In case you can’t tell from the spelling in the following interview, author and poet Jono Boyle is British. Actually, he refuses to identify as either English or Irish and says he hates Britain and its colonial past. From thoroughly working class roots, he describes himself as the black sheep of the family due to his university education. Anti-establishment to the core, he sees jobs as “slavery to the capitalist machine” and regrets the need to charge money for his work, saying that he would prefer to barter books for necessities. He refuses to drive. He’s protested all manner of things throughout his life, including the IMF, the Gulf Wars, apartheid, and energy policies – and he describes writing as the last phase of protesting. In short, he sounds like a really cool dude – and he makes for an interesting interview. Enjoy!
1. Poetry is notoriously difficult to sell in this day and age; what is it that prompted you to begin your forays into publication with a poetry volume instead of, say, your short story or essay efforts?
The future for writing is perhaps its free nature. Like the music industry, the real raw talent is from the ground, cheap, poignant and fast – media today is virtually free. I expect I will distribute them myself, for free at some point – for now I must try to produce to be listed, read or just noticed.
2. What are the major themes you tend to address in your poetry?
The book reflects the juxtapositions in my soul, the four books diverge the themes. Political contempt is unavoidable, realities of society’s ills also. I rant and weep about those two. In contrast I dream of the sublime, and examine my heart. In the future I’ll work on funny; I could double the sales.
3. Who are your favorite poets and who has had the greatest influence on you stylistically?
No favourite poets as such, more of a genre. Like people would in their music tastes, likewise the poems are like good tunes. So, Yeats’ “Stolen Child” is best or the games that E.E. Cummings might play with you. The goth/romantic tradition holds my interest because of the natural — in many respects there’s a religiousness about the sublime; it is penned across the globe every day. I should stress my interest in the historical poetry in language, the concepts or ideas contained within Shakespeare, Dickens, or A.A. Milne, the Beats or Aeschylus – eras contain different themes and clues to people’s outlooks of that time. I am thoroughly modern, though – today’s poets are from the radio, and Bono was probably my most influential mentor. Which explains everything, probably.
4. In a somewhat related but still rather arbitrary question, what are your three favorite poems of all time – excluding any of your own work?
“The Stolen Child,” “Auguries of Innocence,” and [the] “All the world’s a stage” [speech] from As You Like It by William Shakespeare. I should learn them by rote – for future protest demos. Again – performance art.
5. Of your own poems, which is your favorite?
Around you today lie crimson wreaths. Red on grey. Rain, rekindling my grief. No cousin, my brothers, but a generation’ hand, I offer, as you hide behind wet bags of sand.
My balmy palm, cross time; with wonder. This year a comrade fell, just yonder; Your plights, your lives were not taken in vain; We give thanks that we can hurry safe in the rain.
I reflect in this minute, to pass you by, that scurrying to work, we all wonder, why? That statue of remorse stretches your dignities tall. As we skirt lych-fountain, St Luke’s’ tower and wall.
Well, next summer will beckon the centenary year, for poor man’s plight, will we shed many a tear, for the dawning of your inglorious destruction? So king’s empires could boast proud mal – faction
[It’s my favorite because] firstly, I was on my way to Woolwich when it had the bizarre murder of a squaddie, supposedly a terror attack. I felt too close to it. The memorial of WWI standing in Charlton Village as I ran for the bus to work offered meaning to the inane. It’s a multicultural area; the incident was unsettling. Secondly, I was awoken as a teenager by visiting the WWI trenches, horrified by stories of a youth ripped to bits before its prime. Studying history left a void, filled by the poetry of the war, to have penned something as tribute for so many lost souls is satisfying, a mark, a cry. It’s all so close here in Britain, the memorials are in every village. We pass them daily. Listed are the lost generation, names match names on the inscriptions as entire settlements lost all their young men. So as kids we play near them notice things like that, ask about our grandparents – ultimately look out for our surnames. When I was 14 I was marred by images like a soldier with no jaw, or half a horse in a silhouette of a tree. It’s macabre, I admit.
6. You seem to have your fingers in a lot of pots – tell me a bit about the Multicolour Press London. When did you start it and where is it headed right now?
I like pots, in fact I lived in Stoke on Trent and studied the art of ancient pottery as an undergrad – life is definitely about leaving your mark, visions or questions. I love the fact that true alcoholics in ancient Greece had Ivy tattoos at times just showing under a sleeve, in appreciation of Dionysus. So yes, I love history, and in it literature, art, architecture, music, food, economics; but above all societies and the Human Condition. This all comes from my dad dying at four, I understood nothing about things growing up – my siblings were distant as my mother, so the world to me was a stage where I witnessed many performances, and as a kid and now, reluctant to perform in it as the ultimate reasoning still is not grasped. I am slow to produce as a writer – the art above all for me – due to my hands in all these pots.
The Press was an inevitability of becoming a self-published writer. I preferred not to give my work to the distribution platforms that try to fool us. By owning a bunch of ISBN’s I own my work outright – should the miraculous happen and a director comes knocking…
I am embarking on a journey (to pastiche Bono), centred around authoring the novels I have begun to plan. I have been an individual and creative in the things I have done in my early life. Present circumstances give me the freedom now to examine these experiences and to write them down, or publicise them as I feel free; whether that is my response to a political situation, or historical theory, or just a book on my healthy recipe’s, augmenting the kind of lifestyle philosophies I believe in. To be realistic, self-publishing will just become an extension of blogging. My other hope for the press is to gather anthologies, like a series of shorts, there is much talent never published. It is an organic entity, I have no idea of the possibilities it holds yet — it just feels right.
