A Cup of Coffee with Mickey Finn
Mickey Finn is a chewed up and spat out poet born and raised in Liverpool, U.K. After his birth in 1991 and a relatively unremarkable life, he recently released his first book, Golden, having worked on it for between three to four years.
Can you tell us a bit about Golden, the book you just published?
Golden was originally written to ascertain whether a person I once knew was dead or alive. We were close, unbelievably close for people thousands of miles away, but out of nowhere, they disappeared, and all contact stopped. We were in a relationship, and it all ended in the space between night and day. I never envisioned myself writing and releasing a book; poetry was strictly a hobby that I never shared, but I connected with a poet who saw my material and consistently told me to write a book. I didn’t listen, but I did start a little page on a website called Hello Poetry; that was the first step I took, and after being read over 300,000 times, my poet friend continuing to press for a book, and circumstances surrounding the aforementioned close person, I finally decided to write Golden. After building up a bit of an online following, it was released, and here I am, being interviewed, which is something I never imagined happening to me.
I don’t know how Golden was ever going to deliver the result I had originally wanted; I was dumb and in love. Maybe a relative of that person or a friend of theirs would see it, recognise my name, read it and reach out to me. Regardless, the person is alive, so the book, as far as I’m concerned, didn’t achieve its goal. Its only purpose now is to be enjoyed by anybody that gets a copy, be it for reading purposes or to use as a fly swat or to balance a coffee table with or something.
To try and create as big a splash as possible, I tried to create a new literary movement. As far as I know, Golden is the only book of it’s kind to exist, though I could be wrong. I attempted to blend a combination of naturalism, modernism, and postmodernism (in terms of literary movements), and a combination of modernism and postmodernism in a philosophical sense, to create what I hope is the first non-academic work of metamodernism, a new train of philosophy thought which I am interested in.
On the surface, Golden is a fictional and factual story built by poems, and the story is stitched together by a mathematical sequence (don’t worry everybody, the maths is subtextual and is only apparent if you go looking for it), and everything surrounding Golden is essential to the messages it tries to deliver, from the dandelion on the cover to the size of the pages. The concepts of the book would not work if those details were not as specific as they are. Whether all that nerdy shit is noticed by readers or not doesn’t matter; it exists now, and life goes on.
When did you become a poet? How did you know it was the right medium for your stories?
I first started deliberately writing poetry in roughly 2010. Back then, it was just something to do during the day, as I was unemployed, very poor, fresh out of college with no work experience in the middle of an economic downturn. I’ve written a lot, or tried to write a lot, and I still do; I have a lot of ideas for novels floating around in my head, but, over the years, I’ve come to enjoy the precision in poems and the flexibility across a collection of poems. With poetry, I find I can be a lot toothier; I can be deliberately stabby and jagged whilst still being accessible, and at the same time, in the same text, I can write floaty bullshit too. It’s an unbridled art form. That sounds like artsy-fartsy crap, but it is what it is.
Who are some of your literary or artistic crushes?
I first got my start in writing what I now know to be poetry by endlessly listening to dramatic readings of Poe; his works and the mastery with which he wrote fascinated me. I have read his complete works more than I can count; my favourites of his are The Raven (obviously), and The Cask of Amontillado. Bukowski is another huge influence--obviously (I don’t think you can write poetry without reading Bukowski, can they?). Byron is an influence on me also, but not just his poetry; the way he lived his life is hilarious. He had a pet bear and slept with the entire British establishment, and I think he got kicked out of the country because of it too!
Outside of poetry, I am influenced by a wide array of people across many fields: Sartre, Camus, Baudrillard, Jung--to name a few--are largely responsible for my outlook on life. I am a fan of art, although I do not understand it, but I enjoy Rothko and Beksinski particularly. I have far too many musical influences to name or go into detail about, but I enjoy Radiohead, The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Tame Impala, Hozier, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Notorious BIG, Nas, Wu Tang Clan, Lowkey, Akala, Immortal Technique, Mobb Deep, Gallows, Korn, Tool, Black Sabbath, Alice In Chains, Pulp; I’ll stop here before I send you all into a coma (2020 has punished us all enough without me adding to it).
What are you currently reading?
The State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin. Since this is a poetry publication, I don’t think that that is a satisfactory answer, so the last poetry book I read was The Pleasures of the Damned by Bukowski, which I read almost habitually; before that, Dear Mirror by Madison Gonzales. She is very talented and worth checking out.
How do you beat writer's block?
I don’t beat it. The moment I feel like I’m struggling to write something, I stop writing. I don’t force it out. I’ll note roughly what I want to do with something so as to not forget, and I’ll go about my life doing what I usually do. Then, often out of nowhere, I’ll be listening to or reading something, or something will catch my eye, and I’ll snap back into writing, which often leads to be finishing one piece and then going back to finishing the other piece I had left unfinished; a poem in Golden, hypernormalisation, took me about two years to write for this exact reason. You might read it and be perplexed as to how such a poem took so long to produce, but it took a very long time as I couldn’t figure out how I wanted it to be realised, how it should look aesthetically, and how I should approach the setting of the poem itself.
Do you feel that sharing your poetry is a vulnerable process?
To a degree, yes. But if humans can’t be vulnerable, what can they be? This is something I dislike greatly. We, as a species, have become so far removed from our own emotions that it’s considered brave to be openly vulnerable. We’re so terrified of being outwardly honest to and about ourselves. The universe is indifferent to us and our little feelings, so why should we self-censor in that respect? We’re insignificant, and we’ll all be dead soon enough. In the future, nobody will care about us, so why do we limit ourselves and feel limited by others in this impermanence? We are all dirty and living is much more liberated when we admit it.
What influenced you to become a poet?
Nothing and nobody in particular inspired me to become a poet. I wasn’t surrounded by hugely artistic people so, when I originally started writing poetry, I didn’t even know they were poems; I was just a dumb little emo kid weirdo, sat in boring college lessons, writing shockingly bad prose instead of doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. It was only after a year or two that I realised I was writing poetry, and I cannot condemn my early writing strongly enough. I don’t think I believed in the concept of spelling back then, and I used words like ‘babe’. What was I thinking?
What is the first book that made you cry?
1984 made me cry; the last line of that book is the best last line I have ever read. Although I agree with Huxley’s idea of dystopia more than I do Orwell, 1984 is still a brilliant book. That’s the last book I can remember crying at, but I’m sure there are books that made me cry before that; Of Mice and Men probably made me cry. That makes lots of people cry.
Do you take poetry classes or read books on poetry?
No, because art--be it poetry or painting--should never be defined. In my view, it’s fine to learn the history of poetry, but you should never be taught how to write poetry. Art is emotion, and you can’t be taught to feel a certain way. You can’t learn answers for things that are only supposed to ask questions. It’s important to know about form and metre, ars poetica, why poets wrote a poem in a particular way, etc., but anybody who tries to teach somebody else how to write a poem is a grifter in my eyes. All art is subjective, and only the individual can define what their idea of poetry is by writing poetry. “When the spirit wanes the form appears.”
How do you research for your poems?
I generally don’t research specifically for poems; poems are just a by-product of what I usually do to fill the days in. I feel that you kill poems if you put too much thought into them before you actually start writing them; you limit yourself and art should never be limited. I write about whatever I feel like writing about in any given moment, and I do so in an almost transcendent state. I think about themes regarding specific projects, sure, but personally, I don’t think you should research for the purposes of writing a poem. You should research and read and teach yourself for the sake of it, and should a poem come out of that, then so be it.