Thursday, May 31, 2007
We have now experienced forty years of hip-hop culture, we are a full generation removed from the beat generation, and both are being taught to our young writers. We have rappers publishing poetry (Saul Williams), we have newly discovered and repackaged ramblings from Kerouac being published all the time, and we have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of literary journals and small publishers with the click of the mouse. It has never been so easy and at the same time so difficult to have your voice heard. In my mind, there is only one thing that can set a poet, a true poet, apart from the mass of "writers" releasing work all over the internet, passion for the craft. Atlanta poet, Christopher Cunningham, oozes that passion from every part of his body. He is both concerned about and conscious of the impending future of poetry, and he is doing everything he can to preserve the true and simple nature the poem itself.
This past week Christopher released his seventh chapbook, "Flowers in the Shadow if the Storm", and took some time out to discuss with us the current state of poetry.
Orange Alert (OA): In a recent post on the blog "Upright Against The Savage Heavens" you wrote this in regards to the "poem" in general: "does it touch on the depth and tragedy of the human condition in a way that hasn't been said a hundred times already? does it use language in a clean simple way to reveal larger, more difficult-to-explain truths? is it honest, free of ego? or should it stay on your myspace page diary/blog? or better yet, unwritten?"... In your opinion what is the current state of poetry and what additional advice do you have the young poets?
Christopher Cunningham (CC): well, it seems to me that poetry today is a broken wine bottle in the hands of hacks, a hip-hop teenager with a slant-rhyme Kerouac tongue, myspace blog entries steeped in bullshit and fake-tough prosaic word-masturbation, a sad factory worker with no hope, no magic and no gamble writing vicarious amusing anecdotes about people they can't be, fold and staple manifestations of a fading work ethic and the last gasp of imagination. poetry today is a world of ivory tower tenures, incestuous publishing houses, big-box corporations, obscurity on vast shelves and MFA workshopped safe experimentation with acceptable language. it is wacky colored cardstock and cheap paper, it is careless and it has no readers. it is the metaphor, adrift in a sea of ten second online mags printing everyone who submits, drowning slowly.
but fortunately, crawling on its bloating corpse, are a few writers and publishers who refuse to sink into the depths. there are some who believe that poetry is in fact the truest expression of the human essence, that the tool of metaphor is still best for understanding and putting into words that which is impossible to say otherwise, believe poetry is a mysterious force that when done well has the power to help us endure and illuminate some portion of our dark lives. I tell you, plenty of people love to suck the holiness out of the artform, will casually piss on the magic of creation (a manifestation of the fake tough-guy attitude that only matters to small press poets; it is a fun romantic notion, but it is a delusional position, like the "outlaw poet" that works in a library or reads at Borders Open Mic Nights), but I shit directly upon that attitude. I don't trot poetry out as religion, but as I don't care to revise my work, I am lazy and don't believe in "crafting a poem, " I just generally improvise directly at the typewriter so I cannot possibly tell you where the words come from, and to me, that is a thing of wonder. I could give a shit if your job is hard, if your wife is a bitch or if she isn't, if you drink too much or party too much or your kids are your shining goddamn joy or whatever you want to write about; what I want to know is this: are you writing a poem that tears away a veil, reveals some larger human truth, speaks to the human being beyond your narrow worldview? is it honest? or should you buy a notebook at the dollar store and keep that crap to yourself? when the lines pour out just right, and the right words land on the page, effortlessly, is that not magical?
anyway, there are some out there keeping the words alive and burning, is all I'm trying to say, and my advice to young writers (I'm old as f**k at 37) is to read the great books that have already been written, seek out and read the writers who are getting it down today for real, and lastly, support, with CASH, those publications you enjoy/submit to and buy a chapbook from a small press poet. I think it is important to try and discover your own "voice" which will inevitably be an amalgamation of various influences distillied into your own experience and way of saying it. and don't mistake simple language for simplicity of thought: remember sometimes the haiku can be most profound. it's all about the right word.
OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
CC: my biggest literary influence is Miles Davis. the space he leaves between notes, his insistence on a kind of spontaneous perfection, the way he would not look back to his older work as he moved forward with a vision of musical progress, the tremendous scope of his vast improvisation, all set deep examples for me in my approach to writing. for me the act of writing is a process of reflection and then explosion, a way in, and the poems are the result. as far as writers who moved me, I'd say T.S. Eliot, Fante, Hemingway, HST, Kesey, Carver, anyone who said it clearly and cleanly with honesty and style.
OA: What book do you own that you treasurer/read more then any other?
CC: I mostly have tattered copies of all the books I've read, but as far as a specific title that made a marked difference in my life, I'd say either Ask The Dust by Fante or whichever volume I have that contains T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men.
OA: Tell us a little about your new chapbook "Flowers in the Shadow of the Storm".
CC: my new book Flowers is my first trade paperback, a perfect-bound wonder of a book printed by hand by David McNamara at sunnyoutside, he letterpressed the cover and designed/printed the guts then I hand-painted each cover, all variations on the lightning strike theme. most of the poems were written directly for the book, I think David cut some hundred poems down to the final thirty. the book is kind of a "poetic concept album" dealing with the storm as metaphor. I think it is amazing, and the poems don't suck too badly, I hope.
OA: Looking back at some of your previous chapbooks (18 Blue Collar Abstractions, Animal Life, etc), you seem to give a lot of attention to the presentation of your poetry. How important is that to you and your work?
CC: a book is a totality of expression, in my view. the whole thing should be a poem. that's why I like to go the extra mile and make my books something more than just your average piece of shit chapbook done as cheaply as possible. I want the book to be something I'm proud of all the way around. and it isn't hard or prohibitively expensive, but nobody is doing it. everyone is so f**king "satisfied" with mediocrity in our brown wasteland of a society, and it is reflected in the work of our "artists." I say it doesn't have to be that way, hell, an average press run in the indy world is what, 100-300 copies? 500? how difficult to paint a few, to choose a bit better paper, to care? I know it's much cooler to be apathetic and not give a f**k, man, to be "all, like, whatever and shit" but not me, kids: I care about stuff.
OA: What's next for Christopher Cunningham?
CC: right now? some wine.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite kind of coffee, and where is your favorite coffee place?
CC: Iced americano from Aurora Coffee, an independent shop here in Atlanta, served by Tommy (from The Selmanaires) or Mathis (from Noot D' Noot). black coffee saves lives.
OA: What type of music do your enjoy listening to currently? Who are some of your all-time favorites?
CC: Right now, see the two bands above, I highly recommend Noot D'Noot (check out their myspace page). all time, I am an old Deadhead and I also love Calexico, Los Lobos, Dr. John, christ, the list is huge, Bob Dylan, Medeski Martin Wood, Talking Heads, on and on.
