Welcome back to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I talk to people who want to talk to me about stuff they want to talk about.
Recently, I e-mailed back and forth with Moss Angel Witchmonstr. Moss Angel Witchmonstr is author of four books, most recently Sea-Witch v.1 (2fast2house, 2017). She is a scorpio & a transsexual & lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on patreon at http://patreon.com/monstr.
Hi! Welcome to plzplztalk2me, a semi-regular feature in which I’ll be talking to people who want to talk to me about things they want to talk about.
The first person I talked to is Eve Ewing. Ewing is a poet, essayist, scholar, and visual artist from Chicago. Her work has appeared in venues such as Poetry, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, Union Station, the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, and many other outlets. Her first collection of poetry, essays, and visual art, Electric Arches, is forthcoming from Haymarket Books in fall 2017.
We chatted just a few days after the election, so we talk a lot about that, as well as art, hero-worship, and the Harold Washington Library.
According to the internet, if only men voted, Trump would win in a landslide. When it’s only women or people of color voting, Trump loses. I don’t know if that’s true, but if so, taking away men’s right to vote seems not only justified, but imperative. :-)
I’d never thought about taking away men’s right to vote until I saw this meme from @girlybullshitmemes (& realalcoholicme). Revoking male suffrage seemed like such a simple and radical solution to the nation’s problems, that I became curious as to where such a wonderful policy proposal came from.
@girlybullshitmemes doesn’t post simple Twitter screenshots, she creates beautiful mid-to-late century advertising posters that carry wry, radical-seeming messages like taking away the right of males to choose the nation’s leadership.
I wanted to know more about her and her work, so here’s a quick interview.
Riding high and feeling low, I went to meet and spend time with the daughter of a fiery psychoanalyst-philosopher, militant, and experimental reformer of psychiatric care in postwar France. I wanted to meet Emmanuelle Guattari without needing to exactly know why. I’d been carrying around her minty green slender novella “I, Little, Asylum” (translated by E.C. Belli, Semiotext(e), 2015) for over a year in my backpack and using a mechanical pencil to write: with, through, beside, throughout, in spite of, without, within, around, marginally, above, underneath, over, and between her book. Basically, these self-help strategies or sun salutations by which to: include, insert, mirror, and assimilate myself into this text were just ways of tricking myself into merging parts of my childhood with hers. (The desire to merge my experience with her experiences in her novella I’m saving for longer daydreamy semi-catatonic spells in bed or in a bath.) Essay. Sail. Essay-sailing. Essail. A noticeable season went by and suddenly I found myself meeting Emmanuelle in an eastern-suburb of Paris on a drizzly day slipping and sliding on the slick scales of Libra; the seventh sign of the zodiac where things shift from “personal focus” to “contact with others and with the world”. Good, makes sense. I took off and went for her like searching for a lost fraternal twin who grew up in a house of madness and maniacs halfway across the world – except in a castle. While I read her book I thought she was describing the Residents I lived with for eleven years except there weren’t any Residents in her book. I was projecting. But how else are you supposed to connect to anything without a little projection? There were Residents everywhere in her book, I swear. The mind has a sneaky way of cutting and pasting, of collaging, of transference doing somersaults in the most untrained way possible.
