Renegade poet David Merritt has been absent from the poetry scene for the last couple of years. We caught up with him to chat about his off-grid lifestyle and what he’s working on now.
Q: Where have you been these past few years? You’ve been notable by an absence from the usual physical and digital spaces. Care to explain?
A: By the end of 2019 I was buggered, physically and mentally. Doctors were wagging censorious fingers at me (once more) and I was feeling like a one person literary sweatshop. Any degree of success, even modest, often requires periods of quite prolonged hard work, from which there is no escape and which is part of the territory. I’d been accommodation deficient (a nice way of saying you’re homeless and the business model doesn’t support hefty rent payments) for about 5 years and needed to settle and dig in, take stock, rest and repair.
Q: So, are you in better health now and have you found a home?
A: Yes and yes. When Covid struck in 2020 I was already well up a no-exit gravel road in the middle of nowhere in far northland, staying with a lovely young couple in a caravan. But after the first round of lockdowns ended I moved down to live in a garage in south Taranaki to be a little more central and closer to my family and friends. At the moment I am in the process of (slowly) building a tiny house on a land collective at a place called Pihama, living in a tent and taking responsibility for a flock of hens, an orchard and some big vege gardens. I’ll be still mostly off the grids but will now only engage with digi-hoohah in a limited way for a few hours a week. Rest of the time I’m quite happy in an old school, analog kind of way doing things my ancestors did like digging, collecting manures, making charcoal etc and writing of course.
Q: How’s that going? The writing thing….
A: Slow but ok. I made a series of 15 animated poems last year about where we’re at as a species on this fragile planet, they read more like non-fiction than poetry! I’m re-writing them and adding in a few other things to form the nucleus of something called Welcome to Bunkerville. Fingers crossed, that will be out by August/September. The long gestated You Sleep Uphill collection, a collaboration with Chris at Compound Press is hopefully out in time for my birthday in late April. There’s also some recordings in the pipeline, a CD called Blowhole, lifted from a 2021 live show at Punakaiki, where Justine Francis (aka the very talented viola player) and I did a sublime performance on a rainy night and a studio album produced by Fred Renata called the Mangaturoto Sessions which has been in the pipeline for a while.
Q: Will we see you out and about this year? Will you ever return for prolonged residencies on K road or in Cuba street or Nelson like in the past?
A: Maybe but the new new normal makes it difficult. I’ll make a quota of the little books this year, maybe a 1000 or so, plus a few more poetry bricks for 2022 National Poetry Day but I’m more inclined to stay put and wait for the invites to highly paid gigs at prestigious festivals or the huge lump sum grants from CNZ (thats my wry humour BTW). To be honest, I’m quite happy to build the tiny house, tinker with old Land Rovers, hen whisper and grow bulk pumpkins.
Q: A lot of people have asked us about you and your where abouts. How can they get a hold of you and how can they support you?
A: It can take a while sometimes to get a reply out of me via email, I’m currently working my way through the various gmail addresses I have and I’m back on Instagram now (@dm807169) which I’ve missed quite a bit. Eventually I’ll get back on the Facecrack/Meta planet, if only spasmodically, which I haven’t missed at all. I do have a modest Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/dm807169) for pledges of support starting from $1 a month. There’s also about 7 or 8 retail outlets, dotted up and down the country I’m committed to restocking on an ad-hoc basis as well. Just buy the books when you see them!