Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reader Meet Author

Andy Riverbed

"My thirst is quenched by the flavors of cinematic waters."

The word experimental can mean different things to different people, but essentially it means to test what you know. To experiment is to make an effort towards discovery. In his debut collection, Damaged, Andy Riverbed experiments with several different styles. What he discovers is an ability to convey a idea regardless of form. The ability to creatively express his experience thus far.

Andy Riverbed is a young poet with a punk mentality. His debut collection is being released by Coatlism Press on January 1st, but it is available for preorder now. Recently, Andy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): What does it mean to be experimental?
Andy Riverbed (AR): In context to Damaged, I think my being experimental only means that I was young and I was obsessed with certain aesthetic principles. Some poems from that collection are from when I was obsessed with French Symbolist poets, others are all about letting it all out, and then there was a while I wanted the poem in print to look exactly like the poem I had written on paper, or wherever it happened that I wrote the verses on; so, then if I crossed out a word in the hardcopy, there’d be a representative space for it on the printed version. Then there was me being obsessed with saying a lot with nothing, and that created some nice experiments as well, I think. Now experimental doesn’t mean much to me. Now I’m all about people understanding me. I’m all about connecting.

OA: I really like how you had William Joyner do illustrations for Damaged. Where did that idea come from and how did you decide on Williams’ work?
AR: My first desire to make a collection was to get into the Jack Micheline Memorial contest. I thought that with drawings by William, I’d win, but that didn’t matter because it was a contest judging poetry. Just me being young and retarded. But William is a great man. I met when I lived in West Palm. I worked full-time as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. William, at the time, was homeless. From my understanding, he’s been that way since the 80s. He was there every morning when I worked, reading and drawing, so I made a connection with him. We’d talk about everything; I’d tell him my problems, how shitty I felt, my jonesing. We’d talk about anything. He’d come over and smoke pot and eat with me and once we watched I (heart) Hukabees, and he made a comment about there being no black people in the movie. I told him that wasn’t true, that in the movie there was a man blacker than he (William) was. A couple months later he called me laughing, telling me I was one of the funniest people he’d ever met, because he saw the movie again, and he told me, “Yes, you were right; the black man in the movie is blacker than me. He’s from Africa!” I laughed so hard that day. I think it was a sad day too. Maybe it was cold that day. Maybe I felt alone. That happens a lot. William kicks ass, and how could I not decide on a man like him. I think working with William, and knowing him, is, in my opinion, one of the most important and fulfilling occurrence of my life.

OA: Speaking of Damaged, what has your experience been like thus far with Coatlism Press?
AR: At times working with them is awesome, at time it’s very problematic. There’s a lot of distance between us. All interaction is done through email. It’s faceless; there’s a lot of room for misunderstandings, and I think at times egos jump up and fuck shit up. This is my first time working with a publisher, and I have learned a lot. It’s been a good experience and I’m glad I’ve gone through it.

OA: I saw a video of you reading at a punk show. What was that like? Do you feel your work works well in that setting?
AR: You need to understand that I’m a punk rocker. I feel traditional readings are too tame. They can be boring, except when it’s Pete Dexter. Now that’s one funny motherfucker. Punk rock shows are spontaneous. Shit gets fucked-up. Sometimes I go to MFA readings and look at people’s faces, then I fall asleep with my eyes open and smile and fall on my face. I think some of my work goes better than other works. It depends on the crowd. I’ve read for a variety of crowds. When it’s folky-punk or indie-pop stuff, then the crowd tends to be more into it. Once I read before Battle! and all the kids were being obnoxious, so I read with a lot of attitude. Some kids were funneling beer, I think it’s called a beer pong, I don’t know, seems a very disgusting way to consume any liquid, let alone shitty, cheap beer. So, point is, I slapped the fucking thing out of their hands and kept on reading, and the kids started shouting, and people were asking for Battle!, so I just got through two pieces, and half-way through the third, I left without saying anything. But while I was reading, till then, I was being as annoying as possible.

