Uterus Poems by Jessica Dyer

22 Jun

Uterus Poems (The New Megaphone, 2014) is a chapbook you’ll happily read in one sitting. A series of blocky prose poems, Dyer casts her uterus as something different on each page. Here it’s a toolbox, there it’s a bread machine, now it’s “as dirty as a Ron Jeremy porno.” Sometimes it’s a rare gem; at others, it’s a rancid dump. In exploring all the roles and identities of her uterus, Dyer lays out how it feels to be a woman, a human. That’s how I read it, and while such a tactic may be rather obvious, I don’t care. Women feel pressure from so many outlets to be a certain way that a response as funny and straightforward as this is necessary.

One poem features Dyer’s uterus as “a mine where dirty men dig out crags–those poky things where I cultivate all my crystal pretties.” The rest of the poem gives the reader rose quartz, pyrite, agate–beautiful gemstones–but the end of the poem whispers of something less aesthetically beautiful: “Deep in my mine there is coal. It keeps me going.” You can certainly read this to mean Dyer needs to call on something darker and deeper than superficial gemstone beauty to get through the day. Men mine women for beauty, and when their beauty is gone, what’s left? What else can society wring from them?

Dyer isn’t hopeless. That’s important to say. Even if in one poem she unkindly characterizes her uterus as being smart as a box of rocks–which is to say, not at all–there are other poems where her uterus “is on fire…It’s basically the center of the universe…it’s the power and the glory.” Instead of usually sappy exhortations or pieces of artwork that encourage women to see their sex as nothing but precious, fragile, and beautiful, Dyer focuses on the diversity of women, on the multiple identities women can take on and inhabit. Today, the uterus feels lame and embarrassing, but tomorrow, the uterus will feel powerful. And maybe on Saturday, it won’t feel like much at all, actually, but thanks for asking. Dyer accomplishes all of this with humor and honesty. In one poem, her uterus has gone viral and racked up a ton of followers on social media. In another poem, her uterus abstains from attending its high school reunion, because who really likes reunions anyway, geez?

The uterus may be the organ where fetuses grow, where uterine lining turns to blood, where fertilization can happen, but Dyer uses the uterus–her uterus–as shorthand for much more. Her uterus is a repository for memories, feelings, triumphs, and disappointments. She claims ownership of her body with short, humorous sentences that demonstrate how well she knows her uterus, her life. Her uterus is uniquely hers.

Downtown Writers Jam

12 Jun

Vouched Indy will be at the inaugural Downtown Writers Jam on Wednesday, July 23,  at Indy Reads Books. The Writers Jam will be a new kind of reading: no podium and no papers (or iDevice in hand), just a writer telling a story from their work. Organized by The Geeky Press, a loose collective of writers, the Jam promises to a sock-rocking event all about promoting writers and facilitating conversation and awesomeness. Anyone is welcome to submit their work for consideration. Read the guidelines here. And Jared Yates Sexton will be there, so I think it’s safe to say that a good time is guaranteed. See you there!

Event Details

What: Downtown Writers Jam

Where: Indy Reads Books, 911 Mass Ave, Indy

When: Wednesday, July 23, 6:30-8:30

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/708880852487090/?fref=ts

Awful Interview: Scott Daughtridge

22 May

scott

To the left is an image of  Scott Daughtridge right after he returned to the modern era after living in Pleasantville for five years. Clearly he took the “color” thing a little too far after living in black and white for so long. What you can’t see is that his face is actually still in monochrome – well played, Scott. It’s kind of creepy, the way the whole world is in color except for his face. Scott can often be found with his face buried in a book for this reason. It is rumored that he is the actual Phantom of the Opera. He is somewhere between the age of 19 and 87 (no one’s really sure). He’ll be reading at the next Vouched Presents.

So, Scott, your forthcoming chapbook is called I Hope Something Good Happens. What do you mean by “good” per sé? Like, are we talking a really good sandwich or are we talking Team U.S.A. defeating Team Iceland a la Mighty Ducks 2? Or something else entirely?

Well I had money on the Icelanders, so the Ducks winning that tournament cost me a stack. I should have known better. I’m talking about something slightly different. Like a dog is lost in the woods and is exhausted, starving and dehydrated, then stumbles on a creek where it brings itself back to health and later becomes king of the forest.

