An Interview with Alana Massey
May 18, 2017
Liv Lansdale: Who’s your favorite pop cultural figure?
Alana Massey: Harry Styles. I write and talk a lot about Harry Styles and One Direction in a way that seems a bit flip and like I’m just some sort of overgrown teen with a crush on a floppy-haired boy but I honestly think that Styles is the kind of charismatic performer and person that we get maybe once in a decade, a generation even. People who have followed his career since the beginning of One Direction know that he’s always been exceptionally funny, self-aware, warm, and constantly learning and absorbing information as it pertains to living in a more just world.
LL: Are there any [pop cultural figures] you feel particularly ambivalent about? You love them but you don’t want to, or you believe you should love them but you don’t?
AM: Intellectually, I know I am supposed to revere and care about Madonna because it is indisputable that she’s done incredible things for creativity, for women, and for society. She’s incomparable in so many ways and I get that. But I just have a hard time getting worked up about her or excited, even though I’m a huge fan of the music that made her famous.
LL: At what point did you realize this would be a book of women? Was there a draft with any dude-focused essays?
AM: This was always 100% going to be a book about women and the earliest incarnation of the [book] proposal was actually much angrier and more focused on the evils of men than on the merits of women. I used to think that there was quite enough material about men that I’d never write a word about famous men but as I’ve started doing celebrity profiles and have finally had a chance to write about boy bands at the length and depth I want, I am seriously considering shifting my focus to men. There is a lot of written work about men but very little of it is written by women—what if Vogue and Vanity Fair profiles of men were coming from someone with a hetero-female gaze? Or from a more empathetic, less adulating perspective than so many man-on-man profiles are? What if profiles or essays about men could show that they’re vulnerable more than that they’re cool? Angelica Jade Bastién wrote these two incredible pieces on Keanu Reeves and James Marsden that absolutely blew me away in this area and I would love to see more writing like that from women.
LL: Which essay from All the Lives I Want evolved the most? What was the starting point?
Alana Massey: The Winona/Gwyneth essay started as something of a rant that I ended up reading aloud at the first reading I was ever invited to. It read far cattier, far angrier, and far more self-indulgent than the essay that ended up in the book. The first published incarnation of it was on Buzzfeed and even after it was toned down for that, there was still this dichotomy set up that there really are Winonas and Gwyneths, which I [...] Continue Reading »
al youm: a preview
April 19, 2017
Poetry is capable of willing language into new utility. It can be a political engine, transforming discourse into a line, a fume of impulses. George Abraham is a poet of exact fury, channeling language as he also interferes with its oppressive transmissions. Few writers are able, the way George Abraham is able, to convey the bareness of violence without falling back on traditional poetic instincts. But for George, tradition requires splintering. Encountering George on the page and on the stage, it becomes clear that George is busy casting another net entirely, one in which mastery bows to mutuality, one in which power dissolves away from the absolute and into the terrible space of inhabitance. With George, we must obliterate the language of the Zionist by showing us the language of the Zionist. We must see the Queer Palestinian by seeing the Queer Palestinian present amid their enemies. We see grammar as a kind of ramshackle as the voice of the poems rise up, rise forward, break apart its captors. Working with George has taught me so much about patience and celebration, that we might elect a better community despite what we think we deserve from community. al youm is so much power and grace and beauty. I hope you’ll purchase your copy of it today and celebrate this singular, phenomenal poet. Much thanks, as always, to the ever-talented and brilliant co-editor Emily Raw for creating a gorgeous and compelling cover, and for conceiving George’s book trailer, seen above.
ode to my swollen, mono-infected Spleen
There’s a weight in you that screams at
Unholy hours & this is the first time you
Were led to believe your body is not a chasm;
When your gut becomes an ocean in love
With its tempests & the invisible islands
Swallowed whole in the wake of you —
You’ve got the colonizers shaking in their
Boots; every white thing trembles at
The sight of the expansive planet you’ve become;
There are parts you never knew existed
Until they occupied too much space.
Until your own weight fills your
Hollowed frame & everything inside
You bursts & swells into
A cacophony of organs & white blood
Cells — how could you expect to house
All this fluid & turbulence & history without
Imploding? Don’t they know you have a
Whole country in you? How can
You expect completeness when home is
A borderless entity; when you fit the
Infinite into a single body — how do
They look at you & not see God in that
Swell & undertow? In the Goliath
They made of that fist-sized organ, or the
Holy ghost your immune system has become;
They look at you & see a defenseless thing; a city
In love with the carpet bomb’s embrace;
You ever look at a body on fire & see
God in the burning? You ever sing hallelujah
To an infected thing because it did not
Kill you? Because the battle makes you feel
So alive you’ve forgotten the martyr your
Body has become? You’re still unlearning
The parts of you that shrivel & shrink beneath
The confines of gravity & you’ve begun teaching them
To swell. To crash.
—Originally published by Brooklyn Poets
An Interview with George Abraham
Natalie Eilbert: The experience of reading al youm is a forceful [...] Continue Reading »
Grievances: A Preview
March 8, 2017
Grievances by Roberto Montes from Emily Raw on Vimeo.
