Poets Online Talking About Coffee: IX - XVI
by Russell Bennetts
How is the coffee in St. Paul?
I might be the last person you should ask about St. Paul coffee in general. On an ordinary day I make do with drip Folger’s at home and distilled sludge at the office. The two coffeehouses nearest home, Trotter’s and Kopplin’s, serve lovely lattes and cappuccinos with charming barista art, but for me their chief usefulness isn’t coffee and pastry. Trotter’s is my favorite place to read, or to hear other people read. I gave my first-ever reading there in 2009, and it remains a nice glow in memory. I hope the Trotter’s reading series has a long life, even though curator Jim Rogers keeps threatening to give it a rest. Both places are superb as venues for chewing the fat with poets.
And do you ever write while at Trotter’s?
I don’t, neither at Trotter’s nor in any other coffeehouse. I know others can write in lively public places; I’ve seen people tapping away at laptops in any number of little coffee shops and pubs. Nina’s even has a sign-up sheet that asks writers to list the published books they’ve worked on there. But conversation distracts me; even music distracts me if it’s a song with lyrics in English. I’m most productive in a quiet house, making notes or stopping at the computer in the midst of mindless household puttering.
Your second collection, Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter, has a wintry theme. How much was this influenced by where you live?
To put it mildly, we have a LOT of winter here. A typical Minnesota winter might be five months long, and I am not a winter-activities fan, so for me the extra homebound time has generated quite a lot of poems. Some are about the emotional freight of the cold and dark themselves (“Confessional Work: Late Advent” and “Express”) and others are about the unending wait for something better (“Rose Catalogue in January” and “Emergences“) or the ambivalence of seasonal celebrations (“Holiday Concert”); and a few are about the surprising beauties of winter (“Northeast Digs Out…”). The weight of so much winter tends to heighten the importance of other seasonal feelings too, which is why the book’s sections are spread out across the year, and why spring, summer, and fall poems like “Airheads”, “Mayday“, “Late Season Day Trip,” and “Chiller” are as important as the winter poems.
But winter does take up a lot of my head space, and even my new book, Mid Evil, which has a very different focus, includes a winter-focused rant.
And what is the focus of Mid Evil?
The title is a two-pronged allusion. It points to the medieval poetry I concentrated on in graduate school and once hoped to teach, and it hints at the phrase “amid evil,” which is the way all of us live, the dark wood we have to find a way through. The poems in the book converse with older literature and with modern riffs on it, like the Tolkien phenomenon. They also talk about ancient and modern ideas about God and nature, and they grapple with problems like ageing, inequality, death and doubt. Mixed in with my own poems are a few translations from Old English, Middle French, and Medieval Latin.
I’m guessing there are few mentions of coffee in the translations.
Good guess. There’s no coffee there, but there’s a lot that’s surprisingly contemporary, or perhaps I should say timeless. For example, there’s this Old English riddle from the Exeter Book, which might be about an onion, and might be about something else. And another of the riddles is one I felt I had to translate in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The Middle French poems are a woman’s take on marriages, good and bad, and the Latin is a lament for the loss of one of the beauties of nature, a bird’s song.
Was Tolkien an influence?
Yes, along with other influences. His books nudged me in the direction of wanting to study the literature that lay behind them, but they weren’t the only things pushing in that direction. In the Catholic schools of my childhood, there was a nostalgia for medievalia, and that was certainly part of the push, though I didn’t know the extent of it until much later. But the main influence was simply falling in love with the old music of the four-stress alliterative line, the meter of Old English. Not much modern poetry is written in that meter, but I’m fond of it and use it often, not just for translations. I guess an example is in order.
The medial caesuras must make for interesting readings. (As in, out loud.)
I don’t know how other people handle them in reading, but I don’t pause. The alliteration in these lines goes along with the stressed words, and those two together do all the work. The forward motion, the swing of it, is what I love.
What do you know about the provenance of these medieval poems? How were they recorded?