Oh. Wow. Did you ever really play hockey? Also, I like that story about the dog. Which sentimental dog book are you a bigger fan of: Where the Red Fern Grows or White Fang?

The closest I ever came to playing hockey was skating around in circles at the Ice Forum, which was just a cold version of a roller skating rink. Why do people love skating around in circles while listening to pop music? Why has that need developed in our genetic makeup? I actually met Jack London’s ghost one time when I hopped a train from Atlanta to Athens and he told me how happy he was that Outkast named one of their songs Call of Da Wild. I agreed and we split a pint of Old Forester.

 The only thing I am worse at than skating (in any form) is golfing. So I’m not sure how to answer your question. Was it messy sharing a pint of Old Forester with a ghost? Did he get off at Athens then or keep going?

You seem like you’d be good at skating, with your low center of gravity and all. I’m bad at golf too, both standard and frisbee, but appreciate the skillful landscaping involved. Being around people who are good at golf, or even play it a lot,  makes me want to throw a bowl of salsa across the room, which has happened before, but these days it’s a little easier to restrain myself, so I just interrupt them whenever they start talking.

There was no mess, but he smelled strongly of salt water. I dozed off before we arrived and was alone when I woke up. I still have the pint bottle.

By “low center of gravity” you mean “short,” right? Thanks a lot, Scott. When was the last time you threw a bowl of salsa across the room? Was anyone injured?

It’s been a while, but I’ve thrown a lot of different things across a lot of different rooms. I try to choose things that won’t result in injury. Paper or plastic containers are preferred. That’s how you can test if you’re at a good party or not. If you can throw something (a bowl of salsa, a cup of beer, a pie) across the room and either 1) the person it hits turns but can’t tell who threw it because it’s too crazy or 2) the person it hits doesn’t even give a damn because everything is bonkers, then you’re at a good party. I never have thrown a pie, though. It’s one of my true regrets in life.

Oksana Baiul is 5’ 3”, Michelle Kwan is 5’ 2”, Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi and Tonya Harding are all 5’ 1”. I’m pretty sure you’re in that range, and therefore in the height company of female figure skating royalty. That’s awesome!

Okay, you’re forgiven! I love Michelle Kwan. I’ve always wanted to throw water in someone’s face after they insult me. Hey – I’ve got an idea! Want to make a pledge that next time we’re at a party you can throw pie in my face and I’ll throw water in yours?

Deal. I’ll start carrying a throwin’ pie with me at all times until this exchange goes down.

Great. Maybe we should both invest in a good pair of spurs, too? You know, so we can handle this Western stand-off style? Thoughts?

I was imagining more sneak attack, ambush style. I’ll just casually stroll through a crowded room with a pie, walk up from behind you, then WHAM! Everyone will be horrified but you and I can laugh hysterically. Then, in an act of vengeance, you can throw water in my face. Maybe you should make it a bucket of water with a blue little paint mixed in.

Oooh – I like the way you think. I can’t wait! Say – what are you most pumped about for this reading? Free beers? An audience who may or may not heckle you?

I’m going to be reading stories from Strange Temple, a collection in progress. One piece from it was featured in the most recent issue of Midwestern Gothic, but the others haven’t seen the light of day yet, so I’m excited to get those out there.  Free beer is cool too.

Awful Interview: Benjamin Carr

19 May

1486752_10152081831194820_45510406_n

This is Benjamin Carr. After reading at just about every other reading series in Atlanta he’ll finally be reading at the next Vouched Presents on Wednesday, May 28th. In Atlanta’s literary realm this accomplishment equitable to EGOT-ing (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award, respectively), launching Benjamin to a tier of literary performers prestigious and rare. We had the privilege of interviewing him, awfully, prior to the big night.

Benjamin, what’s it like having a name with a built-in nickname? Is it as awesome as it seems? Do you prefer Ben, Benji or the full Benjamin? Does it fluctuate?

It’s been hell. I grew up as Benjie (yes, with an ‘e’) around the same time those dog movies became popular, so there’s been that my whole life. I hate that damn dog. In college, I wrote a column in the newspaper about how I fantasized about running down that dog with a car. But now, after years of therapy, those things just strike me as funny.

As for the name I prefer, it does fluctuate based upon when you met me, how you met me or where you met me. Everybody from my hometown or from college knows me as “Benji” because nobody remembers to spell it with that ‘e’ my parents were so fond of. If you’ve met me through one of them or just socially know me, you call me “Benji.” My byline when I wrote for newspapers was always Benjamin, even when I was in high school, so those people call me Benjamin.

