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vol v, issue 4 < ToC
Flawed Around Perfection
an interview with
Jamal Hodge
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From the The Dead
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Flawed Around Perfection
an interview with
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an interview with
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Flawed Around Perfection
The philosophy and life of speculative writer/filmmaker Jamal Hodge
Flawed Around Perfection
The philosophy and life of speculative writer/filmmaker Jamal Hodge
Jamal Hodge at The People's Film Festival
We first met Jamal Hodge as an amazing poet who submitted work to us in the early days of the new Penumbric—but he's far more than that. He’s been directing and producing award-winning films for many years, in addition to writing poetry and stories and generally giving back to his community. We spoke with him just after wrapping the production of Under Thy Wings, his latest film, and our interview starts there, but then goes deep into his past, present, and future ...

*     *     *
Yeah, just just just finished it. It’s always a great thing to get one of those things done. It takes so much, and it almost feels like . . . it almost feels impossible. (laughs)

Yeah, when you start out, it can seem like an overwhelming project. There’s this to do, and that to do, and another thing . . .

It’s magical, you know? It’s a certain sense of completion that you just don’t get from most other things. Even though the road is still long, [and] I’m going to have to live with this thing for a while, it’s great to get it done and have something ready to put out into the world.

Are you done with the editing yet, or . . .?

No. We just got out of production, so . . . It’s so weird, because it’s so hard to get into production, but then it’s so hard, once you’re actually out of it, to finish the movie. But production’s the hardest thing, because you’re dealing with people, so many people, and if something goes wrong with any of those people, your project is fucked. So it’s like you have to get out of the ‘what if’ phase, you know, where you’re susceptible to all the fuckery.

So is it Necessary Evil that you just finished?

No, it’s a different film. We just finished that, too, earlier this year. We finished a series of two or three other things.

So you keep yourself busy!

Yeah, always. I’ve got a book that I’m finishing up, too, a poetry collection about animals; it’s also about collaboration, because nature’s about collaboration, so all the poems in it I co-wrote with Lee Murray, Linda Addison, Michael Bailey . . . a bunch of cool people. Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith. All these people . . . (laughs) I’m trying to get Josh Malerman, too, because I’m trying to make it . . . there’s a lot of poems we did in combination, and a lot of poems I did by myself, all about animals, animals as metaphor for something else in human society, and then I’m combining it with an essay or a quote from either a philosopher that uses animals, the same animal, that follows the poem, or a statement that I made about a fun fact that’s really bizarre about the animal. So it’s also shock value, horror-shock education . . . it’s really unique. It’s weird, but it works.

Is that Life According to Death?

No. That is a very personal book that is built of the four seasons, but the seasons are my life; it’s about my journey from darkness to light. Raw Dog Screaming Press is looking at it right now, John Morrison and them. We’ll see if they say yes. They seem to be good supporters and they seem to like my work, so . . .

Cool!

I have another one called Worlds of Great Mortality, which is probably the greatest thing I’ve ever written. It’s a combination of short stories with poems, [and] it’s a journey through the two great mysteries of space and death. It takes you from the beginning of the universe, to the sun, to Mercury, Venus, Earth, until you get to the outer planets, and then you go beyond. There’s a poem for every planet, and a short story accompanying that poem for every planet. And the asteroid belt is a bunch of little poems that hit you at random with random themes. It’s like you’re going through some physical journey through the universe, but you’re getting all these different genres. It’s technically, I guess you would say, speculative. It’s sci fi but it’s also horror, it’s also drama, comedy, and fantasy all in one, so it’s a crazy book.

Wow. So do you have a preferred genre that you work in? I know that the poems that I’ve seen of yours, they can be science fiction but also horror, or . . .

Sci fi and horror, I would say . . . sci fi, horror, and urban. . . . Magical realism, I guess you’d say. Which is like saying speculative, but in an urban setting.

Yeah, that’s why I tend to just call it all speculative.

Poster for Mourning Meal
Because I don’t really know. It’s almost like, I’m given things, and I just go with it. I don’t see myself as being that in control of what I’m given. . . . It’s not me, I’m just a channel for things, and it passes through the lens that is my personal experiences, personality, and stuff like that. And then it comes out into the world flawed. Somebody told me something great about filmmaking that there’s only one perfect film, but it can never be made, because everybody’s flawed. So there’s only one way to make a perfect film, and you can never really make it, because what makes your style as an artist is actually how you do things wrong; that’s actually what creates your style. Style is just about how you do things wrong . . . not wrong, but flawed, flawed around perfection. So I was like, hmm, that’s interesting.

