Last week I sent both Kendra & Matthew six questions to be answered by both on the occasion of their first books both being published at the same time. Both books are very forthcoming in certain ways with personal information, inventing not really a new confessional, but an interiorizing of experience and relation, which made me wonder specifically about how the books as objects operate inside their lives. Here are the questions. Their answers are after the break.
1. How did this book begin as a manuscript? How did it find its place? How did it end?
2. Are you scared? What are you scared of?
3. Do you ever think about what you are going to write about something as the something is happening?
4. Do you see yourself inside your book, or does it seem like other people? Do you feel you have modes?
5. How does a book correspond with the act of love, as an object?
6. What is something you have hid?
1. this is a hard question to answer because i wasn’t paying enough attention to the process. things just kept happening until all the sudden i had a book published. that sounds a little willfully naive, but i swear its the truth. i never set out with any intention of being a poet or an author or anything like that really at all. i suppose i started writing these poems to soothe myself. when i first moved to new york i had no friends and was very sad. then i met tao lin, who was my first friend here. he really encouraged me to write and to try to publish things. it’s funny, i don’t think tao even likes my writing, but since we were spending a lot of time together during the years i wrote this book, he was supportive of me in a friendly “i don’t want my friends to be sad” sort of way. through tao i met most of my friends in new york, and they all happen to be writers. i guess i was just surrounded by writers and we talked about writing and reading and that quickly became all i thought about. as my little poems were getting published here and there, i was getting praise and good responses. then people started soliciting me for work. some editors became my friends in the process. all of this kept happening over a couple of years and eventually, i got tired of people asking me when i would have a book. so i edited my favorite poems into a book and sent it around. after about twenty some odd rejections jeremy spencer wrote me the greatest email, telling me he wanted to publish my book. and now i’m here. i feel like that was a boring answer, i’ll try to be more exciting on the next one.
2. i am very scared. almost every decision i make in life revolves around self soothing. i am really scared that i will outlive everyone i love. i am afraid of this because it seems so likely. i have a really unhealthy lifestyle. i drink, smoke, do drugs, eat a lot of meat and cheese, have had a lot of sex with a lot of people, i like to get beat up, i like unsafe situations. somehow im never really sick at all, i’m never hurt. i have always wanted to be more fragile, because i admire fragile people so much. it seems so delightful to be fragile, someone to be taken care of. but i’m just not, no amount of self destruction works. my body is incredibly resilient. i’m like wolverine. i just heal really fucking fast. so this is probably why i’m so scared of being the last one left. it’s a really convoluted and personal way of saying i’m afraid of being lonely.
3. no. i feel like when poets write confessionally, people expect them to think that way all the time. like their mind is always writing poems. but really, thinking that way feels more journalistic to me. as far as poetics go, it is a mood that hits me when i am all alone and i want to sit and reconcile things that have already happened.
4. i see me, and i see other people too. i do have modes i think. for me this book was all one mode of writing. it was all about reconciliation and the feeling of aftermath. my next book of poetry might very well feel like another person wrote it and that’s okay with me.
5. i think about the act of love a lot. i’m still so unsure of what it is. i obsessively listen to science radio shows about the biology of love, and read magazine articles about scientific research of love. i love my family so much. i love my boyfriend too. i love my friends- maybe to an unhealthy extent, i love my ex-boyfriend brian in a way that has changed so many times over the years, from romantic love to friend love and right now its more like family love. he maybe has gotten the most love from me because of all the changes. i know for myself when i love someone because i feel guilty about loving them. i think i might love everyone. i cannot speak for all books, only mine. my book is itself an act of love, and i know this because i feel guilty about writing it.
6. i hide my wine in my room every night so my roommates don’t drink it while i sleep.
1. this book began as a manuscript of one line that i couldn’t stop thinking in my head: “large eyes are what make you beautiful”. then i just kept adding to it periodically all summer long as the document sat open on my computer screen on a little desk in a tiny corner of a room four floors up. i think it found its place just by walking calmly wherever it wanted to go, like a dog on a leash so long that it was almost not recognizable as a leash but as part of the scenery.
2. i am not so scared, but recently i realized that i have no idea at all what friendship is, and that scared me a little.
3. i do that kind of a lot, but i try not to. the more i do it, the worse it comes out when i write about it later. it always comes out best the stuff i didn’t think “oh, i’m going to write such-and-such about this later on”.
4. i see a slightly-outdated version of myself inside the book. being involved in the publishing of this book has felt a lot like reading old emails and thinking to myself, “oh, man, i remember this. i remember saying that.” because i wrote this book two years ago and just now people are reading it. and since this book is almost kind of like a conversation that i never had, then people reading it two years later is like all of a sudden finding out that you were on the other end of a conversation that never happened two years ago. i don’t feel that i have modes as in a circle, but maybe stations as in a line. that might just be the way i want to see it. on second thought, i am a circle sometimes.
5. if the act of love is choosing to consider someone else before you consider yourself, then this book, as an object, is a bounded stack of paper with particular patterns of ink on it that is being sold for 12 dollars with free shipping in the US.
if the act of love is seeing in another person what you love about yourself, then this book, as an object, is like the search bar in your gmail account that you keep going back to over and over again to find exactly what you need, if it’s there.
6. i have hid my face in my arms. my penis, i hide that everyday inside of my clothes. i have hid my family, my upbringing. i have hid what i really think about a lot of people and events. i have hid anger and love and i have hid sickness.