On a hot LA day in spring, days before the world would change permanently due to a global pandemic, I met writer Dean Cocozza in West Hollywood to talk about his work, including his at the time freshly published book ‘zero dark thirty’. He actually came to meet me directly from Book Soup on Sunset Ave after delivering a patch of his new release to their store.

There were a few questions I had in mind that I definitely wanted to ask him. But let me give you a quick intro. I discovered Dean’s writings on Instagram, a place many writers choose to share thoughts and poetry these days. Dean’s for some reason, hit me in a different way. His one liners and sometimes raw thoughts are picturesque yet to the point.

And there’s always this darkness. This darkness that made me wonder, where does he take his inspiration from, was his mind that much of a dark place, that this was simply his point of view? All of this wouldn’t matter, if the writings didn’t make me feel something. And they certainly do. Especially mixed with the visual aesthetics on his profile, the little video snippets with self-composed music and also in-between, photos of the artist himself.

Anyways, I read his book with joy and today I’m happy to share my little interview with Dean.

Hi, Dean. I’ll start with the questions that I have been curious to ask ever since I read your first poem. Where do you take your inspiration from?

Hi, Francis, thank you. Interestingly, I get that question quite frequently. I find it difficult to say anything else but life. I guess the inspiration for life is to create and to love and be loved. At least that’s how I feel about life and what I observe. I truly believe even the meanest person is motivated by the need to be loved/love, although their traumas or experiences do not allow them to behave in a way that they can express that. So, I guess that’s my inspiration and my motivation to write. Communication too. I wouldn’t put my writings out there if I didn’t feel like communicating them.

That’s interesting. When you say communicating, is that a one way street, or do you care about the reception? Also, does this mean writing has a therapeutic purpose for you?

I definitely do. It’s nice to see people relating, sharing and appreciating your creations. I learned to detach from the art I create though, to a degree that criticism doesn’t feel too personal. In the end I feel confident enough to share it, right?

And about your second question, maybe. I learned that writing has a power, that music or designing doesn’t have, at least for me. Words are so powerful, thoughts are. I truly believe I can write something out of my system, I also believe I can write something into my life. Writing has proven itself as a very strong tool for me to manifest or let things go. I sometimes feel like I’ve been shaping my life one word at a time.

[zero dark thirty] The book you just released is a collection of poems, that you say mostly were written in the past couple of years. The book seems very dark and melancholic in parts. Were you letting go or manifesting at the time?

Oh! I think both. But I didn’t realize how dark this book was until it was done. I remember reading the finished book the first time and thinking ‘****, this is pretty intense’ and felt insecure about releasing it for a moment. But I had already let go of all of it at that time. Which was the best feeling and I knew I could just release it. So far the feedback has been very overwhelming in the best ways. I also feel like it shifted my approach to a more aware way of writing, as in being conscious about what thoughts I turn into an output. I know that my next work, whichever form it will take, will not be considered that dark. I’m a very upbeat person by the way, but I enjoy the image that people project on you through your work. It’s interesting.

So, there is something else coming, or are you talking about a second book?

I’ve only just released this one! I’d love to collaborate more with visual artists in the future and also have a few ideas of how I would like to use my writing and visions in other ways than the ones I have approached so far. But that’s all I can say for now. I wouldn’t approach a book as a project though, I like to see this one like a music album, with a thread and mood that sets the tone for the whole body of work. These things take time.

Since I discovered your writings on Instagram, has the platform influenced your writing in any way?

Oh yes, massively. I mean, not my style, definitely not. But I know I can’t write a full paragraph and reach the same amount of people I catch with a one liner. It’s simple logic, people want the quick fix. So of course, I’ve learned to choose pieces that break things down, communicate more efficiently. But I like that, again that helps in my every day life. It’s not an uncomfortable change. If I just started sharing all the messy, diary style thoughts I sometimes put to pen, people would probably worry about me. Some structure in creation is ok!

Do you just write everyday, whenever you want, or do you have creative phases? And if so, do you ever have creative blocks?

Totally in phases. Though I learned to not worry or pressure myself, when I get into day x of not writing anything that excites me, I get nervous and consciously have to remind myself it will be back. I get bored easily and even though boredom is a good time to create, I write best in times when impressions and emotions are strong both in numbers or intensity. Or right afterwards, when my mind gets to process things. But that’s all in my hands.

Thank you for your interview and your book, Dean. I’m curious to see what you’re currently working on and hope that we get to speak about it once it’s done!