An Interview with Clarence Barbee

Clarence Barbee has been writing and performing poetry for over a decade. He has produced 9 spoken word albums, under the pseudonyms Nabraska and Poet402. Clarence is now working on self-publishing books of essays and short stories. In his professional life he has worked with, educated, and supported many children. Clarence believes in keeping an eye on political planes and social occurrences such as changes in world leadership, and social inequalities. These actions of men are a huge curiosity to the author; he believes in writing about them, and discussing them, so solutions can be made. Clarence has taken these experiences and written about them extensively. He asks, who doesn t want to be happy, then goes about the business of finding the answer. Please take some time to join him on this journey as they are set through words, sometimes with music, and always taken with a grain of salt.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Omaha Nebraska.  I went to school in Atlanta Georgia, so that’s become like a second home.  Currently I am a resident of Aurora, Colorado, just outside of Denver.

Why do you write?

I write for many reasons.  I think one of the biggest is to use my voice.  We all have a message, or at least we should.  Writing happens to be the vehicle I use to get out my message, and use my voice.  I think the other reason would be that it’s cathartic.  Writing is emotional; coming up with characters, dealing with stuff at work you pen a poem about, writing about the birth of a child, it’s emotional, and cathartic.

What do you write about?

I write what I know, and I know urban fiction, essays, short stories and poetry.  This work is purely poetry and focuses on four themes.  In the past I have written short stories about urban characters, in urban settings, one such being about youth in a treatment facility.

What are obstacles that come in the way of writing?

Some of my obstacles are time.  I’m a father of two, (who were under two when I started this book), and I work two jobs.  So time is always a factor.  I also think inspiration, or the ability to put something down in the voice that you want is an obstacle. 

What’s the most memorable thing asked/said by a reader about your work?

I had a reader tell me that some of my poetry was “like Hemmingway on steroids”.  I’m still not sure if that’s a bad thing or good, however it was something that made me smile, chuckle and remember.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since the 8th grade.  However seriously since about 2000.  I was heavily involved in spoken word communities from the early 2000’s till about 2010.  Now I’m focusing more on publishing my writing.

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?

I first realized I wanted to be a writer in 8th grade.  The feeling became stronger in highschool.  The feelings became stronger after college.  But it has only become to feel real once I began publishing work.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

My work schedule and writing schedule collide and steal from each other like siblings sharing a bedroom.  I’ve worked two jobs for the last 3 years, and have been trying to write for the last three years.  So I’ve learned how to write at work.  It’s not always the best method, but many times I’m able to get some lines out, then hash them out at the end of the night just before bed, then come back to them on my weekends/time off

How long does it take to write a book? (if you’ve written one -published or non)

You know, each book takes different times to produce.  With my first work, Chicken Soup, and A Shot of Jack, I believe it took me about 3 months.  But I was very focused, and made a schedule, and I got outside the house and went to a coffee-house to write, and I only had one job at that point.  My second work Crossroads Decisions and Consequences was a bit different.  Some of the short stories had been written, other short stories had to be worked out.  I also had a publisher who was pushing me to finish the book.  So I believe this took me a bit longer, maybe about 6 months.  This last book has taken me roughly 5 months to finish.

Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer?

To become a better writer, you must continue to write through the b.s. that will come through your pen.  As writers at some point we all write crap–pure unadulterated , not a doubt about it–crap.  And we have to be ok with that.  We have to say, I wrote that, it wasn’t great, but that was then, this is now, and what’s here before you now, is great.  No one can tell you that you’re a better writer, you will know this from time, and things you have written in the past.  If you’re not continually writing, then you’re not growing–we grow and get better.

What do you think makes a good poem?

I think a good poem is honest and slightly murky when written, but clear as Windex when spoken.  So let me clarify.  I think when you read a great poem, there are metaphors or similes that leave you thinking “did the writer mean this…or maybe that…or maybe….”  The structure of the poem lend a lot to that–so that bit of mystery I think, is a key to writing a good piece.  However spoken word poetry is different because the delivery is part of the poem.  And one must be clear in that your listener is there in front of you.  If you’re not clear, they will look confused, and it’s a very immediate response that may or may not throw off your performance–does that make sense?

What does your family think of your writing?

