Nightmares & Lullabies by Adam Schirling & John Dervishian

by HST UK on June 17, 2012

It is not often that you come across a collaborative collection where both writers are singing harmoniously from the same hymn sheet. The boozy brooding poems in Nightmares & Lullabies grab you by the lapels and take you on a tour through back alley bars where you are transported into the minds of bar stool philosophers and witness floozies and deadbeats revelling under garish red lights.

HST talked to our good buddy Adam Schirling about the book…

HST: Your poems in this collection are painfully honest, how important is it for a poet to tell the truth, warts and all?

I think that is what truly set poets, real poets, apart from the pack of humanity. Poets should have that critical eye that most people never use, and that eye sees only the most brutally honest shit there is. It makes me sound pretentious to say that, but fuck, it is true. If you start writing poetry about roses and love, you aren’t being honest. That is not the real world.

HST: Though through reading your half of the book I get the impression that either you’re consumed with self-loathing, or perhaps your own biggest critic, how true is this observation?

Self loathing has always been a problem of mine haha, and I think that is true of most writers. When you turn that writer’s eye on yourself, you tend to see a lot of fucking things that can be quite disturbing. It is a damn quandary though, because I am also an extremely confident dude in most settings, but in writing all my true fears about the world, and my place in it, come true.

HST: There also seems to be a sense of shame seeping through “The calm then comes / The OLD LIE / False hope / Temporary security /Bathing my soul / I think I / Will have another”. Is temptation always calling?

Temptation is something that is always there for all men of passion. Some drink, fuck, do drugs, play sports, smoke crack, climb mountains…it is all addiction. My vice has always been booze and women. No while I know that most times, my love of booze and women has been a positive thing that has brought me happiness and focus, I put on no airs about the fact that in some very dark times in my life I have turned to my vices for distraction from a brutish reality that had become too much to bear.

HST: How important is it for an Outsider writer to always write a no holds barred account of the truth?

That is our only claim to legitimacy! Most mainstream writers have the money, the education, the pedigree, or the connections to achieve mainstream literary or journalistic success (though, just what mainstream literary success IS has become a matter of debate in the e-book age). Grit poets and gonzo journalists NEED honesty, brutal stinking honesty, to make people believe we have something worth reading. You know, I think people, the masses, they crave that un-censored honesty.

HST: I get the feeling that you like to keep busy, to keep seeking the truth, to sample as much of the underbelly of life, to sniff around alternative subculture as you can. Why do you choose to dwell in areas that most tend to ignore?

It is no secret that I grew up in a very lower-middle class suburban life to a moderately religious household. We weren’t a rich family, but we never starved. And I lived in an area where most families had far more money, so I saw the goings on of the wealthier classes right outside my door. And even at a young age, I knew there was something very shallow and fake about those lives, I always suspected secret affairs, and murder, and drug addiction. In my small suburban house, I would always wonder what was going on downtown, or in other cities and countries. When I became an adult, I tried to make it a point to associate myself with counterculture personalities and in doing so I found people honest about life and love and art. And it has always been an amazing feeling, to find out the stripper or the tattoo artist or the punk band singer, are all kind, generous, caring people. Most of society just likes to use their profession as a stereotype for how they must be in real life.

HST: As a hardened drinker I related to ‘Chasing the Buzz’. It’s disappointing when the young nights no longer descend into a blur of chaos and adventure. Tell me a drinking story from your reckless youth?

HA! Richard, my lad, the statute of limitations on most of those things have no doubt not run out……But I will say that booze had been a friend of mine for some time now. Most people have no idea that I never drank in High School, had my first sip 3 months after graduation. And in the decade since I have laughed, and cried, and fought, and woken up naked in parks, and slept with women whose faces I can’t remember, and been the best and worst of parties and bars. I have seen drunk people do amazing things and evil things. I have ended up near dead in sleazy motels. I have watched people who cannot handle the alcohol destroy their lives. I have fought the establishment thinking of the evils of alcohol. I have puked blood and kissed beautiful strangers. It has been a friend, a confidant, an asshole, and a part of my being. I wouldn’t take any of it back.

HST: I’ve been talking a lot with Willis Gordon about how men are becoming softer, perhaps weaker, masculinity dwindling, testosterone levels falling. How do you see your fellow men?

I absolutely think there is a crisis of manhood in America. Where at one time it was expected for men to be able to drink and fight, now it is pointed to as a sign of mental illness; that drinking is somehow a ‘disease’. It is an outright shame.

HST: Let’s talk about John Dervishian who co-wrote ‘Nightmares & Lullabies’, his side of the book is equally sincere. How did you guys come to collaborate on this book?

When I got the idea in my head do to a joint chap, I knew John was the one I wanted to write it with. He is a highly under-rated poet, with an amazingly distinct style and raw honesty. He lives just across the border in Mass, so I called him up and we went from there.

HST: What is your favorite of John’s poems in the collection? (my own fave is ‘let me enlighten you’)

I really enjoy “The Real Nowhere Man”. It just reminds me of so damn many of those old barflies I have met over the years. Those guys who are beyond the turnaround point, who are so far out there in that sea of booze and despair that they are drifting forever. It is good to remember those guys, because as drinkers, anyone of could become one at some distant point beyond the horizon.

HST: I’ve watched a few of his readings that have been posted on YouTube, his poems seem to come to life when read aloud. Have you any plans to put together some readings in the future to promote the book?

John is awesome during readings. As for us doing one together, I don’t know. I would like to. It is harder for me, because despite my reputation, I am a severe recluse. I do not like leaving the house very often and then only to go to quiet places. We should do a reading, and I am going to try and make a point to overcome my bullshit and do it.

HST: There are a few poems in the collection set in strip bars. What are such establishments in the States like? What kind of women work there?

Oh jeebus, now we are talking my true language. I have been to every type of strip club in America: from the classiest high pride joint, to the bucket of blood titty shops full of girls with bullet wounds and C-Section scars giving 5 dollar handjobs in the VIP area. I have met Playboy quality ladies who are in graduate school, and food stamp single moms one-step away from jail or the homeless shelter. In my old age, I like the smaller nude clubs with a friendly bartender and the kind of girls who have seen it all, and don’t want to mess around with the annoying frat boys. I have a very strict set of strip club etiquette rules, which most men are clueless about. Here in Providence, my favorite spot is The Foxy Lady. Every Friday morning for the past 30 years, they have a deluxe breakfast buffet starting at 6 am called “Leggs and Eggs”. There is nothing quite like drinking whiskey, eating eggs, and getting a lap dance at 8 am on a weekday when most men are on their way to boring office jobs. Keeps it all in perspective, haha.

HST: Could we see a follow-up collection to ‘Nightmares & Lullabies’?

Absolutely, I have no doubt that John and I will collaborate again very soon.

HST: What’s next for Drunken Absurdity Press?

Next to the plate is a project that has been in the works for months, the first Drunken Absurdity Anthology. Poetry, essays, fiction, articles, interviews….it is all there, from many of the extremely talented Drunken Absurdity Revolutionaries. We will be selling it on our store where we sell our merchandise, as well as in person at various events. We have lots of hope for this one, so stay tuned!

Nightmares & Lullabies is available now CLICK HERE to buy it.

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