Welcome to part B of the Full House podcast. We’ve had a great time over at part A. And we are very excited to speak to our guest in Part B. So we are going to be chatting to Chris L Butler. So welcome, Chris. Hi.
Hi, Leia. How’s it going?
Good thank you very excited to have you on and hear a little bit about your life, your work, your practices. So, to start off, Chris, do you want to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your life and the way you do things?
Absolutely. Thanks for having me. My name is Chris L. Butler. I am originally from Philadelphia, Houston. However, today I am calling from Calgary, Alberta. In 2020, I immigrated to Canada, and I am a poet and essayist. And my genres are obviously poetry, but I love to dabble in political poetry, hip hop poetry, like mixing of the two and kind of hybrid things as well. And then in nonfiction, I love to talk about the black community as well as pop culture.
Okay, brilliant. Um, so Chris, what would you say are some of the themes that feed into your work? And also, any people who inform or inspire your work?
Great question. So, obviously, you know, growing up, you hear the big names and poetry, we’ve all heard them before. But the first time I saw someone like myself, that was a poet, was when I would read Langston Hughes early on. However, what really got me to pick up the pen was I’m a 90s kid so Def Jam, poetry was really influential for me, you know, black ice, he’s actually from Philly as well. I didn’t know that until I was much older. But yeah, he was a great influence on me, as well as Jay Z. Lupe Fiasco. I’m not your traditional poet. I guess.
That’s really interesting. I love that your writing would have tastes of those really interesting and important artists.
Definitely. But as I get older, and more mature in my career, I’ve been more inspired by writers like Jericho Brown, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Donna Smith, Claudia Rankine, you know, I’m trying to spread my wings, and find people who write, I don’t want to say write like I write, who I want to write like and who I see myself in their work.
And what sort of pieces are your, you know, favorites to read?
I like pieces that tell truth. And what I mean by that is, I think the best thing we can do as writers is tell our authentic story. A lot of times people will think, oh, my story, people don’t want to hear my story. No, that’s not true. Everybody has an audience. Unfortunately, sometimes that can be a bad thing. But everybody has an audience. And your authentic story matters. And I think, like I said, as creatives as artists of any type, really, the best thing we could do is try to find that authenticity and share that with the world. Because our authenticity, our uniqueness is what makes us special is what makes the world special. I think we’d be pretty boring if we were all the same.
Yeah, definitely. And I wonder if that’s why, you know, a lot of people when they write are told to write what you know, because, you know, that’s guaranteed to be most authentic, because that’s their individual experience in that way.
Yeah, and I’m not saying that people can’t write about other cultures. But I think it comes with research. My background is not a BFA in creative writing, I actually have a bachelor’s degree in history. So for me, research is very fundamental and not your like, you know, I did my research, kind of jokes you see on social media, but legitimately, you know, sometimes it takes years to really understand if it isn’t your, you know, native culture.
Yeah, I think it’s pretty interesting you’re speaking about history, and you know, context, because that context is a really important part of how we perceive and understand something.
Definitely, one of the hardest things for me to grasp when I was a history student, was when you read certain texts, you know, depending on what your culture is, you may be offended. And, of course, you’re justified in that feeling. But you have to remember that these texts were written in the time they were written. You know, it’s not like literature, where in literature I think what we say is even more important, because if people gravitate to your words, I mean, you’ll see a historian less likely on a best selling list, then you will, a literary genius. And both of those creatives are genius and writers. But from what I’ve learned, not as many people are as passionate about history as me. So in that there’s a power in what you say, in the literary space even more so because what you say could do more harm.
Yeah, for sure. And I think it can be really interesting to see the ways where literature and history mingle together. And what happens.
Definitely, I love to say that poetry and hip hop as well, rock and roll had this space at one time to tells history, because a lot of history is telling pop culture 10/20 years later, or 50 years later, or more. If you read the poet’s right now, what they’re writing about what we’re writing about is what people are going to be lecturing about. A lot of the poetry created in the last few years, mine included is in resistance to the Trump administration. Right now it’s popular culture, living history. Obviously, he’s not the President, but it’s still recent, you know, but in 15 years, your historians will be teaching what the poets and the writers are saying now.
Yes, you’re speaking about, you know, Trump, and the moments in which negative elements of culture can inspire us to write or, you know, we feel like we have to write about these important moments. And would you say that’s something that you do in your writing? Or is there other areas that you tend to explore?
I actually did an interview with the poetry question, and Mordecai Martin on his series, talk to me. And we talked about that. And I said, as a black creative, I don’t want to be boxed in. My upcoming debut micro chap has topics on amusement parks, and anime and hip hop, and, you know, black people, we have these experiences. And I want to create a wide variety of things. Because I want people to understand that we are not a monolith. And we are a diverse diaspora, as well as on the continent and all over the world. We love different things. And yes, our existence is heavily politicized. But other communities understand this, too. We are not a monolith. And we are much more than one identity or one voice.
I love the way you put that. That’s really, really interesting. And so you know, talking about your work in general, what sort of vibe would you use to describe your work?
