I haven’t been going out much lately. I didn’t even show up to the release party for the latest edition of be about it zine. I’ve been hermitting/hibernating and it’s been weird and maybe productive because I’m reading and writing in my little studio cave but I had been itching to go out, plus I had this idea for a new blog series about literary events that I wanted to try out, so I reached out to my poet friend Anna Avery to see if she wanted to come to this reading with me. It was at a bookstore I had never heard of or visited before, in a section of San Francisco that I don’t get out to very much. And I like both of the readers and couldn’t remember the last time I had seen either of them read.
In this interview, Alexandra Naughton, editor in chief of Be About It Press, speaks to Amy Saul-Zerby, author of Paper Flowers Imaginary Birds (published by Be About It Press in January, 2017).
Alexandra Naughton: Okay, so I thought I would start off by asking: when did you first start writing this book? What was the impulse to create it, or what was the inspiration? And what has the journey been like from then to now?
Amy Saul-Zerby: The book came into existence gradually over the past four years or so. In 2012, I’d just gotten out of a six year relationship, and had also just stumbled upon this community of young writers & poets sharing their work with each other online. I’d been writing poetry since college, but the poems in this book began to come when poetry was really becoming the center of my life in a way it hadn’t been before then.
While creating a full-length collection was always a goal, I didn’t set out to make this book. The collection of new work just kept growing until I had enough raw material to begin to think about whether it could even become a cohesive whole. Because the work is so confessional & draws so much from things I was going through during those years, I was able in early 2015 to create something that felt cohesive from the previous three years of very constant writing.
The key realization that really enabled me to craft the manuscript from all that work, which really surprised me at the time, was that the narrative arc was already there. All I really had to do at that point was arrange the pieces to tell the story that it honestly felt like they already wanted to tell, if that makes sense.
AN: Totally makes sense. When did you write it? How did you write it? Do you set aside time specifically to write? Describe a place that reminds you of making this book.
ASZ: I was jumping between occupations during that time, so my schedule wasn’t consistent. I wrote what I could when I could. When I began working on the book, I was helping my grandfather care for my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s and to whom the book is dedicated.
If there is one place that reminds me of the making of the book, it is probably the house they lived in, where I would stay while taking care of her. She had been hugely encouraging of my writing since I was a kid, and would often ask me to read her my latest work. (My mother is also very supportive, so I am lucky for that as well! But Louise & I shared a very unique bond.)
I also spent six months in Austin, TX, working in publishing, and a good chunk of time in Philly working as a hostess and then an office admin in the restaurant industry. So my work schedule has changed several times, but I write whenever I can, which will always, always be the case no matter what else I’m doing. & which has really always been the case since I decided in (I believe) first grade that I wanted ‘to be an author’ when I grew up.
AN: That’s awesome that you’ve known since the first grade. I feel like that is when I discovering my passion for writing, though I didn’t take it seriously until later.
What kind of writing career would you enjoy the most? Do you see yourself writing as an occupation?
ASZ: I have a lot of hopes & goals with regard to my writing. Experimenting with forms other than poetry is a long-term goal, but I also feel that I have so much work still to do with poetry. I’m a huge fan of Melissa Broder’s work, in terms of content but also in terms of the breadth of forms she utilizes. I could see myself enjoying having a column, writing personal essays, experimenting with short-form prose / flash fiction. Screenwriting & playwriting are also really attractive forms, though somewhat more intimidating because they’re so foreign to me still.
But to answer your question: yes, I want to write as an occupation.
AN: What kind of stuff did your grandmother like to read? Was there a piece you wrote that she was especially fond of?
ASZ: Oh, she liked to read everything she could get her hands on, but I think short stories & novels were her favorite.
She was a very early riser, and one of my earliest poems was about reading with her in the mornings as a kid before anyone else was awake. She had me email her a copy of that one, printed it out directly from AOL (with the subject line and everything), then framed it and hung it in her study. So I think it’s safe to say that one was a favorite.
AN: Are you enjoying this interview?
ASZ: Yes, I am enjoying it very much, thanks!
AN: Who do you want to read this book? Who would you like to see holding a copy of your book?
ASZ: Honestly, I want whoever would get the most out of it to read the book. Whoever needs it, anyone it might help in any way.
I don’t want to see anyone in particular holding a copy of the book. I just want it to reach people with whom it might resonate. I would rather hear back from someone who found something helpful in one of the poems than see my book in the hands of a literary idol or a public figure or celebrity.
AN: BUT IF YOU COULD SEE IT IN THE HANDS OF A PARTICULAR PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE????
ASZ: Haha, OKAY FINE, but I didn’t want to have to say this… it’s a tie & I would like to choose both Lena Dunham & James Franco.
AN: Why those two?
ASZ: It would just mean a lot to me.
AN: Okay, fair enough. There are lot of great pieces in Paper Flowers, Imaginary Birds. Lots of funny and sardonic quips. My favorite piece is probably the Craigslist missed connection. It’s too real.
What’s your favorite piece in the book?
ASZ: That’s one of my favorites too. Currently I really like ‘Celestial Bodies’. A lot of the poems in the book were written during such a different time in my life that I feel somewhat distant from them now, but that one still feels like me.
AMN: It’s so weird to see stuff written from years or even months ago. It can feel so foreign, like did I really write this. Do you see any growth in your writing now to some of the pieces in the book? Or maybe not even the poems, but personally?
