This is a picture of Alex Gallo-Brown with a large amount of tomatoes. What is he going to do with them? Well, he could be about to juggle them. He may make some ketchup. He may throw them at a terrible performer on a stage somewhere. There’s really no telling.
A recent transplant to Atlanta, Alex is the author of The Language of Grief and currently earning his MFA in Creative Writing. He’ll be reading at the Highland Ballroom on Friday, October 11th along with Christina Olson, Jared Yates-Sexton, Matthew Fogarty, Justin Lawrence-Daugherty and Caroline Cox.
The internet tells me that you’ve lived in Seattle, New York, and now Atlanta. The upcoming reading is with Midwestern Gothic, which focuses on Midwestern authors and stories about the midwest. Could you describe each region of the United States – the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Southeast, using three words each?
Sure. I’ve never lived in the Midwest, but I have cousins, an aunt, and an uncle in Iowa and two of my grandparents died there. So, that’s a good start: “My grandparents died.” For the Northwest, my beloved native region, I’ll say, “My gloomy home.” For the Northeast, where both sides of my family go back generations, it might be, “The self-conceived center.” As for the Southeast, I have only lived in Atlanta a year, but so far it has been, “Really fucking bright.”
Well done! Which region would you say your heart is most anchored to? How did that come to be?
I think my heart is still anchored in the Northwest, as much as I have had big momentous things happen other places. I remember when I used to live in Brooklyn (where, incidentally, my grandfather is from and where I still have family), I would start to think I had gotten the hang of living there, and then I would go back to Seattle and even before the plane touched down on the runway I would feel all these sensations, memories, feelings flooding back to me. So, yeah, that’s home. Part of it has to do with the landscape, I think, which is so distinctive and so powerful. The grayness and greenness. I think I have internalized those colors, to some extent. At least, it can feel that way.
At the same time, my girlfriend and I are in the process of making a real home (a living space, a social community) in Atlanta. The city–and the arts community in particular–has been very good to us. You guys are awesome.
So glad to have you both! Knowing that greys and greens have internalized in you lends your “Really Fucking Bright” comment quite a bit more context.
Tell me a bit more about Alex the Writer. You write the gamut – essays, fiction, and poetry– right? Which do you focus on now? What are you working on these days?
That’s a great question. I spent a long time writing only poems and essays. The poems that comprise The Language of Grief were written over a period of seven years. I was 19 or 20 when I wrote the first one and I (self-)published the collection when I was 27. At the same time, I was also writing essays–critical essays about books and film, personal essays about my experiences. Then at a certain point I got it into my head that I wanted to write stories. I loved reading fiction. I wanted to learn how to do that kind of imagining. As it turned out, though, writing stories was very hard. I struggle with it constantly. Still, I persist. As for what I have been working on lately, I’ve been playing with a few new poems and I am tentatively working towards a collection of stories that take place in Seattle. I also publish essays from time to time. And I have a draft of a novella sitting on my desktop that I sometimes think about returning to. It’s about a young professional poker player.
What’s your experience with playing poker?
Ha. Set myself up for that one. I became very obsessed with poker when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I studied it, wrote about it, played a whole lot of it. I even created my own class when I was a student at Evergreen, a hippy-dippy college in Washington state that gives no grades and whose mascot is the geoduck (Google Image that weird thing if you get a chance), all about poker and writing. I told them I was going to read books about poker, hang out in poker rooms, and write about poker. Which I did. And they gave me college credit for it! The truth is, though, eventually my poker predilection developed into a more or less full-blown gambling addiction and I had to give it up. The final straw was spending a month in Las Vegas as an intern for a poker magazine. They paid me a salary and put me up in a seedy off-Strip hotel. It was my job to walk around the tables during the World Series of Poker and take notes on what was happening in the games. After a month of that, I was almost insane. One day, I bought a plane ticket online in a Starbucks and flew home the next morning.
Wow, that’s really intense. Have you not touched a chip since?
I wish. I will say I haven’t played in more than a year.
That’s still a good amount of time. Have you picked up any new hobbies in the meantime? Whittling? Boating?
I’d love a boat. Do you have a boat? I cook. In the absence of other addictions, it turns out that I really like to cook and think about food. I also read, play basketball several times a week, consider my straight white male privilege frequently, and evangelize for socialism. I am also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a graduate student. I keep busy.
That seems pretty productive. I don’t own a boat. Not even boat shoes! You need the shoes before you get the boat, right? What effect do you think wearing boat shoes would have on your considerations of your white male privilege?
Wow. Boat shoes. This might sound strange but I’m not sure I know what boat shoes are. Do they have those shoelace-looking things around the side of them? I grew up wearing pretty much exclusively Nikes, a habit, despite my awareness of the company’s human rights abuses, that persists to this day. I don’t know what that says about my white privilege, but I’m pretty sure it says something about my American privilege. Something I’d rather not think about most days.
Would you rather think about the reading on October 11th? Are you excited about it? Why!?
I am excited and nervous. Excited because Vouched throws some of the most dynamic literary events around town; nervous because that means I have to live up to that with my own work and performance. And everyone knows that every poet feels like a poseur most days. Why we choose to display our failures publicly, I’ll never understand.