Reasons To Stay At Home on Your Couch: RADAR’s June Reading Series Is Now On Youtube!

Or maybe you live somewhere not in the bay and weren’t able to attend, either way, you can stay home in your PJ’s (or maybe slack off at work if you’re sort of productive) and watch some radicle people share their art with RADAR and others.

Achy Obejas‘s video may include feelings, be warned.

 

Martin Sorrondeguy‘s video is so funny you may actually start to feel stomach muscles doing things.

 

Julian Talamantez Brolaski gives a short list of banned poetry words such as aperture. Warning: you may start to consider your own usage of such words.

Have fun spending the next hour on your couch and remember, stretching is also good.

Tom Cho Talks Wild Transformation & Tom of Finland

Tuesday we made an internet date with Tom Cho, author of Look Who’s Morphing, and discussed everything from RADAR’s Wandering Moon event this Saturday to his love of Tom of Finland.

 

Photo by Owen Leong

Radar: What will you be reading at Wandering Moon?

Tom: I’ll be reading a selection of pieces from my collection of fictions Look Who’s Morphing. The book was originally published in my home country of Australia and it’s recently been released in North America by Arsenal Pulp Press. In the course of the book, the protagonist, along with some other characters, goes through some surprising transformations, morphing into figures from film, TV, music, comics, porn flicks and more.

Transformation seems an apt theme for a full moon reading, right?

Radar: Have you ever read outdoors as part of a full moon reading before? If yes, when? If no, does the idea utterly thrill you?

Tom: No.

And yes!

Radar: What are 1 or 2 themes that feature prominently in your work?

Tom: One theme is: wild transformation.

(There’s a second theme too, which I’ll get to in a moment.)

Radar: What is your relationship to metaphors?

Tom: To make a metaphor, you must discover a similarity between two dissimilar things. This is what Sallie McFague talks about in her book Metaphorical Theology.

In my work, I love to draw surprising connections between seemingly remote and disparate concerns (which is the second theme in my work), so I feel like there’s a strong metaphorical impulse that runs through all of my writing.

Radar: If you could describe your writing style in 10 words or less how would you describe it?

Tom: My Australian publisher once said: “Tom is more thorough in the pursuit of implication than any writer I know”. In saying that, he used 14 words to describe my work, but I think he got it right, so we’ll pardon him for being so verbose.

Radar: What’s your favorite place to get dinner or drinks where you live?

Tom: I’ve been travelling for the last year and half so I don’t have a fixed address. However, I very recently arrived in LA so I need to ask your blog readers: What’s your favourite place to get dinner or drinks in LA?

Radar: Describe the room you’re in right now.

Tom: I’m staying at the Tom of Finland Foundation and my bedroom here (which is where I am now) is actually Tom’s bedroom. So I’m surrounded by Tom of Finland artwork, and his clothing and ephemera. In short, I’m in fanboy heaven.

Photo by Owen Leong

Tom Cho’s collection of fictions, Look Who’s Morphing, was published to acclaim in Australia and was shortlisted for various literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Studied in Australia, USA, Switzerland, UK, Canada and elsewhere, Look Who’s Morphing was recently released for North America and Europe by Arsenal Pulp Press. Tom also has 70 publications of fiction pieces in literary journals and anthologies, and has received various arts grants and artist residencies. He is currently writing a novel about the meaning of life. Visit his website at tomcho.com

Baruch Porras-Hernandez on Taco Trucks, Mermen & The Lack of POC in Game of Thrones

Virgie Tovar, Radar’s Managing Director, is OBSESSED with Baruch Porras-Hernandez. Read their convo below. Baruch will be reading on July 8 for the Radar Reading Series at the San Francisco Public Library, 6-8pm. Click here to view the Facebook event page.

Virgie:  So whatchya reading on the 8th?

Baruch: You know, unless I’m asked for requests (which I do take actually, well, nothing is guaranteed, but I do take suggestions) I normally bring three sets to choose from. I gauge how the audience is feeling and right before I go on stage I make a gut decision.

Virgie: Talk about 1 or 2 or 3 themes that are really salient in your work.

Baruch: Mermen, Taco Trucks, my brother, Mexico, sex, and bodies. I feel we are so freaking rough on our bodies, and I often feel like I fail to fully express that in my work, so it is a constant work in progress. I like exploring the timelessness of the gay queer homo, I try to play with images of Adam and Steve, to gay cavemen being frozen in time while having sex in a cave. The first bar to have gay men weep in it, to gay guys searching for love in futuristic post-apocalyptic fallen cities. I also like writing about Frida Kahlo and donuts.

Virgie: OMG I love taco trucks and Frida and donuts! So, we share a similar interest in the discussion of bodies in our work. Bodies feature prominently in your poetry. Can you talk about why and how.

