TOMORROW, Tuesday, June 17 at 8 pm, Vanessa will join Erin Sheehy, Christina Drill, Jane Liddle, and Jessica Probus for the latest edition of Animal Farm Reading Series at Over the Eight (594 Union Avenue at N. 11th, L to Bedford or G to Metropolitan).
In addition to a great poet and a loyal Brooklynite, Vanessa is also a prolific interviewee, including recent sessions with Quiddity International Lit Journal, American Microreviews and Interviews, and Brooklyn Poets, who named her their Poet of the Week for May 5-11.
In the following, we discuss interviews, plus poetry, food, defining experiences, the meaning of humanity, and more.
So much of poetry is about language and openness to interpretation. Do you think that answering questions about your poetry, in the context of interviews such as this one, detracts from the experience of reading and/or listening to poetry with an open mind, or do you think it adds a new dimension to your readers’ experience?
Such a flattering question, Patrick. You are a darling for making me feel like I have that kind of readership.
Have you ever felt the desire to answer an interview question using poetry rather than prose? I often wish that I could speak to people using poetry, in order to give a more direct insight into where my emotions and my reason meet and either inspire or inhibit action, on my part, mostly when I’m at a restaurant and I can’t decide what to order.
The answer is always guacamole.
In your recent interview with Brooklyn Poets, you said that one of your “defining Brooklyn experiences” was the “surreal MFA at Brooklyn College.” Was the program surreal in a productive sense, or merely a jarring, nightmarish break from reality?
Surreal in the sense that I got to sit around a table each week and read and (try to) write and discuss poetry with other conscious people and do the very difficult work of trying to become less alienated from myself and celebrate what some may refer to as traditionally, capitalistically, unproductive labor. I was also adjuncting at the same time, so to go from student to teacher and back felt not only like a dizzying code switch but also like totally, wonderfully, what it can mean to be human.
You just published a chapbook called Weekend Poems and you’ll soon publish another one called Red Poems. Is there an important difference, for you, between weekend poems and red poems? The weekend strikes me as more of a light blue time, whereas “red” makes me think of grading papers and leaves changing color in the fall.
Oh, that’s tough to follow. For me, I’d say Weekend Poems is gazing, aware, wistful. I’d like to think my poems since WP are like WP’s revolutionary sisters: on the block, strapped, exposing exploitations, with nothing much left to lose.
I’m really glad you’re going to be at the reading this Tuesday, June 17. There certainly are a lot of readings in Brooklyn these days—what are some of the best experiences that you’ve had with readings, and what do you think they contribute to reading and writing culture generally speaking?
Yay, me too! The best times I’ve had at readings are when the crowd is vibing and warm and heterogenous. In general, these are the readings that seem truly interested in expanding the community, which is necessary and humbling.
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Jeremy P. Bushnell is the author of the new novel The Weirdness, a avery funny romp about the events set in motion when Lucifer offers a stereotypical Brooklyn “aspiring writer” a “five-figure advance” if he agrees to steal a magical lucky cat statue from a powerful, Chelsea-based warlock. Jeremy also teaches creative writing Northeastern University, is fiction editor at Longform.org, and was the lead developer of Inevitable, a dystopian board game.
We are fortunate that Jeremy will be joining us in the reading series, this Tuesday, May 20 at 8 pm, along with Esther C. Werdiger and Emma Whitford. (Be there: Over the Eight, 594 Union at N. 11th in Williamsburg.)
The Weirdness is about an aspiring fiction writer named Billy who lives in Brooklyn and works at a sandwich shop is contacted by The Devil, who promises to give Billy a book deal with a “five-figure advance” if he performs a certain task. How much of this is based on personal experience?
Allow me to dodge that question. Because if— and I’m stressing if —Lucifer were real, and if he had offered me a book deal in exchange for completion of a certain task, you can bet your sweet ass that he would have required me to sign a very lengthy and detailed non-disclosure agreement. Next question!
