In February I discovered why the meticulous, mathematically-calculated slam poetry strategist Kealoha derives inspiration from philosophy. Now you can, too, below, with his full interview for What I’m Reading. When you’re done, check out his CD.
What I’m Reading | Steven “Kealoha” Wong
Q&A with Christine Thomas
–What are you reading?
It sounds crazy, but I’m reading a philosophy textbook: Philosophy – An Introduction To The Labor Of Reason by Gary Percesepe. I’m not taking any classes or anything; it’s just an anthology of different philosophers. It’s got everybody from Plato, Nietzsche, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thoreau to C.S. Lewis.
–Lewis isn’t always first thought of as a philosopher. Does the book present a different interpretation of the subject as a whole?
There are about 10 chapters and each has about 6 or 7 philosophers and their take on subjects like ethics, humanity, responsibility, values, truth. It’s a really cool book. These are questions we’ve been trying to answer since the beginning of modern humanity. Other topics I could be reading about are fleeting and temporary. I want to participate in this kind of discussion.
–How did you discover it?
About a year ago, I needed inspiration. I went to the McKinley book sale looking for books by various authors and I found this one, which seemed better edited than the others. I’m continuously looking for inspiration from writing. Oftentimes getting inspiration from other poets is problematic because I don’t want to bite ideas from other people. That’s the goal—to come up with your own stuff. So this is good reading because the ideas are so abstract and original and none if it has been poeticized that much.
–So meditating on these ideas gives you ideas for poetry?
Yes, but the true inspiration for my poetry is conversations that I have with friends, and hiking and surfing—the influence of nature. I also really love thought experiments and setting up hypothetical situations and seeing how we would judge things. Philosophy is all about thought experiments and posing situations that are a little bit weird and unreal and they illustrate where you stand on particular topics.
–Reading, then, is another type of conversation?
Absolutely. And these people were experts in that realm of thought, so they’ve dedicated years to coming up with them. Now I get to read them in two minutes, or half an hour—however long it takes me.
–So where does reading these thoughts take you, and your poetry?
It’s a meditation. A daily thought to think of. From there, it leads to conversations, and from there some kind of judgment I make about what I think about what they’re saying. And from there—I guess, to writing.