March 3rd, 2011 / 12:16 pm
Author Spotlight & Random

Meg Pokrass Damn Sure Right Interview!

Q: Sans enunciation/emphasis or other context, your title Damn Sure Right is open-ended: braggadocio or bluster, surprise or satisfaction—and so on. The person on the cover photo is “dressed to kill” (my words), yet is also more than half hidden. What is your idea concerning the title and the cover image?

A: The title comes from an utterance in the story “Damn Sure Right”. The full utterance is, “He didn’t need to hurt her, damn sure right.”

My characters are often groping for a concrete way to see things in order to feel better.

To me, the cover photo reflects vulnerability mixed with stalwart determination. Press 53 publisher, Kevin Morgan Watson found the image, ran it past me and we were in instant agreement.

Q: Will you discuss “The Serious Writer and Her Pussy”?

A: I see that particular story as a simple, humorous look at the societal confusion women feel about what to call IT. We don’t have a good word.

Q: What causes you despair?

A: Being completely misunderstood.

Q: Themes have a way of recurring throughout your book. I get this image of a woman holding two silver globes in her hands, holding them up high in some dazzling light, one globe is beauty, the other death. How do these two ideas interrelate?

A: I enjoy nothing more than writing my way out of a moment, allowing the character to take a breath, and then… allowing the tug of something to fuck it up again.

Q: Why flash fiction?

A: I wrote narrative poetry for nearly 20 years, and experienced chronic writing blocks. When I tried writing flash about three years ago on a whim… my writing became loose, risk-taking, and more like me. I started having fun.

The poets in my regular poetry group were disgusted with me for publishing flash fiction, and I eventually quit the group. It felt like a huge rebellion at the time.

Q:You write that “The body is honest.” Discuss.

A: Bodies are bullshit meters. In moments that our brains don’t often accept or tolerate, the body will start twitching, moving… our hearts race, we get chills or goose bumps. The autonomic nervous system rules. Brains have limits. Bodies are genius. They get it immediately.

Tara Googled a movie of a naked man standing on a fire pit and not screaming.

My sex drive walked back in the door with a broken suitcase.

There’s a hum of electricity before the ring—mimics birds, cheap clocks, Buddhist meetings.

The city is always moving its pinkie to tell me it’s alive.

I tell him he can watch, but he joins in.

Q: I could go on and on. Will you discuss opening lines. Important to you?

A: The success of a first line has to do with its immediacy and also, its ability to set the mood, like music would in a film.

In first drafts, my opening line is often hidden and I have no idea which one it will be. Usually, it is hiding in the middle of the story.

I often change the order of paragraphs around a lot to play with different effects. The non-linear nature of many of my pieces, and the order in which feelings and/or things happen in my stories are like floating puzzle pieces. I don’t know if this is common, or if it unique to my strange writing brain.

Q: In “The Magician” it begins, “I wake at dawn when he chants, bangs his mini-gong.” Now, this sentence is sharp, playful and serious with meter, rhyme, the sounds of words. Can you describe your writing process, on the sentence level?

A: Rhythm, cadence, alliteration, internal rhyme… yes, they are everything in flash as in poetry. It is hard to talk about because it’s not a conscious process for me.

I benefit from writing when sleepy and fuzzy brained… right before bed or barely awake early in the morning. When I’m wide awake I can easily ruin everything.

I read a lot of poetry by Bob Hicok. He is the master of finding ones own internal music. Reading him and sometime listening to him on audio helps me back to my own.

Q: When I am exhausted from defending flash to people, I often just want to say, “Here, read this and shut the fuck up.” For example, I’d like to post “The Magician” and “Surrogate” in full here in this interview post. Is that allowed? Will someone send me a cease and desist letter? If they do, can I set it afire?

A: Trust your own judgment here and if they are not cooperative, withhold nachos.

The Magician

I wake at dawn when he chants, bangs his mini-gong. His mouth is wide, lips so flexible they could swallow a rabbit. I’m afraid to jinx anything, climbing out of his low futon, don’t try for conversation.

“Talk is breaking many rules, but listening is holy,” he said last night when he sawed me in half but didn’t.

