I would like to introduce Justin Price and his new book “Digging to China.” Justin is a talented young man who is managing editor for eFiction Horror magazine, a respected writer on Hubpages, and continues to wow his audience with his wonderful blog. Justin is married to his lovely wife Andrea and they live in the great state of Oregon.
“Digging to China” is a delightful book of poetry that is original and depicts the human side with all its glory and frailties. It is a collection of poetry, spanning 15 years of the Justin’s life, who at the age of 32, is now a flourishing young writer. The theme has much nostalgia, one of the things I loved most. There is plenty of wonderful poetry to appeal to all ages alike.
What impressed me about Justin was his honesty from his earlier days. He admits that the poetry varies and captures his early teens, twenties, to present. One of the questions I asked Justin was, what was his purpose in writing this poetry book and this is what he shared.
“I really wanted to get my poems collected all in one place, but I also wanted only certain poems that fit the theme of nostalgia and all that goes with it. I’ve been writing poems for as long as I can remember and I could fit them all in one book, it would likely rival the Bible in thickness. More than that, I’d grown disenchanted with publishing poems on blogs and Hub pages and decided in order to be a “serious” writer and possibly be discovered, I needed to focus my literary efforts more on literary magazines and books.
I still publish poems and blogs on those platforms, but only after literary magazines have soundly rejected them. It took me awhile to get this book done because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m always revising; I always see what can be changed or whatever, in fact, I’ve edited some of the poems from the book since publishing it and you can look for those in future editions. I wanted to get my poems out there and build some name recognition.”
There were many poems and stories I enjoyed but this one stood out to me.
“The Battle of Bunk bed Ridge” was delightful, showing the innocence of a young boy and his green plastic soldier’s. It was a special time, when Justin spent hours playing with his dad. His first curse word was heard through the house. This was real and evoked memories that I had forgotten as I had once watch my sons play with their little green plastic soldiers.
This is only one of many poems that will cause one to pause and remember.
Like many writers, we find all kinds of inspiration to draw our characters from. Justin explains how his character came to be.
“Most, if not all of them, are based on real people I know. It’s dangerous to assume when a writer uses “I” that he means himself. But, for the most part, I conjured up memories, people and places that I actually know and inserted them into my poems. There’s some poems in there based on true events, but which I chose to fictionalize in order to make a point—or simply make a better poem.”
I do believe we all have our own favorite poem or story to tell. Justin explains why these two pieces are his favorites.
“In the book, either Hot Pink Lipstick or Burrito is my favorite. Hot Pink Lipstick, which is about my reactions upon seeing my deceased grandmother. From a literary standpoint, I think it’s just a really good poem, with lots of symbolism and subtle nuances. I don’t generally toot my own horn—in fact, I’m generally quite critical of my work—but I think there’s a lot of brilliance in it. Burrito is important as well because I hate that I was so ungrateful towards a man that did so much for his family. To this day, I hate it when I get an unappreciated gift, or when anything is wasted. There’s so many people lacking in this world… to waste something because you don’t like it is appalling.”
I have one prose that stood out to me as the reader; tears filled my eyes when I read about a young boy spending his last Holiday with his family intact before they went their separate ways. This is a scene many have felt and witnessed. The humanity of Justin’s words came alive across the pages.
When writers put their pen to page, they have in mind a certain audience usually. Did you find yourself targeting a certain group?
“I think there’s something for any fans of non-rhyming poetry. If you like poems that touch the soul, poems that are honest and at times scathing, poems that conjure memories and touch the senses, then you should consider the book. Most of my poems are more like short stories in non-prose form, and are generally short. If that’s the kind of poetry you enjoy, then this book was designed for you. Here’s a touch of the sacred and the profane, some will make you laugh, and, hopefully, some will make you cry.”
Like many writers, they are inspired by people who have touched their lives, making a great influence. Who has been your greatest influences along the way?
“Poetically… Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, Howard Nemerov, Ginsberg, John Updike, Frost, Pound, Cummings, local poets Garret Potter and Peter Johnson, and even Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie. It’s probably to my detriment that I don’t enjoy Shakespeare, Blake, and other Romantics. Modern poetry is what appeals to me.
In my life…my father, probably, my mom will probably hate to hear me say that, but it’s true. I’m so much like him, form the way I look to the way I get irritated at things I shouldn’t get irritated at, also, music, and my ever ebbing and flowing faith.”
I read many types of poetry in your book. What kind of poetry would you consider your book to be?
“Stylistically, it’s almost entirely free verse. Thematically, it’s mostly nostalgia. The idea of losing innocence and coming of age has always appealed to me.”
One last question and we will wrap up this book review, while this is not your traditional book review, I think new readers will have learned a lot about Justin Price.
How did you come up with the cover and why?
“I originally solicited artists to draw something. I had no idea what. Then I realized, based on the theme of the book, I needed a photograph from childhood. So, I found one of myself and my brother Andy on the beach at my grandparents’ house in Imperial Beach, California. I love that my brother is central, that my little tongue is sticking out and, if you notice closely, that my dad’s arm is embracing both of us.”
“The picture was taken probably in 1984, before my youngest brother and sister came along. I thought it was perfect. I then drew up a shitty cover (I’m lousy with computer art) and Joshua Sunforged fixed it up and made it the cover it is now. I like it not only for the content but also for the fact that I think it will look good in print, once I am able to print it.”
I hope this gives the potential reader a good review of what makes this author tick, the thoughts of this reader, and the history behind this book. We all can have our own opinions about a certain book, but digging a bit deeper, learning about the author, his intentions in writing his book and his thoughts behind his work, may only add a deeper understanding of Justin’s work.
Thank you Justin for allowing me to do a book review, delving into your thoughts, and sharing, “Digging to China.”
Please check out more of Justin’s work by visiting his hub.
Amazon link below.
It is with great pleasure that I recommend this book. You may laugh, shed some tears, and even get the WOW factor but there is one thing for sure, you will not regret reading this book.