I’ll say complex is the first word that comes to my head. And and why I say that is, I have a myriad of topics. You know, I recently wrote a poem published in the Hellebore called traphouse capitalism, which talks about these experiences of you know, living in the inner city, and, you know, living in a country now I’m in Canada, where, you know, cannabis is legal. But in America, you can a lot of places you can’t go to a dispensary. I’ll just put it like that, you know, and that poem talks about that experience, because it talks about, like, I call him the dope man, but you know, people would call him the drug dealer. I say, the dope man is a cap, not a socialist, not a communist. And, and I’m a socialist, you know, but what does that mean, as we play in this role of capitalism? Do you know do you judge the dope man, the way you judge Jeff Bezos? I don’t, you know, and I talk about that in that poem. But then, in the same issue, I have a poem about going to Universal Studios with my mom and grandma, my work, it is a myriad of experiences, a myriad of life experiences, you know, like anyone else.
Absolutely right. And I’d also like to hear a little bit more about your experiences working with other members of the community, working with some of our mags. You are obviously a really active part of the community, which is great to see. And your tweets are always so insightful, and there’s a lot to be gained from your really interesting perspectives and questions. But yeah, what’s your experience been like working more in depth with some mags and you know, what have been some of the highs of that experience, or a favorite moment even?
So hard to pick one. But I would say if I could pick three, you know, being selected as one of the winners of the daily drunk mag micro chapbook contest, be nominated for a pushcart prize, the first year that I really say, you know what, I’m giving myself permission to submit my writing for publication, the same year, you know, I did not expect to be nominated. So to be nominated it is just mind blowing. And then the third, I would say, is being an associate poetry editor now at bending genres, you know, I didn’t expect to have that sort of opportunity so quickly. But I’m very grateful. And I’m having a blast. And I would say that those are my three highlights for now.
That is fantastic. And you’ve certainly achieved a lot there. So massive congratulations to you, Chris. And I suppose that with highs, there must come lows as well, right?
Yeah, unfortunately, the literary world, you know, like any other world, in our world, there’s a bunch of ecosystems, you know, and my professional background is the nonprofit industry. And even in that sector, you have so many good hearted people. But unfortunately, the nature of human beings, we don’t always get along where we don’t always we’re not always kind to each other. And unfortunately, I’ve seen that in the literary world as well. I’m still kind of new to the space as far as like the public eye goes. But I definitely would, I don’t, and I don’t want to single anyone out. But I think it’s important now that I’m an editor, that I show some sort of discernment, not just with the words and the art, but with the voice behind the art, and what voices we’re platforming, and not just for the sake of harm that has been done to people, but also on a positive sense to lift up intersectional voices that we don’t see literature.
Yeah, I think editorial responsibility is a really interesting one. And, you know, within the community, we see some editors who really harness that editorial responsibility, and they use their platform to really educate others, and, you know, highlight any negativity in the community to try and stop it happening to others. And other editors choose to take more of a backseat with this. So it’s really interesting seeing the differences in between how people use the editorial responsibility.
Yeah, and one thing I try not to do is judge why some may stay quiet, because you never know someone’s circumstances. You know, I put in a Ruth Lilly application last spring, and a lot of my friends withdrew their application, you know, and I didn’t, and I didn’t, because partially, I wasn’t as mature as I am now as a literary citizen. But also, to be fully honest with you, I’m an immigrant, I’m unemployed, because I can’t work, you know, my wife is providing for us, and I needed that 25,000, you know, but looking back on that decision, you know, 25,000 isn’t enough money to, for me to sacrifice my integrity. And I wish going back, I pulled my application, you know, last spring. And this is the last year I would be eligible and I’m not, I’m not going to submit. Because the thing is even beyond, even if there was no harm, there are poets, there are writers who are never in these magazines, or have only been in these magazines, once on a special occasion, issues selection moment. And that’s a problem. But at the same time, I can think of a poet right now, you know, she’s not necessarily everyone’s favorite, but Rupi Kaur I mean, Rupi Kaur is not in some of these magazines. And she’s got the number one book in Canada, and been a best seller in the New York Times list. And people have lots of opinions on her. I personally like her work, because I think she has a lot to offer. But at the same time, she’s not in some of these top magazines, and she’s still winning. So 25,000 100,000, you know, a million isn’t really worth your values. And that’s, and maybe I’m projecting when I say your values, but my values, because there are so many people who don’t follow the blueprint, who win and are successful. So I think the biggest mistake we can make is tell people to follow a one size fits all model. If we all did that. I’m not even sure you’d be interviewing me right now.
Absolutely. And I think that’s a really important point you’ve highlighted that people, you know, they do stay silent for different reasons. And I mean, sometimes it’s not because they’re staying silent for a specific reason. Like they just might have been online in the past few days and they don’t, you know, know what’s going on.
