A Conversation with Corey Mesler ~ Lisa Zaran

Lisa Zaran

“Once I gave myself permission to be a novelist, it is all I want to do.” 

Recently, I was lucky enough to begin a correspondence with Corey Mesler. What started out as a “tete-a-tete” to quote Mesler himself, bloomed into a full fledged interview.

And what an engaging man he is.

The owner of one of the nations oldest independent book stores, Burkes Book Store located in Memphis, Tennessee, Corey is also a novelist, poet, devoted husband and father, music lover, agoraphobic and avid reader.

Basically, the perfect man.

Do not try to compete with Corey Mesler. His output to date includes eight poetry collections, two prose chapbooks, two novels and close to one thousand individual pieces in magazines, journals, lit zines and anthologies.

It is difficult not to be jealous of someone with such a creative handle on literature. Everywhere I turn I find something with his name attached to it, whether it be a poem, a short story, a novel, or simply a blog entry, the entire world is in love with Corey Mesler.

How difficult is it to write a novel? Did you begin writing to be a novelist or a poet?

When I was younger I wrote nothing but poetry, bad poetry. I never thought I would have the confidence to write in whole paragraphs. Then I read Raymond Carver and was blown away and I thought, ok, I can try that, the 2 or 4 page story. So I did. And the first one got published. So for years I said I would never have the patience, nor the talent, nor the creativity, nor the smarts to write a novel. Then I sort of backed into one by writing my first all in dialogue. Then I sort of backed into it again by making my second a collage-novel. Now, lo and behold, I have written 2 straightforward narrative novels (I am working still rewriting the 2nd and the 1st is with my agent). So, just recently I have started to answer to the moniker Novelist. Not that I’ve given up my old moniker Chucklehead.

What do you spend more time doing?

Typically now I write prose and I’m always in a novel or short story. In between bouts of doing that I write poems. The poems just keep coming, the product of my leaky head which never shuts up.

It is through your poetry that I know you best, but recently I came across a piece in Turnrow, an excerpt from Following Richard Brautigan. Tell me a little bit about this. Will this become a book?

That is the first section of my unpublished 3rd novel of the same name. It is with my agent if my agent actually exists which I often doubt.

After its appearance in Turnrow it won the Plan B Press Beat Writing Chapbook contest and was published by them in a limited edition chapbook with a cover picture which was meant to echo the cover of Brautigan’s great novel, The Abortion, a photo shot by my friend Alisa. And to all I wish to say that since that cover photograph I’ve lost 20 pounds. Really.

How often do you write?

I write literally every day. Where did this discipline come from? I have no idea. I am not this steady in any other aspect of my life. There is nothing else I show up for religiously like this, except perhaps televised Tiger basketball games. But, somewhere in middle age I became the living embodiment of Uncle Ben Franklin’s dictum, Early to bed, early to rise. I am up between 5 and 6 every day so that I get at least a couple hours at the keyboard before the world intrudes. Anne Lamott says that if you write at the same time every day and in the same place your body will make itself ready at that time and your brain will fire if it is meant to fire. I find this for the most part true.

Do you sit down with the intention to write, with a specific idea in mind, or do you just allow it to come naturally?

I sit down without preconceived things to write unless I am in the middle of a short story or novel. I am most comfortable in the middle of a novel. It is a place of comfort like being in, say, the middle of good dream, the kind where the person who spurned you in your wanton youth is suddenly transformed by night-magic into someone who cannot do without you. That kind of dream. Wait. What was I saying? Oh, yes, being in the middle of a novel is a lovely way to start a day and I rarely—knock on wood—experience writer’s block. My friend Tim, who is a painter, says he cannot imagine working on the same thing for over a year. Formerly I couldn’t either. But now that I’ve gotten my Novelist Badge in the mail (it’s quite nice, something between those “Hello I’m—“ plastic convention badges and the great ones you used to be able to obtain as a member of the Man from UNCLE fan club). Anyway, once I gave myself permission to be a novelist, it is all I want to do. Yet I still have short story ideas and poems still rain down like mental hail storms. Poems I write in between-times. They are more the kind of inspiration that you just pray for, the kind that hits you when you’re peeing, for instance, or in the middle of the night. Poems, for me, start with a line, a conglom of words that somehow, through glottological alchemy, spur one to go on, to go on talking. What was the question?

When in a rut, what, if any, types of writing exercises are you fond of?

A rut for me would be a morning I don’t physically feel well. Even some of those I’m still able to write. It’s like, forget the pain in your lower back, what did Jim say to Marsha?

Do you read others’ works to fuel your inspiration?

I do keep handfuls of poetry books beside my keyboard and, dipping into them is inspiring and often jump-starts the poetic side of my brain. For instance, right now I have this great anthology called Contemporary East European Poetry which is so deep and rousing that I may be lost in it for months and my poetry may suddenly be about pogroms and shtetls and such. I also have the City Lights edition of the poems of Jacques Prevert called Paroles.

Who, among your contemporaries, do you admire? I am especially interested in those who are following the same vein of online publication.

I have the world’s worst memory and really don’t recall names very often. I do love Ward Abel’s work. I’ve liked some things by Julie Bolt, Doug Hoekstra, Jeff Crook, Mark Yakich, Whitney Pastorek, Amy Gerstler, Steve Almond, Lyn Lifshin, Tom O’Connell, John Sweet, John Amen, uh, you…….I’m gonna forget some names so I won’t even try to be all-inclusive. I’m gonna miss saying some of my friend’s work.