Baruch: I feel our bodies are such powerful and yet absurd things. We are so rough on our bodies, it angers me that we’ve spent so many centuries shaming, hiding, destroying them – especially the female identified body. Inspired by some of my hero writer/performers like Sonya Rene Taylor and Denise Jolly, I began to explore my own relationship with my body and that sparked Notes From My BackFat. Instead of hating my body I decided to have a conversation with it, turns out all my parts had something to say, those voices have helped me love myself more.

Virgie: Actually Michelle and I were on the bus yesterday after getting a massive sandwich at Molinari’s and I asked her what she’d want to ask you and here’s what she said: how has being part of open mic culture influenced your writing?

Baruch: A lot. So many snobby asshat writers scoff at even the thought of an open mic. Usually those people’s writing will put an audience to sleep. I know that criticism stems from fear in the weakness in their work, but open mic culture keeps you on your toes. Sometimes I go to an open mic just to read something new, raw, and I seek a nurturing open mic audience for that. Sometimes I go to test myself as a performer, so I go to the open mics where the audiences need more for you to wow them, and if I end up bombing or putting them to sleep, I know I gotta go home and work harder. I do have to state though, that I’ve done the work to find a place where I only let the audience or open mic audience influence my work so much, or half way, I guess what I’m trying to say is, being part of open mic culture has greatly influenced how I work on my writing, but I feel I’ve done a pretty good job and not letting it affect my writing.  

Virgie: Favorite artisanal dessert?

Baruch: I will wrestle a wolf for some fancy tiramisu. And I will punch a wolf in the face for a well made mango mousse. Just kidding, I would never harm a majestic creature, unless they’re like a big human silver daddy that identifies as a wolf when doing sex fantasy play and he asks me politely to punch him in the face, then I would, then let him watch me eat some mousse.

I’m a sucker for good plain old-fashioned cheesecake with some bitter black coffee.

My mother used to make me a lime ice cream cheesecake dessert every year for my birthday. One day I pissed her off and she swore to never make it again. She has kept her word for the past 13 years, and I miss it extremely. I mean it was an out of this world dessert that she came up with herself, so epic, that when I visited with my cousin who I hadn’t seen in 20 years she said, “does your mom still make that lime dessert she made up? I still remember it, it is the most delicious memory I have of our childhood in Mexico.” She was crushed when I told her my mother no longer made it. Never disappoint a Mexican woman.

Virgie:  OMG I totally would have said tiramisu too! Also, agree re: disappointing Mexican women. OK, if an actor were going to play you in your biopic who would it be and why?

Baruch: He’d have to gain like 60 pounds but, Demian Bichir! The why part – I honestly have never seen a Latino actor who looks like me in Hollywood. He is the Mexican actor that comes the closest, he’d have to grow a thicker beard, and eat a lot of donuts, but with a belly and more meat on his bones, he’d look like me, I think.

Damien Bichir

Virgie:  Damien’s pretty hot but you’re hotter. Speaking of.. I’m currently obsessed with not only you but also Game of Thrones. It took a while to get over some of the betrayal and all the brutal and gratuitous torture, but now I can totally eat nachos while I watch it. Thoughts on Game of Thrones?

Baruch: Aw, man, here comes confession time, just for you Virgie Tovar, I have never watched more than 4 minutes of Game of Thrones. I’ve tried, so many times, and could not get past 3 minutes, I know everyone is going to hate me for this, but it does not interest me, I thought it would be good to come clean. It’s hard for me to get excited about a show where people of color are completely missing from the main character line up, I mean this show has more dragons than people of color up in them castles. I’m more excited about Michone from Walking Dead. I’m more excited about Adventure Time. I’m more excited about the comic book Saga, yes they are aliens, with horns and wings, but the main characters are aliens with horns and wings that are drawn to look like people of color, (eh, they look like hipster Latinos, but hey, I’LL TAKE HIPSTER LATINOS!). I also have never been able to sit through an episode of MadMen, Girls, and How I Met Your Mother.

Virgie: That’s real. The dragons critique is tres on point. Thanks, Baruch!

Baruch Porras-Hernandez is a writer, performer, and organizer, based in San Francisco. He has performed his writing all over California, and featured at shows in Washington D.C., NYC, and Canada. His poetry appears in Aim for the Head anthology of Zombie Poetry, –Write Bloody Publishing, Divining Divas – Lethe Press, Flicker and Spark Queer Poetry Anthology –Low Brow Press, Tandem – Bicycle Comics Press, Sparkle and Blink -Quiet Lightning Press, and is forth coming in Multiverse, anthology of Superhero Poetry, also with Write Bloody Publishing. For the past 5 years he’s been the curator and head organizer for The San Francisco Queer Open Mic and regularly puts together literary shows and festivals, most recently the ¿Donde Esta Mi Gente? festival of Latino Poetry and Spoken Word. He has been a resident artist at the spoken word program at the Banff Center in Alberta Canada, and the A.I.R. Program at The Garage, a Space for Performance Art, in San Francisco. He was born in Toluca, Mexico and grew up in Albany, California. baruchporrashernandez.wordpress.org

 

 

Alex Dimitrov on Cigarettes, Orgasms, Dating SF & Serial Killers

Alex will be reading at the upcoming July Radar Reading Series at the San Francisco Public Library on Tuesday, July 8, 6-8pm. We interviewed him on life, literature and clichés.