Yeah, I mean, sometimes people didn’t see the tweet, you know, or, or they were, I have friends that take mental health breaks and creative breaks from Twitter all the time, you know, and Twitter’s as of this time, the fastest information source. You will find out on Twitter what the New York Times is publishing, before an apple alert. So not everyone comes back and reads the last three days of tweets, or 16 hours, you know. So I don’t think everyone is meaning to harm people when they continue to follow. I think some people just don’t know. And this is what I mean by by judging people, you know, everyone has their life. I’m the son of an African American woman, and a Dutch white guy who immigrated. So everybody has their story, and their experiences and their why. But as far as the career thing goes, you might go a lot further risk, like, look at Colin kaepernick. You know, he risked it all. For me, and other intersectional communities outside of black people that are oppressed, he lost millions of dollars. I think I can afford to skip out on a couple magazines. And I mean that respectfully.
Yeah, I mean, that’s totally fair enough, people do take breaks. And that’s absolutely great. If that’s good for your mental health. And if you want to switch off, I suppose just the best thing to do is when you come back online, just try and see what you’ve missed. And if there’s any important community things that would be worth knowing.
Definitely, and I think, you know, the best thing we can do, as literary comrades is check in with our friends beyond Twitter, you know, the ones that we have their phone numbers or their WhatsApp or something, like, check in with them and say, hey, I know you’re going through, you know, you’re, you’re in the trenches, creating, or you’re going through something right now, but I just wanted to bring this to your attention. And we can talk about it when you’re ready. You know, we don’t have to read everything on the internet, I send stuff to my friends all the time you know.
Exactly. That’s such an important point, I think, to bring in the fact that it doesn’t have to be, you know, through Twitter through that type of social media. And now, so moving on to slightly happier things. Tell us about some of your favorite mags out there at the moment that are doing, you know, the utmost they can and promoting inclusivity and being a good platform and trying to share diverse voices and trying to be a good place in welcoming to members of the community.
So I love The Hellebore. And perhappened, and daily drunk mag, you know, mags that are newer, but already, like, hey, we got it, we’re coming out with chapbooks what’s up, you know, like, shaking it up, you know, I love them. And not just because they published me, you know, they’re, they’re great people behind those magazines, and they, and they do a lot for the literary community to keep it exciting and fun. And that’s awesome. You know, but beyond that, other magazines, you know, of course bending genres, versification, trampset has done quite a bit, to put hands put money in the hands of bipoc writers, especially during Juneteenth and last December. There are tons I don’t want anybody to feel slighted, you know, but there there are lots of magazines Maria Sampaguitas, I apologize if I mispronounced that. But there are lots of great magazines out there that I love that I’m watching head fake hoops run by Alan Chazaro is a really fun basketball magazine run on medium. There’s there’s lots.
Wow, what a great list. There are some really great mags being shouted out there. And you know, speaking of perhappened, you guest edited the lovers issue, right. So how was that? What was that experience? Like, you know, being the guest reader?
it’s really cool. I love that their model is to read blind. I think that is one of the best things we can do. I have heard some takes that that works against bipoc writers, and I’m still exploring those opinions. But I love that perhappened is doing blind submissions, because I think that changes things. I’ve seen writers that you might not expect to win some things when some things on the strength of blind submissions. So I really love that they’re doing that. And like a lot of lit mags you know, you’re supposed to vote and give reasons why or, or why not. And one thing I want to say about that, the hardest thing is when you see a writer who you like submit and maybe you vote and it doesn’t always work out that way diplomatically, or you want to vote, but you can’t always vote. Because, I mean, I’ve submitted poems that are unfinished. You know, I thought they were finished. But they they weren’t, you know, and I think that’s the hardest thing. And I think the most important thing we could know, speaking as someone who’s been on both sides now, if you get a rejection, sometimes there is somebody batting for you. And diplomatically, it just went three, two, you know, so. So one thing I try to do with perhappened, and as a guest reader, as well, as an editor for bending genres, I tried to say, if there’s a moment where I’m like, hey, I didn’t want to reject this, can we please let this artist know that like, they should submit again. And, and actually, I did that recently, and the artists resubmitted, and we published one of their poems. So this is what I mean, like, I know, we’re tired. I know, a lot of us are working for free on both sides of the coin. But realistically, that can that can make the difference for that writer, they, they got 19 rejections in one month, like I have, and maybe six of them actually liked them diplomatically. It just didn’t work out that way.
Absolutely. And I love your point about the fact that sometimes it is, you know, three two, and it’s just goes to show that there are people that really love that piece, even if it turned out that the odds were that it was rejected with the numbers. And I think that’s really important to communicate to writers in giving them the confidence that yeah, this is a good piece, you know, just a different audience might absolutely love it, you know, all five of them. And they also think that the point about blind submissions is really interesting, like reading them blind, at full house, we do that model as well. And we initially did think it was a really good model, until we realized that it’s only going to successfully work if you have a more diverse team. So yeah, it’s all well and good, me and Jack reading the submissions blind. But if there’s only two of us, who are, you know, straight white individuals, then that’s not really going to benefit many people. If we have these unconscious, you know, unintentional biases that we all have as humans, that’s not going to benefit anyone. But if we have a diverse team, you know, a diverse masthead, also joining us, and we do the blind submissions, that’s going to be so much more successful and fair and give way more people the opportunity. So yeah, it’s a great model. But I think it definitely can only be successful as it can, if you have the diverse team and the diverse readers to go along with that.