ASZ: Absolutely. My writing has changed a lot, and I’ve changed a lot as a person, even just since putting the manuscript together in 2015. So the poems in the book from as far back as 2012 feel very foreign to me now. For me personally, the book feels like a kind of time capsule. It never feels like I didn’t write the poems, because I remember the things I wrote about so vividly (to the point where it’s almost painful to read parts of the book). It’s more like, ‘Wow, I feel so far from where I was when I wrote this.’ And I am grateful for that distance, and the book reminds me of how far I’ve come, which I often forget.
AMN: All right, let’s wrap this up. What do you think? We’re indie writers who work with indie presses, right, so that means we have to do a lot of our own promotion. What are your plans for promoting the book? Are you going on tour? What are your hopes for 2017? Any fun plans? Any fun projects in the works?
Also, please use this space to say whatever you’d like that you want to talk about that I didn’t ask about or whatever. 🙂
ASZ: Yeah! I’m doing a bunch of readings in Philly, including a release party. Working out the details of a release event in NYC, as well. And I’m in the planning stages for a west coast tour this spring! I’m fortunate to have a lot of energy to devote to book promotion at the moment, so I’m really just throwing myself into it.
I’ve also just started working for a local literary mag here (Apiary Magazine). So I’m looking forward to involving myself further in the Philly poetry community, continuing my work with Voicemail Poems, and touring / promoting the book.
And, as always, to continuing to work on new poems (& possibly other forms)! There have been times when I’ve really questioned the value of what I’m doing and let my self-doubt get the better of me, but at least for the moment, I feel motivated & determined to keep working at this.
AMN: Thank you for doing this interview. What did you think of it? Any areas in which I could improve as an interviewer? Please be honest.
Amy Saul-Zerby is a Philadelphia-based poet. Her first collection, Paper Flowers Imaginary Birds, was published by Be About It Press in January of 2017. Her writing has also appeared in TheNewerYork, Painted Bride Quarterly, Spy Kids Review and The YOLO Pages, and she is managing editor of Voicemail Poems & multimedia editor of APIARY Magazine.
That’s all for now! 8 more days of increasing darkness before the days start getting longer again!!
The other day I posted on enclave about my ongoing pursuit to find out what it means to be human.
I am a human. Yeah, sure. I have a body. I have a conscience. I exist. I guess.
I’m not sure how I feel about being human. I mean, I accept it, because what else can I do. But I fantasize a lot about being a ghost. I like to imagine myself passing through walls and listening in on conversations without having to be acknowledged. I like the idea of being able to experience without necessarily having to participate. But I have all of my death to be a ghost, so maybe I should just come to terms with being human for now.
I want to know what being human means to other humans. I want to know how they cope. What they love about being human, and what they hate about it. So I slid into some DMs on facebook late one night last week.
Sending private messages on facebook after midnight to make existential inquiries seems extremely appropriate to me.
Here are the questions I asked:
How do you feel about being human?
What are the best/worst things about being human?
Do you ever try to forget you’re human and if so what do you do? What do you do to fully feel human?
What is coping? Coping implies a lot of things, like getting through the day and dealing with hardship. Everyone copes one way or another, we all have our weird little things we do to calm ourselves down when times are tough. On the whole, though, I think coping means being okay with being human.
I wrote a little about my idea of what it means to cope with this body and this existence here, where basically I realize all my small obsessions and secrets are what keeps me going.
But what about being human?
I was on facebook late one night and decided to ask some other people about dealing with existence. Coping is a part of being human, I think. I feel most human very late at night. I want to know other people cope. I messaged a few people who happened to be online and asked them how they feel about being human.
How do you feel about being human?
What are the best/worst things about being human?
Do you ever try to forget you’re human and if so what do you do? What do you do to fully feel human?
I didn’t get it right away or even for a long time. Because it has nothing to do with another person. Not really, anyway.
It’s a longing for a feeling, a longing for a possibility. It’s solace. It’s sentimentality. It’s feeling okay about being human because some things are just so wonderful. It’s about connecting with something. It’s a secret that can make you smile on a crowded commuter train. It’s a secret that hurts because even if you share it you’re the only one who gets it, so sharing it kinda kills it for you. Like it hurts to even think about it because it’s so good, but it’s yours to think about, as long as you can think about it it’s there to make you hurt and wonder.
I like things to be clean. I like a clean apartment. I talk about this a lot but it’s something that’s important to me. I don’t need order, but I need things to be clean.
Being in a clean room is comforting to me and allows me to enjoy the things I do in the room more, helps me concentrate better on the work I’m doing while in the room. I like things the way I like them, I guess is what I’m trying to say. That is the point of all this. Having things the way I like them is comforting to me.
I keep talking about this but it’s something I’m talking about so that I can understand it, and then get bored of it.
I’m a little obsessive. I get obsessed with things, and then move on to the next thing. It can be a problem. I think my friends think I’m normal, like that’s what at least one friend has told me, but I think my obsessions are a problem. I’m kind of okay with them, I like obsessing over things, but not everyone gets it. This is why I like my alone time. Because I can be weirdly obsessive over the things I’m obsessing over at the moment without it being a problem for anyone else. If I want to watch House MD for 6 hours straight, no problem. If I want to sit in silence and listen to Songs Ohia records on my computer, no problem. If I want to stay up all night and write and rewrite a story or collection of poems, no problem. And if I can do these things in my clean room, I can feel okay. I can feel okay about being here.