For more information on Christopher Cunningham and to read some of work visit his website. You can also find him on the blog Upright Against the Savage Heavens, and to order your copy of his new book go here. There are also copies left of his previous book, "and still the night left to go" availble at Bottle of Smoke Press.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The enchanted world of a four year old, learning and absorbing the colorful array of art, nature, people, and places, every moment is a new experience and everything seems new and ancient all at the same time. The eyes of a four year old are light-hearted, but every bit as understanding and compassionate as those of a 40 year old. The ability to utilize those moments and experiences to create another world or to transport your creative abilities into another time while filtering in you experiences as an adult is an incredible gift, but one of many possessed by North Carolina native Beth Tacular.
With all of this going on Beth was still able to answer a few of our questions on her art and the art world in general.
Orange Alert (OA): How would you define your styling of painting?
Beth Tacular (BT): I would describe my style as the magical-realistic visions of a prophetic four year old shaman living 4,000 years ago, in what is now northern Portugal.
When I'm painting, I think most of the time I'm trying to create something that feels like some sort of mixture between ancient human culture and things I loved as a small child. I think that's why everything ends up a little cuter than I imagined it would be initially. Like when I'm trying to make something very noble and serious, it ends up having little red and white polka-dot mushrooms in it, or those kinds of mountains that always have snow on the top. Thematically, I think a lot about how human civilizations are destroying so much life on Earth, and I'm pretty taken with the beauty of that life that's being wiped out, so I create pictures of animals re-taking the Earth, or humans unintentionally harming plants and animals. I'm also obsessed with learning about the evolutionary origins of humans, so my style lately is getting a little more archetypal and ancient-influenced. Visually, I like to play with depth versus flatness, patterns and symmetry.
BT: In terms of visual inspiration, I think I draw from a lot of different sources. I'm really into ancient human cultures, and also contemporary ones in which people are still living in harmony with the environment around them, so I like to look at the art they produce to get ideas for what art means to them, and what sorts of symbols they use. I also like to look at art magazines, like the now defunct magazine called "The Drama," which featured a lot of really amazing artists, like my friends Allyson Mellberg and Jeremy Taylor, as well as Saelee Oh and Souther Salazar. I found this magazine at one point, and I felt like I had found a lot of artists who seemed like the types of people I'd like to be friends with - people who seem to see the world a lot like I do. I also love looking at children's books, which I read obsessively as a child. I don't spend much time reading them now, actually, but I try to reproduce the same kind of imagery, or recreate the same feeling that I had as a child looking at the pictures in children's books, in my art now.
I'm also very inspired and influenced by the ideas and styles of non-visual artists: writers like Virginia Woolf, Gary Snyder, Derrick Jensen; the movies of Michel Gondry and that old stop-motion animated movie about Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer; and music by artists like Bjork and Joanna Newsom. All these people have an amazing ability to draw you into a really magical world that they have created, with a high level of detail describing that world, and a lot of beautiful imagery. They also keep in their personalities and artwork a lot of the power that children have to see the world as it is, and to appreciate really wonderful things. I want to make art like they do.
BT: The first time I drew Mungry, I had this idea that I didn't really think out, but it more came to me as an image, of this hairy, primal human character, who would represent humanity as a whole right now, and who could act out the different ways we are interacting with the rest of Nature. She is usually very hungry (thus the name Mungry - short for "I'm hungry."), probably spiritually and physically hungry, and she goes around eating whatever she can find, usually birds' nests and trees. Nests and trees are some of the things I find most beautiful, and they are homes to birds and other animals, and we are wiping them out like crazy with our new construction, highways, and boring, terrible things like Wal-marts, malls, factory farms, and prisons.
I think a lot of people these days feel confused and hopeless, or angry, or in denial, but we still have a lot of moments of happiness, and there's still a lot of beauty. So Mungry is all of us. I have also painted some Mungry-like people, including recently Mungry's boyfriend. I spent a long time working on what their faces would look like, because I wanted them to be lovable, but also kind of ugly and cute at the same time.
BT: I like to listen to people like Mamadou Diabate, Joanna Newsom, Bjork, Ticonderoga, Cat Power, and the Postal Service while I'm making art. I actually haven't been able to control what music I listen to while making art, for about a year, because I travelled for seven months around the country last year, and now I live in an Airstream trailer in the woods, with no electricity. So during my travels, I made art outside or in coffee shops, and now I sit at a little table in the Airstream, or in a tent outside, and I just listen to the sounds of birds, small mammals and insects around me.
BT: That's a good question. I'm still not sure how I feel about the art scene and the world of art collecting and galleries. I like the idea of all of it - illustration, art, being fluid. I think that art *is* illustration, but the ideas behind the art - what you are illustrating - are your own ideas, instead of the ideas of a client. I think my art is sort of illustrative-looking, and I got a hard time from a professor once for that, because he thought it wasn't "fine art," but I don't see why there has to be an imaginary line drawn between illustration and art. I'm glad illustrators are making art that they show in galleries, and that gallery artists make album covers.
BT: Well, I just had a couple shows in galleries, and Bowerbirds just released a full length album and did a mini-tour. I have a lot more time on my hands all of a sudden, and it feels like I have a lot of freedom to decide what to do next. One thing I'm doing is reconstructing a little, old tobacco barn on the land near my Airstream, to live in. I haven't been really able to make any three dimensional art out in the Airstream, because of lack of space, so we (my partner, Phil, and I) are building a little log cabin with a loft to live in, over the summer. The Airstream will be our new practice space, maybe, or something like that. We will also probably tour some with the band. I want to visit independent galleries and shops around North America and maybe Europe, if we tour there, to see what people are making in other places.
"Tree with Ancestors"
My favorite coffee shop ever was this place in London, UK, whose name I have forgotten, that was a multi-use space, I think run by some sort of collective, that had food and coffee and wine and other things, and lots of mirrors, where you could sit all day. They also did workshops and skill-shares there. I frequented this place when I was in a phase of really enjoying vices of different kinds, so I would order a cappuccino, a scone with clotted cream, and smoke cigarettes while sketching and writing bad poetry. But I still feel fondness for this cafe.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
BT: I hardly ever drink real coffee anymore, because I'm really sensitive to caffeine, and it makes me crazy, but sometimes I do. I like tea a lot. I like to drink coffee outside. If I'm going to drink coffee, I'll have an iced Americano. There's a little cafe called Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill that has a magical back patio, which I like to visit. I'm typing this from the Open Eye cafe in Chapel Hill, which I also like. And I like Cup a Joe in Raleigh.
OA: What is your favorite gallery that you have been shown in and in general?
My favorite gallery is Lump gallery in Raleigh, NC. I never showed there, but I was a part of team lump, the artists' collective associated with the gallery, for a while, so I showed with them in different places around the country.