Definitely 1% of editors are black, you know that that’s all diaspora. So not just African Americans. So that that’s, that’s tough, it’s tough to see, it’s part of the reason why I edit to be honest with you, I kind of look at editing, like, so I kind of look at it, like music, like the writer is the rapper, and the editors like the producer. And and sometimes you have people who are both, like Eminem or Dr. Dre or something. And, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Sometimes I’m playing that producer editor role. Because unlike hip hop, there aren’t many editors. Or unlike how hip hop has lots of black producers. There aren’t many black editors. So that’s really a major reason why I edit because of what you’re talking about, you know, unconscious bias that may, and I have my own too, you know, we all have our own. I’m not going to if I read like I’m from Houston, so I read poems, sometimes from Afro Mexican poets who speak for me, but then they they speak for me in English and Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish as well enough as they do. So I’m not gonna receive the poem the same way as some of my other Latin ex comrades, you know, I have to translate it for to really hit and maybe it doesn’t hit with the translate. You know, the Quran is like that. A lot of people say so. How you read, like you said, we have our cultural biases. As Anglophones as people of different cultures. If you’re a Francophone, you know, you’d have the same experience the opposite way. So definitely.
Totally,yeah. 100%. And so now we’d like to speak a bit more about some of the issues in the literary community. So in the past, we’ve spoken about issues around representation and diversity. We spoken about being paid for craft. There are quite a few issues, but we’d like to hear your take on something that you think is a problem in the literary community, and we’d love to know if you think we’re on the right path to solving it, or what more can we do?
Biggest problem? So full transparency, biggest problem is hard for me to answer. Because I, while I’m black and mixed, I am not queer. And I’m cisgendered. So I wanted to be careful in how I answer this question. And I would say that I think the biggest problem in the literary community is a lack of kindness. And that lack of kindness, probably rooting from capitalism, and a lot of other isms. But that that kindness, ultimately, in my opinion, that lack of kindness is rooted in capitalism and individualism. And people wanting it to be about themselves. And I think if we could be kinder to each other, like, if you know, if you read a poem, and you don’t like it, who cares? If it offends you? That’s different. If you just didn’t enjoy it, you can move on. But I’ve seen writers say, oh, well, that’s not how you do this, or this poem is trash. And I’m like, why are you being so mean? I mean, I’ve seen men, you know, and I’m a man, so I try to check my gender quite a bit. I see men sometimes just say ridiculous things to women. Like, a friend of mine tweeted about submittable. And this guy started mansplaining, her how submittable works. And she was an editor of a literary magazine. And this is what I mean. So I think biggest problem is going to be a subjective answer. But it all roots and stems from a lack of kindness. I saw an editor tweet, it costs $0.00 to be kind. And it’s something I have to remind myself of sometimes, too.
Yeah, totally. As someone who works in the charity sector myself, 100% kindness is so important. I’m so glad you brought that up. Because it is so so important. And in something we all need as humans, right. Kindness is so essential. And where, there is no kindness, there is a lot of issues.
Exactly. You know, there are poets that people in my schooling days have lauded to be legendary. And quite frankly, I didn’t enjoy the poems. And there are poets that I love that people don’t consider poets, I consider Lauryn Hill, a poet. So this is what I mean, it’s very subjective. And it’s okay to not like a piece of literature. But ask yourself why. If it offends you if it’s insulting your culture, or your experiences, you know, I have noticed I didn’t mention disabled people, I mean, I’m not saying you can’t strike back at an ableist poem, no strike back at that ableist poem. But if it’s not a poem that’s causing harm to someone, or any piece of writing that’s causing harm to someone, or a community or a protected class, then you don’t like it just move on. Actually, not liking a book helps you be a better writer, because you know what you don’t like. And maybe what you don’t like, is your audience.
100% agree with you there. But what happens then when someone has been unkind? How do we respond to that? Can you respond with kindness? Or, you know, what sort of response do we give that?
