Poet and memoirist Nick Flynn has worked as a ship’s captain, an electrician, and as a case-worker with homeless adults. His most recent book is My Feelings, a collection of poems. In 2019, two new books will appear: Stay, a collection of collaborations and writings, as well as I Will Destroy You, a collection of poems. He is also the author of three memoirs, including Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and was adapted to film as Being Flynn. His work has been translated into fifteen languages. More about his latest book follows this interview.
He will be reading at the Cagibi Fall 2018 Hudson Valley Writing Retreat.
Cagibi: Hilaire Belloc, the early twentieth century Anglo-French writer and historian, wrote, “We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
Nick Flynn: I’d agree . . . as long as distraction is considered as valid as fulfillment.
Cagibi: Name some of your favorite distractions when you travel somewhere.
Flynn: In any new place I find myself in I have a daily practice of making a collage from three scraps of found ephemera. It somehow grounds me.
Cagibi: A cagibi, loosely interpreted, is a space such as a cubbyhole, or a space where you store things. Or the workspace in which authors write. For ourselves we’ve translated it as “any shelter, no matter how tiny, that allows for big imaginings to take shape.” Pick what kind of cagibi would be best suited for your creative process: a) a super organized cubbyhole b) a super messy tool shed c) any restricted space d) a space as vast as the universe.
Flynn: b) a super messy tool shed
Cagibi: Please explain your choice in previous question—we are dying to understand your creative process.
Flynn: It’s always cool to get a glimpse into someone else’s toolshed—also, it is good to have a range of tools on-hand, which can suggest ways into a project that might not have been considered. Also, I could straighten it up.
Cagibi: How does traveling to a new place influence your writing? In what ways do you incorporate travel experiences into your writing?
Flynn: I try to learn some basic language skills whenever I’m in a new place . . . the way languages line up and the ways they don’t is fascinating.
Cagibi: Do you use your work as an excuse to travel?
Flynn: I don’t need an excuse to travel.
Cagibi: Do you use travel as an excuse to not work?
Flynn: I don’t need an excuse not to work.
Cagibi: Did you ever have to hide in order to write? Where, and how long did you stay in there?
Flynn: I have spent my life trying to come out of hiding.
About Nick Flynn’s My Feelings
Nick Flynn’s latest book is My Feelings, published in 2015 by Graywolf Press. From the publisher:
In My Feelings, the author makes no claims on anyone else’s. These poems inhabit a continually shifting sense of selfhood, in the attempt to contain quicksilver realms of emotional energy—from grief and panic to gratitude and understanding.
. . . the take from his bank jobs, all of it
will come to me, if I can just get him to draw me
a map, if I can find the tree, if I can find
the shovel. And the house, the mansion he
grew up in, soon a lawyer will pass
a key across a walnut desk, but even this
lawyer will not be able to tell me where this