I guess my favorite gallery I have shown in is Giant Robot San Francisco.
OA: I enjoyed your piece that appeared in the booklet for "Hymns for a Dark Horse", how else does this aspect of your life carry over into your music career?
BT: Thank you! I have also made posters for our shows, the album art for our other album, "Danger at Sea", and the backgrounds for the Bowerbirds.org and Burlytime.com (our record label) web sites. I think also that Phil, who started Bowerbirds, believed I would be able to contribute musically to his band, because he had seen my art, and he felt we shared a similar aesthetic and creative personality.
Also, when I describe how I think something needs to sound, I tend to use visual (or maybe they are tactile) words, like "more prickly," "less pointy," or "silkier." And, I'm the one in the band who does the most reading and thinking about political and environmental issues, so the ideas that inform my art also end up influencing the content of Bowerbirds songs.
But it goes both ways. Once we started singing about birds and the ocean a lot, I started painting more and more birds and oceans. And getting into expressing myself musically has really made me feel more free with my visual art self. It just feels more natural to do more than one thing.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Ron Paul, Presidential Candidate for 2008. Here's a guy that has come out of nowhere basically and won some support. I've been following this guy since 2000, and he doesn't show up too much in any media or any congressional articles. Since the debates, he's gain a lot more attention and is the most supported Presidential Candidate on the Internet even though I've heard a lot of people call his ideas and stances non-sense and ludacrious. I will say this though, you can tell where he stands on issues. There is a lot of info on what he thinks.
Banning partial birth abortions
Ending preferential treatment by race in college admissions
Banning gay adoptions
Constitutional amendment for school prayer
Protecting the pledge of allegiance
Abolishing the federal Medicare entitlement, leave it to the states
Establishing tax-exempt Medical Savings Accounts
Allowing reimportation of prescription drugs
Reducing tax payments on Social Security benefits
Raising 401(k) limits & making pension plans more portable
Vouchers for private & parochial schools
Abolish the federal Department of Education
Funding for alternative sentencing vs. more prisons
Phaseout of the death tax
Ending capital gains & inheritance tax
Eliminating the "Marriage Penalty"
Tax cuts for small businesses
Making the Bush tax cuts permanent
More immigrant visas for skilled workers
Extending Immigrant Residency rules
Reporting Illegal Aliens who receive hospital treatment
Ending economic protectionism: letting the dairy compacts expire
Withdrawing from the World Trade Organization
Continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight
Ending draft registration, all volunteers
Providing missile defense
Banning foreign aid to oil-producers who restrict production
Repealing the gas tax
New oil refineries
Legalizing industrial hemp
Legalize medical marijuana
Abolishing federal welfare; leave it to the states
No federal funding on abortion
Human embryonic stem cell research
$84M in grants for black and Hispanic colleges
Constitutional ban on same-sex marriages
School prayer during War on Terror
Constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration
Strengthening the social security lockbox
Allowing vouchers in DC schools
More prosecution and sentencing for juvenile crimes
Decreasing the gun waiting period from 3 days to 1
Prohibiting suing gunmakers & sellers for gun misuse
Restrictions on import/export; but maintain sovereignty
'Fast track' authority for trade agreements
Permanent, normal trade relations with China
Free trade agreements
Using war on terror to curtain civil liberties
Patriot Act and War in Iraq
Making the Patriot Act permanent
Military agressiveness weakens our national defense
$266B Defense appropriations bill
Emergency $78B for War in Iraq and Afghanistan
Banning soft money and issue ads
Campaign finance reform banning soft money contributions
Restricting independant grassroots political committees
Iraq War and path toward Iran War
Foreign aid is usually more harmful than helpful
$15.2B for foreign operations
$156M to IMF for 3rd world debt reduction
Reforming the UN by restricting US funding
Declaring Iraq War part of War on Terror with no exit date
Raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels
Prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR
Subjecting federal employees to random drug tests
Military border patrols to battle drugs and terrorism
Responsible fatherhood via faith-based organizations
Treating religious organizations equally for tax breaks
Sunday, May 27, 2007
2. Yep Roc and Los Straitjackets are running a contest through June 18th. Get a printable mask (or download the mask, just right click the link ans save) and decorate your very own paper mask, or if you have a real Mexican wrestling mask slip that one on and then send us a photo or video of you in your mask, going about your daily duties. (Please don't wear it to the bank or on your late-night burrito run to the Stab 'n' Go.) Yep Roc and Los Straitjackets will pick a winner based on the quality of your mask decoration and the inventiveness of your photo. The winner will receive a hand silk-screened Los Straitjackets/Iguanas tour poster signed by members of Los Straitjackets, a signed acoustic guitar used by the band on tour, as well as a copy of Los Straitjackets' latest Yep Roc release, Rock en Espanol! Don't wait! Print the mask now! Then send your photo or video to http://email@example.com?subject=Livin (please include the subject line: "Livin' Los Straitjackets").
3. Lollapalooza additions: There have several bands added to the Lollapalooza line-up recently, unfortunately none of them are very well unknown or good for that matter. Bright spots: Cage the Elephant and The Postmarks. This coincides with Pitchfork Fest announcing their full line, with several additions: Cadence Weapon, Cool Kids, Brightblack Morning Light, Voxtrot, and more.
4. Dan Deacon launches his lengthy Spring / Summer tour tonight in Greensboro, NC. A vision came to Dan one night of being joined by an angelic choir at the end of his set each night for a rousing, spiritual version of his anthem "Wham City" from his recently released Spiderman of the Rings - a musical tribute to his place of dwelling and to the Baltimore music community he is a part of. This is where YOU come in - Dan Deacon is inviting you to come and be his choir. Dan envisioned a co-ed choir, so all you have to do is be one of the first four males or first four females in your city to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and YOU will become a member of the Dan Deacon Wham City choir! (please put the name of your city and your gender in the subject line of the e-mail to make things easier for Dan). Dan collaborated with Baltimore artist Stefani Levin to make eight beautiful blue and yellow Wham City choir robes which you'll get to wear, and Dan will provide you with lyric sheets. If you want to practice and prepare, the song "Wham City" is posted on Dan Deacon's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/dandeacon so you can start singing along.
5. Lollapalooza Band of the Week: The Postmarks
Heartbreakingly beautiful music from Miami, FL, The Postmarks are one of the newest additions to the Lolla line-up, but by far one of the most attractive. Lead singer Tim (yes I said Tim) Yehezkely, has to be one of the best looking women in music, but she also has the soft and intimate voice to back it up. The Postmarks debut album just released three months ago, but they already receive a large amount of praise for their hit single " Goodbye"(mp3). Also check out: Goodbye (Tahiti 80 Remix) (mp3) and My Little Heart (mp3)
Saturday, May 26, 2007
1. Wooden Nickle - The music of this Portland band slowly creeps up on you in the middle of the night, and then it crawls into your ear and makes a nest. They are currently in the studio working on a new LP.