I didn’t get it right away or even for a long time because I never really gave it space to breathe. And being able to walk around it and see it for all it is or at least what I can see of it but finally see it as a thing, something I can name, something I can better understand and be okay with.
Coping is just trying to be okay with what’s around you. This is all I’ve ever tried to do.
hi this is just day one of #7daysofcoping so please stay tuned for more thank you
This is a review by Cory Rohr of the book Tender Points by Amy Berkowitz, published by Timeless Infinite Light.
“I don’t particularly like riddles. But then again, neither did travelers passing through Thebes. They didn’t try to solve the Sphinx’s riddle because they craved the intellectual challenge. They tried to solve it because the Sphinx killed anyone who didn’t.”
In the face of a distrustful public, incredulous media, and abusive authority Amy Berkowitz exposes tender points–likely the only quantifiable identifiers of a deep, personal puzzle without a solution in sight. A sensitivity that cannot be proved is not trusted: this shaky proof is repeatedly disregarded by people that have not experienced it. And yet, Tender Points is a clear and vivid look into the muddied hurt below the surface, a novella in poems about living with pain. This work immediately establishes a distinct mode that compliments its subjects. The writing is hard and cutting, direct and purposeful; for flowery, garish, effeminate poetry would undermine the severity contained therein. In addition to avoiding discreditable writing, these poems decry suffering silently, especially at the hands of systematic oppression and sexual violence. Community members alike in their experiences or close enough to those within their network can alleviate the assaults of and exorcise misogyny.
“Welcome to the Myspace of my constant pain.”
But why write about pain? Does writing about pain help us connect with other people? Perhaps it is easier than answering every “how are you?” with “I am in a near-constant state of pain and today is no exception.” Or as a form of analysis? to draw out the atrocities of memory as an attempt to qualify them somehow?
I like to think I have a unique personal style. Floral print dresses and granny sweaters, zany vintage pieces, and frumpy thrift store pullovers. Dressed like a doll, dressed like a movie character, dressed like a raggamuffin, dressed like a goth tomboy, dressed like my fifth grade self, dressed like grunge Elaine Benis, it doesn’t matter. I dress according to my mood. I feel like Ms. Frizzle in that way. Every outfit is a costume of sorts. This is why I have a hard time packing when I travel: how am I supposed to know what to bring if I don’t know how I’m going to feel each particular day? I always end up bringing three times the amount of clothing that I need. It’s a problem.
Sometimes I see other people wearing very similar outfits to what I have on. And I actually love it. I often see pairs of people out together who are dressed very similarly to one another and I wonder to myself if they planned to coordinate, or if it just happened happily accidentally.
Ever read a celebrity gossip rag or watch a show about celebrity fashions? One trope the industry loves to push out is ‘who wore it better,’ showcasing two stars wearing the same outfit, or similar-looking pieces, and rating them against one another.
That’s mad corny. Why not celebrate the fact that another person had the same idea as you? ‘Hmm, feels like a multicolor plaid day!’ Don’t you think it’s special that someone else felt similarly inspired, like you may be both wearing the same thing but maybe for entirely different reasons? Wouldn’t you want to find out? Wouldn’t you take that opportunity to connect with someone on the same level? Or at least silently revel in the fact that your style is chic enough to share, relishing in that other person’s obvious good taste?
Day 1: woke up at 5:00am to catch an early flight. Put on a v neck t-shirt featuring an all over print of kitty cats doing various things, a gray loose knit cropped sweater, new blue jeans from old navy, my signature cross cardigan, Sorel boots borrowed from Isobel O’Hare, and a winter coat with fur trim hood borrowed from Isobel O’Hare. Walk, train, plane to Chicago O’Hare, picked up by A.J. Binash, car, stopped in Madame Zuzu teahouse with A.J. to see if I could drop off a copy of I Will Always Be Your Whore [love songs for Billy Corgan] for Billy Corgan (I wasn’t allowed to), car to Wisconsin, open mic, went to sleep in sweatpants and kitty cat t-shirt.
Day 2: woke up in a puddle of sweat bc the bed I was sleeping in was directly over a heating pipe or something so I changed into a blue and white striped long sleeved v-neck. Showered and then changed into black turtleneck, black sweater tights, red wool skirt, cross cardigan, and black Oxford platforms. Performed at the Pump House in La Crosse, WI with A.J Binash, Olivia Gillingham, Tegan Daly, Thomas Tucker, and Jay Grays. Karaoke, doing dabs, not sleeping, left La Crosse, Wi at 3:30am with A.J. Binash to drive to Chicago O’Hare to get a morning flight to Toronto.
Day 3: still wearing red wool skirt, black turtleneck, black sweater tights, and cross cardigan. Changed into Sorel boots borrowed from Isobel O’Hare because they were too bulky to fit in my suitcase. Arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport around 8:30am. Sat by an outlet on the wall next to the restrooms to charge my phone. Quick and uneventful flight to Kitchner airport. Realized on arrival that Kitchner is a lot further away from the home of Stephen Thomas, my host in Toronto, than I had previously thought. 30 minute taxi ride into the Kitchner city center then 90 minute bus ride into the outskirts of Toronto and then a 90 minute car ride with John Liberty, a friend of Stephen who was kind enough to pick me up and point out local landmarks and talk local history to me on the ride. Showered at Stephen’s house, changed into maroon high-waist corduroy pants, blue oxford shirt, gray knit sweater (it’s actually black and white threads but looks gray), black oxford platforms. Performed on stage at The Great Hall with Ashley Obscura, Beach Sloth, Rachel Bell, Stephen Thomas, and Guillaume Morissette. Performed wearing the coat I borrowed from Isobel O’Hare because I felt like a character from Quadrophenia and Canada is cold. Spent the rest of the night wandering around a rave then someone’s birthday party and then went to bed after 4am.