Everything we know about these poems we know because of manuscript copies. Many of the Old English poems have come down to us in exactly one copy, and that’s true of the riddles I translate; they’re from the Exeter Book, a tenth-century manuscript that preserves the only copies of many of the best-known Old English poems. The poems in Middle French were written by Christine de Pizan in the late fourteenth century. She was one of the most distinguished writers of the period, and many beautifully made copies of her books have survived. In Mid Evil, I’ve translated two poems from her book One Hundred Ballades.
It’s amazing to me that it’s now possible for anyone to see images of these books online, with a few clicks of a mouse. Not many years ago, only specialists ever saw such books. One had to travel to spend precious hours with a manuscript, or arrange to purchase a microfilm copy from a research library and then spend days bent over a microfilm reader. Working with the manuscript itself in a rare book room was, and still is, quite a ritual. There’s a poem in the new book about my one experience of that.
Have you experimented with translating your contemporary poems into Old English?
It hadn’t occurred to me. And the audience would be very small, since no one is growing up as a native speaker of Old English these days. (I hope you can hear the smile in that last sentence.)
The things I do like to experiment with are all the kinds of poetic form in modern English. Like a lot of formal poets, I probably breathe iambic pentameter, so I try to get away from it every so often. I enjoy using unusual ancient meters like sapphics or classical hexameters, and I like to try newly invented forms like the fib, a counted-syllable pattern.
Like your poem “Fibs for a Construction Zone“, recently published in Berfrois. I think that poem would genuinely sound great read over a hip-hop beat.
That’s an interesting idea, though it ought to be read by someone who really understands hip-hop.
I think in my heart I believe in the page, or the screen, more deeply than I believe in oral performance. Of course I give readings—we all have to–and I love recording, and I try to make the recordings and the performances the best they can be. I’m lucky in this, because my husband is an enthusiastic amateur sound man and has some good equipment, and he’s very generous about helping me record (and lecturing me about my mic technique). But there are things only the page can do, even if a poem is formatted simply. The page is better at conveying line breaks, or rhymes that are far apart or that don’t chime strongly. Lines in syllabics and lines that are heavily enjambed are a lot easier to understand as lines when they come in via the eye rather than the ear. The page gives you a second chance at “hearing,” and many more second chances. I know this is an uncool opinion, so I like remembering that Larkin shared it.
And Larkin, of course, was the coolest librarian of them all.
And by all the accounts I’ve read, he was good at what he did. I, being an indexing manager as part of the day job, honor and bow to librarians. But Larkin is a model in another important way, besides having written poems that will last. He seems to have made peace with fitting his writing into the margins of his nine-to-five life, which is what most of us have to do. He wasn’t thrilled about it (unlike Wallace Stevens, for example, who apparently liked his prestigious position at The Hartford). Larkin wrote tellingly about his frustrations in the poem “Toads,” lamenting that he wasn’t “courageous enough/ To shout, Stuff your pension!” It’s interesting to me that he also pointed to the pension, in his Paris Review interview, as a reason for continuing in the library job even when he had reached the point of being able to support himself by poetry, fairly late in his life. But in the same poem, he faced up to the “something sufficiently toadlike” in all of us who would like to have both security and freedom and who have to find a balance.
Of course what Larkin left out of that balance was family. I think most of us would rather not leave that out. It was my excuse for not writing at all for thirty years, with the result that I’m now trying to make up for lost time.
But you do have thirty years of material, as it were.
More, actually. The missing thirty years are my grown-up life, and there are childhood experiences still to be mined, which I’ve begun to do in Mid Evil. I see those experiences differently now that I’ve passed through the years of actively mothering. The passage from that intensity of parenting to children’s independence prompted a big piece of my first book, Breath Control. I started writing again in the process of navigating that passage; I’ve written about that, and about how much I owe to fellow poet Anna George Meek, in this essay. My father’s decline and death from Alzheimer’s, my sister’s death from cancer, and my mother’s toll of losses leading up to her death have all triggered poems that stretched across the first two books. The third book, as I’ve said, is organized around older literature and what its study has meant to me. Going forward, I’ve been trying to open out, to concentrate less on the emotional hothouse of family and more on the larger world. But the two are never truly disentangled.