2. Nicholas Colas - France is home to this amazing electro-folk musician.
3. Cage the Elephant - Raw energy straight from Kentucky, these boys were recently added to the Lollapalooza line-up and they are going to turn some heads!
1. "Friends from Cincinnati" by Patrick Sommerville - THE2NDHAND Installment 24 was released this week and it features a wonderful story by Chicago writer Patrick Sommerville.
2. "Death by Veganism" by Nina Planck - This is an Op-Ed piece written in response to the recent and tragic death of a 6 week old baby of vegan parents. I agree that an uneducated vegan parent can be dangerous, but I do not agree her argument in general.
3. Fader Issue #46 - This is their annual Icon/Photo issue and the lead focus is on Jerry Garcia, but don't let that discourage from reading the rest of this great issue. You can download it for free here.
1. "Flowers in The Shadow of the Storm" by Christopher Cunningham - This handmade, letterpressed, perfect-bound, hand-painted chapbook from Sunnyoutside Press was released on May 24th. There are only 100 copies being printed so act now. $18
2. Mr. Bean Pez - Back in 2003, the Pez Euro division released a Mr. Bean set of 4 pez dispensers. The set is now discontinued, but can be purchased on ebay. $9 each
3. Ragad #3 - This issue was just released (5/21) and features new work from Spencer Dew and Richard Grayson. Order your copy today by sending your payment to: Nick Ostdick/6112 Meyer Rd/Marengo, IL 60152. $2
1. Coroflot Magazine Issue #1 - This will be a bi-monthly publication featuring the members of Coroflot and based around a specific theme. Download the issue here for free.
2. 800zine - This two page zine fun and original and free. Check it out!
1. Lets take it way back watch MSTRKRFT - Street Justice, and then tell me what year it is.
2. The new video from Dan Deacon "The Crystal Cat", I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this video.
3. The hit song of the summer should be the new single from Justice - "D.A.N.C.E.", check it out:
Friday, May 25, 2007
"When I wake, I wake by the brook, to an untamed thunder, and the northern flicker flash about as the soup in the sky grows thicker." from Human Hands
I have been awaiting this North Carolina bands "debut" for many months. It was back in January that I first heard Bur Oak and In Our Talons, and I was blown away. Their sound is so intimate and natural, it simple flows from your speakers into the soil and back out and up to the sun. All acoustic, "Hymns for a Dark Horse" peacefully rolls down hills and through brooks, but never feels overly earth loving or hippie-like. This album is based on the belief that our world and our resources are limited, and it is that same scarcity that they relate to the possibilities of love.
Indicative of the music they make, Bowerbirds were born of unequal parts conflict and sweetness. Phil Moore and Mark Paulson had moved east from Iowa to form a band. Phil met Beth Tacular—a collected and published painter—while they worked together in a grocery store. Beth’s marriage was failing, and she saw something special in Phil . Not long before their band collapsed on tour somewhere in Alabama, Phil and Beth moved in together . They painted pictures and wrote songs and sang them. They started Bowerbirds and asked Mark to join them whenever possible.
The release of "Hymns for a Dark Horse" on July 10th will mark the inaugural release from North Carolina's Burly Time Records. The songs on the album have been recording with added instrumentation, so if you have the previously released mp3's you should seriously buy the album. They are also selling an EP at the their shows and on their myspace page entitled "Danger at Sea" with the original versions of In our Talons and Bur Oak and several other songs.
In Our Talons (mp3)
Dark Horse (mp3)
Hymns for a Dark Horse
Hooves/In Our Talons/Human Hands/Dark Horse/Bur Oak/My Oldest Memory/The Marbled Godwit/Slow Down/The Ticonderoga/Olive Hearts
For more information on Bowerbirds check our their website or vistit their myspace page.
(artwork by Beth Tacular)
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The writer does not write because he or she wants to be published, the writer gets published because he or she is focused on writing. All too often a writer can get caught up in the need to get published, and lose sight of why they started down the path of a writer originally. Publication is secondary to the actual process of writing and should be treated as such. This week's writer, Zachary C. Bush, is only 23, but he fully understands what it means to be a writer, how getting published fits in and why rejection is vital to craft.
Orange Alert (OA): Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
Zachary C. Bush (ZCB): Wow, that’s a rather large question to answer! My literary influences seem to fall into a rather wide range. The author’s that I am into are kind of all over the place and my taste has changed a good bit over the years. I consider myself relatively well read for twenty-three. But, I would have to say that my favorite poets are Baudelaire (especially the prose of Paris Spleen), Rimbaud (Season in Hell, Illuminations, and Drunken Boat), most all of Samuel Beckett’s work, Wallace Stevens, García Lorca, Ezra Pound (Cantos), Sharon Olds, C.K. Williams, and a contemporary poet and friend Louis E. Bourgeois.
In regards to prose, I would have to say that my influences are Denis Johnson (Jesus’ Son), Arthur Nersesian (Manhattan Loverboy ,The F*ck Up, Suicide Casanova), William S. Burroughs (everything), Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho and Less Than Zero), Homer (Odyssey), Howard Zinn’s nonfiction works, and William T. Vollmann is one of the greatest writer’s of fiction and nonfiction prose.
OA: "Harvey Jones" is such a powerful story. What was the motivation behind that piece?
ZCB: Well, since I am primarily a poet, and get the most attention and publication over that genre, I am always pleasantly surprised and excited when my fiction gets attention. I write some flash fiction from time to time and most of these stories are much shorter than “Harvey Jones.” I believe I have had four or five pieces out there in places like Word Riot, Thieves Jargon, and Eloquent Stories.
You know, I am really surprised at the feedback I have gotten over “Harvey Jones” from the editor’s at Word Riot and other various readers. People really like the piece! I can’t say that I dislike the story but it is odd because I am not sure if it is one of my best pieces. If you liked it then you might want to check out “Rapture” in the January archive of WR. I am, however, very grateful for the responses that I have gotten in response to “Harvey Jones.” Most of my poetry and prose tends to be highly nonfiction in many ways, but I can assure you in the case of “Harvey Jones” it is not that case. My grandfather was not in the KKK. I never knew him, but heard he was a great man and farmer.
As I was saying at some point, I feel that the best writing has to do with universalizing personal experience in a way where it is not “emotional vomiting,” or diary-like writing, unless, of course, that is your specific purpose. However, in the case of “Harvey Jones,” (which was one of the first fiction pieces that I wrote last summer) it is pretty simple. I wanted to play off the racial issues that existed in the Deep South, and still do in a slightly more subtle way. Really, I wanted to write a very elementary story from the perspective of a young boy, naïve in a lot of ways, who witnesses an event that is emotionally complex to him.