Radar: What would you say are the 1 or 2 most prevalent themes in your writing?

Alex: Why we have lives as opposed to nothing and American life specifically.

Radar: Favorite thing about New York & favorite thing about San Francisco?

Alex: New York: that it will never be your boyfriend.

San Francisco: that it wants to be your boyfriend.

Radar: Artist/author you love right now?

Alex: Ana Mendieta. But I’ve always loved her. Lately, I can’t stop thinking about a show I saw of hers in London late last year. Specifically some postcards she wrote to friends that were presented alongside artworks from different stages of her career. I’ve always loved the work but hearing her voice in those postcards was special. It made me love her more because I recognized who she was. I think she’s underrated. If you’re reading this go look her up now. It’s real work with a lot of heart and blood in it. No bullshit.

Ana Mendieta

Radar: What are you going to read from on the 8th?

Alex: Poems from the new book I’m working on. San Francisco has been real good to me. The first time I came here Kevin Killian threw a party for me and invited all the poets. I had never even met him, or anybody here. This was in 2011 and before I published a book. And then last year my first book had just come out and I came to read and gave one of my favorite readings at 851. So I have a special place in my heart for San Francisco. And California in general.

Radar: What are you reading right now?

Alex: A lot of articles and press clippings on American serial killers from the 1970s and 80s, maybe some 60s. Various things on JFK, Jr. All of these are subjects I’m also writing and thinking about. The last book I finished was Joan Didion’s Where I Was From. Speaking of California…

Radar: Most beloved cliche?

Alex: The expression “if looks could kill.”

Radar: Thing that helps you focus when you absolutely need to get something done?

Alex: An orgasm or a cigarette. But I don’t have a lot of sex or smoke really. I guess I’m pretty focused regardless. One could always be more focused so I bum cigarettes from my friends.

Radar: Last thing that brought you to tears or made you laugh uncontrollably?

Alex: I cried the other night listening to a recording of Janis Joplin performing “Cry Baby” live in Toronto, in 1970. She has this line, in this monologue she gives in the middle of the song, addressed to one of her lovers, and she says “One day you’re going to wake up in Casablanca, or one of those fancy places honey, and you’re going to be freezing to death.” She just got it. She got the real because she was the real. Why would you want to be around anything else? When I’m dead I want to go exactly where Janis Joplin and Ana Mendieta went. I want to hang out with those kinds of people.

Alex Dimitrov is the author of American Boys (2012) and Begging for It (2013). In 2014 he launched Night Call, a multimedia poetry project through which he read poems to strangers in bed and online. Dimitrov is also the founder of Wilde Boys, a queer poetry salon in New York City. His poems have been published in PoetryThe Yale Review, Kenyon ReviewSlatePoetry DailyTin HouseBoston Review, and the American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize in 2011. He is the Content Editor at the Academy of American Poets and teaches creative writing at Rutgers University.

QU33R Comics Anthology- ON SALE NOW!!!

Hi, my name is Rob Kirby. Through the grace of the Radar Goddesses I’m here to trumpet the publication of my nice big new all-color comics anthology QU33R, from Zan Christensen’s Northwest Press, successfully funded on Kickstarter in late fall 2013.

QU33R had its genesis in a little queer comics zine I did from 2010 to 2012 called THREE, each issue of which was comprised of three stories by three creators or groups of creators. Seeking to expand the scope of the project, sometime in 2011 I approached Northwest Press about publishing a book-with-a-spine collection of contemporary LGBTQ alt-comics, and a deal was struck, baby. Meanwhile, in 2012 Justin Hall had produced No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics to awards and general acclaim. I loved how Justin’s book had shone a light on how queer-themed comics have evolved over the years and felt that QU33R could take the next logical step and make a statement as to the breadth and scope of queer comics in the present day. In particular, it’s interesting to see that many of the stories in QU33R are concerned less with basic issues of coming out and queer community and more about looking at issues of gender fluidity and questioning queer identity itself. 

Sasha Steinberg

QU33R is comprised of 34 stories ranging from a 21-page coming of age mini-epic by Eric Orner to other stories looking at a wide variety of subject matter: familial and primary relationships, gender bending, hooking up and dating, depression and recovery, celebrity crushes, and so forth. I didn’t ask the contributing artists for specific story content, preferring to work within a looser structure in an effort to create little serendipitous thematic cycles. I feel this really paid off.