Roberto Montes is a poet of many things. The experience of reading his work in Grievances is singular—the lines let white space in like a panicked gulp of air, but the text itself is a sober ballast against that anxiety. Acute in its telling, Roberto is in thrall to nobody as he enlists his political doctrine through personal grievances. One hears in that last sentence, The personal is political, but it is more that language is a violence that should, to borrow from Hannah Arendt, reveal rather than conceal its larger function. And Grievances certainly reveals. From the eponymous poem that starts off the entire chapbook, where Roberto very memorably first utters, “My name is Roberto Montes / I am BACK” to the final poem “Against Eternity,” which closes the chapbook with a fantastic counterweight to the opener, “We do as the gods will not / We die,” the poems push against the invisible frameworks that command and compromise self. Roberto avows himself of a voice fit to dismantle power structures as it is also fit to protect those for whom Poetry does not historically served. There is also a bonus piece after “Against Eternity,” an Acknowledgments page like you’ve never seen before, which acts as a kind of po’biz soliloquy. Designed to read apart from the book, the acknowledgments performs more like the original etymology of acknowledgment: a token of due recognition. In this case, it is a token of due witness, and this level of witness and recognition (for better or for worse) permeates the collection. Roberto is a very capable poet and his form is full of brilliant intention and cognition. Grievances is an important chapbook, not just in how it sees the Poetry Community, but in how it also addresses mental health, family, and the institutions that have only recently been articulated. Roberto is like no other poetic mind out there—exasperation and the ineffable clash and merge in equal, poignant measure. Above, you’ll find a small chapbook trailer conceived of and created by Emily Raw, with Roberto Montes on audio, reading from “Shame Is Revolutionary Feeling.” Below you’ll find a poem from his chapbook, “CAN YOU GIVE EVEN ONE EXAMPLE” (originally published in Sixth Finch), as well as a great interview with Roberto, conducted by Natalie Eilbert, publisher and founder of TAR, who may or may not be author of this very copy. Be sure to buy Grievances immediately.
CAN YOU GIVE EVEN ONE EXAMPLE
This morning on the train someone
Wanted to know my problem
I am a soft surrealist I said crying
The moment you realize it is not
Your reflection in the window
But a borough that could be walked to
Resettling the deserters of your body
Gerrymandering the lines of your face
So that a history becomes laughter
The way laughter becomes an excuse
To get closer to you
It’s too easy to be beautiful on this planet
And the struggle against
Is the most beautiful of all
So when the pointing gatekeepers
Left love completely
Unguarded I took it
I left them more
Than they leave themselves
—Originally published in Sixth Finch
An [...] Continue Reading »
Arcade Seventeen: A Preview
February 2, 2017
Arcade Seventeen by Megan Giddings from Emily Raw on Vimeo.
The flash stories that make up Megan Giddings’s Arcade Seventeen are anything but quick. Megan guides us through a garden of conspiratorial asparagus, a dream diary of centaur sex positions (his name is Harold; one of her favorite positions is the Sugar Cube), a quick trip through real terrifying America, one high school’s liberation of a dead pop star icon, and maybe a few too many Michael Keaton references (KIDDING: never enough). Megan’s pied beauty is absolutely dappled, glory be, but it also makes clean perfect sense, the way you might never notice an egregiously long nipple hair while your body is busy doing so many other things—and then one day, there it is, almost speaking to you, a strong thick thread you can be proud of. Megan’s prose is very smart. There’s a controlled transcendence that occurs on the page, and you know two things immediately: Megan knows where she is taking us, and she is having a blast doing so. When you read Arcade Seventeen, if you are lucky, you will experience an out-of-body order of things: the wind will seem to sing and its voice will only be mediocre; a deli will chuckle with you about life’s waning possibilities; maybe you’ll get into your car and find yourself in another animal’s heaven. We don’t know what will happen to you, only that they will lift you into the epiphanic, a reality that finally makes sense but for its absurdity of human truth.
On a night back to New York City, I (Natalie Eilbert) sat down with the new co-editor Emily Raw, Siena Oristaglio of The Void Academy, and Dolan Morgan, and together they draw image after image using pastels as I read aloud Megan’s book (as seen in the trailer, above). We laughed and moved with her stories, making concentric circles around the gesture of a plant life. And perhaps that is the most wonderful aspect of Megan’s aesthetic: The gestures of life, the troubles of life within those gestures. It’s as Vilem Flusser defines gesture, “a movement of the body or of a tool attached to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation.” That’s where the joy in Megan’s work is: There is no explanation, there is no big terrible truth. We pass down the memory of cheese from generation to generation. We love the woman across the table from us and that realization is not a conclusion at all. Whatever happens in this life is already happening. But there Megan is, giggling as she assures us that indefinite chaos is probably the best we can do. Make sure you buy Arcade Seventeen right away.
Here’s one story from the book, originally published in New South. Come for the story preview, stay for the conversation between Megan and Natalie.
The New Audacious Line
Dana is obsessed with finding the perfect pink lipstick. She has been watching enough TV for teens and women who like purses to have an idea of what she wants: a pink that [...] Continue Reading »