Saturday Feb 23

EricaGoss Listening to Michael Dickes is like being right on the edge of a dream, where logic and the imagination negotiate. “It is said that we are all connected,” he begins the flash fiction video, “New York City (Pistachio Pants),” “to the earth, to each other, to the sky, to all living things, and to all matter, light and dark, in the universe.”

Michael Dickes is a writer, composer, and filmmaker. “New York City” is part grit and part “moonbeams, echoes and stardust.” The speaker skewers cell phone users “inappropriately flashing their audible privates” and confesses his love for the old-fashioned mom-and-pop shop, where they “know your first name, they stock what you like and what you need, and they can actually answer your questions and they even, by God, do it in English.” What follows is a surreal adventure in a hardware store where the owner forms an instant bond with the speaker, sharing a certain, very personal detail:

When I spoke with Michael Dickes from his home in New York, he told me, “I’m not really from anywhere. I grew up in an Air Force family, and we moved around a lot. I was always the new kid with the funny last name.” Dickes started playing guitar at the age of nine. “My guitar was my best friend. I’d get lost, sitting in my room and playing. It was like waking up from a dream.”

His family finally settled in a small town in the state of Washington. Dickes attended college “for one day. I got a call to play in a band, so I left, much to my father’s chagrin.” He toured Europe, the Pacific Northwest, and the West Coast. “We had adventures, traveling in a van, hoping we’d arrive in a place that had a bathroom.” It was a fantastic experience for him, even though he admitted that being on the road, “you learn to drink.” Dickes recorded several albums, and became a solo artist within just a couple of years of leaving college. About song-writing, he says, “Songs are three-minute movies.”

“’New York City (Pistachio Pants)’ was the first video piece I ever made. I went on a walk one day with my camera and a beat-up notebook. I’d been in the city less than six months, and it was the first warm, sunny day. I took it all in: the traffic cop dancing, two kids in love, and that hardware store – it had everything the big ones don’t have.” More stories unfold as we watch, and when Dickes says, “I came to New York to have days like this,” we recognize the same desire for the odd connection, the epiphanies that come from random acts of humanity possible only in a place where millions of people cross paths every day.

“Who Sleeps” is a very different video. It reflects a restlessness at the core of Michael Dickes’s creative persona: “I don’t sit down and think about making a new work. I’m constantly filling the well: recording guitar chords, writing things down. I’m curious. I take apart radios. I just bought a kid’s microscope kit for myself. I can’t just sit in my apartment; I have to get out, follow things to the end. I’ve gotten into some bad situations because of it. I’m constantly asking, what’s next?” “Who Sleeps” is about tapping into that vein of creativity, about spiritualism, and about practicing a new way of thinking:

Dickes is also the creator and editor of Awkword Paper Cut, an online arts and literary journal. Its mission: “Awkword Paper Cut will host and support creative freedom for all and foster a compassionate and community minded environment.  Furthermore, an important element in the overall scope will be to contribute to inspiring a culture of discovery and imagination.” Or, as Dickes put it, “to seek out anyone who is telling a story that follows their inner voice, without thinking about what’s commercial. Ignore rules and just create.” APC includes author interviews, writers on writing, podcasts, video poems, and music, and just added “Swoon’s View,” a column written by Marc Neys (aka Swoon), a prolific and accomplished maker of video poems from Belgium.

At its core, APC is a place for stories; as a sidebar states, “Brave storytelling presented in words, sounds & imagination.” Michael Dickes: “With Awkword Paper Cut, I want to satisfy my curiosity. I want to go deeper, discover things. This is not about making money or database hits.” APC is growing its audience organically, through shares and word of mouth, an ever-changing canvas for artists, writers, musicians and mixed media.

More videos from Michael Dickes:


“Lettie – Film Poem:”


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