Meet Poet Roy Mash

January 16, 2016

Bloggers Note:  Come hear Roy speak on Word Selection for Writers.Sign-in starts at 11:15am. Luncheon 12 – 12:45 pm. Speaker 1- 2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant: 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. $25 members, $30 guests Reservation required – deadline: noon, Wednesday, Feb. 10th. To reserve, contact Robin at, leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, Add $2 transaction fee.

1). In one paragraph, can you give us an overview of Buyer’s Remorse?

Buyer’s Remorse is a celebration of the small, the overlooked, the underrated. Doggedly anti-lofty, reveling in the This-Worldly, the poems deal with the themes of the body, of mathematics and rationality, adolescence and middle-age, love and fear and death. The tone ranges from the irreverent to the wistful—the spritz of seltzer in the face of the Creature from the Black Lagoon to the lover standing in one sock. Drawing on sources from The Three Stooges to Archimedes, Lavoisier to Tweety Bird, the book represents a nail in the tire of post-modernity, a pea shooter smuggled into the High Church of Poetry. Be ready to duck.

Here’s an assortment of lines and the poems they come from:

  • I wanted to be 1932 (“The Untouchables”)
  • Sometimes I envy my bed (“Desire for Retirement”)
  • Come, spritz of seltzer in the face         (“Love of Slapstick”)
  • I pity women / with their purses / like canyons (“Wallet”)
  • Its raison d’etre is being a slob (“The Blob”)
  • Dear Marcel, (“Letter to My Penis”)
  • babushka   babussshka   ba-busssssh-ka (“The Plagiarizer of Words”)

2). Describe your most memorable moment as a poet.

I’m always suspicious of superlatives, but certainly one of my more pleasurable memories is of the

the book launch for Buyer’s Remorse at Book Passage in Corte Madera. I had sent out “Save-the-Dates” six months prior to the launch, and later covered the waterfront with e-vites. The turnout was spectacular, 90 or 100 people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years. Some close friends joined in, reading poems of mine they’d chosen. It was one of those evenings when everything clicks, topped by a standing O and clamor for an encore. Definitely a peak (if narcissistic) moment.

 3). What authors have most influenced your writing?

Pablo Neruda, especially his Odas Fundamentales (Odes to Simple Things), made a big impression early on. It gave me permission to explore subjects that are decidedly un-profound, that undermine the quasi-religious tone that pervades so much poetry, and that causes readers and audiences to tighten their shoulders and hold their breaths, as though in the presence of the holy. In my work this comes out in poems such as “Pinkie,” “Glasses,” and “Wallet”—not to mention “Letter to My Penis.”

Other writers who have affected, or rather infected, my work include Ted Kooser, Stephen Dunn, Billy Collins, Linda Pastan, Lisel Mueller, Steve Kowit, and Cole Porter. The list is far from exhaustive. What they have in common (for me) is a certain unpretentiousness combined with language play.

4).  What tools do you use when you are wordsmithing?

I start every journal reserving a few pages for words. It is a kind of jam jar where I keep words I pick up like pebbles on a seashore. When I’m reading, or even listening to people talk, I’ll sometimes fixate on a word, and save it for my collection. Often the words are idiosyncratic, but they can also be ordinary. Here are some examples culled from my current journal: wrestle, Cyrillic, guidepost, guff, amputated, compliant, stipend, hock, connive, negligee, scaffold, muggy, pumpernickel. I go to my word pages when I’m stuck on a poem, or sometimes as a way of starting a new poem. Just mixing the words often sparks ideas by mere juxtaposition

Another tool is what I call “word-riffing”. Starting with an arbitrary multisyllabic word, I spurt out as quickly as I can, words that have similar sounds, not worrying about order or length, or anything really. Here’s an example from my current journal that riffs on “astonishment”:

stone stem shant shin meant mesh mash gush shun shimmy massage punishment garnish tarnish Amish luscious eyelash nightmarish mansion extradition friction trash mustached goulash scripture

Then I go back over the list and see if anything tickles my interest. For instance, in the above list, just now I’m enjoying the phrase “luscious eyelash,” the feel of the sh sounds like liquid in the mouth, the slightly oxymoronic quality of an eyelash and its associated quality of delicateness as contrasted with the Rubenesque connotations of “luscious”.

5). Who is your idol?    

Jimmy Carter. Not for his poetry, but his life.

6).  What is the most off-the-wall metaphor you have ever composed?

Again, I shy away from superlatives, but here’s a candidate from my love poem to gangsterism, “The Untouchables”:

        I wanted to be the filed-off serial number,
        the East River,
        Winchell’s voiceover—staccato,
        like a typewriter got caught in his throat.

Strictly speaking, the typewriter line is a simile rather than a metaphor, but the image continues to tickle me. I’m not generally a fan of “frivolous surrealism” of the a-winter-wonderland-of-green-hellos type, but I love surrealism that is tethered to the world in such a way that it manages to be both wacky and accurate.


I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Roy Mash. To learn more visit his website:, or contact him directly at You can order Buyer’s Remorse directly from his website, or order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powells.