Are there any modern, web-based authors whose work you are impressed with or inspired by?

I guess I just answered that except for the why. The why is that their words stopped me in my browsing like a three-headed dog at the entrance to Hell. What does Cerberus say? He says, “Now, just wait a minute-”

Favorite book? And why.

I have to say Ulysses even though immediately that will provoke eye-rolling and smirks. But, really, it’s the richest novel I’ve ever read and it lives inside of me like no other book. Ulysses is a city once visited can never be forgotten. Joyce was from the future. Oh, and by the way, I’m typing this answer on Bloomsday. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Favorite movie and why.

I wanna keep my egghead reputation alive and say something like Godard’s Band of Outsiders, a movie I find indescribably delicious. But, honestly, my favorite all-time film is Annie Hall. Woody Allen is our second-most important American director (you gotta say Altman is 1st) and Annie Hall is his best film. It’s funny and funny is very important to me and it also dissects romance the way no other modern film does. Like Chaplin, Allen is able to combine comedy and drama smoothly and brilliantly.

Favorite musician, etc. We talked previously about how we share music as a source of inspiration.

Who inspires you most? Meaning, what music or musician or song writer causes you the most glee?

Oh well it all starts and ends with Dylan. I named my son after him for Godsake. Like the Bible, you can dip into Dylan’s lyrics and pull out a plum every time. He is tapped into ancient knowledge, arcane mysteries, the world before the world. But when writing I listen to all kinds of things. I like background noise and write best when loud music is on. I listen to a lot of 60s psych-pop this way. Andy Warhol used to paint with the Rolling Stones blasting and he said it was to clear away conscious thought and let unconscious do the painting. And to that I say, uh, yeah, that sounds about right. Also, I have to mention here The Beatles. They are joy distilled. When I need Joy Distilled I put any Beatles album on. Kurt Vonnegut said, “I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did’.”

It is imperative that I respond to this. So much in common, you and I. It does all start and end with Dylan. You state it very eloquently. I could pirouette forever through his songs. It is an unfair question, and one that has been asked of me many times, but if forced to choose, what is a favorite Dylan song and why?

Favorite Dylan: you probably assume that I will not be able to give one answer. My first impulse, so perhaps this is the truest answer, is “Visions of Johanna.” Because of the way he sings it and because it, to me, is his purest poetry. Lines like “Inside the museum infinity goes up on trial” are just too good. They rattle around in your head like loose screws. But I would have to hedge and declare, on another day I might just as readily say, “Tangled Up in Blue,” for lines like “There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.” Which make you wish Dylan would write a novel. And, to let that hedge grow more branches, I am also religiously partial to the dada period of The Basement Tapes (the original still bootleg-only version and even Robbie Robertson’s cleaned up version.)

I extend this question with The Beatles. Perhaps with them, who do you love more, John or Paul?

John, of course.

Favorite Beatle song, John: “Tomorrow Never Knows” because of the line “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying.” Part of which I appropriated in my hippie novel. Cryptic John is as good as cryptic Dylan. Or how about “Happiness is a Warm Gun” or how about “I am the Walrus?” I mean, “Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe” is cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Favorite Beatle single (Paul, of course): either “Lady Madonna” (the line “Though she feels as if she’s in a play she is anyway” is smart like few song lyrics are) or “Paperback Writer” because it is, natch, about books.

What is your goal with writing?

What is the goal of writing always? To make sense of the senseless, or even of the insensible. A fool’s ambition, or, as it’s more commonly known, fool’s goal.

In ten years where would you like to be? As a poet, novelist or otherwise.

 

Alive. Unafraid to travel. (This is the agoraphobe’s truncated life-wish, to be able to stretch that tether so that I can move freely more than 10 miles away from home base.) Watching the movie version of my novel Talk on TCM with Hope Davis and Scarlett Johansson and Campbell Scott. Well, not watching with them but…well, you get it.

Agoraphobia is commonly misunderstood as a fear of “open spaces”. But this isn’t necessarily true is it? It could also be severe anxiety in situations where the sufferer is afraid of losing control, their fear is so high they begin to avoid either situations or places. Many agoraphobics become housebound. You are not a housebound agoraphobic correct?

Literally, it means “fear of the marketplace” and this is closer. In my case I have panic syndrome and the fear of leaving my house stems from that, a fear of having a panic attack outside the house, and a panic attack, friends, is absolutely the worst thing I can imagine happening to me. A panic attack is often mistakenly called fear of dying but, no, it is more a vision of the void, a quick glimpse into the hole in the center of being. A dark abyss. Emphasis on the dark. As if one suddenly, but irrevocably, sees the utter meaninglessness of existence. I cannot make light of this (or even acknowledge that pun) because it flat out scares the shit out of me. Even writing about it here gives me the collywobbles.

How far do you travel? Is it with great difficulty?

I can go out by myself on good days for a quick jaunt to the video store or the corner grocery. On bad days I am housebound. And on many days I can go with my wife, who in the vernacular of the literature is my “safe person” almost anywhere in town. Can’t leave town of course. That would be certain death.

How long have you suffered from agoraphobia? Was it something you believe you were born with or did certain events cause it?

