Q&A with poet and author Catfish McDaris, his most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski

"I think music has a greater impact than poetry because you cannot dance to a poem, I have tried. Not that many people care about or read poetry, which is why the small press exists. With the Internet anyone can start a magazine, digital or Print On Demand. Music puts a couple together in a romantic embrace. At poetry readings, most people just want to read their shit and hit the road. Someday maybe things will get better."

Catfish McDaris: The Rhymes of Storyteller

Catfish McDaris is an American poet and author. Catfish was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1953. Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. His best readings were in Paris at the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore and with Jimmy "the ghost of Hendrix" Spencer in NYC on 42nd St. He’s done over 25 chaps in the last 25years. He’s been in the New York Quarterly, Slipstream, Pearl, Main St. Rag, Café Review, Chiron Review, Zen Tattoo, Wormwood Review, Great Weather for Media, Silver Birch Press, and Graffiti and been nominated for 21 Pushcarts, Best of Net in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017 he won the Uprising Award in 1999, and won the Flash Fiction Contest judged by the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2009. He won the Thelonious Monk Award. Catfish has a Wikipedia page is all over the WWW. He was in the Louisiana Review, George Mason Univ. Press, and New Coin from Rhodes Univ. in South Africa. He’s recently been translated into Spanish, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His 25 years of published material is in the Special Archives Collection at Marquette Univ. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

(Photo: Catfish McDaris, 2022)

Bukowski’s Indian pal Dave Reeve, editor of Zen Tattoo gave Catfish McDaris his name when he spoke of wanting to quit the post office and start a catfish farm. He spent a summer shark fishing in the Sea of Cortez, built adobe houses, tamed wild horses around the Grand Canyon, worked in a zinc smelter in the panhandle of Texas, and painted flag poles in the wind. He ended at the post office in Milwaukee. Cat was up for a 2021 Pulitzer, but missed the cut.

Interview by Michael Limnios              Catfish McDaris, 2013 Interview @ blues.gr

How has the Beats and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I was already hitchhiking and riding freight trains before I read Bukowski or Kerouac. Books have always influenced me, especially Bukowski. I like some of the Beatniks also, especially Charley Plymell, Ray Bremser, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder. The Beatles changed America and Elvis, but I did not dig The Beatles until The White Album. I liked to watch Elvis’ movies because of all the ladies. I saw Jimi Hendrix twice and he was the best, also Led Zeppelin with Vanilla Fudge, Joe Cocker with Eric Clapton and Leon Russell, B.B. King, and Ike and Tina. Many of the bands I saw at Denver Pop Festival shortly before Woodstock. I saw many bands in Frankfurt, Germany where I stationed nearby in the army. Deep Purple and Black Sabbath was a great concert there. I don’t know if reading and listening to music made me fearless or if I was just nuts to start out.

What do you learn about yourself from the poetry? Where does your creative drive come from?

I like a great descriptive story in poetry form, be it mine or someone else’s. The same could be said about flash fiction or even longer word forms. I think Burroughs said it best, You do not choose your characters, they choose you. I am always looking for people to write about and wonder what they will say next, and what will be the result. When I hit a groove in creating, I can easily make 4 hours disappear. Since I’m married and have a grown child, I’ve lost track of time and priorities many times.

"I met the Beatniks through Charley Plymell, he stayed at our house in Milwaukee on his way to visit Burroughs and Ginsberg, unfortunately I could not make the trip with him. In 1998, I was invited to Cherry Valley, NY for a 3-day Beatnik reading near Ginsberg’s farm. I read with Anne Waldman, Ed Sanders, Charley Plymell, David Amram, Ray Bremser, Andy Clausen, Janine Pommy Vega, and Kerouac’s daughter’s friends, and all the Beatniks alive that could make the scene." (Photo: Catfish McDaris' books)

Was there something specific you experienced that made you first begin thinking about counterculture / outlaw forms, or was it more of a compilation of experiences?

I grew up as a hippie in New Mexico, not far from the Mexican border. Smuggling weed was easy money. I lived in a nudist commune, building adobe and stone fireplaces and chimneys. I would never be a Dead Head, I like Jerry Garcia, but would never follow that band, like a cult almost. I never hurt anyone. I do not even hunt, fish, or hit the bong, now days.