And at my current job, Jerad Alexander was one of my first supervisors and always called me “Ben.” I think the on-site military told him I was Ben. Everyone in the office calls me Ben. But it’s the first place I’ve ever been Ben anywhere. Before this job, I avoided that name out of fear that it would lead people to call me “Has-Ben” or, worse, “Ben-Gay.” Now, if someone called me that, I would just think they were ridiculously moronic.

So, no one’s ever called you Benny? Is that a name? Did I just make that up? Also – are you kind of nervous sharing the stage at this reading with your supervisor?

No one’s called me Benny. I have no jets. My nephews don’t even call me Uncle Ben, so I never bring them rice.

Benny is a name, though I can’t think of anyone of note who managed to go by it past the age of 10.

It’s sort of hilarious, but I got really, really excited when I found out Jerad was in this show and went over to his cube, like, “We’re doing a show together!!! We’re doing a show together!!!! We haven’t shared a stage before!!!” And he looked at me the way he used to when I was a wayward, goofy employee, the sort of glare that just says without a word, all Marine-like, “Calm your shit down, crazy person …”

Jerad Alexander is the sort of guy you want in charge of something, passionate enough to fight, common-sense enough to not suffer fools and smart enough to know when to stay quiet. He keeps me in check, at work and as a friend, and I think he’s the best.

He’s in a different department now. I miss him. Luckily, he is now part of the community. He’s done Write Club, Carapace, Naked City. But we’ve never been onstage in the same show before. I’m super excited. And intimidated.

His writing is fucking incredible. Did you read his book? Can I take the opportunity to plug his book? It’s a novella called The Life of Ling Ling, available for digital download. I read it in a Walmart storefront Subway restaurant one afternoon, and the narrative took me away from all the other Walmart shoppers and placed my imagination in a war zone. It was great.

“Excited and intimidated” is a good way for me to behave around Jerad, though. So this is going to be a great night.

Laura, this conversation is going more smoothly than any other conversation we’ve ever had before at the Vouched Retail-Display Table of Wonder. Is that the name of the table? Does the table have a name? Perhaps we can call it Benny.

Wowee! That was a plug. I think you just life-blurbed Jerad Alexander. Congratulations, Jerad! And you’re right, this conversation is much more smooth than any we’ve ever conducted over my unnamed Vouched table. If we name it Benny, is it technically your namesake? What are some alternative names? I’ve already got a dear lamp named Doey Zeschanel. Not to mention the ghost of a beloved, lovely assistant, Lauren Traetto.

I miss Traetto. I did a HydeATL show with her right before she left town, but she was just lovely. Perhaps we should name the Vouched booth “The Traeble” to honor her.

God, I’m nervous about this reading.

Don’t be nervous! Just imagine everyone in the audience naked, right? Yeah? Is that still a thing? And yes, let’s call it the Traeble!

I think Lauren would be honored. And, if not, we just don’t have to tell her and could call it the Traeble behind her back. By moving from Atlanta, she lost her say in the matter.

I’m not going to imagine the audience naked. We know some really cute people. That just seems problematic. I’ve never understood that advice. I mean, yeah, everyone naked is without their defenses, vulnerable and less threatening. But, I mean, boobs, six-pack abs and stuff. I’d be afraid to step away from the podium. Fear of my own tumnescence.

Aren’t you reading at this event too, or is it another Laura?

It’s another Laura. You’ll like her a lot, I think.  Do you like most Laura’s for the most part? I can never tell how to feel about women named Simone at first.

OK, again we’re on what names mean to me. The first Laura I ever knew was Half-Pint on “Little House on the Prairie,” and I had a crush on her. So, as a result, every Laura has benefitted from that, considered to be good, fun, decent and a pioneer capable of running down a hill covered in flowers while in a gingham dress. I assume you could rock some pigtails.

My first Simone was the waitress who took a bus to France in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, so, consequently,  I always assume they have mean boyfriends and like to watch the sunrise from inside a giant, hollow brontosaurus.

Culture’s been so unfair to certain names. (I still hate that dog.)

 So, nervousness aside – what are you  most excited about for the reading? Also, how should I introduce you? Ben? Benjie? Benny-Boy?