According to my therapist I have been building my agoraphobia my whole life. There’s a committee in my head telling me bad things and the chairpeople of that committee are the bullies I endured when small. In his terms, I have internalized and become those bullies and I continue to believe their bleak assessment of me.

If all this makes me sound childish, believe me, that’s exactly how it feels. The fear is the same fear I felt walking into first grade for the first time. A gut-level dis-ease. Fear at its purest, with no relief seemingly in sight.

Where do your ideas come from? Mainly, the ideas for your stories. Does each character represent some aspect of Corey Mesler?

After Talk I had to have a t-shirt made that said, “I am not Jim,” its protagonist. Whatever bit of my life I use to germinate a character that character is never me. It is an aspect of me because I wrote it down and no one else did. But I think my characters are sprung from my story ideas and those story ideas come from hither and yon. Lately mostly yon. Or sometimes my characters create the story. It’s never one way or another. I think, often, that it’s odd that I don’t take more characters from real life, from people I know or have known. I guess in this way I am a fabulist, though that’s such a fancy term I couldn’t, in good conscience, claim it. Sometimes characters come from my readings. Not characters stolen from other books, mind you, but characters inspired by ideas from those books. Sometimes they come in the mail like sweepstakes winnings and sometimes they come from friends who know I am character-challenged.

How’s the bookstore business? If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say tough. I admire you. The world you are ensconced in makes me think of a small drop of water in a very large pond. How do you compete with the conglomerates?

We are losing the war. Which is to say that America is losing the war. Soon, there will only be Big Box Businesses in all areas, not just bookstores. And then the country will be as boring as Television. And then people will stop reading and only play video games. And then sooner they will stop going out to get food, and then stop eating and mating and hence perish as a race. Or that’s how I see it. It seems a natural declension to me. Say goodbye, friends, anti-intellectualism won out. These are the end-days.

You are a lovely, intelligent, and forthright man Corey Mesler, tell me, what are your immediate plans for the future? This question does not relate to the “where would you like to be in ten years”, I mean immediate future. Tomorrow. Next Friday.

Thanks for the nice adjectives. I want to finish the novel I am now writing. For some reason, lately, I’ve been feeling that I will not live long enough to see this novel published. I don’t know why. Because I think this one has more commercial potential, a phrase I’m not really very comfortable with. Which is causing intimations of mortality. And that’s driving me to finish it and at least give it its shot at being loved.

The worry you have about dying before the novel is published. Do you think this stems from a fear of success? Perhaps the novel is “that” good. Soon you’ll be on Oprah’s Recommended book list.

Yeah, that’s it! Honestly, it is the best thing I’ve written. So, perhaps, yes, I am afraid I couldn’t handle its success. Or that I don’t deserve it, though I don’t want my therapist to read that last bit.

Off the top of your head:

Best friend? My brother.

Most significant moment? The births of my kids.

Happiest memory? Ditto.

Biggest accomplishment? Ditto.

Disappointment? When Sports Night was cancelled.

Obviously, writing is a permanent goings-on in your life. Without the rhythmic hammer and drive of writing, what else could you see yourself doing, artistically?

Seriously, nothing.

I would trade every other talent I have to be a musician but I didn’t get that chip. Whatever it is in humans that makes music they forgot to put in Corey. I was the only kid in my 4th grade class who didn’t learn to play the tonette. Which perhaps is why I am such a fan. Music is, then, to me, magic. Who wouldn’t want to make magic?

What I’ve read of your work, I am most often amazed at how easily you can cement an idea. How real your characters/their lives are. Is it the life of each character and what they think the point you are trying to get across? Even in your poetry I have found your words to stand up off the flat page, or in the case of internet publications, dance across the screen.

I would be the last to know why they do that. I want to believe you that they do.

In Fifth-Watch Bells, a poem recently published in Ducts.org you write:

Fifth-Watch Bells
No longer beautiful
I eschew beauty.
No longer patient
I eschew patience.
Once, when I was young
and golden,
women came to me in
pairs, promising
things they would
later deliver.
This I called love.
Once, when I was young
and golden,
I examined my heart
and found it
to be full of joy.
This surprised me,
even then.
No longer the late night
poet, I eschew
the changing of days.
How I went before is not
how I now go.

This is an extraordinary poem to me because not only does it strike the nail home with aging, we all age and so every one of us can feel the pulling sadness of: “No longer beautiful/I eschew beauty.” You as the poet have chosen to make this poem bleakly honest. “No longer the late night/poet, I eschew/the changing of days.” As a reader it is an aching statement because I too want to avoid too much change yet this is one of life’s blows we all have to deal with. The final two lines “How I went before is not/how I now go.” The impression I get here is that the poet has chosen to go now with an almost “thought-free” mind. He knows he is no longer young or beautiful, perhaps senses that even his patience, joy and other once-natural tendencies are fading too. By avoiding everything, especially those golden days of youth, he is free.

Have I understood the poem the way you meant it to be understood? Perhaps I’ve blown it way out of proportion, but isn’t that what great writing does? Causes the reader to wrap themselves around each word and make them their own?

