Ask the Author: Thomas Patrick Levy

Thomas Patrick Levy gives us two poems from a larger body of work in the January issue.   Today, he talks with J. Bradley about the whereabouts of common sense, the mind body connection and life in So Cal.

1. Are you aware your body and mind affect your illness?

When my body is made of stones you tell me to go home and change my shoes. As if I were a child, I spend the whole day in puddles. It rains for what seems like weeks. These kinds of exaggerations ruin us. You tell me about the thunder in the midwest and I try not to think about your brain, exploded like a diagram. I try to make myself dry, covered in sand, looking for anything less cold than your voice.

2. What has become of our common sense?

I come down from the loft looking like a mistake. You make excuses for me. The hot chocolate like a prayer. I tell you that there was a fight in the dream and in the fight I got your face all bloodied with strawberry jam. Sometimes, when we are eating ice cream in front of the television I want to cry because I know in a few minutes there will be nothing to ward off those tiny diodes of sadness. They will overwhelm us and I will lie on the torn couch wishing for a bottle of leather cleaner, a rag.

3. If you could change your middle name, what would you change it to?

Middle names intrigue me. When I was younger I wouldn’t tell people my middle name, Patrick, because they would make fun of it. This was true of anyone’s middle name. Everyone I knew was ashamed of their middle name.

There’s no reason for this though. I knew people named Patrick growing up, and no one ever made fun of them for their name being Patrick. Perhaps this is because middle names are generally kept secret at a young age. The only people who knew my middle name were my relatives, my family. The only people who ever used it were my parents, and they only used it when I was in trouble.

I rather like my middle name. Growing up, my father always told me they chose my two names in order to diversify me. Thomas is the English/European in me, Patrick the Irish, and Levy the German/Jewish.

I really wouldn’t change my middle name. Not now.

If I had to, I would change it to something hip and spelled weird. A male equivalent of spelling Jane “Jayne.” I can’t think of any right now.

4. How has living in Southern California influenced your writing?

I believe that any piece of writing ought to be born out of one’s own life. I do not mean that all writing necessarily be auto-biographical. In my own writing I may not always write facts from my life, but I often bring situations, moments, and images out of my daily life into the poems.

To me, California has been a new set of images and moments to bring into poetry. The culture of California greatly differs from the culture of New Jersey / New York that I grew up with. We are all “Americans,” but there are noticeable differences.

Try visiting a gas station in both states for a bare-bones example of what I mean.

5. If you could trade in your ability to write for something, what would it be and why?

I would trade my ability to write for a few million dollars. Even though I cognitively know that money cannot buy happiness, I still feel that millions and millions of dollars would solve all of issues.

Just think of all the little things I would never need to worry about again: Car payments, maintenance of said car myself to avoid inflated dealer fees, no more rent because I would outright buy a mansion with cash, any depression could be cured with expensive pharmaceuticals (or cocaine) and if I become addicted to these drugs I’d have enough money to put myself up in some sort of celebrity-filled rehab, etc–, etc–