We had the good fortune of connecting with Brice Maiurro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brice, what matters most to you?
I’m a big believer in the virtue of goofiness. I believe that the poetry world especially can always use a healthy dose of humor and lightheartedness. I try to approach my art with that in mind. There’s a lot of sincerity to be found in being goofy, and I think it lends itself well to the idea that you don’t have to have all the answers all the time. We’re all so many different people in any given moment, and in a lot of ways we’re such products of our environment. I think that the humility to step back and say “I don’t know” or even, “wow, I was way off on that one,” is really important. We should celebrate what’s imperfect and I think that there’s a noticeable and profound overlap between what’s imperfect about us and what is beautiful.
Alan Watts says “trying to destroy your ego is the biggest ego trip out there.” I’ve carried that into my writing for a long time. I see my confessional poems as an acknowledgment of ego, not a destruction. In my best poems, it’s my voice, for better or worse, good days or bad days. The rhythm is my rhythm, the dad jokes are my dad jokes. Maybe someday I’ll have a kid or two to justify them.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I hope my poetry is a guidebook for how to stay in the moment.
A recent poem was a reminder of what I believe; that love is inherent and what we need more of is disruption. We need more people making hatred and ignorance inconvenient. That to me is real love. An older poem has me slipping into the astral plane in the middle of cleaning peanut butter out of a dish. Yet another was born out of opening a fortune cookie and finding there was no fortune inside of it. The social distancing of COVID has me missing the stage, and also this past year has reminded me how much I love the idea that through a poem, I can share intimacy with a stranger through the written word. I love the idea that my shower thought might be the last thing someone thinks about before they fall asleep for the night.
Working on my third collection of poems, I am excited that I am taking my time with it. There was a lot of joy in my first collection, “Stupid Flowers”, driven by my reckless abandon in saying, it’s time, I’m going to throw this collection of poems out into the world, come hell or high water.” I’ve slowed down a lot now. The urgency of saying something to the world has been replaced by the patience of wanting to say what I believe is most necessary. There’s a callout that audience members will often yell out at poetry slams: “don’t be nice–be necessary!” That is guiding me in my work.
When I was maybe twenty-five, I discovered Buddhism. “Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki, in particular, stood out to me. I had been brought up around Catholicism and found it to be largely uninspiring, and a religion based on fear and obedience. To discover the ideologies of Buddhism, things like compassion and tolerance, was very moving to me and has guided my life and my poetry ever since. As I get older, my spiritual journey and my poetry become more and more intersectional and powerful in that way. I love the idea that I might write a koan (a short riddle of a story with a lesson), for example. I also love the accountability of my art. My poetry can only ever be as honest as I can be with myself, and having a winding path of spiritual growth keeps me moving through the forest of it all.
It’s not been an easy path so far. In American culture, it seems, you spent your formative years inheriting ideologies, and then many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to dismantle those very ways of thinking. I’m grateful that I have writing to push me through that. I’m grateful for the thousand different stories I’ve heard and read as well that have shown me that no person is a single story and everyone is a teacher.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I speak often about how much I love the South Broadway neighborhood of Denver. There’s a reason I named South Broadway Press after it. South Broadway is changing like a lot of Denver. Punk rock dive bars are being made into swanky craft breweries with no real personality. LoDo is unfortunately slowly finding its way over there. What’s more unfortunate is that Denver is one of the most gentrified cities in the United States. That our mayor, Michael Hancock, has been bought out by developers. That homeless people don’t have the right to be. They don’t have the right to be anywhere at all here. Denver is being whitewashed and going down the path of Boulder. Denver has some beautiful new buildings and wonderful new restaurants, but it’s turning into a yoga studio with a protest on the other side of the soundproofed wall. What makes Denver beautiful is its people. If it weren’t for Crossroads Theater in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver, I’d never have danced before a poetry reading. I’d never have known the likes of Bobby LeFebre or Franklin Cruz or Ken Arkind or Bianca Mikahn. I worry that Denver won’t be home to these new voices because culture isn’t valued. It’s hard to dream in a city where everything is for sale.
The Mercury Cafe is up for sale. That’s where I’d probably tell someone visiting Denver to go. To answer your question, if someone were to visit Denver, I’d tell them to stay awhile. I’d tell them that every Sunday morning a group of dedicated citizens offers mutual aid to houseless folx on 16th Street Mall. I’d tell them to go there and be a part of that. I’d tell them they need to get a good talking to at the Sunday night slam at the Merc. I’d tell them to get out of the city completely and take a weekday to see the burnt remnants that make up the miles of what once was the best glory of Rocky Mountain National Park. Denver isn’t a weekend trip to me, and it’s not something that can be felt in a postcard. My partner Shelsea Ochoa said it best, “Denver is a place where people sing their friend’s songs.”
I’ve worn a Mutiny Information Cafe hoodie at least nine months out of the year for the last seven-or-so years of my life. I’ve said a million times that Mutiny has saved my life. They’ve been fighting white supremacy since before it was an Instagram tag. I’ll always tell anyone to go there if you have the chance. They are bookstore heaven for lost boys like me.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am incredibly blessed that my favorite person to share creative ideas and challenge society with also happens to be my partner and my best friend, so I’d like to recognize Shelsea Ochoa. Shelsea, day-in and day-out, has made me a better person and challenged me to be more radical, to speak truth to power, and let those most intimate parts of my heart be exposed to the light of day. In the month of April, I wrote thirty poems in thirty days, and every evening she was there to hear the poem and tell me straight-up I love that one or eh, not my favorite.
I am also incredibly lucky that the press I founded, South Broadway Press, has an amazing team of folx who volunteer countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears to the dream of an independent literary magazine and publishing press. Erica Hoffmeister, Emylee Frank, and Kali Heals have been with the press for years now. Last summer, in the heat of COVID, with their partnership we were able to wrestle together a collection of beautiful poems to raise thousands of dollars for Denver Food Rescue, and thus ensure that a lot of people had food delivered directly to them in the midst of an unprecedented time of need.
More recently we’ve brought on a lot of incredible people. Kansas Poet Laureate Huascar Medina, Chloe Thompson, and Morgan Ventura have already shown up in amazing ways, bringing insight and new voices to the literary journal, as well as an incredible online March edition on the theme of “Language of the Earth”. Sarah Rodriguez, who I worked with for many years with Punch Drunk Press, has also begun partnering with the press, and it’s so good to be reunited with a person so dedicated to community and the written word.
I’ve learned a lot living with Danny Mazur of Soul Stories, as well. He’s become a really dear friend over the last year, and I admire the fact that outside of a forty-plus hour work week at Denver Children’s Home, including the occasional overnight shift, he finds time to hold space for an organization that has created discussions on such crucial topics as gentrification, consent, racial justice and politic divide.
I have no shortage of wonderful people around me, and they are the light that guides me home every time.
Other: South Broadway Ghost Society, online literary journal: www.soboghoso.org
From The Hip Photo, J Mark Tebben