When my parents were alive, they liked the fact that I wrote, but didn’t see it being stable enough to be a “career”  Now that they are both passed, a piece of my soul is kinda free to be me.  As far as my wife and kids…it’s weird.  The kids are two and 11 months, so they’re not really reading.  And since I don’t do kids books, they don’t hear Dada’s stuff, and Dada doesn’t share stuff right now.  The last poem in the book is a dedication to my wife, and it was such a last minute add-on.  I initially texted to her for “approval”, but she never responded.  And I haven’t shared the manuscript with her.  So maybe she’ll read it, and maybe she won’t.  Let’s just say she might support me, but she’s not my biggest fan 🙂

Do you see writing as a career?

I do see it as a career.  However, because I seem to work better as an indie author, writing is only part of it.  Its the editing, and promoting, and typesetting, and getting the cover design done.  It’s being independent, which means working harder, but it being damn worth it!

How do you work through self-doubts and fear?

I share my work.  I may think that an idea sucks or that a poem is shaky, and I’m nervous/scared about it.  So I’ll go to an open mic and workshop it.  Sometimes I’ll give the audience fair warning, sometimes not.  But I can not afford to be scared, or fearful.  I do doubt myself, but I refuse to allow that to stop me from my dreams.  So yeah, you can tell me no, but the strong part of me will keep on truckin’.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?

I’d like to thank my family.  They gave me experiences for writing this book.  I’d also like to acknowledge the State of Colorado where I work, they also gave me experience for the book

Tell us about your new book? Why did you write it?

This book has really been about 10 years in the making.  In 2013 I published two chapbooks, e-book, on lulu.  They were Shattered and On The Brink.  2013 was a difficult time for me personally.  Both my parents had recently passed, I made some difficult life choices, I was mad with my sister. And I had just recently finished a stint with being homeless.  So I published these two e-chapbooks with a lot of poetry from 2008, because I hadn’t done a lot of writing in 2012/2013.  And last year, early this year, I looked at those chapbooks and was like, those books were/are crap!  I was mad at myself after reading them.  And then I looked some more, and some weren’t so bad, but still overall–crap!  I wanted to do something about it.  And it’s like I said earlier, there must be growth to be a good writer.  So I wanted to prove to myself that I could do better.  I also wanted to chronicle my “writing life” better.  I wanted to chronicle the fact that this is the first work of me as a writer, and as a father, and husband. 

So Fire Molten & Ash is about all that.  Sometimes you have to go through the fire, with some parts coming out as ash and fly in the wind.  Fire is rebirth, becoming something anew.  There are four themes of self-reflection, fatherhood, politics, and family values.  These were also big themes in the previous two chapbooks.  Fire Molten & Ash is the death of a former life (burned it), rebirth (reborn of Fire), and seeing what the growth is.

What else do you do, other than write?

My first job is working with mentally ill patients.  My second job is teaching high school students.  I also love to cook really great salmon, and play saxophone really badly–lol

What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?

I want people to challenge themselves. I want people to look in the mirror and say, I’m ok, but I can be better.  I think many of my poems speak to that.  This is not all “feel good poetry”–this is “honest, get off your ass and do better poetry.”  I need for people to feel better about themselves whoever they may be, but more importantly challenge themselves to do better, walk through the fire and come out on the other side.

Read one his books on kindle

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?

This is such a funny question, and I love it.  It really depends on my mood, where I’m at, and what I’m writing.  When writing poety, I love paper, and a pencil.  My favorite pens are the TUL pens, but not the gel one, just regular ink and fine point.  I could write about TUL and ink and pens and journals or notebooks all day!  But if I’m working on short stories I’m at my desktop.  Sad story, the laptop I created my last two books on sadly died earlier this year.  So now I’m on my imac desktop thing that I used to use for recording.  Things change, we have to be ok with that.  And because time is limited, I write everywhere except in the bed, the bed is for two things and two things only, and neither of those things is writing! (lol)

It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?

It is vital to get maximum exposure.  Since the genre for the is book is poetry, I have started contacting spoken word podcast, and others because I know many book readers are used to hearing the word.  I’m contacting an insane amount of bloggers because I know many people love to read really good poetry as well.  And of course I’ll do some Twitter ads because that’s my social media of choice.  I have to create a whole new Facebook, so I’m like beefin’ with them, and not really into FB right now.  However I am on Instagram.  In-fact, I created a whole new account just for this journey.  Below is all the social media where I can be found.  Currently my website is being updated, and may not occur till the end of December

Social Feeds

Twitter @former402poet




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