A Short Conversation -- Jill Ellis
Sun Newspapers -- John Klum
10 Questions -- Bowen
Interview by Molly Matthews
Portrait of a Tireless Writer -- Liz Elkin

A short conversation with D. Garcia-Wahl

by Jill Ellis      January, 2002

Jill: So, you're divorced now.

Garcia-Wahl: So I'm divorced (he looks around like hes looking for an escape route).

Jill: What happened?

Garcia-Wahl: According to the poet, Dan Schneider, I should never have been married. Both of us get our fair share of psychopaths who read our work and write to us. He made the comment once that people read his work and want to murder him; people read my work and want to fuck me. And by that, he thinks I should not be married and take full advantage of it.

Jill: But that is not why you divorced.

Garcia-Wahl: No, of course not. My ex was not, shall we say, mentally stable. Neither was her mother. Its all part of insanitys trickle down effect. It was a life of madness, pure and unbending. She was unable to tell the truth to me or to her best of friends. Cocaine and massive amounts of alcohol came into play and did not help her mental balance. I was fully sincere in the marriage at first but, due to the madness, it all became a game to me. It became a game to my friends. It was a game that spun horribly out of control. Eventually I got tired of playing the game. I have no interest in displaying the particulars here. Even my ex only knows about 20 percent of the whole story. Hell, my friends know more about our marriage than she does.

Hemingway wrote about his marriages. Henry Miller wrote about the madness of his marriage to June (many, many times). I have written and will write all the details down. All in all its really a fascinating story. I am just sorry that I had to directly be part of it.

But I dont want to talk about her anymore than I want to talk about whores, or pedophiles, or murderers. I just make groupings and fall silent.

Jill: Let me ask, is she part of your book, ASHES OF MID AUTUMN and the current one, what is it called?


Jill: Is she part of those books?

Garcia-Wahl: No comment.

Jill: Fair enough. You mentioned psychopaths that bother you and Dan Schneider. Whats that all about?

Garcia-Wahl: Our writing just seems to attract people with, shall we say, problems. Or does our writing cause those problems I say this tongue in cheek, of course. Ive never understood it. Karen Kopacz told me one time that its because they find sympathy in my writing. They take that sympathy personally and reach out for me, thinking I am reaching out to them. I understand what she theorizes. I just dont know if I believe it to be true.

Jill: What kind of stuff has happened?

Garcia-Wahl: Name it! I have had the most incredible marriage proposals from women I dont know. I have had the most graphic death threats from people (though Dan usually gets most of these). Often the police have been involved. Recently a woman found out where I HAD lived and, thinking I still lived there, and having no answer at the door, overdosed on methamphetamines wanting me to find her corpse there upon my arrival.

Jill: My God!

Garcia-Wahl: She didnt die. But it is that kind of stuff that surrounds me at all times and solely because of the writing.

Jill: You must be tired of it.

Garcia-Wahl: It has only caused me not to be shocked by anything. A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a park writing when a park employee approached me from behind with an axe. He was taking samples from a tree but wanted to alert me to his presence with the axe. He told me not to be shocked. I barely turned to look at him. I wasnt shocked. A man coming upon me with an axe. It seemed just another day to me.

Jill: So why do you write what you write when you know it inspires people to behave this way? You really have a go at organized religion. That doesnt help your cause.

Garcia-Wahl: I write what write without apology. I will continue to write about madness. I will continue to write against organized religion. I will continue to write whatever I wish whether it upsets people or not. I do not write for my audience, I write for myself. Those who want to be part of it are welcome. Open the covers of my books and you shall be.

Jill: Well, tell me about ASHES OF MID AUTUMN. Whats it about?

Garcia-Wahl: No. You read it and tell me what its about.

Jill: Okay. You also have a book of your collected poetry coming out?

Garcia-Wahl: Yes, ALL THAT DOES COME OF MADDEND DAYS is coming out this autumn. Maybe very late summer. It collects some of my poetry from 1993 to the present. The manuscript has gone through about forty changes in the last few years.

Jill: Are you happy with the finished version.

Garcia-Wahl: I am for today.

Jill: And UNTIL WE OUTDISTANCE GOD will see publication when?

Garcia-Wahl: Early 2004. I still have some editing to play with. Or maybe not.

Jill: Do you see yourself more as a poet or a novelist?

Garcia-Wahl: I see myself as both. It is a Jekyll and Hyde life. I was able to incorporate the two, somewhat, in ASHES OF MID AUTUMN. But I recognize myself as both at a time when too many poets are unable to recognize themselves for what they are.

