Showcase Spotlight #5: Heath Brougher

heath-brougher

Heath Brougher attended Temple University. He is the poetry editor of Five 2 One Magazine and co-poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine. He has published two chapbooks, A Curmudgeon Is Born (Yellow Chair Press 2016) and Digging for Fire (Stay Weird and Keep Writing Publishing Co. 2016) with another one titled Your Noisy Eyes due out in 2017. His poem “Curriculums” received a Best of the Net Nomination and his work has been translated into Albanian and been published in over 25 countries. He was the judge of Into the Void Magazine’s 2016 Poetry Competition and edited the anthology “Luminous Echoes,” the sales of which will be donated to help with suicide prevention. His work has appeared or is due to be published in Of/with, Chiron Review, BlazeVOX, Main Street Rag, Crack the Spine, Cruel Garters, MiPOesias, The Blue Mountain Review, Third Wednesday, Lehigh Valley Vanguard, Gloom Cupboard, X-Peri, W.I.S.H., Gold Dust, eFiction India, Tipton Poetry Journal, Lakeview, Van Gogh’s Ear, *82 Review, and elsewhere. When not writing, he helps with the charity Paws Soup Kitchen which gives out free dog/cat food to low income families with pets.


Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Heath, I want to thank you for taking some of your time to participate in this interview. I know you’re a busy man these days with a number of projects being juggled simultaneously. On that note, what are you most excited about right now when it comes to your writing?
 
Heath Brougher: I’d have to say one of the things I’m most excited about is recently being asked to be a part of X-Peri, where I have found some truly mind-blowing experimental work, especially books by members such as Daniel Y. Harris, John Amen, and Irene Koronas. They’ve really taken my idea of what experimental poetry is capable of to a whole new level. Also I’m very excited to have my second chapbook titled Digging for Fire published by Patrick Jordan and his amazing Stay Weird and Keep Writing Publishing Co. On top of that I’m extremely grateful to have been asked by Phillip Elliott to judge the 2016 Into the Void Magazine’s Annual Poetry Contest.
 
Outlar: Congratulations on the release of your new chapbook. Anyone interested can order copies here at Stay Weird and Keep Writing’s website. Is there a theme in the material you put together for this collection of poems? I’ve noticed in a lot of your work that you deal with the idea of searching for truth. What is truth to you, and how in the hell do we find it in a world that is so full of deception and lies? Especially during this Presidential campaign season!
 
heath-brougher-digging-for-fireBrougher: Yes, many of my poems are concerned with the search for Truth. My new chapbook Digging for Fire is about that search but in a much more metaphysical way. In general, though, I believe the search for Truth means taking in all the information you see and hear and letting it swirl around in your head, trying to look at it from every possible vantage point. This way, through your own Epiphanies, you are able to find the “actual Truth.” I believe in the cultivation of the Intellect. I consider Intellect to be a component of knowledge. If more people would begin to actually cultivate their Intellect instead of just blindly believing everything they are told there would be a lot more acceptance of Individuality in this world. Every person would have their own personal ideas about the Truth (which the majority of the time would hopefully synch up with others who have cultivated their Intellect) and be much more tolerant of people who didn’t believe exactly what they did. When people are introduced to someone new the first words out of their mouth are usually, “So what do you do?” As if what a person does for a living defines them. I dream of a day when people ask instead, “So what have you been thinking lately?” I know that may sound silly, but only if you’re a mindless robot. There is, however, one big problem with the whole “searching for Truth” thing and that is that the brain is easily tricked by what it sees. So searching for metaphysical Truths may actually be easier than searching for the Truth before your very eyes. Human beings tend to mirror their environment, whether consciously or subconsciously, and that is why I think it is important for people to disconnect themselves from what I call “the Mainstream Thought” and begin to sincerely view this world through their own eyes. As far as Truth in politics goes, forget it. There’s not one ounce of Truth in what is spouted from the mouths of these disgusting egomaniacal politicians.
 
