Bojan Louis (Diné) is the author of the poetry collection Currents (BkMk Press 2017), which received a 2018 American Book Award, and the nonfiction chapbook Troubleshooting Silence in Arizona (The Guillotine Series 2012). He is an assistant professor in the Creative Writing and American Indian Studies programs at the University of Arizona.
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Q: We'd love to know more about the similarities between writing and working a blue-collar job (specifically, being an electrician). Or differences, if you consider them massively different.
I think that they’re different, but not without their similarities. Both require long hours and, if you’re not a hack or simply in it to get paid, attention to detail and craftsmanship. You have to be mentally prepared, or aware that you’ll work through the weekend when you hoped to be done Thursday evening. Electrical work has definitive standards and codes to follow. Writing does as well, but they can be broken, reimagined, because no one will get seriously injured or killed. You can’t burn down a house with a faulty, shitty poem or story, though you might want to after reading one.
After the continuous days of drying gypsum and cleaning the hopper with cold bucket-water my hands had stiffened, the skin between my fingers split.
The homeowner, a fat-handed computer tech from the Northwest, watched as Lucas and I washed drywall mud from off our heads and bodies. He kept thanking us for all our hard work; it took artisans like us to float-out such smooth, no-texture walls – we doubted his automatic, meaningless sincerities. Despite having met the bid we’d gone a week over the estimated month and had never addressed the homeowner with anything more than degradation. We knew no one else would have driven out this far to hang sheetrock for a guy who had made many attempts to top the workday off with earl gray and female pop-music.
Last night’s lightning culled memories, dormant a while now, of my fear of the dark, though it wasn’t the complete dark that terrified me but the thick weight of an unseen presence, the dark against the dark, illuminated suddenly (as in movies) by the shake and explosion of a torrential lightning storm. Except last night’s downpour was one I’ve rarely experienced, it being a tropical storm of the Equator and not the Southwestern desert.
A Thesaurus is a poet’s best friend. Many poems have been saved by synonyms. A couple months ago, I purchased Bojan Louis’ collection of poems, Currents. I like to go against the tide, so I read his book’s cover. Immediately, I was intrigued. The word “currents” challenged me. A horse’s head, neck, and body in the form of a crescent moon graced the front cover, cupping the words, “Currents," "Poems.” A distinct energy emerged from the horse’s muscles cut by the shadows and light of abstract formed waves.