We met (it felt like a secret) in a working class strip mall at the Montreuil Station and I recognized her right away only because I saw an interview of her online. I approached her, said hello, and hurriedly she welcomed me with a kiss on both cheeks and took me under some invisible wing as we walked through roasted peanut smoke filled swap meats, in and out of cafes, until we made a full circle and settled in a brutal-banal coffee shop tucked in the strip mall we initially tried to get out of. It felt right because of my love for certain kinds of strip malls; giant transparent posters of coffee and sandwiches on the windows. It felt especially right because she did not know my love for them. And so it was “un-homely” as the Germans say. But also that feeling of un-homliness or whatever was totally perfect for all of its (un)familiarity because of what we were about to talk about: vague notions of crisis heterotopias, board and care facilities in Los Angeles where I grew up, and the La Borde hospital outside of Paris where she grew up. We put our coats and bags on a table to save it, kind of pretending that suddenly it would get busy in there. I was too shy to order something substantial to eat like a plain croissant when she kindly offered to treat us. So I pointed at the green grapes in a plastic container and asked for black coffee. Emmanuelle was a little curious about why only green grapes. I could be imagining this now, but there was nothing symbolic at all about the grapes. It was just something easy to eat while asking her questions. Something to casually pop in my mouth between answers and eye blinks and occasionally staring out the window. Some of the grapes were a little soggy but I ate them devotedly.
In the following weeks I’ll be posting parts of the interview.
Virgin and Other Stories accomplishes what I’ve recently come to admire in the short story form. The stories are set in reality but are slightly off, something I have trouble explaining, but which April and I attempt to discuss. The writing is clean and intimate, and there’s a calmness to how the stories unfold making the tension that develops feel masterful and refreshing.
April and I spoke via e-mail – I was in Albany, New York, and April at the University of North Carolina where she is currently the 2016 Kenan Visiting Writer – about early success, dogs, writers she admires, and finally an answer to what it means to be Southern Gothic.
On the surface, the lit scene seems pretty nice. It’s nice to play nice, right? It’s nice to play nice when you’re satisfied with the state of things, because not playing nice would upset the order. But sometimes we need a kid in the sandbox to kick some toys around to remind us that things are pretty fucked up. No matter how fun the new swing set looks. No matter how big little Danny was able to build his castle.
Andrea Coates is that kid. Love her, hate her, you probably have a strong opinion on the Canadian writer so discontent on the state of things in the writing world, even the language she uses on her blog is dismantled and reformatted to bring greater meaning.
And it’s greater meaning for a greater cause. Andrea Coates’ struggle is not a personal one, though she has used her self personally as a sort of bait to prove her point: the writing industry is inherently sexist. This is something a lot of us realize but can’t always articulate. Coates calls for accountability, the dismantling of our existing sexist infrastructure. Let’s get more excited about women and their writing and less excited about what writer dudes they’ve slept with.
This is part in parcel of Coates’ mission, based on my reading of her work, and my personal interactions with the writer. Some may not agree with her methods, but I think it is clear that she is trying to do good work.
When I was in Nashville during my poetry tour, I was approached by an Artic Fox. Well, actually, I was approached by Josh Spilker, because the Artic Fox came to him first to ask if he would publish an interview, and Josh pointed to me and said, ‘ask her, she has a bigger following,’ or ‘ask her, she writes for HTMLgiant,’ or something like that, sorry if I’m misquoting you, Josh. So the Arctic Fox told me about this interview he did with Andrea Coates last year and I was like, ‘yeah, send it to me.’ I like Andrea Coates. I think she is a fascinating mind, so of course I jumped to publish the interview. Here it is, live and uncut.
Arctic Fox: I’ve been reading Your Blog, and I how you feel about T-Lin. I’m pretty curious about whether or not you’re familiar with Mira Gonzalez and or Moon Temple also sorry if it’s not cool to message u as a strngr
YOU MUST CONTINUE AT ALL COSTS
Kevin Killian is a prolific novelist, poet, playwright, photographer, and Amazon-reviewer known as one of the original New Narrative writers. He’s also the author of the new poetry collection TWEAKY VILLAGE from WONDER, 2014. It’s a wild and ranging collection of poems/narratives that deal with the author’s response to free-market capitalism, the constraints of the English language, the repetitious nature of porn, and much more.