Yeah, that’s really interesting.

It’s kinda true. It’s like, oh, if there’s a perfect book, and you wrote the perfect book, it would be the exact same book. It’s the flaws that make it. It’s kind of like, some people believe spiritually we’ve come here so that we have limitations, because without the body there are no limitations, and that can become a form of stagnation, you know? And limitations are what make life special. The limits of life, the boundaries, the boundaries create identity, you know? So it’s very interesting to explore.

That’s why I say me, with my whole method, about how I approach . . . I don’t judge what I’m given, I just go with it, I try to do it without thought, and then once it’s out on the page, when I do my edits, then I think about it. What’s this, what’s here? I do that because I realized, for me, it’s better to know what you’re not than what you are. It’s better to know what you’re not doing. It’s more important to know what you’re not making than what you’re actually making.

That’s interesting. So sort of like the white space on the page is at least as important as what you’re actually writing on the page?

Well, kind of. It’s more like, when you try to dominate and control, you become blinded, you become judgmental . . . it’s better to know what you won’t do than what you will do in any given situation. If I know I will not steal, then no matter what situation I end up in, whether I’m hungry, starving, whatever, I’m still not gonna steal. I don’t know what I will do in every situation, I just need to know what I won’t do. It really defines who I am. And it’s the same thing with art, and with a film, with making any form of creativity. If you know like, hey, in this film, it’s an intimate film, so we won’t live on wide shots in this film. Now that we know we’re not doing that, now we can be free within the boundaries of those limitations to do anything we want. So limitations create freedom. It’s a paradox. I also find that in art, it’s the same way. It’s like . . . I don’t know what this poem is, I’m not gonna judge it, I just absorb it, and it’s all about this horror stuff. I know I’m not making a love poem. I’m not writing a feel-good book. This book is about revelations, and making the audience feel a sense of accountability on life. So once I know that, I know what I’m not making, and I’m free to do whatever I want to within the context of that, and the story can go anywhere that it goes.

It sounds like a good philosophy.

Yeah.

So do you end up with the idea for a film or a poem and then write it all out and then go into editing it, or do you edit as you go along?

I think it’s better to get to the end before you pass judgment. Especially with poetry it’s better to do that. With screenplays I just write the dialogue first. I don’t write what the characters are doing. I write the setting where they are, and I just write dialogue: what are they saying to each other? I don’t elaborate on what they’re doing. It’s almost like a play: What are they saying? Because in film we can’t see what’s going on behind the curtain of a person. All we can see is what the character says, does, or doesn’t do to define who they are. Everything else is based on the shots you use and on actual subconscious, which is what the art direction does. So a lot of the history of a character and who the person is is in their environment, and then that affects the subconscious mind, tells the story to them subconsciously.

THE BIG CHILL

Entropy thins
the stars to atoms.
Heat surrenders
as the heavens dim.

Mind,
emancipated from body,
sprout shadow worlds
of a singular idea,

Orbiting concepts,
sung without lips,
to empty galaxies.

On the written page, you can get into the mind and the soul. You can get into the inner life of the character. There’s a level of intimacy you can’t really have in film. You just can’t. Stage even gets closer than film, because you have that human-to-human natural connection where you emote. While they are emoting, you can feel that physically. You try to create that artificially in film with shots, but it’s never quite the same as when a human is on stage talking and you’re watching them have these things, you are picking up their emotion, you can feel it more.

A book is the most interactive form of art, because people bring their own experiences to the book. Anybody who reads the same book is going to have a very different experience based on where they are in their life, who they are in life; they bring all of that to the book, to the character. They’re very intimate. I feel like books are very special. I feel like in poems, if it’s done right, it can be like an entire book in a moment, you know, and that’s what I’m trying to achieve, that experience, that feeling, because when you finish a book you leave with a feeling, right?

COLONY

The red soil of Mars
cannot truly be our home
until one man kills another.
Preferably, for no reason,
other than,
it’s the earthiest thing,
an earthman
can do.