Day 4: woke up sweating again, wearing sweatpants and gray tank top. Showered and changed into maroon high-waist corduroy pants, a light blue sweater with an image of the backs of Mickey and Minnie Mouse’s heads holding each other like they just finished making out knitted into the sweater, a thick jackety-type blue and black plaid snap button shirt, and black oxford platforms. Walked around with Beach Sloth, Astory Felix, and then Kira Michael came over to Stephen’s house and we hung out and then I got picked up by Stephen’s friend John Liberty again to get taken to the Buffalo airport after midnight.
Day 5: got to the airport and remembered that I left the Sorel boots I borrowed from Isobel O’Hare at Stephen’s house. Slept a little bit at the Buffalo airport wearing the same outfit with the blue Mickey/Minnie sweater. Changed my flight last minute because I was supposed to go home at this point but I wanted to go back to Wisconsin and I had packed enough clothes for a few extra days on the road. Plus there were several days I wore the same outfit for more than one day without changing. Flew to Chicago O’Hare and then got on a train to meet up with Carleen Tibbetts and Russell Jaffe and Jeanette Gomes. Got on a bus to Madison. Walked for an hour with suitcase and backpack to a Super 8 motel. Showered and changed into black leggings and the gray sweater. Passed out.
Day 6: can’t remember if I showered again or not but I put on a red plaid collared shirt with the light gray loose knit cropped sweater on top, the new blue jeans from old navy, and the black oxford platforms. Walked around Madison all day and got a jean jacket with tan corduroy details at a thrift store and then realized I had booked my flight for the next day out of Minneapolis and that I would have to find a way there and realized buses didn’t run frequently and that Madison is a hell of a lot further away from Minneapolis than I had previously believed.
Day 7: took a cab to a megabus pickup location outside of Madison and boarded a bus around 2:30am and got to Minneapolis at around 8:00am. Found my way to the airport and wanted to disintegrate completely. Waited around for hours at the airport for my 3:00pm flight, flew to LA and left the cleared area to go outside to smoke and then went through security again to get my flight to Oakland. Train from Oakland airport back to my neighborhood, walked home. Passed out in all of my clothes.
- This house is lit I mean all of their Christmas lights are up
- This street is lit I mean everyone’s got their Christmas lights up
- F this house how is that penguin bigger than Santa why
- Has anyone ever noticed how unusually late Christmas tree lots are open till
- How much are Christmas trees
- Mariah Carey probably likes the best Christmas music
- F’n double booked holiday potlucks for this Saturday gd
Literary spaces—the kind that make you feel at home, make you forget you’re in the middle of a major urban jungle, the kind that speak womb to musty pages to ink and weathered paper—are hard to find these days. We felt it necessary to carve out such a space in Fruitvale, Oakland; to offer a bit of respite along the fervor of Foothill Boulevard and the buzz of a city amongst cities in transition—renewal and destruction. It was a space built by its weekly inhabitants, as all literary spaces are, perhaps. Their energies lining the walls post-performance, the laughter and tears, raised voices and middle-finger rises—the spaces absorb the energies released and pretty soon it’s a soup of homeless letters and phrases, of misses in the night and full-fledged landings mid tarmac. We try to offer home to poets and musicians, performers and listeners, wanton for a bit of intimate time spent together over wine and freshly brewed coffee.
For the second feature in this series, J. K. Fowler of Nomadic Press talked with three phenomenal Fruitvale-based writers: Paul Corman-Roberts, Missy Church, and Cassandra Dallett. J. K. and crew all answered some questions about one of their favorite small press performance spaces in Oakland, the Nomadic Press Oakland Workspace in Fruitvale.
What do you love about this literary space?
‘This quarter I didn’t know what to do for my video production final so I got Jesse Law to help me put together this video as a preview to a book I’m working on called Notes from Work. Honestly, I didn’t know what to think after my first time blasting it on social media, but my professor liked it so much he got everyone to hoist me up on their shoulders and carry me out of class. In any case, I hope this is chill.’
photos by Joe Carrow
Jesse Prado once said: ‘Hosting a blog is like being Batman. No one cares.’
You could probably say the same thing about being a creative writer. Like, we all think we’re pretty amazing (seriously, we all think we’re hot shit) and we all think we are doing a vital service for our communities at large, but honestly most people most of the time don’t really give a damn about what poets and fiction writers are doing.
We do performances and have parties with poetry readings and get bizarro and hang out at bookstores until the owners kick us out, but are we breaking any new ground? Are we opening up the doors for fresh audiences? Is it possible to get more people caring about reading books and buying books and shopping at local bookstores and supporting the small press industry? Does anyone care?
