If you’ve ever been to St. Louis, Missouri, you know it’s rich in art and culture. From the blues music and the street performers to the theaters and museums, you can find culture just about everywhere in the city. But there’s another culture in St. Louis, that maybe the city is less known for, but deserves more recognition. The writing culture. And more specifically, the poetry.

Down at Dunaway Books is where you can find Daniel Wright. From selling books to writing and reading poetry, he’s kind of their Jack of all trades. I stumbled across his poetry through a friend earlier this summer, and I knew I had to write about it.

I really couldn’t have chosen a better time to get into his writing, as his latest poetry book, Rodeo of the Soul, was published in March, and it blew me away. I’ve honestly never been big on poetry. It always seemed too stuffy to really enjoy. But Daniel has this way of making poetry so easy to enjoy. It spoke to me in such a way that I can’t really describe, and every piece was extremely relatable. After reading Rodeo, I had to read more of his works. I managed to get my hands on every poetry chapbook he’s had published and I went on an emotional journey.

Rodeo is, without a doubt, Wright’s strongest work. Lines from Omit the Logic, a powerful piece within Rodeo, still ring in my head from time to time. “World’s a Dali painting, wrapped in an Escher staircase.” But his chapbook Portrait is a close second, exploring themes of family, grief, love, and loss. I honestly just cannot recommend his works enough.

Fortunately for me, I was able to get an interview with him, just a bit over a month before he sets out on a book tour.

Link

Where shall we begin?

Daniel

Well, let’s start at the beginning.

Link

Ok, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Daniel

It was probably when I was fifteen. It was my freshman year in high school and I was trying to learn to be more social. There was an open mic that my English teacher was hosting and a bunch of other students went. I was looking at all these kids playing music, trying to be comics, reading poetry, and a friend encouraged me to give it a try. So I wrote a few things on the spot and I was shaking like a leaf on a tree but it felt so good to finally say some of the things that I had been told and conditioned to just store up in my head. And after that, the dam basically burst open and I haven’t looked back since.

Link

Would you say that your home life and childhood had an influence on your writing style?

Daniel

To a degree. I was always a quiet kid and books were often an escape. I was never the most popular person in the room so, since I hardly ever had anything to say, I would read. And couple that with a desire to find the simplest way to convey an idea, it really forged the directness I’ve always tried to keep in my writing.

Link

I can really relate to that. Do you think that also being from the Midwest has influenced your writing? It seemed to flavor some of your pieces

Daniel

It influences me as much as New York influenced Lou Reed and Dublin influenced James JoyceI mean the Midwest is not where one would think a lot of great poetry would be coming from but, currently, some of the best poetry I’ve been reading has been coming from the Midwest.

Link

Who would you say are some of your favorite midwestern poets? Any new talented writers we should be looking out for?

Daniel

Oh hell yes! RC Patterson, Jeanette Powers, Jason Ryberg, John Dorsey, Cierra Lowe, Zaire Imani, Shawn Pavey, Kevin Peery. I could go on and on. Some of these writers have been at it for a while but the truths in their poetry are absolutely beautiful.

Link

I’ll definitely have to check them out. Speaking of truths, I noticed that one of the more prominent themes of your works is romance. Would you call yourself a romantic?

Daniel

Oh, I am unabashedly a romantic.It’s certainly tiresome at times to leave yourself vulnerable like that all the time but, as strange as it may sound, I would rather be hurt again than be closed off from the world.

Link

I like that type of outlook. I noticed one of your books stood out with the prominent theme of family. Was writing Portrait cathartic for you, in a way?

Daniel

Very much so. I started writing that in 2015 because I realized that in two years (in 2017) it would be the ten year anniversary of my mother’s passing and I had written small little things for her in private every time the anniversary came but I wanted to say something worthwhile. And at the time I was reading Kaddish by Allen Ginsberg and that pointed me in the way of saying what I wanted to say in my own voice and after I wrote that I started finding out what my voice actually is.

Link

That’s very beautiful. Was your mother supportive of your passion for writing?

Daniel

She was supportive of me finding a path that I would be happy on. Unfortunately there were a lot of false starts in my teens and early twenties because my mind always felt like a tornado spinning with a million things in it and she unfortunately passed when I was 23 so she never really got to see me find my path.

Link

I’m very sorry to hear that. I’m sure she’d be very proud, though. You’re very talented.

Daniel

Well, I do my best but thank you, haha

Link

You’re very welcome. So, what would you say has been your biggest muse?

