Justin Gil Releases New Poetry Collection

5 Questions with an Indie Author

We’d like to extend a shoutout and huge congratulations to coalitionist Justin Gil (CW7) on his latest publication!

Justin Gil is a contemporary writer and poet known for his introspective explorations and grounded narratives. His debut poetry collection, I Don’t Belong Here and Neither Do You, released in 2024, reflects on his journey of self-discovery and offers a fresh perspective on the human experience.

In addition to writing, Justin is an avid grappler and keen on living in countries long past the tourist label.

Connect with him on Instagram @justinspoetry and Substack @writtenbyjustin

Justin Gil

I Don’t Belong Here and Neither Do You, now available on Amazon!

Can you tell me about the origins of this collection and how it came to be?

Yeah, sure. This collection came about organically. After leaving a copywriting job that finally paid the bills, I hadn’t written for a year due to burnout, and my girlfriend (now fiancee’) and I decided to start the process for me to become an Australian resident (thanks to a nasty jiu-jitsu shoulder injury). During my recovery,  I began to reevaluate things and read a lot. That year, when I wasn’t writing at all, it felt like something was absent, like something wasn’t right. However, the type of writing I had been doing (marketing, blogging, business-ing?) didn’t feel right either. Around this time, I started ramping up the intensity of the books I read. Some Dostoevsky, a lot of Kafka, London, Bukowski, (haha that’s a lot of bro lit), Dickinson, Whitman, Banjo Patterson (shoutout to my Australian poetry friends), and my all-time favorite book, A Confederacy of Dunces. by John Kennedy Toole. Anyway, these books made me think about the kind of writer I wanted to be. I started journaling and experimenting with different writing styles. 

Initially, I wrote stories but felt disconnected from my voice. To refine it, I turned to poetry. Over the next two years, I filled notebooks with poems. Slowly, the goal shifted from making writing my job to simply enjoying it, improving, and becoming prolific. This collection is the first step in that journey.

Can you talk about the four themes your collection covers?

Sure, I wish there were set themes in this collection, but it’s more like a compilation of poems than a neatly organized collection. Life doesn’t always fit into neat boxes, and I feel my poetry reflects that. I know many poets have sections within their collections, but my favorite poets seem to always say, “Welp, here you go, this is what I wrote, it’s the stuff I feel like sharing, so enjoy.” That wound up happening with this book, I didn’t want to limit myself in any way, so I just wrote. This book covers a range of experiences—personal growth, authenticity, work, identity, nature, adventure, love, lust, creativity, and social observations.

If there’s a purpose to this book it’s that it’s ok to be imperfect, it’s ok to be masculine and vulnerable, and it’s ok to live the kind of life you want to live. Be yourself, be kind, but also, don’t try to please people. There’s beauty in the mundane and the absurd, being alive is a superpower, and I want to share that.

What was your greatest writing challenge as you assembled this collection?

To be honest, the greatest challenge was showing up every day. My writing process isn’t streamlined. I fill up a 500-lineless-paged notebook with incoherent cursive and then transcribe it to my computer. This takes time, patience, and persistence. Editing is a long process too. Sometimes it takes months to pin down what I want to convey in a poem and when I edit without enough time removed from writing it, I’m not as ruthless as I’d like to be. Thoughtfulness takes time for slower guys like me. 

Initially, I had around 80 poems but chose to publish a smaller selection to prove to myself that I could see a project through, so I guess seeing it through was the hardest part. But the creation process emboldened me as well, it set me on fire, gave me the confidence to keep showing up, and made me realize that writing stories and poetry is something I enjoy enough to make time for while I’m alive.

How does your life as a grappler and traveler impact your perspective as a writer?

Grappling and traveling are humbling experiences. They keep my ego in check and broaden my perspective. Grappling especially. It’s like my little daily vitamin of “you’re not hot shit.” It teaches me to embrace failure and keep showing up. Traveling has exposed me to different cultures and ways of life which feeds into my writing too. It’s allowed me to step outside my self-centered existence and broaden my perspective. There’s something I find really worthwhile about traveling beyond visiting the sights for a few days. I like talking and getting to know people in their own backyards. I also think playing high-level baseball in what now feels like a past life has helped me develop a healthy relationship with failure. It showed me I could fail seven out of ten times and still be considered successful.

I think these daily humblings remind me to be honest with myself. I think there’s a massive issue today with men and boys looking at someone and deciding, “Wow, he’s ‘him’, he’s player one”, and being envious of other men, or told, ‘”this is what a man is”, and feeling like they’ve fallen short. Rather we should all be stepping outside of our comfort zones and deciding to be ‘him” in our own lives by learning, pushing slightly, and acting thoughtfully.

What’s inspiring you lately? A book, film, music, or other media?

Lately, I’ve been inspired by my surroundings. I’m living in the Costa Rican jungle at the moment—howler monkeys, toucans, tree frogs, waterfalls, and all of that. I’ve been reading “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace mixed in with some more poetry, learning more about Bitcoin, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Musically, I’m into The Teskey Brothers, Otis Redding, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Kendrick Lamar, and all the stuff a hip grandpa would probably listen to, but I’m 29, so I’m not sure how cool it is, but it’s what I like. Some days when coffee isn’t enough, I turn to Bukowski’s poem “The Machine is a Fountain”, to snap out of it and write, even if it’s something like, “I don’t know what to write today….” usually five minutes after that I’m off and running. I don’t know, I guess I’m inspired by writing from a place that shows authenticity, masculinity, and vulnerability can coexist. I’m also not married to my ideas which I think continually questioning is a constant source of inspiration. 

“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” – Aldous Huxley

Thanks so much for being a part of coalitionworks, Justin: All the best on your latest collection!

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