Because we all want love and we all want to be loved and unloved. Because we all want to be fucked and we all want to be the fucker. But we want to be fucked and loved by time and the gods and that’s impossible because time hates us and so do the gods, they despise our mortal flesh. Because we all want to be beautiful and we all want to destroy beauty. Because there’s an impulse to live and there’s an impulse to die, to procreate, to kill our babies, to suffer, to not suffer, to desire, to be unloved, to be free, to be in a cage, and we want all of that shit boxed up in 14 lines. And then 14 lines ain’t enough so we want more 14 lines so we make sonnet sequences that tell our sonnets stories like ocean waves one after another because we are sadists and masochists. Hit me with another sonnet! We don’t know what we want but we want sonnets. We don’t really want the sonnet. We do. We don’t etc.
Bikinis are these just amazing, right? They are sooooo prude and almost the equivalent of the Victorian corset and bring up so many feminist issues! (Do you shave your pubic hair so that you look “better” in a bikini?). Can you fit all of your boob flesh behind those triangular pieces of spandex or nyon or whatever bikinis are made out of? Do you even wear a bikini? Why not go naked? Ohhh because laws…..which brings me to the second reason I love the bikini. The bikini got its name from Bikini Atoll which is where the United States tested nuclear weapons in the late 1940s. Apparently the designer wanted the introduction of the bikini to modern society to have an “explosive” effect, because a woman’s body always seems to be a site of violence, chaos and nonlinearity. I like material things in culture that are able to symbolize all of these conflicting forces and tendencies: the bikini is the law but it also undermines the law, male and female. Ultimately, I hope we can just burn all the bikinis and run around on the beach naked. Bikini Atoll is unlivable after our nuclear tests. I think the contemporary world is basically one big Bikini Atoll. If only we could blow ourselves up and start again.
I keep getting called a MILF. Like two years ago a male poet called me the “Ultimate Poetry MILF.” He meant it as a compliment. I was like wait a minute that sounds really sketchy and weird. Then about a month ago I told another male poet that that male poet called me the “Ultimate Poetry MILF” and he was like what is wrong with that? I mean you are literally a mother I want to fuck. Then I was like what in the fuck is wrong with these male poets? They don’t seem very enlightened. I mean, it’s not a compliment to me that you want to fuck me, you know? INSTEAD READ MY POEMS about being a mother. Read my poems about the fact that women do more of the labor at home. Read my poems about how women get paid less than men. Read my poems about how many women are in domestic violence situations. Read my poems about single mothers who struggle financially, emotionally and in every other way to try to survive. Read my poems about being stalked and harassed because I have some sort of public presence. Read my poems…..
Your favourite drink is Diet Mountain Dew, of course. But would you switch to coffee if it is was served in an official Big Gulp container?
No, I would never. In fact I wouldn’t drink a DMD of that size anymore, either. I mean the biggest Big Gulp. I think there are multiple sizes. I was on tour w/ my band Nuclear Power Pants in 2005. We were Somewhere in the South — Georgia? the Carolinas? — and we stopped at a 7-Eleven. They were doing this weird deal where fountain drinks were 39 cents or something no matter what the size. The biggest size offered was 64 oz – half a gallon. My brother (who was in the band) and I were like, Well this is a no-brainer, and we each got a 39-cent, 64-oz Mtn Dew (I didn’t do Diet then). So we’re driving around with our Super Wicked Big Gulps or whatever you call them. And, you know, we’re nursing them so long that they get warm and go flat and whatever, and it was like this revelation. We weren’t geniuses, and there are limits to desire. But back to the point at hand. I have never been able to hack coffee. I don’t like the flavour in ice cream or in some weird chocolate thing. It could be the world’s sweetest café au lait — I would not dip my beignet in it.