It is the most complete and intelligent reading of anything I’ve ever written by anyone who has ever read it. Really. Thank you. The thought-free mind, yes, I aspire to because my therapist was a Zen Buddhist. This poem is rather nakedly autobiographical, isn’t it? Well, here’s my philosophy. Feel free to start a cult around it. We are all gonna be worm-food one day so it’s important that while we’re still corporeal that we make some attempts to communicate with each other, however difficult, however impossible, and that we talk about real things, about how we really feel and, in the end, even if they’re as dangerous as Pandora’s box, to go ahead and let the emotions out. Would you please tell me I’m lovely again?

By the way, there is a dialogue poem on your site that I particularly admire. I wish I’d written it. It’s called “The Difficult Suitor.” The rhythm of it, particularly, is hypnotic and it seems to speak about what we were discussing about the writer’s self, how much of it is in what he or she writes, how much of the voice is the writer’s voice. It’s a really fine and multifaceted and mysterious piece of work. As you know I have written extensively in dialogue and admire greatly when it is handled well and so poetically.

When I read something I really liked or enjoyed, whether that enjoyment arose out of excitement about the writing or despair in the writing, I feel like the work never leaves me. Certain poems, certain stories, certain songs are always with me, in their own way, my life will never be the same, or as it was prior to hearing or reading. Do you feel this strongly about literature and/or music? If so, can you elaborate?

Oh, in spades. It’s why we go back to these things. Especially literature—it works in us like tiny time pills. I carry around in me lines and ideas from things I’ve read and they enrich the everyday, which, let’s face it, needs enriching.

Do you think it takes a certain maturity to “get” your work? Say, could a 15 year old understand and accept a poem or story you’ve written?

It takes a certain maturity because parents are warned not to give my stuff to their children. Writing, mostly, NC-17 fiction I have created a gap between me and the youngsters. (Though I do have some children’s stories actually, which I would love to have published.)

But, I think what you mean by the question is perhaps, do I think what I write of a certain sophistication that inexperienced readers might struggle with it? To which I say, I ain’t sophisticated. And I also say that one doesn’t want to shut anyone out. Writing should be like a good church and open its doors to everyone, even those who want to nail their own declarations on those doors. But, the writer is grappling with something complex and hence, at times, the methods must be complex. Does that make sense? Nothing is for everyone, I guess is the appropriate writer’s shilly-shally.

Also, what I read, and what I am influenced by is, for the most part, experimental writing, the great po-mo movement of the 1960s and after, Barth, the Barthelmes, Pynchon, Vonnegut, Gilbert Sorrentino, Thomas Berger, Gaddis, Gass, DeLillo, David Markson. And the surreal poetries of James Tate and Frank O’Hara and Terry Stokes.

So, to that extent, sometimes my poor attempts to please these Literary Gods might veer toward the – what’s a good word for it – pretentious? experimental? investigational?

In an effort to understand life, its ups and downs, trials and tribulations and so on, what makes you happy? And this is a silly question because I don’t believe in a state of happiness myself, but if such an idea were possible, to reach a state of happiness and remain there for more than a fraction of a second, can you explain what or who it is that can, if not give, then at the very least show you happiness?

My family makes me very happy. Hitting a good writing jag makes me happy. Sex, reading, watching movies, listening to music. Just about in that order.

When not writing or running your bookstore, how do you like to spend your time?

Thinking about writing and running the bookstore. I am trapped in my own head.

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Sam Taylor-Wood ~ Artist

 

 

 

 

I happened to stumble upon a book featuring a series of colour/BW photographs of male actors crying, and surprisingly STW actually captures that moment when a “man” has dropped that emotional guard and looks like any another normal person.

Visit: http://www.artnet.com/artist/16443/sam-taylor-wood.html

 

Sam Taylor-Wood

dogmatika

dogmatika

One of my favourite literary zines! This site includes, amongst other things, book reviews, features, interviews and a blog that’s updated daily! A world without Dogmatika would be as dull as Birmingham!!

 

http://www.dogmatika.com/dm/

Interview with the Lauren McCarthy

Posted On September 22, 2006

Filed under Beat, poetry, review

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www.poetlauren.co.uk

Lauren McCarthy currently lives in the heart of England’s Black Country. Her writing displays the observations and memories of one who has always inhabited the fringes of a large, historically industrial city, combined with the nuances of the everyday, the tensions and experiences which are not only her own, but those of an anonymous mass. Lauren’s writing can be viewed online at http://www.poetlauren.co.uk, following the links to published pieces online and in journals.

What do think of the lit scene in the midlands? Do you think the local press/arts council could do more to promote Black Country Literature? Personally I feel it’s a tad boring and dominated by retired teachers. (Although I could be wrong!!)

Well, as Birmingham is the second city, there are some mentions of poetry and lit in the local press, but as a midlands ‘scene’, I really don’t know how popular all these events are – I don’t go to any myself! Maybe I should bite the bullet and go, but I’m not sure I want to…perhaps I’m just anti-social, but I don’t know what I would gain from being ‘on the scene’? I have dabbled on the internet in ‘regional’ forums just to see what it would be like to connect with other local writers, but to be honest the vast number of rude and overly opinionated voices online put me off – not all bad, but there’s always one who can’t let it go – chat room rage is never an attractive quality! Your analysis of the Black Country scene is probably about right, and more press coverage might be what’s needed to bring about a change.

Who are you influenced by? I read your Elephants and Castles story it seems that your influenced with what’s going on around you. (I could identify with the smell of hops; it’s a seriously foul stench, but after awhile you actually get used to it.)