Daniel

This is going to sound cheesy as hell but, honestly, life. I subscribe to what Rilke said that a poem can be about anything. Even if you’re in jail with a life sentence, you can write about your youth. I mean certainly try to make art in all forms as interesting as possible but you can pull inspiration from anywhere. You just have to be looking for it.

Link

After reading your works, that really makes a lot of sense, and hits home, that life is your muse. I don’t think it’s cheesy at all.

Daniel

Well, thank you. The big thing for me is to try and make what I write relatable. I love poetry but it unfortunately has this stigma at times of being too stuffy because it’s been held hostage by academic writers too long. And academic writers certainly have their worth but so too does the street poet, the one following in the footsteps of Walt Whitman.

The one writing because it’s all they have.

Link

Speaking of relatable poets, a few people have compared your works to Bukowski. What’s your take on that?

Daniel

Haha! Well, I certainly take it as a compliment. Bukowski certainly has a reputation depending on who you ask but the thing is a lot of people buy in to the unfortunate truths and legends of him and while he was all that, he was also more than that. For every poem or story about drinking or sex, there’s poems like “Roll the Dice,” “Bluebird,” and “Dinosauria, we” as well as short stories like “The Most Beautiful Woman in Town” or most of Ham on Rye. He was certainly an influence to me early on but, like all influences, you eventually leave them behind when you have an idea of what you want to do.

Link

Is there a particular poet whose work truly speaks to you now?

Daniel

Yes but not in the same way as when I was younger. The most recent book I read was “Too Young to Know” by Kevin Ridgeway and it just blew me away with how good it was!He’s a great L. A. writer and I would love to do a reading with him sometime.

Link

If I’m being honest, that was how I felt about your book, Rodeo of the Soul. It was honestly the best poetry experience I’ve had. Because you’re absolutely right, most poetry is very stuffy, but your works are so relatable, and that makes them so easy to get lost in.

Daniel

For me, a lot of that is asking myself if people in my hometown in Florissant would appreciate it. Something the average person who is working too many jobs just to get their head above water for a second to remember what breathing felt like would be able to enjoy or be made to feel there’s someone else going through this mess.

Link

I think everyone could benefit from a little of that, these days. I’ve just got a couple more questions. What do you feel is your best piece? And follow that up with, if someone were to tell you that they wanted to start reading all of your works, where would you recommend they start?

Daniel

As for favorite piece, that’s a tough one. There are certain pieces I love reading like “Muse” and “Real Poets Don’t Wear Rolling Stones T-Shirts” (I always try to wear a Stones shirt when I read that one.) But from Rodeo, I’d say I’m fond of “Omit the Logic,” “Drink Like Old Hollywood,” “Summer,” “I’m Gone,” and “808s and Snowflakes.”

The best place to start would be Rodeo of the Soul because that’s available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website. After that, I would recommend what I call the Murder City Special trilogy which would be three chapbooks I released a year or two ago: Murder City Special, Portrait, and The Death of the Ladies Man. I hope to eventually get those books re-released in an actual book somewhere down the line.

Link

Oh I’ll be looking forward to that! Ok, let’s wrap things up with talking about the tour. You’re going on tour next month, right?

Daniel

Yes, starting in September, I’ll be going on a ten day tour where I’ll basically be going coast to coast.

Link

That’s exciting! What can we expect from this tour? Will you be doing readings and meet and greets?

Daniel

Well I’ll be focusing on my newest book, Rodeo of the Soul, as well as trying out new material from my upcoming poetry book, Brian Epstein Died for You. I’ll be giving readings on the following dates:

Sept 26 – Knucklehead’s Saloon (Kansas City, MO)

Sept 27 – Cafe International (San Francisco, CA)

Sept 28 – The Beat Museum (San Francisco, CA)

Sept 30 – West End Lounge (New York, NY)

Oct 1 – Parkside Lounge (New York, NY)

Oct 2 – White Whale Books (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oct 5 – Foam Coffee & Beer (St. Louis, MO)

I’m always down to meet people and talk so if anyone wants to say hi, they’re more than welcome.

There may be a few other dates after that tour but that is the bulk of my itinerary for the year, haha.

Link

What should we expect from you in the future?

Daniel

Well I certainly have at least two more poetry books lined up and I’ve been starting to compile a bunch of short stories so that may be something down the road.

Link

Well great! I wish you safe travels and hope you have an amazing turnout at each and every stop on your tour. And I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future works. Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with me this evening.

Daniel

Thank you so much!

Daniel W. Wright

You can order your very own copy of Rodeo of the Soul here:

https://www.amazon.com/Rodeo-Soul-Daniel-W-Wright/dp/1946642991

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