So, the people want to know, how and why have you moved onto diet?
I was doing like 40 to 48 ounces of Mountain Dew most days. I got to a point where I could drink a tallboy of Mtn Dew and immediately go to sleep. (That sounds like a brag or whatever, but, believe me, I tell you this w/ great shame.) I decided I was going to kick Mtn. Dew with Diet Mtn. Dew. I really didn’t like the taste of Diet at all. I made the rule that if I wanted Mtn Dew it had to be Diet. That worked sort of for a while, I would only down like 12 ounces a day because it just wasn’t that enjoyable. Then, of course, I developed a taste for a Diet, and here we are.
Tears fall like Diet, don’t they?
My tears do.
Just how obsessed with Springsteen are you? Tattoos? Courtney Cox posters?
I’ve recently gotten quite religious — which I don’t mean as a boast — which is to say to truly be religious is to be moral & compassionate & good — and all I mean is that I spend more and more of my time praying and reading — but anyway, since I’ve gotten more “religious” I really try not to be obsessed with anything and not to participate in celebrity so much. Like, did you know that Walt Whitman was a hopeless racist? (Maybe Brits see him as a provincial kind of writer, but he’s a big, big deal over here and has inspired generations who are better than his brutality.) I don’t know anything bad about Bruce Springsteen, but I’d rather not treat artists as if they are gurus or deities or whatever anymore. Saints maybe, but compassionately and in spite of themselves. But I will tell you this: I have his first four records memorized. I cried when the remastered Born to Run came out packaged with Hammersmith Odeon concert film. I discovered that the Darkness sessions were finally being put out when I heard “Save My Love” on the radio, and I had to pull over and figure out what was happening to me. I gave a “lecture” on the arc of his early career as part of the Wham City Lecture Series in Baltimore. (During which I THINK I gravely offended the guy who wrote the 33-1/3 on Born in the U.S.A. but I’m not sure. That guy later trashed a play of mine, and of course I’d like to believe it was some kind of Springsteen beef.) I’ve retracked fantasy versions of The River and Born in the U.S.A./Nebraska using alternate takes and cut songs. Used to be, I couldn’t handle anything after Darkness on the Edge of Town (too many misters and sirs), but now I’m into all of it. I mean, in “Dancing in the Dark” he’s singing “I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book” — that’s pretty special I think. That was the no. 2 song on the radio..
Yes, I’ve played Dancing in the Dark on the jukebox many times. Do you listen to music while you write?
I do. I do. Sometimes. I do the bulk of my writing in my head while I’m doing menial tasks, sort of charging up with ideas. Then I sit down to type and put music on loud. I prefer something instrumental, Morton Feldman, Peter Brotzmann, Ornette Coleman (Skies of America is a go-to), but occasionally — and embarrassingly — something with vocals: Laurie Anderson, Vic Chesnutt, et al. Embarrassing only because admitting so incites accusations about lack of focus. Oh well. I used to write music listening to music. Sometimes I like silence, but I can never work for as long that way. I get jittery after a few minutes and can’t stay in my seat.
What do you do?
I tend to use music as a break from writing (pop-punk, hair metal). Although sometimes I’ll play something instrumental (jazz, classical). I’ve just been reminded of my beef with the author of the Use Your Illusions 33-1/3 book. It’s an attack on Izzy Stradlin, really. And he’s not down with Estranged.
You’re a GNR fan? I guess Wikipedia tells me that had “worldwide success” but I find it hard to imagine they would have much appeal outside of the United States. Do you all watch Duck Dynasty?
Of course! Slash was born down the road from here. He was raised in Stoke-on-fuckin’-Trent, man.
I’ve never seen Duck Dynasty. The Mad take on it put me off.
Your poem “A Letter” begins with a steaming cup of coffee. Isn’t that how all poems should begin?