Outlar: Can you tell us a bit more about the poetry contest you’re currently judging for Into the Void? You’ve also been the poetry editor at Five 2 One Magazine for a while now … what type of material are you looking for when it comes to submissions at that venue?
 
Brougher: Well Five 2 One is obviously my real home but I think Into the Void is similar in many ways. I believe both magazines have the potential to become some of the most well-known and respected journals in the world. As far as editing goes, I think I’ve matured a lot since I first began. When I first started at Five 2 One I was just picking the weirdest, most “out there” poems I came across, though I would always let my Editor In Chief, Nathan Alan Schwartz, know if something caught my eye that I thought he may really like to make sure that EVERYONE was (and is) given a fair chance. I’ve now learned to pick the unique and bizarre poems that have some pith to them instead of just a bunch of nonsensical ramblings. I’ve even begun picking “Normies,” as we call them, if they strike me the right way. I read blind for Five 2 One and am reading blind for Into the Void’s Contest as well and would have it no other way. It’s something I think all publications should do but that’s a whole different tangent I could go on. As far as the Into the Void contest goes, I’m keeping my own chart of poems which I rate on a scale of 1-10 and take notes on what I liked/didn’t like about each one so when the contest is over I’ll know which poems to come back to and really scrutinize. It’s really important to me because these people paid to enter this contest so I want to make sure their poems are given the right amount of time so as not to possibly miss a diamond in the rough. I do this as well for Five 2 One but don’t keep my own chart of submissions since I can just tell my Editor in Chief what I thought about the poems in each submission.
 
Outlar: I’m sure you’ll receive some excellent submissions in the contest. I’m looking forward to seeing the results you decide on later this year. [Editor’s note: during the time this interview was being conducted, the contest winners were announced, and the results can be found here]
 
Alright, let me take a step back here for a moment and ask about how you got your start in writing. Is it something you’ve always been drawn to, or was there a specific set of circumstances that sparked the flow of creativity? What made you decide to start publishing poetry?
 
Brougher: Well I’ve been writing my entire life. I’m talking as far back as 2nd grade. About 10 years ago I found this old notebook that had a few extremely short misspelled and pointless stories I wrote when I was in 2nd grade along with some drawings, so I decided to slap the title “Lifebook” on the front and I’ve been writing in it once or twice a year ever since. It’s just something I’m doing for myself so when I’m 90 years old (OK maybe 80 with a lot of luck) I can look back at my “Lifebook” and reminisce about certain phases of my life. So I’ve been writing my whole life and the reason is: I just have to. I guess sometimes my mind gets backed up with thoughts and I need to spill it out onto paper in order to feel content again. It’s very cathartic. I decided to start submitting a little over 2 years ago, at the age of 34. The main reason was because I felt I was getting older and for the first time in my life I couldn’t see any kind of future ahead of me. It was just blankness, nothingness. So I decided to give my “life’s work” a shot at submissions to the whole lit world. It took four months before I received my first acceptance letter from BlazeVOX (although I actually had two poems published in Uut Poetry and Indigo Rising without my knowledge before then, but it is BlazeVOX that will always hold a special place in my heart). I was so used to rejection letters that I literally almost deleted it without even reading it. That’s how close I was to giving up. I’m extremely grateful to Geoffrey Gatza for coming in at just the right moment because I was in a very dark place at the time as far as what I was going to do with my life and that acceptance letter may have saved me from checking out of this life early. I always felt like there was some value to my writings but that first acceptance letter confirmed it.
 
Outlar: That’s a familiar refrain from a lot of writers and artists, I think. The compulsion for humans to create seems to be an inherent ingredient found in the soul. Or a natural component in the process of evolution. Well, it’s good that you received that acceptance letter from BlazeVOX because it’s enabled me and a number of other people to enjoy your work the past couple of years. When you stare out toward the future, where do you see this whole poetry thing going? How high can the wave rise?
 