My name is Alexandra Naughton and I want to introduce you to local writers and artists and book purveyors who are struggling to keep up in this bubble about to burst economy (you know what I’m talking about, San Franciscans) and striving to stay doing cool stuff in this place we call home. Namely the East Bay. We can’t really afford SF rent anymore, if we ever could (except Amy Berkowitz who has rent control). I want you to come and party with us (poets know how to have a good time– trust), and I wanna get us all talking because I think we could all show each other a lot.
So this is a short little series spotlighting some local writers in bookstores. It all started out with a post on facebook, as it usually does. Brokeass Stuart’s Goddamn Website was featuring a new series called ‘beautiful women in bookstores,’ luring online media consumers in to look at photographs of a beautiful woman posing in a bookstore while also maybe reading about a local bookstore. I commented that it felt like a missed opportunity, a chance to spotlight some talented local writers.
So I got my own idea, and I collaborated with some friends. Our idea was to build upon ‘beautiful women in bookstores’ without being quite so objectifying. Yes, writers are beautiful people too, but more than that they are talented and work hard for their vocations. Brokeass Stuart signed off on it, saying it was a good idea. And so we proceeded.
Anyway, I thought it would be tight to spotlight some awesome bookstores and literary salons that are doing their thing by hosting happenings and doing their best by providing a space for people in the community to meet and try to make something beautiful. Try to make something meaningful, if only for a moment. If only until you finish reading that chapbook. If only until the weird girl on stage finishes smearing ashes on her forehead. For the first feature in this series, I talked with two amazing writers, Amy Berkowitz and Vernon Keeve III, and we all answered some questions about one of our favorite literary spaces in Oakland, E.M. Wolfman Books at 410 13th Street in Oakland, California.
What do you love about this bookstore?
Amy Berkowitz: I love E.M. Wolfman because it’s such a community center. I was trying not to say community center, because it’s not, like, a big rec hall where people take quilting classes… but on the other hand, I wouldn’t blink an eye if you told me there was going to be a quilting class there. Actually, I’m now on the wikipedia page for community center, and Wolfman does fit wikipedia’s definition—it serves as a place for community celebrations, a place where community members meet each other socially, a place housing local clubs, and yes, even a place for wedding ceremonies (I had the pleasure of attending a sweet and teary poet wedding there last spring).
Wolfman is a great small bookstore, with a really nicely curated selection of used and new books and a very solid and frequently refreshed selection of local publications. So even if it didn’t host a pop-up clothes mending service or weekend tarot readings by donation or a panel on gender and violence in literature held inside a blood ritual tent or drone music performances or a really wonderful series of art shows in the back room or the opening night of the HAXAN film fest or a ton of readings by a wide variety of local and visiting writers, I would still recommend it as a very lovely independent bookstore. But it’s so much more than that.
Vernon Keeve III: Wolfman books looks like it was birthed from my own imagination. I would honestly read any book on their shelves and read anything suggested to me by the owners of the store. The space almost feels like a carefully curated artist’s exhibit, because of the layout and how the selection of books speak to one another. Wolfman books is a space that speaks to society and tells society what needs to be done in order to make society a giving place for everyone.
Alexandra Naughton: I love E.M. Wolfman. It has this weird homey feeling. Maybe it’s the sparkly spackled ceiling that everyone’s grandma in South Philly has, except more magical. Like, it doesn’t feel like any home I’ve ever been to, but it’s a home I wish I could visit and host parties at. And I kind of do. It’s one of my favorite spots to host Be About It readings because of the setting and tone of the place.
All that reclaimed wood on the walls and floors lends this easy, warm, coffee shop of my youth feel. The artwork on the walls and in the gallery area is always interesting and funky. And it’s hella close to BART, so it’s super convenient for events. The first time I did a show at Wolfman was for the 2014 Beast Crawl, and since then I’ve been hosting shows at the spot on a pretty regular basis. I’m happy to have developed a relationship with this bookstore, and I am thankful to the owner, Justin Carder, for being such a supportive member of the literary/arts community. Like Amy already said, Wolfman isn’t just a bookstore, it’s a community center.
What’s your favorite book in this bookstore?
AB: I don’t think I can pick a favorite, but I’ll tell you about the books I chose off the shelves for our photo shoot: Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be, Paul Ebenkamp’s The Louder The Room The Darker The Screen, This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, and Miranda July’s The First Bad Man. I haven’t read The First Bad Man yet; everything else I highly recommend.
VK: I stumbled across a copy of The BreakBeat Poets and thumbed through it. It was amazing to see some familiar names. Danez Smith, a personal hero of mine, had 3 or 4 selections in the book. It Hasn’t Stopped Being California Here by Jordan Karnes is also a book to be lauded. I was in poetry workshops with Jordan in grad school, and it is fascinating to see her evolution as a writer in her book of essays. She has always been one of my favorite poets, but to see a poet branch out into essays was something that inspired me to write the book that I’m releasing with Nomadic Press Conversation with a Southern Migrant in the winter.
AN: I bought Like Life by Lorrie Moore at Wolfman over a year ago and it’s one of those books that I just keep by my bedside and reread when I feel lonely.
Do you have a book out right now?
AB: I do! Tender Points came out in June. It’s a book-length lyric essay about sexual violence, chronic pain, and patriarchy published by local small press Timeless, Infinite Light. I’ll be doing a seven-city east coast tour in September to support it. More here.
VK: I don’t but it is coming. Look for it from Nomadic Press, as well as the releases from other amazing local writers.
