Some women like musicians; some like movie stars. I’ve always been in awe of great poets. Steven Marty Grant is one of the few living poets I can say that about.
His writing moves me. It’s raw, sexy, and touches on themes that are real, if not always pretty—adultery, love, sorrow, booze, bad relationships. He also writes about one of my favorite cities in the world—New York. No matter the subject, his writing elicits strong emotions and leaves me thinking long after reading the final word. In his interview, he cleverly inserts many of his poems into his answers. You’ll love his introspective and thoughtful responses.
It’s my great pleasure to welcome a poet, a man of enormous humility, and a genuinely lovely person—Steven Marty Grant.
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In his own words …
Steven Marty Grant is a hospitality sales professional living in Venice and working in Los Angeles California but he left his heart in New York City (on the R train somewhere between 57th and 23rd). He is a poetry editor for Notes Magazine as well as a former journalist, musician and slacking underachiever. His poems have appeared in The Writer, Notes Magazine, The (&) Ampersand, The Melancholy Dane, Spring Harvest and VVC Drama & English Literary Journal. You can also find his work on Sleep-Snort-Fuck, Drink this Cola, The Flask & Pen, One Stop Poetry, his Blog Urbanality and, of course, his mom’s refrigerator. Steven graduated from a school you’ve never heard of and had so many majors that even he is confused as to what his degree is in. He is married to a wonderful, patient woman and has a wonderful daughter who insists on attending an out of state school even though he could save a load of money if she would go to a California state school.
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Inside Steven Marty Grant’s Mind
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Hmm, a very tough question to start off with; honestly I am not sure that such a thing exists for me. I don’t mean that I am not happy because in general I am. I love my wife, have a great family, make a decent living and I get to travel quite a bit. It is just that I have always been ill at ease with the status quo. I feel like I should be doing better or more. I should write better than I do, more often than I do. I should see more of the world; do better at work and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some transcendent moments of pure bliss in my life; fleeting but amazing none the less. Things like my first acceptance letter from a poetry magazine, breaking 80 on the golf course for the first time, finishing my first triathlon, any number of very special moments with my wife, and some perfect days when the world just seemed magical. But no matter how wonderful the moment is I soon find myself looking for more.
I think in some ways that I fear “happiness”. My wife always asks me why I don’t write more “happy and positive” poems. My explanation makes no sense to her but it is the only way I know to explain it. I like feeling good and I do not question the feeling or over think it. I want to hold onto positive emotions as long as possible so I keep them inside. Pain and sadness are things that need to be examined and dealt with. If I were perfectly happy I would probably never write again and that is a very scary thought.
What turns you on creatively? I sometimes wish that there was a go to thing but there really is nothing that I can count on when I need to write. I have been inspired to write by so many random things. A pretty girl on the subway, a conversation with my wife, a trip to the museum or a picture on Facebook. It will sound incredibly cliché but sorrow and heartache are probably the most consistent creativity drivers in my life. I am 6’5” tall and a big scary man but sometimes I have the emotions of a 13 year old girl.
The one thing I do tend to turn on when I need to prime the pump is music. It does not always work but even when it doesn’t it makes me less annoyed at my brain freeze. I got into writing poetry because I failed as a musician. I was in a band, I was a drummer, a singer and wrote a lot of the lyrics. The band did not go far but the urge to communicate with words never left me. These days I find many of the thoughts and feelings I write about in songs. Tom Waits, Paul Simon, Tool, Kanye West, Gordon Lightfoot, Heart and King’s X have all inspired poems that I have written. Most of the time when I write I am trying to express a very specific emotion and certain songs can really have an impact on my feelings.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I have an annoying habit developed over many long years of self-absorbed writing. As a wanna-be-poet I should not be chronically addicted to adjectives but, sadly, I am. And I also tend to use “and” at the beginning of sentences despite the stern warnings of my many diversely talented writing teachers. I know that beautiful words should not be needlessly modified. And I also know that a good, self aware, writer would never fall into these amateurish traps.
What quality do you most admire in a man? I pretty much have to go with confidence. The men I admire most in the world all have a quiet natural self confidence. Not cocky or arrogant in any way because that is faux confidence. I admire men that are not plagued by the same insecurity and indecision in life that I tend toward.
