Nick Mansito is just a dude – a dude who writes poems every once in a while. He hopes you enjoy them. His first book, 3rd & 7th, published by BlazeVox [books] in 2009, is a very weird (in a good way he wants you to know) collection of poems produced through the interaction of constraint writing and other influences neither he nor I are legally at liberty to discuss. His second book, Miscellaneous Debris, which is a collection of “normal” free-verse, was also published by BlazeVox [books] in 2013. To pay his bills and save cash for surf trips (and other extracurricular activities like video games and miscellaneous vices – he didn’t want me to tell you that), he robs banks and moonlights as a covert CIA operative codenamed, The Spulk. He’s mostly known by his birth name, Dick Bandito, and he has recently secured the position of bass player for a band called Bring Your Beats, though they are thinking about changing their name to Free Beer.
Nick's work appeared in Pond 54
Why do you write?
I write when I’m compelled to do so, when a story or a line or an idea or an emotion inside me grows to the point that I have to get it out in writing. I’d say I mainly write for fun. I love to write poems about things I love like Star Wars or dinosaurs or superheroes and supervillains or mythology. I do write more serious poems as well, but these usually tend to be more cathartic; in writing the piece, I work my way through the emotional conflict or problem that sparked the poem. And sometimes, I love writing prose and poetry because I love to make up stories; it’s the only time we’re actually allowed to lie, which can be lots of fun sometimes.
What other creative activities are you involved in?
My mother is an artist and my father is an architect, so I guess creativity is in my genes, so to speak. I love to draw and paint, and I also love to play music, particularly guitar and bass, and love writing and recording songs. I’m an art and music lover for sure. I also love working with my hands in general. Growing up, I always worked construction jobs for my dad, so from early on, I loved building anything really. As I write this, my wife is almost thirty-three weeks pregnant with our first child, a boy. All I can think about lately is reading to him, playing music for him, and building a Hulk themed Halloween costume out of cardboard for him.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Always a tough one. I love Junot Díaz’s prose out of sheer envy and enjoyment. I wish I could write prose like he does, and I love what he writes about. But, I don’t think anyone has influenced me more than Pablo Neruda, Billy Collins, and Stephen Dunn—all tied for favorite poet. Neruda got me into translating from Spanish to English; I’m bilingual; my mother is Colombian and my father is Cuban. Neruda offered me a chance to practice my Spanish in a new way, and I love his use of imagery and metaphor. For me, like Wallace said, Neruda’s images and metaphors get to the thing itself rather than the thing’s image. Neruda has a way of writing in images and metaphors not seen anywhere else and that get to the heart of the thing itself he is talking about. I love Collins because he taught me that it was ok to have fun with a poem. It was ok to write a poem about your neighbor’s dog barking or walking across the Atlantic; his gift of taking the small everyday things and finding meaning and enjoyment in these little things is something I’ve tried to incorporate in my own poetics. I love Dunn because of his style; his poems, to me, read like he was just talking to me, which makes his poems accessible, even though he, at times, is working with very heavy subjects. I love that—being able to write about all subjects in a manner that avoids being abstract or esoteric.
Tell us about the mechanics of how you write.
I usually start with just a quick jotting down of an idea or line on whatever is available. Back in the day, when I worked food prep for a diner, I’d have stacks of inventory sheets with ideas and lines furiously scribbled on the back of them, or, if it was after a night of going to readings and drinking, I’d wake up in the morning to take a shower and have all sorts of things written on my arms and legs that I’d try to decipher. Now though, I usually have a folder on my phone for ideas, and I note them there, and then work on them later on a computer. I’m not very structured. I’m not one of those writers that has a writing schedule. I may go months without writing, and then may spend weeks or months writing every day. I bounce around a lot between my art, writing, and music. I think they all help inform and catalyze each other.
Finally, what do you think about Carp, the fish, not our website?
Honestly, I don’t know much about carp, but like all animals, I do think they are pretty cool looking. I’ve heard about and seen clips of Asian carp jumping into boats, and I’ve always wondered why they do that. Experts say it’s not an aggressive behavior; that it is merely a survival instinct when they are spooked. And some carp grow to the size of a small child, so I can only imagine getting hit by one must really hurt. I like to think it’s a coordinated attack: Mother Nature getting back at us for ruining the tranquility with noisy boats. I imagine a bunch of carp laying low in the mud, hidden behind some lake grass, a sniper in a ghillie suit on point, beginning the countdown, the grunts waiting to attack when they here “Charge!”