To celebrate the release of Starve the Vulture — the latest release in Akashic’s Kaylie Jones Books imprint — J. Michael Lennon spoke with Jason Carney about his inspirations, writing a memoir, and the differences between poetry and prose:
J. Michael Lennon: Why did you decide to write a memoir?
Jason Carney: I started writing this book in 2007, shortly after the car wreck that opens the story. My friends, poets Roger Bonair-Agard and Marty McConnell, opened their apartment to me that summer to get clean. I spent every day at the Spring Lounge writing (sober). From those thirty days of writing came the beginnings of the present thread of Starve the Vulture. When I say the beginnings, I mean that was some strung out gibberish. I put it away after the summer of 2007 and did not revisit the project until I went to school.
In 2010 I started at the Wilkes University MFA Program for Creative Writing—shortly after my friend Gabrielle Boulaine passed away. In fact, Laura Moran, a fellow alumnus of the program, first told me of the school at Gabrielle’s life celebration. The manuscript that became the book Starve the Vulture was my master’s project at Wilkes University. I feel this is part of the gift my friend Gabrielle gave me.
JML: What aspect of your work as a slam poet aided you in writing a memoir? For example, did the rhythms of poetry help you?
JC: In slam you have to be impactful. You have limited space to make emotional and logical appeals to move a crowd. You learn quickly to survive at that game for a sustained period of time—the poetry cannot waste words. Narratives are natural vehicles for poems in these types of venues. Notice I refer to slam as a venue, a specialized poetry reading, and not a type or genre of poetry.