Thursday, July 10, 2008
Reader Meet Author
"My very best poem will be the last one/the one written in invisible ink/stuck between a row of dusty/kadarka/bottles/& withered sunflowers/the one on some ragged/yellow piece of paper" from "Accidentally Last"
The voice and cadence of the youth is complex and varied. Across all mediums, they are carving out a path that is more eclectic and diverse in style, purpose, and direction than ever before. No one knows how to classify or comprehend the full scale of the generation, and in turn many wonderful movements, artists, writers, musicians seems to get buried or lumped or simple over-looked. I feel this diverse nature can be attributed to the youth artists ability to easily look back, research, read, experience, all that has come before. A writer can pick and choose sources, influences, mentors, and the pool is deep and filled with legend.
Poland's A.J. Kaufmann is young poet who has found meaning and life in the attitude (or 'beatitude') and flow of the beats poets. It is not that he is writing in this form (or that there is a form for that era), but his frantic pace and short phrasing and subject matter tend to following in that certain patten. Yet, he is using this understanding to expand his voice really deliver a fantastic debut chapbook, Siva in Rags. Aside from his own work A.J. has also created an on-line lit journal, Eviscerator Heaven, focusing on the best in modern poetry. He is craving out a path and style and and attitude that is both unique and insightful, and inviting others to join in.
Recently, A.J. was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Your debut chapbook, Siva in Rags, was just released by Kendra Steiner Editions. How did you get involved with KSE and Bill Shute? What was your experience like with KSE?
A.J. Kaufmann (AK): Let me start with the second part of your question... the experience was great all the way through – first of all, Kendra Steiner Editions have some of the best poets around today on board... there's Jim D. Deuchars, Aleathia Drehmer, Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal, Misti Rainwater-Lites... and of course Bill Shute himself... secondly, I absolutely love their attitude, their ever continued beat aesthetics and the DIY ethos in its best tradition... and the fact that KSE is run by a poet... that makes a big difference... and how did I get involved? It's best if I let Bill answer this one: „After reading some of A.J.’s work online and friending him on myspace, I invited him to submit some material he thought was in keeping with the KSE aesthetic yet 100% Kaufmann, and he delivered in spades. So from the 30+ pages of mind-frying poems he sent me, we’ve cherry-picked 10 pages for his debut Kendra Steiner Editions chapbook, SIVA IN RAGS.”. And that's about it... whole story! Now all that you can do is to get my book and also get all the other wonderful chapbooks that KSE issues quite often... I also hope I'll be doing another chap for Bill in the future...
OA: Your work seems to fall in line with what could be considered a 'beat' format or rhythm. Whether it is content, flow, or word selection, in your opinion what makes a poem a beat poem.
AK: Well... I've been writing for a long ten years... I never knew that my work had some similarities to beat poetry.... plus Poland, where I live, is hardly „beat” or „hip” at all... I first came across Kerouac, Burroughs and be-bop at a very young age but I had no intent of pursuing those paths... and I think that most of the beatniks are dead by now... so that makes me a 100% non-beat poet... I really don't know what makes a poem a beat poem... perhaps my flow comes close to the „beat flow”... I really don't know... perhaps some Western Lands spirits crawled into my mind... I can only tell you what makes a Kaufmann poem a Kaufmann poem – stream of consciousness (edited later on or not – it depends...), loads of coffee, loads of cigarettes, booze, open roads, whistlin' viaducts at midnight, words I wrote on some barstools, walls or calendar pages, empty city streets, long lonely walks, the banks of river Warta, local dive-ins, cafes... jazz bands... Sunday mornings, wakin' up with a strange woman... I don't know... everything and anything that this life can give, I guess... it's not that I don't like to be called „beat” - in fact it's a great pleasure and honour... but I guess that the word „beat” had its own time in the 50s, 60s and 70s and referred strictly to those lucky poets hangin' round Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso and the kind back then... and now we must find another word... there's a whole scene of new poetry being born right now... who'll find the word, I wonder?