The thing that most excites me is that I’ll finally have gotten to officially do an event with you, which has been long planned. I’m trying to get some sort of Atlanta Lit Scene triple crown by doing all the major events or, at least, contributing work to all the major players. (Is it weird that I think we have major players?)

Introduce me as Benjamin Carr. If people think that I’m all serious and professional, what I bring to the stage might surprise them more. This should be fun.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: Dear Corporation

7 May

 

Adam Fell’s second collection, Dear Corporation (H_NGM_N Books, 2013), is written to the gods of the twenty first  century, those entities capable of bending the course of history that are simultaneously indifferent to the lives of people who will live through it. Fell’s epistles are survey responses given as manifestos, comment cards in the form of maltov cocktails.

Fell’s Dear Corporation is a call to riot. It screams in the face of welling indifference and easy neo-liberalism that characterizes the opening of our new millennium. He writes:

Politicians never counted on us. Wall Street never counted on us. The cadaverous yuppies and their screaming vegan babies never counted on us. Investment bankers swear they keep finding our faces burned into their zeroes and ones like belligerent, binary Marys. They feel our fingers down the throats of their housing bubbles, our teeth foreclosing on the napes of their uninsured necks. To put it more delicately: I want you to fuck the fiscal responsibility out of me. I want you to fuck me until universal health care. We are the only thing that is too big to fail, so put down the briefcase and come skin the rabbit with me.  (22)

Fell wants to stain the immaculate corporate surfaces over which we crawl like ants looking for spilled Coke. He strips out the eggshell-painted drywall, pulls up the laminate flooring made to look like real wood grain to show us the chaos a corporation is trying to cover with its flattening of human experience. Fell states:

[S]o let me get my wolf cub teeth right into the deer heart of our matter: there is a brimming and braveness and feral intelligence to you that I’m taken with. Where I suspect a wilderness may be, a wilderness usually is, and I can’t help but explore. My dear Corporation, you are the PJ Harvey of the investment banking world, the Margaret Atwood of subprime mortgage lenders. You say you are unfamiliar with the taste of man, but I know a dive bar in Red Hook that proves you a liar.  (54)

Fell uses the corporation to represent everything that isn’t corporeal. Just as the word no longer contains the human body, the corporation Fell addresses is one that has moved past the human experience, and the letters Fell writes could be as easily addressed to Target as the US government.

In Dear Corporation Fell wants to anchor humanity in people instead of the illusory capital, both economic and cultural, held in corporations. Fell writes:

Adam and Eve with the apple unbit never had to un-coin their eyes to imbalance, inequity, the ingenuity and ignorance and incessant allure of the world. To wake in the dark of the woods and realize we have been created at all is to realize we have not always been, that we will not always be. We are not born to stake a claim, but to claim a stake in each other, to burn alive if needed in the pure resurrection of our simultaneous decay. (27)

Fell locates himself with people. Fell is like a human submarine sending out waves of noise in the hopes of having someone give him a signal as to where he is. Ultimately, Dear Corporation is a letter asking us to write back.

And that’s what I found so successful about this book, it’s willingness to be human, to say anything to get us to connect with it as a human document. Dear Corporation is prosaic. It digresses. It writes vaguely inappropriate postcards. It sings with the radio when it’s drunk. It may, at times, lack artifice, but never art.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: The Rusted City

13 Apr

If Michel Gondry and William Faulkner were to team up and write a book about Cleveland, you might wind up with something akin to Rochelle Hurt’s debut collection The Rusted City (White Pine Press, 2014). Hurt’s collection is about not only a city collapsing in on itself, but also a family.

Hurt’s collection is decadent in the truest sense of the word. We watch as the rusted city eats itself alive. In one poem, Hurt writes:

The City Swallows/ falling scraps like a dog at a dinner table, it’s river tongue-lapping  them in from the lip of the shore. It jostles them down its throat, shaking an old tune out as the scraps rub and clash their way underground, groaning into beds of dirt. This is the din that’s rattled centuries of the city’s floorboards. But as far as the smallest sister knows, it is only the cymbal hymn the earth has always been humming— (18)

But through its erosion, the city gains a quiet dignity, a kind of aura. Like snow, the rust that covers this city makes everything beautiful, even as it erases it.