What quality do you most admire in a woman? Where to begin there are so many: Brains and/or street smarts would be up there on my list. Determination and drive are incredibly sexy. Confidence in a woman is also a very appealing trait. I am just old fashion enough that grace in a woman is something I still look for and admire. I am a guy so if I had to pick just one I would probably go with a really nice ass.
What is your greatest regret? Regret is a funny thing; decisions or actions that we regret, at some point, often end up as blessings. The true regrets of my life mostly reside on the road not taken. Girls I did not ask out, risks I was afraid to take, are the kind of things I look back and wonder about. When I was in college and first started writing seriously several of my professors encouraged me to submit my work to the lit journals of the day. I did and surprisingly I started getting accepted. After a while my acceptance rate slowed a little and I started to think the early success was just luck. Not wanting to find out I was a hack I quit sending in my work. Eventually with no audience, the urge to write began to wane and over time I quit altogether. I look back on that fear of rejection now and regret the years I wasted. Every moment I get to write these days is precious and I would pay a lot of money to get some of those lost days back.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Can we come back to this one? Just kidding. Obviously, I struggle with procrastination.
What is your greatest fear? Being as mediocre as I think I am most of the time.
Which living person do you most admire? This is a really boring answer but definitely my father. We could not be more different but I look at what he has done with his life and the integrity with which he has done it and I am in awe.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I have always wanted to be a trust fund baby or maybe a kept man; there’s a name for it; oh yes a “himbo”.
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? A fearless decisive version of me!
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I don’t have one yet. I have an extensive list of pretty good accomplishments but no great ones. I am a jack of all trades and master of none. One of these days…
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Duplicity! I can deal with most human shortcomings as long as people are genuine. If you are a dick; be a dick. I may not like you or want to hang out and drink beers but at least you will have my respect. Nothing is worse than someone that smiles to your face and then stabs you in the back.
What is your greatest extravagance? This will sound really vapid but it is custom suits. I am a big guy and for years bought my suits off the rack. They always had to be tailored and they never fit quite right. WARNING: Useless trivia ahead! In the U.S. Men’s suits are typically paired with a 6” variance between the chest size and the waist of the pants. I have a 46” chest and a 36” waist; bad combination if you want to buy clothes at Nordstrom.
What is one thing you want to do before you die? Would it be cheating the question if I said finish my bucket list? If so, then my answer will be a little nebulous and lame. I want to create something of lasting value or merit; a piece of art that is built to last and keeps speaking long after I am gone. I realize that is not likely, being primarily a poet, but I really would love to hit at least one home run before the rot sets in. I’ve never set out to write the defining poem of my generation but maybe someday I will get lucky. I am pretty sure that Byron and Keats were just trying to get laid but their work has endured for generations.
What is your favorite piece of music? You sure ask tough questions! When you say piece of music I think classics and in that genre I would always default to Mozart’s Symphony 40 in G Minor. It is one of the most perfect things ever created by a human. Being a bit of a wanna be rocker my desert island play list is much more contemporary. If I had to pick 10 songs for my iPod in addition to Mozart I would have: The Rover by Led Zeppelin, Interstate Love Song by Stone Temple Pilots, Summerland by King’s X, Backstreets by Bruce Springsteen, Tangled Up In Blue by Dylan, Remember My Name by Toy Matinee, America by Simon & Garfunkel, Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters (the live version by Heart) and E-Bow the Letter by R.E.M.
What is your present state of mind? What’s next? I am at a creative crossroads and I need to choose a path. Do I push myself and try something new, like fiction, or continue to churn out these damn poems? I have even been considering taking another shot at music; I mean if Ke$ha has a career the bar must be pretty low right?
What are some of your favorite curse words? I have a hard time choosing because I love them all and each one has so much power when used correctly. Cocksucker, mother fucker, asshole, bitch; a time and place for each and each beautiful in its own way. Pragmatically I would default to the versatility of “Fuck!”.
What is your motto? If you base your life on bumper sticker wisdom, be sure and keep a scraper and a bottle of Goo-Gone handy at all times.
Steven, thanks so much for your terrific responses. I suspect you are right about Byron and Keats . I encourage everyone to find out more about Steven and his work.
He’s a wonderful man to read and know.
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