Jill: What do you mean?

Garcia-Wahl: You have slam poets who are not poets at all but performance artists. Then you have poets who, thinking poetry is completely dead, go on to create something new not knowing that what they have created is poetry (with ornaments). Poets should be poets and shoulder the burdens. Poets have too many fears. And the worst are those who are not poets who think they can write poetry just because they have a pen and paper in their house.

Jill: Define poet.

Garcia-Wahl: You define poet.

Jill: I cant.

Garcia-Wahl: (long pause)

Jill: One who writes poetry.

Garcia-Wahl: Bullshit!

Jill: Then what is it?

Garcia-Wahl: It goes so far beyond that. Strip away everything that is not a poet and you have a poet (he laughs). Ah, its like defining what the wind is. Its possible but difficult. I havent had any coffee today. Give me a half dozen mochas and then well talk.

Jill: What comes after UNTIL WE OUTDISTANCE GOD?

Garcia-Wahl: A novel depicting my view of the current art scene. Its been in the works for almost a decade. Time for it to leave the nest.

Jill: UNTIL WE OUTDISTANCE GOD, is this a book against God? Would most find it sacrilegious?

Garcia-Wahl: I write nothing against God. Nor do I write against an individuals faith. Everyone needs something to get them through life (as long as they are not harming another). I write directly against organized religion, usually the Catholic Church. But this book does not center on such attacks. Thats a future book. This book still has its moments against the church, however. But the book does not center on it. Will people find it sacrilegious, nonetheless? Absolutely. I look out my window or eat a salad and people find something sacrilegious about it. I will defend my positions in what I write but will never apologize for them. And I can only deal with far fetched misunderstandings for so long.

Jill: You often talk about your love of Europe. Today is the fourth of July. Is there anything you wish to say about this country?

Garcia-Wahl: Interview ends here.

By John Klum
Sun Newspapers
(Created 2/5/04 8:38:09 AM)

Dylan Garcia-Wahl has been known to stop in the middle of washing dishes to jot something down in a notebook he always keeps at his side. There's no specific time or place for inspiration, it would seem.

Dylan Garcia-Wahl has been known to stop in the middle of washing dishes to jot something down in a notebook he always keeps at his side. There's no specific time or place for inspiration, it would seem.

Garcia-Wahl, 34, of Richfield, is a devotee of the written word. Not only has he had three books published one novel and two collections of poems he organizes poetry readings and poetry groups throughout the Twin Citie's metropolitan area.

Garcia-Wahl has another, more comprehensive collection of poetry about to be published this year. The book, All That Does Come of Madden'd Days, will take him on reading tours to Chicago and the East Coast.

Writing is not a new obsession with him. He's been a writer, he said, since he was in fourth grade.

My great-grandmother taught me to read when I was very young, he recalled. By third and fourth grade, I was reading Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky made me want to be a writer.

Garcia-Wahl's work, itself, reflects the Russian novelist's writings.

I've heard my work characterized as philosophical drama, he said.

Typically, his work is based on philosophy or psychology, he added. Sometimes, he explores the politics of religion often in a critical light.

I've never attacked someone's faith, Garcia-Wahl said. I'm critical of the institutions of religion.

And his work has gained recognition, especially in Minnesota. He has won several small press awards, and won awards six years in a row from Minnesota's now-defunct Poet-to-Poet Society.

Two small collections of his poetry have been distributed throughout Europe, the United States and Canada. His novel, Ashes of Mid Autumn, published last year, reached a respectable sales ranking on the Barnes & Noble list, he said.

And if book sales and awards arent enough to validate his work, his detractors might be.

I've had a few years worth of stalkers, he said. Basically, the restraining order people know me pretty well by now.

In one case, a man in Chicago accused Garcia-Wahl of writing specifically about him in a poem critical of the church's handling of people with disabilities. In another, a Minnesota man upset over a poem critical of the Church sent e-mails that implied a threat against Garcia-Wahl's family.

Although the experiences have given him reason not to list his telephone number or make his address public knowledge, they haven't changed the substance of his work, Garcia-Wahl said. He continues to tackle issues surrounding religion, philosophy and psychology. Hes working on a new novel that he describes as a really dark Da Vinci Code.

Garcia-Wahl moved to Minnesota from Colorado when he was in his early 20s. In general, poetry is not highly esteemed in the United States, he said.

The world of poetry is next to dead, he said.

Minnesota is slightly better than other states, however, he added. There's a good community of artists, including poets, and theres a support network of dedicated writers.