I think it depends. I don’t want to police reactions. For example, an anti black poem, that is also misogynistic hits different for me than my mom. So because I have some privileges over my mom, I might get a little bit mad if they’re disrespectful to black women, because it’s it’s my mom, right? It’s my cousins. It’s my friends. It’s whatever. So I’m not going to say no, you shouldn’t have came at him like that. No, or them like that. No, I think sometimes, we cut deep with truth. And that’s just the way it is. But we shouldn’t tell people oh, no, that’s not the way to respond. Because really, I mean, that’s what happened to black people for the last 400 years. We protested and they said not like that and you know, we’re kneeling, not like that and no black panthers no nation, no snick no, BLM like you we try different strategies and they say no, not like that. So I’m not going to say no, not like, don’t clap back like that, because that person has harmed you. But I definitely think about what I’m going to say before I say it. I’ve definitely clapped back and that version you saw on the timeline might have been the third version. Sometimes you leave a tweet in the drafts, get a glass of water, come back, and you actually say it way better. And this is maybe this is just me, but you say it way better than you would have said, because there’s been a few times that I know, in my Facebook days, because I don’t use Facebook, that I said something the way I didn’t mean it to come off. And unlike Facebook, there’s no edit feature on Twitter. So I sometimes definitely try to think about how I’m going to make that point in my clap back. But I’m also 31. So I’m not going to tell somebody how to respond. Because how I respond to how I respond to things now is different than how I responded to things at other times in my life.
Absolutely, I can totally relate to those, you know, messages in the drafts and you leave it for a bit, you come back, you’re like, okay, I didn’t mean to say exactly like that, or that was a bit too intense for what I meant. And you know, sometimes you do need those moments of reflection, so that you’re putting out something that you’re happy to put out and something you mean, as opposed to something that’s just purely within anger that you won’t feel good about later.
Definitely. And I’ve definitely gotten my fair share of impulsive clap backs against racists and homophobes and fascists, and misogynists. But like, there are other times where I’m like, I definitely don’t want to say like that. Get a glass of water.
Yeah, I mean, we’re all humans, right. And humans have emotions. That’s what, that’s what makes us human. And, you know, kindness is one of the easiest, or the most simple ways you can evoke joy in someone, you know, happiness and joy are relatively easy to do. They’re, you know, as you say they don’t cost money. All they take is a bit of effort and a bit of patience, I suppose. But one of the simplest things you can do to make someone else happy is to be kind.
I agree with that so much as a black person and an immigrant now I experience even in Canada, I hate to say it, I experience some of the things they experience at home. And I’m sure you’ve heard that for people in the UK and Europe as well. But one thing I’m trying to do is like when that person cuts me off on the road, or tells me where I should live or something crazy, like, what what happens if I laugh in their face, or laugh at the situation? Instead of saying a bunch of things? Sometimes when you react, you’re not in control of the situation. At least I found that for me sometimes. And in that reaction, you go back, and you’re like, oh, damn, I didn’t mean to say like that. I went in a little, you know, I went a little too hard. But looking back on it, you would have said just you would have said things differently and still made your point, or maybe not even wasted your time. You know, and in those moments, where I don’t find myself in control, I feel that that person that’s causing me strife is actually in control of the situation. And I don’t really want to relinquish that kind of power to somebody who’s harming me.
Totally. Yeah, I mean, absolutely, you know, laugh in someone’s face, or you smile, and you absolutely, like brush it off, then you’re winning in that situation, because you’re not giving them that control and that reaction and that rise out of you that they so want. So it can be hard to you know, to brush that aside and just laugh in their face but that can sometimes be the best way of, you know, acting and retaining power in a situation where you feel powerless, or you’ve been made to feel powerless.
I agree with that 100% and it’s, it’s funny, the rapper NAS on his album life is good, he says ‘they say hate is confused admiration’. You know, and I think about that line a lot. Obviously, almost 10 years later, I’m still talking about it and I think about that line so much. When when people are racist, you know, this hate is confused admiration. I look at it like despite everything that’s thrown against my people, you know, we’re winning Oscars, we’re becoming presidents, we’re becoming vice presidents we’re we’re winning poetry fellowships. We’re Neil degrasse Tyson, I mean, we’re everything. I don’t want to just, I can’t name everything. But we are everything, despite all these things that have been thrown against us, by our country, and even the world sometimes. And I think that’s why that hate, it’s the same hate that people have for immigrants. It’s like, well, the system might be set up for me, and I’m not getting the things I want. So I’m mad at someone else, instead of being mad at capitalism, or something that you can’t really point a finger at. There’s no one person for me, I guess you could point at Adam Smith. But I mean, that’s kind of silly. But there is no one person today that you could point and say you’re capitalism, because there’s so many forms of it. It’s easier to point the finger at somebody who is different, who you’ve been told is lesser, because they’re different. That’s so much easier, right?
Than to get mad at a company.
Yeah. And in those situations, anger comes far more easily than it does to be kind. Like we’ve said, kindness is one of the simplest and easiest things you can do. But I think anger is a lot easier to access. And that sometimes does win a lot of the time, kindness, you do have to be patient, but you do have to put some form of activeness into it. Whereas aggression and anger can be a little more passively, easily accessible, I suppose.
Definitely. And I am for me, because of the way things have been the last few years, anger has actually come easier than kindness. I think niceness is often confused for kindness. It’s easy to be nice. But like being nice, you could be fake and be nice, right? But to be, but to be kind is to care and be empathetic and genuine and fertilized in someone’s life experience, you know,
Totally, and you know, going back to lit world, and the issues in the lit world of people not being kind, what can we everyone do to be kinder?