AN: Hell yes I do. Punk Hostage Press put out my second book earlier this year, You Could Never Objectify Me More Than I’ve Already Objectified Myself, which is a poetry collection about my experience as ‘girl on the internet.’ I have another poetry collection, My Posey Taste Like, published by Bottlecap Press this spring, which was heavily inspired by the Lana Del Rey album Born to Die. Both books are available at Wolfman Books and other local shops, as well as online. And of course, you can also find issues of Be About It zine and our chapbooks at Wolfman <3
Posted this on twitter today:
Gonna make a list of reasons why I love Alfred Hitchcock’s the birds
— Based Goth Alexandra (@theTsaritsa) July 2, 2015
— Based Goth Alexandra (@theTsaritsa) July 2, 2015
Rumor has it Michael Bay is planning on remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic film, The Birds. Why. Seriously. What the hell.
Why do people do this. Why do people remake classic films? How could anyone possibly improve upon this masterpiece?
This movie is perfect. Even Tippi Hedren, was like ‘Why,’ upon hearing that someone is thinking about remaking The Birds.
It’s like anyone else beside Stephen King remaking The Shining, and we all know he shouldn’t have done that but we know why he personally felt like he had to.
It’s like the time Gus Van Sant remade Psycho with Anne Heche. Truth be told, I’ve never seen Psycho in its entirety, the classic film or the remake, but what is the point of remaking a Hitchcock film shot for shot unless you’re a film school student doing an exercise? I dunno, I know some people who like the Van Sant version, but whatever.
Here is an incomplete list of thoughts I have about the movie The Birds:
1. No one knows why the birds are attacking.
2. Why the birds are attacking is never explained. And doesn’t need to be. It’s more eerie that way.
3. It seems almost as if the birds want to be killing people.
4. Even the sparrows are attacking. Sparrows are really cute.
5. Seagulls are kind of terrifying to begin with. When they attack in a large group, fuck tho.
6. The Birds is essentially a love story, with attacking birds. The bird attacks are one of the factors which brought these two love birds together.
7. There is a pair of actual love birds that our female protagonist, Melanie Daniels, brings to the male protagonist, Mitch Brenner.
8. Love birds. Lol. We see what you did there.
9. The love birds don’t seem to be affected by whatever is making the birds outside attack. I’m speaking of the birds in the cage, but I could just as easily be talking about the human couple.
10. Even though the birds are killing people, our protagonists don’t take the threat seriously enough to leave.
11. Why don’t you stay? We have plenty of leftover roast beef!
12. Lol, they’re just birds.
13. The best actor in this movie is the kid who plays Mitch’s little sister. She is really good at crying.
14. In the beginning of the movie, when Melanie arrives in Bodega Bay, she’s trying to play a prank on Mitch, and pumps the owner of the general store for info on the Brenner family. The owner of the general store can’t remember the ‘little Brenner girl’s’ name, whether it’s Alice or Lois.
15. It’s neither, but I can’t remember her real name either. I always want to call her Alice or Lois.
16. Her name is actually Cathy. Cathy sounds nothing like Alice or Lois.
17. Mitch is a lawyer and tells Melanie how one of his clients shot his wife in the head five times because she changed the station while he was watching a ball game.
18. Melanie finds this amusing while casually playing Debussey on the Brenner’s living room piano.
19. Pretty disgusting. This is my least favorite part of the film.
20. My favorite part of the film is the scene outside the schoolhouse.
21. Melanie is waiting outside smoking a cigarette on a bench in front of a jungle gym. The children are singing some weird song like, ‘She combed her hair but once a year/ risseldy rosseldy meow meow meow/ With every stroke she shed a tear/ risseldy rosseldy meow meow meow.’ And you’re so captivated by the tiny child voices singing this song, and watching Melanie silently smoke, and slowly more and more birds accumulate on the jungle gym, starting with just a few and building gradually until the entire jungle gym is covered with crows.
22. It’s these quiet moments that make the film so disturbing.
23. There is no soundtrack or musical score in this film. Like the television show The Wire, the only music heard in this movie is when the characters are listening to something on the radio or playing something on the piano or singing something in real time.
24. Usually a soundtrack or musical score helps to underline the creepiness of a film. Like when John Carpenter tested the original Halloween, it got mixed reviews/the test audiences didn’t think the movie was that scary. So he composed the Halloween ‘theme’ and added it to the film, and it made all the difference. The lack of musical score in The Birds, however, has a very unsettling effect.
25. Lots of camera tricks, but everything looks really real.
26. I remember my mom talking shit about The Birds when I was a kid. She was like, it doesn’t even look real– you can see the strings attached to the birds’ feet. And yeah, Hitchcock did tie the birds to the actors, but I’ve seen this movie at least a dozen times and I look for the strings every time and I can’t see them.
27. Can we just appreciate the fact that the actors in this film had birds tied to them. Like, even the children.
28. Tippi Hedren had nightmares about birds attacking her (and probably also about Hitchcock being a creeper) for a while during and after making this film. I mean, who wouldn’t.
29. When our protagonists finally do make their escape, because Melanie is injured, we aren’t sure if they made it out alive.
30. They drive away in Melanie’s ragtop convertible. If birds can peck through a wooden door, surely they can break open a ragtop roof.
