So. A self friggin’ interview. Are you stoked or what?
That wasn’t very convincing.
I’m just…I dunno if I trust you. What do you wanna know?
Answer fast without thinking: What’s you favorite Peter Gabriel song?
Peter Gabriel? That’s random.
Well, I am asking fast without thinking, too. That’s how we are gonna do this shit. That question just popped in my mind.
Fair enough. I can definitively say that my favorite Peter Gabriel song is “Sledgehammer”. Those lyrics fucking rock. That’s a poem, I tell you what.
Agreed. Such a good video too, right?
Totes. I love those dancing chickens.
I’m bored with this. So tell me, if you could be doing anything right this second what would it be?
Chilling on the beach, who wouldn’t? That’s a pretty cliché question.
Ok, fine. You ask me something, then.
Do you believe in me?
Do you need a pep talk or something?
No, I mean, do you believe I exist? Like, if you are the questioner, and I am supposed to have the answers, doesn’t that technically make you the witness? So I mean literally, me, the answerer, do you believe in me? Like, am I real?
Not technically. No.
I can dig it. Do you think I am a good poet?
You know, I can’t really worry about if you are a good poet or not. If I did answer that with a judgment, you would probably just paralyze yourself completely and not be able to write at all. What I worry about is you working hard. Being unrelenting on yourself. Killing your darlings. Writing well. I believe in your potential as much as anyone’s to put in the effort needed to do good work. It’s hard work, but it can be done.
What’s getting you off lately, poetically speaking?
I’ve been revisiting Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Man, that shit is good. In a stylistically-related segue, I am also pretty into the Old Testament these days. As a reader, I’m saying. Have you seen the R. Crumb Illustrated Book of Genesis?
Of course. It’s so rad.
I know!!! It’s soooooo amazing! I’m learning Hebrew because I want to be able to read the Torah for myself and make my own conclusions. I guess I’m hoping that I’ll read something that will make me feel less disheartened about what religion sometimes puts forth as sexism. But man…did you know that the Torah was originally written in Hebrew without vowels?
Yes, I did know that, but only because I’m you.
Yeah, it’s crazy, I mean, think of the implications; the different ways things can be interpreted. According to Kabbalah, you are supposed to read the Torah and become so acquainted that you kind of can intuit the vowels, and you get all the multiple meanings of each word with its various potential vowel sounds. So the meanings expand exponentially. I really don’t know shit about this, I’m just a little baby trying to learn, I really am fascinated.
I know you are, but what am I?
You’re the witness of my is-ness so you are fascinated too.
True that, but the people reading this probably are getting bored with this Old Testament geekout freakout. Geez. So, who’s your favorite celebrity?
Whoa, don’t you think he’s sexist? What kind of feminist are you?
No. I really, really don’t. I think people who say that don’t actually listen. They’re just parroting some bullshit they heard someone else say. Would a sexist man have a bologna-toss-at-a-girl’s-ass competition? I ask you. I love Robin Quivers too. So much. And lately they have been having George Takei on often. I love that man. They did a special documentary about the time he spent as a child in an American Internment Camp. So good, and so important. You won’t see that shit in the mainstream media anytime soon.
Do you think you have figured anything out? I mean, anything?
Not really. I know I hardly know anything. I keep exploring. I keep opening myself up to new possibilities. I like to do kind of extreme things to see if I can get some clarity, like, I like new perspectives and stuff. I did Vipassana, where you go on silent retreat for 12 days or so.
Like, you don’t talk at all?
Yup. I mean, every few days a teacher will check in with everyone one at a time and be like “Are you ok?” just to make sure you’re not losing your shit or anything. And if you NEED to talk, you can go talk to one of the teachers. If you are wiggin’. Lots of my “friends” didn’t think I would be able to do that. People took bets and shit. You don’t read or write either. No eye contact either. And you meditate, like 10 hours a day. You do the Vipassana meditation technique.
So how was it?
