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Writing the Dark Out With john compton

by Devon Webb


In anticipation of his tenth collection of the decade, Devon Webb speaks with poet john compton about his creative process & experience publishing such a large body of work through the avenues of the indie lit scene. melancholy arcadia, releasing April 11th through Harbor Editions, reads as a series of snapshot images capturing the poet’s experience of the world, & also the essence of creation, presenting an intimate portrait of life, craft, & the inseparable nature of the two. Here, john compton shares insight into his unique approach towards compiling his succinct yet expansive collections, & connecting with the community which enables him to do so. 


You’re a prolific poet, with a large body of work. Do you organize your collections thematically? How did you choose which poems would feature in melancholy arcadia?


"i don't organize my poetry collections thematically. i find that boring and tedious; archaic. i organize my poetry from first poem written, to the last—like writing in a journal. i don't reorganize my poetry inside the manuscript, though i do remove poems which do not stand up to the test of time—ha!


melancholy arcadia is an older collection i had lounging around in my saved files. i love Allison Blevins and what she does with Harbor Editions. i get little whims and want publishers to publish me! and with my classy charm i emailed Allison and asked her if i could send her a manuscript."

 

This is your fourteenth collection of poetry, correct? All but four of those have been in the past half-decade – do you have any advice to share regarding how to maintain a steady output, both of the poems themselves & of published collections?

 

"i had to go check my list to see if it really was the 14th. wow. mostly, i lose track! i don't really keep track of such things like normal poets. and i've had 10 collections published since 2020, with two full lengths and another chapbook (possibly a fourth collection which will be a chapbook) forthcoming in the next two years.

 

i don't have any advice except to love what you do with your poetry and to have fun. poetry is about having fun. i've immersed myself in the poetry community and dedicated my life to poetry.

 

with publishing collections: indie publishers love what they do and believe in who they publish. look around, find one you love and befriend them. i always say if a publisher believes in my collection then we are going to be friends. i am my poetry."

 

I notice that a lot of the poems in this collection are shorter pieces, capturing small thoughts & moments. Would you say this is a recurring theme in your poetry & personal preference of yours, or unique to this collection?

 

"i love capturing snapshots. i used to write with more brevity than i do now. i still write small poems according to some people’s ideology of what a short poem is; my idea of a short poem is 10 lines or less.

 

but yes, it is all the above: recurring and personal preference. my mind is very disorganized and frenzied. i get lost easily. so capturing a moment is, for me, necessary."

 

Where do you find your inspiration, & what’s your process for translating that into poetry?


"i find my inspiration in life and what formulates in my head; i have mental health issues and my mind never shuts off. my process is: i write sporadically and with chaos; i edit constantly. i write the dark out and keep the good in."

 

How did you become involved in the indie lit scene, & what would you tell people looking to explore it?

 

"i love the indie lit scene because they love what they do; they believe in what they do. they're champions of poetry, not for the money because most don't make any but because they want to share the talent of poets and showcase them to the world. i’m the poetry editor of ghost city press and that is the exact reason i do what i do. it’s enthralling to bring poetry to the world from people who love to write poetry.

 

everyone should dive in to the indie scene. it’s where all the cool kids are. it’s where you will be loved and supported. there are no cliques here. we are all the same. i want a community where when one wins, we all win. we are all blocks building off each other."

 

Do you find that your role as poetry editor for Ghost City Review compliments your own writing, or is there anything of particular value you’ve gained from this experience?

 

"i love being the poetry editor of ghost city review. it’s been an honor to be in this position and it was really cool Kevin asked me.

 

being the poetry editor has made me cautious of my writing. i now ask myself: would i publish this? and i've gained so much experience and perspective. i've met amazing poets through the submissions. i've had opportunities being able to publish poets who have never had a poem published. i get to read hundreds of poems a month!"

 

You’ve established a presence, & one might say persona, on Twitter. Has this impacted your artistry or audience in any way?

 

"it’s wild to have people follow me and enjoy my poetry and believe in me. it baffles me, in the best of ways. i never imagined i'd be someone to look up to or that someone would be excited to interchange in conversation. i never thought people would spend their money on buying my books. these people make me stronger and make me more humble. having a presence keeps my busy in the sense that i have more to read and more to be excited about. i cherish celebrating people and the more people who friend me, the more i get to celebrate. success is everyone's win.

 

i will always write poetry for myself first, and it is always a bonus when people enjoy it. so becoming more popular just means i'm doing something correct and becoming a trailblazer in the scene. i want to be the voice that says: you can be successful without all the glimmers."

 

Are there any other artists who have influenced your work?

 

"every poet writing poetry and believing in themselves influences me. every time i get to celebrate with a poet is a dream come true. every poet is equal and just trying to do the best they can.

 

though Fanny Howe will always be the poet who i give my all to because without her i may not be the poet i am now. without her belief in me, i may still be struggling to find my voice and purpose. she was a champion of me when i was a nobody; and to Bill Corbett, my first publisher for my first book who opened every door he had for me; and to Christopher Bursk, who helped me along my way with praise and editing."

 

Do you have any ‘grand aspirations’, & what’s next for you after the release of this collection?

 "my grand aspirations is to create a huge stage in the poetry community and invite as many poets as possible to come and join me.

 

after this collection i have my next full length book “my husband holds my hand because i may drift away & be lost forever in the vortex of a crowded store” coming out from flowersong press, dec 2024; another chapbook “the skies fell revelations” coming out in the fall of 2025, with ghost city press; and my fifth full length “the calling hour & an exposition of the dead” coming out from black mountain press in dec 2025. after my fifth full length collection, i have an exclusive deal with black mountain press and all my forthcoming collections will be published with them."

 

Any final advice to impart for aspiring writers?

 

"write & do you & ignore the propaganda. contests will take your money; the publishers you dream of are capitalistic machines. you will sell just as many books being published with an indie publisher as you will with copper canyon press.

 

promote all your achievements. do not feel guilt about it. be happy, dance and keep working hard.

also read every day like it will be your last day to read. it will teach you what to write and what not to write."

 


 

melancholy arcadia will be available to purchase from April 11th at the Small Harbor Publishing:

 

 

John Compton’s other published works can be found here:

 

 

He can also be found on socials at @poet john compton (Facebook), @poetjohncompton (Twitter), & @poet_johncompton (Instagram)


 

About the Writer:

Devon Webb is a Gen Z writer & editor based in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her award-winning work has been published in over seventy journals worldwide & revolves around themes of femininity, vulnerability, anti-capitalism & neurodivergence. She is an in-house writer for Erato Magazine, an editor for Prismatica Press, & is currently working on the launch of a collective called The Circus, which will prioritise radical inclusivity within the indie lit scene. She can be found on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok & Bluesky at @devonwebbnz.

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