STARK WEEK EPISODE #6: “A few days later Sam called to wake me in the middle of the night to tell me about his Galaga high score at a bar and that the game reminded him of the poems in the book.” — Eric Amling on the cover of LA LA LA
For Episode Six of STARKING IT’S STARKING EVERYBODY SPARKING week, poet and collagist and GQ cucumber Eric Amling answers some questions about working on the LA LA LA cover. Eric Amling is one of our favorite cover artists here at HTMLGIANT (or at least one of Mike’s favorites), so we are very pleased to get a peek into his mustachioed brain!
1.) What was your experience working on the cover of LA LA LA?
Witnessing a sandwich of friendship and professionalism produce a satiating item.
2.) What was your process (how did you come up with the idea)?
When Sam and I first started talking about the LA LA LA poems we gravitated towards descriptions with a sensation of falling. So I went home and started some different approaches to the cover. A few days later Sam called to wake me in the middle of the night to tell me about his Galaga high score at a bar and that the game reminded him of the poems in the book. I recalled an image I recently cut from the cover of a Limousine and Chauffeur magazine circa early 80s. I thought it brought the digital aspect and feeling of motion with simplicity. Luckily, Sam agreed.
3.) Any stories/anecdotes?
I’m an adult male that occasionally moonlights in the act of collage.
4.) How did your cover relate to your reading the book (or the books content/poetry)?
I approached the LA LA LA book as a separate entity. I imagined finding an original limited edition in an upstate library of a dead city ex-patriot. An old looking book about the future. Assuming I read the book I think this is accurate.
5.) How did your work for this cover relate to your other work as an artist?
As an artist I’d have to say this cover was a departure for me, or rather, an exercise in restraint. I have a tendency to overthink my collages and my cover designs. And I enjoyed using one element of what later became part of a collage as the sole description of the book. I tend to admire most the artist that can show that restraint. To put it another way; it was different because it didn’t have a bunch of colors and asses in it like my other work.
Sam and I are friends and neighbors. Our relationship began with our mutual interest in poetry and has been maintained through drinking and sports. His work and email ethics are sound but he can be unreliable with the phone at times.
I may have my time and events wrong but I remember bringing a dear friend of mine to a reading Sam was doing in Brooklyn. Someplace nicer. The Montauk Club, maybe. She is a person who had issues with poetry. Mainly, poets and poetry readings, understandably. I remember Sam particularly nailed it that night. She was moved, entertained and charmed by Sam’s work. I was proud of Sam for that and it shows the reach his poetry can have. His passion for poetry is obvious but it takes more than that to affect people and he accomplishes that.
6.) Do you have any rough drafts, or covers you didn’t use?
I have three, maybe four, other drafts. If any diehard fans are really interested I can send them a file. [Editor’s note: Eric Amling disappeared shortly after this interview was conducted, but we found him later at unrelated blimp party, where he was patiently explaining to the gentleman “piloting” the blimp that the cigar he was smoking was not, in fact, endangering the flight but was rather supplementing its propulsion. We approached him and enthused that STARK WEEK was only, in fact, for diehard fans, and could he please produce those files? Amling, a real matador’s matador, happily obliged. The results are after the jump.]
WEEKS: A lot can kill you in a week. Even more can eat you at your weakness. A whole week of hair growth depends on, uh, genetics? Weeks contain a finite series of burritos and an infinite burrito of choices. Hoopla, regrets, collapses, dancing so hard you have to pour a cup of ice water on your dome, other times that feeling like you have to drag yourself so hard by your own collar your shirt might tear. Huge trucks at night carrying turned-off, unblinking versions of those normally blinking signs that say CONSTRUCTION AHEAD or SLOW LANE ENDS, except the signs are big so the trucks themselves say OVERSIZED LOAD and are blinking, themselves, even though their cargo’s dark. What I would like to do is nominate Sampson Starkweather to rewrite the entirety of America’s highway marginalia, to be the official roadside spokespoet for all of America’s restless feelings. I don’t have shit to do with those decisions, so what is happening instead is that this week will be Sampson Starkweather week here at HTMLGIANT, aka STARK WEEK.