I don’t want to tell the people who are fighting against the oppressive people how to be. Because I think there’s a lot of great approaches on that side of things. I think it would be much easier to say to the people who are listening that write things that aren’t so kind or have been really bad to people. Atone for those things. You know, I watched a Mike Tyson interview, a podcast. And he was with lil boosie. And he was like what would happen if you called everybody on the phone that you harmed and that was willing to talk to you and ask for forgiveness. Imagine how powerful that would be. You know, and I think the people that need to be told what to do, for lack of words, are the people that are like, just writing things malicious or not caring. I’ve seen writers that are nice people say some mean things. They’re not racist. They’re not homophobic, but then they’re saying something classist. I mean, I deleted a tweet one time where this guy, this guy was being racist. And I was like, oh, well, I have two degrees. And I was like, whoa, what am I doing? What am I doing? I’m not being I’m not a socialist in this moment, like, and I deleted the tweet. So, you know, just thinking about it. What am I accomplishing? By saying this?
Totally, I mean, some of the times when we’re trying to argue against someone and express a point of why we feel hurt, we might inadvertently offend someone, when we give our opinion about what will hurt. So this is a tricky one. And there’s usually a more appropriate way maybe not even appropriate, but there’s a better way for you to say what you want to say in that way.
In that moment, where I was like, well, I have two degrees. There’s an there’s a better way to say I’m an intellectual on this subject, you know?
Yeah, definitely. And so what about smaller day to day things we can do to be kind?
Day to day, if you’re in a place that’s warm, like Texas, I know Texas is not warm right now, but most days it is warm. If you’re in a place that’s warm, and you’re not in like cold Canada like me, go for a walk, get you know, just just relax. Life is so hard right now I had I’m the kind of person that plans things six months ahead, like I want to do this every six months. And then I don’t do that anymore. Ever since COVID I don’t do that. How do you plan, when we don’t even know when we’re gonna see, I haven’t seen my mom in almost two years. So it’s like, I’m not worried about some of those things, just just enjoy the day. Enjoy the if you’re with people try to enjoy that time, because I have family members who are by themselves. I’m lucky to have my wife and my dog every day. If you can just try to try to find times to relax, soak yourself in things that give you joy. I love crime shows I stopped watching crime shows during the pandemic, because I don’t want to see people who look like me incarcerated while in quarantine, you know, so, so, so find things to give you joy, instead of things that don’t.
Oh, totally 100%. I mean, we’ve been speaking about kindness and the importance of kindness. But it’s so equally important, especially right now to be kind to yourself, as well and give yourself that self care.
Absolutely. One of the earliest lessons and one of the best lessons my wife Yasmin taught me was, be kind to yourself, how are you going to write a good poem or a good essay, if you’re not even kind to yourself, forget being kind to yourself as an artist, you don’t even you’re not even believing in yourself as a human, you know. So being kind to yourself is definitely one of the best things we can do. Because a lot of times, the things that we don’t like about other people are things that we don’t like about ourselves.
Totally, if you’re not happy, you’re not going to be reflecting that energy that’s gonna make others happy. You know, if you’re feeling negative, and you’re feeling down, you’re going to give those bad vibes outward, and you might be unkind or you might be hateful. And if you’re happy and positive, then there’s way less chance of that happening. Which is why it’s so important to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself, so that you can mirror that out and radiate that out.
Absolutely. You know, and meditation, not to be spiritual on you. But meditation. It’s one of the greatest things ever created. It really is, there’s no right way to do it. A lot of times people will try to regiment you in these regulated rules. But the way that the breaking the rules might be what gets you clear minded, or a pushcart prize. I’ve been told not to write poems that rhyme. And the magazine that nominated me for the pushcart Lucky Jefferson, they told me, they love that I rhyme. And the way I arrive is like Terrence Hayes. And I think that’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever gotten as a writer.
Totally, sometimes you need to break the rules or revert the expectations in order to be free. So like, if you’re overwhelmed work, doing more work isn’t going to help you, you’re just going to be more stressed. Whereas if you take a break and do something like meditation or clear your mind, you’re going to go back into the situation, much more positive minded. And with that positive energy comes a positive attitude, just the best way to you know, be in the best mindset. And then, you know, with regard to writing, if you don’t take risks, you’re never going to be able to unlock this part of yourself, that could potentially be even better. If you just stay within the rules all the time, there’s less of an opportunity for you to grow, right?
If you want to follow the rules, go be a banker, don’t be an artist, you know, the art like, of course, there are certain rules to be followed. But even the sonnet the rules have changed, do you rhyme do you not rhyme that clearly means somebody along the way, broke the rules. And Shakespeare made that form. So if we’re willing to tell Shakespeare no I’m going to do it this way. Respectfully, then why are we so quick to box ourselves in?
Absolutely. I mean, in most situations in life you come across, there’s usually not one right way to do things. And I suppose that totally applies to writing as well.
