Interview: Fury Young Meat & Milk Part One
"Poets don’t usually write poetry. They become poetry. They inhale and exhale metaphors and alliterations like trees give us air. Fury Young is such a poet" – Abiodun Oyewole, The Last Poets.
Fury Young (b. 1989) is a multi-disciplinary artist from Manhattan's Lower East Side. Growing up without a TV, Fury developed an early obsession for movie-going and set his sights on becoming a film director by age seven. In 2011, after directing several shorts and working as a set carpenter in New York, Young moved to Los Angeles CA. Though the move was a means to expand his horizons as a filmmaker, Fury saw his life and career take a sudden shift, as he became involved in Occupy Wall Street's LA chapter. During this time out west, Young became heavily involved in activism, studying history, learning guitar, and writing poetry.
Young's main current project is Die Jim Crow, a multimedia concept album about the black American experience in the era of mass incarceration. The album, which will be released in 2020 with a film and art book component, is written and performed by formerly and currently incarcerated musicians from across the country. Young is the producer and founder of the project, which he began in 2013. Meat and Milk is his debut collection of poetry.
Meat & Milk
Meat & Milk is the debut poetry book of Fury Young, a born and bred Lower East Side NYC poet. The poems, along with the original notebook pages they written on jump off each page of this collection with urgency and lust. Fury writes of his world face value style, with surprise surrealist and abstract turns. Subway cars, depression incarcerated lifers, city lovers, sex, rock n’ roll all the time, crackheads, demons, and food is what you’ll find in here. Walk inside the mind of a young poet coming of age in a jaded city, an “incarcerated rabbi with so many questions,” a “porn star without a face,” an “amateur philosopher.” Meat & Milk is a poetry book very much of this age. Whether you are living in a concrete city or doing life in a concrete tomb, you will find truth in Fury’s words in Meat & Milk.
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What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Meat & Milk was written over the course of five years, and it is my first book of published poetry. So when LRP decided to publish a collection by me, the specific poems that were to go in the book were not premeditated. It was a really good surprise to put together all the pieces and find how well they blended. Their order felt natural, and I didn’t juggle the chronology of these 98 poems much at all once the groundwork had been laid.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
From daily life, the here and now, the things I see around me. My poems are often city-centric, as I am New Yorker from the Lower East Side, and currently live in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Meat & Milk also has a graphic aspect to it, which I’d say is a result of my many years as a fabricator for film sets, a collage artist, and in general an art director for all of the various projects I do. The order which the poems are in feels abstractedly linear, with ebbs and flows and life to it. I used to want to make films, so that conceptual side of my brain is always lurking. I think you can feel that in Meat & Milk.
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
Read my intro. No, but seriously, it’s all in there. While there is not a specific “theme” to the book, in the intro I explain how I started writing poetry seriously when I had moved to another part of the country and didn’t know a soul. At that point I got into the Occupy Wall Street movement, which had just sprung up back home, and also started reading obsessively about history, especially the subject of genocide, because I was taking a course on it. The combination of all these things, plus being the ripe age of twenty-two, led me to really have some crazy questions, thoughts, and feelings about the world, where I had no other outlet to go but the page. That’s when I started writing poetry a lot. Not sure if I even realized what it was at first.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The graphic work. That became a new element late in the game. Though LRP did an excellent job in the end, there was a lot of back and forth because I’m a perfectionist, most especially with visual stuff, and we had to talk about about each page and make sure the graphics were on point. I’m happy with how that aspect came out.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
As I mentioned before, it was not a premeditated collection of work, so the process was a bit different than I think this question applies to. But, to answer it in the context of me writing the content that ended up in it, well — simply writing a poem you are proud of, that’s a great feeling. Often times you know when you’ve just written something special. But then, there’s also another good feeling, which is a bit different because it feels less instant and magical in contrast to creating that thing out of thin air with a paper and pen — and that’s the feeling of taking a piece that maybe sucks but just has a spark of potential, and turning that into something you dig. Something you’d be proud to read. Oh, and last but not least, when putting together the book I went through all my old notebooks, and finding poems I’d completely forgotten about but were dope — the hidden gems — that was cool too.
How do you find or make time to write?
When I write poetry it is a compulsion, something that needs to come out of me. That’s why I always carry a pen on me and at least one piece of paper. You never know when it’s gonna come. I write a lot on the subway. Because my life is generally very busy, I write a lot in practical spaces where I actually have the time and life is still for that moment, i.e. a subway. What’s interesting about a subway though is it’s a transition moment, where you can’t do much but sit and wait for your stop, but at the same time there’s a lot of life around you. Life I often want to engage with but feel too shy in that environment, and I’ll write about that, or I will engage and write about that. So, basically when I have the time and it feels right. Then sometimes you gotta make the time.
What book or chapter of a book are you most proud of writing?
Some of my favorite pieces are “Jive,” “By The Dumpster”… Ahh, it’s tough to say. I really do like them all in their own way. I had a lot to pick from, over 300 pieces, so I made sure these were the strong ones. That said, I think each piece has it’s own special thing to offer. Check them out and see for yourself!
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
Extremely important. To me these poems are about social things, most definitely, and I hope the audience relates. To situations like the subway’s frustrating quietness, a person behind bars either physically or mentally, the modern world (see “How Many Licks” for instance), and so forth… I could go on. I love performing the pieces as well, to really make them come alive. Many of the poems are stories as well as feelings, and to share those is a really a blessing. I hope that people can relate in some way.
How is your writing connected to present day events?
By being very “here and now” pieces about being in New York City on the day to day tip, there’s a lot of present day stuff you’ll find that I think people in other modern cities might relate to. But I definitely try to go deeper than just cosmopolitan shit, cuz that’s of course just one way of life. There’s a lot of pieces in here about prison, that allude to mass incarceration and racial injustice in the system, a la my music project Die Jim Crow. Though there are pieces that are very much present day, I purposefully try to make these pieces timeless by not using certain words, like “Instagram,” or “hashtag,” or “Hillary Clinton,” “Donald Trump,” “Barack Obama.” Because in one hundred years, I’d rather some person doesn’t have to go look up something to understand it. I’d rather it be more universal.
What do you like to read in your free time?
I read a lot of letters from prison as part of the Die Jim Crow project I’m doing. That’s where most of my reading time gets taken up. Lately I’ve read two rock memoirs, Bruce Springsteen’s and Al Jourgenson’s from Ministry. They were both great.
What projects are you working on at the present?
Die Jim Crow. That’s my main thing, a concept album about racism in the U.S. prison system. You can listen to the EP we put out at diejimcrow.bandcamp.com, or see the website at diejimcrow.com. We’re working on the full length LP now. It’s going to be epic. I’m also trying to record and work on more of my own solo music, which at this point is mostly just vocals and guitar, but my other work life gets in the way. It’s very difficult to find spare time for me. I also work full time at a wood shop building film sets. My life is too busy and I need a grant, if there’s anyone out there who wants to help… SOS.
What do your plans for future projects include?
Die Jim Crow is going to be a double album, sort of like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” — very epic in scope. I would like to put out another poetry book but we’ll just have to see how “Meat & Milk” goes. I really have no idea what the reactions will be like, or where my life will go. I think before I put out another poetry book though I’d like to drop an album of my own music. That’s really a priority. And finishing Die Jim Crow. But I’m super excited to have Meat & Milk out. We’ll just see where the river takes it…. Amen!