Interview: Fury Young "Meat & Milk" Part Two


"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 of The Last Poets

A Two-part Interview Series

The following interview is part two of a two-part interview with multi-disciplinary artists and author Fury Young. Read Part One of the interview here.

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.

Buy $19.95 US

ISBN: 978-0997694338

Poetry / Art / New York City / Lower East Side
Paperback (Now Available)
6 x 9 inches | 230 pages
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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.

When do you write? Do you have a routine?

I definitely don’t have a routine. I could never force a poem. I write when I have the feeling that a poem must come out, that I have something real to say. I write when I have the time, on the subway, after work, or perhaps even at work in the bathroom just scribbling something quick on the toilet. It’s when it has to happen that it gets done.

How do you begin a writing project?

Fury Young: Meat & Milk was not a premeditated project in this sense of “let me begin this writing project” — I sent some work to Benjamin Taylor from LRP and he really liked it. Then the process began, of typing up every poem I’ve ever written from about eight notebooks kept over the past five years. That ended up being over 300 poems, a lot of them crap, but typed up nonetheless. Were I to do another book though, I think I’d just approach it the same way — as long as the order of the poems were legit. For me the order of the Meat & Milk poems had to have arches, ebbs and flows, it had to pay attention to characters in my life, their arrivals and departures, break-ups and deaths. For future books I might do the same thing, who knows.

Do you keep notebooks? Use special paper?

I definitely keep notebooks, and if a piece in Meat & Milk wasn’t written on a paper bag or some scrap paper, than it was written in a notebook. Once in a blue moon I’ll write on a computer or into my phone, but that’s only if I have no other means. Certainly the pen and paper thing is my bag. I don’t use special paper, unless you consider a brown deli bag special paper.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Most of the time I don’t. Cuz then it would just come out sounding like the song’s rhythm or something. There’s one piece in here I definitely did though, “Thug Motivation” — I listened to this song by my friend gHSTS & gUITARS called “Rivers Have Songs.” On repeat. Since then I’ve performed that piece with the song playing. It just flows in like a glove for that piece, don’t even have to rehearse it.

Do you share your writing while you are still writing or wait until you have a draft?

I’ll definitely share poems as I write them, no doubt. I perform a lot and I don’t enjoy performing the same things too many times in the same space, so sharing new pieces is always great.

What about ideas for books? Do they percolate for years before you write, or do you work it out as your write?

For a poetry book, at this juncture, I wouldn’t want to have an overall idea for a book – an overall theme or plot point or something like that. It would be way too forced. To me the whole enjoyment and point of poetry is that it’s freeing, it’s not work – it’s the most free I feel as a mind to just put it down gracefully, or not so gracefully – but put it down. I think the overall idea of the book then comes naturally based on your life at the time. So I think Meat & Milk ended up being a coming of age book, because I started writing it when I was a young dude, twenty two. I still am young at twenty seven, but a lot has happened in that five years, and it’s led me to a different, more developed place. So the next book might be about…. hahah we’ll you’ll just have to see. I’LL just have to wait and see.

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.

If you could express one thought to all your readers what would it be?

I think I’ve expressed enough in the book! So my only thought would be, “read it if you are so inclined, and devour Meat & Milk!”

Is there one author who has influenced your writing more than any others?

No. I’d say my style has influences from music more than other poetry. I don’t read a ton of poetry. Recently I’ve read some Langston Hughes pieces which were solid, a few Piñero pieces. But music inspires me more at this point. And even that not that much. It’s really more so the things I hear and the way my mind processes them. The way I think and feel words.

Do you think the relationships between authors and readers are changing?

I’m not sure. I haven’t been in the game long enough to know. It will be interesting to find out I suppose. Ask me that on the next book!

What does it mean to be a writer in troubled times?

Times are always troubled. So perhaps it just means being a writer. But writing in troubled times is trying to make sense of them. Trying to find some kind of solace or just release of your feelings about them. Often you can’t come to peace in troubled times, but at least writing about them makes you feel slightly more sane. Hopefully it can do that for a reader as well, I would hope so.

How is your writing connected to present day events?

Fury Young: 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.

If you wrote a book about the future  — the way you imagine it will be — what kind of book would you write?

Robot gets smashed
How about that
Generation Z
Living up to no ZZZZZs
Fury cannot imagine
Jovial cannot imagine
The future
It’s here
It’s now
It’s past
It’s you
It’s turkey
Chicken and bologna
No that’s processed
It ain’t Spam
It’s mad jive season
Hopefully with reasons to live.

What are your earliest memories of words?

Great question. Though I have no idea. My grandfather was a rabbi, an orator. I come from a long long lineage of rabbis and cantors on my mom’s side. My mom evaluated kids with dyslexia. When I was going into kindergarten I told her I was afraid I’d never learn to read or write. I ended up becoming the best speller in the class and then my teacher saw I was cocky and in front of the class during a spelling exercise asked me to spell “business.” With utmost certainly I blurt out “B – I – Z – N – E – S – S.” My first memory of music is “Hit The Road Jack” which I probably heard by Ray Charles. To me words and music are tied close together.

What are your earliest memories of writing?

I really loved writing from a young age. I have a journal entry where I state with utmost certainty that I was going to be a film director. I was seven. A few months later I started writing a feature film script called “Comic Lover,” about some kid who is born with an issue of Spider-Man in his hands. I forgot what happens next, he probably gets super powers. Than I wrote another super hero script – well, started to – called “The Plunger,” with a hero of the same name. He was a plumber. Poetry writing probably the first time was in high school during a poetry class. I wrote the poems all in under five minutes and got an A plus (see “Jive” piece). The teacher had it out for me too, but I guess she just couldn’t deny that there was something in the pieces. I have no idea where they are now or how they go. I just remember one line “You drive the way you fuck, Earthling”

Do you remember your first books?

Probably some Dr. Suess stuff. I loved Roald Dahl, Nancy Farmer, Jerry Spinelli, Daniel Pinkwater. Those were my favorites. I loved comics too. Mom, am I leaving some out?

What do you like about reading?

It’s meditative. It’s escape. You get smarter. You get to be a better writer.

What did you dislike about reading?

I don’t like reading really academic or theoretical stuff. It’s just not how my mind works. I respect people who like theory stuff, but I simply can’t do it. You only have so much time alive, and I need to spend it doing the things I like. So I’d never force myself to read something that didn’t make sense to me and I really had to focus to try and get something from it. Too much brainpower wasted. Academic stuff I have a problem with because it can get insane. I remember when I was studying the Cambodian genocide I picked up this book called “How Pol Pot Came To Power.” I’ll be totally honest, I wanted to like it not only because it was considered a good source on the subject, but it also had a really cool cover…. I ended up not being able to digest any of the information because it was so dense in history but in this very academic way. I don’t like being sedentary too much, so if I read, that thing’s got to get my soul moving.

What does your family think of your writing?

Not too sure yet. My brother, Royal Young, he is a writer, and I read him the early manuscript. He really liked the pieces and gave me some great advice. So that’s always a great person to have around because they can give you professional feedback. I read my grandparents a couple and they seemed to dig. We’ll see what my parents think. Hopefully they don’t call the psych ward.

The following interview is part two of a two-part interview with multi-disciplinary artists and author Fury Young. Read Part One of the interview here.