In most of my work (poetry and prose), you might pick up on how simplistic my style of writing is. I do this on purpose! Sure, I know a few literary punches and tricks, and I do slip them into my pieces, but I believe that the best writing is straightforward and edgy to a great extent. From what I have seen, this “straightforward” technique of writing seems to be the hardest way for people to write and succeed with because our minds and egos (as artists) constantly beg of us to overcompensate and try to show off everything we know all at once, but by doing that we tend to write abstract works just for the sake of trying to be abstract. This usually fails the writer in the early stages of his or her career, because they are not sure of their own purpose. Keep it simple and you will be surprised, after many drafts, how much people appreciate your work.
OA: Do you listen to music while you write? Who are some of your favorite musicians to listen to while writing and in general?
ZCB: I used to listen to music when I wrote and still do from time to time. I really enjoy the hypnotic rattle of my typewriter keys. I have a 1940’s Royal typewriter and it makes beautiful music when I am productive. I will say that when I do write with music, it tends to fade into the background. This is especially true when I get deeper and deeper into the piece I am working on that day.
That being said, I listen to music throughout the day. I am a bit of an old man when it comes to taste, because I firmly believe there a whole lot of crap, for lack of a better word, being commercialized and played on the radio and TV. I won’t go into that any further because I might come across a bit harsh or prematurely senile.
I listen to bands like Interpol, Sparklehorse, Radiohead, R.E.M., Mercury Rev, Built to Spill, and Ween, I love those guys! Also, if you have never heard the Lost Highway soundtrack--I would highly recommend that album to listen to while writing. I tend to listen to music more when I am submitting my work. I don’t know why, maybe to either pump myself up or calm myself down and assist in straightening-out my racing thoughts.
OA: What book do you own that you treasurer/read more then any other?
ZCB: I treasure all of my books! I am a bit obsessive and compulsive when it comes to searching for and collecting them. I can’t pass a dusty used bookstore without leaving with a handful of books and an empty wallet.
The top three books that I treasure the most, for personal reasons are, History of American Socialisms, a complete collection of George Orwell’s Essays, and an 1882 edition of Poe’s Selected Poetry that I hold together with a thick rubber-band. I think I bought that Poe book for three dollars in the back of an old used-furniture store down here in South Georgia.
I am also a huge fan of my friends/writing peers’ poetry and prose at Georgia Southern University. We have some really fantastic young writers down here in Statesboro! There is great collaboration and healthy competition. The environment keeps me on my toes!
OA: How long did you have to submit your work before you got published? What advice do you have for young writers just starting to submit their work?
ZCB: These are two interesting questions since I am a “young writer!” I will try my best to answer this as best as possible. Well, I consider myself to be inching up the infinitely tall grease-pole of the literary world. I piddled around with some poetry in high school, really shitty poetry I might add but never really became much of a dedicated writer because of personal/health issues until about two years ago. This dedication that I now have for my writing has grown to an incredible level over the past year or so.
I started out blindly submitting bulks of poetry to various journals and I probably got around two hundred rejections in the first six to nine months. Last spring and summer was when I started to get a few small publications. At first, these publications were at the local level and then through my University’s literary journal. Last fall, I began to quickly be recognized in nationally-distributed print and online journals. They started accepting my more recent work left and right. Now it would seem as if my ratio of acceptances to rejections has improved quite a bit, though I still get some rejections. Today I am not so blind or random in where I send my work. These realizations or whatever you might call it comes through getting your work out there and putting your neck on the line. I don’t try to get published just to be published, though it does help cure the blues. What I am trying to say is that I respect the places that publish my work, enjoy the other writers featured, and their editors. If I don’t have that respect for a certain journal then I won’t waste both my time and theirs.
In regards to advice, I feel funny giving any. As I said, I am still finding my way around the literary world. All I can do is share a bit of my experience up until this point.
Here are a few things on my mind: if you consider yourself to be a writer then write everyday, no excuses, make time! Our growth as writers is much more important than how quickly we do or don’t get published; there is plenty of time for that, no matter what your age. We shouldn’t get caught up in the supposed “tiers” of literary journals because a lot of times the small independent presses and literary underground publishes the best writers out there--think of the Beat poets of the late 1940s, 50s, and 60s-- Ginsberg’s Howl was published by City Lights of San Francisco which is an independent press.
We can’t get too discouraged about rejection slips, they’re going to happen from time to time, no matter who you are, and we can’t take it personal because that is the nature of the publishing world. Respected literary journals tend to want to see the best of the best, the best you might have to offer, so we have to keep moving forward no matter what the circumstances may be. There is a home for every piece! I found that the poems and stories that I submitted in the beginning were nowhere near as great as I thought them to be. Hindsight is always 20/20 though. Rejections, in my opinion, have only made me write more frequently and with more veracity and tenacity. My best work tends to come when I can put a chip on my shoulder.
I believe that creating works and doing this at a consistent clip is much more important than the recognition that will come in as our work evolves over time. Again, the recognition is great though! I have found that with writing and publishing (in general) it tends to be a whole lot of high-high’s and low-low’s. Whether we are getting published or rejected frequently--we should never rest on our haunches or pout too long. I am always working on my next piece or revising old ones. If one place doesn’t take my submission then I send it back out to another place. I am pretty ambitious, determined, and bull-headed when it comes to my work.
OA: What's next for Zachary C. Bush (i.e. Publications, readings, etc.)?
ZCB: I am constantly looking and working towards the future, maybe I am weird that way. I don’t really care. A friend of mine just told me to take myself less seriously and lighten up! So, I am working on that concept too, trying to have more fun in all aspects of my life, and of course in regards to my writing. It has really been a year of loss of love and death of friends, and so I am trying to continue to take advantage of every minute that I am alive. But as far as writing goes, I just had a few poems that came out in a late spring ’07 issue of Locust Magazine. I have some more work forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Cerebral Catalyst, and Word Riot. I also would assume that I will have more work to come this fall.
I would like to use this opportunity to mention that my first chapbook of poetry, Outside the Halfway House, is forthcoming in early June of this year. My chap will contain twenty-five poems and is being published, as we speak, by Scintillating Publications of Burlington, VT.
The chap will be sold in a few independent bookstores in Chicago, Statesboro, Oxford, Mississippi, and at the publisher’s website: http://www.freewebs.com/scintillatingpublications/titlesnowavailable.htm
At the moment, I am reading a lot of books and compiling new poetry. Joseph Veronneau (writer, friend, and poetry publisher) and I are working on a co-authored book of flash fiction stories that we should put out through Scintillating Publications sometime early next year (2008). I am also in the process of completing my undergraduate degree and getting ready to move to NYC this winter to live and continue to write. I am starting to look into a few graduate school writing programs in the City as well. My goal is to produce a few more chaps of poetry, and continue to work on a large collection of poems for, hopefully, my first book in a couple of years.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite kind of coffee, and where is your favorite coffee place?
