If I'm honest, A.D. Winans is the sort of poet I want to be: relentless and fearless and sensitive and endlessly creative.By the time you're old enough to know about Rimbaud, it's already too late to be Rimbaud. You're not a lightning strike of genius sent to the earth to shake things up forever. You can think you are, that's fine, but you're not. So, what can you do? Well, you can write. You can write and write and write. And that's what Winans does. He doesn't romanticise the idea of being a writer or act as if he's on some higher plane because he's a poet. He lives and he writes. And that's what writers should do.Despite loving the A.D. Winans I have on my bookshelves, I've still had to make my peace with the fact that I'll never read everything the guy has put out. Seriously. Look at this list. It's impossible. And I know for a fact that he's had more books out since that list was put together.If you need a place to start, I recommend the beautiful collection Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine from Bottle of Smoke Press. It's a hefty collection and consistently fantastic. Then when you're done with that, and you want to start hunting down the rest, let me know how you get on, and maybe you can help me with my Winans collection too.
I am a great fan of your poetry and I have never been to San Francisco. You've been based there most of your life. Do you think I would get more out of your poetry were I to know San Francisco? Do you think I can know a little of San Francisco through your poetry?
I was born, raised, and have lived in San Francisco nearly my entire life. My poetry and my life can't be separated. I have been documenting my life through my poetry, and a large body of it is on and about San Francisco. So I think you would learn a lot about San Francisco from reading my work. I'd recommend my book (available through Amazon) San Francisco Poems
for starters, and if you really want to know about old San Francisco from my childhood to present, my long poem I Am San Francisco
will take you there.You've mentioned that a finished poem often bears little resemblance to whatever you initially had in mind. Is there anything you've always wanted to write about but feel you've never quite managed to get down exactly how you wanted?
When I said this, I meant that an image or thought comes to my mind, and then takes on a shape and form all its own. I never sit down and consciously try to write a poem. The voices in my head dictate the poem. The only thing I have not managed to get down in detail is my life story (memoir). Good portions of my life, that which is related to my poetry, writing and publishing can be found in two books I wrote: The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski and the Second Coming Revolution
and Dead Lions
, a memoir on my friendship with Alvah Bessie (one of the original Hollywood Ten), Charles Bukowski, Bob Kaufman, and Jack Micheline. However, past attempts to begin with my childhood to the present have not been as successful. I'll leave that up to a future biographer, assuming one might be interested in pursuing this daunting task.I've read that growing up you loved Jack London. I've had people tell me he is a writer I will not love in the same way when I am older. Do you still feel able to get the same thrill out of certain books now that you did in your youth?
Never listen to anyone who tells you what you will like later in life. People told me I would never feel the same way about J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye,
but I still strongly identify with his book. Of course it's true that a book that moved you when you were in your youth will not have the "same" excitement later in life, but that doesn't mean the magic isn't still there.As someone who has written so much in their life, have you ever had periods where you've had to force the writing? Or has it always come naturally for you?
No, because forced writing is bad writing. It has pretty much come naturally to me. I still pretty much (like Kerouac) write spontaneously although I find myself in the last few years going back and revising many of my earlier poems. This is not the case with prose. I originally wanted to be a novelist, but the magic wasn't there.Finally, what was the last thing, book, song, artist, place etc that you totally fell in love with?
Well I fell in love with San Francisco from the beginning and the flame is still very much alive. I came upon Leonard Cohen later than most people, a true singer, song writer, and poet, and love him even more than Bob Dylan, who was an inspiration to me for a lot of my political poems in the sixties and seventies. I fell in love with Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems
because he wrote about Chicago the way I write about San Francisco. I totally love anything and everything Studs Terkel has written.---Spontaneous response to interview questions. A.D. Winans. 2/24/2016.
More A.D. Winans