Dwayne Harmon Clarke
Dwayne Harmon Clarke, Dog Head to his friends and enemies alike, is a son of the American South and has spent a measure of time in each southern state except Arkansas. A descendent of butchers, gold miners, lawmen, and a gunslinger, Clarke was a railroad man, a butcher, and is now an aspiring author. He writes about his adventures mingling with ordinary Americans, especially those of a low-life persuasion. He gravitates toward the darkness, violence, and evil of human nature and his work is sprinkled with tales of Voodoo and the black arts.
Clark has several books of short stories and is working on his first novel. He writes from personal experience accumulated over a lifetime of working, rambling, and drifting from one part of the South to another. He has travelled to some Western states including Alaska. A family member read some of Clarke's work and said that she was putting a black mark by his name and considers him a heathen. She said, "That stuff was just too vile and upsetting for me to read. What would your poor Mama have thought." Dog Head's response was, "Well, Aunt Jenny, my writing ain't for everybody."
When asked why he had never been to Arkansas to round out his tour of the South, Clarke replied, "Arkansas is on the other side of the Mississippi River and it ain't in the real South. I ain't lost nothing over there and I ain't going there neither. Now, some of my enemies might take my bones to Arkansas after I'm dead, but there ain't nothing I can do about that now. I'll deal with them in the afterlife."
I asked Clarke about his upcoming story, Day Old Hain't and wondered about what inspired him to write it. He said, "I was playing this jook joint down in Mississippi and I crossed swords with this big, mean, black man. I bowed up at him and he said, "Dog Head, you keep it up and this time tomorrow, you'll be a day old hain't." Now, I figured I had two choices. I could whip his ass right then and there, or I could write a story about it. I decided to write the story.
Clarke is a rambler, gambler, and drifter and he disappears into the fabric of the South for months on end. He usually emerges when he has something to say or some writing project to release. He lives a life inspired by the life of Charles Bukowski and the backwoods political philosophy of Deacon Lunchbox.
I met Dog Head Clarke at a fish fry down in Utica, Mississippi in the summer of 2014. He was an aged man wearing overalls, an old T-shirt, heavy work boots, and a fedora hat. His ever present sunglasses covered his eyes of which one was known to be just white and milky with no pupil. Railroad accident I heard.
Dog Head was surrounded by a large group of people while he held forth with his rendition of The Signifying Monkey and the Lion. He hit a key point and the crowd roared its approval. I watched in amazement as he held the bunch in his sway. They hung on his every word and begged for more when he finished.
After he shook hands with almost everyone in the crowd, he went over to a large kettle, pulled out four small catfish, filled a bowl with tater crispers, loaded up on hush puppies, and got a fresh beer from the cooler. He settled in with some other people at a long table covered with a red and white checkered plastic table cloth and joined in their conversation. A few minutes later he was the center of attention. Such is the nature of Dog Head Clarke.
Later that night, I found him sitting alone on an old wooden box and asked if I could join him. I told him who I was and asked if he minded talking a bit about his life and his writing. He seemed delighted to give me an interview. The conversation went like this.
See interview with Dog Head Clarke for more information. - J. R. Oneal
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