Evan J. Peterson

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“Why The Hell Wouldn’t I?”– (Talking to Evan J. Peterson)


Rauan: When we chatted in person you mentioned that a big part of your outrageous onstage persona is a pushback against over-serious readers (performers of their own poetry, I mean) who, as you said, have absolute “no sense of humor.” Can you talk a bit more about these “serious” readers and your more “fun” and outrageous style then as a kind of antidote?

Evan: Poets are often outrageously arrogant and self-important, blaming readers if they don’t enjoy the work. What a cop-out. That grave delivery of words from a podium: is it any wonder most people don’t read poetry? I prefer poetic rock stars (though they can be just as arrogant). I’d rather be humble in person and outrageous during readings. I maintain that level of performance and spectacle to give the audience a multi-sensory experience. I want them to leave feeling gratified that they came to see it, hear it, not just read it. I want them to see costumes, hear me sing the disturbing pop lyrics I’ve brought attention to on the page, and occasionally eat whatever curious thing I set out for them.

RK: your books (The Midnight Channel and Skin Job) are filled with monsters and slasher film victims (final girls, or in a few instances, boys) but for me what stands out most is an experience and atmosphere of exuberance and glee. Are the books, then, just like yr reading performances, meant to be “fun” also??

EJP: Yes, absolutely! I feel that if I had fun writing a piece, many readers will have that fun reading it. Without an element of camp and glee, poetry (especially work as dark as mine) quickly becomes an exercise in despair, punishing the audience. I do love Sylvia Plath’s bombastic technicolor despair, but I don’t want to be an icy, detached poet, that arrogant “fuck you, dear reader” poet. I hate that guy. I want my reader to tap-dance with me through the haunted children’s hospital.


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November 20th, 2013 / 6:29 pm