Amanda Verwey

The cross-generational contributors range from longtime dyke inspirations like Jennifer Camper, Diane DiMassa, Kris Dresen and Carrie McNinch to hot gay boy talents like Justin Hall, Ed Luce, Jon Macy, and Sasha Steinberg, to non-cis gendered folk like Dylan Edwards, Edie Fake, and Christine Smith; not to mention the presence of several awesome grrrl cartoonists well known to Radar supporters and Sister Spit fans: Nicole Georges, MariNaomi, and Amanda Verwey. And so many more.  It’s an exciting line up.

MariNaomi

In the end QU33R is a testament to the fine work queer creators are contributing to comics, to the broader queer culture, and perhaps even beyond those realms. I hope that people who enjoy the anthology will continue to explore the work of the artists within and that of other creators -– there are many other artists I would have liked to have included in QU33R but space was already at a premium. I’ve said many times I could have doubled the number of artists and called the book QU66R.

 

Rob Kirby’s is the first post in our series Sister Spit Super Fans!  Buy your copy of QU33R HERE!!!

Amanda Verwey’s ART MONDAY (on a THURSDAY- GASP!!!!!!!)- Drop Everything and See Laurie Lipton!!!

Today’s very special ART MONDAY is an URGENT MESSAGE that you absolutely MUST rearrange your schedule to see Laurie Lipton while she’s in town!  Her new book The Drawings of Laurie Lipton, published by local heroes Last Gasp, provides the most comprehensive survey of Lipton’s work to-date with beautifully reproduced images of her incredible, large-scale graphite drawings.  

Released on the tail of Lipton’s recent move back to the states after many years living in Europe, her new drawings represent a new perspective on the American cultural condition by depicting Los Angeles’ beauty, youth and car culture in a manner that is equal parts outsider/insider and rendered with dark satire in her signature BEYOND meticulous style.

She has THREE Bay Area signings this week- Don’t miss out!  Click HERE for more information!

Thursday, December 12th
Paxton Gate
824 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA
6pm – 8pm

Friday, December 13th
Artist discussion & signing
Pegasus Books
2349 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA
7:30pm – 9:30pm

Saturday, December 14th
Exclusive Varnish print release
Varnish Fine Arts
16 Jessie St #C120
San Francisco, CA.
5 – 7pm

Sister Spit 1997 Tour Diary Flashback #2!

In honor of the SISTER SPIT 2014 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN, I present another offering from the 1997 Sister Spit Tour Diary!  This entry was written from a CYBER CAFE by one of the Valencia directors Samuael Topiary!!!

DAY 4 or 5, from topiary

Hello and hope you are well. We are now on day 4 or is it 5? Driving all night through major heat and find ourselves in Tuscon.

After nice opening shows in Santa Cruz and LA, we really hit our stride in Las Vegas, out-performing ourselves to a rowdy and diverse Vegas crowd of locals, a mix of heckling straight men and appreciative dykes and many others in between. Our most excellent and talented host Dave had hooked us up w/ free rooms at the illustrious Stardust Casino and even got us a grant from the Nevada State Council on the Arts. The free “ass juice” the bar kept doling out definitely heightened the energy. Heckling was raised to a new level. And believe it or not, we even did a second set!
I think it’s safe to report that we all had a blast in Vegas especially after Ali treated some of us to her expert slot machine techniques.

It’s fucking hot as hell here in Tucson and we’re all a bit punchy now after driving all night from Vegas to Tucson. Am writing you from the cyber cafe next to the Hotel Congress.

Hit a traffic jam in the middle of the desert on the road from Vegas to here at about 3 am. We wondered about the alien abduction possibilities, but it turns out there was a murder…. probably by human hands, though. The landscape is surreal here.

I lost $3 to the nickel slots. It’s very hot in the van. We have to drive at night and sleep by day. Wish we had more time in Tucson, it seem so interesting, picturesque.

The tour is really starting to get rolling now. I can feel us as a show gelling, getting the hang of it, getting funnier and easier and less precious with each other. The traveling is harsh, though.

PLEASE HELP SUPPORT THE SISTER SPIT TRADITION!  We are asking for help from the community to keep this tour going.  Consider contributing to our FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN and please SHARE! 

#FBF: A PAGE FROM THE SISTER SPIT 1997 DIARY

In honor of the SISTER SPIT 2014 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN we’ve dug deep into the Sister Spit archives for some must-see-gems from the vault.  So today, for your #FBF viewing pleasure, I present DAY 33 of the Sister Spit Tour Diary 1997, written by Michelle Tea.

Below is it exactly as it appeared on the ’97 website:


DAY 33, michelle

Greetings from the illegal insides of the Budget Cargo Van!

I’m bouncing & rocking all over the place as the van zooms out of Cleveland and on towards Detroit. This whole part of the country – particularly the east coast (is this still the east coast?) – has been such a crazy whirlwind.

