This post comes to you a little later than I intended, so forgive me! I wanted to post a series of blogs in April to celebrate National Poetry Month, but sadly I didn’t quite get to it. Today I’m sharing an interview with one of my favorite poets right now, Cyrus Parker. If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’ll remember my interview with poet Amanda Lovelace about their first collection of poetry, the princess saves herself in this one. I found Cyrus through Amanda and was lucky enough to watch a little bit of the love story unfold. You’ll see Cyrus mention Amanda a few times throughout the interview, as now they’re married! Be sure to keep an eye out on the blog for a review of Amanda’s latest release, the witch doesn’t burn in this one, the follow up to her first collection.
For now, enjoy this fun interview with Cyrus, and be sure to go check out the newly released collection, DROPKICKromance! Also, Cyrus mentioned two great books in this interview that are also worth looking into. The first is Amanda’s upcoming book, to make monsters out of girls (which you can go ahead and pre-order) will release in September. I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on this! The other book they mentioned (which I am also excited about) is Trista Mateer’s newest collection of poetry, Honeybee.
Here’s the interview!!
Have you always loved poetry? Were you always drawn to writing or did that develop later in your life? I know at some point you were involved with wrestling, what did that transition to poet look like for you?
It was the fifth grade that I first realized I loved writing. We had to write a very short fiction story, and I ended up writing what would amount to Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction today. I loved storytelling, and my teacher told me that I had potential to be a great writer one day, so it’s something I’ve always had tucked away in the back of my mind.
My writing hasn’t always taken a traditional form, however. As a teen, I loved to draw, so I spent a lot of time attempting to make comic books. I also wrote The Legend of Zelda fanfiction and roleplayed in chat rooms and on message boards. The wrestling thing started as a thing between myself, my brother, and a couple of friends. We loved the storytelling involved in wrestling, so we created our own backyard wrestling group that was very story and character driven. One thing led to another, and my brother and I hooked up with the BCWA, a wrestling promotion based out the downriver area of Michigan. They gave us an opportunity to work for them, and we seized it. My brother and I spent about five years working with BCWA, until they ultimately closed their doors in 2011.
The transition to poet came after I had stopped wrestling. I moved from Michigan to New Jersey with every intention of taking my wrestling career to the next level, but life doesn’t always go the way you’d planned. I was in a new state, working a job that barely paid over minimum wage and no backup plan. Eventually, I had enough and decided to register for college classes. I started as a graphic design major but quickly switched my major to creative writing after realizing how little I liked my art class, and how much I loved my English class. Though I had dabbled in poetry a bit in the past, it wasn’t until I took my creative writing class that I truly fell in love with writing poetry. This was also around the time that I had started reading some modern poetry, such as The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer, and milk and honey Rupi Kaur. This was also around that time that my then-girlfriend/now-wife Amanda Lovelace told me she was writing the princess saves herself in this one. Everything just kind of clicked into place at the right time.
Now, everything is about to come full circle. BCWA has just announced it’ll be returning in July of this year, and you can bet the DROPKICKpoet Cyrus Parker will be lacing up their boots one more time!
∙ This is your first poetry book, but is also the first in a series, correct? Can you tell us more about what will come next, or what you are working on now?
I definitely envisioned a three book DROPKICKpoetry series as I worked on DROPKICKromance. When I began compiling work for my first collection, I wrote about quite literally everything. The initial manuscript I completed was actually titled DROPKICKpoetry, and the poems were grouped into sections depending on the topic I was writing about. Ultimately, I felt that that manuscript didn’t have a good flow or pacing. So, after discussing my problem with Amanda over dinner, we decided together it might be best if I just focus on one thing, rather than everything. I then pulled the DROPKICKromance section title from the DROPKICKpoetry manuscript and decided to focus on my relationships.
With that in mind, that still leaves me with so much to say. I am currently working on book two in the DROPKICKpoetry series, which has a title, but I’m not quite ready to reveal it yet! Where DROPKICKromance focused primarily on my romantic relationships, DROPKICK2 will focus primarily on my relationship with myself, and the world round me. “Who am I?” That’s a question I think we all can relate to, and it’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a child. In DROPKICK2, I’m diving headfirst into my identity crisis, from trying to fit in as a child and teenager, to struggling with separating my wrestling persona from my real life. Also, as someone who’s recently come out as non-binary, I’ll be touching on gender and my own personal struggle with it, as well.
Expect to hear more news about DROPKICK2 very soon!
∙ What does your writing process look like? I love the way your titles tie your poems together and how certain poems tie back to previous ones. Is that something you do while you’re writing or in the editing process?
