As Charlie Chaplin once said, I've always considered myself to be a hobo, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, always hopeful of romance and adventure. I'm a writer living in upstate New York and I'm the editor of Hobo Camp Review, a literary magazine for storytellers and poets of all backgrounds, a place to share a campfire for a night and spin a few tales. I spend most evenings writing novels, columns, short stories, poetry, and bookstore reviews for my blog, The Bookshop Hunter (link in the column on the left).
After graduating from Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vermont, I took to the road and explored the long stretches of highway between Maine and California, Mexico and Montreal, finding moments of respite in bookshops, dive bars, cafes, diners, and on train station platforms. Along the way I worked as a landscaper, drove a snow plow, painted houses, slept through overnight security jobs, toiled as a chef, and held a few handyman jobs before transitioning to wordsmith positions at newspapers, American Artist magazine, and at Writer's Digest Books, where I worked with bestselling authors like Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Sims, Phillip Athans, Ben Sobieck, and Mort Castle, among others. I also contributed writing advice columns to the Writer's Digest blog, "There Are No Rules," and occasionally wrote feature articles and interviews for their magazine.
Twice nominated for the Best of the Net and once for the Pushcart Prize for my poetry, I am the author of a dozen collections of poetry and fiction, and I've appeared in such magazines as Drunk Monkeys, Five:2:One, Pulp Modern, Red Fez, Plainsongs, Reed Magazine, The Battered Suitcase, San Pedro River Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Aurorean, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Gutter Eloquence Magazine, among many others. You can view the entire listing in my Published Credits section.
Email: jamesnyduncan [at] gmail [dot] com
NY Writer’s Com.pen.dium
(with Jeff Doherty, November, 2018)
I had the pleasure of speaking with Jeff Doherty, one of the young writers over at NY Writer’s Com.pen.dium, a growing literary website highlighting events, writers, workshops, and publications in Upstate New York and beyond. Jeff asked about my writing inspirations, how writing evolves over time, how technology can help or hinder a writer, and also about my latest collection of short stories, Nights Without Rain. Our interview, titled “From Mysterious Figure to Mysterious Author,” is now posted at their website.
Cahoodaloodaling, Issue 24
(with Rachel Nix, November, 2017)
I served as the guest editor for Cahoodaloodaling's "Solitude's Spectrum" issue, which explores all the pros and cons and beauty and tragedy of human solitude. One of the wonderful editors there, Rachel Nix, also took the time to interview me about my own thoughts on solitude, my poetry, my books, and more.
"Talk With Me" Podcast
(with Marcia Epstein, October 26, 2017)
Marcia Epstein and I had a fun interview on her hour-long "Talk With Me" podcast. We talked about about Hobo Camp Review and how it all began, and I read three poems and explained the background behind my collection of poetry from Unknown Press, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine. The interview is also available at iTunes and Mixcloud.
WOOC 105.3 FM, The Sanctuary for Independent Media Interview
(with Meghan Marohn, September, 2017)
The good folks over at 105.3 FM in Troy, NY invited R.M. Engelhardt and myself, co-hosts of the Troy Poetry Mission reading series, to discuss poetry, community, and local reading events for a segment on there evening radio program, which is archived online. I read my poem "Last Appointment of the Day" from my book, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine (Unknown Press, 2017).
The Blue Mountain Review Interview
(by Charles Clifford Brooks III; November, 2016)
In the anniversary issue of The Blue Mountain Review, Charles Clifford Brooks III asks me about the history of Hobo Camp Review (my online literary magazine) and some of the best and worse practices by writers and publishers in the literary world, as well as about some writing projects I have on the stove. The issue includes Robert Pinsky, Will Mayo, Marianne Szlyk, and others.
The Blue Mountain Review Interview
(by Charles Clifford Brooks III; May, 2016)
Charles Clifford Brooks III is a southern poet, teacher, rogue, and Pulitzer nominee who interviewed me for the third issue of The Blue Mountain Review. We discussed our inability to listen to each other as a writing community, where good writing comes from, and of course, fight clubs. The issue also contains three of my poems and a ton of other great writers. My interview appears on page 89 and you can read the entire issue online.
A Short, Sharp Interview
(by Paul D. Brazill; March, 2013)
Paul D. Brazill is a renowned author of gritty noir and the supernatural, authoring such books as Drunk on the Moon, an anthology of stories about a werewolf private eye. It's pretty intense stuff. No sparkling, lovelorn Twilight beasties in sight. He asked me a few brief questions about my literary magazine, Hobo Camp Review, and you can read the interview here.
Your Mother's Medicine Cabinet Poetry Series
(Hosted by Frank Reardon; aired 7/30/2012)
I joined Frank on his radio show at the end of July to discuss Hobo Camp Review, my full-length collection of poetry Dealing With The Devil In The Middle Of The Road, and answer some questions about the current and future state of poetry in our society. The show is archived and is available at this link.