Influence is a curious thing, not really a question of who but what, for me at least – surely influence is absorbed at every moment, to take in or discarded at will. I can’t help but write about what I know – abstract muses are fine, but writing about the familiar means that the layers can be explored –observation and analysis are the keys to my writing I think. However you analyse a poems ‘spark’ or theme, whatever the term you want to call it – the essence that allows a poem to build in your head can be emotion, but sometimes it helps to be a neutral observer, writing poems in a BBC war correspondent drone. This can remove the emotion that leads to grim overly-expressive poetry, and gets down to the grit of everyday life.

Any other local poets/writers we should know about?

Mil Millington lives in my area of the Midlands; famous for the blog ‘things my girlfriend and I have argued about’ and many other books. I do believe he’s hosting all night novel-writing sessions in Birmingham – this kind of experimental writing is interesting, and lack of sleep can indeed induce all kind of creative writing!

Other than writing what else have you been doing?

Apart from writing, I live a double life as a designer of textiles and clothing, which at the moment is a labour of love with very little cash flow! At the moment I am working on a range of utopian outfits to bypass the mass fashion system. My work is online at: http://www.whispandthread.co.uk

How difficult is it producing and distributing your own book?

‘The Haunted Bird House and Other Poems’ was / is an experiment – I had my first collection of poems ready in January 2006, and I wanted to bypass traditional publishers and make it a DIY poetry project, I formatted the booklet on my PC and used my own ink sketches for the cover sleeve. As I make clothes, the obvious thing was to stitch the spine – and my little booklet was created. I have done two batches of 100, which are almost gone, and two special copies have a white stitched spine instead of black. The distribution was by word of mouth and online posts – because it is a free booklet, anyone who wants a copy can have one by emailing me a postal address. The response has been very good – the booklet has gone global to the USA, France, Spain, Germany, Australia and all around the UK. The distribution in spring 2006 was interesting, I thought of secreting copies onto poetry bookshelves of major chain stores in the Midlands area, so I did hit a few stores in Birmingham – maybe they just got binned, but I hope the booklets found good homes! I heard last week that graffiti artist Banksy did a similar thing with rip-off Paris Hilton albums in HMV stores – it’s one way to side step the system.

Do you think the internet has killed off the old school style of being a writer?

As writing is something I’ve recently come to, for me the net was always the place to publish – but with millions of blogs, how do you find what you are looking for in a writer? What the net has done is open up opportunities for new writers to be ‘published’ and read by anonymous masses with very little effort or financial outlay, (or financial gain) – it’s a free press revolution. That said, reading online is not always ideal, as it confines you to a screen unless you print it off yourself. The printed word will always be wanted and needed; you can’t read in the bath with a laptop! Books are such a big part of my life as a reader that I just couldn’t image a world without books.

Do think being successful is selling your soul and being all corporate in the Richard & Judy Book Club kind of way? Or are you not bothered by all that?

Success is not an objective for me, the poetry collection began as a way to put my work out there and see what happened – I really have no concept of whether my writing is good or bad, popular or disliked – my focus was to put down the pieces of poetry that were following me around and clogging up my brain. I write about how I see the world, and some of it isn’t pleasant or particularly ‘poetic’ but it was something I wanted and needed to do. I think don’t think success has to cost your soul, but writers with the objective of world domination, or hankering to become a household name, might just as well go and work in MacDonald’s, for all the creativity clawing to be famous would yield. Writing is badly paid and hard to break into, so why compete in the mass market? I hope there is another way, but I’m not holding my breath.

You’re stranded on a desert Island – what 5 books would want with you?

The Picture of Dorian Grey (Oscar Wilde)
The Summer Book (Tove Jansson)
Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
Waterland (Graham Swift)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)

If you could sit and have a pint with any writer who’d it be and why?

Probably Zadie Smith – I’d ask her if she’s happy at the top, and if she feels pressurised to write mainstream novels, and how she considers the position of her own work in
contemporary literature.

I’ve asked Eric Reynolds, Sammy Harkham & Peter Bagge this question – now It’s your turn: If you could fight any celebrity dead or alive who’d it be?

Sian Lloyd (weather presenter extraordinaire) – does she count as a celebrity? Her hypnotic welsh voice and weird hand movements get me hopping mad for some reason!

Sara Holt

Posted On September 21, 2006

Filed under Beat, poetry, Uncategorized

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Sara Holt

Sara Holt paints timeless art using her fingers, toothpicks, pens, crayons and any other medium she can get her hands on.

She’s been part of several group shows, had her work published internationally, been featured on MSN, and continues to have a powerful online presence.

Please visit: http://www.artmajeur.com/saraholt/

Venice Beat Scene – An Interview with Shanna Baldwin

Posted On September 21, 2006

Filed under Beat, poetry

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venice beach beat scene

So what was the Venice Beat scene like back in its day? 

Ah Back in the day was a beautiful sight..poets abound..It was a major gathering and many places on the boardwalk, art gallery’s, and The Venice West cafe (opened by Stuart Z Perkoff…) a place to hang…, write, listen to music play some chess and Friday nights poetry readings………

Do we know whatever happened to “Big Daddy Eric Nord” after he declared beats/beatniks as “nogoodniks”? 

