Smoking With Joseph Young

Read the Story June 15, 2005

Jesus. A powerful flash, Mr. Young. What was the first image that came to mind to give this flash its life?

Honestly, I don’t remember; I wrote this a while ago. It must have been the corn though, since that’s the very first image, and then the image of the devil in the corn. That’s seems to be the way it happens, I drag up some image out of the darkness and then see what happens to it. Writing seems to become more and more a reliance on subconscious fishing trips. I try to shape what happens around the images, pieces of dialogue, etc., that come up, but it all starts with and is dependent on blindgroping.

The poetic lyricism and prosody of your prose—”hooves kicking up soil and the nests of wasps”—wows me time and time again. What does poetry have to do with flash?

A lot. I like compression in flash and I like the associations that flint off from that compression, how images and characters and dialogue rub against each other to make an experience of meaning, the same as can happen with the elements of poetry. I’m not sure that happens so much in this piece, which, for me anyway, gets its energy from the fun-ness of the images and dialogue rather than their associations, but it’s what I like to play around with a lot in flash. I don’t think flash can rely only on narrative because short stories do that so much better, there’s more room to create narrative texture in them. So, what can flash give that stories usually don’t? Poetic compression, for one thing.

It’s not the Devil, I read somewhere, who made the world fall, but rather, our belief in him. Whattaya think? Is the Devil real or metaphor? And what power does the Devil wield in this world?

Hmm, I don’t know how to answer this one. Religious images come up a lot in my stuff because they carry a lot of energy with them and I find myself fascinated by god and the devil and Jesus and all that even though I have no affinity for Christianity as a way of life. But its images and ideas are compressions of really powerful feelings and tap into deep places in us.

I admire the way you push against the boundaries of convention in your flash pieces. What’s behind that push? An attempt to tear down?—build up?—or something else?

I guess I just really like flash and want to see what else it can do. For me, flash isn’t just littler short stories, it’s a whole other reading/writing experience, so I like to see when writers push it outwards, expand its possibilities. Flash is a great form, one worth dedicating your time to, one worth being serious about.

Say it isn’t so. Your incredible blog “Flashlight” is going dark. Explain. Please!

I get bogged down pretty easily, and my head starts to fill with clutter, worries, inertia about writing, and I have to clean it out every so often just to free up enough space to write. The blog was a challenge to myself in that way, an opportunity to approach writing from a fresh angle and thus bypass that clutter. Then, the blog and feeling tied to it and fretting over it became clutter itself. It’s great to be done with it.

About the Author:

Joseph Young writes microfiction in Baltimore. His work has recently appeared in Lamination Colony, Wigleaf, and FRiGG, and he has work forthcoming in Cake Train and Grey Sparrow Journal. A volume of his microfiction, "Easter Rabbit," will be published by Publishing Genius Press in December 2009.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.