection like?
A. As a poet, my experience with rejection has been self-implied, because I chose to subject myself to poetry slams. I would win a lot, but then when the time for Finals came, I would get alternate. It happened three years in a row in Seattle. Then I won two World Championships and came back to Seattle and was an alternate again. At first, rejection was harsh, because I wanted (success) so bad, but now I learn from it.
Q. What book did you suffer for the most, and why?
A. The book I was most eager to read as I was reading it was probably The Tao of Pooh.
Q. What was the greatest surprise for you in your most recent writing?
A. I’m not going to elaborate, but the greatest surprise for me in my most recent writing was “The painters all jacked up on stampede dust.”
Q. What writerly habit would you most like to break?
Q. Lastly…what did you have for lunch today?
A. I just woke up. I haven’t even left the room yet. (Interviewer note: this interview was conducted at 12:30 in the afternoon.)
In 2005, Buddy Wakefield won the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship and has gone on to perform with almost every distinguished performance poet in the world. He is also the two-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion featured on NPR, the BBC, and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Wakefield is a Board of Directors member with Youth Speaks Seattle and an author of Write Bloody Publishing. He was born in Shreveport, LA, but currently calls Seattle, WA, home. Wakefield continues to tour internationally and says that his best gigs thus far have been with Ani DiFranco and The Junkyard Ghost Revival.