Philadelphia was a great all-ages show at the new gay center, we each got to do one piece written by someone else on the tour, something we’d been talking about doing for a while. It was pretty hysterical, the big highlights were Ali doing Sini, complete with the trademark yellow glasses; Sini doing Eileen’s ‘Merk’ in pure Sini fashion – very loud, with a couple “Fucking”s thrown in. And Eileen doing Tara aka ‘Pantena’ was completely insane, performed in some kind of weird snooty british accent, wearing a feather boa, doing Pantena’s strange yoga-ish moves on the floor. I was a little afraid our gigantic in-joke performance would bore & alienate the audience, but they really liked it.

After Phili was New York, where all the girls were split apart, staying at different houses and it felt more like a weird vacation than the tour. I saw Rod Stewert eating breakfast, he looked really bad but I still got excited seeing him. I went to see the Cindy Sherman show at MoMA, it was sponsored by Madonna, who Eileen believes should sponsor next year’s Roadshow. So if anyone knows how to get in touch with Maddy, please let me know. And did anyone read her goodbye to Versace in Time? What a fucking idiot! I’m so sorry she won’t get to stay in his villa & be pampered anymore, this must be a really hard time for her. But I still would like her to kick down some cash to our traveling all-girl literary revolution.

ANYWAY, NYC was rad, a little show at Rising Cafe in Brooklyn, and a sold-out house at P.S.122, a show Topiary & Eileen put together from the road, a very tricky thing. It was a great night. Next was Boston, another sold-out, people turned away at the door, standing-room-only show – can you deal with all these people coming out for poetry!!! It’s pretty fucking incredible.

Boston was wall-to-wall excellent girls, and there were a bunch of moms & assorted family members in attendance, including my own. It was the first time she ever heard me read, actually it was the first spoken word event, lesbian event, weirdo event, whatever event for my mom, and I think she held up pretty well & even enjoyed herself, though she was also slightly disturbed.  It’s good to periodically disturb your mother, don’t you think? Ali’s mom stole the show, joining her daughter on stage to read her lines from Ali’s piece “The Story of Slutty.” She made all kinds of great exasperated mom faces while Ali read about being 15 years old smoking pot in a changing stall with a 27-year-old floosie.

Next was fantastic Provincetown, by far the hardest place for us to leave. Well, it was hard getting out of New York, but that was because Cherie took the wrong train and got lost in Queens for 2 hours. But Provincetown was fabulous! Another packed show, where we were joined by local poet Kathe Izzo, the lady responsible for the terrific event. Kim Silver & Annie Sprinkle opened their homes to us vagabonds, and Annie taught Ali a new boob trick – how to light matches off her nipples. She nearly got arrested on Commercial Street one night lighting up her tits for our entertainment. You’d think the cops in P-Town would have more of a sense of humor. A bunch of girls went whale-watching and had very spiritual experiences watching the humungous mammals flip around and wave their fins. Cherie, who used to live in P-Town, took us across the breakwater to her secret swimming hole, and we swam with the crabs & minnows, and I held a couple starfish and as you could guess that was pretty cool. We got some good illegal tattoos from Cherie’s friend Chris – tattoos are still illegal in Massachusets, and you still can’t buy booze on Sundays either. Coming into town right as we were leaving was Club Casanova – a very swanky & hilarious drag king show from New York City. We got to catch their act the night we left, Mo B. Dick, Dred, Will Doher and Labio, Fabio younger brother. Cherie & Sash hopped onstage and sang a country song as a pair of incestuous brothers recently kicked off the Garth Brooks tour for their forbidden love. Finally we tore ourselves away from Provincetown. It was very hard.

Back in the van for an overnight 15-hour drive to Buffalo, we haven’t had to haul ass like that since Texas! We were like a bunch of 7-11 hot dogs on one of those rotating hotdog warmers, all of us lined up & sleeping in the back of the Budget. In Buffalo we were welcomed into the House of Kate, who not only put most of us up in her huge & excellent house, but also kept us thoroughly entertained. Our show at Hallwalls was great and very, very bittersweet because it was the final show of the original Sister Spit line-up. Marci & Ali have since returned to their lives in San Francisco & New York, and Eileen is off writing in the woods at a writer’s colony in upstate New York. I don’t have to tell you that we miss them a lot. Marci was a really good, solid, sensitive & stable girl to have on the tour. Ali is not exactly stable, but her constant humor & sweetness even in the tensest of situations, is sorely missed. Plus, Sash has lost her drink…

(……oops!!!!…here’s where michelle ran out of batteries … we’ll get the rest of the story soon!)

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE SISTER SPIT 2014 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN! 

ERIN MARKEY + HOLLY HUGHES = AMAZING

We at RADAR are still reeling from Holly Hughes fantastic reading at The RADAR Reading Series last week. Erin Markey, another RADAR beloved, was mentored by Holly Hughes while in at UM/Ann Arbor, so we asked if she would do us the extreme delight of having a conversation with her. One we can all eavesdrop on.

