A Field Guide to Getting Lost

A One-Question Interview with Nick Flynn

By Nick Flynn on 9.22.09

Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, has written a new memoir called The Ticking is the Bomb that will be in stores in January. Poems Out Loud got an early look at the new book and had the opportunity to ask Nick if he would participate in a one-question interview. He graciously agreed.

“They Took Me to a Dark Room” from the 2008: August in Istanbul series by Daniel Heyman. © 2008 Daniel Heyman

Poems Out Loud: You’ve called a passage near the beginning of The Ticking is the Bomb “a field guide to getting lost.” You say there that “everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point.” And there are many ways, you say, that one may react to the pain of waking up in a dark wood. You can blame someone. Blame the map you were given. Be angry. Call it fate. But then you say, of getting lost, that “if you are honest, you will only be able to blame yourself.” Is that to say, maybe, that “getting lost” has something to do with looking inward too much? In other words, is it to say that looking inward can become pathological? Do you think that the path out of darkness—a darkness that may be tortuous—is a certain kind of mindfulness?

Nick Flynn: I don’t know if one can look inward too much, though maybe it could happen if one only looked inward at the neglect of the outer world. Then, I suppose, that could become a form of being lost.

I don’t think that was my problem, though, for the time documented in The Ticking is the Bomb. If anything, I was wrestling with shadows, rather than truly looking inward. And yes, the path out of that darkness was, for me, a certain kind of mindfulness, which is also a form of looking inward.

Or maybe it’s more a pulsing between the inner and the outer.

Or maybe wrestling with shadows was, for me, pure inner. Maybe that’s what you mean.

But then, maybe, it’s necessary to get lost, once in a while, or at least be aware when you are.

Just as it seems we all have to wrestle our shadows, once in a while, aware, or half-aware, that we might be tricked into believing they are real.

Or, as Jung puts it: “The dread and resistance which every human being experiences when delving too deeply into oneself is at botom the fear of the journey to Hades.”

I think he is using “Hades” to refer to an underground world inside each of us.

Editor’s Note: Poems Out Loud would like to thank Daniel Heyman for generously allowing us to use his work “They Took Me to a Dark Room” in this interview.

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topics: Interviews / Columnists