If I’m not writing for a book, I typically generate as much content as I can in my journal, writing about anything and everything that inspires me. From there, once I compile a decent amount of work, I transfer it to a word document and see what pieces speak to me, how they’re connected, and if I have enough to say about that topic.
If I am writing for a book, it’s much of the same, but I have a clear direction in mind when I write. Often, I’ll have a book title chosen before I do any major writing because, for me, the title dictates the theme. When I was writing DROPKICKromance, I went through at least five different titles, and with each one, the theme of the book changed. Once I have that title and theme, though, it’s just a matter of finding the right words to say what I want to say.
In terms of linking titles and poems to other ones, usually, I do it during the writing portion with the intent of calling back to another poem. There are those occasions, though, where the poem does a good job of calling back to another poem on its own, and during revision, I make that connection a little clearer.
∙ Most of this collection is tied to relationships, heartache, and finding both yourself and new love – what was it like to process these events and feelings through poetry and then to share them publicly?
The writing itself is very cathartic. I’ve always been someone who’d internalize everything. I never talked about my emotions, or what I’d been going through because it was just too hard to speak the words out loud, so being able to write it down has become so freeing. Of course, when you’re planning on putting that work out there for the world to read, you have to be more mindful of your audience and whether or not they can relate to it. I was terrified that no one would connect to DROPKICKromance because the experiences I wrote about are so personal to me, but people are connecting to it and honestly, it’s so surreal. It’s bittersweet, knowing that other people have been in similar situations as myself, but there’s something special about forming connections with people who have a shared experience with you, and I wouldn’t trade these connections for anything.
∙ The first poem in your book talks about how you never thought you were good enough, but you hoped you were. Where did you find this hope, this resilience, while looking in the face of rejection and self-doubt?
Honestly, it’s still something I struggle with today. Maybe not in terms of relationships, but more so in terms of connecting with other people, or putting my work out there. I have a lot more confidence now than I did at that point in my life, and a lot of that is due to my time as a wrestler. Wrestling helped bust me out of the shell I’d been hiding away in for most of my life. If you’re not walking down to the ring with an air of confidence about you if the audience can tell that you don’t believe in yourself, then how can you expect them to believe in you? Mind you, I don’t necessarily agree with that mindset, but as soon as I found my stride and started strutting around like I owned the place, even if I didn’t wholly believe it myself, the BCWA fans really got behind me. That’s part of why it was so hard for me to separate Cyrus Parker the wrestler from Cyrus Parker the person—I truly envied the level of confidence my persona possessed.
∙ This is not technically a question, but one of the things that struck me only a few poems in (particularly on “unsuspecting.”) was the honesty you write with and the connection that is so easy for the reader to make in their own lives. I related so much to the idea that we become attached to the first person that shows us affection, and I can trace events in my own life where I see the evidence of that truth.
I know I wrote about that in the context of one relationship, but I’ve fallen victim to that trap a few times, and each time ended badly. I’ve always feared rejection so much that I let it stop me from even talking to people I might have been interested in. I still craved that connection with another person, though, so the few times someone had expressed interest in me, I instantly got attached to them, even if I knew deep down we weren’t going to work. If you live your life like that, ultimately, you’re setting yourself up for more heartbreak.
∙ This is also not technically a question, just a thought I had while reading that I wanted to share. If you feel so inclined to respond, lovely. If not, also lovely – While reading “sometimes, it’s the little things.” I was struck with the beauty in the concept of the small details you mention. This is one of my favorite things we can do as writers – you write about an experience that everyone can relate to but you use details so specific to your own story that we get such a unique sense of your life.
Absolutely! It really is the little things, especially in poetry. By zeroing in and focusing on something seemingly so small, you can really explore all the symbolism it has to offer. I read a poem in my poetry workshop class— “Your Hair” by Ann Clark, which can be found in The Florida Review Volume 39—in which the speaker deals with losing someone close to them to cancer. Grief is such a heavy topic to write about, and there are so many ways you can tackle it, but the way this poem did it was so powerful. Clark chose to focus on the on the wig the speaker’s loved one purchased after losing their hair to chemotherapy: the story of her loved one picking out the wig, the presence of the wig, the weight the wig now carried with it. That poem struck such a chord with me, and I feel that it’s a perfect example of how the little things sometimes do hold the most power.
∙ In “I am mine before I am yours.” you hit on a lesson that is so hard for many of us to learn. It is a lesson that is frequently learned only when a situation forces us to learn it. Do you remember the moment this idea clicked with you when you realized that you weren’t giving yourself and your life enough credit? Do you have any advice for readers going through a similar experience?