I can think of three writers who did not follow the rules for doing pretty well. I said Rupi,
Yeah, Rupi Kaur is a really interesting one, because like, for me, I don’t understand the strong dislike towards her work. I mean, for me, I’d never heard of any form of experimental poetry before Rupi, I always thought poetry had to be in this really clear set rigid way. And then I saw Rupi’s work and I was like, wow, poetry can be different. I’ve never seen anything like this. And without seeing her work, I don’t know if I’d be to the extent interested in experimental poetry as I am today, so say what you like about you dislike her personal writing style but for me, she was the first poet I ever read as a child that I saw pushing boundaries and doing something different. And she was the first person that made me see poetry differently. I think having her be in such a publicly successful lens enabled people to find her and find poetry in a new way. Of course, there have been others you know experimental poetry has been around for so many years, and there have been so many fantastic experimental poets, but Rupi, you know, she caught the limelight a really interesting way. And by her catching that limelight enabled her, I think, to cast such a great light on a new word of poetry. And then from there, people were like, oh, wait, hang on, this has been around for ages and they, you know, could find experimental poets that were really successful in the field and doing some really great things. But I think for a lot of people, she was a really great gateway in accessing something that they had never accessed before. And they perhaps wouldn’t have without her. So I’ll always be thankful to her work.
And and I’ll be honest, I think part of it is anti Indian sentiments. My wife is Indian. I think part of it is that I think part of it is anti women, sentiments and misogyny. And then in general, as as a creator of color. We’re often told that’s not the way to do things. Or maybe it’s not the way you do things. And that’s okay. But if I follow the way you do things, I might not be where I want to be. And I’m not saying that that person can’t be successful or or my way is better, but there is no way.
I mean, obviously, writing is subjective. If you don’t like Rupi’s work that’s, that’s absolutely fine for like stylistic reasons. But I genuinely feel like she did such good work in bringing attention to something that people didn’t know about. And I can only praise that.
Her target audience certainly doesn’t have an issue with it. So as a creator, do you, what’s most important? Satisfying certain places, satisfying certain journalists, satisfying yourself, or satisfying the people who say, I think you’re worth reading in a world of millions, if not billions, of creators. I mean, if the people who say hey, I love reading Chris L Butler’s work, are satisfied with what I’m putting out. And the newspaper says, I suck. Well, I mean, respectfully to the newspaper, my, my, my audience, the people who support me, don’t feel what you feel.
Totally. And this is something I think a lot, you know, I’m at university at the moment in my final year, and I know that sometimes if I submit a piece that specific academic may not view in the same way that, you know, people in my twitter community will or you know, publishers will. So it can be a bit tricky, sometimes trying to, you know, deal with critique, but also, importantly, acknowledging that there are people who do appreciate the work and do appreciate, because they are more your audience and more specifically, what your work is intended, you know, to go towards.
Absolutely. I am not a writer who went to an Ivy League university, I am a writer who went to summer school and failed a class in ninth grade. So, I think when you have your life, and you bring your differences people that’s what’s more important, nobody cares that I went to summer school, you know, it people care that I wrote progeny, or some of the other poems that have been retweeted a little bit. I’m not gonna say go viral, because that that would be a stretch, but.
Yeah, I absolutely get what you mean. And, and so then to round off Chris, if, you know, when people stumble across your work, if they take one thing, you know, from your work, what do you hope that that is?
I hope they feel, first of all, if that person takes the time to like, read a little bit more about me beyond the piece, I hope that they feel they have a chance. I I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. I’m 31. My first published poem was at 11. But I never published anything again until 27.
So I am not you know, somebody who had my college, you know, publication, none of that. So I’m looking at it like if you enjoy my work, and you read my bio, and you find out a little bit more about me I hope that it gives you courage to pursue your dreams, because I also didn’t publish again until 30, after that poem at 27, and you know, if you follow me, you’ve seen I’ve had a few poems, I’m not going to say a lot, but a few poems, and, and not many people at 30, turning 31, at the time I was decide, hey, in the middle of a pandemic, I’m gonna finally submit my poems and essays and stop blogging and start sharing, you know, you can do anything, if you’re willing to sacrifice for it, you know, don’t feel like not having a chapbook at 24/28, even 30. Because you could be creating this whole time, and then one day just have this dope manuscript that someone’s like, oh, my God, I know, 20 people rejected that, but I want this, you know, so I hope that people feel that they can do it too, because I’m not, I didn’t go to one of those top tier writing programs, I didn’t go to any writing program,
You are, honestly, you know, one of the best people in the community, every time I see tweet, or I see a really thoughtful piece, for me, I’m just blown away. And in all of your creativity, you know, your, the way you view the world, and your perspective is just so interesting. And I think, you’re just someone who really strives for goodness. And I really love seeing that. I think you are such a shining star in the community. And I think people will definitely be just uplifted and inspired by your work. And you.
It’s so lovely to hear.
So thank you so much for coming on, and chatting to us Chris, it has been amazing to hear your thoughts and views on issues in the literary world and your thoughts on kindness. And just to learn more about you. So thank you so much for chatting to us.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time Leia. Yeah, keep doing what you’re doing. And I’d love to submit soon when you guys open up again.