I first met Kevin whilst TAing for Dodie Bellamy’s infamous “Writing on the Body” class at San Francisco State University. Kevin Killian taught (and still does) at California College of the Arts. One day Dodie was absent and her partner, Kevin, arrived as the substitute teacher. (What a pleasant surprise!) We performed one of his plays featuring Kylie Minogue and a host of 90’s celebs, unpacked some abject bodily poems, and left with our minds forever altered. I remember Kevin engaging a student who had very conservative/fundamentalist views about sex and drugs. Kevin kindly and patiently explained that sometimes you need those kind of experiences to figure out what kind of life you want to have. Here Kevin discusses making up for lost time, neoliberalism, genre collapse, loving Arthur Russell, San Francisco’s shifting economic landscape, Santa Claus as Bill Clinton, his photo project “Tagged,” and on and on and onward.
Matt L. Rohrer: Hi Kevin! Thanks for doing this interview! I LOVE TWEAKY VILLAGE Could you tell a bit of the story behind this book? What was going on in San Francisco, in your life, in the world that spawned these poems?
Kevin Killian: Thank you Matt. I suppose it is a book of defeat really. Just as while writing ARGENTO SERIES I came to realize how little I had done to stop the march of AIDS, TWEAKY VILLAGE is me wrestling with how little I did to combat neoliberalism, which manifests itself visually every time I walk out my door and see the new, hyperwired global capital that is San Francisco today. Another thing that happened is that I began teaching and thus mixing with younger people and the contradictions of their beauty (or youth, which is the same thing), and the shrinking possibilities our world, our country holds out to them makes me feel implicated in the very system I detest.
Tamped-down rage never quite enunciated hums quietly beneath the surface of Andrew Duncan Worthington’s debut novel Walls, a new release from Civil Coping Mechanisms. Narrated by a twenty-something Ohioan, Walls strings together banal humiliations, flat-footed conversation, shitty jobs, and shittier sex to create a convincing tableau of millennials marooned in boredom. Worthington is also a founding editor of Keep This Bag Away From Children. Recently, we talked shop over G-Chat because we were both born after 1980.
Tracy O’Neill: You begin Walls with a lengthy history of a failed building project. We find out by page three that this description is spoken by a tour bus guide. In some ways do you see the novel as a tour of a failed project, and if so, what is the failed project?
Andrew Worthington: I hadn’t really thought of that, in terms of the novel being a tour of a “failed project.” I did want “Ohio” or “northeast Ohio” to be a character, in a way, though, in the sense of it being ever-present almost as much as the main character. The main character as a failed project? I don’t know. But that character of “Ohio” is a failed project. It’s not its fault, though. It was just a body of land that people moved to because they couldn’t have enough land somewhere else. Ohio embodies, for me, the most extreme but also the most mundane aspects of what is wrong with the United States. I’m getting off your point, I think. Maybe if you told me what you mean or think, that would be easier.
TO: What do you think is wrong with the United States?
Beach Sloth, cult blogger-extraordinaire, is arguably one of the few things you should actually pay attention to on the Internet. A magnificent poet and semi-anonymous (though some know his secret identity), Beach Sloth is the spirit of discovering new art—plucking it from the depths of the Internet and hidden crevices of the unknown in effort to make us aware. The style of his reviews are poetically analytic and hit off on major points of each work he’s featuring. He covers a wide variety of literature, art, film, music, online activity of Internet poets, and other mediums that peak his interest. Beach Sloth wants to make his art into a money making enterprise. He wants to extend his three fingered claws and touch everyone with his work and insight. You can paypal him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at @Beach_Sloth. He also allows you to advertise on his blog. (There’s nothing this sloth can’t do.)
I interviewed Beach Sloth over a course of a week through email about his project, the artistic “struggle”, and his views on indie lit. Being a prominent player in the “alt lit” scene, the blogger’s responses were eye opening and unique to his own. So kick back, relax, and enjoy this sloth’s perspective.
What is Beach Sloth? Why was this alias created? What is your slothy purpose?
Beach Sloth is my way of interpreting the culture I see created online every single day.
