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By Mark Brians. March 16, 2015 - 3:36 pm
Nicholas Becher, HPU Alumnus and aspiring author, is the winner of the 2015 James Vaughn Poetry Contest. He is working on several writing projects: a novel, a collection of poetry, among other things. He delivers pizzas to pay for his consumptive writing habit. Bleach-blonde hair falls from the nest of his knit cap, hanging suspended below his shoulders as he looks at me through horn-rimmed glasses explaining that he used to work elsewhere, in a more professional setting.
Now, delivering pizza, he has more time to write and makes more money.
“It’s kinda [expletive] up…” he laughs as he washes-down some JJ Dollan’s pizza with Stella Artois.
I laugh as well. So does John, a friend of ours who joins us at the table for a Guinness.
Though he loves it here, Becher is planning to leave for the mainland around August of this year.
“It’s too pricy here” he explains.
But there is more. Becher is also planning to begin an MFA program in the fall. Part of his goal in beginning the program, in Becher’s words, is “…to figure out what it means to have an MFA.”
Particularly, he wants to explore what he sees as the untapped potential of self-publishing. Self-published literature is often cast as a subaltern category of work. For Becher, however, it opens-up the possibility for authors to produce their work without having it tainted and warped by the interests of the market.
“I’d rather spend my time trying to publish my own work than trying to get someone else to pick-up my work. Both take time and effort. I’d rather spend it on the quality of my art” Becher explained.
Becher admits that the stigma against self-published works is not without grounds. There is a lot of low-grade work that passes itself off as literature. But Becher is not convinced that the presence of poor quality material ruins the medium entirely.
“If the book is good, the book is good” he explained.
I asked him about the winning poem entitled Crow. His response reminded me of David Foster Wallace’s response to Charlie Rose, and glowed with all the spectral luminosity of meta-modernist writers; equal parts frank vulnerability and self-critical distance.
“To preface this, I hate talking about my own writing… it’s really pretentious to me… people ask, ‘what does this mean?’” Becher reflected, explaining that the poem was simply a reflection on a moment from his childhood. “Sometimes it can be as simple as that.”
Concomitant with market forces is the desire for pre-digested forms of literature —forms which require little-to-no patience, reflection or thoughtfulness. Becher’s concern is to assume a pretentiousness which is afforded to him by a system gone mad with its own desire to consume. So mad, in fact, that it can no longer relate to the simple guilt and grief of childhood experiences but instead demands all the complexities of novelty with all the immediacy of kitsch.
Crow is a part of a collection of poems that Becher is working to self-publish in collaboration with a graphic artist.
He will be giving a reading of his winning poem at the 2015 Ko’olau Writers Workshop, hosted at the Hawaii Loa Campus.
To hear Becher read his poem, and to participate in the workshops go to: http://koolauwritersworkshop.com/
Photo courtesy of HPU.