He went off to a place called Hollywood and never heard of again……… He was part of that scene anyhow…The phrase Beatnik came from that place and we resented it, we were Beat no nik about it…The Russian Sputnik was in the news so everything ended in nik at the time. And all the Hollywoodniks came to pay a dime to ride the tram and look at the freaks…we always pointed at THEM…

Do you think the Venice Beach Beat Poets have had an influence on today’s new wave of poets? 

Definitely it was a very profound bunch of poets sayin some pretty profound things straight off the streets and some from the war protesting a lot of things at the time put that to some Jazz and you got some good stuff………

Can you recommend any new poets on the scene? 

Sure…R.D. Armstrong, S.A. Griffen, Scott Wannberg, Don Kingfisher Cambell, Nancy Shiffrin, John Macker…I’ve been outa the loop for a while so I’m sure there are many more…I just recently got wired to this universe of verse….

When did you actually become interested in the Venice Beat scene? 

I was fresh outa college moved to Venice and one day riding my bicycle… Met James Ryan Morris a poet fresh from the cold streets of New York we talked and lived poetry He introduced me to Stuart Z Perkoff and Tony Scibella…we all moved in together a place we called the cellar… 10 dollars a month cause two of the rooms had water seeping in…

What other writers have influenced you or what ones have you liked? 

James Ryan Moriss was my biggest influence and John Thomas was my mentor He was the cook at the Gas House where I worked as Art Director…taught me the fine art of Haiku and the rhythm of the verse…Bill Margolis and Maurice Lacy all had a hand in it as well…Tony Scibella was the one who showed me about a gentleness and sense of humor underlying it all…….My grandmother another influence she was a poet in Greenwich Village in the days of the Bohemians.

Do you write every day? 

Yes I write everyday. I used to paint a wall white in my kitchen so I could write on the wall when something profound came to mind…

 

What are your methods of writing at present?

I disappear into the wilderness no T.V. no telephone jus me and the elements and pen in hand…Every thought a separate line so I can see the way it flows and that’s the way it goes.

Sometimes I recite “and the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain ” a little prayer as I start to write… the rhythm of Edger Allen Poe’s” The Raven” gets me on a roll………

Conversation with Johnny Ryan

Posted On September 20, 2006

Filed under Beat, Blogroll, poetry, review

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Johnny Ryan

Conversation with Johnny Ryan

Bio from his website: http://www.johnnyr.com/

Originally from the site http://www.the-beat.co.uk

John F. Ryan IV was born in Boston MA on November 30, 1970. As a child, he had a Prince Valiant hairdo, orthopedic shoes, and was occasionally chased with BB guns by neighborhood bullies. His teen years were spent doing homework and watching “Night Flight”. He studied English Literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he had no girlfriends to distract him from making the Dean’s List every year. The disgruntled, post-collegiate Johnny began drawing comics and sending them to his friends, who encouraged him to go legit with his badly scrawled (yet hilarious) artwork.

Over the next few years, he honed his craft in his self-published title Angry Youth Comix, which was picked up by Fantagraphics Books in 2000. There have been nine issues of AYC since, as well as two book collections (Portajohnny and What’re You Lookin’ At?!). AYC has earned multiple Ignatz, Harvey, and Eisner nominations in the years since. Johnny was also a guest of the Festival International des Bande Dessinee in Angouleme, France in 2002, where he presented Will Eisner with an award during opening night festivities and had artwork featured in the festival’s accompanying gallery show. His comics are published in Spain by La Cupula, and have been reprinted in Brazil as well.

Johnny is also the creator of a weekly comic strip, “Blecky Yuckerella”, which appears monthly in VICE magazine and weekly in The Portland Mercury (as well as online). A book collection by the same name was published in 2005.

Johnny’s unmistakable and hilarious drawings have appeared in MAD, LA Weekly, National Geographic Kids, Hustler, Cool & Strange Music, The Stranger, and elsewhere. His artwork appears in nearly every issue of Nickelodeon magazine, wherein he has also collaborated with acclaimed artist Dave Cooper under the pen name “Hector Mumbly”. The two also collaborated on a “Wonder Woman vs. Super Girl” story for the DC Comics anthology Bizarro. He also collaborated with Peter Bagge in both AYC and Bagge’s Hate Annual, in addition to penciling and inking two stories for his DC series Sweatshop. Johnny has also done work for clients such as Nobleworks greetings cards, Rhino Records, and FOX television.

Johnny currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jenny and their two cats, Kang and Kodos. In September 2005, he will be featured in Rolling Stone’s annual HOT LIST issue, to the bemused delight of all who know him.

Are you ever influenced with what’s going on in the news or do you tend to stick with whatever you feel like? 

Sure, sometimes. I did a story called “Islamic Terrorist Spring Break” that was inspired by 9-11. In fact, 9-11 makes several guest appearances in my comics.

How do you go from drawing for the National Geographic Kids and then Hustler? 

Actually, it was the other way around. Doing stuff for kids is pretty much the same as doing stuff for adults. I just have to exchange the sex and violence and profanity for boogers and pizza and Christmas.

Do you still think you’re the most under appreciated person in comic books today? 

I just think humor in general is pretty under appreciated in comic books today, not just me.

Totally random question: Favourite TV show: “Curb your Enthusiasm” or “24”? 

