Oyster River Pages: Why did you choose Oyster River Pages?
Matthew Bukowski: I was excited to apply to a newer publication and be a part of its earliest history.
ORP: If you could tell your younger creative self anything, what would it be?
MB: Take this more seriously. I spent a long time half-assing my work. I shouldn't have.
ORP: When did you first learn that language had power? What was that experience like for you?
MB: I was always easily picked on for my size and lack of athletic ability, so as a kid I learned how to be sarcastic as a way of defending myself. To this day, the hardest part of writing is turning the distancing voice I developed against itself, a lifelong process of trying to use words to draw people closer and not push them away.
ORP: What role does research play in your work? How much do you research do you do before or during the creation of your work?
MB: Research can be incredibly powerful, and sometimes hours and hours of work trying to find out the name for something can dramatically reshape the work, even if it's as simple as knowing what a person in Harrisburg, PA, would call that bar on top of a laundromat cart. But research wormholes can also be incredibly distracting, and I often need to set hard limits to keep myself from getting lost in research instead of generating prose.
ORP: Does having a work published alter the way you think about it? Does it alter the way you think about yourself?
MB: Nonfiction especially can feel powerfully cathartic to write in the way journaling can. But knowing others will read it emphasizes the way writing should be read, and lets me know that some work belongs in the world, not squirreled away in a notebook.
Matthew Bukowski is a writer living in Arlington, VA. He recently received his MFA from American University in Washington, DC. He tweets (badly) from @CheeseBurgowski. Oyster River Pages is proud to publish his essay, “Bunk Beds,” in this issue.