1. Hello, Matt. How’s your mental health?
It is a work in progress, I just failed at cognitive retraining therapy, freaked out and stopped going and changed my phone number. I thought I was ready, but sadly not yet. Still I hold a job and try to maintain friendships.
2. Where do you hail from, and how’s that working out for you?
I am from Erie, Pa and have been here all my life except when the Navy takes me away. I like it well enough, not much happening here for young people but at 52 I am right at home. Work is steady, living is cheap. There is quiet to write in.
3. What kind of anti-psychotics or mood stabilizers are you prescribed, and have they been expedient to the creative process?
None for a long time, funny thing the Navy has no problem with letting you serve with PTSD they just won’t let you treat it. I have been off meds for a long time now. I was on Celexa and a benzodiazepine for while, it helped but made me lose any sense of urgency I had. I am better off without them.
4. Have you, like most creative people, struggled with addiction?
I try to believe the answer is no, but I am a pretty heavy drinker, sober just over 3 weeks today though. I like many self medicate to get by. I have been trying to get ahold of this just lately. It is early in the game so I have no real prediction for how it will turn out yet.
5. Was the time you served in Afghanistan as a nurse worth the cost of admission?
The million dollar question! Ok, here is the thing. If you decide to serve in the military it is a part of the job, no use complaining. I knew what I signed on for and I am proud of that service. I patched up people wounded and broken, ours, and theirs anyone who needed it. I have pride in that. That I would have all the problems that came after I left I never counted on. Stranger is that the writing about it, which I was only doing to try to get it out of my head, has brought me more attention than any other writing I had ever done. My first publications came from people on a closed poetry facebook page. I was just posting looking to see if they even sounded like poetry and I did not know that some members had journals, so when they asked me to publish my stuff I was surprised. That is got the response it did was more surprising. I have this strange benefit from this thing I wish had never happened all wrapped up in a job I picked, on a deployment I volunteered for. It is a strange world.
6. Has writing poetry been beneficial to your struggle with PTSD?
It has, I find that it allows me to tell the story enough times that it finally feels told. I hope some day to wake up with nothing more to say about Afghanistan, or PTSD. I doubt it will totally go away, same way I will always have PTSD but it gets a little softer around the edges. I am also starting to see some reason to push through it all and to try to move past it, which is a big breakthrough for me.
7. What triggers the PTSD attacks you experience?
My biggest enemy is down time. If there is nothing going on I sink down into the darkest places I go, which is always back into Bastion Hospital. I need to keep a lot of balls in the air to stay distracted. I have a job, a part time job, a Navy Reserve career. Four kids and I build guitars out of cigar boxes and paint pictures and play music. If I stay busy enough then the ghosts are appeased. I am also very vulnerable to the sound of helicopters, the feeling of walking on sand and for some reason being in a tent is terrifying.
8. Would you serve again if duty calls?
Absolutely, I am still a united states Navy sailor, I have at least 4 years left on my contract and might stay until I turn 60. I also doubt this PTSD thing could get worse, I am not anxious to find out though.
9. When’s the last time you had a violent episode?
Been a long time since I was violent. I tend to get depressed more now and I disassociate from people and my memories. I am a moody quiet person when it is bad. Drunk however I might get loud and break shit.
10. You have a plethora of books on the market, and plenty more in the making. How’s it feel to have the small press by the balls?
It comes from a need to constantly keep moving I am afraid of downtime so I write a whole lot. The response is what surprises me. I know there are only a handful of us writing about war just now so that helps. I also know that a lot more than just military know this illness. I meet people with PTSD all the time from other traumatic events from their own lives. To answer the question though I feel very lucky to be able to get my work out in front of people. Like all of us I wish there was money in it, but I am lucky that I have a job as a nurse I like so my bills get paid. Still, it would be cool to pay a bill or two with poetry.
11. Best publication of all time?
Do you mean what one I like reading best? Currently I am way impressed with Inbetween Hangovers, they seem to have a lot of the best writers going now. I also love Rasputin, The beatnik cowboy, Anti Heroin chic, as well as many others.
12. Contemporary poetry, love it or hate it?
Love the underground press!! Some people writing right now are set to change the face of the whole thing if you ask me! It is a huge market so I tend to stay in my corner of it, but some of the writing coming out of the small press is just incredible.
13. What’s your opinion of asshole editors on power trips?
Tough question, first most editors are doing a job. If they are professional about it cool. I get a lot more rejections than acceptances as many of us do. I do not mind as long as they are professional. I know not everyone likes my stuff, some do not even think it is poetry. OK but once you tell me that once, lets just move on. I do not let the no’s bother me much. Too busy trying to write.