No. Overuse of foodstuffs in poems in generally a marker of the official poetaster, however; he’s dying for the chummy elbow-to-ribs ‘connection’ he can get by mention of the simple appetites. Sex is among these. Give him back to his diaries. I want you to stop lionizing foodstuffs, Bennetts. Outside of poetry, I’ve got a bent towards black coffee, true. I recently bought a small metal ’stovetop espresso’ unit by Bialetti (‘l’Unica e l’Originale’) that percolates a few cups—it’s changed the Morning Everything. After ten minutes on the range, a rich red-black liquid drips down the wand, then expiring to a gold créme foam. A nearly chewy texture; jammy; nutty; lingering. It wants a vegan lemon biscuit. I’ll give you a short anecdote just for fun. At 25 I sat with my father at a local bar in Pennsylvania. We hadn’t played table shuffleboard that afternoon, but were trading IDs for the quoits. The bartender said: ‘What’ll it be.’ I replied ‘Black coffee and a Rusty Nail.’ My father looked up blankly and held out his hand to the man, saying ‘While you’re back there, grab him an application for AARP.’ The obsolescent never ends up being quite obsolete, and one reason is: the simple appetite for coffee can neither stimulate nor deaden it.
What’ll it be.
Let’s not play games.
How about shopping?
I do still require a vegan lemon biscuit, yes. And a copy of Dorothea Lasky’s Rome sits on my counter. It will be the first book I’ve ever returned for a refund. So: market, bookstore.
How do you decide which books to review in SHARKPACK?
We’re mostly concerned with reviewing poems as stand-alone art-objects, as you know, but have come across some exciting full-length books in the last few months. In an editorial sense, I’m very open: I simply ask a contributor to send me a link to the work she is thinking of examining, and a general (50-word) critical trajectory. If I think a poem in question lacks ambition, I’ll say so, but I haven’t yet vetoed a selection. In terms of examination and extrapolation of poems I thought were unworkable, contributors have ended up teaching me a great deal. We’ve got quite a sharp crew. Everything is in the writers’ hands.
And how does your editorial approach differ when it comes to the SPR Annual?
I’ve thought about this, and yes, had a coffee. I can’t improve on the statement previously written for the Annual: “We believe strongly in the duties of high art; the “intimate revolt”; the simultaneously inscrutable and substantive spirit of the avant-garde; and the Sublime that exceeds us.” When coming across a piece we’d like to publish, I want to feel as Beckett did reckoning with Joyce; that, roughly, the author is not writing about something, but writing Something.
As an aside, to what extent was Beckett’s bleak writing style an effort to distance himself from Joyce?
I can’t speak with any intelligence here, Bennetts, because I’m not well-acquainted with the lives of Joyce and Beckett; the lives outside their works. Also, my loyalties are not equal. My feelings on Joyce are mixed; I think Ulysses, for example, bartered real content for stylistic ambition (Joyce’s own statement about wanting to “keep professors busy” is a clear indication of said predilection, I think) and I don’t respect it much as literature. My feelings about Beckett really soar with The Unnameable and Waiting for Godot. Remember that leveling bit from Vladimir in the latter: “Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave-digger puts on the forceps.” But, more to your point: bleak writers are not made by anything but acquaintance with the world. I find it difficult to believe Beckett could’ve steered a different course, and even less likely that Joyce’s moments of appetite could’ve been the wheel to point Beckett’s rudders.
Well then, let’s disagree to agree. Which living writers do you admire?
Hm. ‘Admiration’ is a profound word for me: it demands, in practical terms, familiarity with a decent-sized cross-section of work; then, it demands something wholly opposite of the practical in experience of that work, what Otto would call mysterium tremendum. For living writers, it’s a very short list: Stephanie Adams-Santos; Richard Wilbur; J.M. Coetzee as Elizabeth Costello.
Is this thing on?
