Illustration by Fabio Vermelho

Noah Cicero is an American poet, novelist and short story writer born in Ohio and living in Las Vegas. We first fell in love with his writing after reading Bi-Polar Cowboy, his beautiful collection of love poems which he outlines on the first page is for ‘those who have loved so deeply it crossed the line into mental illness’. His stories, poems and essays have been published all over the place including magazines such as the Prague Literary Review, Identity Theory and Brittlestar. He is an extraordinary, funny and heartbreaking writer and all of this totally shines through in his interview below. Get any one of his books here. Seriously, do it.


Illustration by Tim Easley

1. Do you actively do anything to keep your brain healthy, and if so what?

I listen to happy dance music in the morning, I drink lots of kombucha. I don’t eat junk food or consume over 30 grams of sugar a day, I don’t count fruit sugar.

2. What or who mentally stimulates your growth the most?

Buddhism, reading novels, meeting new people, traveling.

3. If you could add or take away anything from your brain what would it be?

I would add the ability to do math well. My obsession is bad because it leads to panic attacks, but I need obsession to write.

Frontal Lobe

4. Are you more emotion or reason based when making decisions?

I’m a planner, I logically do things, I show up on time, I do what I’m told. I plan everything. I’ve noticed there are two types of writers, writers that lean to the artsy side, like they draw and go to art shows and watch David Lynch movies. But I’m of the portion that is into law, reading histories and going to bed early.

5. In what situations have you learned the most about yourself?

In love.

6. Do you think you have to learn good judgement? (Are people inherently self destructive?)

Talking about good judgement is like asking a forest if they put a tree in the right place.

7. Do you have any daily or annual rituals? Are they personal to you or your family or are they related to your culture or religion?

In the morning I light incense and bow to the Buddha. I was in Lima a few days ago and attended mass at a giant church. But my family is not Buddhist and we never went to church. But I believe in things like that. We have to give thanks to the spirits and the gods for sustaining us.

8. Can you speak any other languages, and if so why that language?

I took Spanish in college but can’t speak it, just enough to stay alive in South America for a week. I learned how to read Korean, and learned like 200 words, but not how to speak it.

9. If you could live inside of a book, which one would it be?

On the Road. I think I live in it anyway.

10. Are there particular books you find yourself buying for or lending to people close to you?

Nausea, The Stranger, Bad Feminist

11. Is it more important for you to speak or to be heard?

To be felt.

12. Do you think a time exists that is easiest to create? For instance, do you strike the muse or does the muse strike you?

Every time I write a new book, I write it at a certain time and place. I wrote my last book of poetry at Starbucks in the morning. But right now I’m working on a novel at night in my bedroom.

13. Do you have an emotional state that you find it easier to create in?


14. Are there certain elements that you employ to set up the perfect mental space for creating? For example: Music/Food/Smells/Locations

I prefer to write poetry in a cafe with headphones on, listening to dramatic music, pounding down an ice coffee. But for novels, I drink warm coffee in absolute silence by myself in my bedroom.

15. Do you think you have to have an elevated ego to be an artist?

Ego means that you think your emotions are more important than other people’s lives. I don’t think I have that. I have a lot of love. When I was a little no one loved me, my parents obviously did not want me, I was held captive with no love to give for my whole childhood. Now the love is pouring out. I know I had love the whole time and it did not die.

Parietal Lobe

16. What smells do you most associate with your childhood?

Beef cooking on a grill. Mud, motorcycle exhaust.

17. If you could only live on five ingredients for the rest of the life, what would they be?

Chicken, sausage, eggs, cheese, bananas.

18. Do you have spiritual needs and if so how do you nourish them?

Well I toured three churches in Peru, I went to the ancient of the Incans, before I went to Angkor Wat and Mesa Verde and I go hiking all the time. That’s what I do.

19. Do you have a place you go to, either physically or mentally, where you feel the most at peace?

In 2004 we were traveling across America. I remember the look on her face, how excited she felt to see the American West. We were young, strong, beautiful, could eat anything and drink all night, and we did it, and we did it well.

