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Author Interview with Lawrence Barrett

Maria’s (SassenachD)  Interview with Author/Poet Lawrence Barrett

Lawrence Barrett, a native Marylander who has spent his life writing poetry and soldiering all over the world, is the author of Letters from the Meat Market of Paradise (2009); Ah, Desolation! (2009); Yell Louder Please (2009); and, no brakes i’m crashing (2010). Lawrence Barrett is retired from a 20-year stint in the U. S. Army where he traveled to such lovely getaway spots as Bosnia and Iraq.


Maria: How did you get started writing poetry?

LB: At a young age I was subject to a stutter and had some difficulty expressing myself, which must have been psychological because it’s gone now, except for rare moments of extreme discomfort when a little stutter sneaks up on me.  My father once suggested that I read poetry aloud and get comfortable with the rhythm of speech. I had nothing to lose so I tried. What a world that was opened up to me.  As a young teenager I found that I could not only easily understand poetry, but enjoyed it. I loved everything about it: the rhythm, the rhymes and the overall musicality of it. More importantly I found that I enjoyed writing it. It became my primary mode of self-expression.


Maria: Did you have a major influence, i.e. a person? Cultural event?  What gives Larry inspiration?

LB: When I was younger Yeats and Shelley were my main influences which of course changed over time as I discovered the poetic prose of Kerouac and the concrete simplicity and humor of Bukowski.  However, as an artist I am mainly inspired by the simple instances of life itself:  a glance, a memory, cooking soup, the sound of fingers tapping on a table, a beautiful voice rambling on about nothing at all…ECT.

As well, 20 years in the army played a significant role, giving, I believe, my verse a harder edge and a finer appreciation of human personality. I have lived all over the world, met all kinds of people and done all sorts of things. I have been blessed with a wide array of inspiration.

Perhaps one of the biggest inspirations for me is playing drums in a drum circle and in a band. The power of rhythm adds such a sense of musicality to everything I do. I am sure there is some carryover. When I am in the pocket and find that right groove that makes people dance I ultimately experience an elated sense of perfection. I believe it is the same as finding the right groove for a poem that makes people go “ahhh.”


Maria: Who is your target audience when you write?

LB: As a poet it’s hard to conceive that I have an audience, let alone a target audience; but, if I do, I guess that it would be persons who enjoy modern poetry – poetry that breaks the bounds of conventionalism. I guess I target the subway rider who has time for only a short poem or two. I target people who are at ease with their own humanity. I target readers who don’t mind a little slam [in written form]. I target readers who don’t mind a delicate poem thrown into the mix.  I target readers who don’t mind an honest American talking trash. I target readers who appreciate new art. In many ways I think poetry is a revolution of words that replaces the old forms with the new. It’s not the same thing as reading a newspaper, though reading a newspaper to some might be more entertaining. The reader who understands that is the reader I target.


Maria: Do you write just to please yourself or to move others?

LB: Simply, I write for the audience. Some fellow poets criticize me on this. Poetry is primarily the art of communicating inexpressible ideas and feelings.  If when I read and the audience does not go “wow!”; I feel that I have failed as a poet.


Maria: What do you think about the sexual tones in your writing? Do you think they may be a distraction for what you are trying to portray?

LB: Some of my poems have do indeed have sexual overtones, and some are quite sexually blatant. Some people are turned off by that. But in this age of psychotherapy for everybody I feel that sexual feelings are a part of the human experience and I try to stay true to the complexity of emotions that may contain a sexual feeling or two, if not three or four. Nonetheless, I feel no shame in expressing such intense human feelings.  To step into a book of my poetry may require a little courage and a sense of humor. The reader should know up front that they may come across some objectionable material. But then some of life is objectionable too.  As a modern artist I try to capture it all, but with a little humor.


Maria: What is next up for you? Any new projects in the works?

LB: Just more books. I love writing, and writing, and writing…


Maria: Do you have a favorite poet that you read?

LB: The list is long.  My favorite living poets are Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Billy Collins, John Kinsella, Sapphire, and Yusef Kounyakaa. My favorite dead poets are Kerouac, Bukowski, Ginsberg and Jim Carroll. Besides reading, I love going to spoken word or slam poetry events.  The quality of poetry is usually very high there and you can just here the musicality of the language explode all over the place. There is a great recording by Kerouac where Steve Allan plays jazz piano as Kerouac reads some of his work. It is some of the most beautiful spoken word I have heard in my life.


Maria: Do you have a favorite author?

LB: I grew up reading war novels. As I am working on an MA in Military History with an American Civil War concentration, I find the works of Shelby Foote and Michael Shaara entertaining.

However in a more popular vein I also enjoy the works of Michael Crichton.  My favorite books are: Joyce’s Dubliners, Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, Hesse’s Siddhartha and Bukowski’s Post Office.


Maria: How would you classify your writing?

LB: American poetry.


Maria: Are your books self published? Any information on how that is done? Do you distribute your books out at your poetry readings?

LB: Yes. I self-publish.  I publish through Createspace.com and give my books away at poetry readings if anyone is interested. I let the audience decide whether my work is worthy or not.  More often than not I get very good response, especially if I give a good read.  The internet is a very good vehicle for local artists getting their work out.  Personally I have no shame in self-publishing.  Many presses nowadays will not even publish poetry because 9 times out of 10 it’s not economical. But it is an awesome feeling when someone I have never met tells me that they really love my work and asks for a book.  It really blows me away.  But self-publishing is really very easy. I can manage my own content without the meddling of a poetry editor and I can create my own cover which in the end gives my books a very unique feel. My books have a very personal quality to them.   In the end, if you are computer savvy enough to convert word files into .pdf files then you can self-publish. It only costs me $3.66 per book; and for me that is a minimal production cost. Of course you could choose a book production service which could get very pricey, but I prefer doing all the work myself.


