“Florida Man” has become the punch line of America’s jokes. He is the weird uncle nobody wants at Thanksgiving. He’s the man you see streaking through the park with a sunburned bum. However, “Florida Man” isn’t really a man at all, but rather a series of male Floridian’s who have gotten themselves into trouble. This group of Florida men have been condensed down into one infamous title: Florida Man.
Alumnus Tyler Gillepsie returned to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Wednesday to read from his book, “Florida Man: Poems,” and delve into the men behind the memes. Gillepsie, a fourth-generation Floridian, wants people to know that there’s more to “Florida Man” than meets the eye. There is more to a person than one headline written about them. Behind every headlining moment, there are a million moments in a person’s life that the media never capture. Gillepsie spoke on how one headline can haunt a person for life.
His book of poems aims to add an element of humanity to “Florida Man.” His book consists of real interviews that disguise themselves as poems. It is a work of nonfiction that seeks to get to the root of not only “Florida man,” but the state of Florida itself. With vivid imagery, real-life news stories, and a healthy dose of wit, Gillepsie uncovers the secrets lurking beneath Florida’s palm trees.
Gillepsie’s book is packed with reverence for his home state. It seeks not to mock “Florida Man,” but to cozy up with him as he wrestles alligators, hi-jacks golf carts, and punches swans. After his talk, Gillepsie sat down with Connect to answer a few questions about his writing and life in Florida.
What advice would you give to students who want to be writers?
To read. To write. To not be so hard on themselves with their criticism. We do so much writing every day, we know we’re writers and we just have to own that title. It took me until I was in grad school to say I was a poet. I didn’t want to say it because it comes with so much pressure. I also really think everyone should take an intro to journalism class because you learn structure and fact-finding. Even if you don’t want to be in journalism, those things can help your writing so much.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve experienced as a Florida man yourself?
I saw a 20-foot long albino reticulated python at someone’s home reptile farm. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t in nature though, thank God.
Besides yours, what are some other favorite books you’ve read about Florida?
Some of my favorite authors who write about Florida a lot are Craig Pittman, Sarah Gerard, Kristin Arnett, and Karen Russell.
Can you give me a haiku about why someone should buy your book?
It’s hot outside so
Read Florida Man: Poems
a really cool book
What three tips would be at the top of your Florida survival guide?
1) Read my book. No, but really at least read something about the history of the state before coming here. A lot of people come unprepared. I’ve named a lot of good authors who can show you what to prepare for.
2) Learn how to drive. Know that it will take you thirty minutes to get everywhere, even the corner store if you’re driving.
3) Don’t feed the alligators. Seriously. They’re doing their own thing and won’t attack you. But if you’re feeding them, you might be close to their nest and a mother gator could defensive. Just respect nature.
For natives and newcomers alike, find more information on “Florida Man: Poems” here.
For more on Gillepsie and his work, visit his website here.
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