ERIN: Who were some of your art/writing heros when you were in high school? 

HOLLY: I had terrible taste in high school, a period in time in which people become stupider.  Or not.  Let’s see.  In high school i really loved Rod McKuen.  Who wouldn’t listen to The Warm?  A high school English teacher gave me a list of books to read and I did and after each one I thought my life had changed.  So I remember Kurt Vonnegut.  Who needed drugs?  I loved him. I’m trying to remember if I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X in high school, I think I did–it was another book that sent me spinning.   Of course I was also blown away by Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a book of wisdom written by a seagull.  I really couldn’t tell the difference between that and the Great Gatsby.  I didn’t know women could write, and apparently my teacher didn’t either. It was like running – if you did, your uterus would drop out, splat on the sidewalk.  Actually, that sounded good to me. Who wanted a uterus? But still.  My guiding lights were absurd TV shows of the ’60s like The Addams Family and Gilligan’s Island.   Which I have decided were the first queer shows.  About chosen family.  I loved that the normal people in The Addams Family were seen as tragic and sad.  As it should be.  And I loved that Gilligan’s crew and passengers concocted elaborate schemes to be rescued and yet they didn’t really want to be rescued.  I hated Mary Anne on the show–my life had been ruined by a slew of Mary Annes, and I wanted to escape to a world of Gingers, but of course it was a great disappointment to learn that most straight men preferred Mary Annes. If there is a single piece of information that pointed me towards gaiety, that would be it.
ERIN: I just got my first dog as an adult about a month ago. I am obsessed, and I can feel that the way I think about and make work is shifting into something different because Horsey takes up such a large amount of space in my heart and brain.  You have multiple dogs and cats, you show some of your dogs on a competitive level, you teach studio art courses at UM that involve animal shelters. You’ve written an awesome show, Dog and Pony Show, about the presence of animals in your life.   
How do your dogs and cats inform your actual process of writing and making work? Are they usually around while you are writing and/or making stuff? How has your relationship with your pets changed the way you make work?
HOLLY: So, the dogs root me in the moment, and as I’ve said, I have a difficult time being in the moment.  Sure I’ve been there, but really, what’s the fuss?  I’ve been plenty other places that are better.  Dogs live there, they don’t take me there, but I see the contours of the moment.  And I can consider it, from my perch in the past, in the subjunctive.  And I can consider that rootedness is so temporary, so ephemeral.   Okay, that’s not being in the moment.  But my animals are old, I don’t recommend being responsible for four animals that are all seniors.  It’s a lot of thinking about mortality.  I hate to leave them.  I have a studio I could go to and maybe I would be more productive.  But it’s a procedure to get there with the animals.  So I don’t.  The dogs bring death into the house on a daily basis, the thoughts of death are not far and that can be a good thing if it doesn’t send you spinning like Sandra Bullock with a convenient George Clooney to bring you back to the mothership.  They also bring joy.  The great pleasure of waking up, the pleasure of being in a body, of eating, of drinking cold water, of touch.
ERIN: What are the 3 best or most memorable things you’ve read or seen in the last year? (books, shows, movies, exhibitions, etc.)
HOLLY: Hmmm….Okay.  Orange is the New Black is great.  Not a revelation but it’s great.  I didn’t think it was possible to touch on topics that are so charged and which TV/film generally avoids like race, sexuality, class, incarceration and also be funny.  I heard the show runners discuss the series and there were some cringe-worthy moments in the interview, but I think somehow the show is smarter than the people who created it.  The actors are smarter.
The Builders Association show Sontag Reborn was amazing.  I saw the show in both versions and loved it, didn’t think it could get better than it did, but it did.  What a coup.  What a great triumph both for Marianne Weems and Moe Angelos.  I’m not a huge Sontag fan, I can’t get past her disavowal of her queerness in order to position herself as the one female public intellectual of her time.  But this show pulled back the curtain on that presentation. It was beautiful, deep and funny.
Geez, books.  Well, I remember the last book I finished and it was devastating.  “The Events of October” by Gail Griffin.  It’s about the murder of a sophomore woman at my alma mater, Kalamazoo College.  I guess it’s also the story of a suicide, the guy kills himself after, but why don’t they start there?  The book really details, with great compassion and even-handedness the descent of the relationship into abuse, the pressures on both parties, the hideous murder (in a dorm room!) and the aftermath.  It’s hard to decide what’s worse, the murder itself and the shock waves it sends through this tiny campus I know so well, or the aftermath…how the school becomes divided in its sympathies, and how there’s a wide spread refusal to put what happened into a broader political perspective.  And how, 13 years later it’s pretty well forgotten.  She’s a great writer who deserves wider recognition.  And of course there’s the horrible situation that there’s no good advice that I know of for a woman trying to leave an abusive relationship.  Leaving is the most dangerous time.  She’s killed after she leaves.  As a feminist and a teacher, this book reverberated for days, I couldn’t sleep, I felt the air knocked out of me and this is a great thing but one you can handle maybe once in a while.
 So, I had the pleasure of working on an anthology with Una Chaudhuri of animal-themed monologues this past year and I got to spend a lot of time reading and re-reading some wonderful scripts by people like Carmelita Tropicana, Joseph Keckler, Jess Dobkin, Stacy Makishi and Deke Weaver, to name a few.  They are really really wonderful to read and also to see performed.  I brought quite a few of the people to Michigan to perform last March and I loved all the pieces, but the work of Jess Dobkin, who now lives in Canada astounds me.  She combines low tech projection, body art, visual spectacle and monologue that ranges from comic to poetic and the pieces are so wonderful.  Okay, I enjoyed bringing a piece to Michigan that involved a women dressed (or rather undressed) as Kermit the Frog who gets fisted by a drag king Jim Henson while singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”   Because I’m insane, I briefly considered presenting this piece in the women’s studies building, in the seminar room, with the prospect of having lube and green glitter splattered on the Eileen Fisher attire of my esteemed colleagues, but thankfully other smarter friends intervened.
I also read C Carr’s biography of David Wojnarowiez “Fire in the Belly,” and saw Joumama Jones, aka Daniel Alexander Jones, and both of these events were delightful and provocative in equal measures.
ERIN: Where were you raised? You have been living and teaching in Michigan for the past decade or so, but before that, you lived in New York City. Now that there is some distance between you and NYC, what do you love about living there? What do you hate? 
HOLLY: I grew up in the sad town of Saginaw, Michigan, a town my students call “Sag Nasty” as if to insulate themselves from the unraveling of the middle class. What do I love about living in NYC?  I love being in a place where it’s normal to be weird, to be non conformist.  I love being part of an ongoing conversation about art and politics.  I love living in a place where there’s too much to see, to take in, where there’s all sorts of stuff happening that can’t be pigeonholed.  I love being in a place where there’s a community I feel a part of, or did, actually several communities, and also being in a place where there’s lots and lots of people who don’t look like me, who don’t speak my language, I love being reminded of the size of the world, something that happens because of this great mix of people squeezed into a tiny place.  I love not having a car!   I love the long, long Falls.  What I don’t miss.  The noise.  The noise is harder to take.  I don’t miss the wind in the winter.  I don’t miss the constant pressure to self promote, which of course exists in aces in academia, but I don’t care as much about the metrics.  I don’t miss having to walk the dog in the early morning and late evenings and picking up poop with a New York Times plastic wrapper that inevitably has a hole in it.
ERIN: If money and location were of no consequence, where do you see yourself in 15 years? 
HOLLY: I’d love to be in NYC.  Of course.  Who would want to be anywhere else?  Oh, you mean, what do i see myself doing.  Okay. I’d love to have my own school.  It would be an experimental queer/feminist art school, and I’d hire the best and strangest artists like yourself and the Sister Spit crew to teach there.  So everyone would have a job, modest as it might be, and the tuition would be imaginary.  Or paid in some kind of service.  But I hate the way that art is taught in the academy and am afraid that soon, it will not be taught at all, it willl be discarded in the online education rush, the embrace of STEM fields as all that matters, where I think that art can save your life.  We would have branches in NYC and possibly somewhere warm.