Brougher: The wave can rise as far as people with Integrity are willing to take it. It’s time for the cronyism of certain journals to go away for good. I read blind. I think every publication should read blind. I think that any publication that does not read blind should not be considered a real publication. The point of putting together a journal is to publish the best work submitted, right? One problem though. Not right… at least at this moment in time. I cannot stand certain journals that just endlessly regurgitate the same old boring poets writing the same old boring poems just because they are part of Academia or friends with the editors. The playing field needs to be leveled. As far as my own writing I’d hope that as many eyes as possible get to see it and it helps them in some way open a part of their mind that was once shut. I believe in an oncoming Renaissance in the literary world.
 
Outlar: Well, you know that I’m all in on the idea of Renaissance so I can definitely dig it. Ye gods, I just realized that I’ve asked about your new chapbook, but I haven’t yet mentioned your first chapbook from earlier in the year, A Curmudgeon Is Born. This was one of my favorite collections of 2016, and so I was hoping you could talk a bit about how you structured the book and what having it published meant to you.
 
a-curmudgeon-is-bornBrougher: Yes. That one will always be my “baby.” I thank Sarah Frances Moran for choosing it for publication. The book is about disconnecting from the “Mainstream Thought” as I call it. There are so many mysteries to our lives and our origins and most people end up with these things never crossing their minds as they just fall right into the safety basket their given culture has placed there for them. They are born into a world of previously arranged “Manmade Realities” and immediately their minds are attacked as they quickly turn into mindless members of that given society. What they see as reality is what they’ve been told their whole lives is reality while they haven’t given it a second thought. I wanted to try to shake at least a few people out of that “daily grind” mindset and get them to “cultivate their Intellect” by having the poems in this chapbook, both stylistically and thematically, spiral outward instead. I wanted it to screech against the endless loops that encompass most people’s lives. It’s a form of slow motion evolution if you follow the beaten path of endless cycles but if you sync up to a spiral mentality then there is room for endless growth. The line in the book that I always go back to is “circular paths are false for the Truth lives within the Spiral.” That line itself kind of encompasses the book.
 
Outlar: Of course, anytime I hear about “spiraling out” my neurons immediately start firing off in rhythm to Tool’s album, Lateralus. What type of influence, if any, does sacred geometry and music have on your work? What artists, writers, and musicians (past and present) influence you?
 
Brougher: The musicians that had the most influence on me growing up were the Seattle “grunge” bands of the early 90’s which I firmly believe saved my life. I remember Nirvana’s album Nevermind came out when I was just beginning 6th grade and was oblivious to the ensuing 6 years of torture I would have to endure from these wannabe rich elitist conformist yuppie swine that would haunt me to the point of contemplating suicide. I remember I was equally blown away by the lyrics to Nevermind as I was to the music. I had never heard strange lyrics like that. I was used to songs like Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls” and all of that other pithless glam-metal nonsense about partying and other meaningless things which permeated the airwaves at the time. Nirvana, and the whole grunge movement, thankfully put all that garbage to sleep. For once there was some depth in rock music again and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I know that songs by Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Tool, Screaming Trees, Stone Temple Pilots, and many other bands got me through some very hard times. For once it was like the lead singers were the “outcasts” like me and I took solace in their lyrics. I remember I used to HATE it when I saw some conformist asshole walking down the hall in an Alice in Chains T-shirt. He couldn’t relate one bit to a song like “Rotten Apple” or “I Stay Away.” I remember being on the bus to head home from school and thinking “just 15 more minutes and then I can listen to some good music with lyrics that can help heal some of the pain I’d been put through on that particular day.” Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Screaming Trees were the bands that gave me solace. Then there was Tool, a band I didn’t start to REALLY get into until 1995 at the age of 15. This band provided me with something else I was in desperate need of: strength.
 
