James Morehead on Doing the Right Thing When No One Else Will

James Morehead on Doing the Right Thing When No One Else Will

An interview with James Morehead from The Write Stuff series:

James Morehead is the Poet Laureate of Dublin, California, and his first collection of poetry, canvas, debuted June 2021 (Viewless Wings Press), featuring original art by Kari Byron and Alla Tsank. “tethered” from canvas was transformed into a traditional animation short film by Italian animator Gaia Alari. “James Morehead’s canvas opens itself to the poetry of everyday life, where stanzas are etched in sand, and poems end in sunset. These are poems to be savored, re-read, kept handy for those times when only poetry will do.” ‒ W. J. T. Mitchell, Senior Editor of Critical Inquiry and Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor, English and Art History, University of Chicago. James can be reached on Twitter @dublinranch, Instagram @viewlesswings, or email: dublinpoetlaureate@gmail.com.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

I used to say I’m a product manager at a tech company. Last year I finally acknowledged forty years of writing poetry, and published my long overdue first book, canvas. When asked what I do, I now say I’m Poet Laureate of Dublin, California and a product manager at a tech company.

What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?

Managing stress, although ironically pandemic stress resulted in the best poems I’ve ever written, and convinced me to publish a book. So maybe stress is good?

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

I tell people to write every day – even when you don’t want to write. ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like writing. Create a writing habit and you’ll find inspiration. Don’t wait for inspiration, seek it out.

What’s been most important to your writing: education, or the real world? Why?

Reading daily, and from a wide range of writers and styles. Equally important, especially for poetry, is being part of a critique group where you get direct, actionable feedback.

If you could give advice to your 15 year old self, what would it be?

That’s when I first discovered poetry so my advice would be – don’t wait 40 years to call yourself a poet!

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Yes, and it’s because I’m always seeking out ways to improve and learn, and asking for and most importantly listening to feedback. Feedback is a gift.

Why do you get up every morning?

To keep exploring!

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her/their story?

My grandfather on my dad’s side (Albert H. Morehead). He was a writer of many books and a poker aficionado. If I could go in a time machine for one day it would be to play poker with my grandfather and read him my poetry. He died the year I was born so we met, but I don’t remember it!

What’s wrong with society today?

A deficit of empathy.

Where do you go to find sanctuary?

I hike until I’m cut off from the internet.

What is your fondest memory?

Fall colors in New England.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

An end to preventable suffering.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Art is a human need. Art connects us, art releases our fears and joys, art communicates emotions in words, sounds, images and moving frames. Art teaches.

What’s your relationship to clothes? Or: describe the shoes you’re currently wearing.

I dress for comfort now unless I’m at a concert. If I’m at the Fillmore I dress for cool. Right now I’m dressed for comfort.

What are you working on right now? Or: what kind of work would you like to do?

I’m working on my second collection of poetry, and the working title is “The Plague Doctor”. I also just started The Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

Finding a lasting solution to the unhoused crisis.

A night on the town: what does that mean to you?

A live concert at the Fillmore, or Regency Ballroom, Fox Theatre, or any of the other amazing concert venues in San Francisco and Oakland.

Have you ever seen a ghost? Or: what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?

I haven’t, but I believe that mass of electric energy in our skulls leaks out and persists long after we’re long gone.

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned? Or: what was your last moment of awe?

My dad said once “Do the right thing when no one else will.” I have always tried to live by those words.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

Write a poem. Support a non-profit, or buy a few books, or both.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Vanilla. Autumn leaves.

What are you unable to live without?

My family, followed closely by dark chocolate.

If you got an all-expenses-paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

Living in New Zealand for a year.

If you could live in your ideal society, what would your average day be like?

I could wake up and read the news without getting depressed.

Here to read all The Write Stuff profiles; here for the videos.