It is on. But you are wearing it backwards. I am not your mirror. Poets aren’t mirrors. Not that they don’t say to see, they do, but it’s murky pond not storefront window. If window, then window in a locked room belowground or a rear window, blinking blinds in a morse ransom to other windows and their hostages. You can’t be sure your reflection isn’t alien. That a poet isn’t from somewhere terribly unsunlit, else. This thing is on fire. The world. I alternate between putting sparks out with my stiletto (knife not shoe… but I find the confusion instructive) and trying to burn gracefully in the alleyway, the cement courtyard, the bunker. This implies yours, or ours. And yes, our thing is on. I’m wearing the ring, the leather wristband, the tattoo, the selfie of us on the roof up against the sky because no thing is real until it is made into a listcicle or an advertisement for happiness. I was once told… I am always being told/I invite telling… I use thing too much. Thing is non-specific. As is every noun. Plain and proper. There are too many Kirstens, for example. Names are the least true. I think I became a poet because language is such an intricate liar, and somehow still blunt. You can repurpose it. Like a cable spool coffee table circa 1978. I serve soup with a measuring cup. A kitchen needs five things in it, and one of them is butter. I’m not sure what you mean by is. Sounds dirty. There is no escaping pornography, or soap. Maybe you are talking devices. All the devices are on. Always. Because the most shady. Because devious. The microphone–to catch your off-comments. The phone and television do the same even when their lights don’t blink. Is this a new thing, this always being on? Probably not. Only everything is out in the open now, and that is not the good that it sounds. It is not freedom to accept everything. I am choice-weary and powerless. You are surveilled. Webcammed. Sold to. Only our own quantity to save us, this flooding language becoming the kind of privacy had in a tenement–there’s an algorithm for that. It is possible though improbable that I would be plucked out of the spew by a hand above the maze. You, by another hand, might be hanged by laundrywire between redbrick and brownstone. A question I have always had: why is laundrywire so cruel? A poet, or a person, could in this way be repurposed into a kind of warning, the last flag flown before gentrification sets in in earnest. By which I mean the eradication of all our diseases, i..e. the poor, the private, all we code beneath vagary in an attempt to signal the desire to escape. Is this thing on? Then I’ve said too much already.
How does your coffee drinking differ from that of your parents?
My mom had to stop drinking coffee when she died. I still drink it. Strong.
How does Furs Not Mine differ from your previous books?
I am not good at talking about my own poems. The poems are better I hope at speaking for themselves.
Some of the poems in Furs Not Mine have to do with my mom, with her death. Which is another way of saying the effect an absence of a life has on us. Some of the poems come out of other wondering, other questions, other attempts at connection/making sense. When I start a poem, I never know where it’s going. And that has only become more true the more I write.
Did your mom comment on your poetry?
The short answer: yes.
The slightly longer, convoluted answer: my mother was strong, smart, loving, generous, engaged, evolving, unsuffering of fools, wise, beautiful, imperfect.
All qualities I seek out in people.
And in poems.
My mom’s counsel was that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I’m not sure that’s true, but a young poet must believe it or face certain doom.
Lisa Marie Basile
I’m in a coffee shop right now. Where you at?
Right now I am on a train heading to somewhere called Trailer Park Lounge. I have never been there before but it seems an appropriate place to see a friend I’ve not seen in over a year. It’s kitschy — can I say, I love kitsch?
I did just drink a Flat White to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t dislike it, but I didn’t love it, or see the hype. I’m no visionary, but I don’t think milk is the point. It’s about the grinds, no? I feel we forget about the roots of things.
Anyways, now I’m at this place and I find it kind of amazing.
My grandparents, now departed both, lived in a trailer park for the better part of their older years. Down in Atlantic City. My family is very much invested in coffee as a centerpiece for conversation and life and death. Whenever someone dies, it’s always coffee. I guess I romanticize it as much as any other.
That was all extraordinarily disjointed, but I’m having that sort of day. Also, it’s nice to talk to you 🙂
Yes, nice to talk to you too. Hey now, I’m listening to soft rock on Youtube. Do you wish it would rain down?
I know in my heart of hearts I’m never gonna hold you again.