That’s tough! “24″ may be my favorite at the moment. I’ve been watching a lot of DEADWOOD lately, too. I love that show.

Any hints or tips for our budding indie comic artists? 

Get a real job!! Just kidding. I would say that if you want to be a comic artist you need to draw as much as possible, and put out as many comics as you can. That’s the best way to develop your skills and get people to notice you.

What is your ideal story, or rather, what makes a good story? 

Lots of big tits.

From the point of view of an indie comic creator, where do you see the comic book industry heading? 

I have no idea! I live in the NOW, man!!

Any new artists we should know about? 

I just guest edited the comics issue of VICE magazine and I put a few of my favorite new artists in there, like Sammy Harkham, Ted May, Dan Zettwoch, Vanessa Davis, Kaz Strzepek, etc…

If you were to fight any artist dead or alive who’d it be? 

You mean have a physical fight? Probably John Callahan. Kicking his ass seems like a sure thing.

So what’s next for the infamous Johnny Ryan? 

I have to work on a couple of jobs for Nickelodeon Magazine and MAD today. And later I’ll probably watch Judge Judy.

Thanks Sean!

Subway Melodies ~ Michael Krivicka

Posted On September 20, 2006

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 indie film/Subway Melodies

 

 

 

From www.the-beat.co.uk 

 

Michael won his first film festival in 2000 with his short Down and continued to direct but mainly edit since then. His recent award winning projects as an editor include: Two Weeks Ago, I Got a Tattoo, I’m Driving In My Car, and I’m Walking Up the Hill.

 

SUBWAY MELODIES is a feature documentary about the musicians of the NYC subway system and its relationship between mechanical and human sounds. It explores the subway system as a stage and as a complex instrument that never stops playing.

The entire film takes place under ground, never leaving the subway “world”, and takes a new perspective on the subway life as we know it.

Take the ride.

How did you get into filmmaking, and who have been your main influences? 

Since I was little I have been exposed to the world of film because of my dad, who persued a career in theatre, television, and film. Once we left Slovakia because of the Communist situation in the late 80s, we fled to Germany and applied for asylum. Because my dad had no reputation as an actor in Germany and of course because of the language problem, he had to take on other jobs to support the family and he was this way forced to put his career on halt. However, I stayed in the film-world-state-of-mind and always had a love for movies. I have spent hours in video stores remembering the creators of movies and learning more about the people behind the camera. I have especially shown interest in French filmmakers, such as Jean Jacque Annaud, Pierre Jeunet, and especially Luc Besson, who, till today, is my all time favourite filmmaker with such films as “Subway”, “Le Grande Blue”, and of course the classic “La Femme Nikita”. The French style of movies just spoke to me and I was compelled to pick up on it one day…

Where are you from originally?  

I was born in Slovakia, lived there for ten years, until my parents decided to escape the Communist regime and start a new life in Germany where I’ve spent the next ten years of my life and graduated highschool in 1996. As soon as that happened, I moved to the US for my undergraduate studies, and after completing my AA degree in Florida in 1998, I moved to New Jersey for my BA in Media Arts, which I received two years later and immediately started working for a small video place on Times Square. The work was bad, the clientele terrible, and the pay horrible, but I received my working VISA through that company and I was also able to use all the equipment for whatever project I wanted. And that was a big change in my life. With my “partner in crime” and best friend from college, a Korean guy named Juneyup Yi, I started creating a series of short films.It was then when I realised that the editing part of the filmmaking process was going to be my field of speciality. A few years later, however, I started to put together my year-old idea of Subway Melodies… which had to be turned into a feature one day.

 

As far as your long-term career goes, do you intend to move into other realms, such as producing & directing for other writers?

I wouldn’t mind working with other people on projects, such as writers and camera people and even other editors, but for now I am not at that stage yet. I am too involved with this personally important film and I am determined to finish it by the end of this year. It is a very difficult process, even though people look at documentary filmmaking as the “easiest” genre because there is no real script involved and no actors to be controlled, but it is because of that that much more challenging. I am doing everything from directing to PR work, and everything so far has been a learning process for me, which takes this project to a higher level. I like the idea of being in control of everything, but it is that much more difficult this way, however, I have no choice because my financial possibilities are very limited. In a way, I look at Subway Melodies as a personal challenge to find out if it is possible to make a feature documentary all by myself. In the final stage of the film, I will have to turn to a sound expert to “clean up” some of the audio, so no matter what, I will have to work with other people to make this project happen.

Are there any particular genres you’re striving to produce that you haven’t touched yet?  

Sure. I would love to make a feature one day about regular people and their stories. Life provides the best stories for scripts, and I have been fortunate enough to live around very interesting people. So, over the years I have had too many little stories play in my head, and I am hoping one day to put things onto paper, create a solid script and make an honest film about life.

What advice would you give to young filmmaker & writers?  

I am in no position to give advice to anyone just yet. I am still a student of this field and I am learning as I am progressing in my projects. I did learn, however, that it is important to keep contacts in this field because everyone needs someone at some point. It’s sad but true, but one can get a lot further and easier and faster by knowing the right people with the right resources.

Could you tell us a little bit about “Down” & “and I’m Walking Up the Hill.”  