I created Beach Sloth after a series of really strange events began to happen in my life. None of them were bad but I was feeling a little bit too comfortable with the daily routines I was going through. Hence Beach Sloth kind of served as a challenge to me to engage more with the world (and Beach Sloth as a project continues to challenge me with a near-endless stream of work).
My purpose is to support others and have others support each other. If that happens I am happy.
How satisfied are you with your work thus far? What would make it better? What would make it worse?
I am pretty happy with my work thus far. I think I am moving in the right direction and I am constantly trying to improve what I do. Some of the work I did in the past seems a bit ‘underdone’ compared to what I do now, in that I am a lot more focused on keeping things concise and edit a lot harder.
My work probably would be better if I ventured outside of my immediate social media realm. One of my goals for Beach Sloth in 2014 is to try and expand my horizons outside of the blog. This has meant a chapbook for Peanut Gallery Press, more submissions elsewhere (I’m bad with submissions in general) and trying to move into more visual work (I want to do a better job of taking advantage of Tumblr’s focus on the visual, something I know I haven’t done enough of in the past).
Honestly I am pretty hard pressed to think what would make it worse. Probably the worst thing I could do would be to sort of shut off Beach Sloth to a few specific writers. I try to keep up a variety of coverage so people do not see the same names all the time. My focus is also on those whose work I particularly enjoy and people who I think deserve more credit. READ MORE >
Last night the Kansas City Royals won their tenth game in a row, which should make my friend Josh Ostergaard pretty happy. He’s a Royals fan from way back, and that comes out in his new book from Coffee House Press, The Devil’s Snake Curve. The 256-page alternative history book is made of five chapters with titles you might not expect to find in a baseball book, such as “War” and “Nationalism.” These chapters are broken up into short sections, which also have titles. The first is “Kansas” and the last is “On the Beach” and along the way there are hundreds more, like “Cud,” “The Value of a Soldiers Life,” and “Another Take on Hair.”
These nonlinear sections weave through numerous subjects, sometimes about the roots of baseball and baseball traditions, sometimes about the strange cast of players and owners. Josh also writes funny anecdotes about his own experiences playing the sport, and the socio-political incidences that have occurred related to the game both in the US and around the world. War comes up a lot, and not just in reference to Abner Doubleday playing rounders in 1861 (or whatever). This is a serious book, heavily researched, and complicated. In fact, referencing the Royals’ current success is misleading, given how little attention Josh pays to the scoreboard compared to the game as cultural soporific or propaganda machine.
It’s interesting how many ways the book is characterized. Publishers Weekly listed it in its Top 10 for sports books while Shelf Awareness called it “a backdrop for American political history.” Epoch Times said it’s “a kind of Fargo of baseball books” (?). I like Eula Biss’s comment, who said it’s “like a box of eclectic baseball cards about our country and our culture—curious, compelling, and disturbing in turn.”
You worked on this for years and years, right?
I started writing in late 2004. I remember flying to Amsterdam that Christmas to visit my sister and taking on the plane a pile of old newspaper clippings about Lew Burdette, the Braves pitcher who was good at beating the Yankees. But I think the genesis of The Devil’s Snake Curve was the year before, during the months leading to the Iraq war. Like millions of other people I was against what was clearly a war of choice in Iraq, and even in the New York Times there was enough doubt about WMD and about the lack of connection between Iraq and 9/11 that it was obvious our country was about to go off the rails. During those very same months, The Field Museum, where I worked, hosted an exhibition called “Baseball as America.” I went through the exhibit many times, and enjoyed it, but the more I thought about it, the less I was able to reconcile the mythology of the sport and of our nation with the incessant warmongering. Then we started bombing Baghdad. The Devil’s Snake Curve is my attempt to reconcile the darker aspects of American history with the ways professional baseball has been represented. That old cliché about the Black Sox—“say it ain’t so”—well, that’s how I feel, but with regard to the ways the sport has been used as a public relations vehicle for war during the past decade.