Emily Hunt is the author of the poetry collection Dark Green (The Song Cave, 2015). Her poems have appeared in the PEN Poetry Series, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day Feature, The Poetry Society of America’s “In Their Own Words” Series, The Iowa Review, TYPO, The Volta, Diagram, and elsewhere. In 2013, Brave Men Press published This Always Happens, a book of her drawings, and she has provided cover art for several poetry collections. She currently lives in Oakland, CA and posts links to new work at ehunt.tumblr.com.
You are given the power to make one solid object elastic for a day, what do you choose and why? What will you do with it in its elastic state until dusk when it hardens again? Does it enter or inform a poem, if so how?
I would make the walls of my small room elastic, and then push them outward to make my room much larger. This would absolutely inform my poems, because feeling a little claustrophobic while writing affects the mood, pacing, and content of whatever I come up with. My room has one window, and it looks out onto a tall fence. The dresser in my room is too large, and the bottom drawer fell out after I bought it from a Craigslist stranger, so my pants are folded and crammed into piles on the floor, under the lowest functioning drawer. My bookshelf is far too tall for a little room and sometimes I imagine it falling forward, toward me. My desk is a square table that I found on the sidewalk, and its surface area just barely qualifies it as a desk; it's more like a place one vase of flowers could go in someone's huge house, like a table they don't actually need but bought on a whim to break the flow of molecules and bodies through an enormous room, then scratched up over the course of several years, and finally dragged out to the street for someone to take, and it's nudged right up against the window that looks at the fence. I also have a bedside table that my thigh will occasionally hit as soon I enter the room, but I can't get rid of that because it's where I put my book piles. I write mostly on my phone these days.
If you were commissioned to share one poem on a gallery wall of a poet living or dead, what would you choose? What color would you paint the wall? What color would you use to paint the poem with? What refreshments for the opening? What activities at the opening?
Hard to choose, but I'll say Elizabeth Willis's amazing poem “Friday."
The walls would be this color
and the poem would be pale green. The refreshments would be full meals, and there would be many cats of all ages wandering around, and we would simply admire the cats, moving, interacting, being happy, cute, and free, pawing at furniture and sleeping while we struggle to chat.
“Amspreat” is a brand new word. You are given the task to give it a definition. Is it a noun, verb, adjective, what? What does it mean? Please use it in a sentence.
amspreat: n. a nonsentient, genderless orb that generates – exerting no energy and spending no money – nutritious, delicious meals for its corresponding human on a nightly basis.
Your amspreat is now following you on Twitter.
What can poets do to change the destructive path we are all walking on together?
At this moment I do not feel I am walking on a destructive path. This excites me, and this makes me calm. I can find myself on a destructive path one minute and then not at all the next. The sense that I'm on a destructive path is ever-shifting; it arrives far, far less frequently than it did about 10 years ago, and possibly more frequently than it did when I was say, 5 years old.
Nothing is just negative and nothing is just positive, so it's hard and fun to be a person walking on many paths at once. Anger, for instance, has been constructive for me, but anger can come from horrible sources and lead to horrible things, which sounds like destruction. Empathy has been constructive for me, but empathy can lead me astray. Listening can be constructive, and listening can be destructive, depending on content and context and actions that precede or follow.
I think, though, to stay off of destructive paths, people can aim to balance a looking inward (cultivating self-awareness, self-respect, warmth toward the self, an understanding of what you've experienced, escaped, embraced) with a looking and acting outward (observation, bold and honest conversations, generosity within personal interactions, curiosity about various individuals, warmth toward others, doing work that feels like a positive contribution). People can be at all times aware that they have no idea what others have experienced or imagined until they ask them, and people can see these potential scenarios of inquiry as exciting, path-changing, constructive opportunities.
Are there any links you would like to share?
artist Laura Hunt's, upcoming show: http://usblu.es/upcoming
Hannah Brooks-Motl's second book, M: http://songcavebooks.tumblr.com/post/132942841511/m-by-hannah-brooks-motl-presale-1795-the-first
Ben Estes's photographs: http://ben-estes.tumblr.com/
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL
TC Tolbert often identifies as a trans and genderqueer feminist, collaborator, dancer, and poet but really s/he’s just a human in love with humans doing human things. The author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press 2014), Conditions/Conditioning (a collaborative chapbook with Jen Hofer, New Lights Press 2014) I: Not He: Not I (Pity Milk chapbook 2014), spirare (Belladonna* chaplet 2012), and territories of folding (Kore Press chapbook 2011), TC is also co-editor of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books 2013), the first anthology of its kind. S/he is Core Faculty in the low residency MFA program at OSU-Cascades and spends his summers leading wilderness trips for Outward Bound. TC is Arts and Culture co-editor for The Feminist Wire and poetry co-editor for PEN America. Thanks to Movement Salon and the Architects, TC keeps showing up and paying attention. His favorite thing in the world is Compositional Improvisation (which is another way of saying being alive). Gloria Anzaldúa said, Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks. John Cage said, it’s lighter than you think. www.tctolbert.com
CAConrad: What is something you said to someone that you regret saying? Did it ever enter or inform a poem, if so where and how?
