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An Interview with Cyrus Parker

From comic books to Legend of Zelda fanfiction to wrestling to graphic design, Cyrus Parker’s poetry journey is a unique one. They discovered their love for poetry after encountering a crossroads in their life, a time when all options seemed futile.

Now, their forthcoming poetry collection masquerade will be their second publication, after the success of their debut collection DROPKICKromance. With over twelve thousand followers on their poetry Instagram page, it is clear that Parker’s words are inspiring and resonating with so many passionate readers.

In our interview, Parker discussed the details of their new collection, what it’s like to share their life with a fellow poet and searching for identity in a world that seeks to stifle individuality.

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Kailey Brennan: Can you talk about your writing journey and what led you to poetry?

Cyrus Parker: My writing journey, I feel, is very unconventional because it didn’t always look like writing in the traditional sense. I loved to draw, as well as create characters and tell stories as a kid, so I kind of got my start by trying to make my own comic books. I never finished one, but I absolutely loved combining visual art with written art.

From there, I found my way onto the internet and started writing Legend of Zelda fanfiction and roleplay in chat rooms and on message boards. In 2002, I rediscovered my love for professional wrestling, so, as someone who loved to build characters and tell stories, I, along with my brother and some of our old friends, started our own backyard wrestling group. One thing led to another and eventually, my brother and I ended up wrestling for the BCWA. Through them, we got professionally trained and spent about five years working for them on a weekly basis. Working a weekly show and trying to believably play a character really makes you think about the dynamics behind character building and how to keep people invested in what you’re doing, all of which has had a definite impact on my writing.

Fast forwarding a bit, I am living in New Jersey, I’ve wrestled my last match for the foreseeable future, I am in a relationship with who would later become my wife, Amanda Lovelace, and I am at a crossroad in my life. I’m working a dead-end job, I have no college education, and the career I had been pursuing in wrestling had fallen apart. I decide to go to school for graphic design, but almost immediately change my major to creative writing. This is when I really got into poetry.

I had written poetry in the past, but it was very sporadic and nothing I took all that seriously. Around this time, however, I had started reading some modern-day poetry collections, (Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur and The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer, to name a few), started writing free verse poetry in my first creative writing class, and found out Amanda was working on her first collection of poetry, the princess saves herself in this one. All these pieces kind of clicked into place around the same time and that’s when I finally realized how much I loved writing and reading poetry.

 

KB: Your wife, Amanda Lovelace, is also a well-known writer in the poetry community. What are some of your favorite things about sharing your life with another writer? Do you think you both have helped each other become better writers? 

CP: Sharing a life with Amanda as writers means we always have a critique partner in one another. It means we’re constantly bouncing ideas off one another. It means we have someone willing to tell us when something we’ve written isn’t the best it can be. It means we have someone who helps push us when we need that push. It means we have someone who understands what it’s like when the other goes through a bout of self-doubt or imposter syndrome. It means having someone to look over your e-mails before you send them off. It means having someone by your side through every failure and every success. But most importantly, it simply means we get to share a life with one another. And while I can’t speak for Amanda, she has absolutely helped me become a better writer, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

 

KB: Your second collection of poetry, masquerade, will be released soon. Congratulations! How does this book differ from your first one, DROPKICKromance?

CP: Thank you! DROPKICKromance, as the title suggests, is mostly about romantic relationships. There is, of course, the idea of realizing your own worth, but love and heartbreak is the core of the book.

masquerade, on the other hand, is a collection that really focuses on identity and being honest with yourself and others. It is split up into three sections. The first section begins with childhood and how hard it can be to fit in; it also deals with gender and discovering and accepting my non-binary identity.

The second section is about relationships, both familial and romantic. I write a bit about my father in this section, as well as both relationships that were focused on in DROPKICKromance, but from a present-day perspective.

The third section sees a shift in tone. Where the first two sections are kind of heavy and super personal to me, the third is meant to be more uplifting and empowering. I wanted masquerade to have something for everyone in it, so while the poems here are about finding yourself and being honest, they’re centered less around me, and hopefully more relatable to those who may not have connected personally with the first two sections.

 

KB: Your work often touches on struggling to find your own identity and searching for acceptance. Can you speak about this a little bit? What do you hope your readers take away from your poetry?

CP: We live in a world that forces everyone into the same box. You’re expected to look and act, walk and talk a certain way, and if you don’t, then you’re othered. As a kid, I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I still get that feeling, sometimes, especially as someone who’s struggled with my gender identity for as long as I can remember. I wrote masquerade in part because I was once a kid who needed to read it. I wrote it in part because there still might be someone out there who needs it, and what I want them, and anyone else who might pick up my book, to take away from it is that you are not alone, it’s okay to be who you are, and even if the world isn’t ready for you now, one day it will be.

 

KB: What have spoken word experiences been like for you? Do you like reading your work out loud? Do you think spoken word is important for the poetry community?  

CP: I love spoken word poetry. As someone who comes from a pro-wrestling background, the performance aspect of it is especially inspiring to me. I think spoken word is incredibly important to the poetry community because it’s something that allows so many diverse voices to be heard, and to be heard loudly. It also helps put the spotlight on so many important social issues that might not otherwise get the same attention.

While I don’t think I could pull off a spoken word performance myself, I do enjoy reading my work out loud on occasion. I actually have an event coming up to celebrate the release of masquerade. If you’re in the New Jersey area, you can catch me, Amanda, Trista Mateer, and Caitlyn Siehl reading our work at the Barnes & Noble in Eatontown, NJ on Saturday, May 11th at 2:00 pm!

 

KB: What poets have inspired you the most throughout your writing journey thus far?

CP: I know this is probably expected but Amanda has easily been one of my biggest inspirations. Watching her go from “I’m writing a poetry collection” to becoming an award-winning and bestselling author who inspires people to write their own story every single day has been nothing short of inspiring.

Classically speaking, Edgar Allan Poe will always be an inspiration of mine. I’m a big goth kid at heart, and I like to explore the darker side of things in my writing, and there’s none better at it than Poe.

Langston Hughes is another poet who inspires me greatly. There’s no doubt that poetry and protest go hand in hand. I think poets play an important role in calling out the state of our society and invoking change, and so much of Hughes’ work does just that. Hughes also has this ability to tackle difficult topics and write about them in such a way that anyone can understand, which is something I strive for in my own writing.