One problem with Minnesota's perception of poetry, however, is the fact that people confuse poetry with performance art, Garcia-Wahl said. Poetry slams are common throughout the Twin Cities, but they are more dependent on the poets performance, rather than the written word.

Minnesota tends to look too much at the novelty aspect of poetry, he said.

Garcia-Wahl's ideal would be to move one day to Europe, where he said a poet can still make a living.

My sensibilities have always been more European than American, he said.

Regardless of where he lives, Garcia-Wahl will continue to write. He has rough drafts of five novels on his desk at home, and he's constantly writing new poetry.

Garcia-Wahl, 34, of Richfield, is a devotee of the written word. Not only has he had three books published one novel and two collections of poems he organizes poetry readings and poetry groups throughout the Twin Citie's metropolitan area.


10 Questions for D. Garcia -Wahl

1. Does being a tortured soul make a person a
better poet?

D.:  A poet is born poet.  The "tortured soul" aspect of it comes from how the poet responds to the weight of being a poet.  But the same goes for the painter or the sculptor.  Every artist (this title is not elastic) comes across different elements to the art which can be allowed to become "tortures".  It can be anything from how one responds to the creativity filtering through them to trying to deal with not being able to create a replica of what is envisioned in the mind.  Sometimes the "torture" is social, sometimes it is created within the artist by the artist.  Is it necessary? (I shrug my shoulders)  Does it make one a better poet?  (I shrug my shoulders a second time)

I don't know what makes a poet a poet anymore than I know what makes a painter a painter.  I don't understand what "muse" is.  And I don't want to understand any of this.  Whatever that element is should not be questioned.  Just be grateful that the poet is the poet and the painter is the painter.  Question it and you are in danger of losing it all.

2.What is your favorite city in the world?

D.:  This is a most difficult question for me.  The answer lies, however, in western Europe.  Florence or Madrid.  Oxford or a dozen hamlets in Germany, I don't know.  I was born displaced.  America never was the place for me.  I can say, however, that the area around Neuschwannstein in Germany is the most beautiful place on Earth.  If there is a tangible Heaven - it is there.

3. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

D.:  Why did you fill me with most of what I could least understand?

4. If you could pick the next President of the U.S., who would you choose?

D.:  As I age, I become less willing to play the game of American politics.  It is not that I have no interest.  It is a matter of refusing to play the ridiculous game that it demands.  Both the democrats of old and the republicans of old are dead.  What exists now is a band of children that serve little purpose.  And America allows for nothing else.  What has happened to the statesmen of this country?  It is all frustrating and depressing.  I would rather follow it silently.  Who would I chose for President?  Anyone that could burn the system to the ground and rebuild with America's original principles intact.

5. What inspires you to write?

D.:  I write because it comes to me as naturally as breath.  I cannot help but do what I do.  It is part of my autonomic system.  Inspiration/muse - It comes but without my understanding.  I have no interest in understanding it.  When I learned new songs on guitar and piano, I had a feeling of having lost a sense of magic to the song after hearing it on album.  I had learned the technical part of it all.  I had learned how the clock worked by taking it apart.  I don't want to take my writing inspiration apart for fear of not being able to put it back together once I took it apart and understood it.  Mostly, I don't want to lose the wonder of it all.  It comes and regardless what brings it, I am satisfied.

6. If you could take only one book with you when you go to that desert isle what would you take?

D.:  "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevski.  The perfect novel!  End of discussion.

7. When you need to get away from it all where do you go?

D.:  Usually my den to read, write, or watch a film.  It is the only place in the world where I feel comfortable.

8. What makes you laugh?

D.:  I have a very treacherous sense of humor.  It comes to a head whenever I get bored.  It can get quite cynical and cruel at times.  My lovers have scattered when they notice I get bored and am looking for something to amuse myself.

9. What is your favorite swear word?

D.:  "Fuck".  I know it is a cliche to answer with "fuck".  It is along the same lines of answering "Citizen Kane" as your favorite movie.  But there is a reason for such cliche.  It is the perfect swear word.  It still affects people the same way it always did.  We have never really become desensitized by it.  So "fuck" would be my favorite even though I have been using "cocksucker" quite a bit lately.

10. Why is the human race so fucked?

D.:  The human race is fucked as much as it is beatific.  It all comes as part of a necessary balance.  The novel I have coming out early in 2004, UNTIL WE OUTDISTANCE GOD, deals with the thought that tragedy is every bit as beautiful as the joy in life.  Both elements make life wondrous.  Whether you are giving me tragedy or giving me joy, you are giving me a true gift.  It's all life.  It's all life. 

