An Interview with Poet Jack Leaf Willetts

Jack, your new poetry collection, The Beauty of being Hated, has just been published. What can you tell us about it?

It was hard to live and hard to write. It was written out of a series of negative situations and I was bent on documenting them. I was in a position where I was able to explore the concepts of love and hate and the close connection between these emotions. In writing this collection I have tried to find a voice for both sides. I have always tried to create something out of negativity so that negative emotion whether that of my own or that of others is not a complete waste – a song, a painting, a poem or a collection in this case.

Self-publishing has a long history; many of the Beat poets certainly embraced it. What led to your decision to self-publish The Beauty of being Hated?

It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I was never really comfortable with the idea. I wanted the traditional print route, I wanted to type on an old typewriter and hear the noise, I wanted to receive real letters and rejection slips.

It took me years to embrace the internet and online publication. It was only when I made the switch that things started to move forward with my writing. I see self-publishing as an extension of what I was already doing by submitting to online zines, so it made sense to try it out.

What would be your advice to other poets or writers considering the self-publishing route?

There is little to lose and much to gain. It is also a great way of maintaining some control of your work.

I know you’re a reader of the Beats. Have they influenced your work, and if so, in what way?

Yes sure, initially it was Kerouac. Ever since I started reading him at a young age I was influenced by his style and the freedom in his work. It was the Beats that made me realize my love for writing. It was the first time I had found literature that I connected with and I have been hooked ever since.

Your blog is titled “What Would Neal Do?” – how did you come to name it that?

Jack Leaf WillettsAgain it was my reluctance to embrace technology and new ideas regarding publication. I felt that I was selling out in some way by writing anything but words in ink. I suppose I was really questioning myself in terms of my vehement dismissal of blogging, social networking and such. I kept coming back to the Beats and I felt that Cassady, Kerouac and the rest of the writers I admired so much would certainly have an online presence if they were around. It’s also just a straight up nod to the Beat Generation since they have inspired me and my work.

Are there contemporary writers who you’d recommend, or who’ve been an influence?

Yes sure. I’m a big fan of Joe Clifford, who I think of as the ‘Springsteen of hardboiled fiction’. Joe has a great blog called Candy and Cigarettes and his autobiographical novel Junkie Love is forthcoming from Vagabondage Press. I read it in one shot and was knocked out by his work. I also enjoy the work of Bud Smith, Tom Pitts and British poet Miggy Angel.

How do you get into the right mental space to write? Are there rituals you follow, times of day, particular things that get your creative engine going?

I’m pretty erratic in terms of creative output. There really is no set pattern for me. I might write a few words in a couple of days, and then a couple of thousand in a night. I have also realized that I can sit down and write fiction on tap, but with poetry I can’t force it, it comes when it comes.

What projects have you got in the pipeline?

I have just published a children’s book called The Bee’s Knees. This was never something that I intended to get into but I never know what I’ll wind up writing. It is also the first piece I have illustrated. For a kids’ book it is slightly unusual but I wanted to try something different, and again self-publishing affords me the privilege to write without restriction.

Is there something I missed? Something else you’d like our readers to know?
I have recently changed my name and this is proving a bit of a nightmare in terms of writing credits. Most of my work is under the pen name ‘Jade Leaf Willetts’.

As well as writing, I also write songs and paint abstract. I’m always on the lookout for places to hang my paintings; you can check them out here.


Jack’s two books are, The Beauty of being Hated, and The Bee’s Knees.

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