Brilliant. Thank you. And so now we’ve got some tweets of the week. Our first one is coincidently by Chris. He posted this a bit after our interview. And it’s just too good not to share. So it goes, ‘what if every poetry contest had one judge who wasn’t a poet, someone working class and a lover of the genre? How would that shift the landscape? How would that build bridges?’ And it’s so interesting, there were a lot of different replies and different responses of each side of the argument, this tweet, so I really highly recommend that you look at this, we’ll try and quote tweet it or at least share a screenshot of it. And yeah, it’s super interesting. I think, yeah, why the heck not? Why hasn’t this been done? I think having even if it’s just one person judging a contest, who isn’t so intrinsically invested in the, the poetry writing scene, and they don’t write themselves, I think that would be so interesting, because they would have such a different angle on poetry and what they enjoy about poetry. Because I mean, Chris is saying, they’re a lover of the genre, they’re not just like a complete random person, they are still someone who has a has a reading awareness, it’s still a reader, just not necessarily a writer. And I think that would be a really interesting dynamic to add to it. And especially as Chris says, someone who’s working class, someone who, you know, who has a tiny bit of distance from the writing scene, but can still be connected through love of language and love of poetry. And I mean, the point about building bridges, I think is a very interesting one. I would love to see this play out. And I hope that future contests do adopt this. And I mean, if Full House ever runs any contests in the future, it’s definitely something that we will be looking into. It is a great idea. And yeah, I’d recommend you read the replies to this, because they’re very interesting. And then we’re cheating again by having another tweet of the week. So this is from writenowlit. And they said, ‘What would you do more if you weren’t writing?’ And I think this is a really interesting one, because, yeah, on, especially on Twitter, all the tweets about writing, writing is life. Right. But I think this tweet is important in reminding that, yeah, you could have a life outside of writing. And, and I quite like the reversal of, I mean, for me, it’s, what would I do more if I wasn’t working? Or if I wasn’t, you know, doing something, it would be writing. So I really like the flip on this. What would you do more if you weren’t writing? And there’s some really interesting replies. So Sam Roberts, he replies saying ‘writing doesn’t replace anything. It’s part of everything’, which is really interesting. And another person Billy Mills who says, ‘think about writing’. So I like the different opinions of writing his life, writing doesn’t replace anything, writing is always there in the background. Yeah, really interesting stuff there. And then we just have one more tiny little cheat. One more tweet of the week. So we’ve had three tweets of the week. But you know, they’re also good, and they will bring up some really interesting discussion points. So the at for this one is at yoncrowstack. And it says, ‘lit mag acceptances aren’t everything. I wrote a horror story about the 30 to 50 feral hogs tweet that no magazine of record ever wanted, but it’s still one of my personal favorites. Some things live beautiful lives in the darkness.’ And I absolutely love this. Yeah, there’s some places that won’t accept your piece or there’s some pieces that may never find a home but it doesn’t matter. Like there can be a piece that you love because you love it and it has a special place in your heart, and maybe its home is in your heart. It doesn’t necessarily have to have a home or a platform. You know, this is gorgeous, especially that last line somethings just live beautiful lives in the darkness. And this is definitely something I’ll be telling myself of every rejection I inevitably will get. Yeah, gorgeous, really, really lovely. And just such a good thought.
And then let’s just close out with a few really, really quick news blasts. So coven and poetry are open for submissions for issue two. Broken sleep books have an event, which is really cool. Beir Bua, I’m really sorry if I pronounced that wrong, they have a really really they have a few really cool pieces of interview pieces out so they have one with Nikki Dudley and Richard so check that out for sure. It’s a video one as well. So you get to see some faces. Journal of erato are doing a 24 hour response event. So it get your work in. Mixed mag are doing a lightning round of acceptances starting from tomorrow until Monday. So that’s really exciting. Babel Tower Notice Board have some fantastic pieces out to from the wonderful JP Seabright and another really fantastic piece from Adrian. Virgo moon publishing are in search of an artist/designer. Patchwork lit mag are open for submissions, one week left to go. Full house literary magazine are open for submissions to their heart’s issue. And in the most lovely news Full House have now expanded and have a lovely team of editors. We are so lucky to have these guys on board of us and we know they are absolutely so excited to read your work for the hearts window. And we’re really hoping that with a more diverse team of voices. This will allow a lot more fairness and openness with submitters and so welcome Claire, Bareerah, JP, Carol, Lisa, George, Alice, Beth, Millie, Maggie, Christina, Rich, Kinneson, Ed, Michael and Charity. Welcome on board we can’t wait to have you read the submissions and yeah, thank you so much. So that is all from us at full house this week. We’ve had a lot of content go out this week, but we hope even if you don’t watch it within a day or read it within a day, you will still process it across a couple of weeks, you know, grab a cup of tea cup of coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy. Our DMs are always open if anyone wants to chat and we’ll be posting some more writing challenges soon. So thank you so much for listening and see you soon.