Local author sparks literary community — controversy included

by Molly Matthews

Moving recently from a haunted house on Lake Minnetonka to the suburban streets of White Bear Lake, poet and novelist Dylan Garcia-Wahl brings a spark for the literary art community in White Bear Lake with a bit of controversy to boot.

His upcoming novel, “The Near Occasion of Sin,” takes a philosophical look at organized religion and how it affects sexuality and sexual inhibitions in America.

What drives Garcia-Wahl to consider these topics? He wants his readers to question what is underneath the surface. He does not have a problem with anyone’s faith, religion, or spirituality, he said, but wishes for his readers to take a closer look at the foundations of these beliefs before choosing them blindly.

Garcia-Wahl said many writers will take a character base and add to it, but he prefers to take a character and ask, “What can I strip from them to get to their basic self?”

He takes a character and strips it of all ornaments, emotions, beliefs and desires, he said. He believes you cannot truly understand someone or something until you look beneath these ornaments.

When writing “The Near Occasion of Sin,” he asked what he could strip of American society to see what was left. He came up with sexuality and religion and founded the premise for his book. He began writing the novel two years ago and the anticipated publishing is scheduled for the summer of 2006.

He conducts extensive research for his writing and said he has conducted numerous interviews with religious leaders, though the controversial nature of his new book has hindered this research a bit.

“I can rarely get a priest to talk to me anymore,” he said.

Garcia-Wahl has had a long time to write about things controversial. He learned to read at age 4, he said, and would spend the entire day in the bookstore pouring over books. He was drawn to the “big books” and read “Crime and Punishment” by fourth grade, which he said “opened the world to him.”

He wrote his first novel in fourth grade, a 200-pager he describes as “a very naïve look at (American) society.” He gave his manuscript to his mother who read it in a week. He asked her for it back the following week and she told him she had thrown it away because “no son of mine will write that.”

“She still laughs about that story today,” Garcia-Wahl said.

He then went to writing poetry, and his next novel wasn’t until he was out of college.

Another driving force for Garcia-Wahl’s career is his disappointment in feeling poetry in America has become a novelty. He believes the spoken word venues he often sees focus on the performance and not the words.

He addresses this frustration by working with colleagues to initiate different poetry and literary forums in the communities he is involved in.

Garcia-Wahl said he has an interest in providing these opportunities in White Bear Lake in the near future as well, and has said he will start a literary salon in the area due to the lack of structured literary opportunities.

The poet and author recently moved to the community from Minnetonka, where his home had an interesting history.

In the 1950s, the woman who previously lived in the house murdered her husband and his mistress. She then hung herself in the basement, where Garcia-Wahl had his writing den.

His family and friends all told of seeing her ghost, but he never saw her. He was disappointed about the missed opportunity, he said.

Along with writing, Garcia-Wahl is also currently working on taping a monthly show, “DIVE,” for the local cable access network SPNN. The show will be about local literature and Garcia-Wahl will be a co-host. The title DIVE is related to an early poem he wrote and he believes it fits the premise of the show.

“Dive by definition: to plunge headfirst into question or activity,” the poem reads.

No formal details about the show are yet available, but Garcia-Wahl states the first airing is at least a month or two away.

Garcia-Wahl said he doesn’t mind being coined a controversial writer.

“I know I write against the grain of society’s norm,” he said. “I know I write things that challenge people’s beliefs and faith. People essentially don’t like to be challenged. They prefer to get through life in the easiest way possible and on their own terms. The last thing people want to have to do is face what they have believed to be correct all along.”

Portrait of a Tireless Writer

A writer once said, "Tragedy can be as beautiful as joy or love. We are all put on Earth and given the opportunity to experience life." These are the words of Dylan Garcia-Wahl, a writer whose mind never sleeps and pen never rests. His writing encompasses his life and his life inspires his work. The rest is details. He is a man who is passionate and excited about his writing. Each piece is written from his mind to the paper with little room for details in between. The works that are written combined with the fascinating life that inspires them makes Dylan the writer that he is.

Dylan began his life in a small town of about 10,000 people. His parents, Wayne and Judith, were "socialites bent on setting standards". Dylan says, "They were never trying to keep up with the Jones'. They were the Jones'". His parents social life often left Dylan on his own (which didn't bother him very much, considering the relatively safe area in which he lived.