Outlar: Alright, Heath, I want to thank you again for granting your valuable time to field my questions over the past month or so. As I send these final thoughts your way, the earth has just begun another spin around the sun. So, with 2017 now fully upon us, what do you feel this new year has in store? I’ll turn the floor over to you now. Please also feel free to express any thoughts on your mind that my questions failed to raise.
 
Brougher: First of all, thank you for the interview. As far as 2017, a lot of people are scared by this new monster of a president we’re going to have, so I figured I’d just end the interview with a quote from a band I never in a million years thought I’d like and say “don’t let Hope become a memory.”


Digital Veins (originally published in Otoliths)

Caliginous monstrosity clogation

of cognition                            unhumbled robotic caligony

fills the air                              beats upon the eardrums

its metallic taste of wobbling noise

 

we endorphinlessly morph by the day

as we further depend on these mechanical monsters

to run amuck in our lives                    and willingly allow it              so much so

these robotic beasts are infiltrating and controlling

as they slowly tempt us with their bright screams of screens

of contagious connectivity                             evolution spun metallic

soon to spring                                                 and spoil the soil [soul]

as Mankind sticks its                          perfectly uncut human perceptions

heads and hands directly into the mouths of these monstrous computer

screens swimming with waning viscera in a pixilated pool

of pathetic predetermined angles of standpoints.

 

Misperception (originally published in Eunoia Review)

That oak tree

is not really an oak tree.

 

That oak tree

is only an oak tree

because you call it an oak tree.

 

Maybe you should stop lying to yourself.

 

String of Thought

The thread of thoughts  thinkings

the threat of thoughts  thinkings,                                            leaking

hate into the head

                        brinking

into sayings

 

the slither of said  sayings

the slaughter of said  sayings,                                    sinking

 

into the viscera or invading by osmosis the brain.

 

ears hear arsonist songs sung by anarchist loaves

of Nothingnessism.                             F(r)u(i)tility.

 

Boxing for Airtime (originally published in The Curly Mind)

So strutteral and rambunctational.

Meanwhile your swagger is so thickend outwhirled

that otherwise people have been snapshot-talking about

you behind your earlobes. I never did understandify why

you carry so much about the weight of what other flesheden automatonians

thought about your emenatious animationness inny[buttonbelly]way.

Just ferment about them and leave your lifeing to your self.

Youar’ much bedder off this way. I don’t care

about the idiocity they associalate with you.

 

Nuclear Baby (originally published in SLAB)

My mother breathed contaminated air

while I was floating in the amniotic swimming pool of her belly.

My mother was pregnant with me during the Three Mile Island crisis.

She living only a forty minute drive from the power plant,

nuclear air swept into her lungs and spread to my tiny alien body.

Her umbilical cord, a soft hypodermic needle injecting radiated air,

atomic nutrients, straight into my buttonless belly.

I was born into a world of nuclear waste. Nuclear skies and

clouds pouring acid rain. Nuclear particles whisking along the toxic breeze.

I came nascent and pink into this world gasping for my first breath

among the atomic poison that blew cold and mutagenic

along the air-paths of my hometown.
 

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6 thoughts on “Showcase Spotlight #5: Heath Brougher

  1. The Poetry is very diverse. Personally, I like ‘Misperception’ it describes in just a few lines what Heath also mentioned in the interview. Start thinking for yourself instead following others opinions, you will find your own truth.

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  2. Thank you for the comment. This is no offense toward you but the past few years I’ve been saying to myself “anyone who uses that old cliché line ‘think for yourself’ has probably never had a True original though in their lives.” I’ve kind of rephrased so I don’t sound like a follower of the mindless “think for yourselfers.” It’s this: “detach and cultivate your own Intellect and Truth as you continue to Spiral outward.” It might not be as catchy but I think it’s more on the money. Again I don’t mean any offense to you by saying this. More than half the time I still say “think for yourself” myself. I’m trying to slowly convert into saying it the new way but it’s taking a while. HA! Thanks again for the comment.

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