ZCB: I am a caffeine and nicotine addict! I prefer my coffee black, but I do branch out from time to time and take Vanilla Latte’s with three to four shots of Espresso. My favorite coffee shops are local venues, no matter where I am, because I have a strong displeasure towards large corporations.
OA: What was the last great book you have read?
ZCB: Within the past few weeks, I have really gotten into William T. Vollmann’s work. I am rather blown away by the range of subject matter that he writes about. I just took a week’s long vacation and read 13 Stories and 13 Epitaphs, Whores for Gloria, and Europe Central. I am about to start some of Vollmann’s nonfiction works, specifically, Rising Up Rising Down.
Thank you so much for your interest in my work and giving me this opportunity to rant for a while. Now, go out and buy my chapbook this summer!
Zachary C. Bush, 23, is a writer of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and magazine features. He lives in Statesboro, Georgia, while finishing his undergraduate degree in Creative Writing. He has worked as a magazine editor. Over the past nine months his work has appeared in over a dozen literary journals including, VOX, Chronogram, R-KV-R-Y, edifice wrecked, Word Riot, Underground Voices, High Altitude Poetry, Cerebral Catalyst, Mastodon Dentist, Locust, Noneuclidean Café, Strangeroad.com, Eloquent Stories, and Thieves Jargon. He has more work forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Cerebral Catalyst, Word Riot, and R-KV-R-Y. His first chapbook of poetry, Outside the Halfway House, is forthcoming in early June through Scintillating Publications of Burlington, VT. He is working on a co-authored book-length collection of flash fiction with writer and chapbook publisher Joseph Veronneau that should be due out early next year through Scintillating Publications.
For more infomation on Zachary C. Bush visit his myspace page or contact him directly here.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
When someone sets out to explore "space and the creation and expansion of the universe" the tool that they typically reach for is the telescope. It is through the lens of the telescope and extensive research that scientists have been able to form theories on how our universe works, and what lies beyond what we can see with our eyes. Once they are formed, many of these theories are utilized to explain the intricate workings of space, time, and nature. It's these same theories that have inspired, Oakland based artist, Chris Pew to paint incredibly intricate, multi-dimensional paintings. In the artist statement on his website he explains it like this, "My inspiration for my creations come from the world of science, specifically the sciences relating to space and the creation and expansion of the universe." He uses his art to explore the hypothetical nature of the theories and the conditions in which they exist.
Chris is currently in the middle of a two person show with Paul Urich at The Receiver Gallery in San Francisco (May 12th through June 1st), but he was able to take some time out to answer a few of our questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Your art combines two fields that typically don't come together, Art and Science, how would you explain the relationship between the two? How did Scientific Theory come to play such a major role in your creative output?
Chris Pew (CP): Well actually I'd say that science and art actually do come together quite often. There are a lot of artists out there who often combine both fields in their work. It also seems like a lot of artists are increasingly making works that are getting more complex and involve a lot of math and or engineering. As far as how "science" has become a central part of my work pretty much boils down to how scientists come up with theories. For the most part these theories can not be proven or are many years away from being proven and I simply like to create my vision of these theories.
OA: Who are some of your biggest influences artistically?
CP: Well for my work it really is the science stuff, however being a designer and a curator I do look at a lot of interesting stuff throughout the day and I'm sure bits a pieces of other peoples work wind up being influential. The other aspect of this is that since I do look at a ton of art my mind is usually pretty clouded at the end of the day, so when I begin to work on my own stuff I really do try to forget about what I've seen and focus on creating something original.
OA: What is your typically starting point for a new piece and how long does it take you to complete that piece?
CP: The general process typically begins by coming up with some scientific principal or theory to base things on, and then build upon that towards a direction to base the imagery on. Then I create a pretty loose layout for an image in photoshop, print it out, and hang on the wall. From there, depending on the surface, I'll start on a background and continue to build up surfaces till completion. This process takes about a week for medium sized painting or about 3-4 days for a good sized drawing.
OA: How has your outlook on the art community, in the Bay Area and in general, changed now that you are a curator, and not simply an artist?
CP: Its changed a lot. Being on both sides is actually pretty hard cause I'm always looking out for the artist, yet at the same time I have to be business like for the gallery. Luckily there hasn't been to many instances where the two have clashed. The art community though in San Francisco really strong, there's lots of creative folks here.
OA: Do you listen to music while you create? Who are some of your favorite artists to listen to while painting and in general?
CP: Pretty much always listening to music. Currently I'm addicted to mp3 music blogs, which is good and bad. Good because there's lots of new music to listen to, bad cause I cant remember what the hell I've been listening to cause there's so many names and I usually have the settings to shuffle.
OA: What's next for Chris Pew?
CP: I have show at Receiver Gallery May 12th, then a little break, and then focus on shows outside of San Francisco.
acrylic and pen on paper
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
CP: My favorite coffee right now is El Injerto bourbon coffee, its really really good, and my favorite coffee spot is my house.
OA: What was the most unusual job that you have held while supporting your art habit?
CP: Though not very unusual I have had the same job for over ten years at a design firm, which right now seems like a very long time.
For more information on Chris Pew please visit his website.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
1. The National - The Boxer (Go to thenationalboxer.com to watch videos related to each song) (mp3)
2. Battles - Mirrored (mp3)
3. Dog Day - Night Group (mp3)
4. Shapes & Sizes - Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner (stream the album here)
5. White Rabbits - Fort Nightly (mp3)
6. Stars - Do You Trust Your Friends? (mp3)
7. Parts & Labor - Mapmaker (mp3)
8. We are the Fury - Venus
9. Benni Hemm Hemm - Kajak (mp3)
10. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Not Worth Fighting
11. Ulrich Schauss - Quicksand Memory Ep
12. Voxtrot - Voxtrot
13. Wheat - Everyday I Said a Prayer for Kathy and Made a One Inch Square
14. The Bravery - The Sun and The Moon (mp3)
15. Hot Chip - Dj Kicks
16. Delorean - Transatlantic KK
17. The Maccabees - Colour It In
Witch - Witch (J Mascis of Dino Jr is the drummer for Witch. I am not sure if this is the same DVD the was released by Blueberry Honey back in January)
Letters from Imo Jima
Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley
Monday, May 21, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007
This weeks discussion is great for our first ever 'Political Talk' and was based on this article on Politico.com about the 'Fairness Doctrine.' To summarize, the article talks about the old FCC regulation that required all political opinion on the airwaves be balanced out with an equal amount of time for the opposing viewpoint. This was because there were only 3 networks at the time that controlled all of the airwaves. The claim is that this regulation was not necessary once cable and many viewpoints came into the television network and thus Ronald Reagan helped to remove this in 1987. Thereafter, the airwaves were free to the marketplace. Since the networks put mostly liberal ideas on television, conservative views took over the radio airwaves.
