An interview with Patrick James Dunagan from The Write Stuff series:
Patrick James Dunagan lives in San Francisco and works at Gleeson Library for the University of San Francisco. Co-editor of Roots and Routes: Poetics at New College of California he also edited a Portfolio of work on and by David Meltzer for Dispatches from the Poetry Wars (where he served on the editorial board). His books include: “There are people who think that painters shouldn’t talk”: A Gustonbook (Post Apollo), Das Gedichtete (Ugly Duckling), from Book of Kings (Bird and Beckett Books), Drops of Rain / Drops of Wine (Spuyten Duyvil), The Duncan Era: One Reader’s Cosmology (Spuyten Duyvil), and Sketch of the Artist (fmsbw).
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I work at Gleeson library for the University of San Francisco. I also read and write.
What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?
Of late, getting through life with the shit stain in the White House. Seriously. This jackass needs to stop the pouty whining pass his responsibilities off to Pence and go hide out from impending lawsuits down in Florida until Grandpa takes over January 20th.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
Read and Write. And read. Read everything. Pay attention. Take it s l o w.
What’s been most important to your writing: education, or the real world? Why?
Reading. The world of books and ideas along with lots of walks and talks with “the company of love”, i.e. friends and family.
If you could give advice to your 15 year old self, what would it be?
Keep on skateboarding and reading. You’re doing good.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
Hah. Success is a mind fuck designed to advance the global capitalist agenda. That doesn’t involve me.
Why do you get up every morning?
To shower. Do the dishes. Kiss my wife. Read and write.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her/their story?
Nah… not specifically… I do admire that my mom’s dad worked on the Bay Bridge and that my father’s side is Irish and his dad’s brothers were predominantly farmers round Iowa/Nebraska.
What’s wrong with society today?
Just about everything.
Where do you go to find sanctuary?
Don’t quite believe in sanctuary but I enjoy walking the city of San Francisco.
What is your fondest memory?
A day in San Francisco.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
The shit stain in the White House to be dead or in jail for life. A peaceful relationship with Iran.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
Art pretty much always happens because it must without any expectation or presumption of reward or other benefit. It would seem a natural enough occurrence within human life that it certainly is a permanent feature of our existence.
What is the relationship between your identity and your desires? Perhaps related, perhaps not: why is sex (un)important to you?
“My song’s of JOY, I’ll make it now” – Paul Blackburn
What’s your relationship to clothes? Or: describe the shoes you’re currently wearing.
Charles Olson first walked over and spoke to Blakean scholar poet John Clarke in Buffalo because he dug his corduroy pants and the way he was sitting with his legs crossed. I’m very particular about my shoes.
What are you working on right now? Or: what kind of work would you like to do?
Just this morning I finished a quick requested review (my favorite rather than having to pitch them to venues) of Kent Johnson’s very funny and terrifically written book of poems Because of Poetry, I have a Really Big House along with an initial draft of my editor’s note for the upcoming publication of the late much beloved David Meltzer’s Rock Tao with Lithic Press in the Sum/Fall of 2021. This year I was extremely pleased to have a years long project come to completion: Roots and Routes: Poetics at New College of California. I would like to be working on proofs for my next collection of poems and have an official permanent position as a book reviewer somewhere, whether it was paid or not.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
I’m really into how covid has significantly modified things in San Francisco in terms of tech folks apparently leaving, less money and new people. I don’t want all the older stores and restaurants to close however. Yet neighborhoods in general do feel lively, especially out here along Irving by Golden Gate Park. I love that the new abundance of outdoor dining and drinks have a shot at permanency. Less cars would be cool.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
Walking, sitting, drinking, talking, looking out the window.
Have you ever seen a ghost? Or: what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
I’ve only felt presences. Everyday life is pretty strange most of the time. You just need to be paying attention.
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned? Or: what was your last moment of awe?
The Pacific Ocean with the mist coming in the trees blowing in the wind gets me every time. Fall weathers are where it’s at.
What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?
A poem and a nice bottle of whiskey, or a really solid steak or two.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Garlic, rye whiskey, ocean air.
What are you unable to live without?
Walks talks drinks books and food.
If you got an all-expenses-paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
To keep on living as I do but no longer have to worry a paycheck.
If you could live in your ideal society, what would your average day be like?
Pretty much as it is now, ‘cept for working from home every day under covid. Some reading some writing a bit of a walk stopping in at a bookstore then a bar followed by food and a bit more walking reading writing talking it all along.
~ Patrick James Dunagan
High Noon, November 12, 2020