Jack C. Buck Interview, with Davon Loeb
An educator, an editor, a fictionist, and a poet, Jack C. Buck, you’re a man stretched to all ends. As an educator myself, I know how difficult it is to scrummage for time, a rare commodity. That being said, how do you manage all your different responsibilities, including professional, literary, and personal?
When I am at school, it is my responsibility to fully give the time and energy to the students. Of course, there’s the overlap from time to time; however, overall, I believe I manage a healthy balance of life’s goings between professional, literary, and personal. Now that being said, I wasn’t always good with this compartmentalization - this way of going about life, work, and art pursuits in the beginning wasn’t so defined. It took me some trial and error and maturity to realize the all-in mentality of artistic hopes doesn’t often work for the long run. Nor do I want to be thought of in that manner. Admittedly, in social settings, to my own knowing, out of a little bit of fear - not to be mistaken as embarrassment—I make a point to not come across as a writer.
I find that being a public-school teacher affects my writing, besides not having much time to write, but by also leaving me in a constant state of nostalgia, for the better or the worse days when I was a fourteen-year-old boy. Can you relate? Do you think life as a public-school teacher not only affects your actual writing, but also affects the kind of stories you tell or do not tell, and if so, how or why?
Absolutely, I certainly relate to your feelings. And I am thankful and grateful, as I am sure you are as well. One of the best things about being a teacher is how it makes you that much more of an empathetic human being. Being around kids five days a week for eight hours a day makes me a better person. Seeing their joy and innocence allows for hope. Working at a school is like walking through the hallways of your high school and hearing your favorite 90’s song as the soundtrack of your life.
Your debut collection, Deer Michigan, published by Truth Serum Press in 2016, I believe is one of the finest models of flash fiction today; furthermore, it was noted by Simon Pinkerton at Necessary Fiction as, “…is like Stranger Things”; and in every way, I agree—the stories taking on time, place, and memory as effortlessly as any nostalgic-driven film or television series.
Now in 2018, your new poetry collection, Gathering View, was just published by Punch Drunk Press; and you again, wield temporal and spatial settings, as well as, witty and discursive writing like a breath of a whisper—from the poem, “it doesn’t mean a lot but it does”, you write, “summer is summer/ and summer some more/ one can almost not remember when the day is its own way/ in reaction the light dims/ and the heat eventually turns into a box of basement sweatshirts/ with relief and welcome the beginnings of autumn…”. And both collective and individual, these poems transpose readers to places, and times, and people.
Thus, how do you straddle both poetry and fiction so easily? And in what ways was writing Deer Michigan and Gathering View a difference experience, if focusing on form and craft?
Ha. First off, thank you for the kind words. Hearing others personally letting me know they enjoy a certain story or poem or even specific line, means a whole lot - every writer says this, but it’s 100% true. As far as ease goes, needless to say, it wasn’t. Not until, I reached a point in my mid-20’s of not caring if anyone else liked the writing. At this juncture of my writing hopes, I stopped worrying about all the externals and solely wrote for myself and the people I care about. One of the best things I’ve done with my writing was gathering 20 plus journals/notebooks containing over 2,000 poems and soaking them in my bathtub then throwing them out in the back dumpster. That was the turning point; thereafter, I wrote not out of a feeling of need and previous expectation, but only when I felt like it. Taking on this mentality to writing brought about my three books: most recently this 2018 year Gathering View and will you let it send you out. Writing the poems truly felt great. I am very happy and proud of the poems in those two new books due to the intention behind the writing; there was no difficulty or strain whatsoever in the writing process. This way of creation doesn’t fit for everyone; but for me, I only write when I feel like it.
As a co-editor at Harpoon Review, you and Gary E. Lovely have published some of the freshest voices in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. While many literary magazines and journals publish bi-monthly or seasonally, you and Gary publish monthly, which is an incredible amount of work to read, edit, and print—but you do it, and continue to showcase a variety of diverse writers. If possible, what advice can you give to established or new literary editors navigating the sometimes-endless inbox of submissions?
Being an editor takes a lot of time, but it is worth it if you stick with it for the long haul. It is all about finding people you like working with; otherwise, you may burn out. Even so, you still may not feel like doing it all the time. For us at Harpoon Review, what works is the small shop mentality we take on. I would love to have eight other beautiful souls reading all the submissions with us, but there’s something nice about not having too many cooks in the kitchen.
In an interview with Loren Kleinman at Huffington Post, you said that “…writing is fun when it’s fun”; so, do you still find it fun after two books, four years publishing at Harpoon Review, and teaching in Colorado?
Yes, it’s still fun. It would make me quite sad if I ever stopped. I guess if I ever did stop for good, it would be okay in the end; I would just have to accept it and find some other hobby of enjoyment.