OA: Speaking of beat poetry, you recently started a new pdf literary journal called Eviscerator Heaven. You asked for poetry that was honest, raw writing. Beat. Intense. Ripping. Jazz. Fever. Thirst. Why did you start a journal, and what has the response been like?
AK: Nobody in Poland seems to publish english-language poetry... especially the kind of poetry that wouldn't be considered „important” or „ambitious” by the academic circles, which are, by the way, full of shit in Poland... so I started my own journal... I wanted to put together some great poems by the poets I got to like during my two-month web presence.... to give them yet another possibility to showcase their works... also to promote other english-language Polish poets... but also to kick some asses in Poland and show them academic circles a goddamn finger... to stick my bloody needle into that hot-air balloon of theirs... and make it finally fly... and the response's been simply astonishing – it's best if you check out Issue #1 to see who's in it... I assure you that your jaw will drop to the floor...
OA: Now that your chapbook has been released and you have work published on-line, do you feel that poems published on-line are in any way inferior or less impactful as those published in print?
AK: To me text is text. I recently prefer the on-line journals in fact... but I also appear in print... „Oh the rainbows!” is right now in Issue 3 of Fissure Magazine, which is a great print mag by the way and I think you should definitely get it... I'm also waiting for publications at The Gut and Peep – both print zines... chapbook's one thing, poems published at literary journals are another... the chapbook is like a summary for one particular period in writer's life... the poems in journals appear from time to time and are like marks of this life left at different, often amazing, places... I don't care if it's online or print. I only care about who's the editor, what kind of poems is she or he after and who reads the publication... it's the 21st century after all... print's old-fashioned and nicer though – but I can't deny the times I live in...
OA: You are also a songwriter, do you feel there is a connection between music and poetry? Do you approaching song lyrics differently then poems?
AJ: Well... I was a songwriter... I got tired of this goddamn repetitions... songs are very easy to write... too easy... After seventeen gigs in Poland you get tired of writing/performing songs... the radio interviews get boring... the audience here does not care about the lyrics – and that's what's most important to me in a song – the text... There's definitely a music/poetry connection – good song lyrics are in fact poems – Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Mr.Mojo Risin', Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Lee Hazelwood, Andrew Eldritch, Tori Amos, Lou Reed – they're all poets.... my approach... well, song lyrics pour out of me slower... they very often rhyme... they are very, very different from my poetry... sometimes ironic, cynical, pop-art... sometimes just over the top... but they are easier to write... they cost me less energy... who knows – I might get back to music one day. I'm about to record some of my old songs this year or the next one... in fact I wrote about three new songs this year. I've stopped performing, appearing in public and sending my songs to performers though... that's bullshit and it really takes me nowhere...
OA: What's next for A.J. Kaufman?
AJ: I wish I knew that... some things depend on me, others don't... I can only write more and more and hopefully record some old songs and maybe have another chapbook comin' on later this year... and of course continue with Eviscerator Heaven... I love my editor's job... I get to read some amazing stuff in amazing amounts...
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is the coffee like in Poland?
AJ: Yes. Lots of. The coffee in Poland is just as good as the coffee in any other country... I can recommend you „Under the Angel” and „The Green Veranda” cafes - the best coffee in Poznan, Poland...
OA: What type of music do you enjoy?
AJ: Recently? I'll give you my favorite 2008 records: „Dig Lazarus Dig”, „Dig Lazarus Dig” and „Dig Lazarus Dig”... besides – I enjoy everything with a soul – be it cold wave, be it be-bop, be it post-punk, be it whatever you call it – I dig Music. With a capital M. Sisters of Mercy are my favorite ever band and Doctor Avalanche's my favorite drummer...
OA: In recent interview with Gloom Cupboard you mention "the ladies' frequently. Do you feel writing poetry is a good way to get the ladies?
AJ: Ah... not necessary to get the ladies... „the ladies” are mentioned as an inspiration... they're such wise little god's creatures... such well-trained at heartbreak... and they give you some ideas a man would never think of... I love them. I do... so many great poems and books would've never been written if not for the women....
For more information on A.J. Kaufmann you can check out his myspace page.