Shawna Elizabeth Interviews Carmella Suzanne Fleming

Carmella Fleming is a poet currently living in Berkeley California. She will be appearing this month at The RADAR Reading Series on August 27th at the San Francisco Public Library. I asked her a few questions about her work and she provided me with some real talk about bouffants, sestinas, and Gertrude Stein.

photo credit Elisa Shea

What is your name?
Carmella Suzanne Fleming

Where are you from?
I was born in Washington DC and I grew up mostly in rural Iowa.

Name three ways you self-identify:
Goth, gay, and cuckoo bananas.

How would you describe your writing style?
I describe my style as ironic, terse, dissonant, and at times sassy. This is true of my creative nonfiction. With my poetry I try to embrace language for the sake of language as well. My writing is often high-pitched and childlike, but deals with adult themes.

What is your literary background and what have been some turning points in your development as a writer?
I basically have no literary background. I wasn’t raised reading much. I was a slow learner in school and my reading skills were not so great until I was older. My high school also had little requirements for English and so I am not “well-read.” I didn’t start writing creatively until about 4 years ago. As of late I’ve been cultivating a background in women’s and queer literature, and postmodern poetry of the U.S. mostly.

One turning point for me in my writing was taking a poetry workshop a couple of years ago with Ali Liebegott. That was my first poetry class, and it got the sparks flying for poetry. I wrote my first Sestina with Ali!