Of course, the city isn’t the only thing falling apart. Conjoined with the rusted metropolis’ fate is a family. There is a mother who pines for a lost father, a man who works at the one surviving mill. Hurt writes:

 The Quiet Mother Smiles/ as she tells her two daughters of the favorite father. ‘He’ll be your favorite too,’ she says, smoothing her hair with her palm. The smallest watches as red dust brushed loose falls from her mother’s head and collects on the kitchen tile, already stained a dull orange… The quiet mother tugs a gold ring form one of her fingers and hands it to the smallest sister. The ring is heavy as a marble in the smallest sister’s hand, and heavier every minute—a rock, anxious to be let go. The quiet mother picks up chips of rust from where the ring had hugged her finger and blows on it like something too hot, sending a storm of red to the floor.  (16)

However, if the father’s absence has left the family to slowly decompose, his presence is no less destructive. The father is obsessed with the spectacle of destruction. In one poem, Hurt writes:

The Roller Coaster is Burning, the Favorite/ father tells his daughters, buttoning their chin and ear flaps. ‘We go to get pictures,’ he says…

When they arrive swathed in ash, the roller coaster is folded in half, a writhing lattice of ruptured tracks, gangly as a giant insect. Hugging an arched belly of metal cars, its corroded arms are crossed already—the death pose, the smallest sister knows.  (41)

The father’s speciation of disaster is far from uninterested though, and later we will see that his desire to watch is as destructive as the spectacle itself. Hurt writes:

 The Favorite Father Chases a Tornado/ through the river with his camera. A layer of rust floating like algae on the water begins to break up. As he wades, his legs part one red island, making another. Soon there are too many tiny rust islands to count, and the river is a mottled red-brown.  (75)

The corrosion and collapse of the collection also belies a subtle violence. The city, once a capital of industry that consumed the world around it, has now in turn become oxidized and is being consumed by the air it breathes. The violence in Hurt’s collection is atmospheric and structures that once sustained have now turned against themselves to victimize what they once nurtured. Hurt writes:

Spring-Cleaning, the Quiet Mother/ discovers the habit of touching that’s begun in her kitchen. It wafts like a sulfur perfume through all of her rooms. She finds burnt sugar cubes of touching stashed under beds and salt mounds of touching collected on tabletops.  (49)

Narrating the collection is the youngest daughter, who must make a life in this dying city. Ultimately, it is her ability to move between the two meanings of decadence that allows her to survive. She sees not only the decay, but also the ways in which decay creates, the way even rust can be embroidery if looked at in the right way. Ultimately, this is what allows the smallest sister to survive—her ability to see the transformative power of decay, the way obsolesce makes something new. Hurt writes:

The City Opens/ along its river-seam like a swollen belly, expelling antiques. The smallest sister makes a list of what she finds on the banks… Every night she finds more, so she begins to build herself a home from them. Every night another wall, every week another room, every month another house—her new city birthed form the refuse.  (82)

In the interest of full disclosure, I grew up in the rust belt. I spent the first two decades of my life in Dayton, a city as notable for its lost industry as its contribution to aviation. And maybe this is why Hurt’s collection resonates so well with me. It is a eulogy for places that only become notable once they have lost themselves.

 

 

Best Thing I’ve Heard/Read This Week: Larissa Szporluk

11 Apr

traffic225For final event of this season’s Poets of Ohio reading series, Larissa Szporluk visited Case Western Reserve University from Bowling Green, OH to read and discuss her poetry. Below is an excerpt from my introduction to the event, as well as a video clip of her reading one of her poems:

I first became aware of Larissa Szporluk’s poetry in 2004, when one of my graduate school professors, the late-Jake Adam York, mentioned her as someone he considered to be one of the premier, contemporary poets writing at the time. Specifically, he directed me to her third, full-length collection of poetry, The Wind, Master Cherry, The Wind (Alice James Books, 2003).

While reading the book, I was struck by the ability of Szporluk’s poems to challenge not only the manner in which we use language, but their capacity to fundamentally alter the way in which we view the world; or, as she herself wrote in the poem “Death of Magellan”:

Heaven was lost

when up and down
lost meaning. (5)

Yes, just as Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe altered humanity’s spatial relationship to/of the world during the sixteenth century–literally changing our notion of what “up and down” meant–Szporluk’s poems changed the manner in which I conceived of both language and poetry at a time when I was primarily familiar with the canonical and anthologized poems taught in literature courses. More than a decade ago, then, her poems acted as a literary and poetic passage that was theretofore uncharted for me.

