October 8th, 2020 / 9:57 am

Pretend Interview with Nicolette Polek

This past January, I accompanied Nicolette Polek to California for events related to the release of her first book, Imaginary Museums, out now from Soft Skull Press. On our drive from Berkeley to Los Angeles, we listened to Matthew Zapruder’s Otherppl interview, in part because we’d read with Matthew the night before, and in part because Nicolette was going to go on Otherppl when we were in LA. When we stopped listening, Nicolette asked me if I could pretend to interview her, so she could get used to answering questions, which she would also have to do at her event with Kathryn Scanlan the next day. I secretly recorded the pretend interview. What follows is an edited selection of her answers during our “interview.”

I feel like what people refer to as surreal is what I maybe just view as surprising… or, strange juxtaposition… a smiling person… or…  for example…

See? That was a good pause.

It was the start of something…

I would get… — this is like— …I would get… I’d be filled with a lot of adrenaline up until I got to the piano, and then everything was fine. And so, I think, I—

Once I start… I’m in… a world that I know, and it’s okay …

I just thought of jumping out of an airplane a few years ago. Like the perspective from… the edge of the plane right before I was about to fall. Maybe that’s the image that I have in response to these questions…


Oh no, but…

Um, there’s… I lived near a Monastery in DC —eh, iih— like a Fransiscan Monastery in DC that’s supposed to be a replica of the holy land… and as a part of that they have catacombs under the church… and it’s all fake stone and like… fake underground… catacombs… these theatrical catacombs…. but they have a facsimile of Saint Cecilia’s grave. She’s the patron saint of music…  right? …And when she was dying she emitted… like, beautiful music… the most beautiful music… for three days, while she bled out after someone tried to behead her…

But being told that it’s the most beautiful sound… the most beautiful music… I can’t really imagine it…I don’t really know what the most beautiful music would even be…

What could be like the, the ugliest thing?



They use terms from taste to describe a smell or something…

…Like a crunchy smell…


[23 second pause]

Blind? [laughter] I’m try— Uh… Creaturely? ….

…Temperamental? ….

I feel like I’m at the gym.

……..Frostbite? …Quicksand. Okay. Um…


I keep thinking like, a ring…that’s at the bottom of a glass of milk or something. What is a word that would describe that?

Milk ring, yeah.

Imaginary Museums is the milk ring of 2020.

Um, I think I would like people to… take the world seriously and look at the world seriously after reading the book…

But I don’t know how realistic an expectation that is.


  1. megan boyle

      i love this, great job guys <3

      this made me laugh:

      '[23 second pause]

      Blind? [laughter] I’m try— Uh… Creaturely? ….

      …Temperamental? ….

      I feel like I’m at the gym.'

      lord of the milk rings

  2. tao lin

      liked this a lot

      hope you do more interviews in this format

      —eh, iih—