Cole’s Words

In Interview on June 19, 2013 at 3:26 am

cole photo

Cole Bellamy is a new friend. Here’s what I know about him: 1. He has a very photogenic cat. 2. He’s a teacher. 3. He supports Tampa’s growing arts community and attends every event he can. 4. He owns and wears a yellow cardigan. 5. He’s thoughtful and a bit soft-spoken. 5. He recently wrote a book called ‘American Museum’. Here are his words.

Can you share a brief history of your relationship with writing?

I’ve been at it, in different capacities since I was very young. As a kid I was really into pulpy science fiction stories and films, so I ended up reading a lot of Frank Herbert and Philip K. Dick. At some point somebody pointed me toward Jack Kerouac and that was it, this was what I wanted to do with myself. From there, I discovered William Burroughs and Thomas Wolfe. I started out writing short stories and trying to write novels. Strangely, I think it was getting into Punk Rock that led me to poetry. I think when I first heard that Patti Smith track, Babelogue: that was a major turning point for me. I wanted to write like that, to get that kind of power behind the words and really hit hard with them. This was in the late 90’s, when Slam and performance poetry was coming up as well, and I think that’s what got me started, I wanted to write so I had something to perform. When I got to college, I discovered older work, especially William Blake and Lord Byron. At that point, I think I just wanted to be in front of people, so I was still just writing so I had an excuse to get on a stage and ham it up. My first book, Lancelot’s Blues, was published around that time too. It was very much in that punk/slam mode; whenever I look at that one again, all I can think of is how much of a different person I was then.

I gave it up for a while after that, I was still writing, but I went the route of journalism, it seemed like a safe bet at the time. I did freelance work, newspaper work, editing work, everything I could. Other than some brief sojourns into political organizing and library work, I was a journalist in some capacity for most of my 20’s, and I think that’s influenced my work as well. I came to a point where I really wanted to get back to my creative work, and I wanted to take it seriously. So I decided to take the leap and go for an MFA, and really do it. Journalism wasn’t really working out for me, anyway. I think I got the ass-kicking I needed in grad school. I studied with some great people, and I filled out a lot of the background that I think I needed. I also discovered many more writers who are now very important to me, like Charles Simic and William Matthews, James Wright and Ted Hughes.

Since then I’ve been teaching, which I love more than I can even express. This new book, ‘American Museum’, is, I think, a good example of the work I’ve been writing since I finished grad school.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing and finishing your book?

The hard work of it is in the editing. My friend Christopher Klim once told me that all writing is a journey from the absolute top to the absolute bottom of your own ego, and I think that’s about right. Inspiration comes from a place total self-love, to the point of arrogance. Then to craft that into a finished piece, you have to go down into the pit. Sometimes you have to stay in the pit for a long time too.

What are you hoping to communicate to readers of your book?

It started out as a book about P.T. Barnum. I read a biography of Barnum a few years ago, and I was interested in many of the stories about him and his various hoaxes. I wrote a lot of poems about his life that ended up in the trash. I think I kept one or two of them. But I kept going for that carnival aesthetic, mixing it with some Florida weirdness and some fantastical elements. I thought of the poems as, kind of, children’s books for grown-ups. I wanted to tell stories and show images, and to communicate them in clear and sharp ways, and to try to avoid editorializing or privileging any specific viewpoint. I was also interested in mixing true stories with made up stories, and telling them as if they were the same. Mostly, I hope people just think it’s pretty.

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What’s something you’d like to try but haven’t?

What’s that poisonous Japanese blowfish? Fugu? I’d like to try that.

If you could have your work critiqued by any writer, who would it be and why?

I’d probably go with Patti Smith, I have a lot of respect for her, as a poet and a songwriter and as a writer of prose. I don’t think she’d pull any punches either.

Please list 20 things or people that inspire you.

1. Cats

2. Scratchy old records

3. Whiskey

4. My neighbor Suzy

5. This city

6. Good art

7. Punks

8. Really bad jokes

9. Archery

10. Restraints, both literal and figurative

11. Black tea

12. Ornette Coleman

13. Pond water

14. People who are good at growing plants

15. Conflict

16. Static

17. Loud noises

18. The inefficiency of language

19. A good hangover

20. Red

Finish these sentences:

I love…my life; I have a lot more luck than I deserve.

I’m not a fan of…cold climates, or people who try to tell me how great cold climates are.

I’m looking for…a good time, most of the time.

I hope to…help build a fun and thriving artistic and literary scene in this city.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Cole’s book or purchasing it, head over to his publisher’s website here.

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