An interview with Jason Morris, from The Write Stuff series:
Jason Morris was born and raised in Vermont. His books are Spirits & Anchors (Auguste Press, 2010), From the Golden West Notebooks (Allone Co., 2011), Local News (Bird & Beckett, 2013), and Takes (Bootstrap, 2015). He lives with his wife in San Francisco.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I’m a bartender.
What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?
Work or otherwise: that ‘or’!
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
Show up and take a strong interest.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
Bill Berkson has the wonderful title Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently. If I were to put that line at an angle of incidence with one of my favorite lines of Thoreau’s—“to affect the quality of the day is the highest of arts”—it’d demarcate my (crooked) notion of success at the given moment. After all, what other moment is there?
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
There are a few. Anything having to do with corvid intelligence. A Russian crow using a plastic lid to sled down a roof in the winter. Waylon Jennings, Richard Pryor. I like that one where Lil B gets choked up in the aquarium store.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
I have a great great grandmother whose name was Hattie Augusta Sparhawk. I wish I knew more about her. Basho literally means “banana tree.” Cy Twombly apparently once left a $10,000 tip for a waitress who worked at the Lexington, VA diner where he ate every day. I aspire to their conditions of placement.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
My father. A poet.
How much money do you have in your checking account?
What’s wrong with society today?
People seem to be getting a little lax about grammar.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
A global, simultaneous psychic reenactment of the raid on Harper’s Ferry. The Mekons playing sold-out stadium shows. Bernadette Mayer, Jean Day, and J.H. Prynne topping out bestseller lists. The sudden and spontaneous abdication of greed. A bell hooks presidency. International Harry Crews Day. Philip Whalen taught in high schools. The Shobogenzo taught in high schools. A turning of the wheel. Peace to the cottages, war on the mansions!
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
Wallace Stevens said, “life without poetry is, in effect, life without sanction.”
What are you working on right now?
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
Everyone’s pretty amped on ‘cross-genre’ writing, but I prefer the older stuff: Spring & All, La Vita Nuova, Narrow Road to the Interior, H.D., Stein, etc etc. I like writing that makes a stutter its condition of possibility, or which attempts to write itself into a place outside of critical taxonomies.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
What are some of your favorite smells?
I love the smell of ozone. I like hearing the zipper of my jacket make a little ping as it makes contact with metal objects I’m walking by—bus shelters, signs, etc.