Clifford Brooks is a poet and curator, of sorts.
What he curates is a group of artists as part of an organization called The Southern Collective Experience.
Among the books he’s published are poetry collections Exiles of Eden and
Brooks explains below what Southern Collective is about.
From its website, here’s how Southern Collective describes its membership: “Members are men and women who have achieved a certain level of mastery and accomplishment in their work and who see a need for ongoing professional support among creative peers.”
One of the fun parts of this little project called Bidwell Hollow is finding out about people like Clifford Brooks.
It can feel lonely out there for an artist, especially those of us in the literary arts. Now and then, though, you come across someone who is not only writing, but is helping to highlight others’ work.
Finding these people is like stumbling across a whole sand dollar while walking on the beach. You feel delighted. You want to pick them up and share them with everyone you come across.
And so I present to you this Q&A with Clifford Brooks; poet, curator, promoter of artists.
Remember, writers whose work appears on Bidwell Hollow do not receive direct compensation. Please consider purchasing their books, or at least helping others discover them by sharing their work, or this interview, on social media. Thank you.
If you’re a published poet or author, you too could be featured on Bidwell Hollow. Reach out to me via the Contact form on this website.
Q&A with Clifford Brooks
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Crawford, Georgia. It’s a small town half an hour south of Athens. These days I live in Roswell, Georgia just outside of Atlanta. My hobbies are my livelihood and include music, writing, exercise, landscaping, philosophy, movies, and books. I am a man of faith. I am autistic. I try every day to be a humble, empathetic, proactive person.
How and when did you get started writing poetry?
I began at ten-years-old writing short stories instead of doing my homework. My grades suffered, but my creative life flourished. Writing allows me to ease into a world my autism often clashes with. Self-discipline and more than a little encouragement from my folks helped my creative writing and grades improve enough to get me into college.
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry means music.
Poetry was the first language of teaching.
Before the written word, oral tradition was the birthplace of entertainment and education.
Early humans figured out that telling stories in rhyme, infusing words with melody, increased the chance the moral would be remembered.
Morality tales, family history, adventure stories, and romance were all told in meter so the next generation could learn from their elders and then add to, and pass on, that wisdom to their children.
The Southern Collective Experience
What is The Southern Collective Experience? How did it start?
The Southern Collective Experience is a corporation of artists. It started as a means to gather and grow artists from all genres in a safe place of humility, professionalism, and comradery. It started with the mission to raise respect for artists, and art as a vocation. These things haven’t changed.
Our tag line is, “We are all south of somewhere.” Those on our roster and covered in our projects are from all lifestyles and locations.
Today we have a journal of culture called The Blue Mountain Review, and a monthly NPR show, Dante’s Old South. The SCE members have been vetted, bring their own game, retain their independence, and enrich the whole by continuing to be the brilliant men and women we know them to be.
Who are some of the artists who are part of the Collective? And what does being a member entail?
The best way to get to know the artists is to hit up the website (www.southerncollectiveexperience.com).
To be a member it comes down to drive, momentum, sense of humor, strong work ethic, and an absence of drama. Not being a raging jackass goes a long way. There is an application process that requires a portfolio. Members take on the responsibilities their busy schedules allow. It is fun. It is a business.
How do you define whether or not an artist is Southern?
That’s where the name throws folks off. I am from the South, there are members from the South, but not all members are. That is not, nor has it ever been, a requirement. What’s important is if the heart is in the right place.
Clifford Brooks on reading
Who are some poets or writers that you admire, either past or present?
Dante is my bro-mance. I am an avid fan of Edna St. Vincent Millay, (Ranier Maria) Rilke, (Carl) Sandburg, (Robert) Frost, (Walt) Whitman, Frank Stanford, (Rudyard) Kipling, Wallace Stevens, Dan Veach, Leon Stokesbury, Langston Hughes, Mary Oliver, Melissa Studdard, Edgar Kunz, William Blake, John Keats, Elizabeth Browning, Robert Pinsky, Hafiz, Rumi, Li Po, Wang Wei, Louise Gluck, and Jericho Brown.
Have you read any good books lately?
Lives of the Poets by Michael Schmidt, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, The Bible, In the Company of Rilke by Stephanie Dowrick, Tap Out by Edgar Kunz, At the Founding Hospital by Robert Pinsky, Lunchboxes by Dan Veach, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast by Melissa Studdard, and Thinking Without a Banister by Hannah Arendt
Lastly, anything else you’d like Bidwell Hollow readers to know about Clifford Brooks or your work?
My work is accessible. The poetry I write tells a story.
I strive for realism in terms of experience even when the landscape of my imagination is located far from everyday life.
I knew I couldn’t play music the same way it made me feel, so I embedded a symphony in the connective tissue of the written word.
Thank you to Clifford Brooks for this interview. You, too, could be featured on this blog. Use this website’s contact form to reach out.
I Remember the Earth
by Clifford Brooks
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. – Isaiah 65:17
I remember the Earth. I imagine her as a perspicacious matriculation of harsh matron and kind lady who strings green beans between the idols of Artemis, Hermes, and Heracles. It is impossible for me to think of the Earth, or creation, rebirth, or the universe without her face (much like mine without the trace of a hard line.) Her world wept when I awoke rubber bit-choked, chained to a hospital bed. A spell cast beyond our embryonic farewell held my arms down when withdrawals sprawled in bones and guts. (Enough!) She breathes relief these days as her son displays less foolish play prone to alert police.
The Earth, like the womb with a view (a good one, mind you – my first Earth), the one-room apartment it took eleven hours to leave, and I carved “Brooks was here,” down the her spine and uterine wall when it was clear my refusal wasn’t relevant. I didn’t love her (Mom) too much (or too long) or war with my father as a crutch to fulfill Freud’s Oedipal hunch. She and I laugh as Earth eats the old and allows a new generation (the same as we were) to be hated as I say, “Back in my day…”
The Earth hasn’t, God hasn’t, life-begetting-life hasn’t hewn a line to pull Pluto from an orbit to make Venus find a keenness for humans. But when you get comfy, what’s the stuff that spins us into a thicket? Eros. I met her in an emotionally-crippled condition, well-lit, preoccupied by attrition. This new, blonde Earth or principality or conflict with Hume’s causality (perhaps “purgatory” because mankind tends to fuck up perfection), is in this building, a few rooms away, probably petrified to share her insight or career while I sit here serene and sincere.
Hawaiian Nightmarchers, broken horses, rocket launchers, years of evenings overlooking Okinawa, an extraction plan in Atlanta – my harlequin idea of heroism is bent on a cauli-flowered ear. (Fear? No.) The cosmos is full of AirPods, lightning rods, Cape Cod, and Alderaan. We stand straight with our backs to fact, and over time her scarves and forever-snoozed morning alarms tie off my addictions, the contradictions
I kept like rubies thinking deception was the strongest, tallest wall.
Not at all, it is a prison silent and savage. Our language is smeared like lipstick on a mirror saying, “Go! Run now with the spirit of Invictus won!” The “I” of the covetous me, the boy in the mid-70’s set free, grown into a third person perspective with room for two, baggage abandoned on the curb. (Do not pry or disturb.) I remember the Earth.
– “I Remember the Earth,” by Clifford Brooks. Copyright 2019. Used with permission of the author.