TC Tolbert: I don’t regret what I write or think. We all have thoughts/sentences that are devastating to others (and sometimes ourselves), truths (little t) in process that may or may not be useful to share with (those) others. I believe in absolute permission to write and think. And, anymore, I rarely regret what I say. More likely, I regret what I don’t. However, I do deeply regret publishing one of those process thoughts as though it had solidified into a Truth (capital T). That was shitty of me.
I’ve been avoiding this question for weeks. It’s probably the hardest I’ve ever had to answer related to writing b/c I still have so much shame about it. And I feel conflicted writing about it here b/c I don’t want to re-publicize the piece and/or re-injure my mom, the person/relationship about whom/which I was reflecting. So, this might be weirdly vague. I won’t name the piece or link to it – I’ll just say it was a lyric essay I published online about familial and gendered violence that initially began as a speech.
I wish I had been more reflective about the need to publish it. I wish I had at least spoken to her about it privately beforehand – given her the heads up and clarified that it was a thing that felt true when I wrote it but no longer so but still important to keep, given the subject matter and overall development of the essay. Instead, I was a coward. I wrote it privately and then I published it privately – hoping she wouldn’t see it and I would never have to answer to it. But that’s not how relationships work (nor should they). And, thankfully, my mom and I are still in a relationship and I owed us both the integrity of being honest about a really hard thing.
CA: You make a mask to wear for a day. What do you use to make the mask? What does the mask look like? What do you want your mask to represent to everyone that day? Do you change your voice, do you change your gait, if so how?
TC: The mask I would make isn’t a mask anymore than the face I’m already wearing is. I’d just add to it. I want a face with what I can no longer access – I want my face with tears.
Since starting testosterone (over 8 years ago), crying has become all but impossible. I miss it. I don’t miss being suicidal. I don’t miss the near constant anxiety. But I miss the physical indication (to myself and others – a way of flagging) that I’m in this world and feeling it. I miss spilling over and being witnessed in that – viscerally.
CA: You discover your body can produce fruit. What is this fruit like? Is it edible? Who would you offer your fruit to? Where does it grow from your body? How will you include this fruit into poetry?
TC: The fruit I grow changes flavors periodically and unexpectedly. One day it tastes like papaya juice, the next like cucumber, the next is lemon. I don’t suppose I could get very excited about growing fruit that couldn’t be shared and eaten so yes, my fruit is edible. It’s especially hydrating. People glean from me daily. It grows from the long bones – the femur and tibia, the humerus, ulna, and radius. I offer it without restriction – spontaneously. The core of the fruit is a kind of charcoal stick – a writing utensil. Anyone who eats the fruit has another tool to access their own poetry.
CA: What can poets do to change the destructive path we are all walking on together?
TC: 2 things: keep writing and donate a significant amount of money (and/or time) to something that supports people who do not share your privilege markers. In other words, white poets should give money to orgs run by/for people of color; straight poets should give money to orgs run by/for queer folks; cis folks should give money to orgs run by/for trans folks; able bodied folks should give money to orgs run by/for folks with disabilities; middle and upper class folks should give money to orgs run by/for folks struggling with economic and housing instability, etc. Writing is great and important in lots of ways but we must also use our money poetically. In my opinion, this is actually how poetry can affect change outside of poetic circles. We need to use it to shift the center of power. And as much as I understand that poets are underpaid, undervalued, etc – too many poets teaching in the academy stand around with a beer and a burger and some super cute shoes on telling everyone how poor they are. Adrienne Rich says, “War is a failure of imagination.” So is the true lack of basic resources for all – a definite result of the ways we spend our money.
CA: What is your spirit animal?
TC: Blue Chin Parrotfish. Who looks like this:
CAConrad is guest editor at Nomadic Ground. His latest book ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books), won the 2015 Believer Magazine Poetry Book Award. Visit him online at http://CAConrad.blogspot.com