Poet Brandan T.C. McCarty lives in Washington and in addition to writing poetry, he is interested in music and art. As a member of the Makah tribe, he has been a dancer, singer, and artist in that culture.
Brandan, you have said before music influences your writing. How exactly does music play a role on the poetry you create?
Yes, music is an influence. I listen to a large base of music because of family and friends introducing me to new music. It depends on the music sound being played, and it could just be a lyric(s). Metallica is a huge influence.
Writing is a form of art, but I know you also paint. What does the intersection of art and writing mean to you?
In ’01, I was hurt emotionally by a teacher in art college. I would destroy any art I created, so I switched to writing to deal with traumatic past events. In ’11, I started to work with acrylic paints. By ’18, I became a visual artist as well as a New Age Coastal Artist for my Native art. The past two and half years, I have been using many mediums and platforms to create art pieces. I still wrote, but not as much. I figured why not do both and maybe blend them together in some pieces. ‘The Wanderer’ is close to a visual concept of what I am evolving into as an artist.
Your Makah roots are very important to you, as is family and knowing your history. This is evident in the poetry you write. What would you advise the young poet who is not as well-versed in their past as you?
My roots are important. My dad has said to me all that I do reflects back on your teachers and persons involved with you. My mom said the same thing in her way of communicating to me. I read. I read just about anything. I was told to figure out the style you want to write, and then go find published work similar so your skill can be honest. As for past of culture, read and spend time with families and friends. Listen, take time to actually listen. Even if it is a day spent sitting in a kitchen drinking coffee and watching grandpa carve, or dad paint a mask. Open yourself to learn, to fall and get back up.
How would you describe your being a father as an influence on your poetry?
I used to have some selfish habits, and those habits almost claimed my life. I came to realize, I don’t want this for my eldest son. Nor any other child that looks up to me. So I turned from booze, I went back to arts. Poetry is art, to me just about anything could be considered an art. Now, with my baby I have been relearning to sing my Native Family songs and dancing the dances. I have been away too long from it. I guess I can say, being a father has enriched my poetry with more care and love than I had before.
Who are some of your favorite poets? What aspects of their poetry appeal to you as a reader? As a writer?
Charles Bukowski, as a reader, good comic. Biography spoken in poetry verse. As a writer, someone once said my work reminds him of Bukowski. Raymond Carver, as a reader, his work involving water or daily life. As a writer, I met Tess Gallagher and she said I reminded her of her late Husband Raymond. J. A. Janice has one book of poetry. Read a little a bit of it. A strong woman, and a gentle soul. She writes crime novels. Met her a couple times in person. My mom got me into her works. My late Mama Valerie, because she had a talent of words and wish I recorded some of her work better.
Where can readers find more of your writing?
My son's feet, at birth his right foot was clubbed.
After NICU we had early mornings in the kitchen sink.
Cast removal, a bath, and singing to soothe my baby.
As we grew together, I remember my great grandma teaching me to dance.
Flour on the kitchen floor, after dance practice we would practice oral history and storytelling.
We would also split cedar bark near wood stove.
Now as I stretch and massage my son's feet, I remember the joy I had as a dancer.
For years I wouldn't dance or sing.
I was still, I was silent.
Best as my spent feet can, I dance with baby in my arms.
Later I will massage my aching feet.
Ease the bone spurs to be calm.
As I work my pain out, I think back to his laughter and sparkling brown eyes.
Embracing baby close to my chest. I take a deep breath and sing the first note in years.
I sing deep, and low rumbling voice. Soothe his tears, balm my own hurt and begin healing my spirit.
-Brandan T.C. McCarty