Everything that I do, and you know this from my poetry, is I’m trying to create a feeling, I know the feeling that we’re going for, like this is going to be a feeling of outrage at the end, or fear, or disturbance. Whatever the feeling might be, I start with a feeling, and then I always try to include a question, either about reality, God, ourselves, our mates . . . whatever the case may be, there’s always going to be a question and a revelation. So my method is a question, a revelation, and a feeling. I think [if you] give the audience all three, there’s no way you can have a mediocre experience. You know what I’m saying? So that’s my philosophy, my method to all the art that I do. There’s always a moment of a feeling, or I like to show the paradox of the truth, like how light comes out of darkness and darkness comes out of light a lot of the time. Light tends to even come out of the darkness. People set out to do harm, but out of their awful actions, some of the World’s most beautiful things have been created. It’s almost taboo to take this into account, but the reality is most artists of antiquity and even in modern times are imperfect, tortured people, fragmented in essential parts who are using art to find their hope again, their love, and even their souls to make themselves whole. I think it’s better to understand this than to quickly move to cancel people who are putting beauty in the world.

We don’t tend to remember that.

Nothing great is ever achieved without suffering, and sometimes even death, and most of the time the artist, or the person, or the tyrant who is trying to create those things, the person . . . they have to motivate people toward suffering, and to motivate people toward suffering, sometimes you’re not going to be a good person. ...

And then you have the other side of the coin where so much darkness comes out of people trying to do good, like the Buddhist statement of how whenever you solve one problem, you create two more. You see it all the time; every time you solve a problem, you create two more.

It’s like the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Yeah. And you see that in the world. So many of the horrors of the world that we have to deal with started from our ancestors, who believed they were just trying to do good, either for the world, themselves, their families, their race, whatever, In the name of this ‘greater good’ they taught that the ends justify the means, that [to do] great grand work, you have to do these small evils, but the problem is that the trajectory of evil escalates in perpetuity over time.

It’s kind of like you have two points on the line; basically being honest or being good is like you’re going from this point to that point, and no matter how long the distance is on the line, it hits the target. Badness or wrongness or evil, it’s only evil because it’s off the line, so let’s say you want to get to the same point, and if evil is a little off the line, you’re not going to notice it at first, but if you keep on going over time, it misses the mark more and more and more. That’s why it’s not good to lie, because a lie is like that. It might seem harmless, but over time it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger whether you notice or not. A lot of people, they meant well, but . . . “Oh, we have to do this. Now, we have to kill people. Oh, now we have to kill a lot of people. Oh, now . . .” It just keeps on . . . [and] you’re just trying to maintain this idea of this good that you’re trying to do. So a lot of darkness comes out of light. Like they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, right?

I was just thinking that. It’s like keeping a secret for the good of somebody else, or you think it’s for the good of somebody else, and that leads to having to hide more things, and then you have to hide something else . . .

And now you’re a co-conspirator, and now you’re bearing the weight of this burden . . . It just adds up, and it’s just bad, you know, it’s just really bad. After a while, people can’t do it anymore.

*     *     *
The soup scene from Mourning Meal
I watched Mourning Meal . . .

What did you think of it?

It’s a great film! It’s really visually striking, the acting is really good. What struck me most, actually, and this is probably going to sound strange, but it seemed like even what many people would take to be the background sounds, like the chair moving along the floor, when the child is eating, the clanking of the spoon in the bowl, and then also the music, these all seemed at least as important as the dialogue.

It was. It was more important. I was trying to experiment . . . this was based off a poem, and I was trying to do certain things with time and with sound, because I wanted less dialogue. I don’t believe in a lot of dialogue in my movies. I mean, some people are dialogue-heavy in their films, [but] I feel like I want to show, not tell, and I’m more about feeling sometimes, even when the information can sometimes be a problem because sometimes you need more information. So I’m trying to get better about that, but I definitely am all about mood, atmosphere, and the feeling that the audience is getting in the moment. That’s what you remember is how you felt. And I was trying to make a real horror movie about loss; I wanted the movie to be painful to watch. It’s not a movie that’s easy to watch, on purpose.

Right.

I wanted it to be painful to watch. Some people get mad because they’re only used to being entertained when they watch something. They’re not used to a film hurting them. Or they get outraged seeing themselves in such a despicable, broken human being. And they get mad at me for showing them that.

They get mad at you?

Yeah. They get mad. Some people walked out on the film. Some older people, they just couldn’t take it. It’s really intense. I designed it for that. I tell people, if nobody walks out on the film I’ll be disappointed, I’ll have failed as an artist. I wanted to disturb people, I wanted to hurt people, I want you to be mad after you watch it but then, forty-eight hours later, think, “You know, that was a great movie. I really felt something and I understood where it was going. It’s very fucked up, but, I get it. It was really a horror movie.” It wasn’t horror/fun/entertaining, it’s a horror/horror movie, you know?

