Today we’d like to introduce you to Evan Thomas Cummings.
Hi Evan, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Thanks for the platform! I’m a Massachusetts born, Los Angeles based writer. Recently my work has been about my day to day journey with getting and trying to stay sober, and my lifelong struggle with faith that’s been highlighted by the process.
I’ve always been in awe of what really focused and evocative writing can do for both the artist and the people receiving the work. As a kid I would sit up in my room for hour on end just printing out hip-hop lyrics from early-days Rap Genius dot com, and studying them— the structure, the syllables, the rhyme patterns— I loved it obsessively.
Writing has always been my most identifiable talent, of which there honestly really aren’t that many. I gave class speeches and did well in English. Fairly boring stuff. I toyed with the idea of sports journalism for a bit, but my real love throughout high school and college was songwriting. I was really self-conscious about my voice so I didn’t broadcast the music whatsoever, but there was a palpable appreciation for and desire to be a practitioner of nuanced writing. It was just incredibly sheltered at the time.
The love for written poetry didn’t come about for me until college. I went to a small business-oriented school in the south and I always felt somewhat removed from the “culture”, shall we say, of the campus. That’s about when it became viable to me to be more public and open about myself as a writer because by that time I had thoroughly vetted it as an integral part of my being and it felt central to my identity. I did creative non-fiction, fiction, screenwriting, journalism, poetry, any medium of writing that had a course, I took. I really gravitated to creative non-fiction and poetry. The former introduced me to Joan Didion and the latter really honed my craft. Those were the classes where I could look around the class and say to myself, “alright. I see myself as the best writer in here in terms of x, y, and z,” and feel justified in saying those things to myself, privately. That’s when I started doing a couple of open mics at a bookstore called Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro, down the block from the bar Limelight, which is another institution I frequented that probably remembers me a little less fondly than the bookstore does. So that’s the inception of my life in poetry. After graduation, I moved here to LA. I started doing mics at Da Poetry Lounge pretty regularly. Out of any book I’ve read or college course I’ve taken, nothing has come even remotely close to Da Poetry Lounge in terms of pushing and strengthening me as a writer, and showing me how much work it this kind of life takes. I’m currently working in the Community Literature Initiative publishing course on my first manuscript that I’m really excited about, and that pretty much brings my story up to speed.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been smooth, no, but I don’t think it ever really is for anyone. I spent a good deal of my youth sedated by suburbia, but when my dad got diagnosed with, and ultimately passed from, pancreatic cancer, that really disturbed the axis I had been comfortably spinning on for so long. I was a sophomore in college when he died and if I had to pinpoint a period of time, that would be the beginning of alcohol becoming a real problem for me. It seemingly did the trick. I could suppress everything, or I could totally blow my lid off, but either way the booze was going to help me get to that point. During that phase of my life I accumulated a solid collection of what we in recovery call, “war-stories” and I go into those in the manuscript. I think it’s important for me to be transparent and really paint the picture of what alcoholism looked like for me, even as a young person. I don’t think I can paint a genuine portrait of sobriety or depict the overwhelming nature of it if I don’t divulge what the addiction itself looked like. It has rubbed some people the wrong way. I’ve had classmates and small publications say my work was offensive in some form or fashion or that it could ruffle some of their readership’s feathers. Those moments are honestly very reinforcing for me because they tell me that the work is striking a chord, and a chord that I believe in the importance of. I don’t necessarily resent the critique, but I also feel no pressure to change my approach. No one shows up to rehab on a winning-streak. It’s not exactly a bucket-list item. Societally we applaud people for their public displays of sobriety but we don’t acknowledge or support how messy the process of getting there is, or how common these afflictions are. Most of the further analysis on that is in my poetry somewhere so I’ll leave some to the imagination.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m currently working on my first manuscript with the Community Literature Initiative. Like I’ve said it goes into great detail about the years I spent with drugs and alcohol and more recently my process of getting sober, working a 12 step program, and wrestling with the very religious and spiritual culture of recovery as a relatively faithless individual.
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @_vanthomas_
Personal photo and black and white photo: Haley Killam IG: @haleykillam_photo
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