OA: You have an interesting title over at Thieves Jargon. What is your actual responsibility with them and what are your thoughts on the "winding down" that Matt has mentioned?
AR: My responsibility is to read certain works rejected by the editors and to respond to them, giving that submission a personalized, creative rejection, as opposed to the standard, “I’m sorry but you work just doesn’t fit in here. Thank you! –faceless editor you shall never connect to.” The reason why the editors choose one work to send to me as opposed to another is a secret I do not know and have spent many hours, while creating these messages of light (as I like to think of them), trying to figure out. I read the work and if I see that some aspect of the piece held it from getting into the Jargon, I will exploit that and try to make it as clear to the writer that that was (or at least was partial) the reason they got rejected.

Here’s an example:
A Cold Lunch
The jukebox held nothing but old metal. The kind that scared parents back in the early 1980's. Every album cover depicted a cheesy demon and fire ensemble. It was enough to make one throw up which is why there was most always a trashcan next to the jukebox filled with puke.

Andy Riverbed
Ambassador of Occasional Sorrow
Thieves’ Jargon Rejection

The kids came after school every afternoon and took the trashcan with them. They always knew what to do with things like that. They were creative and efficient, the bartender thought, and he allowed them to take the trashcan full of puke. Now he didn’t have to deal with the stench, and the drips. What they did, he did not know, probably something to help the environment. They were always talking about this thing called “Global Warming.”

But the victims knew. The kids, between themselves, would tie a rope to the trashcan and lift it up to varying roofs of the neighborhood. On the roof, they’d roll up blunts and open cans of dollar beer. They’d feel buzzed and begin shouting obscenities at people. Their victims of choice were frat-boys, but at times a good citizen would suffer; and maybe at times a pretty girl, one of those hipsters with a trendy haircut, a nice jacket, and a cool, neon purse, would have the trashcan full of puke fall on her.

About the winding down: que sera, sera. I’m being moved up to co-editor soon. I might still be the Ambassador if need calls.

OA: What's next for Andy Riverbed?
AR: I’m trying to get my BAs and move to a big city, maybe out of the country. Till then, I’m going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing: living, writing, making art with my friends here in Gainesville. I want to do more translations. I’ve been inviting people. I want to distribute indie lit too. I volunteer at the Wayward Council, a D.I.Y. volunteer-run record store, and have some stuff on consignment (Delphine) there. I want to expand this and get more stuff down here. I also want to get connected with some more Hispanic writers. I’m trying to do shit with homeboys of mine from Puerto Rico. I want to come out with a story collection next year, and I’m planning on getting a whole bunch of similarly themed pieces into one and come out with a novel or novella, whatever it turns out to be.

Bonus questions:
OA: What type of music do you listen to and who are a few of your favorites?
AR: I love punk rock, indie-pop, postpunky shit, ambient-noise; I like bebop jazz. I like a lot of shit. If it’s good and not sell-out contrived bullshit, I’ll probably be into it. I like that dance-punk shit too. Records I can’t stop listening to lately: No Bunny, “Slippery Subject” – the Bananas, Elliot Smith (anything), “Disconnected” – Stiv Bators, “Ten Rapid” – Mogwai. I’m at the library now, and my records are at home. I’m also an affected boy, so therefore, my memory lapses. “Soy una punk” (song) – Aerolineas Federales.

OA: Beside your own, do you have a favorite chapbook of 2008?
AR: “Down where the Hummingbird goes to Die” – Justin Hyde
“Gravity’s Rainbow/Mason & Dixon” – Shane Jones & Chris Killen
“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” – Tao Lin
“Hey, Baby” – anonymous
“Yum, Yum, I can’t wait to Die” – Sam Pink

I think I have some more, but like I said with the other question, my good shit’s somewhere else and I got a shitty memory.

For more information on Andy Riverbed and Damaged please check out this website.

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