THE BOOK: Sampson’s debut book of poems, The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather, is out now from Birds LLC. It’s really big. Like almost 400 pages. Who does that? It’s what it says it is. 4 books. All the feelings enacted in the opening paragraph happen inside of its four books, which are categorized as “poetry/life.” Sure, yes, yeah.
WHAT’S IN IT: It’s a book I’d give to someone just coming to poetry and to someone who feels totally burnt out on poetry. Those are kind of the same readers, I think. That’s why the whole week. Starkweather’s poetry is the existence of a nonexistent photograph of Andre the Giant jumping off the top rope. In his introduction, Jared White mentions “bass-voiced sexy soul-singer slow jams” and “punch-drunk Harlequin-robocop masculinity.” The poems have angry leaked dreams and love before roads and a pistol-whipped desire and the world’s saddest TV and offensive hurricane names and corpses wrapped in huge tropical leaves on islands named after them and that’s just in the poems you can read on the excerpt page.
WTF IS GOING ON: Over the course of this week, we’re going to feature a series of guests talking about Sam’s work in each of the books within T4B—1) King of the Forest, 2) La La La, 3) The Waters, 4) Self Help Poems—and also we’re going to hear from the awesome artists who made the covers for each of these four books. There will be criticism, talk of process, grand sweeping theories, tiny insightful scalpels. You’ll get to read some of Sam’s poetry. There will be some talk of what goes into, in 2013, putting out a 400 page book of your poems that is actually 4 books. Maybe there will be some interaction, multimedia, surprise. Buy a copy of the book if you want to follow along closely. I promise it won’t feel like being stuck on a brokedown bus at a rest stop in Connecticut. There are poems that feel like that, but not in this book. Here’s a list of who’s coming at you: Matt Bollinger, Ed Park, Bianca Stone, John Cotter, Melissa Broder, Eric Amling, Elisa Gabbert, Jonathan Marshall, Amy Lawless, Sommer Browning, and Jared White.
WHO IS SAMPSON STARKWEATHER ANYWAY, IS HE THAT GUY WHO DID THAT THING GUYS DO: The reason a lot of people want to share and talk about Sam’s huge ass tree-killer is because he and his work (which are impossible to unspoon from each other, which is how it should be) is like getting the best high five of your life from Teen Wolf. He is loved and easy to love and easy to mistake in rural supermarkets for Javier Bardem. He’s a longhaired poet surfer with a heart of messy pizza and manic kindness. Thank the exhausted fucking stars he is with us and with poetry. Enjoy STARK WEEK.
HOW DOES STARK WEEK BEGIN: To begin STARK WEEK, I talked to Starkweather:
1) Hi Sam. Welcome to Stark Week. This is how it starts, with an interview of you. Our interview starts with the “who is Sampson Starkweather and what’s going on, what is this stuff all over my arms, is this sap” portion of the interview. So let’s start at the start. Four books? Why? Why buck the prevailing model of slim little precious supermodel books? More importantly, why buck it in this beautifully thunking doorstop fashion?
Sorry about the sap “this forest / is unusually horny.”
In the end it came down to precisely the opposite of your question: “Why not?” Why not 4 books in 1? Why not a 328 page monster poetry collection that sounds like a seminal lifetime work by some famous, award-winning, about-to-die poet who now tends a garden, published by some big-ass conglomerate press like Penguin, but is actually by some dude with a ridiculous name that no one has heard of (and sounds like a character from Game of Thrones) and has yet to publish a full-length book, on a small indie poetry press that, oh yeah, he just happens to be a publisher/founding-editor of? It seemed ridiculous, audacious, absurd, unheard of, taboo, laughable—in other words, perfect.
July 15th, 2013 / 1:28 pm
“The Internet” by Eric Amling
Here are the names of some manuscripts I’m reading with observations about the content of each manuscript and sample poems (the picture above has nothing to do with this post, except that it’s a collage by Eric Amling that I like). It would be rad if other people blurbed about manuscripts they are reading (their own or their friends or whatever). Feel free to share poems from other unpublished manuscripts in the comments. Also, if any publishers would like to contact the poets mentioned in this post in order to read their manuscripts for possible publication, please let me know and I’ll forward your requests to them.