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Tour Log: August 27th, 1998

Interview with Rod Stryker
by Stiles

The Sun Poets Society
The San Antonio Sun Poets Society

A sample copy of Sun Poetic Times is available for $3.00. A year-long subscription (four issues) costs $12.00. Write to Sun Poetic Times, 10362 Sahara Dr. #2203, San Antonio, Texas 78216, (210) 530-9849,

On August 26 1998, after reading in Austin, Texas, Tammy Gomez told us we should call Rod Stryker in San Antonio to see if we could read at the open mic he hosts at the Blue Bean Coffeehouse. By the time we got in touch with him, he was already expecting us. We love that good Texas hospitality!

Rod is the founding editor of Sun Poetic Times and with Tanya Keygan is responsible for nurturing an incredible amount of poetic activity in San Antonio through The Times and a bi-weekly reading series. To switch things up a bit, Stiles took over the interview duties.

For those who don't know, Stiles is the uncontainable hip hop poet from the Java House in Louisville who joined us for the last ten days of the tour through Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana.

Stiles: Yeah, we're sitting here talking to Rod Stryker for Jordan Green. We can just go ahead and have a little conversation.

Rod C. Stryker: Cool.

Stiles: First off, let's do like this: are you the creator of the Sun Poets Society?

Rod: Yes, I am. I started it about three and a half years ago.

Stiles: What made you start it?

Rod: Well, the owner of a different coffee shop in a different part of town approached me and asked me if I would be interested in hosting an open-mic reading. I hadn't really thought about it, but when she offered me the hosting job, I decided to try it out just to see what it was like. The first night that I hosted it, I had a really good time with it. A lot of positive energy. I was able to read my work and I was able to present other work by other people. At that time, I was also doing a magazine called The Sun Poetic Times, which is I guess the printed form of that. I really, really enjoyed it so much that I decided to keep doing it.

Even when the coffee shop closed, I decided I wasn't going to let it down and I moved the entire reading to another coffee shop. And that other coffee shop closed. Coffee shop after coffee shop after coffee shop closed everywhere we went. It almost seemed like we were cursed. However, we have been here (at the Blue Bean Coffeehouse) over a year now. We haven't closed it yet.

Stiles: Ha ha ha ha!

Rod: It seems I've been told that Blue Bean is expanding. They're gonna open up another coffee house. I'm guessing that more than likely we're gonna be here for some time to come.

Stiles: That's good.

Rod: So I'm happy about the way things have turned out for the Sun Poets Society.

Stiles: That's good. I've hosted a couple of open mic nights cos like I say, my venue is the Java House and I encourage everybody to come.

Rod: Where are you from?

Stiles: Louisville, Kentucky. So when you come up there, I'm gonna tell you, we embrace every one. It's like one big old family. We have people come in all the time and they are just amazed at the energy that you get. We interact with the poets. If we like something, we'll act like we're on the Arsenio Hall Show or something.

That's how we are. But I wanted to ask you, what actually got you started writing?

Rod: Okay. I was in 10th grade. I remember this distinctly. I was in a study hall minding my own business when my muse decided to hit me upside the head. I had an entire four lines of poetry and they rhymed, just like that! Right there, right in my head. And I wrote it down and I thought that was pretty cool. But I didn't think anything of it at the time. I just put it aside and basically forgot about it. A year later, it happened again. She hit me upside the head again and there was another four lines. And it went perfect with the first four lines. I said, "Well, maybe there's something here." To put it together, I wrote four lines in between it and that was my very first poem.

Stiles: Do you remember it?

Rod: Yes.

Stiles: I don't remember my first poem. My first poem was a song so that's probably why I can't remember it.

Rod: My first poem was a drippy, sentiment-filled love poem, that kind of thing. It was so fat with sugar, it just ... But from then on, I just knew that there was something here and that fate, God -- whatever you want to call it -- had something in mind for me. Since then, I've done nothing but write.

Stiles: Do you have anything published right now?

Rod: Yes, I'm published all over the country -- Connecticut all the way to LA. Individual pieces have been published and I'm working on my first chapbook. I have an artist who's working on the illustrations and that should be out soon.

Stiles: What are some of the publications that you've been published in?

Rod: Poets' Paper. Another one was called Writer's Cramp.

Stiles: I've had many a those!

Rod: Another one was called Black Rose. There's a few others. I've been very happy and very lucky to have some of my pieces published.

Stiles: Maybe I'll have some of my pieces published some day. No, that's not really why I'm in it for. I'm in it for the simple fact that I enjoy it and that's it.

Rod: And that's basically what you have to do. If you enjoy what it is you're doing, whatever it is you do, it should be something you enjoy, something that gives you purpose. I've always enjoyed this. I guess 'til the day I die, I always will.

Stiles: You mentioned earlier that you did some time in the service.

Rod: Yes. I was in the service for seven years. I hated it. However, the only good thing about the military was that I did a temporary duty in Saudi Arabia for three months. That was where the magazine was born. Again, there was nothin' to do. I had time on my hands, time to think. That's where it started. I came back to the States and it just kept going. Again, fate-God had something in mind for me.