I listen to him listening.

The city smells salty, orange light sneaks around his shower-curtained window, cabs call like geese, or mothers of missing children.

“Break a leg tonight,” he says, kisses my mouth.

Q: I see your work often on Fictionaut. What do you think about that place?

A: That place is responsible for much of my exposure to loyal, well-suited readers and so I am biased. I love the place. I’m amazed by what it can do and I understand that all virtual communities (and non-virtual communities) have their limitations. My expectations were never feisty to begin with, so Fictonaut was and continues to be a happy experience.

For me, Fictionaut provides the quickest, best way to showcase older online flash pieces as well as work only shown previously in print.

Q: What I really admire about many of these texts is the way we are dropped into lives. We vividly visit and then we are ripped away, but we get these echoes. It’s like the text is the centrifuged center of something. Like with Hemingway’s famous six word flash: for sale, baby shoes, never worn. What do you think about the ability of the flash genre to exist in our imaginations before and after the actual words on the page?

A: Good flash is like peeping into the window of a house that feels at once familiar and dangerous. You scurry by, telling yourself not to dwell on what you saw. Later, you remember the ruined or elevated light from the inside of that house.

Q: What is your favorite game?

A: Making up fake stories and pranks on Facebook and getting long crazy threads going. This gives me so much pleasure, and I giggle insanely. I may be very sorry about this someday.

This world is tilting and this is well known.

Life feels like being stuck in a bus, next to a skinny bitch—the kind that keeps blinking.

Q: This book is anxious. It jumps, pops. Worlds tilt. People keep tripping (in all types of ways). It has that Robert Frost quote thing: a piece of ice melting and sliding across a hot skillet. Only I think for this book it would be a piece of bacon, or a condom someone threw into the grease for some odd reason. Anyway…Will you discuss tone? How do you make a thing so frantic?

A: Usually, for a story to be successful, the emotional stakes must be high. This inner struggle is often not consciously understood or recognized by the character. As a writer, I must let the reader know of it through a character’s behavior. The term “emotional urgency” comes to mind.

When writing, I’m creating characters with soul infections. Struggling to feel better creates that frantic-ness.

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  1. Heather Fowler

      Nice interview! I love the discussion of the move from narrative poetry to flash–and the freedom Meg found there. :) xo

  2. Doug Bond

      love Sean’s question that gets Meg’s wonderful answer which starts, “Good flash is like peeping into the window of a house that feels at once familiar and dangerous.” Brought to mind The Radley House, the imaginations of Scout, Jem and Dill and the picture that’s drawn from what’s not seen or heard from until the end.

  3. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I think I love the phrase “soul infections.”

  4. Dawn.

      Agreed. Great interview, Meg and Sean!

  5. deadgod

      soul n : a bacterium infected with multicellular organization

  6. LindaSW

      Great interiew. Didn’t know Meg was a poet first — that explains why her flash pops. Peace…

  7. John Minichillo

      Go Meg go. I’ve told you this but I’ll share it here for the crowd:

      I’ve been using more and more online lit in classes (I believe those of us who teach and also are in tune with online writing should pledge to bring it to young readers, that they’ll be intrigued and may become regular consumers/readers of what is free)…anyway a consequence is that I will get papers on Ben Loory, Bonnie Zobell, I Fontana, Kyle Minor, and Meg Pokrass, to name a few. When the students are stumped for critical sources, I say, “why don’t you email them, they’re on FB and would probably write you back.

      So I had a straight young man who admitted “The Serious Writer” made him blush. Good for you, Meg!

      (and for those who don’t know, there was a whole spate of Serious Writer stories on Fictionaut, could still be found, the kind of playful spontaneous thing that makes Fn a rewarding experience).

  8. Uy

  9. Anonymous

  10. Meg Pokrass

      thank you thank you thank you… and John! My dear young man, I am not going to play dainty, coy, or feeble. Making a young male student blush = the best thing since I turning eighty! I have swells, hiccups, and dementia just thinking of this!

  11. K Kari Burke-Thomas

      Wonderful interview!

  12. Bonnie ZoBell

      Great interview, Meg and Sean. Enjoyed!

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