As a young child Dylan began to discover things about himself that weren't typical of some of the other children. He discovered, for instance, that he was (and still is) an insomniac. After his parents would put him to bed at night, he would stay up and read or watch television. It was something he would grow very accustomed to and embrace later in life as a writer.

Another aspect of Dylan's young life ;that seemed to foreshadow what would come later in his life as a writer was his reading habits. Dylan learned to read at age four from his grandmother and, he soon developed a love and appreciation for books. By fourth grade Dylan was reading books by authors such as Tolstoy and Dostoyevski which weren't common for young boys. This seemed odd to his friends, especially when taking into consideration that the books were significantly longer than theirs.

Dylan wrote his first novel at age thirteen. This novel was not necessarily typical writing for a thirteen year old and unfortunately, his mother threw it in the trash. This of course, would discourage any young writer, but Dylan continued on with his writing, which he says is an "obsessive love" of his. His pursuit of writing followed him to college. His ambitions and hopes remained high, but college had sparked little interest and had almost no point for him. In regards to writing he says, "You either have it or you don't." He felt (and still feels) that college teaches grammar, but is unable to teach someone to be a writer. The desire to write was already in him before college even came into the picture. It was the author, Fyodor Dostoyevski who helped him to put the pen to paper.

Dylan found a style that suited him and continued his pursuit of writing.

Everything that he had seen, done, or somehow lived became the material for his work. His best material can be his greatest joy or his worst tragedy. Both are very valued and never wasted. He cannot emphasize enough the value of life experiences being incorporated into a writer's work. To him, a piece of work written without experiences from the writer's life is worth nothing.

Before developing a technique a writer must have material to work with. He must take the experiences of his life and very carefully and with intricate detail incorporate them into his work. For Dylan, life seemed to provide many things to write about and since not all of the experiences he's lived will make headlines, his creativity and skill are highlighted when he takes those experiences, makes them noteworthy, and brings them to life.

Some of the more interesting events in Dylan's life happened later in life, but a few things before then are well worth mentioning. Dylan's love life has been a source of interest for some time now. His first love, a lovely third grade girl, happened when he was in first grade. He says he was head over heels in love with her and since it was a first grader and a third grader together, it was "scandalous". One of his next big loves happened in college. He was engaged to a woman in college who had a series of tragedies in her life which led up to a nervous breakdown. As he recalls, "It was a nervous breakdown she never came back from."

His other loves of the past offer material from his work as well as many of the other things of his past. Writing about the past is much more important to him than writing about anything currently happening in his life. His current job in retail management, for instance, provides no stimulation for him and he says that working there he has "reached a new level of boredom". For him it is "a paycheck". He would much prefer to interact with people in a much less controlled social setting. "You are in a role at the store with boundaries on conversation. Conversation can only go so far." It is far from the ideal place in which to derive inspiration and experiences for his writing.

All of the ideas and inspiration which he extracts from his life combined with a good style of writing make a finished product. In order to write, he says:

I begin everything by stripping a character of absolutely everything I can strip it of. I strip the emotions, desires, beliefs. Whatever is left....

He then chooses a theme. One of the most common themes is the politics of the church. It gets him into a lot of trouble, but he makes sure he gets his points across. He does not attack faith. He says, "Everyone needs something to get them through life. I want people to question the politics of the church. I want people to question things. Don't take it in blind faith. Don't walk through life with blinders on." He stresses the importance of making the correlation between God and the church. "The church is not God and God is not the church." His dad had not make that correlation when he yelled at Dylan once as a child when he tried to refuse to go to church.

One very strong belief he has is of the Vatican and the Pope. He says:

The Vatican is a political organization. They are a country and a government unto themselves. The Pope I see as the greatest evil. The whole line of Popes. We talk about Hitler or Stalin as being the great murderers of humanity. Popes have killed more people in the name of God than any other political madman ever has.

Another theme he has used in one of his books, his first novel, ASHES OF MID AUTUMN, is obsession. He writes about it on many levels and goes through all stages of obsession, denial, justification, realization, and acceptance. He has since written a few other books one of which is entitled, UNTIL WE OUTDISTANCE GOD, as well as poetry.

He chooses to write works such as these anywhere, wherever he feels comfortable. Theres a force within him to write and he becomes a nervous wreck if he doesnt write what's in his head. He says, "I have to do it." The man who is always writing writes anywhere and everywhere, constantly planning the next work of his and tirelessly pursuing it, even at the point of lost sleep. His life is his material, his typewriter and a tireless, sleepless mind become his tools. The creative and tireless mind behind the work, the devotion, the creativity, make the life and the work of Dylan complete.

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