10 Questions With...
(Published in Thick With Conviction in late 2007.)
1. What or who gives you inspiration and perspiration?
The night is my biggest inspiration. Very little quality poetry happens before dusk for me. There is much less resistance, less static, fewer rules. Poetry is a very laissez-faire art. It needs a certain amount of freedom to unravel onto the page, and anything can happen at night, anything can be reshaped and used. I can open up, show the wounds, show the hopes and fears. Perspiration? Watching the nights click by faster and faster. The fear of running out of time keeps me typing. A night without writing feels wasted.
2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret desire for something else, like spelunking?
I recall telling an elementary school teacher of mine that I wanted to be a hobo—I’d get to ride trains, have a dog, travel, eat beans out of a can, rarely have to work or do chores. It ends up that writing is about the same. I always wrote my own stories and comics as a kid, but I never looked at it as something I wanted to do as a job when I grew up, just something I knew I would always do. I still don’t look at it as a career, but as a life. Editing may pay the bills, but writing gets me out of bed in the morning.
3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there been any that you're particularly swoon-y about that you've gotten?
Accolades certainly feed the poetic ego, but it’s dangerous to take high praise too deep to heart. I think it’s important to remain humble and not wander too far away from why you started writing in the first place. I love praise as much as anyone, but a little sand kicked in the face reminds you that you shouldn’t be out there writing to make someone else happy. Take your praise, take your lumps, and keep moving down your own path.
4. When you're not leaving your poetic footprint, what else in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?
Wine, preferably red, sweet, and straight from the bottle, no glass required. And if you’re paying more than $15 for a bottle, you’re paying too much. There is this wine they make in west Texas, real cheap stuff you can get for $5 a bottle that can make a bad week melt away like a heating pad for the soul. Aside from that, I have a niece and nephew that have me wrapped around their fingers. I adore them, but I hope they get used to getting books for Christmas. Richard Scarry is on deck (I still love reading him).
5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your opinion?
While I admit not being involved enough with the current poetry scene, a few poets I’ve met on the road and/or keep tabs on who really blow me away are L. L. Jacobson, Lester Allen, Destini Vaile, Jason Hardung, a few others. Like music these days, poetry seems to be more and more about the smaller movements than the big names. It lives closer to the ground, closer to the people than most would think.
6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?
They each have a place representing their respective media, though I’ve never used either as a compass for excellence. They always felt a little like the Golden Globes or Academy Awards. They are usually able to pinpoint some high-caliber material, but I always find about as many winners and nominees that I dislike as I like. And seeing either in a poet’s bio doesn’t do much for me. Show me the poem. That’s what will win me over.
7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and what poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?
I started with poetry by wandering through a book store after a brutal heartbreak, and a name caught my eye. I recalled a friend from college, this big tugboat worker named Callaghan who had a wife and kids and lived the Irish-Catholic blue-collar life in a small town along the Hudson River, and he always raved about this one poet, Charles Bukowski. I bought Bukowski’s “Betting on the Muse” that day and read it in one sitting. It turned everything around, and I thought, “this is something I can do. This is my way out.” To this day, Bukowski is one of the very few poets I can turn to when everything goes wrong. He hasn’t failed me yet. “So you want to be a writer,” “Nirvana,” and “Bluebird” are three Bukowski favorites of mine.
8. Are online poetry 'zines a crushing blow to traditional print 'zines, or are they the meat and potatoes of the poetry world now? Also, which do you prefer?
I like both, for different reasons. It’s easier to point people toward online ‘zines and get people involved who might not be deeply interested in poetry otherwise, but it feels good to hold something in your hands and see your name in print, too. Some might thumb their noses at online ‘zines, but whether it’s The New Yorker or an online quarterly or a 20 print-run stapled ‘zine by a high school kid in Idaho, it takes a person to get that thing out there, a human filter with tastes and biases and poetic ideals. Nobody starts out with an aim to publish garbage, whether they end up doing so or not. It’s about people, the writer, the publisher, the reader, and aligning them at the right time in the right place for the poetic process to go full circle. It’s work, so if you’re out there working it, I’m all for you.
9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in five years?
Five years ago I never imaged I’d be writing poetry now, so who knows. Things were pretty dour starting out, but in the process of finding my voice, I see the changes. There’s more hope now, I’m looking around more, but the maw of life is deeper, too. It’s not just about me now, but it does still filter through me. I can only hope that maw gets deeper in five years, and that I’m still around teetering on the edge.
10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?
Cats, wine, moonlight, bad memories, a good breeze, a little hope, a knot of words, and one good line to start. Mix well and let it sit for at least a few weeks. If it still stands on its own four legs, let it out the front door to roam. It’ll come back, one way or the other.