Stiles: Yeah, I think we all have something inside of us. A friend of mine introduced me to the (poetry) community and ever since then I've been graced. I'm loving every minute of it.

Rod: It's amazing the people that share your same passion.

Stiles: Exactly. Ever since I've been on this tour, people have shown nothin' but love to us.

Rod: And you know it's so inspiring when the only thing that connects you and that bridges everything, every class, every color, is that spoken word.

Stiles: That's it.

Rod: Oh, it's something else!

We're all one big family.

Stiles: Like I say, this is not an interview. I don't know what to say. We'll just talk.

Rod: Yeah, this is fun.

Stiles: I didn't get my degree in journalism. I got my degree from just being on the streets.

Rod: You know, I think people who do that, just act themselves, do what they can to be connected with everyone else are the best people in the world.

Stiles: This is all right though. Maybe I can get my own talk show!

In Louisville, we have what we call the Louisville Poets Guild. It was started by a guy named (Bill Stang). We had a tribute to him. He suffers from liver cancer. We performed at the Vine Gallery -- a beautiful art gallery. We had anywhere from 30 to 40 poets that showed up. It started at seven o'clock. I didn't get out of there until two in the morning. It was on a Wednesday night. Needless to say, I called in sick the next morning because after that I was just on so much of an emotional high that I couldn't come down until almost 4:30 in the morning.

Rod: I can understand that because at the Austin International Poetry Festival, they have a "witching hour". At twelve o'clock midnight on Saturday night, they start the reading and it runs until every one is just falling-down tired. It can be perhaps six, seven in the morning or all of the next day. You talk about high! On the spoken word, on the verse alone.

Stiles: I guess that's another reason why I'm glad I came with Jordan. Because I only know the Kentucky side and since I've been down this way, I've seen so much and heard so much. It has really expanded my mind even more.

Rod: You know I envy you that freedom to be able to go out and see new people and hear new things. It's like a dream for me.

Stiles: Well see, dreams can become a reality. Cos see look: your poetry, that was a dream at one time. Now it's a reality and you love and enjoy what you're doing. You just can't let something hold you back. I'm a late bloomer.

Rod: So am I.

Stiles: We're still there. When I was younger, I always wanted to travel, but I was afraid of leaving the nest. A friend of mine invited me to go to Cali with him, but I never went. See, I got three kids now.

Rod: I got two.

Stiles: I got one at eleven and ten. They both were born the same year.

Rod: I've got a seven-year-old and a five-year-old.

Stiles: Well, I just had another child as well. She just turned a year in July. That's my heart right there. Really, that's what I wanted.

When he asked me to go, they were only about three and four. I know how it is living without a father and I wanted to just change all that!

Rod: So did I. I'm with you there because my dad wasn't there for us either. I want to do something different with my kids.

Stiles: Exactly. My kids they love me. As a matter of fact, on this trip I call just about every night.

Rod: That's another thing. Ultimately, when it comes right down to it, this is for them. Because they are our immortality and if you live your life the best you can to try and show them that you had a passion, had something to live for that you believed in, I think that would mean a lot. I hope that they will be artists as well.

Stiles: To be honest with you, my eleven year old loves to write. As a matter of fact, he said that when he graduates he wants to be a teacher.

Now, my youngest son, he's ten. He's a little wild, but he has great artistic ability. He drew a picture of a Power Ranger. And I asked him, I said, "Now Brandon, did you trace this? Now, that's okay because that's how I started."

He said, "No Dad, I drew this free-hand." Oh man, whew!

Rod: Did you get the support that you needed when you were starting to write?

Stiles: Yeah. I did. My mom. I started off just writing songs. I was eleven, twelve. That's when hip hop was introduced to me. I said, "Ah, I can do that!"

I started writing and she's like, "Mike, this is pretty good."

"Well, thank you." You know, I never did think anything about it until my friends started getting into hip hop.

And I started thinking, "Oh man, I gotta be better than them." Then I started writing songs. As a matter of fact, I've written gospel songs that we now sing in church.

Rod: My mom was there for me. She told me, "Whatever it is you want to do, don't let anybody get in your way."

That's one thing that stuck with me: don't let anything get in my way. I've had a lot of people try to keep this from me. I've had a lot of people tell me that it was not worth it, that "you're immature", "it's childish", "you need to grow up". But because I believe in it, because I know that one day this will come together, I know for a fact that this is what I will do.

Stiles: Exactly. Thank you. I feel like all the songs that I've written, this has given me more joy than anything else. I get a high when I hear the choir sing one the songs I've written.

Rod: I've really enjoyed this. Let everybody know in Louisville or wherever you go that there are poets who feel the same way they do.

Stiles: Oh yeah! In the words of the gospel tradition, amen!

Rod: Amen.

Stiles: Now, I can't wait to hear you read. And we out!

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