Monday, October 8, 2018

Five Questions With Poet Dom Schwab

1. Give us a bio of your life up until now.

My name is Dom Schwab. I was born 1988 in South Bend, IN. I was raised devoutly Catholic, but that identity came to an end after I entered high school and began to realize and finally accept that I was (and still am) gay; this led to tensions with my parents (esp. my mother, who was a religion teacher at the high school I attended) over my slackening faith and proclaimed homosexuality. I remained closeted throughout the remainder high school, but I was fairly open about my sexuality with college peers. However, after graduation, I moved back home and once again hid my sexuality from my family. Throughout high school and college, I continuously turned to the activities of reading and writing in order to cope with familial stresses and to express my thoughts and feelings in a healthier mode. These pursuits were (and are) the greatest, most fulfilling endeavors of my life, so I graduated college with a concentrated degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Philosophy from a university located outside of Chicago proper. In school, I focused my studies and writings toward fiction and essays, but, after graduating and moving back in with my parents for about two years, I began to almost exclusively write poetry.

In April 2013, I found a job in Evanston, IL, and, thus, had the opportunity to move to Chicago, which I had desired since high school (and especially since it was the city where several of my college friends lived), so I took the chance and moved to the city of broad shoulders. In Chicago, I felt as though I was reinventing myself: not merely an ex-Catholic atheist, not merely an awkward, shy gay guy, not merely someone who reads and scribbles, but I as all of that plus more: I was a poet, a writer! Living in the kingdom of the Midwest, I felt like I was accomplishing my dreams, or at least one of my dreams. Initially having moved to Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, I later settled in Rogers Park, the northernmost & easternmost neighborhood of Chicago, where I have lived for the past five years. I have continued to read, write, and think all the while.

In the spring and summer of 2015, my position at work was changed and I met a man with whom I became infatuated, which resulted in a great deal of misunderstandings and toxic emotions and, finally, I forced an end to this pseudo-relationship. In an effort to recover a health mental and emotional state, I turned to finishing a chapbook I had been tinkering with since the fall of 2012; this process was lifesaving in a way and, three years after having started working on this project, my little chapbook was self-published. My chapbook, “[blank]; or, The Fall; or, The Sincerely Sad and Depressive Micropoetry Cycle,” was a collection of thought-scraps gathered chronologically in order to tell a story of depression, self- hatred, family, friends, and alienation from other gay men/gay culture, and finishing the project was quite rewarding. Nevertheless, I was still emotionally and mentally unwell, even suicidal at times, which I had not been since a handful of scattered months in high school and college.

In the winter and spring of 2016, therefore, I chose to learn from my experiences, picked myself up, and sought to move forward; although I had been an atheist up until this time, I suddenly turned to astrology and a mild form of “magick” in order to facilitate my self-recovery. This seemed to work for me (whether true or placebo) because I gradually became mentally and emotionally healthy. Then, in April 2016, James, a coworker with whom I’d been friendly, asked me out on a date. I accepted, and we have been together ever since (~2.5yrs). My interest in “magick” waned after meeting James, peaked again in the fall of 2016, and then dwindled as I focused my energy on fortifying my relationship with James. (I do, however, continue to use astrological and “magickal” terms and metaphors as a part of my understanding of who I am.)

In August of 2017, James and I moved in together, which has been a source of great happiness for us, as it is has strengthened our relationship (though we tend to be homebodies, not socialites). But that isn’t too bad, since, throughout all this time, I have been reading and writing, thinking and tinkering, working on perfecting my literary pieces for mass consumption, which, next to James, has remained and continues to remain my most fulfilling passion and love.

