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Smoking With Joshua Helms

Interview by Beth Thomas (Read the Story) March 27, 2012

Joshua Helms

art by Ashley Inguanta

Tell us about the structure of this story. Did the sectioned format come organically with the story, or was it something you set out to do, then shaped the story around?

This story comes from a book about an unnamed narrator and his relationship with his lover, Boy. I wanted to see what would happen if I had them write letters to each other about their relationship, so the sectioned format came pretty organically.

Who is this narrator? What do we need to know about this person? Who is the “you” and what do we need to know about that person?

The narrator is both himself & Boy. The “you” is both Boy & the narrator. They are two people who’ve become so linked that it’s difficult even for them to discern where one of them ends and the other begins, and to differentiate their own individual experiences and histories.

There is no real dialog here. Why not? Tell us about the one-sidedness of this story. What would the “you” say to any of this, if included?

I think a lot about filters and perception: how the narrator understands himself as he is, but also through the filter of Boy, and how Boy understands himself as he is, but also through the filter of the narrator. The narrator and Boy are perceived through the lens of each other and their identities are shaped by each other.

Tell us about your writing process. How many times did you revise after draft 1? Do you revise as you go, or draft, revise, draft, revise?

I like to revise as I go. I often worry that by revising too much I’m sort of killing whatever it is that I’m writing, that the piece might seem overworked. With this story, I wrote the individual pieces, arranged them, and trimmed them based on suggestions from workshops and friends. Most of my revision is trimming, I think. And with these, I revised each section no more than two or three times.

Who do you love to read? Who inspires you?

In no particular order, I love to read Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, Zachary Schomburg, Richard Siken, Aase Berg, Nate Pritts, Matthea Harvey, Sabrina Orah Mark, Joshua Beckman.

About the Author

Joshua R. Helms is a candidate in the MFA program at The University of Alabama. His poems and fictions appear or are forthcoming in Copper Nickel, elimae, H_NGM_N, Monkeybicycle, NANO Fiction, PANK, Stoked, TYPO, and Used Furniture Review.

About the Interviewer

Beth Thomas is originally from New Mexico but currently lives in California due to military relocation. She works as a technical writer in the aerospace/defense industry—don’t ask what she writes about ’cause she can’t really tell you. She has a BA and an MA in writerly things from New Mexico universities. Her work has recently appeared in Pindeldyboz Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, Word Riot, and other places.

About the Artist

Ashley Inguanta is a writer, art photographer, installation artist, and holistic educator. Her work has most recently appeared in Atticus Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and the anthology The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry. Her newest chapbook of poems, The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field honors a human connection with the natural world.

This interview appeared in Issue Thirty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Five
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