“Down” was my first experimental short film shot on 16mm b/w reversal, transferred to BETA and edited on an Avid Express. I directed, edited, animated, and even acted out the film, and at the end I created the sound design. It is about the experience of smoking and what goes on in someone’s mind when inhaling a cigarette. I got the idea when I picked up smoking myself in my college years, so it felt appropriate to do and I applied this new experience into a project.

 

The New Jersey Young Filmmakers Festival awarded me with the second prize in the college category in 2000, and from then on I went on to create a wide range of shortfilms with Juneyup Yi, the guy I mentioned before. That’s when a couple of years later a project called “I am Walking Up the Hill, I am Driving in my Car” came along. It was a complex little shortfilm dealing with the experiences of two very different people continents apart from each other, and the only thing that connects them is the way their memories are being triggered: by rain. The piece cuts back and forth between the two characters reviving their memories, and the mediums for this project ranged from 8mm footage, over 16mm footage, to miniDV footage, so the final look of the film was as experimental as the content. The film made it into the Asian American International Film festival, credited with Juneyup Yi and Jane Steuerwald as co-directors.

 

I had serious trouble relating to the film, which made it very difficult to edit. It is crucial to make some sort of a connection to the material as an editor, otherwise the film will turn out to feel very “technical” at the end, and since this film was based on personal experiences, it was not easy to relate to.

 

However, the secret to a good final cut of a film is close collaboration with the directors, and that was the key thing to do at that point until we got a good grip on our material and took full control of the piece. The end result was a highly creative and very tight short film capturing an interesting atmosphere between the two characters’ revived memories and gently clashing the two cultures together.

What’s up next for you? 

I am only focusing on Subway Melodies at this point. Even though I have many ideas in my head that I would like to get to soon, I am too consumed with this documentary for now.

In closing, what are your vices and hobbies apart from film? 

Unfortunately, I am a film fanatik and everything I like to do somehow relates to film in one way or another. I like to go to midnight screenings of Taxi Driver at the Sunshine Theatre here in New York City, and I like to attend film festivals to see other people’s creative works and just to be aware of what is out there and what people are capable of doing, and also to get a feel for what audiences these days are going for. I like the film aspects of the New York City life, and that is one major reason why I ended up here and why Subway Melodies is such an important film for me to make.

Sammy Harkham interview

Posted On September 20, 2006

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 sammy harkham

 

First Published in UK The-Beat http://www.the-beat.co.uk

Interview (via e-mail) with the amazing Sammy Harkham. 

The comic strip Poor Sailor, originally published in Kramers Ergot 4, was subsequently included in The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2004 and has been published in French, Korean, and Italian. He was nominated in 2002 for an Ignatz Award for ‘Promisng New talent’, and kramers ergot has been favorably reviewed and placed on numerous best of the year list’s including the LA Weekly, Time.com, Dazed And Confused, The Comics Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly. Harkham currently lives in Los Angeles working on his comic series Crickets and the next volume of Kramers Ergot. 

It’s great to see that you’re into Jamie Hewlett; this guy changed the face of the UK comic scene almost like what the sex pistols had done. Any other newcomers that you feel have had a massive impact on today’s scene? 

There’s a lot of great young cartoonists whose influence you can already see taking hold: C.F., and Jeffrey Brown. Kevin Huizenga is  someone who is brilliant but I think his influence is going to be absorbed more slowly by other cartoonists 

Do think the whole indie comic scene has changed? For example, gone are the days of drawing, photocopying and selling your own comics? (I suppose the internet closed that chapter of indie comics…) 

Not really. There are still a number of amazing mini comic being made  for the love of the form and craft. Just look at usscatastophe.com to  see what I mean. The biggest change has probably been all the attention comics have been getting from major book publishers. It seems every ass who can draw a word balloon is getting huge advances to make a ‘graphic novel’. but I guess the book world has all ways been bullshit. They are in the business of pumping out product as fast as possible. My only hope is that the good work will always be discovered and appreciated, regardless of publisher 

What do you know of the UK indie comic scene? 

I am not terribly that well versed in u.k. comics but two of my favorite cartoonists are based in London-tom gauld and will sweeney.  both of them, while completely different stylistically,  do amazingly  smart, funny, beautiful comics 

Work wise what’s next for you? 

working on a short story called THE DRUG EATERS for crickets 2 and  gathering comics for kramers ergot 7. 

Do you feel at times you get tied up with the business side of things and drawing gets put to one side? 

Not anymore. it was a problem when I was self publishing, and I would  have to spend months on the phone, but now I am working with Buenaventura Press and they handle all the business stuff-invoices, filling orders, dealing with distributors and stores. So I am more free now to just work. 

Have you ever read “Milk & Cheese” by Sarah Dyer & Evan Dorkin (check out the quality site: http://www.houseoffun.com/) 

I was a huge milk and cheese fan as a teenager. it was some of my  favorite stuff next to tank girl and eightball. 

Are you ever influenced with what’s going on in the world? 

How can you not be? I may not make specific comments on things happening in our culture and world, but I think the work I do filters in everything I see and hear in some way. 

Ever thought about going into the animation? Like a short/indie animated film? (I guess it’d cost $$$$$$) 

No, not really. Except for stuff like fantastic planet or the odd animated music video I am not that psyched on animation. 

Johnny Ryan and Eric Reynolds gave interesting answers to this question, so I’ll ask you – If you could fight any celebrity who’d it be? 

I want to wrestle a young Rita Tushingham.