And it’s not even anything supernatural, or gods or demons in a literal sense or anything. I think part of what makes it so disturbing is that it’s just a regular person, basically traveling this road.

Yeah, how people just basically lose their goddamn minds. And it’s a reality of life. You know, sometimes people just go insane. It’s easy to go insane. People think that it’s very hard, but the mind is fragile, sanity is fragile.

Yeah, definitely. So, how did you get into writing and filmmaking and art generally?

I’ve always been into it, since I was a little kid. I was a writer, you know, I got something published when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, like a rehash of a Cinderella story from an urban perspective. It was published in schools and stuff like that. I’ve always loved storytelling, I’ve always been a storyteller, a daydreamer, a wanderer. A person that would talk to everybody.

When I was a little kid, I grew up under harsh conditions. I grew up in the South Bronx during the crack era—80s, early 90s—and eventually we became homeless. So I’ve seen a lot of crazy things, experienced a lot of crazy things, abuses, being in foster homes, things like that. For a long time, I was a really messed up individual. I was in a gang, I was an enforcer in the gang. I was just doing certain crazy things based around pain and suffering. I wasn’t a person that robbed people, nothing like that. I never did anything to anyone who didn’t do something to me and my friends, right? I was always looking for the opportunity to hurt people. I really enjoyed it, like my enemies, these made-up enemies in my head, right, because I needed enemies, because I needed somebody to blame for my circumstances.

I went to DCTV [Downtown Community Television Center] for a job, . . . I was in the infamous Scared Straight Program where the cops would take problematic teens to prison and have the worst inmates try to intimidate them into behaving themselves for life lol. It was hilarious, I was taken on my 16th birthday ... it was crazy. It was funny. I was like the tallest kid there, so all the inmates were fucking with me, and I was fucking with them . . . it was crazy. But eventually I went to DCTV and storytelling kind of saved me again. I went to Siberia to do a documentary. I was in the two-year extensive training program at DCTV around 15, 16 years old, and I started learning filmmaking, all the aspects of filmmaking. And out there I saw people . . . ’cause I used to hate white people, like, a lot when I was a teenager . . . I used to hate everybody that was different from me to be honest, except for Asian kids because I grew up on the East Side so I knew a lot of them. But, I went out there and I met people who had come from generational suffering, and I realized I didn’t have a monopoly on pain just because I was Black. I made a lot of friends out there; they treated me really well.

I did this documentary looking for this other guy. I was the first searcher for Bigfoot, because there was this Black guy that lived out there, and they would talk about sightings. “Yes, we’ve seen him, he comes out at night.” I was like, what the fuck? [laughs] So I was looking for this guy, this Black guy that was in Siberia just around. But I was cool with a lot of people out there, I would go into people’s homes, party with them. And the weird thing about it with them was they had suffered greatly, even more so in a lot of ways. Like their families had been purged, exiled, still living under oppression, so we were able to talk about a lot of different things, and I came back understanding that there were certain evils of mankind that existed all over the world. It wasn’t just the American story, right? The world was much bigger than the American story, and there was suffering amongst all peoples of the world. And I had an obligation and a responsibility to tell the truth about that.

I went to Chiapas next, the rebels out there, did a documentary with them. I got an award from the first Hague Appeal For Peace during the Rwanda crisis, from Kofi Annan, we got a citation award for our documentary, . . . I had many successes. The first film festival I went to was Sundance. I didn’t know what it was. Christopher Nolan had Memento there—super long time ago, over twenty years ago—and I decided from there that I would tell stories and help people.

I left film for a while to start programs in my community, so I could help my community, help kids, became a licensed mediator, mediated gangs, stopped people from killing each other. I helped kids get into college or get their GEDs when they came out of prison. I left a six-figure income to do that work.

Were you making that kind of money doing the documentaries?

I was working at a company called Teachscape at night, and I was working at DCTV in the day, and on my days off I would go to college . . . so I would be working 16-hour days, six days a week, and I’d have one day where I’d work about five hours, and the rest I would rest. I was young, and I was dirt poor—sometimes I would go two or three days without eating, and all of a sudden I’m making a six-figure income. It was weird. It was a giant leap.

Was that a really strange transition to make?

