June 13, 2011

In Which I'm a Bit of a Potty Mouth

During my time in Miami earlier this year, I was thrilled to finally meet up with writer and Almost Dorothy author Neil de la Flor. Neil was fabulously generous in showing me around town. He snapped this photo of me one night when we were out for an art walk in Wynwood. We also went to a dance performance that culminated in someone standing on their head--with that head being in a toilet bowl--and singing. You really don't have better bonding experiences than that. 


I was happy to take part in the Potty Mouth series of interviews for Neil's blog. By "happy" I mean "nervous." The man knows how to throw a curveball. Like all good interviews, the topics ranged from jukeboxes to swearing to setbacks to scotch. 
Here's an excerpt:

AD: When I read i was the jukebox, I wasn’t expecting any potty mouth language coming out of your jukebox. In your poem, “In The Deep” you write: the “boys are fifteen/and fuckwild:/Fuck the glass fish…/fuck the nautilus…/fuck her blue rings./fuck her three hearts.” What is it about cursing, especially using the f-bomb, that activates a poem?
SB: Diction is a tricky thing. This poem has two engines: the octopus, all elegance and intelligence, and the brute energy of fifteen-year-old boys. I wanted to get in all those rich anatomical details, but I didn’t want the poem to become a nature study. So I put the observation into the mouths of the boys, complete with their litany of introductory fucks. I’m sure anyone who has ever overheard a teenage conversation that appears to be entirely composed of “Fuck, yeah” can relate.
AD: Fuck, yeah! I love to say that word.
SB: The irony is that while the boys emanate aggression with all those f-bombs, that’s an empty threat. It’s really the octopus, with her quiet handling of the baby doll, that could do some damage.
AD: When doesn’t fuck or cursing work in poet-tree?
SB: Most of the time. There are exceptions: Ntozake Shange‘s “crack annie” comes to mind. But if a poem goes for shock value that isn’t grounded in a particular character or social condition, that poem is going to have a short shelf life. I may be sipping coffee out of a Rumpus mug that reads “Write like a motherfucker,” but the truth is that I hardly ever swear. Nine times out of ten, there is a better and more original way to get your point across.

& later on in the interview...


AD: How’s the memoir coming along? It should be out soon, correct?

SB: Yep, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl will be out in July. Writing a memoir (or any nonfiction book) is very different from the organic process of assembling a poetry collection. In poetry, there is only a minor distance between the Platonic version of a poem in my head and what makes it onto the page. But the gap between a Platonic understanding of my life to date (not to mention all the attending science of food and allergies) and what one “memoir” can capture—that gap seems so big and messy in comparison. I took some risks; I think they were good risks. I just can’t wait to see the damn thing in print.

AD: Can you reveal a morsel from it, a blurb, a line or two, or make an oblique, cobwebbed reference to what it may or may not be about?

SB: The first chapter includes the following references: Mickey Mouse, small town waitresses, malnutrition, a pink polka-dot dress, needles, Reader’s Digest, milk (bad), avocadoes (good), Hippocrates, Red Rover Red Rover, and Russian roulette.

AD: I love hippopotamuses and corn on the cobweb. What do you want to be when you grow up?

SB: A writer. If that doesn’t work out, I’d love to perform trapeze. That’s one art blessedly unchanged by modern technology.



You can read the whole thing here. 



The whole Potty Mouth series is great--other authors featured include Michael Klein, Jericho Brown,  and Emma Trelles, in addition to Lolo Reskin, who runs the very cool Sweat Records and its famous Vegan Waffle Brunch. Neil has a collaborative chapbook coming out with Maureen Seaton, another Florida poet I adore. (I studied with her way back when, at the Indiana University Writers' Conference.) The chapbook is called Sinéad O’Connor and her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds, and the cover art by Suzanne Sbarge is absolutely swoon-inducing.

1 comment:

dylan said...

This is wonderful! Love the elegance of the octopus vs. the quick coarseness of the teenage boys. Love the quick summation of references in your memoir's first chapter.