Contributor Spotlight: Richard Weaver

The poems “Victor Hugo,” “Leonard ‘Chico’ Marx,” and “Karl Heinrich Marx” by Richard Weaver appeared in Issue 15 and can be read here.

We’d love to hear more about this set of poetry.

The Last Words poems back story: I was doing research for another poem, since abandoned, when I ran across the last words of Noah Webster: “The room is growing crepuscular.” As a collector of Dictionaries, and a huge fan of the word crepuscule and all its variants, I immediately wrote a poem – Noah Webster’s Last Words. And quickly knew other such poems were lingering in the Bardo. The next 20 odd last words came from internet searches; the remainder, later, from a book with 3700 Last Words,  most of which were DOA with no hope of a second life. The few I chose had an edge to them, a real awareness and a refusal to be a victim (Richard Harris). Some were laughingly pre-scripted (Philip Larkin). Others tinged with obvious irony (Alfred Jarry), or a refusal to cash in or fold the hand (Groucho Marx). I knew soon enough which remained resonate. And which ones used my ribs as a xylophone. And what passed gentilly into the night.

As a general rule I tried to make the last line the literal final spoken words. The actual quote that drew me in to begin with. A final literalism. In a way, I reversed engineered from that point. It created the voice, the persona. More often I opted to avoid padding with biography or referential anecdotes. In some cases (Josh Billings, an early influence on Twain) I knew the speaker’s work all too well, and could magpie their style. Some were incredibly short; others insisted on running down or across the page (Hunter S. Thompson). Many required a vertical pronoun. A few, the universal you. Initially, I lumped all the poems under the sourdough starter poem until it reached an unwieldly length. I even submitted a few times in state before unearthing the mass grave and freeing its occupants to singularity.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

My immediate response was Lincoln at the Bardo. A book that moved me twice: first, when I read it, and secondly, as I listened to it on a long drive. But, Can’t and Won’t  (2014) Lydia Davis, is my 1st choice among many.  In an interview, L Davis stated that she learned to write fiction, not at the Iowa Writers program, but from reading the prose poems of Russell Edson. I was intrigued and ultimately fell willingly down the rabbit hole. I’d not thought of Edson in decades, and decided to test her theory in reverse by purging the Baltimore Public Libraries of R Edson books, and draining Amazon, Abe, etc of others. The 1st book I sampled, The Tunnel, released 10 poems in a single session, all unlike anything I had ever written. But they were clearly me. (My wife had always said, Why do you write such serious poems, when you’re so funny?” 3 years later – 225 finished “fables” as Edson might call them. 25 published to date. Funny?

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

– I could argue the limits of alcohol know no such boundaries. Absinthe with Baudelaire or Rimbaud would seem normal enough.  A goatskin of wine with Sappho. A wine-win scenario. A last whiskey with Dylan T at the White Horse Tavern, and being stuck with the tab. The price of admission. Traveling with E. A. Poe as he was shanghaied, beaten and drugged, redressed and shaven, and then dropped to vote as told in 1849 Baltimore. A sobering torture. Not unknown for the times. As a confirmed Guinness Stout drinker (toured the Dublin museum on St. James, and am certified to pour a proper pint (requires 119.5 seconds), it is my brew of choice when writing at my pub of choice, the James Joyce, where I am the writer in residence (happy hour 4-7 only – and not daily or weekends (insert Unhappy face here), and proud member of the hundred pint club, (a week, a month, a year – I keep no such records), I am obliged to follow the directives, especially having deviated so far afield.  W. S. Merwin or G. Saunders? My twinned choices. How to choose? Or dissemble? Impossible to compare. An aged, now blind poet, or a former Catholic now Buddhist. Easy to argue they are one and the same. Brothers in craft. The hard answer, even assuming I could have my way paid to Hawaii, would be GS. An answer I admit it has more to do with my humbleness in the face of such mastery of language. Half a century of reading Merwin has reduced me to being a poor acolyte. An unworthy. A broken pedestal, headless, modest without hands. A suggestive figurine. But always an inspiration. Especially the translations. It only seems contradictory because it is. Meant to be. So George S it is. (Or Neruda, if truth be told).

What are you working on now? What’s next?

Prose poems. More prose poems. And whatever else rears its balding head. August alone yielded nearly 30 new “fables,” and any number of other unclassifiables. Not to mention reclamations from earlier extended forays into shifting sands. A relief from “projects” that consumed 11 years, & 8 years, but with 20 years in between, and not counting the ever-ongoing revisions. And an earnest rewriting of other manuscripts, neglected and ignored, but worthy of a fresh peering eye. I have an earlier MS – Islander – I’m readying for publication. Inquiries are welcomed. Half the poems have been published. Four poems became the libretto for a symphony, performed 4 times to date. Another MS – one about the painter Franz Marc, weighs in now at 187 pages. Perhaps it is a novel?

The new prose poems may always demand attention, having been ignored for so long.  But, an idea for a new series featuring Franz Kafka has reared its pointed head. I have sketched out a series with Kafka corkscrewed out of time and country, and dropped into this crazy world. He has a Babelfish implant (all thanks to Douglas Adams), and encounters tattoo artists, rappers, appears on The Price is Right. At no time does he not wish he had woken up as a vermin. I’ve also begun a massive “found” poem in which I harvest lines from the lyrics of Lou Reed, one or two lines, and weave them coherently into an homage. It hurts the brain. And, of course, all the other distracting detours that will appear along the way.

Our thanks to Richard for taking the time to answer a few questions and share his work. Read Weaver’s poems, “Victor Hugo,” “Leonard ‘Chico’ Marx,” and “Karl Heinrich Marx,” here:


Richard Weaver resides in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where he volunteers at the Maryland Book Bank, and acts as the Archivist-at-large for a Jesuit College founded in 1830. His publications include Crazyhorse, LRR, NAR, Poetry, BWR, NER, Southern Quarterly, and the ubiquitous Elsewhere.