This semester, though, my students and I read her most recent book, Traffic with MacBeth (Tupelo Press, 2011), which, among other things, explores what happens when “violence takes over” (26) both the natural and human worlds. Take, for instance, the opening lines of the poem “Mouth Horror”:

Five male crickets
sing and fight.
The loudest wins,

the softest dies (38)

The poem presents the reader with the seemingly benign image of crickets chirping on a summer evening; but the moment quickly transforms it into a Darwinian struggle, wherein the “loudest” crickets “win,” such that their “chirp[s]” become “swords” that leave the “loser[s to] rot”:

into the sweet black gore
of cricket joy
expressed to death

in one dumb glop (38)

Such violence manifests itself again and again throughout Traffic’s representations of the natural world, as seen in the wind that “leaves a deep pocket / of dusk in your scalp” (3), a ladybird “carcass / on a snow-white beach” (7), or the image of an “eye of the cat-torn mouse” (41).

The violence that permeates natural world, though, does not remain within its bounds; rather, it overflows into the human realm by way story and myth. For example, in the opening stanza of the poem “Baba Yaga”; the poem’s namesake, who is a sorceress from Slavic folklore, tells us that:

I cooked my little children in the sun.
I threw grass on them and then they died.
I sit here and wonder what I’ve done. (47)

While, no doubt, this moment of infanticide demonstrates most evidently the violence inherent to the human world, there are also minor violences, often self-inflicted, that occur throughout the collection. In the poem “Accordion,” the speaker notes:

When the blood leaves my arm at night,
my arm is independent.
I hold it up, my own dead arm,
and flap it at the sleepers
in adjoining rooms around me.
Beating time, like being dead, is easy. (41)

Indeed, something as mundane as sleeping on one’s arm so as to cut-off circulation, thus inducing that “pins-and-needles” feeling, offers us a meditation on death that confers upon us the understanding that “being dead, is easy”—at least to the extent that its specter is ever-present and always near.

To this end, I think, the purpose of Traffic with MacBeth’s violence is to provide us with a heightened awareness of the fragility of life; and, thus, instills within us a greater appreciation for our brevity.

Here’s a video clip of Szporluk reading her poem “Flight of the Mice” from her first collection Dark Sky Question (Beacon Press, 1998):

Awful Interview: Aric Davis

9 Apr

aricdavis

To the left you will find a photograph of Aric Davis holding a keyboard. (Could we call that keyboard vintage? In a cool way – I think so.) Aric Davis is kind of a badass. Not only is he the author of seven books, but for sixteen years he was a body piercer and he’s a happily married dude and he’s a dad. Badass right? Right.

Aric is coming down all the way from Grand Rapids to help celebrate the third anniversary of The Five-Hundred by reading to us. That’ll be happening tomorrow, April 10th – more details about that here.

In February I awfully interviewed Aric in anticipation of the forthcoming reading. Here’s what happened.

So Aric, how is Grand Rapids these days?

Cold, snowy, and bleh! I love GR, and Michigan in general, but we have been absolutely smoked by snowfall so far this year. I’m used to a busy January and February when it comes to snow maintenance, but the snow started falling in November and has shown little sign of letting up. Hopefully we get a break soon.

You’re a punk-rock aficionado, correct? I’ve come to notice that some of my favorite punk tunes come from chillier climates. Would you say that, from your own experience and expertise – there’s a correlation between those two things? Also, how does one become a punk rock aficionado?

Tough call! There’s a lot of really good punk music coming out these days, and strangely, a lot of it is coming out of the northern United States. Captain We’re Sinking, Restorations, Save Ends,  Direct Hit!, Iron Chic, and RVIVR all put out amazing records in 2013, and they’re all from places where it tends to be a little colder. That said, with great bands like Red City Radio or Against Me! putting out new work recently/very soon, the south isn’t exactly in trouble. That said, I would be hard pressed to say that the north is tops for me, Hot Water Music and Avail are two all time faves of mine, and they’re both from the south.

As for the last part, I have no clue. I just like punk music a ton, and my formative years were heavily influenced by poorly recorded music made by people who give a crap.

That sounds like a really authentic punk way to become a punk aficionado. You used to pierce for a living too, correct? How has that influenced your words?

