Andy Fidel in Conversation with Nick Bitzas


Andy Fidel: Where does "Two Complaints" come from?
Nick Bitzas: One time I met these women. They were telling me how one girl was with this guy, and he was small. Smaller than her. And she goes: 'Oh! I felt so big."  Two week later, I talked to some other woman, and she told me the same thing. It got me thinking— Is this why some women like guys taller than them? Maybe big guys to feel small? So it came from that experience.

AF: Are your poems inspired by random experiences?
NB: Sometimes a certain idea hits me. A small little idea, like a seed. And it just blossoms from that. There's a magazine called the  Renaissance Magazine, which has published a lot of my work. They publish poetry in the renaissance style. I love Shakespeare. When I was younger, I tried to be like him. So sometimes I write poetry in that style. I try to make it rhyme and write in that particular style. Everything else just comes out. I let it come out the way it comes out without interfering. The "Two Complaints" is more authentic because I'm not fabricating anything. It's just coming straight from— I don't want to say stream of consciousness —but straight from my real voice. The other style comes from a real voice, but I'm also borrowing voices from popular genres or popular ways of writing.

AF: Why did you pick the name 'Charlie'? 
NB: The poem is somewhat autobiographical. When I was younger, I was a lot thinner than I am now. People would always call me 'skinny' growing up. That really used to freak me out. The fact that people don't understand that you don't go around calling somebody skinny— it's like calling somebody fat. You don't do that. I didn't want to make it personal, so I put 'Charlie.' Charlie was a good name. Using 'I' wouldn't sound right. If I write about myself it's concealed. It created a distance, and I'm better able to write it. I must have poems where I use the word 'I'. With subjects that are too personal, maybe I create a space by throwing in a third person rather than a first person. 

AF: Do you consider yourself a planner or a spontaneous writer?
NB: You can plan something, and then be spontaneous within the framework. You can't just be a planner because then it sounds artificial. I don't write from my head. I feel like the instrument and the creative writing comes from somewhere else. And it comes through me. Not usually from me. So I'm kind of in the middle. You have the work and I'm the middle person, and the creative energy is out there. I remember reading this book once by Deepak Chopra called Ageless Bodies, Timeless Mind. He said something that got me thinking about writing. You know when you're looking for your glasses and you can't find them? Then you stop looking, and you realize— 'Oh! There they are.' When you're planning and looking, you're only focused on one point. That means you cut off all the energy around you. When you stop looking, the creative energy is allowed to come more in you. That's what I started doing: I would write one like and if nothing came, I would stop writing for the day. I practised not using my head to write. I would stop looking for the glasses. And then your intuition tells you: 'There they are.'  Creativity works like that for me.

AF: Tell me more about your creative process. Do you carry around a notebook?
NB: Right now I'm busy writing a screen play because I also shoot film. So I'm not really writing poetry these days. But usually if I get into the poetry mood, I use a tape recorder. I would walk and just record my lines. That way I don't have to stop and write. If something hits me— Boom. I have it on mic.

AF: You write fiction, poetry and screenplays. Do you have a preference?
NB: It depends on my mood and it depends on what I'm focusing on at that moment. Now I'm focusing on screen writing. My mood kind of goes in and out, so I never get bored. Poetry is always creeping into my life. I'm allowed to write a work and I like writing sometimes in noise. I'm able to focus better. The noise helps me. I can write in silence ,but it doesn't bother me to write where there's people around. I don't listen to people's conversations. It just helps me concentrate on what I'm doing. Maybe the noise blocks out interferences? Maybe it drowns the stuff in my head that has nothing to do with creative and allows it to just be pure. Because I'm not expecting anything and I'm not trying to sell anything. I don't write for money. I just write what I need to write. If you say: ‘I’m going to write in this genre,’  then you might be forcing yourself to do something you're not. You always have to be free. By being free you might invent a different genre.

AF: What authors inspire you most?
NB: I have many, many favourite poets. I love Charles Bukowski. He's dead now, but what a great poet. It's simple, but it's so profound. Just the way he uses words. If he's talking about drinking, you're right there with him. You feel like you're sitting in the room with him. I don't know how he does that. I love Thomas Chatterton. I actually wrote a poem about him. He's a poet who lives in the 1700s from Bristol, England and he ended up killing himself at the age of 17. If he had lives, as far as I'm concerned, he would have rivalled with Shakespeare. That's how good he was. I like Emily Dickinson, and a lot of the older writers. Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Marie Corelli...

AF: What do you enjoy reading: plot or character driven stories, neither or both?
NB: When you read it's like... If I take the bus. You're starting from point A and you're going to a destination. If the scenery along the way is interesting, it makes the whole ride interesting. A book, for me, has to be interesting from sentence to sentence. If the book grabs me, it doesn't matter if its plot driven or character driven. Its the sentence. The way somebody writes. A style that is so interesting, you can't put it down. If it's character driven and the plot is bad, then you just destroyed the book. You got to have a good plot. A character that lives in a boring house or a boring character lives in a great house— You got to have both. The house has to be interesting and the people that live in it have to be interested. Those are the books that grab you.

AF: What would make you immediately put a book down?
NB: The writing. Or, sometimes when writers use ordinary names for their characters. They'll pick a common name like Susan. When I read that, it makes me lose interest. If I can relate the character to everybody, I'm out of the story. They should be unique. Sometimes people give advice like: ‘People don’t talk like that.’ That's bad advice. Any character you write, as weird as they talk, somebody in this world talks like that. Maybe you haven't met them but trust me— Somebody talks like that. Right? So when the character starts to sound like people you meet at the café, I’m out of the book. Books should not be read like real life. It's a work of fiction. Not an imitation of everyday life. So I look for good name and people who talk in an unique manner.

AF: Any advice on how to write good dialogue?
NB: Make it up! Invent a character. Make him talk the way you want him to talk even if he sounds like nobody you've heard of in this world. It becomes interesting. People want to get to know him or her. He if sounds like my neighbour, my cousin or my sister, it’s like— Ugh. You know what I'm saying? You have to have a few characters, or the main character, that is totally out there. Maybe he talks a little too philosophical than every day people... I think you need that because you're writing a work of fiction.

AF: How long does a novel have to grasp your attention?
NB: A page. You read the first page and you know what the book is about. You know how it’s written. Unless they're doing something like James Joyce's Ulysses. The first page of a novel is what the last page of the novel is going to sound like. Same style, same tone. Doesn't mean it's a bad novel. It could have a great plot, but the problem is that I have to read this. If it's going to be boring or hard for me to read, it's just going to be painful to read. So I won't read it. There are so many books out there. Might as well read one that grabs you.

AF: Do you have any tips for up-and-coming writers?
NB: You start by imitating the people you like, which is okay. Like I was trying to be Shakespeare. Then, I realized that wasn't going to happen. But it’s only normal. Eventually you say: ‘You know what? Screw that. I’m just going to write what I need to write.’ You just get to that place where you let go. It’s not about searching. It’s allowing the process to happen. Your voice will come, you don’t have to go looking. You have to keep writing.