Kristin Dombek has written essays for n+1, The Paris Review, and The Painted Bride Quarterly, she writes an advice column for n+1 called “The Help Desk,” and she is currently teaching in the Writing Program at Princeton University. Kristin will be at the “Awaken Ye, Spring” edition of our reading series tomorrow, April 15th, at Over the Eight in Williamsburg, and she agreed to do this interview in order to help us generate hype, clicks, pageviews, “Likes,” and all that stuff.
1. You write an advice column for n+1 called The Help Desk. What kind of advice do you have to offer others who aspire to write advice columns in the future, as a career?
I think a lot of people want to get into this game for the glamour. They think it’s all about having people recognize you, designers sending you dresses, dating lots of other advice columnists and have pictures taken of you dating them, that sort of thing. What they don’t understand is that to be an advice columnist, you’ve got to really want it. The attention is nice and all, but it’s not enough to get you through the job. It takes work—hard work. I think this is why you see a lot of people taking the easy way out and just acting like advice columnists on social media, posting pictures of themselves looking empathetic and wise and posting updates about what they think everyone should think and do, and just generally living as if they are an advice columnist. They haven’t put the time in, and they don’t want to. I’ve been an advice columnist for ten months, and I’ve written four columns. Four. You’ve got to want it, and if you really empathize with people, it’s going to take a lot of time to figure out the correct answer to their questions.
2. What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
It’s more important to be organized than empathetic.
3. What is the worst advice that you’ve ever received?
Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.
4. What is the most mediocre advice that you’ve ever received?
5. We both have PhDs from New York University, yours in English and mine in Comparative Lit. A lot of people advise others not to pursue PhD’s in the Humanities. To me, such advice is cliché, though, especially since most of the people I know who have PhD’s got them ironically, like a “Hello Kitty” lunchbox. Do you agree?
(flips coin) No.
6. I frequently have nightmares about “The Love Boat,” a television series from the 70s. If Freud were here, he would remark that “boat” rhymes with “tote”—and thus is indicative of the sexual confusion ensuing from the fact that my mother likes to carry stuff around in a tote bag, and I, recently, have also been carrying a lot of stuff around in tote bags. What kinds of decisions do you think I should make, regarding my family and my mother in particular, because of my frequent nightmares about “The Love Boat”?
Interesting, Patrick. Very interesting. We’ve been seeing a lot of this kind of boat dream lately, and I think you’re absolutely right about the significance of the rhyme. A lot of people miss that. The answer here is very simple, dear: You’re going to need a bigger tote.
GeorgWilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik
ANIMAL FARM is NYC’s destination for the newest and best satirical and/or critical writing in any genre. Our location is OVER THE EIGHT, 594 Union Ave. in Williamsburg (L to Bedford or G to Metropolitan). We start at 8 pm on Tuesday, February 18.
If LOVE, MONEY, POWER, …NUTRITION, SEXUAL ATTRACTIVENESS, ATHLETIC ABILITY, INTELLIGENCE, MEMORY, READING COMPREHENSION, and FURY.
TOBIAS CARROLL is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. His fiction and criticism has recently appeared in The Collagist, Joyland, The Collapsar, Necessary Fiction, Underwater New York, The Paris Review Daily, Tin House, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter at @Tobias Carroll line at www.thescowl.org.
CECILY IDDINGS’s first book is Everyone Here (Octopus Books, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Article, Horse Less Review, jubilat, Octopus, Saltgrass, Sixth Finch, Skein, and Spinning Jenny, among other places. She lives and teaches in Brooklyn.
FRANK GUAN is a founding editor of Prelude, a magazine of poetry and criticism affiliated with n+1 whose inaugural issue will arrive later this year. He is currently reviewing the works of Tao Lin for n+1.
ALI BOGGS is getting her MFA in fiction writing from the New School. She has published in The State, a journal based out of Dubai, and in HTMLGIANT. She is currently working on a short story collection about perversion and dysphoria.