Difficult and amazing and totally worth it. I think I was half-expecting to have some kinda total breakdown/breakthrough, like, some repressed memory or something, but it was nothing like that. What I discovered from just being in my own head for such an uninterrupted length of time was how ridiculously abusive my self-talk was. Nonstop. It was depressing to discover, but I am glad I did. So I could start working on it. It’s something I still work on.
Any other crazy shit?
Oh yeah. I’ll go to some pretty far extremes to try to like, blow my own mind and see what I can fix. I also did a water fast for 3 ½ weeks. But don’t freak out – it was medically supervised, to make sure I wasn’t gonna drop dead or anything. They checked my vitals every day.
What do you mean, you didn’t drink any water?
No. The opposite. I only had water. That’s it.
Most people would think that is totally psycho.
I know. But I just wanted to see what would happen. I wanted to feel clean inside. I dunno. I’m glad I did it. I just always feel like, I could always improve; be a better person, ya know? A better poet, a better human, whatever. I just like to do weird shit.
This interview is totally self-indulgent. It’s not even about anything to do with anything with poetry. People are gonna hate you.
I can’t please everyone. I have tried, for so many years. But nobody can please everyone. So I might as well be myself, and just send love out to the lovers AND haters. You’re the one who asked me these questions, by the way. And it actually does all filter back into my identity and my deep desire to write as well as I can. In a roundabout way. And I mentioned Walt Whitman, too. So that’s something.
Wanna mention anyone who wasn’t born a zillion years ago?
Fuck yeah, I love shouting out the poets I am fired up about. Right now I am feeling Matthew Zapruder, Patricia Smith, Terrence Hayes, Jill Alexander Essbaum, Sandra Beasley, many more. There’s lotsa good poetry happening right now.
2010 was a pretty fucked up year, eh?
Yes, 2010 was gnarly. I lost two dear friends, both of whom, in addition to being some of the best human beings ever, and taken away far too soon, are amazing writers. I miss Gabrielle Bouliane and Tate Thorson so very much. I am grateful I got to share time with them on this planet.
Lots of other crazy shit that was just my personal stuff to work through. But this dark night of the soul shit, it makes us stronger. I do believe it. You just can’t get bitter. That’s the cardinal law. I think.
Did you accomplish anything at all?
Jeez, you don’t have to be a dick, I mean, yeah. Some of the cool stuff I did: I was living in NYC for 3 months DJing (one of my new passions) and performing my poetry in Flight 18 presented by Eric Wallach and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. That was really fun. And this is cool – I was commissioned to write a speech to be performed by General Tiresisas in a new version of The Breasts of Tiresisas by Appolinaire. For a production in Paris. I had some bad moments this year, the kinda shit in life, where you’re like, “This is totally hard, it is not how I want things to be, and yet, this is what’s up, and I just gotta trust that it’s all gonna come around,” ya know?
Of course I know.
So yeah, it was kinda cool during the summer when I would have a bad moment and be like, “What the fuck is going on? I suck!” to know my words were being spoken by a sexy bad-ass super-talented Parisienne actress named Astrid Bahiya maybe at that exact moment on stage, in France, while I was maybe walking around L.A. like “Dude, really?” That thought was so comforting. I was very grateful for that blessing.
I don’t really like this listing my accomplishments thing,
Tell that to your therapist and let’s wrap this shit up.
Ok. I had some nice publishings and was a finalist or placed for a few competitions, and I am really really grateful. I had some great live performances, and that was really exciting. And I was very lucky to be guest faculty at the UC Riverside Palm Desert Low-Residency MFA program, run by the excellent, brilliant Tod Goldberg. I really enjoyed workshopping with the poets there. I continue to teach poetry and fiction workshops at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program too.
Oh yeah…fiction…what’s up with that? Are you a fiction writer first or a poet first?
I really love writing short stories. And I’m working on completing my first novel, The Bent. Parts of it are in verse. I just evaded your question. But if there was a gun pointed to my head, I guess I’d say poet. Because poets make so much more filthy lucre, don’t ya know. I’m in this for the dollah dollah bill$.
Thanks for letting me flip the script and interview you. I was feeling really awkward, and this felt better, but still kinda weird.
Do you think this interview sucks?
I dunno, hopefully not.
Probably it does.