Yeah, it was strange because at the time I didn’t have the emotional maturity for a lot of things I felt; I felt guilty about it. I felt guilty that I had so much. I just didn’t understand a lot of things. I didn’t have a financial education . . . I had to learn a lot of things the hard way over the course of my life. But I love who I am now in my life, and I wouldn’t be me without all those things that had happened to me.

So, I did that for a long time, I helped some kids. One of my students won Sundance in 2006 for a documentary called Bullets in the Hood that I helped shoot . . .

Awesome.

Scene from Primal Instinct
. . . All these different things, and then at some point I did a feature film; it didn’t go well. I was like, to Hell with film, I quit for like four years, but then I realized I was helping all these young people to live their dreams, but I wasn’t living mine, so I was being a hypocrite. So I put myself on Death Ground; if I don’t figure it out, I’ll just starve to death and be homeless [laughs]. And when you do stuff like that, when you burn all the boats, a lot of times good stuff starts to happen. It might take some time, but if you’re willing to suffer, if you’re willing to accept a certain level of living for a certain time, which I am, I think it’s gonna happen. So over the last four or five years, I’ve started having a lot of success. I directed my first TV show called Primal Instinct, which was like number three on cable at its peak, I’ve been to Cannes twice, I work on my films, I’ve worked on a multi-million dollar animated movie called Pierre the Pigeon-Hawk as a producer. I’ve also been in 130 or so festivals, and I’ve won over 60 or 70 awards.

Wow.

Won best director from Chelsea Film Festival, Hip Hop Film Festival, I’ve shown work at Tribeca, my students have won Tribeca with best student film last year. All these different things in the world of film, I’ve been doing very well, and now I wanted to get back to my writing, my first love, you know? I have been writing over time, like even in the worst times when I was in the shelters and stuff like that, I used to be able to write stream of consciousness, and I would write whole books in these notebooks. By the time I was sixteen I had written, maybe, fifteen books. I lost that skill by not doing that all the time. But what I ended up gaining was all these different stories and different skill sets, and now, as a poet over the last three years, I’ve been very successful, I’ve been nominated for the Rhysling, I received Best of Penumbric [laughs] ...

Yeah! [laughs]

. . . A bunch of times published in Space and Time Magazine, published in the first Star*Line Magazine for African Americans. I have two short stories [coming out] next year, I’m in the next Chiral Mad 5 with two different stories. I’m in the HWA showcase as well and the Rhysling this year . . . I’ve been doing really well. Last year in 2020 I was published twelve times, and this year I’m published fifteen times, so I’ve been doing well. I’ve blurbed my first book, too. I can’t believe [it] . . . Tortured Willows, the new book from Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Christina Sng, and all, they did the second book in the series that they’re doing, and they asked me to blurb it!

That’s awesome!

That was crazy. My first blurb! With Stoker winners, you know. That’s kinda dope.

And I have another book I blurbed with Cindy O’Quinn, she and Stephanie wrote a book, I’m not even sure I should mention this, but they asked me to write a blurb, too. So I’m like, “Oh shit, people care about what I have to say in this space. Wow. That’s cool.”

That’s awesome. So in a way you’ve talked about this, but what do you want to focus on in future? Or are you just going to let it develop?

Nah, I don’t let anything develop. You’ve gotta be intentional to manifest things. I have a big team of support now. I’m working on several big movies, I’m working on a big documentary right now, over a million dollar budget with some names in it, about writers in the South, with Craig Renaud, one of the premiere documentarians of our time. I’m also working on several feature film projects. So my goal is always, has always been to write across mediums. I want to eventually write a play, definitely novels, preferably a musical . . . I don’t have any idea how I’d do that . . .

I wouldn’t know how to write a musical at all!

Because I know a lot of people who do these grand musicals, and I’m like, I can do that. It seems like the hardest thing in the world to do, so I’m going to give it a try. Eventually, I’m rich and I don’t got shit to do, and I’m like, oh, I want to challenge myself, well, I’ll do that.

Then I have a comic book I’ll be doing next year, and I have several collections, like I was telling you, one being looked at by a publisher that will remain nameless for now, very positive about that. I want to have five poetry books, ten feature screenplays (I don’t need to direct all of them, just to write them) . . . it’s all like a rule of fives and tens, basically. I want to direct ten feature films, work on five different series, stuff like that. I want to be very eclectic and universal in my storytelling, and the three genres I want to stay in are urban thrillers, horror, inspirational. Those are the themes that I’m good at in my films. Horror, inspirational, and urban thrillers.

