an interview with Darren R.
Scrolling through the blakhole that is Instagram often becomes a muscle memory blank stare into a constant stream of look-a-likes. All the close up selfies, “obligatory” bathroom photoshoots inspired by the “good lighting” and, endless immaculate plates of brunch before the first bite. But, sometimes you drag your finger along the screen and pull up a gem. Not the jewels you find hidden amongst rocks, though, it is its own sort of discovery.Where instagram gains substance.
That is how I stumbled upon Darren R. (Insta: @EarthToDarren). He had just posted a photo of himself surrounded by grand greenery, behind him a rainbow reached from one end of a wall and landed on him . . as if he were the pot of gold; wearing only tighty whities with a look of confidence that couldn’t be challenged. Beneath this image was a poem titled “3/13/2019”.
From that moment I was intrigued, and begun the scrolling and liking frenzy. In this I learned he is a very talented writer. I wanted to pick his brain, lean more about what inspired his words. There is a frankness about his writing and photography that I really appreciate.
GUA: There is a tangible truth to your writing that I find refreshing. Do you speak so frankly in your daily life?
DR: I actually struggle often with being completely frank in my daily life. I grew up keeping a lot of secrets, and I have a tendency to withhold information to this day. It’s something I constantly have to work on, so that it doesn’t have a negative effect on my relationships.
When I write, I challenge myself to be as precise as possible in what I’m trying to say. It’s really important to me to represent correctly the thing itself and what is in my mind, and sometimes it’s through tangible objects, and sometimes it’s through nuances of feelings.
GUA: I notice two strong recurring themes in your poems: Family, and queerness.
These feel like love letters.
How does family and queer culture inspire you?
DR: Family to me is the most delicate part of who I am. Anything that is precious or meaningful to me, has been in some way shaped by my family.
Queer culture to me is being brave to be who I am. I also think it’s one of the biggest movements of our time, and I am so excited to feel part of it.
But more importantly, it’s for anyone who knows what it’s like to live pretending or trying to be someone else, and I find that very inspiring.
GUA: I love the pieces that are rooted in specific queer experiences like truck stop cruising in “3/2/2019” or taking hits of poppers in London dark rooms in “2/22/2019”. What about these experiences drive you to write about them?
DR: First of all, I love sleaze. I get turned on when I write down those words, and I really enjoy that.
Also, I find something so raw about these experiences. They are moments when a man is anonymous and on his own. He is being completely self-satisfying, and at the same time acting out of a need or desire that he can’t totally explain or understand. I find the force behind these particular realities very inspiring, and I try to capture it in my writing.
I also like in my writing to remember and honor queer men of previous generations. I think often about what life as a queer man may have been like during different points in history, what the challenges may have been, as well as the settings in which men had sexual interactions.
I also think about what would’ve been just the same between then and now. Particularly with regards to feelings, and desires.
GUA: Your pieces are all tilted with dates, is this a way to keep track of time or do you not like wordy titles?
DR: I think of each piece as a sort of journal entry, so I love to relate them back to the date and remember where I was at that point in time. I originally started keeping a journal around 2001, when I was a senior year in high school, and have kept writing in one on and off over the years. I see the pieces as a continuation of my journal.
GUA: In 2/26/2019 you also mention musician Eti Ankri. I have to say I was curious about who this was and after a google search and listen I was enamored by her beautiful voice. I could imagine her voice being the farewell to you home and childhood friends.
In this same piece you say you were uprooted by God in 1997.
Where did you move from?
DR: My family and I moved to the US from Israel when I was 13 years old.
I live the consequences of this move in so many ways to this day. This experience has shaped me immensely, and I am very inspired by the feelings it has imparted on me.
GUA: One of my favorite lines is “They say a poet writes the same poem/For an entire living year”
What poem do you find yourself revisiting?
DR: I love that you picked up on that line. It was actually told to me by a poetry class instructor in college, and I always remembered it. I find it so true about myself.
This past year I think I have revisited a poem about a few realities that have intersected in my life. One reality is about understanding and being there for my family. Another is about feeling the tenderness and softness of love towards another person. And the third is about curious sexual exploration and freedom.
GUA: I think it’s interesting how a lot of poets/artists write about their most painful moments to process or overcome them, but, you write in 3/13/2019 “Those things that don’t make it in the poems/hurt the most”.
Why is it you choose to keep the things that hurt the most from the page?
DR: I may keep from writing certain things down as a form of control over whatever the scenario or feeling may be. Maybe if it’s out in writing then it’s proof that it happened, and there are consequences to deal with.
Also, my writing is sometimes a message to a specific person. And if I don’t feel like I want to, or am able to say the message to the person, because maybe it evokes too much sadness or fear or shame, I may not write it either.
GUA: I found in a few of your pieces you questioning what is it that you will leave behind, or what has come from your life?
What is the mark you want to leave on the world?
What boundaries do you want to push?
DR: It’s interesting, I have only started thinking about legacy over the past couple of years probably, by listening to a specific leader in my life speak about his legacy, and the importance of leaving a legacy, in the context of work and career. I think that has permeated into my mind in different areas of my life, and overall has had a positive impact on me.
It gives more weight to any decision I make, and I think it makes me more thoughtful. It also drives me to try and accomplish more, and be there for the people around me, so that my legacy and positive influence could be clearly articulated.
I have a very tense relationship with rules and boundaries, particularly if they don’t make sense to me, and my natural tendency is to try to push and stretch.
One part of it is a sense of advancing society towards a place free of judgments, which is the mark I want to leave on the world.
Another part is the thrill.
GUA: Last question: Are you a river?
Or an island?
Or a fairy?
Or them all?
DR: One of the biggest influences in my life from a fairly young age was Alanis Morissette. I started listening to her music as a twelve year old kid, and by high school I was obsessively analyzing her lyrics and reading any articles or journal entries she would release. I felt a particularly strong connection with her writing around the time she traveled to India and afterwards, and took a lot guidance about spirituality and the role of the self from her.
One of the central themes that Alanis would write about was interconnectedness, and the oneness of all things. That resonated and stuck with me since then, and one way that I particularly relate to it is that I feel myself in the different forces behind different things.
I flow like a river, with strength and persistence. I swerve, and I vary in levels of intensity.
I’m an introvert, like an island. Most of my world is inside.
I see myself as a fairy, and I like to visualize little fairies guiding me.
I’m all of them.
GUA: Also, before I forget, what drew you to creating @TheHumanExperience2019?
DR: The idea of @thehumanexperience2019 has come together in a few different ways.
One is my obsession with capturing the present moment. I see the written pieces and the images that I post as a true expression of today. They are a testament to what life is like now for that person.
Another is a desire to provide space for writers in particular to share their writing, in a way that feels easy and free.
And another is that I love matching images with written pieces. I like curating and I enjoy the tension of trying to find an interrelated feeling between the writing and the image.
You can follow Darren here:Insta: @EarthToDarren Insta: @TheHumanExperience2019
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