Interview With Daniel Crocker
by Margaret Crocker
Q. Give me your style of writing in ten words or less. You should be able to do that, Mr. Writer-Man.
A. Hemingway might be able to do it. I can't even tie my shoes in ten words or less.
Q. I've read your work and I don't see it, but quite a few people have compared you to Mark Twain. I know you come from Missouri, but how do you feel about their comparison? Do you believe it at all accurate.
A. Well, Twain was a funny, sarcastic, bitter old bastard--that's pretty close to me. Besides that I don't see it. I think people just make the connection because we're both from Missouri. I mean, there's not a lot of sex, Crackers or beer in Twain. Course, there's sex and beer in Bukowski and I don't see much of a connection there either, although theyre both writers I really like.
Q. A quote in an advertisement for your new novel, Dirty Dishes, out in the Fall of 2002 from Green Bean Press is Beer, Bisexuality and the Bible Have Never Been This Much Fun. What the hell prompted you to write a novel that would warrant such a quote?
A. Because the three Bs are fun. You can add another one--Babes.
Q. If you were asked to squeeze your novel into a certain genre, could you? What would it be?
A. I couldn't do it. It's comedy, camp, horror, adventure, surrealism, realism, political, painful, and over all a love story. I just hope it's funny and entertaining and that there are certain things people take away from it. Although it's sometimes brash, there is a lot of subtlety to it as well, I hope it's not lost. Then again, I think the general reading population is a lot smarter than some writers give them credit for.
Q. I put a gun to your head and I say, Dan Crocker, which one thing is this novel most about? Beer? Bisexuality? Or the Bible? Remember the gun, which is it?
A. You'd love to put a gun to my head, wouldn't you? Some wife you are. I don't know if I could answer it honestly, so I'd probably make up something to keep from getting shot. I'd probably say beer, since I'm working on a drunk right now.
Q. Let's go back to your writing in general. You've written books of poetry and short stories in addition to this new novel. All of which are still in print. At what point did you look at what you'd just typed and say, Goddamn, I'm the greatest writer of all time?
A. I say that every time I write something. You have to be a self-centered bastard to write, you have to think you're the best ever, otherwise you'll go crazy. There's just nothing else in it, no money, no fame, no women, the only satisfaction is thinking you're the best--why else do it? However, I probably didn't say it and mean it until I wrote my long poem "Sorry" about the death of my brother. I really felt the power of writing for the first time then, later with "People Everyday" and now it comes better and more often.
Q. In what direction do you see yourself going? Is there a project ahead?
A. There are always projects ahead. Knock on wood, I've never had writers block, I'm not even sure it exists--it's more of an excuse for lazy writers to take time off, or to never get started. There are two more books in the Cracker Trilogy I need to write. I'm working ass backwards, Dirty Dishes is the last novel of the trilogy, so I damn sure hope it goes over. I'm also kicking around the idea of a main stream horror novel. I've always wanted to write one, and I just recently got a good enough idea. It came from a dream I had.
Q. Generic interview question: Who influences you as a writer? . . . NO! I WONT DO IT! I'll ask you this instead. Things that inspire you the most:
1. A band or music type.
2. An ideal or philosophy.
3. A (non-writing) person.
1. The blues and old outlaw country like Willie Nelson, etc.
2. I have a fucked up sense of Buddhism, it's nothing like real Buddhism. I just sort of made it up to fit my own agenda, which is what most people do with religions and philosophies.
3. You, of course dear, the children, all my old buddies from the restaurants and small town bars, Stephen Hawking, my friends and family, Mohammed Ali, Tom Waits, and all the people I hate.
Q. You are a self-titled experimental writer. What does that mean exactly?
A. I'm not a self-titled anything. I like to experiment when I write, but I wouldn't throw myself into the genre of experimental writer, cuz that sort of conjures up pretentious, over-blown, pseudo-intellectual bullshit that nobody can understand. I love to take chances with form, technique and content, but when it's all said and done I want it to be accessible, entertaining and down to earth. I like the grit and grime of realism, I just like to mix it up a little with some cool shit.
Q. Last question: You self promoting bastard. Give me one good reason why I should by Dirty Dishes.
A. You wanna go have sex now?
--CONDUCTED NEW YEAR'S EVE 2001
Interview with Daniel Crocker. Originally appeared in Off Magazine.
- Dan Crocker
By Chad Armbruster
The amount of talent in this town can and will surprise you the longer you stay here. We (yes, this includes me) don't really look around and see all of the intricate things that lie before us and think: "Hey, I bet that took a lot of talent to do."