Sort of combining those I would think as well.

Sure. Ultimately I’m starting my own business, I want to create a platform for artists, young people, older people, too. A lot of times, we give a lot of help to the fuck-ups of society. I kind of want to help the people in the middle that are trying to do the right thing, but they just need a leg up. So I’m looking more for that. So yeah. With my writing I’m definitely going to become a novelist. I want to be a novelist and a poet. I want to write my ten novels and my five poetry books and my ten feature screenplays. That’s my goal. It might take me twenty years to achieve that, but I already have about three novels written, and I already have about four features, and I have three collections, so it’s not gonna take me that long. [laughs]

You’re well on your way.

Yeah. It’s just about getting it out to the public, let them know I exist, and helping people. I mean, art has to serve a purpose in people’s lives. I want my art to really teach people . . . I want them to find humanity in places they normally wouldn’t look, and to see the truth in themselves and in others, so that they can know that other human beings are just as alive as they are, no matter how wicked, flawed, good, or noble, yeah?

Yeah, that’s really cool. So do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

My advice is that you have to be able to accept pain and uncertainty. If you’re OK with pain and uncertainty, then it’s the right role for you. Everybody’s technically an artist, but it doesn’t have to be your profession. It can be something that you just do because you love to do it. We’re all artists and we should all just exercise that part of our spirit anyway. It doesn’t have to be money . . . sometimes the money kills the joy in the art. It killed writing for me for a long time, being so worried about whether my stuff’s gonna sell or if anybody’d want it prevented me from writing, you know, the judgment . . .

Yeah, I’ve been there.

Yeah, we all go through it. So I just think you’ve got to be intentional. . . . The number one trait of being an artist is courage; you can’t be a coward and be a good artist. Every good artist is brave as hell. And the reason you have to be brave is you have to have the courage to be vulnerable enough to see the truth. So you have to be brave enough to be vulnerable enough to tell the truth. And if you can do that, you understand that pain is the path to happiness, because pain leads to growth, and growth leads to progress, and progress creates happiness. You’re really only happy when you’re in a state of progress. You can be content without progress, but anytime you’re happy, if you think about it, it has to do with some form of progress.

Like finishing up a film and knowing you’re moving on to the next stage of that or another film.

Or in a relationship, when you’re with your girl. ... It’s easy in the beginning because it’s easy to make progress with the person. Everything you do you learn more, and they’re learning more, and you’re always constantly making progress, but after a while, the leaps become smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller, it becomes more and more stagnant. That’s true across the board in everything in life. All relationships—you have to be making progress to have happiness. And pain is the beginning of all progress. [laughs] You know what I’m saying? Comfort is the enemy. If you’re starting out in art, comfort is the enemy. Comfort leads to death: it leads to stagnation, stagnation leads to decay, and decay leads to death. So if you make yourself too comfortable, you will die. Your skills will entropy. So you have to really embrace pain—not suffering necessarily, but pain and uncertainty have to become your friends. Instead of trying to get out of the blender, just submit to the blender. Stop trying to get out. Sit in that motherfucker and enjoy it. Find the fun in it. You have to be able to embrace that. If you can do all of that, if you can be brave, if you can understand that it’s the difference between danger and fear—like, fear’s a choice, danger’s a reality, and the cure to danger is experience. It’s like having a chainsaw. It’s dangerous at first, you don’t know how to handle it, but once you have knowledge of the chainsaw, how it works, how to hold it, how to use it, the fear goes away. The danger’s still the same, it’s that you’ve changed, because now you have confidence, and confidence comes from knowledge and experience, and that’s the cure for danger. You can accept danger when you don’t have fear. So if you can do all of those things as an artist, you’ll have a hell of a life. You’ll experience some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows that a human being can experience, the whole spectrum of the human experience.

And you can live to tell about it.

That’s what people ultimately want: They want the truth, from somebody who feels it. They come to us as artists for the truth. They can’t trust their politicians no more, they can’t trust their religious leaders no more; we’re the last high priests of the modern age, the artists. It’s up to us to tell the truth now.

*     *     *
You can find Jamal Hodge’s poetry in many places—Star*Line Fall 2020, Chiral Mad 5, The 2021 Rhysling Anthology, Penumbric, and more—and his films are gathering awards and nominations all over the place. For information, trailers, and more, go to writerhodge.com, or follow him on Facebook (omegahodge) or Instagram (@directorh).

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