The biggest turning point for me as writer occurred last spring when I attended a queer writer’s retreat called MADCAP. I was camping in the middle of four-day rainstorm in rural Tennessee, reading and writing in an old barn with forty queer writers, none of whom I had met before. It was powerful. The experience was too big to represent here.

What is the writing community like where you live now?
It’s just so great. I have been well supported. I feel like I have three writing communities. First, I have all those queer and/or weird writers hanging out in the Bay Area, like the organizers of the Oakland reading series, Manifest, and the RADAR folks. I’m always forming new writing groups with strange people in the area.

Then I have my graduate community at San Francisco State University. They are an excellent group of people. Graduate writing programs have a bad reputation, for being too cutthroat, unsupportive, and homogenizing, but I’ve found the opposite. Workshop is a blast! My voice and individuality are cultivated there.

Finally, Sharon Coleman, a local poet, professor at Berkeley City College, and curator of the reading series Lyrics and Dirges, was crucial in my development as a poet and provided community for me. Her students have been of great support and inspiration at readings and in critique groups.

Who is your favorite literary hero or heroine?
Gertrude Stein. Her writing has been a huge influence on my style. I have a deep appreciation for my forequeers. In a literature class I recently wrote a paper on Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Butch/Femme Eroticism in Tender Buttons. It was great fun. I like to think about Gertrude Stein, a lot. Asking what would Gertrude do can really get me out of a rut or bout of insecurity. She was bold. I like that.

Who are some contemporary writers or artists that inspire you?
My biggest inspiration has been Jamaica Kincaid. I read Annie John in high school and it blew my mind. Now I read At the Bottom of the River on a semi-regular basis. Kincaid gave me permission to be brief, direct, and terse. I admire the ways in which she explores experiences of childhood. She has a keen ability to expose power dynamics in her writing through very subtle methods. These are things I try to accomplish in my writing.

I am interested in writers that use history, archive, and found materials in their writing, like Frank Bidart. His use of letters and medical documents inspires me. The poem “Ellen West” is one of my favorites. I enjoy a good historical document, real or imagined.

My friend Caitlin Rose Sweet is a visual artist who inspires me. Caitlin does craft and textile work and she deals with some of the same themes that I do. We both like to question what is high and low art, and Caitlin fiercely identifies as a queer artist. A lot of queer artists and writers are hesitant to be labeled as a “queer artist,” but I, like Caitlin, am very proud to claim that title.

Then there’s Woody Allen…I could go on and on, but I’ll stop.

What are the biggest influences on your poetry and why?
I think my not being “well-read” or raised with a lot of literature gives me a fresh and nuanced perspective.

Comedies such as Anchorman and Zoolander influence me, however strange that might sound. Humor is important to me in my writing, and the ways in which those folks use language are so new and creative. In Anchorman, for example, when Ron Burgundy says that he will “get married on a mountain top with garlands of fresh herbs,” he takes a cliché and kind of explodes it.

What are some recurring themes that haunt your work?
Queerness, lesbianism, childhood, depression, time (I am obsessed with time), sex, disappointment and irony, and love.

Where does your work appear?
My work appears in, Milvia Street, Faggot Dinosaur, and the forthcoming Vincent Van Go-Gogh. I also have three self-published chapbooks, one of which is a collaboration with the photographer Elisa Shea. The chapbook, “We Just Got Here” features her photography alongside my poetry.

Tell me about “Let’s Be Loose and Relaxed”…

Let’s be Loose and Relaxed is a reading series that I started with my friends Lucien Sagastume and Elan Dia. We wanted to showcase queer writers. I personally wanted to focus heavily on poetry. It’s a laid back environment, hence the title. It also at times has turned into a dance party. The next reading will be in September.

What is the secret to big hair (Like the bouffant you are wearing here? )

A bottle of hairspray, a comb, and some positive self-talk.

What are some upcoming plans, projects, ideas, or events that you are excited about?

I am excited to read at the RADAR reading series with Dodie Bellamy, Alejandro Murguia, and Stephen Boyer. I am a student of Dodie’s, and I met Stephen at MADCAP. I couldn’t have picked a more exciting group of people to read with.

I’m looking forward to Dodie Bellamy’s new book, Cunt Norton to come out. It’s a follow up to Cunt Ups, but in this case she cuts up the Norton Anthology of Poetry with pornographic material. That’s quite a radical project. I love it.

I am working on a manuscript right now. It examines mental illness from what I hope is an odd perspective. It’s humorous. It features a lot of archival materials that I am so into right now. I’m having fun playing with psychiatric medical documents, getting my kicks where I can.

 

Shawna Elizabeth is a PhD Candidate specializing in Queer Theory. Some of her writing can be found online at femmetheory.com and she has also been a Guest Blogger for Ironing Board Collective- http://ironingboardcollective.wordpress.com/category/authors/shawna-elizabeth/.
She is originally from Canada.

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