In your opinion, what is the biggest revolution which can be realized today?
What do you think the major changes will be in near or far future of the world?


Putin must be stopped. Trump must be locked up. Quit spending money on space travel. Feed the hungry, educate the police, remove the guns from Americans. Clean up the environment, NOW!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Songs that you can understand the words. Great solos with no band member hogging the show. Bob Dylan, I love you, you are a genius, but sing so people can understand you. My fear is all rap, all the time. That would suck to the max.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your life's experiences and paths?

Try to never injure a person or animal. Change your underwear often. Do not be a smart ass, like me. Always smile and forget about road rage or shooting the finger at someone. Try not to fart in church or in an elevator.

"Songs that you can understand the words. Great solos with no band member hogging the show. Bob Dylan, I love you, you are a genius, but sing so people can understand you. My fear is all rap, all the time. That would suck to the max." (Photo: Catfish & Ray Bremser in Charles Plymell's house, 1998)

What has made you laugh and what touched you from Antler, Janine Pommy Vega, and all the Beatniks?

I will start with Antler. My wife is a potter, so we would have weekly Potter and Poets parties. Antler saw my daughter choking on a candy and he grabbed me, and we upended her and squeezed out a jawbreaker. 25 years later, my kid is a cop, I told her never bust anyone for weed because Marijuana Saved Your Life. Antler had a poem titled that, after he fell overboard, someone threw him a hemp rope. Antler is the living embodiment of Thoreau, a very smooth dude. He won a Liberace contest and was given a nice piano and he plays well. Gary Snyder gave him a palm tree that grows next to his piano. He has become more reclusive since his partner, Jeff Poniewaz died. I miss him.

I met the Beatniks through Charley Plymell, he stayed at our house in Milwaukee on his way to visit Burroughs and Ginsberg, unfortunately I could not make the trip with him. In 1998, I was invited to Cherry Valley, NY for a 3-day Beatnik reading near Ginsberg’s farm. I read with Anne Waldman, Ed Sanders, Charley Plymell, David Amram, Ray Bremser, Andy Clausen, Janine Pommy Vega, and Kerouac’s daughter’s friends, and all the Beatniks alive that could make the scene.

I interviewed Ms. Pommy Vega for Chiron Review, she had written a masterpiece novel, called Tracking the Serpent. Janine was a powerhouse of a reader, in Spanish and English. I told the shithouse tale to you long ago. Janine had a brilliant smile, she was waiting in line, “I told her Alan was in there, he might be awhile.” She thought I meant Ginsberg and he was already dead. 10 minutes later, out comes Alan from Water Row Press. Janine cracked up and so did I. Janine hung out with Herbert Huncke the hustler Beatnik and writer of Guilty of Everything. You might say she was schooled by one of the best. On the second night of the three-day reading, a huge fire was built. It was near a few pine trees, this lady poet from NYC and a guy from Colorado, come from the trees with pinecones stuck in their hair. They asked me which way was town? I pointed and laughed. Janine told me I was a fountain of information, I said they were just lost in the throes of passion.

Ray Bremser was a wise man and a natural storyteller. He advised me to buy David Amram’s CD of when he snuck into Cuba, from his beautiful daughter. I wish I could have spent that summer in upstate New York, David Amram invited me to his organic goat farm. I had to take the train back to Milwaukee, where my wife and young daughter waited and my job at the Main Post Office, where I remained for 34 years. The very best lady readers were Janine Pommy Vega and Wanda Coleman, Wanda read with Antler in Milwaukee, and she was scary good.

"I grew up as a hippie in New Mexico, not far from the Mexican border. Smuggling weed was easy money. I lived in a nudist commune, building adobe and stone fireplaces and chimneys. I would never be a Dead Head, I like Jerry Garcia, but would never follow that band, like a cult almost. I never hurt anyone. I do not even hunt, fish, or hit the bong, now days." (Photo: Catfish McDaris)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I guess Bukowski and I would have enough money to go to a clean whorehouse, next to a liquor store. We would have some fun.

What is the impact of poetry and music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?

I think music has a greater impact than poetry because you cannot dance to a poem, I have tried. Not that many people care about or read poetry, which is why the small press exists. With the Internet anyone can start a magazine, digital or Print On Demand. Music puts a couple together in a romantic embrace. At poetry readings, most people just want to read their shit and hit the road. Someday maybe things will get better.

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