I worked as a body piercer for seventeen years, and it was and is a huge influence on my written work, even after a year of writing full time. Back when I was still in the tattoo parlor, I wrote on the same bed that I performed piercings on, taking a break as necessary to perform stabbings. It made for an odd juxtaposition, the work that I had to do to make money, and the work that I wanted to do but kept being chased from. I know there are a lot of authors with stories of incredible hardship, but I like to think that having to take breaks from writing to punch holes in genitals still sticks out as a unique situation. I don’t have any exact correlations between body piercing and scribbling, but I do know that spilling blood on a page is a piece of cake compared to doing it with a blade.

Do you feel that can cause you to be hard-as-nails in your own writing? Also – what was it like for complete strangers to trust you with stabbing their genitalia?

I certainly don’t think it hurts! The most useful my piercing career ever proved when it came to writing was when I was working on my gothic-romance-tattoo-ghost-story, A Good and Useful Hurt. With Hurt, I drew upon everything that I had learned in my years behind a needle. For the rest of my work, the tattoo shop proved to be a way to meet very-ahem-unique people, and to draw upon my experiences in working with them. Being in the shop definitely exposed me to a side of life that most people don’t see growing up, and that was definitely a good thing as far as my writing is concerned.

The trust strangers show body art practitioners is insane, in my opinion, and even the best practitioners are still human. That said, I developed a very good reputation for being the go-to guy for body mods in the Grand Rapids area, and I still can’t believe some of the things strangers entrusted me with. That said, everyone lived, so maybe they weren’t that off-base.

 So you consider yourself a pretty trustworthy guy?

As trustworthy as the next heavily tattooed former body piercer that makes up stories for a living.

I’ll mark that down as a “Maybe.” Say, who do you think would win in a bar brawl: Will Smith circa The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Vanilla Ice?

Well, the fact of the matter is that Vanilla Ice got absolutely rolled by the world. Suge Knight’s boys hung him over  a balcony, Queen shook him down for stealing the opening notes of, “Under Pressure” and things only got worse from there. V-Ice is the polar opposite of street cred. Not only was he about as manufactured as major label acts get, he spent so many years trying to reinvent himself that he went from singing a song about, “Rolling up the hoootie-mac” to now remodeling houses on high number cable channels. Mr. Van Winkle is a straight up buster, which would lead one to believe that pre-awful movie Will Smith should decimate him, except…

Will Smith had to leave Philly because he got in a single fight. If the rest of the world had this attitude, school bullying would be a felony. Not only did Will get in one little fight that scared his mom, his milquetoast rap game inspired N.W.A. to exist in the first place. Seriously.

Yup, Will Smith’s rap career was so busted, so unrealistic, that Eazy E and the boys from N.W.A. were inspired by him to invent gangster rap, because they couldn’t believe how fake Smith’s version of the world was when compared to the life of the average African American teenager. Will was worried about parents leaving town and getting caught driving their Porsches, Eazy, Ren, Cube and Dre were worried about being able to eat and not get shot. It pains me to say it, but Vanila Ice wins hands down, and the more Will Smith tries to push his stupid wiener kids on us, the bigger the divide gets.

Awful Interview: John Carroll

8 Apr

John Carroll

John Carroll made a mistake. He has thrice awfully interviewed me at PURGE to help promote both the launch of VouchedATL and our two birthday parties. That wasn’t his mistake, it was nice of him. His mistake was the manner of which he Awfully Interviewed me. I mean, he really ‘gave me a dose of my own medicine’ so to speak. I waited for a long time for retribution.

John’s been a regular contributor at The Five-Hundred since its inception, so we’ve invited him back to read for us at the Five Hundred’s reading this Thursday, April 10th at the Goat farm.

Below you will find an Awful Interview I did with John upon the release of Slow Burn, which was released by Safety Third Enterprises just about a year ago.

What are you trying to prove?

I don’t know? 9/11 was an inside job. The Illuminati is real. Aliens exists. Social media will be the downfall of civilization. You know, just the regular macho stuff. I guess I do know.

Do I come across as someone who has something to prove(other than bald is beautiful and all the other things I just listed)?

Kind of. You seem like one of those people who has a vendetta. You know, like Guy Fawkes. HOLY SHIT- John Carroll are you Anonymous?!

Shit. I wish. I like the idea of Anonymous, not so much for their ability to fuck shit up, which I think is pretty rad, but because they remind me of Borg from Star Trek. Kind of like Legion in the Bible. I guess I just like the idea of groups that refer to themselves as one, but then again the U.S. Army does that too. Nevermind.