By the way, it is midnight. I like that we’re sharing this moment.
I didn’t skip ad, went to another tab so was confused.
Tru dat, where did you have bloody marys?
I had 3 bloody marys with a friend. I like mine spicy, with pickled vegetables, the way they make them in New Orleans. I hate Worcestershire sauce. I can barely even pronounce that awful word.
My friend and I were fairly drunk while we discussed caesuras, how they’re our favorite things in all of writing.
Apocryphal mentions your Italian heritage in a number of poems. Was that a conscious decision for that collection?
Yes. Definitely. The Italian Jersey Girl trope is almost entirely negative; it’s the same for other ethnic and cultural stereotypes. I found a lot of beauty and intrigue in where I came from, even in the grit of it all. I came from a poor, Roman Catholic background. I spent a lot of time as a young girl wondering about God, about the body, about family or lack thereof. I have always aestheticized that drama, that romance, the looks, the sexual stereotype, the obsession with death that comes with that background. It’s almost necrophilic, all of it. In a way, I can’t let it go, even if I am technically an atheist American girl.
Would you say it’s a book for atheists or religious types?
The book is for neither, or everyone. I wrote it because I wanted something so bad, and that something was beyond what God or man could give to me. I used religion as a lens for storytelling because sometimes stories are crossed out and I don’t want to be crossed out but I am transgressive with or without religion.
How do you decide which poems to publish in Luna Luna? Do you favour feminist poets, say?
I don’t favor feminist poets.
I believe that Luna is feminism in action. It is by default a feminist publication; this is because of our largely female editorship and our mission of giving voice to minorities.
So, we don’t seek out anything but talent. It doesn’t matter the poet’s belief system, though of course we don’t aim to publish assholes either. We have a few curators & they all have different tastes. I think if we can bring emerging and established talent to readers, that’s good. I’m so fucking sick of reading the same 30 cool poets. We don’t do that.
And you’re currently in the midst of 30 Days of Poetry for National Poetry Month 2015.
I am. I’m really late to the game with posting on time, but I am trying. I hate WordPress. I wish I lived in an old Victorian house on the ocean so I could sit and make Luna Luna my life, but I don’t have the time. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and worry about posting on time. Maybe I need an intern? Regardless, at the end of the month, there will be 30 poets who we’ve chosen to showcase. Those 30 aren’t comprised of the same old same olds. Sometimes we can’t help it but like the same old same olds, because a lot of those same olds are actually amazing, but in general, we just pick people who need more spotlight or who are doing some lovely things with words.
Hopefully you’re going to be writing about Lana del Rey for Queen Mob’s Teahouse soon. Why the obsession?
Yes, I am writing one or a few pieces. And one for QMT. Thank you!
When LDR became a thing, I wasn’t interested. I saw the vintage videos, the bad performances, the way the public reacted to her. It wasn’t that– I’m the last to care about my new music or cool music or whatever people think, but in her I saw a dreamscape–whether crafted or sincere, I don’t know–and I appreciated it. In a sea of platinum sugar, she was this sad, dark, listless conceptual being. Who cares if that’s obvious? I function very much in aesthetics; I like the palm trees and the vice and the (maybe?) forced drama. Isn’t that everything art should be? An extension of what dream worlds we build in our heads? They say she has dead eyes, is a symbol of something false, is a construction. I think mostly everything is a construction, and it all comes from a seed. Whatever her germination point, I like it. It’s sex and loss and the hyper awareness of the self. I like that she causes arguments, and that essentially she says almost nothing to really take part in them. I am interested in that talk of sincerity and source and objectification. I like that people think she’s x,y,z–and if they do, it’s because she’s threatening in some way. How can I not admire it?
And yes, I am putting together an anthology of poetry that explores some of the themes of Lana Del Rey – the aesthetics, the necro, the codependency. Luna Luna will publish it.
Originally published at Queen Mob’s Teahouse
About the Author
Russell Bennetts founded Berfrois in 2009.