7. Did you use any outside help in release of your first book, Wise St. Rap Vs. Gentle Rhyme? It appears from the Amazon sales page that you published the book through your own company and I noticed that you offer cover design services as well. Did you do everything yourself?
I was guided through some initial stages in publishing by the help of Raymond Matheisen, his services are listed on the site – but to be fair I worked through each stage myself, it was daunting but in the end quite simple – I suppose I am familiar with the publishing world due to spending a lifetime reading. I have friends struggling as artists, I hope to extend the area of cover design to them as another area of work. In this way Ricardo Faedda – Anamusnanart Idealopascolo is working with me on the first few books, at least. We seem to share a similar vision, he works with an independence movement of Sardinia, but recently has begun studying in the UK towards his art work.
I learned a lot from the connections made – there are many views out there, some I most definitely rejected – people offering to sell ISBN’s for example, it’s a fallacy to think this is possible without giving what you have created to someone else. I would advise any new writer to purchase a block of numbers, create a company – and have work edited properly, if they are up to it themselves all the better, it is time consuming or costly but vital for a well presented piece. To be up to it, though, takes more than good grammar – having a track record in literary critique, or study will help to solidify a plot or storyline, using symbolism or devices properly, developing characters accurately.
8. Marketing is always tricky with self-publishing; what have you been doing in regards to marketing efforts?
Absolutely nothing. IT terrifies me. I am in the early stages still, busy producing. I hope that marketing will come naturally in time. I tried social media briefly, raised a lot of interest but no sales. the market is fickle, if you like. Most book types use libraries, read dead authors and rely on recommendations. There is a difference between those readers and say, the romantic or horror audience, which tend to devour material fast — sadly these genres don’t hold my interest. I do hope later down the line to begin historical fiction, perhaps a series … I have not devised this fully yet, and I am not skilled enough to pull it off to the standard I would expect as a trained historian and critical reader (being in awe of the Umberto Eco or Robert Graves approaches creates a tough platform for me to make an attempt). I have an outline of a historical novel forming, to describe Britain as a home front in WW2, to get to grips with the real sociality – a theme that eludes our understanding, there are few attempts by literature to examine this part of the historical record. How did people feel for their present, for their futures, for their families, or for their careers? Textbooks portray a homogeneous society, yet there were distinctive rifts in the social fabric from ideologies and changes in social or religious ideals – how did the feminist pacifist struggle with the war effort or her patriotic neighbours, or the communist sympathizer with his government and his flag waving colleagues> Anyway, this genre is as close as I come to marketability – let’s see if I can create a coup.
So in short, my goal is to release the shorts, some essays this year as a mainstay. Then I can commence writing the body of (my working title is lost in a drawer of notes right now, sorry – the theme is a moral retribution against a set of British organized crooks, by two people they destroyed. It is a natural development from growing up in my home county – Essex, where the gentleman gangster culture is played out to this day in varieties of degrees. The best bit is every character I have developed from actual acquaintances or knowledge of, the places will be developments on the actual.). Once I have this underway I will attempt to market, like a preparation for its release. If I am still based in London then I think there are enough free stages, supporting opportunities, or just leafleting possibilities (even some crafty graffiti if I feel rebellious enough) to begin to spread some of the poetry. Then I can fall back on the ISBN registry a little – they offer services to aid small pub distribution. Plus I have my own copies of the formats (epub, MOBI, etc.) – these I can distribute as gifts as they are separate editions than those listed on the sales sites.
9. What projects do you have in the works?
- Still evolving poetry – if I gather enough I can make another book or reedition the Wise Street.
- Fables of Freedom – a first book of shorts (once complete I will try more varieties of short themes, in story or in filmscript style as I am beginning to meet some new filmmakers here in London).
- Some Essays – a hark back to Victorian writing perhaps. I am a keen analyst of the political climate – I am also keen on highlighting current protest movements from local scale to international like Anonymous or Occupy — the global collective is forming.
- I would like then to work with others on these three themes, again the word I wish to revive is anthology.
- First novel on Great British crime and lawlessness.
- Second novel and third novel – they are fighting it out for precedence; either the historical drama about the homefront – or my other idea, based on the twisted nature of modern romance and its failure to value our modern lives – here I want to dabble with the darker side of things, the institution of marriage is in tatters in the UK, the sex industry is booming, society is fragmenting, children are being neglected – again the working title is in this drawer crammed full of notes.
I hope to be travelling/working by this time as an English Language Teacher – perhaps in the far East but I would prefer to be in the Arab world. I will see. Thus, I will continue to develop the blog and produce my cerebral graffiti, I like the idea of a working developing writer’s diary and scrapbook. I was in need of these details from my idols of literature as I grew up, there is a wonderful feeling of gazing on the same view or being in the same room as someone from the past that you admired – easier in Britain, perhaps: I have sat where Dickens sat, seen Darwin’s Uni room, drank a toast to Johnston for his dictionary in the pub where he penned bits of it, shivered on the same spot as Emily Bronte/Henry Miller, drunk at the same bar as Rupert Brooke. Most bizarre was working in an office which was once a drawing room for some lady who was the supposed secret lover of D.H. Lawrence and inspiration for Lady Chatterley – what did happen in front of that fine marble fire place? Hmm…