Now, when I say art, I'm not just talking about the mural that's painted on the floodwall downtown. I'm taking about the floodwall, the Arts Council, groups like Acme Blues Band, writers like Dan Crocker and so much more. We dismiss them and take for granted all of the things that make this place Cape Girardeau.
Dan Crocker is our profile for this issue. Crocker has published hundreds of poems and short stories. But, guess what my fellow reader, he lives and works in OUR town. So, happy reading and hopefully this will make you think of all the talent that this town holds.
OFF! - How/why did you begin writing?
CROCKER - How, I don't know. I just began writing when I was 8 and I really don't know why. That's just the first time I can remember making up stories and writing them down. Why, I don't know. I just always liked to read - even at a very young age and I thought that it would be something I would like to do.
OFF! - Did you find it as a means of escape or just something fun?
CROCKER - I think reading started out as a way to escape reality. And then writing was just a natural extension of that.
OFF! - What do you use for inspiration?
CROCKER - I basically use my own life for inspiration and those around me. And I guess the egocentric desire to be a great writer.
OFF! - Is it really egocentric to want to make something of you?
CROCKER - Not really, I think that what I mean is that I want to make great writing. But as far as I'm concerned, I could just write. I'd rather have my writing famous and no one know who I was.
OFF! - So it doesn't matter if you ever become famous?
CROCKER - It's just that I want to do something good. Something I can be proud of that I've done.
OFF! - Is teaching more or less an ends to a monetary means or do you enjoy it?
CROCKER - Oh, I do enjoy it. It's not just for money. I mean if I had a best seller and made millions of dollars I would still teach.
OFF! - Which do you consider a passion, teaching or writing?
CROCKER - I think writing is more of a passion, it's something I would have to do no matter what. Teaching is just something I enjoy to help kids learn that they can write better.
OFF! - Is teaching something you would do if you didn't paid?
CROCKER - I would still teach even if I didn't get paid, but maybe under different conditions. I might teach poetry workshops in prisons or mental health centers or to under-privileged children. People need to learn that poetry isn't William Wordsworth or whatever they're forcing down your throat at school. It's your own experience.
OFF! - Are you open to people coming to you to show their work?
CROCKER - Yeah, but they better be ready for honesty. I mean, don't just come up to me with a poem that really stinks. They better expect me to say it. I mean if anyone really wants help, I'm always willing. Anyone who just wants his or her ego stroked - that's a different story.
OFF! - Does criticism really make or break an author?
CROCKER - I don't think so, because if you want to do it bad enough when you first start out you're not going to be that great and you're going to be faced with criticism at some point. But if you love it and you have faith in it, you'll keep going.
OFF! - Which do you prefer to write poetry or fiction?
CROCKER - Fiction, I think I'm better at it. See, when you start out I think it's a little easier to get poetry published in literary journals and small magazines because it just takes up less space. It's just a matter of economics. I like writing fiction a lot better because there's a lot you can do with fiction that people haven't always done.
OFF! - What do you get out of fiction that you don't get out of poetry?
CROCKER - The chance to tell more of a story.
OFF! - At what point do you realize that the way poetry and writing were being taught didn't work well for you?
OFF! - Well, probably in high school. I think all high school kids have that feeling of why am I writing five paragraphs when I can say it in three. And that's one of the reasons students don't read and write as much as they should. I mean think of yourself in ninth grade and you're sitting there reading Longfellow. Now tell me, did that really speak to you at all in ninth grade? Could you relate to that? This is what they're told poetry is and so understandably they don't want anything to do with it.
OFF! - How do you hope to influence your students?
CROCKER - I think the main thing I want to teach my students is that their personal lives and experiences are worth writing about.
OFF! - So, are there any final words of wisdom that you would like to pass onto our reading audience?
CROCKER - BUY MY BOOKS. (Insert laughing here) For the Cape Girardeau audience there are a lot of outlets here for your works. There's OFF! and Journey. I mean there's a nice artist community that people just don't know about. So to you, I say tap into it.
There are more Dan Crockers, musicians, painters, sculptors, skateboarders, divers, pilots and yes, even dog trainers. Hey, art is in the eye of the beholder and you don't always have to look too far from your own backyard to learn from the experiences of others.
Here it is. The three question interview with Green Bean Press founder and editor--Ian Griffin.
1. When did you realize that you were, indeed, a Greek God?
Ian: Just this past weekend when I was strolling through the park downtown and saw a statue of myself naked and covered in bird shit.
2. On a scale from one to ten, how insane does a person have to be to continually put out the best small press books in the United States?
Ian: 12 or 13, at least.
3. What will Green Bean Press be in five years?
Ian: A much much bigger debt than it is right now.