Small Press Legends. the Best-Known of the Unknown Writers: An Interview with Gerald Locklin

By Debritto, Abel | European English Messenger, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Small Press Legends. the Best-Known of the Unknown Writers: An Interview with Gerald Locklin


Debritto, Abel, European English Messenger


Gerald Locklin was a Professor of creative writing, 20th-century literature, and literary theory in the Department of English at California State University, Long Beach, from 1965 to 2007. He is now Professor Emeritus, but continues to teach as a part-time lecturer. Once hailed by the late Charles Bukowski as "one of the greatest undiscovered talents of our time," Locklin is also the author of over 155 books, chapbooks, and broadsides of poetry, fiction, and criticism, and he has published over 3,000 poems, stories, articles, reviews, and interviews. His work is frequently performed by Garrison Keillor on his Writer's Almanac daily Public Radio program, is archived on his website, and is included in all three of Mr. Keillor's Good Poems anthologies. His writings are archived by the Special Collections of the CSULB library, and he is listed in the usual literary directories.

A comprehensive collection of essays regarding his work, with an extensive and updated bibliography, Gerald Locklin: A Critical Introduction, edited by Michael Basinski, curator of the Poetry/Rare Books Collection at the University of Buffalo, is now available from Blazevox Books, Kenmore, New York, 2010.

A novella, The Dodger's Retirement Party, was published by R)v Press, now re- named Aortic Books, in 2010, as was a collection of recent short fiction entitled The Vampires Saved Civilization, World Parade Books, and a selection of recent poems (in a shared volume, Modest Aspirations, with a selection of stories by Beth Wilson) from Lummox Press.

Other recent books and chapbooks include The Plot of Il Trovatore and Two Torch Singers (Kamini Press, Sweden); Gerald Locklin: New and Selected Poems, and The Cezanne- Pissarro Poems, both from World Parade Books; New Orleans, Chicago and Points Elsewhere, from R)v Press; Wedlock Sunday and Other Poems (Liquid Paper Press/Nerve Cowboy Magazine); The Ristorante Godot Poems (Bottle of Smoke Press), and The San Antonio, Savannah, and Daytona Beach Poems (Pitchfork Press).

Abel Debritto: Do you remember the very first time you put your words on paper?

Gerald Locklin: It wouldn't have been the first time that I made up a poem, because when I was three or four years old, my aunt would have me stand up on the bed at bedtime and make up poems, and she would write them down and save them. She made me feel like a real author, a genuine poet, at that very early age, so I grew up assuming that, whatever else I might work at in my life, I would always be, first and foremost, a poet.

My mother taught me to write before I went to kindergarten, which I entered at four and a half years old, so I could've been writing things down at that age, putting words on paper. I know I was writing very young. I wrote things about the family, for instance. They encouraged it: they would buy me notebooks and say, "Go ahead and write a book about our family." My mother was the youngest of fourteen children, and she was the only one to have a child, and I was her only child, so I have many aunts and uncles who were not wealthy, but who treated me practically as if they had been additional parents of mine, the aunts especially. I was the beneficiary of a great deal of "positive reinforcement."

A.D.: Do you recall your first publication ever?

G.L.: There was one literary society in Rochester that I belonged to, and I had a couple of poems in their annual literary magazine. I started college as a freshman at the College of the Holy Cross, in Massachusetts--a very good Jesuit liberal arts college, and I was one of only three first-year students to have a poem in an issue (the last issue of the spring) of their very selective and prestigious literary magazine. The poem was entitled "American Gothic" and was based on a famous painting by the American artist, Grant Wood. That's significant because of the hundreds of art poems I have written in my career--especially in the last twenty-five years. …

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