What makes this interesting is the politics behind the bill that is currently in the House and the Senate to re-instate this doctrine. In theory, it should work that if you have a liberal or conservative view, you would need to balance it out with the opposing viewpoint.
The bills are supported by an Independant (Sen. Bernard Sanders-VT) and a Democrat (Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich-OH) in Democratically controlled Congress. In an article written by Steve Rendell called "The Fairness Doctrine : How We Lost it and Why We Need it Back", Steve mentions just like Derek Hunter did in his article that the main reason it needs to be brought back is claims by the liberals that there is no off-set to the obviously conservative radiowaves.
Our questions are, what do you think about a regulation by the FCC to control and "create balance" in viewpoints? How much do you think the radiowaves are influenced by the television airwaves? How do the ideas and opinions presented on the television affect the ideas and the opinions presented on the radiowaves?
Talk amongst yourselves. Please!
Saturday, May 19, 2007
1. Ear Pwr - This North Carolina duo are currently recording their debut album for FrequeNC Records.
2. Ohbijou - Toronto is home to this delicate, but amazing band. Check out: Steep (mp3)
3. The Dedicated Beatheads - German turntablism, that's right German, but it is still tight! The recently released their album "Sound Convention Vol. 1", and they are tearing up the wax. Check out a little sample: (mp3)
1. Friend or Faux by Oliver Roy - This is a fascinating article of the pro-American stance of the President-elected of France, Nicholas Sarkozy.
2. Cubby Blue - Last week I posted a link to Palehose 7, so it thought it only fair to mention the Cubs comic website. Unlike the actual teams this year, this strip is not as good as the Palehose, but it is still pretty funny.
3. "Surviving" by Jason Jordan - Verbsap recently put out their summer collection it includes several great pieces including something new from Nick Ostdick, but I love this story by Jason Jordan.
1. Fleet Street Scandal: A Collection by Kevin Dart & Chris Turnham - This is a great collection of prints. $25
2. The Books - Payall DVD - Thirteen full-length music videos, plus four bonus videos. $15
1. "You are Beautiful" Stickers - Get your free stickers today!
1. D7TV - Get your daily news with a little bit of an edge.
2. I don't know what it is about Best Fwends, they are simply just plain fun:
Friday, May 18, 2007
Kathryn Bint (KB): When I was a kid I used to watch this old Disney cartoon from the 1940’s called Saludos Amigos. There was a story about a baby plane that I used to love. For some reason the image always stuck with me. I like little things.
KB: I tend listen to a wide variety of music, anything from Joanna Newsom to Nelly Furtado. But the ones I have always turned to over the years to hear something from, to listen to are Joni Mitchell, Bjork, and Will Oldham.
KB: I have had some really lovely feedback from other musicians which has been really wonderful. My plan so far is to just keep writing and to start playing more live shows. I think at the moment the most exciting thing for me is learning how to write and finish a song. Watching something grow from a little seed into something that flowers is magic and such hard work. It totally kicks my butt.
KB: I think the internet is amazing because it gives you an immediate platform to be heard from. It bypasses pressing a record or going to listen to it live and reaches people in a way that was impossible a few years ago. It’s like instant gratification, but in the long run I don’t think it sounds or feels as nice as actually having a record with artwork and putting it on at home. It’s the same as books for me. I like to have and to hold. As for the future of the music industry, its hard to say… I think I’m more concerned with the future of music.
KB: The Book of Love by The Magnetic Fields because it is a perfectly proportioned love song.
KB: What’s next for me is playing the Homefires IV festival in London (Sunday, June 3rd). I get to play alongside people that I really admire which feels very special and totally terrifying. As for albums, I have one finished and hope to put it out next year.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
KB: Coffee…. No, it makes me crazy! I try to stay away from caffeine. I had a mind altering experience in Greece drinking very strong ice coffee and its safe to say that I am totally banned now. But I do like going to coffee shops. My favourite one is Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It has so many trees….
OA: What is more important lyrics, instrumentation, or they are both equally important?
KB: When I first started to really listen to songs, I think words always came first for me. But then as I learned how to play, the music became just as important. I think the two go hand in hand, but I will say.. I can still totally fall for a cheesy hit with bad synth sounds if the melody and lyrics are just right.
OA: What was the last great book you have read?
KB: Looking for Alaska by John Green.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Everyone has something to say, and many people have tried to express their thoughts and emotions through the written word. However, finding your poetic voice is something completely different and a rare occurrence. Poets have an alternate voice working consistently in parallel to their regular voice, translating situations and conversation into verse. This voice is always evaluating flow and tempo, reworking the poem they wrote last night while taking orders at the diner or on a sales call or balancing the books. This is the life of the poet, scribbling random thoughts and words on napkins and business cards during the day, and allowing the voice to shine at night.
One poet who recently found his voice is Indiana native Kaveh Akbar. Kaveh has placed poetry in The New York QuarterlyPC, Poesy, Zen Baby and many others. He is one of two editors of the for-charity literary zine The Quirk. He is also a staff music critic for Scene Point Blank.
Recently, Kaveh was kind enough to answer a few of our question on writing, music, and the effect of the war on literature.
Orange Alert (OA): Your poems seem to utilize perception on multiple levels. How would you define your style of writing?
Kaveh Akbar (KA): I definitely do try to make my work functional on more than one level. In fact, with my more recent pieces, I'll write the poem in maybe two, three hours, then spend another three or four hours working the piece, making sure every word functions on the primary narrative level and then also on the poetic level, in terms of rhythm, flow, etc. Then, I'll go back through and make sure the whole piece carries the tenor effectively, doesn't lose the "what-are-you-trying-to-say" in the name of poesy. The whole process takes a good six, seven hours per poem, but I think the layering is the most important element of my style, and I'm not a good enough poet yet to do it without the editing and revision. How would I define my style? I've wondered the same thing! I look back at some of the earlier poems I've published and cringe; they're written in the same conversational, anecdotal voice used by a million other small press poets, and really offer very little aside from an occasional quippy one-liner. I'd like to think I've improved a bit, though I'm sure there are some editors out there who would beg to differ. I think stylistically I write with a pretty surreal pen, but I also try to make sure my vehicle is never so outlandish as to risk the poem's accessibility. I'd argue the burden of comprehension should always be on the poet.
OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
KA: This is a difficult question, I have many! I think Kathy Acker was an amazing writer, I read her Don Quixote twice in one weekend – her imagery and metaphor were so dense, and there was no real cause and effect in any of her work, which made every page feel like you were reading something new and groundbreaking. I have definitely tried to incorporate some of that sense of dynamic natural law into my work. Haruki Murakami is another author who is very good with surrealism. Daisy Fried's essays on poetry have been a huge influence on my approach to the craft. I think Douglas Goetsch and David J. Thompson are two poets with an incredible mastery of poetic restraint; they always seem to find the perfect amount of force to put behind their work to really make it reverberate. I'd say they are both strong influences - as are Elizabeth Bishop for the effectiveness of her narrative style, Don Winter for always knowing where to put the right word, Richard Bly for making every poem feel important, Christopher Cunningham for the intensity in his lines, Bob Kaufman for the imagery in his… Then, probably my two biggest influences have been justin.barrett and Steve Henn, who have both held my hands since I was a poetic greenhorn writing angsty metered teen love poems. I don't know that their individual styles have had much impact on mine, but I can say without doubt that I wouldn't be writing the way I am today were it not for their help.
OA: When did you start submitting your work to be published, and how long did it take before your work was first accepted?
KA: Haha, I sent out my first submission about eight months ago, and received my first acceptance letter about forty-five minutes later. The submission was to remarkPC., which is a fantastic zine. Kathleen took two of my poems. I was ecstatic!
OA: You have accomplished quite a bit at a relatively young age, what advice do you have for other young poets out there?
KA: I think a young poet's main weakness will be their natural urge to write what they've read. In my Issue One editorial for The Quirk, I contend that imitation is poetic original sin, and I think that's especially dangerous for a young poet, whose poetic education will have been largely limited to either the Chicken Soup School of Prosody or to popular song lyrics, both of which are almost categorically collections of slightly reworked clichés and truisms. I think a firm grounding in what actually constitutes poetry is what many young poets are lacking – and not just contemporary poetry, or academic poetry or small press poetry, but the whole spectrum. You can't develop your own voice without understanding what others have done, where they've taken the poem, and how they brought it there. The best poetic advice I ever received was to read ten poems for every one I write. With the proliferation of poetry across the internet, the classics being archived and the abundance of e-zines, there's no excuse for not being well-read. Books and zines are cheap, too.
OA: Can you tell us a little about The Quirk, and some of the charities that may be involved?
KA: Sure. The Quirk started out as a local for-charity general interest zine, and raised over $3,000 for good causes such as UNICEF, The Horn of Africa Sick Children's Charity, various local charities, and others. Then, as poetry became a more and more significant force in my life, I decided to turn The Quirk into a legitimate literary zine. I asked my best friend/fellow small press poet Erik Scott to join me as co-editor, and we sent out our first calls for submissions. We ended up getting over 2,000 pieces sent to us for Issue One, and took around 60. Then, after literally dozens of all-nighters and scrapped layouts, we sent the master copy of Issue One to print. That was just a week ago, actually. We're getting ready to send it out soon. The response to what people have seen so far (namely, the poetic lineup) has been overwhelmingly positive. We hope people will still feel that way when they see the actual publication (chuckles). We put a lot of time in making it look and feel as beautiful as possible – that's one of my biggest gripes with small press mags, and one of the biggest differences between the small and large press – very little attention is paid to production in at least ninety-percent of indy-press publications. Like Chris Cunningham says, it comes down to what we hope to derive from the poetic experience – this isn't just some hobby, some passive leisure pursuit, and we shouldn't present it as such.
OA: I appreciate the powerful images contained in your poem "American Mane", how has the war affected you as a poet? In your opinion, how has it affected the literary world in general?
KA: I think the war has, to some extent at least, carried the focus of the literary world from internal self-examination to more social, collective assessments. I'm not talking about the feel-good inspirational poetry being written about the war and 9/11, the pieces that derive their source from a fifteen minute news spot and lack any sort of legitimate connection or realism (Daisy Fried called that poetry "solace porn"). I mean work like Robert Bly's new book, which focuses not only on the war, but also the society that tolerates it, ignores it, supports it, etc. I think in that, the war has offered this generation of writers a lens which we haven't really had since Vietnam.
OA: Do you listen to music while you write? Who are some of your favorite musicians while writing and in general?
KA: I am a huge music fan of contemporary independent rock music. I almost always listen to music when I write, it keeps me from getting stagnant sitting in front of a notepad/computer screen for hours on end. Right now, my favorite album to write to is Yndi Halda's "Enjoy Eternal Bliss". They're this newish British instrumental rock band, and they make this incredible, driving, climactic, music that just squeezes the words right out of me. It almost feels like I'm writing the lyrics for their instrumentals, sometimes. I also enjoy listening to Will Oldham's work when I write – his voice is so visceral, it makes me want to outdo his intensity poetically. Then, when I'm not writing poetry, I listen to all kinds of music. My all-time favorite album is Beep Beep's "Business Casual," it is easily the most candid, uninhibited, exciting piece of music I've encountered. I also enjoy Sonic Youth, Made In Mexico, Daniel Johnston, Neutral Milk Hotel, T. Rex, Violent Femmes, The Oblivians, Nick Cave, Quintron, Bob Dylan, Ex Models, Frank Zappa, The Velvet Underground… the list goes on and on!
OA: What is next for Kaveh Akbar?
KA: Hmmm. I've got a split-chap about a ladyfriend's recent suicide attempt coming out somewhere, sometime in the not-so-distant future with justin.barrett (his half is about his wife's near fatal pulmonary embolism). It's a pretty heavy collection, haha, but we're proud of it, we believe it will definitely resonate in the right reader. I have also been invited by a couple places to submit a book manuscript of some of my newer poems, and need to work on putting that together. In terms of the poetry itself, I think I have finally found my voice, and am having a fantastic time learning more and more about what I can do with it.
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite spot?
KA: I'm not a huge fan of coffee, but at the nostalgia diner where I work we've got this coffee-based drink called a 'Kaveh-cinno' (after its creator), and it is very, very good. The recipe is a secret, though, so people can only order it when I'm working.
OA: Is there a place where you feel the most creative? Can you describe it?
KA: Actually, I think my creativity is pretty well constant. I write down ideas for poems in this little pocket notebook I carry around with me everywhere, and, for the most part, if I've got that I can wring out a rough version of a poem almost anywhere. I know that's not a very romantic answer - I have started many poems while working, in between orders and dishes.
OA: What is the last great book you read?
KA: I've been reading mostly zines lately, trying to catch up on what I missed when I was working on The Quirk. I did read Louis McKee's Near Occasions of Sin a couple weeks ago, and thought it was absolutely incredible. I'm a sucker for good, innovative love poetry.
OA: Thanks for doing the interview.
KA: Thank you for having me!
For more information on Kaveh Akbar visit his myspace page, and for more information on the for-charity literary zine The Quirk or to get a subscription go here.