what is your name?
how would you describe what you do?
I write to share the human experience with others. Life is so short, and if through reading and writing a mixed martial artist can find a newfound understanding for a visual artist, a home-schooling mother of three children for a heroin addict, a pianist for an astronaut, a dentist for a grade-school teacher, a corporate executive for a janitor, a dry-waller for a musician, a workaholic for a stress-free and happy homeless man, a big-game hunter for a Buddhist monk – I think we will judge each other less, find more common ground in the political arena, appreciate each other more, and come closer to achieving the type of peace of which Ghandi speaks.
what are you currently working on?
I’m polishing up my forthcoming book of poems, Until You Make the Shore, which will be released by Salmon Poetry (www.salmonpoetry.com
) in January 2012. Casting new light on the shadowed experience of young women in an Arizona juvenile detention center, Until You Make the Shore fuses the natural, often uncontrolled cadence of human speech with formally controlled poetics that mirror the juvenile justice system and its effects on those it confines. Dramatic monologues and dialogues, as well as observations and found poems from within the detention center develop a bond between teacher (outsider) and student (insider) while unraveling the context of their incarceration. A context revealing a connection between those enclosed and those considered free: that sense memory makes the human experience anything but an individual one.
I’m also working on and seeking publication for my memoir, Caged: A Memoir of a Cage-Fighting Poet.
what has had the greatest influence on your work?
My past, in general. It’s been and is a continuous well of experience to reflect upon for a deeper and more intensely fulfilling future. Pain in particular: it reminds me of the fragility and beauty us humans embody. It humbles me. It makes me capable of appreciating something as small as a gutter or blade of grass and something so grand as the love I share with my fiancée, or our own existence.
what is the greatest misconception about you or your work?
I suppose any misconceptions are not those directly expressed to me, but those I sense through conversation or some other mind realm. That is, that writing is a selfish act. It’s a misconception because people view the solitary practice of writing as the act in itself of the art. The act of the art is studying it, crafting it to the best of your abilities, then sharing it.
Also, that writing isn’t as difficult or as important as the sciences or even of other types of art. There is a great quote somewhere that sticks with me, something like: A couple is at a restaurant and everybody is in awe of the piano player. “How does she do that?” they say in astonishment. “Imagine how much practice!” However, few people seem as amazed by the writer, because everybody signs their name, everybody writes a letter or two here and there. There are different levels of writing. For example, a dime-store paperback novelist who churns out five books (more or less the same) each year or a ghost-written celebrity memoir cannot compare to the artist or artistic complexity of an Allen Ginsberg. However, they are all sharing an experience uniquely and undeniably human, and it is here where there is the linked similarity.
what do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the medium you work in?
The biggest strength of writing rests in its expression-flexibility. So many genres, so many styles within each genre, so much of each genre yet to be explored and boundaries to be pushed. There is or can be something for everyone in writing.
I suppose the biggest weakness (and this of poetry in particular) is that it’s constantly some of the first programs cut when a university undergoes a budget crisis. Readership of poetry in America is low compared to other countries, but our understanding of each other should not take a backseat to learning new mathematical formulas to, for example, run electricity better. I’d take infinite dark nights over a population of uncaring, uninformed citizens any day.
how has technology impacted upon the work you do?
I teach creative writing online for Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. This both scares and excites me. Scares because many renowned scientists believe we’ve already consumed our resources past the point of no return, of civilization collapse. Excites because I’m not (yet) a full believer in this, and because I have changed the lives of students from all over the world for the better through the written word, and I’ve done so while in the comfort of my pajamas.
what’s the greatest piece of advice you would like to pass on?
where can we find you online?
www.cameronconaway.com or friend me at my Facebook page:
what are you reading at the moment?
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
what are you listening to at the moment?
The sound of my breath
anything else we should know?
I’ve set a potential career in mixed martial arts to the side to pursue writing. So, if anybody would like to schedule me for a reading when my book/books are released I will bring the energy of a fighter to the performance. I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. Have writing, will travel.