Once again this year, we are featuring interviews to help you get to know the writers who make up Great Weather’s new anthology, The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker. This time out, we speak to poet Ed Toney.
ED TONEY is a Brooklyn poet and chemist. A long time participant in Louis Reyes Rivera’s workshop in Brooklyn, Ed also frequents workshops at Cave Canem, and reads all around the city.
DL: Ed, you are a veteran poet on the scene who remains committed to writing workshops. What do these workshops do for you, and how has that changed over the years?
ET: I was turned on to Louis Reyes Rivera’s Workshop in 2001. At this time I basically wrote poems for funerals, weddings, and most of my own personal work centered around love poems and abstract poems, corresponding to my own life that was immersed in recent pain of divorce and failed marriage. This workshop and Louis Reyes Rivera brought me back to the basics of poetry! Dealing with pain, truth and the realism of life and all those politics I had no real idea I could write about! This workshop I attended for many years opened my third eye to the different realms of poetry writing, Louis introduced me to Cave Canem and I can’t even express in this writing how it changed my life! Long story and answered short, these workshops taught me invaluable lessons on writing and how to express my innermost thoughts and emotions to paper. To paper, workshops allow me to become naked in being and expression.
DL: Who are the writers who most influence your work?
ET: OMG, I hate this question… LOL who does not influence me and my work?!! But to answer this question shortly, everyone mainstream influences my voice. There are so many poets and writers that flame my passions, I cant even begin to name those who have had direct influence on my work. But I will start with the first poets who I read and met at an early age. I met Nikki Giovanni my freshman year in college. Her truths and activism on page influenced my sparks in writing poetry. I read James Baldwin, Leroi Jones and listened to Gil Scott and The Last Poets in high school and College! I read Langston Hughes, Brooks, Frost and loved Shakespeare, when most around me turned up their noses to poetry. Those writers influenced me greatly. I have an un-ending list of poets who nourish and provide me sustenance, way too long to mention now!
DL: You have an unusual survival job for a poet. You are a chemist. Seems kind of left brain, right brain. What is this existence like?
ET: And fck, it is definitely left and right. And it prohibits and constrains me many times. Its a real struggle, one end is imagination, heart-felt feeling, passion, and emotion, and on the other end, it’s non-fiction, technical, rigid, and severely precise. And it’s hard sometimes to differentiate the two, and it becomes stressful because they fight each other at times, and block each other. For example, after writing a summary in a work report that went to high levels, it was critiqued that my report sounded like a poem and was not believable analytically. I was almost crucified for that,.I definitely battle with this and at the same time hate that my emotions and passion have to be balanced so tightly. I juggle it constantly, but its important to differentiate between the two. It effects both realms!
DL: What projects do you currently have in the fire that you can tell us about?
ET: Short and sweet, I am completing a chapbook entitled Gut Level, and my first full manuscript has been in the works for many years now. Basically cause I just need it and want it to be a very close to perfect birth. I was not in a rush to put it out but the urgency has presented itself, because I think its long overdue now, but I wont release anything I don’t think fully represents me, my voice and my continual growth.
DL: It is October. If you dressed in costume for Halloween this year, what would be your costume, and why?
ET: LMAO, at this! I have a good friend who gives a Halloween party every year. I have dressed up as a Caveman, Jedi, a big baby in a one piece sleeper complete with bonnet, big baby bottle and pacifier, LOL.. A Voodoo priest, a nerd -super hero and a prostitute, with big boobs, mini dress and boots…LMAO…with no real thought other than releasing inhibitions and fantasy fun. And its funny cause I have been contemplating this year perhaps a rock star, or 70’s hippie or something…. funny, no thought why, but to put thought in it, to answer this question… cause the present state of times is fcked up…death, murder, nuclear weapons in the news, Black men being gunned down, children being killed, its completely depressing and emotionally frustrating…so anything I decide to do for Halloween will basically be in escape mode from the horrible realism of todays fcked up reality! Peace, Love, Progression and Abundance!
Check out Ed’s poem, Tripping, which helps kick off The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker. And come back here to meet more of our poets and prose writers!