by Stacy Benson
Scott Laudati is a poet who tackles the tragic matter of drug use and addiction in America today. Laudati’s poem, “He Was Never One for Conversation,” was published in Volume Three of The Virginia Normal. It contains not only elements of drug addiction, but of family emotions, racism, and criminality, as well.
While Laudati’s material addresses a dark reality, the poet himself is open and friendly. He is the kind of guy you would find yourself easily chatting with over a latté in an obscure coffee shop in Manhattan, where he now lives. Laudati makes interviewing a pleasure because of his honesty and enthusiasm with which he responds to queries about his work.
What was your inspiration for this poem?
People were dropping dead all over my town from oxycontins, but the guy this poem is about was the first one I’d actually seen make the evolution from normal kid to junkie. He went from never having a drink in his life to overdosing twice on heroin and going to jail in less than a year. It’s a profoundly American horror story, and by now everyone has seen some version of this first hand, but at the time it was very shocking.
You touch on some very relevant, profound issues. Would you explain your thoughts on the following lines from the poem?
“But in a country that makes everyone a criminal…”
I’m white, my life has been easy, my parents are still married, and I find it almost impossible to pay my rent. This country pushes everyone right to the edge. Just surviving here forces a lot of people to do illegal things to feed their kids. The unlucky ones get caught. We’re a Christian country so we’ve been brainwashed into thinking laws are morals. 99% of the time the two couldn’t be further apart.
In reference to the issue of race: “neither team wanted me…”
I went to visit my friend in jail and all the cops were white and all the people waiting to get in to visit were black. The cops were terrible to them and when they realized I was also a visitor they were terrible to me. The black mothers and their kids looked very confused as the police ordered me around. Each side thought I belonged with the other.
In reference to a mother’s emotions: “when she realized she couldn’t save me anymore.”
When you get older and real pain happens and your mother’s hug can’t make it ok, I think it hurts them more than it hurts you. They’ve watched you evolve from a trusting kid to understanding that you’re always alone. We all go through it. It can be a boyfriend cheating or a job firing you. But once you’re at the mercy of something mom has no control over, her entire sense of worth is rattled. It’s a milestone we never talk about.
Please tell me about your writing process for this piece.
It was during a time where every person I ran into was like, “did you hear about this person, they OD’ed and died last night.” A new person every couple of days. There was, still is, a feeling of a grand evil at work, and my generation is just being viewed as livestock for their corporate profits. A growing helplessness inside of me shot this poem out, completed, in about 30 minutes.
What was the hardest thing about writing this poem?
Looking at my words and accepting that my friends and my family, we’re all just pawns in a game being played between very rich men.
Why do you write?
Because I’m a terrible painter.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Energize. Those nights when you finally get the words out right are unlike anything else.
What does literary success look like to you?
I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now. I’ve worked very hard and I’ve gotten a lot published. A little bit of money would be nice, though.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Thom Young is my favorite writer. Tony Nesca is cool. Someone (Gordon Thompson) finally forced me to get some culture and I just read James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain and Zora Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Both of those books are incredible and they really prove how racist our country is because they should be as famous as Hemingway and Twain. They’re better.
What advice would you give to novice writers?
Submit to literary journals. Get off Instagram. These Insta-poets are proud of themselves for not reading, or they only started writing a year ago and now they have big followings. It’s a trend. It will end. Work on your craft. The literary journals will give you feedback. And if you do that and work hard, when Instagram ends (it will), you’ll have something that is timeless.
To read more of Scott’s work, check out his new book of poetry, Bone House, that was released on March 11, 2018 and published by Bone Machine Books. Audra Lee of the Indiana Daily Student describes Bone House as an “unconventional book of poetry that may interest students because of its contemporary themes that include celebrities, dogs, drugs and faith.”
Scott tapped into his musical and videography talents to record a music video that sums up his new book. Here’s the link to the video: https://youtu.be/wm2_hIdf5Ys
To purchase Bone House go to:
Follow Scott Laudati on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/scottlaudati