Aren’t you a patriot? Have some pride! I heard you like baseball, right? Don’t you like pie? Happiness? Will Smith Movies?

I like Thomas Jefferson a lot. He made his own Bible and brought French Fries to America. I can only hope to accomplish that much. I really only liked baseball when Michael Jordan was playing. Did you know that Will Smith was supposed to play Neo in The Matrix, but turned it down? I’m not sure how I feel about that. But yeah, Will Smith is solid.

Didn’t you burn a Bible once? Was that your attempt to be Jeffersonian? How did that go for you?

You know what’s probably more offensive to most people? I burned a Beatles record once as well. I dated a girl who really liked the Beatles a few months later. She told me I was stupid for doing it. We went on vacation to Virginia and she wouldn’t take me to Monticello. We broke up when we got home.

WOW you really brought that one full circle — it was like watching an episode of Seinfeld. Have you ever seen that show?

Seinfeld is probably appreciated for the wrong reasons. Larry David induces panic attacks in my life. I wouldn’t say that I’m a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, but I read his book, Seinlanguage in 5th grade. I asked my parents if I could have a Bar Mitzvah after reading it. They made me accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour instead.

 Was that a pretty formative moment in your life? What do you think the repercussions were?

I’d like to act like it wasn’t, but the older I get the more I feel the need to revert back to adolescent tendencies. You know, ride a bike, jump on beds, make fun of girls that I’d like to have sexual intercourse with. Normal ten year old boy stuff.

Have you found yourself purchasing a lot of footed pajamas as of late?

Unfortunately, they don’t have them in my size. Hot Topic does sell dinosaur and Hello Kitty hoodies though. I need to stop by there to pick up the new Marilyn Manson album, so you never know.

How does Marilyn Manson always manage to date such hotties?

I think it’s pretty clear Laura. If you bang MM you’re guaranteed at least B-movie stardom.

Good point. You forgot to mention how romantic he is though. I mean, look at him. Marilyn Manson OOZES romance. What’s your favorite 90’s teen flick?

Drop Dead Gorgeous. Two words: Rolling Crucifix.

That makes a lot of sense. Has anyone ever told you that you look like Denise Richards?

Only in the dark.

Oh wow. So. …why should people come and see you read on the 17th?

The stories that I will be reading were actually inspired by Denise Richards’ outstanding performance in the 1998 erotica thriller Wild Things. I believe that I’m the first writer to ever incorporate her influence into anything literary, outside of tabloid magazines.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: Ian Huebert

4 Apr

If you don’t recognize the name Ian Huebert, you probably have, at least, seen his work. Most recently, Huebert designed the cover for Matthew Zapruder’s newest collection of poems Sun Bear (Copper Canyon, 2014). He also created the cover art for Dan Chelott’s X (McSweeney’s, 2013), Jeff Alessandrelli’s Don’t Let Me Forget to Feed the Sharks (Poor Claudia, 2012), and is the primary cover artist for the chapbooks released by Dikembe Press.

In addition to designing covers for collection of contemporary poetry, though, Huebert also is an accomplished cartoonist and minimalist poet. Over the course of the past year or two, he has self-published a limited-run chapbook series of his drawings and poetry, titled Comb. Take a look at the below excerpt from issue one (click for large view):
Ian
One of my favorite aspects of the above image is how the text of the poem appears to both rupture the aesthetic surface of the cartoon, while simultaneously integrating itself into the image rather seamlessly. At least as a visual text, its ability to look both coherent and fractured is something that pleases me. (My critical vocabulary for visual art is limited, so my apologies for any idiomatic lack.)

As far as the poem itself, I enjoy how Huebert transforms a rather benign, childhood activity, such as climbing a “cherry tree,” into a “base,” sexual experience. Likewise, the wordplay via repetition and difference (i.e. “said” and “saying) and homonyms (i.e. “right”) adds another dimension of linguistic depth within the rather small space of ten lines.

Moreover, the sexual transformation that occurs in the poem alters our interpretation of the image; a child peeking through a hole in a fence becomes a moment of voyeuristic, sexual gratification instead of an innocent moment of childhood “spying.”

If you’d like to purchase a copy of issues one and two of Comb, or any of the other various woodcuts and prints Huebert has made, check out both his website or his tumblr account. You can also find a handful of Huebert’s poems in this year’s Lovebook by SP CE.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,779 other followers