31. We’re left with more questions than answers in the end.
32. But at least our protagonists fell in love?
33. If this movie were made today there would be an explanation for the birds attacking. It would be like that terrible movie Outbreak. Like the birds had a disease and that’s why they were attacking people. And it wouldn’t be as scary.
34. It was probably all the myna bird’s fault, tbh.
35. Oh Melanie Daniels, you just had to pull a prank on your aunt Tillie. Teaching a bird to say ‘four letter words.’
36. What kind of four letter words did they teach at Berkeley in a general semantics class in the 1960s anyway. Like is she actually learning swear words in class, or is she just picking up new insults from her peers on the ‘quad. Lol.
37. This film could not be made today. Not just because PETA would have a problem with it, but because they would use CGI and it would look so fake.
38. CGI just really sucks and I wish everyone would go back to using puppets.
39. The Birds is basically Jurassic Park before there was a Jurassic Park. I’m only speaking of the original Jurassic Park. They are almost the same movie.
40. Jurassic Park is really good. It’s one of my favorite movies and it’s the type of movie I can pretty much watch anytime. Same with The Birds. I can watch it five nights in a row and still love it.
41. Jurassic Park is great but The Birds is better.
Okay so I’m back in sunny ass Berkeley sitting at my desk at my high-pressure job eating a tuna melt that was not thoroughly melted and looking out the window at some palm trees and thinking about all the cool shit I did at AWP this past weekend and trying to process it all. It takes me a long time to process things. This will probably be the first of several posts about AWP that I will make here.
Janice and Michael asked if I would write posts about AWP while at AWP and I meant to but honestly I was having too much fun running around with a sick posse of writers who I love going to readings and doing performances and seeing the sights in Minneapolis and basically just taking advantage of what I felt was like a vacation that I never got the chance. I meant to, though, I really did.
I’ve got a lot to say. I’m not sure how to say it yet, but I will eventually.
At this moment, I guess I just want to give a shoutout and a huge thanks to A. Razor of Punk Hostage Press and Jason Scheinheit of The Gorilla Press for working the book table and trying to get our wares out there. They both deserve a well-toasted tuna melt (or a well-toasted sandwich of their choice).
Also, I want to share these cool podcasts Jason conducted while working the table. The podcasts are all about five minutes long or fewer and are pretty funny. Jason interviewed me, as well as Amy Saul-Zerby, Jesse Prado, A. Razor, Tomas Moniz, Lizzie Acker, Hollie Hardy, Nate Waggoner, Russell Jaffe, Oliver Mol, and others. Check em out! They are short and sweet!
Joe Carrow is a cool guy who comes to a lot of the readings in the Bay Area and takes photographs of local weirdos and does it all for the love of it. In this interview we talk about his photo work and an incident he had with a Canadian website and I pretend that I’m not sure who I’m talking to at first for a pathetic attempt at comedy.
Hey, so first question: who are you, what do you do, and how do we know each other?
I’m Joe Carrow. I work as a mechanical engineer by day, and I do more creative things at night to stay sane. I used to play drums before I moved to the Bay area in 2004, but when I got out here I found that all of the apartments were really tiny and I didn’t have a way to keep playing. I loved drums, but my girlfriend at the time needed floor space for her wheelchair and the apartment walls were too thin for so much noise. I started getting pretty serious about photography around 2008, and in 2012 I became the show photographer for Oakland Nights Live.
I was invited to take some pictures at a poetry reading in an abandoned apartment in 2012, where I met you and a few other local poets. I put out a Facebook call of “Who wants to do a shoot?” in 2013 and you wanted to do a shoot, and we’ve been doing photo stuff and going to each others events ever since.
Ah, yeah. I’m remembering now. We did a photo shoot. You’re the guy with the beard holding a camera, right? Yeah, I think you’ve shot the covers for a few of my books or something. What kind of photo work do you like to do? What do you find inspiring?
That’s right! I’m the guy with the beard and camera. I was pursuing competitive beard growth for a while, but eventually it felt ridiculous and I trimmed it off.
The kind of photo work that I like to do is to show people having cool experiences. Really, it’s the look on somebody’s face that does it for me. What’s going on? What are they up to? Who are they? Is something cool happening? I can appreciate and enjoy pictures of landscapes and skies and inanimate objects as well, but I care a lot more about people pictures. I like to catch those candid moments when people aren’t posing, when they’re having a genuine moment. Here are a few favorites:
my posey taste like coca cola / my stanzas snide like american thighs / I got a thing for a palm that’s colder / ashes high like American skies
Been listening to a lotta Lana Del Rey, forgive.
We’re doing a reading tonight in Oakland. When I say ‘we’ it’s because I’m regal as hell with unbrushed hair but naw really we as in BE ABOUT IT. E.M. Wolfman Books at 410 13th street (it’s the 12th street Downtown Oakland BART stop, and it’s less than a block away).
Come see Oliver Mol, Cassandra Dallett, Kath Duckworth, and performing their very third live performance, the ukelele-accordion musical project by Charise Sowells Malouf, Lake Lady. Look, they’re so psyched they even made a video about the show.
Doors at 6:00 pm, reading begins at 6:30 pm. This event is free. Duh.