20. Do you think that people need some form of discomfort to make art?

Most famous writers, actors, artists in America are people who have never suffered. This is really an old idea from the 20th Century. If you have suffered, America and England just think you are poor, or you are Latino. Americans and the English in 2016 hate suffering, it might lead to unions or national health care or appreciation for minorities which is like a bomb exploding in a mall to our upper classes. The question now is, “Where did you get your MFA?” “Do you live in Brooklyn?”

21. Are you more motivated by the promise of reward or the threat of punishment?

I’m motivated by friendship and good feelings.

22. How much does your conscience/morals come into play when making decisions?

I am the decisions I make. I don’t make decisions. Where are decisions? Hand me your decisions.

23. Do you ever experience your emotions in physical ways? If so, how?

Emotions are physical, then words come after. Even seeing a duck is physical, or reading the word “fish.” Where in your brain is there a duck or a fish?

24. What is your least favourite physical sensation?

A bee bite.

25. What is your favourite physical sensation?

When my penis first goes into a vagina. I’ve had sex like a thousand times, but still, it is like, “Oh my god, it is happening again, it is really happening, Noah, you made it back to the special place, oh man, oh man, oh wow!” I always think that feeling will go away but it never does. I’m 35 and the same teenage emotions still happen. What a design of evolution.

Temporal Lobe

26. Do you think a person has to understand art in order to be able to appreciate it?

No, what does appreciate mean? Pay for it? Not destroy it? Just stand before and smile? Lots of people don’t understand democracy but they appreciate it. Lots of people don’t understand how roads and cars are made, but they still use them and love them.

27. Do you connect more to the lyrics or music in songs (assuming a song has both!)?

Both. The power though…I can listen to Juan Gabriel or George Jones and be entranced by their power and energy, but I also have the same thing with Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix.

28. What is your earliest memory?

The 1985 tornado destroyed my area. I remember being in the car with my dad and mom driving around seeing if their friends were all right. The damage was insane.

29. If you got alzheimers or dementia what memory or memories would you be saddest to lose – or – which ones would cause the biggest loss of your personal identity?

Wrestling with my dead brother Michael.

30. Do you expect happiness in your life?

I am okay today. I’m not sure what happiness means? I know what ‘okay’ means.

31. Do you feel like falling in love is a spiritual or chemical process?

How we love now is not usual. Women at age 14 used to be married off to men in their 20s or 30s or you ended up getting married to the boy or girl from the closest farm. Now love, like enduring love, is career like, it takes training, planning, luck, and a lot of patience.

32. Do you try and avoid feeling negative emotions or do you feel it is more constructive to experience your emotions fully?

I let my feelings come and I let them go.

33. What flaws do you think you have when it comes to communicating with other people?

I’m more intuitive than the average person which leads to me manipulating the situation or scaring people.

34. How do you deal with situations or individuals that fail to stimulate you creatively or emotionally? Do you avoid this situations/have a set of tools in which to navigate them?

I avoid people who don’t stimulate me.

35. What do you think your ex partners would say the hardest thing about loving you was?

I’m selfish with my time.

Occipital Lobe

36. Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares? If so, what do you think they mean?

I have jedi dreams where I can move things with my mind.

37. If you have ever taken psychedelic drugs, did you have any interesting hallucinations on them? Do you feel changed from having taken them?

I did acid in high school. I remember staring at my hand and SEEING IT. I realized later I was having a Satori Zen moment where the reality of self-projection was removed and I could see my hand or anything for exactly what it was.

38. Do you find your mood affected by different colour palettes?


39. If you could live in a world where the aesthetic was controlled by a particular visual artist or film director, who would you choose?

Whoever directed the show Columbo.

40. What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?

I saw a dog look both ways before crossing the road in Valparaiso, Chile in May.

41. Have you ever seen something which you feel has directly resulted in certain elements of your personality today?

Angkor Wat and Bayon.

42. Would you rather lose your sight or your hearing?

I am losing my hearing. The men in my family pretty much lose it in their early 70s. Tinnitus starts in our ears in our 30s and as the years pass our hearing goes. My dad has to wear super obvious expensive ear pieces at the age of 70. I’m going to make the choice of hearing because I have to prepare myself to emotionally deal with that.

43. Do you feel like you surround yourself with the people who see you for who you really are?

There are two people that see me for who I am, and I can see them. But no one else can see me.

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