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5 Minutes, 5 Questions With… John “Survivor” Blake, author of Warm Tequila and Cold Blood

JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Intervie
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
John “Survivor” Blake, author of Warm Tequila and Cold Blood

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“John “Survivor” Blake enters a place in his writing that few others I know dare to. With a pristine voice of epic magnitude, Blake’s words pull the reader or listener into the heart of his raw, fragmented truth of unshakeable power. He understands the incredible responsibility of being an artist; as much as anyone I have ever known.” – Carlos Andrés Gómez.

What if someone pointed out a homeless vagrant to you and said, “That’s going to be a well-known poet and biographer, and he’ll change lives around the world?” Would you laugh; raise an eyebrow and inquire as to their usage of narcotics; check them for a fever? Imagine a man against all odds; born dopesick, poverty-stricken, expected to fail… then a poem saves his life!

Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Warm Tequila and Cold Blood?

John Blake: Well, after losing my immediate family to heroin, AIDS and prison, I battled with depression for years. I couldn’t accept I was going to go through life. At the time, I was only 34 and already without my parents and most of my siblings.

I began finding sanctuary in bottles of tequila. By the time I got to the bar, I couldn’t wait for the bartender to shake, stir or prepare my drinks. I told them to “just give it to me warm”.

The world just seemed so cold to me. Tequila felt like the only warmth in my life. Television began to depress me; glory-killing, girls too young for what they were advertising on the screen, the news, politics, everything just seemed “cold blooded”.

JP: What sets Warm Tequila and Cold Blood apart from other collections of poetry?

JB: Three things: (1) Cárlos Andrés Gómez told me, “Poetry’s like sex; nothing happens until you get your clothes off”. So I got very, very vulnerable with this book. I expressed my ideas and experiences that I would not normally share with strangers.

(2) Editors. I wasn’t afraid to let some of the best modern poets of our nation take a look at my work and guide me to an exceptional place: Samantha Thornhill, Jeanann Verlee, Rachel McKibbens, Rose Smith, Rob Sturma, Laura Yes, and many others.

(3) I stopped caring with publishers wanted. That was my biggest mistake in the beginning: writing for publishers when all the while I should have been trying to purge what my spirit was telling me to get rid of; what my poems demanding that I scribe!

JP: What are the titles of the other poetry collections you have self-published? And tell us a little about them.

JB: Well, the first was Leap from the Cliff: Wings Only Grow When Needed, which was the first risk I took with writing. It’s still the favorite of most admirers of my work. Then came Mama Said which was an entire book of about twenty poems dedicated to my Mom and other single, hard-working women around the world.

Then I wrote Warm Tequila and Cold Blood and When Peace Comes and published them at the same time. Warm Tequila and Cold Blood was a serious purging and When Peace Comes was the acceptance. I’ve come full circle with the dope, the booze, the loss and all the other pain. I’ve climbed over and landed smooth.

JP: What do you do to get your poetry known to the public?

JB: Everything from selling my merchandise directly after shows to offering free copies to bookstores in every city I tour. I began by selling them in Union Square Park. I had a table, and I’d even walk up to groups offering to share my art. It took courage, but what doesn’t?

JP: What’s next for John “Survivor” Blake?

JB: I’m taking on my memoir and The Greyhound Essays. The memoir will be a five-part series, and the first book will be title Drifting from Fire because my grandmother promised my biracial parents that nothing would hurt me too deep; racism, poverty…nothing; that I would overcome it all like smoke “drifting from fire”.

The essays will be about my cross-country travels from poetry venue to college to jails; facilitating workshops and performing. I rode Greyhound buses for most of it, and you’d be amazed what I learned about this nation and its residents. So The Greyhound Essays are coming. Then I plan on sitting next to Oprah on ABC and telling the world “Nothing, nothing can stop us as long we we’re willing to walk through it”.


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