The first time I ever saw Greg Gerding was on the Small Press shelf at Powell’s Bookstore. Being a frugal shopper, I was quite amazed by the immensity of his book, Loser Makes Good, 284 pages to be exact, for $10.00, whereas most books of poetry these days might cross the hundred page threshold and start normally around $15.00. As I flipped through it, testing to see if I wanted to buy his book or a used copy of Rimbaud’s Une Saison En Enfer (A Season in Hell), I was extremely impressed by the transparency of the writer. If he had a soul, which some of his prose poems put that in question, this poet had definitely exposed some of the most charred pieces of it, for each reader individually. Being the avid fan of vulnerability that I am, I decided to have ramen for dinner, and purchase both books, which was a wise choice.
When my friend Eirean Bradley, Portland Poetry Slam’s Slam Master, told me that he was opening a poetry showcase, which was also the book release party for Gerding’s latest endeavor, The Idiot Parade, it not only cemented the awesomeness of Eirean, but made me all the more interested in what Gerding was doing. Apparently, University of Hell Press, Gerding’s publishing company, made primarily to publish his own works, was going to publish a long overdue book by Bradley, the I in team.
Earlier that same month, Gerding co-featured at the Portland Poetry Slam with Denver poet protégé Ken Arkind. Gerding’s performance, however not run-of-the-mill slam material, was definitely moving. Slam poetry has a tendency to bare all and Gerding did just that. He pulled no punches, leaving himself as open as his writing already does, to the reader.
At his book release party, I had a short opportunity to chat with him, thanking him for his courageous writing, and he shared that he enjoyed the interviewer’s poetry as well. In the exchange of compliments, I mentioned that I had all but one book of his whole collection, and he generously offered me a copy of the missing title. A month later, I decided that I wanted to interview Gerding, and he graciously accepted. We met at Backspace, a Portland Chinatown coffee shop that hosts the Portland Poetry Slam. Here is that interview: