Tag Archives: Interview

Interview with Karin Miller, Editor of The Cancer Poetry Project Anthology

20 Aug

As I’m writing this introduction, I’m also waiting to hear the results of my niece Malia’s one-year scans. They will tell us whether or not the stage IV neuroblastoma that she spent half of her life fighting has stayed away from her neural crest cells. Since Malia was declared NED (No Evidence of Disease) last summer right before her fourth birthday, she has had to get a plethora of scans in three-month increments to make sure the aggressively fast-growing cancer hasn’t returned. The truth is, often neuroblastoma does return, and when it does, a child’s five-year survival rate drops from 40% to 0% — there is no known cure for relapsed neuroblastoma. So every three months our heart rates spike and we hold our breath during the week that passes between Malia’s scans and their results.

This is just one very small, concrete example of how cancer affects and continues to affect someone and his/her family long after the initial diagnosis. Besides the tangible aftermath of cancer, like hearing loss, speech impediments, rotted teeth, and secondary cancers due to treatment alone, there is a whole world of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder that is tough to treat, as people have to figure out a way to cope with the trauma while they continue to actively experience it on a day-to-day basis. How could we explain to my then three-year-old niece that she wasn’t in danger while at the same time holding her down so doctors could pump her with poison and jab her with needles every hour? It’s hard enough for an adult to reconcile the sentiment with the actions, let alone a child.

I believe one of the many strengths of Karin Miller’s The Cancer Poetry Project anthology is that it offers cancer patients and their families — who are no strangers to the sometimes debilitating isolation of a darkened hospital room — the chance to read through a book that is incredibly raw and honest on every page, and not feel so alone. In this new volume of poems you’ll find yourself laughing, crying, and most of all, connecting with cancer patients, practitioners, family members, and loved ones as they tell their unique and inspiring stories through verse. I am honored to have a poem about my niece in such amazing company.

Amy Marengo: Congratulations on the second volume of your award-winning anthology The Cancer Poetry Project! What was it about editing the first volume that made you decide to do it again?

Karin Miller: Creating the first volume was a labor of love for me after my husband’s successful cancer treatment. Through the years, I would always hear from readers about how important the poetry was to them. Often readers were inspired to write poetry for the first time, and many poets would regularly send me their poems. That was happening so often I decided it was definitely time to publish another volume.

AM: Many poets’ biographies in your anthology touch on how writing about illness is therapeutic. How has writing about your husband’s cancer diagnosis helped you cope in the past? Does editing The Cancer Poetry Project 1 and 2 continue to be therapeutic?

KM: When Thom was diagnosed with cancer, I was four months pregnant with our first child. It felt like we were riding a roller coaster — excitement about becoming parents and terror that Thom wouldn’t be there to watch our child grow up. Writing and reading poetry felt like the best ways to make sense of my disparate feelings — it still does.
We’re fortunate: Thom’s been a survivor for 15 years, but he lost his dad to cancer and I lost a grandmother to cancer. Just this summer, my uncle passed away from sarcoma. Too many friends and relatives are affected. The cancer poems in The Cancer Poetry Project inspire and touch me every time I read them — which is often.

AM: What are your hopes for the new book?

KM: Even before the first volume, I dreamed of having the book available in cancer clinics and hospitals across the country. I remember trying to read old magazines in our clinic lobby and none of them resonated. Especially on really tough days, how can you care about losing 10 pounds or building a deck or the latest political scandal when a loved one is fighting for life? Quite a few readers have bought the book in memory of or in honor of a loved one and then donated the book to a favorite clinic or hospital. That’s my hope: that people will discover the power of cancer poetry right where they or their loved ones are receiving treatment.

AM: Are you able to find time for your own writing while working on such a large project?

KM: I really had to set my own poetry aside while selecting poems and editing The Cancer Poetry Project 2. But that’s fine. Creating and editing the book, this time and last, has meant the world to me. Now that the book is out, I’m hoping to find a bit more time for my own writing.

AM: What are some of the touching stories people have shared with you after reading your anthology?

KM: I feel so honored when readers send me notes or emails about how the poems have affected them. Recently, a mom wrote to say that she never truly understood her teenage son’s experience with cancer until she began reading patient poems in The Cancer Poetry Project. Not only that, but she has started writing her own cancer poetry. Her note brought me to tears.

AM: Do you think there will be a The Cancer Poetry Project 3 in the future?

KM: No doubt — I’ve already heard from poets wondering when the deadline is for the next volume!

You can order a copy of The Cancer Poetry Project 2 from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the website.

An Interview with Danny Krug

11 Jun

Danny Krug is a photographer and writer based in NYC. He publishes a bi-monthly music and culture magazine called 1.21 Gigawatts. In the following interview I try and get commentary on the connections between music journalism, literary labels, and cultural reporting in the digital age. In a time when the multiplicity of channels provided by the internet seems shorted by more narrow channels and tastemakers, where do authors and literary consumers stand? Danny provides insights and says “bullshit” a lot.

MB: Where have you published? What have you published?

DK: I publish a music and art magazine in Brooklyn called 1.21 Gigawatts. That’s my main focus. In the past I’ve also written for various blogs and I did a little work for the Deli magazine in LA. Gigawatts isn’t your normal magazine. Its made by artists not writers. I’m primarily a photographer. I just write because without the writing we’d have a 32 page photo album. We generally do whatever we want with our brand. We aren’t limited to our 32 page print copy. I don’t like including anything in the magazine that I’m not a fan of. Why take up space and people’s time just to tell them that something sucks? If its good we’ll tell you, if it’s not maybe look to Pitchfork or Rolling Stone to fill your negativity quota because we just won’t talk about it. Its how people say “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all” but for music journalism. I firmly believe in talking shit on people and I do it often, but I’m not going to waste my time talking shit on a band I hate in my magazine. Bands I hate include Radiohead and U2. Also Jay-Z can generally fuck off too (so can Conor Oberst, except Desaparecidos, that band rules). No need to talk about it in my magazine. The general Gigawatts state of mind is “This is what we do. This is who we like. If you like em too, if you like us too, that’s great. If not, fuck off.”

Back to the question though, we try to publish every two months. It’s tough though. Print is a beast. With Internet everything is instant. With print we have to wait at least two weeks to get the copies and then we have to take them around to places for people to get them. 
Every day people tell me print is dead and ask why I do hard copies. Those questions are usually followed up by them telling me how cool the magazine looks as they flip through a copy. Print is far from dead. If cassettes have a place in the world still, then so does print media. The problem with a lot of print media is that it’s bullshit. Stuffed with ads. Articles bought out by corporations to promote their own product as opposed to letting the magazine give their actual opinion. We aren’t driven by money and that’s why our magazine is different. No one on our magazine has made a dime since we started. I’ve personally dumped hundreds of my own dollars into the project. That being said, there is a list of companies I’d love to have advertise in the magazine (Nintendo, Sub Pop, Dr. Martens get at me).

MB: Based on our conversations and hang outs, and what I’ve seen of your work, you seem steeped in the contemporary indie music scene, particularly in NYC. In tracking and re-presenting the work of up-and-coming bands and artists, how much interest is there in ‘literary’ considerations? Is your work always oriented toward the short term, or is there a larger literary/cultural project taking place?

DK: Mainly I’m focused on indie and punk music, but I always maintain that we (as a publication) are open to anything. From the start we’ve wanted the magazine to have no more than 25% text. The other 75% would be visual art. That concept limits our ability to open up to literary ideas, but that’s not to say that I’m closed minded to including anything. If the right story or article comes to my attention I’ll find a way to include it. We recently featured Keith Morris’ new band OFF!, and Keith, as you may know, is the original singer of Black Flag. That guy has been around for a loooong time. If he came to me with some crazy tour stories, I’d feel dumb not to print them. Keith is a crazy dude. I used to see him at the grocery store near my house in LA being totally normal and then I’d see him later that week on stage screaming his lungs out. I’d love to run a piece about what happens in his day-to-day life. Stuff like that is fascinating to me.

Our work is made in relation to the short term (who’s popular/got a new record), but I feel that it should be generally relevant in the long term. What’s good now will still be good in 6 months or a year. Fuck, I still listen to Blink 182 every day. Once something is good it will always be good and worth reading about. We write about bands and artists and we may mention new albums and upcoming exhibitions, but the overall content of the article should still be relevant a year from now or even 10 years from now. The new Babies record came out. We wrote about them and the album. It’s good. It’s worth reading about. 
There definitely is a larger project taking place. Gigawatts started as a magazine and shortly after its launch we started booking shows as well. Now we have a monthly night at Legion Bar in Williamsburg, and we’re always talking about doing shows here or there. Our lead illustrator and I have also been talking about other ideas. More visually driven ideas. He’s been making custom t-shirts and silk screened pillows. He’s out there sometimes, but I’ve never seen a 19 year old with better ideas than Brandon. Gigawatts is (in a perfect world) a bi-monthly publication. We’re trying to come up with ideas to stay active in the in-between time. Today’s society moves so fast that if we don’t stay visible I fear that people will forget about us. Do we have an end goal for the big picture? No, we’re just kinda having fun and seeing where we can take it and where it can take us. Do I see and end in sight? Not really. Do I want it to end eventually? Yes, but I’m in too deep right now to get out even if I wanted to (which I don’t btw). Once I’m worn out and the team is worn out we’ll figure out what to do next. I’d like to work for NME in a photography capacity (they’re the only decent music magazine anymore).

MB: It seems like music criticism for indie-rock has remained its own thing, in its own world, with only a few writers crossing over into the ‘literature’ zone like Greil Marcus, Chuck Klosterman, and Lester Bangs. How does music criticism and music-related journalism fit into a larger scheme of literature?

DK: I haven’t read much Klosterman or Lester Bangs, that’s not to say I’m not aware of it. I know these are important people. I probably SHOULD read them. But there are a lot of things I should do. As a photographer I should probably be able to name more photographers than David LaChapelle, Terry Richardson and Annie Liebovitz (who I think is fucking boring btw). In the grand scheme of things, for a guy who does what I do, I should probably be more privy to Pitchfork and all that. I don’t really expose myself to other influences regularly. I live in my little Bushwick bubble and it’s comfy here. 
Basically, I think that music criticism is bullshit in most cases. I don’t care what so and so from Rolling Stone thinks of the new Strokes record. I have ears and an Internet connection. I can figure out what I like and so can you. Where music journalism is successful is with smaller bands. Shit you’ve never heard of. My favorite record this week is Audacity’s Mellow Cruisers (I’m listening to it right now). A lot of people don’t know Audacity. How do I know this? They played last week at Death By Audio as opposed to Madison Square Garden. Is there anything wrong with that? No. Should they play MSG? Probably not. But you should know who they are because they rule. My place in music criticism is to tell people what I’m listening to and that I like it. From there they can go decide on their own. 
I think guys like Klosterman and Bangs that can write whole books on music and hold people’s attention should totally do so. If I ever write a book on music, don’t buy it. It’s going to be shit. I’m telling you this now. Klosterman and Bangs have a place in literature because they’ve been around the block . I don’t. Pitchfork doesn’t.

MB: Does music criticism and music journalism want to be separate from narrative writing? If so, why?

DK: Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. Music reviews and stuff like that obviously would be dumb as narratives. Articles like we write in Gigawatts are a little different. A lot of the bands we feature are either friends of ours that we like to listen to or people that we like to listen to that we’ve become friends with as a result of the magazine. Some of our articles take on more of a narrative feel just because I might meet up with a band and interview them for an article, then put that article on my hard drive and forget about it for weeks, but during those weeks I’m hanging out with the people I’ve interviewed and what we do while hanging out can influence the article. Generally if a band is in the magazine its because we dig their music and wanna hang out with them. We’re really just hoping that one of them gets booked for Coachella and we can get free tickets. Not really, but that would be cool (Hey DIIV, hook a kid up. I know you’re playing that shit next year). Does it wanna be separate? I don’t know. I do know that it’s not always able to stay separate. It’s like how that kid in Almost Famous started the article he spent the whole movie writing by saying that he was on a plane with the band and it was about to crash. That’s way cooler than just saying these assholes are in a band and heres some stuff you should know. 


MB: Blogs in all their informal glory have cranked up the output of literary work, but also made low-quality blurb writing the norm. Do you see high quality blog content as work that strives toward literary labels or are well-made blogs a unique form of their own? Are novels grand-daddies and blogs the reckless children in the literary lineage?

DK: I haven’t encountered many well made blogs. I do think a lot of blog writers think they’re cooler than they really are. Blurbs are cool. When it comes to music criticism, it’s generally pointless, but if I’m going to read it it shouldn’t take longer to read than it does to listen to one of the band’s songs. I think most people who write blogs would rather be writing something else. Maybe a magazine article. Maybe a book.

 

Max Brooks paints nothing professionally, partakes of the highest quality macaroni, and writes like a young Tom Clancy.

Interview With Poet Jill McDonough

1 Nov

I just checked: at Amazon.com there are “Only 11 left in stock (more on the way).” of Jill McDonough’s new book Where You Live (Salt, 2012). You should probably put in your order soon, sign up on a waitlist, or something, because this selling-out-quick stuff seems to happen a lot when Jill releases new poems. For instance, this past summer her second collection of poetry Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012) sold out within a week or two of its original release. She’s a Pushcart Prize winner, a demanding poetry professor, a Witter Bynner and Stegner Fellowship recipient (among many others); you’ll find her work in publications like Slate, The Nation, and AGNI. Here’s an interview with Jill where she talks about empathy, bizarre pickup lines, and the power of ghazal.

Amy Marengo: During a Q&A a few years ago you said that empathy is one of the most important things you strive for when writing poetry. In your new book Where You Live we see empathy in many forms—from the meter maid in “Great Day at the Athenaeum” to women passing around a “cotton candy pink / angora sweater” in “Women’s Prison Every Week.” How do you empathize with the characters you write about without crossing a line and just feeling bad for them? If a poet sees that she has unintentionally victimized a person or people in one of her poems, do you have any advice on what she should keep in mind while editing?

Jill McDonough: First of all, sometimes a poem’s job is just to witness things.  For instance, I feel bad for Susanna Martin, who was hanged for witchcraft in 1692: in a poem I wrote about her I just documented the crazy things that counted as “just and sufficient proofs” against her.

But other times the poem’s job is to give the poet a vehicle for complicating her own initial feelings or response.  One thing I like about empathy is it helps make me bigger.  “[F]eeling bad for them” doesn’t usually do enough interesting work, for me; empathy means I’m going further, thinking about the specifics that make somebody’s life his or her own, admitting the ways I’m working on understanding what’s going on for anybody else.  And sometimes just completely falling short, too self-centered to be able to pull it off.

That meter maid, I felt bad that I misunderstood her–I wrote a poem, in part, to deal with the embarrassed kind of social horror that makes you wake up cringing, wishing you could take back the stupid thing you said.  It was a near miss–I could have been a pedantic asshole in that story, but instead I got to be a pedantic asshole who happened to make her laugh.

Those ladies passing around the sweater, I think that poem is less about them and more about me realizing how lucky I am, how blind and blithe I am about the things I take for granted, like clothes.  I guess I think the best way to deal with characters you feel bad for is to interrogate that feeling, to admit to your own blinders and try to see around them, to see things from other people’s perspectives.  To try to get big enough to do that.

AM: You recently got a full-time position teaching poetry at UMass-Boston—congratulations!  How is your writing/routine benefiting so far from not having to scramble to work as an adjunct?

JM: I still don’t get it, actually–I don’t yet have a routine, and I’m still getting my office set up.  I’m still understanding that it’s my office, and I don’t share it with anybody, and part of the job is that I can go there and write.  I’ve always had to be brutal with my time and my writing–to steal time or write while teaching comp or record ideas while driving to the prison, to always be multi-tasking.  And now I have not just more time but also less anxiety.  I’ve gotten grants, and been underemployed before, so I’ve had time like this, but it always came with a sense that I need to be hustling to figure out where the next money would come from, after the current money runs out.  So now I’m just kind of figuring out what it means to be safe.  So far it means a lot of reading.  And visiting with friends.  And exercise.  And sleeping through the night.  And appliances.  I have a washer, dryer, and dishwasher getting installed next week.  Because I am a fully employed American, goddammit.

AM: What’s the best conversation you’ve overheard lately and thought, “I NEED to write this into a poem”?

JM: The subway is always great for that.  A guy at Downtown Crossing told me and another woman–I think he was hitting on us–that if he saw us getting raped, saw us in our bra and panties, with a rapist on top of us, he would kill our rapist.  The other woman seemed impressed.  She thanked him.  And I just wanted to tell him, look, I feel like your heart is in the right place, but don’t lead with the bra and panties, you know?  I don’t know if I’m going to get that into a poem but I have for sure been thinking about it a lot.

AM: If you started a lit journal right now, what would you name it and who would you want in your inaugural issue?

JM: Wow!  I love this game.  My friends are really great writers–I’d want Tyehimba Jess and Michael McGriff and Matt Miller and Alexandra Teague and Kirsten Andersen and Andrea Cohen and Maggie Dietz and Todd Hearon and Liz Bradfield in there.  And my former students.  I’d get you and Danielle Jones-Pruett and Tara Skurtu in there.  So I guess I’d call it NEPOTISM.  I don’t know Rebecca Lindenberg but I’d want her in there, too–I keep teaching her poem “Catalog of Ephemera” and it keeps turning out awesome; students write amazing imitations of it, so good they are startled.  I’m taking it into a prison next month, for PEN New England.

AM: What’s the most important thing you teach young writers?

JM: I think it’s something about organizing your time.  I try to get students thinking about assignments for themselves, and mini-deadlines–write as much as you can in three minutes, that sort of thing.  Because the more you write the better you write, and having a direction and momentum in your writing can mean you get more good stuff done.  And everybody is tired and working a million jobs and looking for better work.  So finding the time to write, even when the whole point is that you want to be a writer, can be tricky.  Teaching them how to carve that time out of whatever circumstances they find themselves in is probably the most important thing I do.

AM: What’s the coolest moment of your poetry career?

JM: I am not really sure where the edges of my poetry career are, in the rest of my life.  But writing and publishing poems and teaching poetry has meant that I get to hang out with a lot of smart writers.  I like drinking with writers–there have been a lot of cool late-night moments in bars and hammocks and around kitchen tables.  When my first book was published I was teaching in China and skyped with Josey when she opened the box of books–that was cool, although I really wanted to be there and smell it.  When I had a fellowship at the New York Public Library they brought me rare books on a cart whenever I asked for them, and I had the run of the place.  I got Josey to go out with me because I wrote her a ghazal–that’s pretty good.  And when I got this awesome job the UMB students threw me a surprise party that made me cry.

For more info on Jill McDonough:

Amy Marengo is getting an MFA in poetry at Virginia Tech.

 

An Interview with Ben Fama

11 Oct

Ben Fama is a NYC poet with past lives in many modes. Among his many endeavors it is rumored he has indulged in: street car racing by the ocean, fostering anarchy in the mountains of Virginia, and building literary communities in NYC. Delighting in ephemera, cosmic wandering, and electronically diffuse identity struggles, he has developed a necessary and ambitious series of literary investigations into contemporary culture and internet-age mysticism. He is the creator of the Supermachine reading series in NYC (and its precursor, the Supermachine zine in VA). He is the author of Sun Comes, Aquarius Rising, and New Waves. His newest project, currently awaiting release, is titled Mall Witch. In this brief interview Fama discusses magic, Brian Eno, and Tumblr. Max Brooks, a reader for the minnesota review, conducted the following interview.

Max Brooks: Magic frequently appears in your work. Do you relate more to the magician or the audience member called up on stage? Are you making magic or are you watching it happen?

Ben Fama: I feel like the audience member, but the one hoping not to be called when PT Barnum is scanning the crowd. Magic for me, and the possibility of seeing the future, really just stuck with me in Aquarius Rising and then in New Waves after that. It’s also been said that a poem can act as a spell. I’ve been turning it over in my head for about 8 years. Stan Brakhage said metaphors can change the future, and I believe they can, though those metaphors rarely come through Poetry. It’s usually other channels of speech—political ones or other modes of rhetoric.

Brooks: Your poems remind me of Tumblr. In your collection Aquarius Rising images, moments and slogan-like declarations are all collected side by side like in a collage; there are pieces of time and people often without much context. Also, there is a moodiness and loneliness that seems popular on tumblr. How do you relate to Tumblr?

Fama: I love tumblr. I have a tumblr sticker on my refrigerator and I have been to tumblr hq. I think it’s really an avant garde mode of expression, and that what’s happening there is indicative of greater abilities of expression, where the primordial slime of art is coming from smart phones and computers, rather than studios, and from younger kids rather than degreed MFA artists used to critiques. I’m into the ‘connect and forget’ bliss that happens IRL in more liberated situations (ie the dinner party), and online when surfing around, and the effect that it can have as represented in text is something I go for.

Brooks: Many of your sentiments and favored images seem informed by mystical, even ancient, elements. What is mystical in your life?

Fama: The mystical is that which stands apart from a reality that constantly unveils itself. But also, the mystical “I” is that which stands apart from a reality that constantly unveils itself. I like the second part better, because it is the “I” of poetry.

Brooks: When we first met we talked a lot about Brian Eno. How has Brian Eno effected your life?

Fama: Thinking about his life’s work is in itself another life’s work. He taught me to get “beyond thinking” (Eno’s words). Do the ambient albums alleviate anxiety by removing them from the mind or filling the mind with something else? Does it just get in there and rub it a little bit?

Brooks: There’s a kind of dream logic patterning your poems in Aquarius Rising. Do you see the power of dreams as an aid for readers to help them understand how their own minds work? Or do dreams serve as an effort to get readers into a dreamier state? Do you want to seem dreamy?

Fama: I love spacing out. I mean really. I’m working this job that supplements all of my real life, my publishing and art life, and I get to spend a lot of time looking out of the manhattan patios and rooftops and even down past the hudson to the small tenements and steeples over beyond Jersey City.

Brooks: What destroys your poetry?

Fama: Netflix, oyster and champagne happy hours, reading better poetry.

Brooks: You have been working on projects in NYC for sometime now, from your Super Machine reading series to your recent group project Mall Witch. Is there a well-connected community of writers you work with? Do you see yourself within a community with any centralized writing efforts?

Fama: The writing community in New York is really strong and supportive. After being here for only five years I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Well maybe Los Angeles.

Pieces of Ben Fama’s work and interviews with him can be found at:
http://www.tinhouse.com/blog/16954/small-press-beat-ben-fama.html
http://www.pankmagazine.com/ben-fama/
http://www.electronicbeats.net/2012/10/06/online-okkvlt-ben-famas-mall-witch/?fb_source=ticker&fb_action_ids=4209303704375&fb_action_types=og.likes
http://www.shitwonder.com/

Max Brooks paints nothing professionally, partakes of the highest quality macaroni, and writes like a young Tom Clancy.

An Interview with Matthew Vollmer

12 Sep

As well as teaching creative writing, fiction, and composition at Virginia Tech, Matthew Vollmer is the co-editor of Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts (forthcoming in fall 2012 from W. W. Norton). His first book, Future Missionaries of America, is available via Salt Publishing and his second book, inscriptions for headstones, will be available from Outpost19 in October 2012. Marcus MacDonald, a poetry reader for the minnesota review, conducted the following interview.

Marcus McDonald: Let’s start off with some biographical information.  If you were an inanimate object, what would you be and why?

Matthew Vollmer: A tree. I love trees.

MM: Are you sure?

MV: Yes. But not a Christmas tree. A tree in a yard with Christmas lights, maybe. But there’s something terrible about Christmas trees, isn’t there? Cut down in their primes, hung with lights and worshipped, then tossed ignominiously to the curbs.

MM: Why do you think that your parents named you Matthew? Do you think that it was a good idea on their part?

MV: I come from a long line of Matthews. The name goes back generations. I had a great-great-great-great grandfather Matthew who, as a clockmaker in an alpine village in Switzerland, devised the world’s first player piano. Unfortunately, the plans were stolen by a Scotsman and Matthew died a penniless wretch.

MM: Why do you think people want to read your fiction?

MV: It provides eleven essential daily vitamins and nutrients.

MM: Why do people actually read your fiction?

MV: I doubt there’s one reason people do anything. I would hope that if somebody encountered something I’ve written that they’d get sucked into it. Like once they started, they wouldn’t have any choice but to finish it.

MM: Do you get weirdly connected to the characters in your stories? Like, do you ever have inappropriate dreams about them on accident? I mean, it doesn’t have to be like that either. Maybe you like cried when you killed one of them off or something?…

MV: If you’re not thinking about your characters when you go to sleep and when you wake up and when you’re working and reading and eating and traveling and doing whatever else you do during the day, you’re probably not weirdly connected to them. And thus, not connected enough.

MM: Because you’ve been working on Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, I wonder if you are suspicious of this interview. Can you tell it’s fake?

MV: I had my suspicions.

MM: What do you think about being listed as “Hot” (indicated by a red chili pepper next to your ratings) on RateMyProfessors.com? Do you think this relates you, in any way, to Flea, Anthony Kiedis, or John Whatever or the drummer?

MV: Chad Smith’s the drummer. And you forgot Frusciante, the original guitarist who wisely left after that album. I can only hope that the chili pepper acts as a sort of talisman that might allow me to gain entrance, as I travel into the realms of the non-ordinary, to the kind of creative space that the Peppers inhabited during the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which, as you most certainly know, was recorded in Harry Houdini’s house, which was believed to be haunted. You and anyone else in the world can watch the recording process by viewing the documentary Funky Monks, available here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5459528284009273125.

MM: What is the best television show that was ever aired according to you? (Unless, of course, you feel that you could quote a higher authority in television than yourself.)

MV: Everybody knows the greatest TV show in history is The Cosby Show. Each episode of this quintessential sitcom teaches vital lessons about interfamily dynamics (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n63XYjdiYY), fashion (http://www.huxtablehotness.com/), food (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeSC5H5qtuE), and Cosbydancing (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7at2KpzFtk).

MM: I’m running out of good ideas. Why don’t you ask me a question?

MV: If you could inhabit the body of someone else, ala Being John Malkovich, who would it be and why?

MM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg60cMHBThI&

MM:  Do you have another favorite artistic medium other than writing?  That doesn’t include multi-medium art that involves writing: that’s just cheating.

MV: I like to draw and play music. I used to draw constantly in my college classes. I miss that. I also used to play guitar a lot. Now I’m mostly interested in piano, and working up a set list of covers which will include Motley Crue’s classic ballad “Home Sweet Home.”

MM:  This one is for the kids.  Show them a cool way to sign off.

MV: Thus ends our transmission.

Marcus is a Leo.  Marcus likes ghosts and candy that tastes like plastic.

Interview: Brad Green (Issue 78)

19 Jun

Brad Green’s “Devil’s Fingers” appears in our current issue (78). His work can be found in The Texas Observer, Surreal South ’11, Needle: A Magazine of Noir and elsewhere. He edits at PANK magazine and Dirty Noir. Find him online at http://about.me/bradgreen.

tmr: How did you come to writing fiction?

BG: I’ve been writing fiction seriously (that is with an aim toward publication) for a little over four years now. Of course, I wrote prior to that: a novel set on a desert planet I furiously typed on a brown Corona after reading Dune when I was eleven, an effusive and self-indulgent seventy thousand word memoir I wrote in a month while waiting in a cold Colorado room for an apple-eyed girl to fulfill a promise she never would. Wild texts full of stringy philosophy and screeching language. Aborted attempts and various scribblings. The sorts of things most writers churn through. But then I stopped writing one day. Perhaps it was frustration. Perhaps it was getting married, having kids. I don’t know, but I didn’t write a word for twelve years. I didn’t even read anything but Star Wars novels and computer books. Continue reading

(From the Archives) Critical Self-Fashioning: An Interview with Stephen J. Greenblatt

19 Apr

Today’s “From the Archives” post, an excerpt of an interview with Stephen J. Greenblatt, comes from Issue 71/72 (Summer 2009).  This interview took place on 8 December 2008 in Stephen Greenblatt’s office in Widener Library at Harvard University. It was conducted by Jeffrey J. Williams, the editor of the minnesota review at the time, and transcribed by Gavin Jensen, then an MA student in the Literary and Cultural Studies Program at Carnegie Mellon University. In this excerpt, Greenblatt contextualizes the new historicism school of literary theory.  Continue reading

An Interview with Jazzy Danziger

17 Apr

Jazzy Danziger’s debut collection, Darkroom, is the winner of the 2012 Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Danziger studied at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns/Poe-Faulkner Fellow in poetry. She currently serves as editor for the Best New Poets anthology.

Interviewed by Christopher Linforth

Continue reading

An Interview with Katie Fallon

23 Feb

Katie Fallon is the author of the nonfiction book Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird (Ruka Press, 2011). Katie’s essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including The Bark, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Ecotone, Appalachian Heritage, Now & Then, Isotope, Fourth River, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her essay “Hill of the Sacred Eagles” was a finalist in Terrain.org’s 2011 essay contest. Katie has taught creative writing at West Virginia University and Virginia Tech. Her first word was “bird.” Visit Katie’s website: http://www.katiefallon.com.

How did your journey with writing begin?

My mother read to me while I was in the womb. She was a librarian, and after I was born she filled my crib with books. I guess my writing future was somewhat inevitable after that early inundation. My mother tells me that I’d memorized The Tale of Peter Rabbit before I went to kindergarten, and I remember writing a poem about a bobcat in third grade. When I was twelve I wrote an obituary for my horse, J.P., and a national horse magazine published it.

Despite my childhood love of reading and writing, I began undergraduate school at Penn State as a Wildlife and Fisheries Science major; I figured I could always write, and a college degree in writing would be mostly useless. Of course, I soon switched my major to English, and I eventually pursued an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from West Virginia University. My passion for animals, wildlife, and the outdoors didn’t abate, however, and most of my writing still focuses on these subjects. Continue reading

An Interview with Rachel Ida Buff

9 Feb
Rachel Ida Buff’s essay, “Duluth,” appears in Issue 77 of the minnesota review.
Interviewed by Christopher Linforth
How long was the gestation period of “Duluth”? When did you feel this was a story that needed to be told?

“Duluth” is based on a true story, so it is about a friend I had who really did up and disappear. I wondered about that for a long time before I started to write about it. I wrote a draft of the piece about a decade ago, but I was an assistant professor at the time in a fairly hostile work environment, and I was completely in the closet about what I think of as my “real writing.”  So I only showed it to a few friends and hid it in a file in my computer. Continue reading

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