Some info about our players:
Oliver Mol is a Sydney-based writer. His debut book, Lion Attack!, will be out through Scribe Publications in May 2015. He wants to make you laugh. He wants to make you cry. He is excited and terrified by life. He tweets at @Oliver_Mol www.olivermol.com
Cassandra Dallett lives in Oakland, CA. Cassandra is a Pushcart nominee and reads around the San Francisco Bay Area often. In addition to several chapbooks, she has published online and in many print magazines such as Slip Stream, Sparkle and Blink, The Bicycle Review, Chiron Review, River Babble, and Up The River. A full-length book of poetry, Wet Reckless was released from Manic D Press May of 2014.
From poetry to plays, film to photography, Charise Sowells Malouf is what some have called a renaissance woman. In 2014 she was born again as Lake Lady when she released a self-produced demo with her husband under the band name Lake Lady and the Mountain Man. Since then, she has collaborated with electronic producers around the world and moved to Oakland where she feels more at home than ever. In just a few months here she has played shows, assembled a band and heard her music on the radio. This summer she will be releasing a debut EP produced by Midnite Tiger. The first single can be heard here: lakelady.bandcamp.com
Kath Duckworth is a poetry student at Mills College currently working on a collection of poems about Las Vegas. She is a nominee for the 2015 The Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize and her chapbook ‘Mexia’ was released through Rosefern Press in December. In her hometown of Paris, Tennessee she and her brother were accused of being affiliated with the illuminati. She has no dietary restrictions, no pets, and is up to date on all of her parking tickets.
I wanted to pose a question to my peers and I thought it was a good question to ask, like I could really get some insight asking this question, but then I forgot the question.
If I wait a day or maybe even an hour or just be patient and think about something else like watching an episode of Psych in my head or singing a Diana Ross song in my head, it will usually come back. If it’s a good enough idea it will come back. If you forget it, it will come.
It took three hours? But I remembered the question I thought I had forgotten.
I like talking about writing process. I feel like I am always talking about writing process even if I am not, but especially with my writer friends. I feel like talking about writing process is all I ever talk about because I can talk about other things while making it seem like I’m talking about writing process or talk about writing process while making it seem like I’m talking about other things. I plagiarize my own poems for blog posts.
I like talking about writing process because I am always looking for spare time to write. I try to remember things in my head, like repeat them over and over like a chant or a license plate number after someone hit you while riding your bike, until I think it’s safe to break out my notebook. Writing at work is a challenge for me. I’m constantly being monitored, so I don’t do it. I just chant to remember. Weeknights I’m usually too tired to do much writing, like I’m so zonked from being at work 9 hours all I want to do is eat something and pass out with my cat. I try to use my lunch break to write, and I covet my weekends. I like being social, but I resent having to leave my bed and laptop because all I really wanna do is finish the things I’ve been working on.
How the hell do other people write? When the fuck do you find time to write. How did you finish all that shit? Don’t you people ever work? Does someone else pay your bills? Or maybe you’re just hella better at time management?
So I asked…
HOW MANY OF YOU WORK DAY JOBS? How many hours? What do you do to pay bills?
Jayme started it all, probably.
Last night Jayme invited me and a bunch of other people who have also been previously featured on Shootin’ It to participate in a live video chat. It went on for four hours. It was to a gimmick to get audience members to vote for their favorite guest of the year. You should vote for me.
Four hours, yeah. It was fun, though. I liked Steven Ye’s segment because everyone was sitting on a couch and drinking kinda gross looking bloody marys made with Clamato, and I liked the part before I came on because Jayme and Mike were stalling, because it took me a while to get home, and talking about the foods they eat and working out at the gym.
Yesterday I was on a film set from noon until 11 pm.
It doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, but it’s remarkable how exhausting it is to wait around until it’s your turn to do a scene. I was beat at the end of the day, and greedily ate two slices of the vegetable lasagna Sohee, the director’s wife, prepared for the cast and crew.
I’ve been posting up at craft services a lot.
Every day, like clockwork, there is a new vegetable crudites tray for the film crew and actors to eat. The kind of vegetable crudites tray Gustavo Fring, meth lord on Breaking Bad, always breaks out for meetings when the cartel comes to town. You know, the ones with the ranch dipping sauce in the middle.
Gustavo Fring knows that no one at his meetings will ever touch the vegetable crudites tray, but just ripping off the plastic film and having it out there on the table is enough of a statement.
Gustavo Fring is a boss. Pirooz Kalayeh, our director, is like the Gustavo Fring of the indie film scene.
Or the ‘post alt Kevin Smith,’ which I dubbed Pirooz at the Charles Bukowski bar in Hollywood during an interesting conversation about marketing and playing the art game. You gotta play the art game. The net art game.
The story is a bunch of interweaving narratives. It’s like the Love, Actually of the digital age. But not as corny. Actually, I think the film we’re making is pretty important. Actually, love.
Pirooz wrote a poem about the movie. Here it is:
a reggae musician
who question how to maintain
in the digital age
and other stuff too. 😉
I’m sitting and I’m ready to shoot. I think I’m getting picked up soon. Today I’m acting with Jayinee Basu.
Update: We had a really fun day. Actually, the entire movie-making process was really enjoyable, though the waiting around part was the most difficult (like the Tom Petty song). I’m back in the Bay and feel kind of empty now. Like, I just had this amazing prolonged experience where I was working and doing new things and feeling accomplished and now I’m back in my normal life working a terrible job with no benefits and I’m like, damn. I wish I could always be making movies. I wish I could live like that forever.