Maria: You have a website Larrythepoet.com, Does this also show your coffee house dates where you will read or do you just show up when you feel like it?

LB: No, but I should include reading dates. More often than not I just show up to events and read.  Just the other night I called a guy who plays drums with me in a band and had him play bongos for me at an open mic. Now they are giving me a bongo night featuring my band.  Currently my website, www.Larrythepoet.com is just a way for me to reach out to the public. Not many people will remember my name as much as they may remember Larrythepoet.  I thought it was a really funny idea for a website.  Sometimes at open mics I am being introduced as Larrythepoet. I have no control over this. It’s kind of funny to have a stupid nickname but I hope it does not overshadow the quality of my work.


Maria: Do you teach writers workshops?

LB: It has been my honor to give a number of poetry workshops.  I have had some pretty good turnouts and some good press. Mainly though I have had a lot of fun.  I really enjoy helping participants find a different angle of poetic perception if just for a moment. In essence that is what a poem is.


Maria: Some Fun Questions:

What music do you listen too?

LB: Ambient, jazz, heavy metal, Irish folk and African drum music.

Maria: What is your favorite writing food?

LB: Beer.

Maria: Do you scribble your notes on scraps of paper or carry a journal?

LB: Scraps of paper.

Maria: Are you afraid of the dark?

LB: All the time.

Maria: Shoes or bare feet?

LB: Both.

Maria: Coke or Pepsi?

LB: Both.


Lawrence Barrett has provided 2 of his books, A Little Backyard Music and No Brakes I am Crashing, as prizes to members who comment on this interview. 2 winners will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

Thank you Mr Barrett and Maria for a great interview!

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12 Responses to “Author Interview with Lawrence Barrett”

  1. Stephanie G. (thestephanieloves) says:

    Thanks for the great interview, Lawrence and Maria! I can’t wait to pick up A Little Backyard Music and No Brakes I am Crashing 🙂


  2. Beth K. (Ladydragonfly) , says:

    I have always enjoyed poetry, but I have never really searched it out to read. Usually I come across it randomly, like now. I think I am off to find some Larrythepoet books to read.

  3. Ani K. (goddessani) says:

    I’m like Beth. I seldom search out poetry but always find myself moved when I stumble across some. I loved your comment about the poetical prose of Kerouac. Often what makes a book “sing” for me is the lyrical writing which is another word for poetic.

    Good stuff!! I will definitely search out.

    LOL Beer being your favourite writing food. That almost seems counter-intuitive.

  4. Sianeka N Hollywood, CA says:

    I love poetry, although like a majority of readers out there, I seldom seek it out. I tend to like the old-school poets, however; their sense of rhythm and rhyme and word-sound-connections is very straightforward and obvious. There have been a very few modern poets I have read (one whom I “know” as a casual acquaintance) whose work really affects me and I am moved by their poetry. But in general, I don’t usually like modern poetry, because many modern poets that I’ve read (and realize, this is not many) do not concern themselves with traditional poetry values. To them, it seems to me, it’s all about evoking imagery or emotions using words. But they pay little to no attention to the way those words interact. The way they sound. The musicality, beyond just lyricism.

    And I don’t like that so much.

    So, I’m intrigued when you say you play drums and how that knowledge infuses into your poetry; how you can “work the groove” into your music and your poems. True poetry to me integrates the sound of the words with the experience the poem is evoking in a person. That, to me, makes a classic poem. A memorable and lasting poem.

    Now I want to read your poetry! LOL

  5. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    What an interesting interview. I have been thinking I need to branch out a bit thanks!

  6. Interesting interview. I need to explore the website more.

  7. Geri (geejay) says:

    Terrific interview!

    I’ve always loved poetry, though like the majority of people, I seldom seek it. When it finds me I’m always moved by the old-school poets. I like the rhythm of poetry but like Sianeka find I like the old school rather than the modern poets. There have been very few modern poets whose work affect me.

    Now I’ll look for your poetry!

  8. Misty (millywv) says:

    Fabulous interview!!! I am intrigued and will be searching out this author’s work.

  9. June E. (junie) says:

    Thank you for the interesting interview. I need to spread my wings a little and check out some poetry, and I’ll be looking for yours.

  10. Thanks so much for your wonderful comments. For me the musicality of a poem is critical. A poem must flow and be interesting to the ear to engage the audience. It was a little hard for me at first to adapt spoken word to the page, but it can be done. In a book, for me, readability is critical. The imagery, rhythm and sound of the words must fuse into a cohenrent whole; there must be a logic to it all. In a book, poetry should drip off the page into the reader’s ears. I like modern poetry becuase there is a modern rhythm imagery and psychology to it that you don’t get in the older classical genre. However, modern poetry, like that of all poetry that has come before, still deals with the classic themes of love, hate, honor, politics, war…ect., but of course, in a modern context. Poetry is a vehicle for the emotions and is as valid an artform today as it was in ages past. Just some thoughts. Again, thanks so much for reading my interview, I am honored. Always, Lawrence.

  11. Diane G. (icesk8tr) , says:

    Awesome interview!! I liked the beer as a writing food!! Reminds me of my college days! 😉

  12. James L. (JimiJam) says:

    Loved the interview and its revealing look into the world of the modern poet, as well as the self-published author. I dabbled in poetry while in high school (dreadfully cliche, I know), and used to dream of compiling a book of my work, but it became pretty apparent that the market is such that finding a publisher willing to publish new work would be twice as hard as getting published in general. It’s good to know that there are these new avenues opening up for self-promotion. Not sure I’ll go dusting off my old poetry any time soon, though lol

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