I don’t think there was one specific moment where that idea clicked into place, but rather a series of them that made me question why I was giving so much of myself to someone who wasn’t giving the same back to me. You just have to keep in mind that people in your life will come and go. Some will stick around longer than others, maybe even the rest of your life, but you’re never going to spend more time with anyone than you spend with yourself. It’s not selfish to put yourself first once in a while.
∙ I love the tie into certain movies and cultural experiences, especially the Eternal Sunshine nods! Did you have those movies in mind when you wrote those poems or did the influence sneak up on you?
In the case of eternal sunshine i and ii, as well as pleasantville i, the title came after the poem. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a masterpiece of a movie that has stayed with me for many years, and when I wrote the two poems dealing with the erasing of someone’s entire existence from your life, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Eternal Sunshine. At the time I wrote pleasantville i, I had recently watched and written an analysis paper on Pleasantville the film for one of my English classes. The process was much of the same, where I wrote the poem, saw the connection, and named the poem after the movie!
∙ A lot of your inspiration seems to flow from your life experiences. What else inspires you, in your writing and your daily life?
I know this is gonna sound like a copout, but I’m inspired by everything. My personal experiences definitely influence most of my writing, but the state of society is something that I reflect on in my writing a lot. I’ve had two poems published in Writer’s Resist prior to writing DROPKICKromance that reflect on the 2016 US Presidential election and our current administration, and in the original DROPKICKpoetry manuscript, I had a section where I tackled many social topics, like body image, and mental health. DROPKICK2 will touch on some social issues, mainly in the way society tries to fit everyone into the same box, and the impact that can have on some. I believe poetry and protest go hand in hand, and I’d really like to delve more into that in my writing in the future.
∙ One of my favorite poems in this collection is “and it was like falling in love with you all over again.” In which you talk about reading your wife’s favorite book for the first time. Were you much of a reader before this? Can you talk about what it’s like to fall in love with someone and their favorite books, or through their favorite books? As a book lover, this is such a beautiful idea to me. I love experiencing the favorite book of people I love, it provides so much insight into their lives.
Admittedly, I was not much of a reader before Amanda, but it was one of the first things we bonded over. I remember her telling me about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and how badly I needed to read it, and so I did. Then she bought me the rest of The Hunger Games trilogy and a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and I ate them up. I couldn’t get enough, so I was constantly asking her for recommendations, buying them, reading them, and asking for more. Reading her favorite books, falling in love with the same characters and worlds that she had fallen in love with, was so magical, and it gives you such a deep look into just who someone is as a person. Luckily, Amanda and I share a very similar taste in books, so I know I can never go wrong by reading one of her favorites!
∙ Speaking of which, what’s your favorite book? What are you reading right now? Are you a re-reader, and if so, what’s one book you never get tired of?
I might be a little biased, but my favorite book right now is to make monsters out of girls by my wife, Amanda. It’s the first of a new duology titled the things that h[a]unt, so it’s not connected to her women are some kind of magic series, but if you enjoyed the princess saves herself in this one, you’re going to love monsters. While much of princess was written through the lens of a younger Amanda, monsters takes one of the relationships found in princess and delves deeper into it, in a more mature way. It’s definitely my favorite work of Amanda’s thus far, and I just know everyone is going to love it, too!
I’m not reading anything currently, sadly, but the last book I finished was the new and improved Honeybee by Trista Mateer. Honeybee is a powerful collection of confessional poetry that deals with love, heartbreak, and sexuality, in a way that makes you feel like you were the one going through these events. Honeybee is easily one of my favorite collections of poetry, and I’ve found so much inspiration in it.
I don’t reread a lot, but the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo has a special place in my heart, and its one series I can easily see myself going back to throughout my life!
∙ In your poem “I’m sorry; you don’t deserve this.” You touch on dealing with old wounds and the feeling of brokenness while also experiencing new love. I was wondering if you’d talk a little bit more about that. It’s not something our society discusses much, but, in my experience, at least, it is something a lot of us live through.
I absolutely agree that it’s something that’s not talked about much. People don’t think about how profoundly their actions can impact someone. I have a history of being lied to and cheated on, and that relationship left me with an unrelenting case of self-doubt, and trust issues that would follow me into a relationship with quite honestly, the most trustworthy person I’ve ever met. Many people push this idea that love can fix anything, from repairing a broken heart to curing depression, and that’s simply not how life works. While being in love and having someone in your life who care about you can be an unbelievably amazing thing, I’ve found that time really is the best healer, but even it can’t heal everything.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me!
So there we are, friends! I know the post is a bit late to celebrate April as National Poetry Month, but I’ve loved Cyrus’ work from the first day I found it and I wanted to spotlight it. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of their debut collection, DROPKICKromance!