- Welcome readers to entry #9 on Voices behind the words: An interview series with writers. First and foremost, I just want to address something that I just need to say. First, thank you to every writer I’ve had the pleasure to interview and hopefully the ones to come after. Having said that, so far I have not been straight up declined by a writer to be in the series, but being ignored is all I need to know that those writers don’t want to participate in us putting our names and work out there in the WordPress community. To those who will remain nameless, I wish you nothing but future success with your writing endeavors. Anyways back to the main topic, in this entry I spoke with Joseph Emerson of “What’s Inside a Madmans Hat”. I asked him about how he came up with his intriguing site title, if there is anything he refuses to share through his writing, and his return to writing on WordPress after a brief hiatus. Check out his site page @What’sInsideaMadmansHat for more of his writings, and show him some love by liking and following. Peace
Q: What is your writing process like, do you hand write or type a draft? Or do you think of a theme and immediately start typing?
Joseph: Both handwriting and typing. I try to always carry a piece of paper or an index card around with me. There have been too many instances where I’ve let my mind go to amazing places and unfortunately those stories are lost forever, all because my short-term memory is lacking and I never scratched it down or had a keyboard nearby. As far as the process goes, it’s really random how it comes to me. Some days it’s there, and sometimes the inspiration comes through in other forms of art.
Q: Can you describe the first time you wrote a poem? Also did something in your life come across as a catalyst to motivate you into writing poetry?
Joseph: I honestly cannot pinpoint the first time I wrote a poem. I used to enjoy pausing tapes as a kid and handwriting all the lyrics. I guess that’s where I really started to understand structuring, and rhythm to words, and how a simple pause meant more than a filler of useless words. I started writing song lyrics when I picked up the guitar and that’s where a lot of my original writing came from. When I dropped the guitar part and just wrote… it just began to make a lot of sense to me. This past fall I was putting a lot of work into my mental health and writing just found its way into my escape plan. So far, it seems to be working and I have had great feedback.
Q: Your WordPress site title is quite intriguing which begs the question, what inspired you to come up with “What’s Inside a Madman’s Hat?
Joseph: Oh boy, I had started this site in 2014 when I was looking for somewhere to write online. I never really did anything with it back then (or for a few years), but when it came time to fill in the part “What do you want your site name to be?”, I had happened to be in a really weird mental place, and I was doodling in a notebook. It was a picture of a whacked out looking guy in a large top hat, with all of these springs and gears and music notes flying out of the top, like his mind had finally exploded and his hat couldn’t hold it all in anymore. That’s it, never changed it. Haha
Q: After exploring your page, I must say that you write such dense material that deals with your personal struggles, which I’ll add is well written and an enjoyable read. So my question is, do you find any experiences that you’ve gone through that you wouldn’t write about or refuse to share?
Joseph: I have not come across anything yet that makes me uncomfortable to write about. I feel like it’s my safe place where I can be honest. It just makes sense to me, to let it out. It doesn’t freak people out as much when it’s typed and structured and has a beautiful rhythm to it. People are less likely to say “you’re crazy” or “what the hell is wrong with you?”. Most of the time people are very receptive and just nod their heads and say “wow”. If I am honest and open there is a chance it could possibly help someone who is looking to hear the perfect line, right at that time. It’s well worth that minute of humility.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who love poetry but don’t know how to start? I have some days where I can’t think of something to write, so do you believe in writer’s block?
Joseph: Advice would be to just write. I loved in the movie “Throw momma from a train” where Danny DeVito’s character says “A writer writes!” always cracks me up. Truthfully, I have tons of notebooks floating around that are scribbled with crazy stuff that I, myself wouldn’t even read. The fact of the matter is that I am pretty much always scribbling and writing ideas. Sometimes there are times where you may call it writers block, but I feel it’s just when my mind is all over and being too critical. It feels like, trying to rake leaves in a tornado, it’s impossible to make a pile (poem/short story) but then one day the wind dies down and wow… you just become a “leaf pile making machine!” Just embrace those really good days and know that not every day will be like that, don’t beat yourself up on those rough “writers block” days.
Q: If you’re not writing or working, what would you being doing? Do you have any passions outside of poetry?
Joseph: Wow, this could go on for days… I love long board skateboarding, music! … I play drums, guitar, ukulele, bass. I love painting and working on my trucks, anything with my hands. Reading, chillin’ on my boat. Just started playing Xbox haha let’s call it my premature midlife crisis. HALO!!!
Q: Would you ever consider publishing your writing, and if you have how was the reception and reviews?
Joseph: I have actually thought about it recently. I have not yet, but I feel once I have enough material to have a really well put together portfolio of “F@#$ yeah” worthy stuff. I would love to submit and or self-publish something for sure.
Q: It’s good to see that you’re back on WordPress from your hiatus, and since your time away did feel a sense of urgency to return with content or take it slow to allow situations to ease and develop into something to write about?
Joseph: Um… It was just a time where I had to catch up on my life. Focused on work and cleaning the house. I didn’t let it go more than a few weeks. I feel like I was just starting to release some energy through playing the drums, mindless video games and Marvel movies. Then I began to feel I was getting bottled up and I just started to pour it all out on my typewriter full force again.
Q: How would describe the current state of poetry and should schools emphasize creative writing and poetry in English curriculum’s?
Joseph: To be completely honest I am just starting to really scratch the surface of the poetry scene. I do think it is an extremely valuable, enjoyable style of reading and writing and should never be taken out of a school’s curriculum. It should be emphasized. Some of the most influential writing is from poetry. In high school we read Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Charles Bukowski… Tupac. These should never be taken away. Kids should never lose their sense of imagination and expression. I feel I lost that part of myself for way too long, I am very grateful that it has come back, as I am now in my 30’s and feel like a kid again.
Q: What are your favorite book genres? Who are your favorite authors?
Joseph: Just started reading a little science fiction, reading Ray Bradbury’s biography right now, and he was in my opinion the king of it. I highly recommend The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller, Excellent, brilliant, driven man he was. I love old war time novels like For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway has to be one of my favorite. George Orwell’s, 1984 … one of my favorites that I’ve re-read more than any. My brother Nick got me turned on to Kurt Vonnegut through the book Cat’s Cradle, another awesome book. I like sailing survival stories; Endurance by Alfred Lansing is an amazing true story.
Q: Did you choose WordPress as your first choice as a platform to post your poetry on?
Joseph: Yes, this was my first choice and my favorite one. Not to bash, as this is just my opinion, I had tried Medium, which is another site similar to WordPress, I still have a profile there and…. Let’s just say, not for me. I like the layout of WP and the community is second to none. I’ve met and talked with some of the most brilliant, kindest, most artistic people here.
Q: If you could describe your writing with one sentence how would it go?
Joseph: It’s saving my life, one beat at a time.