Then, on April 5, 2018, my mother passed away; I was fortunate to have been able to clear the air with her regarding my sexuality and our past (which in high school had been traumatic for me), so that we were on good terms with each other since 2015. She and my father had accepted that my sexuality was, in fact, a part of who I am as a person, and they had met James a handful of times and seemed to approve of him. I was fortunate to have been with her on her last day: to say goodbye, to reaffirm my love for her, and to tell her that, despite our troubles throughout the past, she had been a good, exemplary mother. It was hard to lose her, as I would say that, despite the hardships, we had always been close, but this inevitable—though sudden—event sparked something within me, a realization that we only have a single chance in this world to accomplish our dreams. As you may well be able to guess, mine has always been to live a life of reading, writing, and thinking. So now, I divide my devotion between two well-deserving loves: my boyfriend James & the pursuit of a literary life.

2. What was the first poem that you fell in love with? How did it make you feel? Did it make you want to write? How did you come across it? (Mine was “The Day is Done by Longfellow:

I have loved poems, but I do not fall in love with “a poem” so much as I fall in love with what the poet is saying in the poem (or a novel, play, etc.); therefore, I feel more like I am falling in love with the poet than a single, specific poem. That being said, some of the poets I have fallen in love with are Sappho, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, e e cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Hayden Carruth, Maya Angelou, and Megan Boyle. However, one poem which has been reverberating through my mind lately is “I Stop Writing the Poem” by Tess Gallagher. This poem’s beginning is especially relatable to any author or artist who must live in the real world, so to speak.

3. If you could have dinner with any poet/writer dead or alive who would it be and what where would you take them to eat? What would be your first question to this poet/writer?

If I could truly pick only one, I would unabashedly choose Whitman. I think of him as my literary Grandfather. In this scenario, Whitman and I would go on a picnic, spreading out our blanket in either a small, sparse forest or atop a gentle knoll overlooking an oceanic beach. We would share finger foods, such as crackers with cheese, some nuts and berries, and a stone fruit (perhaps a peach). Here, my first question would probably be “May I stay with you forever?” To which he would probably reply, “No,” explaining that his lust for life, experiences, and writing is too rapacious to be satiated by a constant companion. I would be humbled by this response, admitting its truth, and would then proceed with our conversation, hoping to acquaint myself with him inside and out for as much time as we would be allotted together.

4. If you had to chose a book that best describes you which book would it be?

I think the book which best describes me would be a treasury of poetry, one which contained a vast variety of poems, representing classical forms and contemporary/experimental, one which showcases a wide variety of themes, though the most prevent theme is love, whether platonic, familial, romantic, lustful, or unrequited. Additionally, I view myself as a hodgepodge of identities which exist either symbiotically support or cacophonously clash against each other; this is a part of what being a human being is all about, it is a part of the “human condition.” To pick the single work of a single author would be, I believe, too limiting. But a book such as a treasury or anthology, which presents a wide variety of forms, styles, themes, and expressions, would probably be the best choice to describe what I am most like (or, at least, what I most like to think of myself as). In this instance, and perhaps to answer the question more precisely, I might be likened to the Anita Dore’s anthology The Premier Book of Major Poets (“A Dialogue of Poems”).

5. What is your writing process like? How do poems find you? What inspires your poetry?

My writing process typically involves some sort of electronic. 98% of the time, I am either A) sitting at my computer typing, or B) away from my computer and tapping into my smartphone’s Notes app. Often what happens is, there will be an expression, or a sentence, or a fraction of a sentence which floats through my head…sometimes it is an image or the silhouette of a character which shimmers into exists within my mind. If I am able to retain this long enough to record it (and, hopefully, expand upon it), then I will have written something, usually a poem or sometimes a short story or essay/review. Poems often originate through delicious fragments, as I said, or through emotional responses to information I receive, or through daydreams, or through witnessing an experience, or by trying to find a way to pass the time. They can be as harsh or sharp as daggers or they can float into view as delicately as a child’s summertime bubble. Nature inspires me, my thoughts/opinions/interpretations/musings inspire me, the love I give to and receive from family, acquaintances, and especially James inspires me, as do the books of those I have read and love. And what I am inspired to do is to add my own voice to the conversation, and to document my experiences, and to, with luck and generosity, share my writing and a part of myself with others.