I’ve long identified as a fangirl. I’ve seen Tori Amos 12+ times, driven hours to see my favorite bands perform even a short set, run a fangirl tumblr (not telling), and taken a pilgrimage to Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, to name a few of my fangirlish endeavors. To fangirl is to be swelled up with fervor and adoration, to connect with your whole body to the work of an artist in a way that (hopefully) creates a reciprocal energy exchange between creator and fan. To fangirl is to create work in response to art you love: poems riffing on poems, songs sampling songs, experiences filtered through filters of different shapes and depths.
This interview series seeks to move queer inspiration in the present to the forefront of a conversation on what makes us want to live. Who amongst our peers makes us feel lucky to be alive here, right now, despite the particular everyday horrors of 21st century life? What of our own art couldn’t exist without our peers, those living and creating in response to our world as we live in it? I’m truly thrilled to get to interview these queer artists on these questions and more, drawing lines to connect what we make to what has been made. Nostalgia gets boring: there is so much to love for decades long past, but we’re here NOW, and until time travel becomes an option here and now is where we’ll stay. Let’s hear it for here, let’s hook-up our hearts, let’s turn each other on to what is living just next door.
YOU MAKE ME FEEL #1: Interview with Kristen Stone, author of The Story of Ruth and Eliza // self/help/work/book (Birds of Lace, 2014) and Domestication Handbook (Rogue Factorial, 2012).
Tell me about one particular song/film/book/poem/piece of art (made by a peer in the last 5 years-ish) that has recently undone/inspired you. What about it was so striking to you? What in your life made you so open and receptive to this particular piece of art at that time?
I was super undone by The Bruise, which [Magdalena Zurawski] gave me in 2012 when I was on my tiny book tour of the south for Domestication Handbook. I haven’t read a girl-narrator like that before, ever– and I really identified with this sort of obsessive-compulsive sentence– the gender-weird and strange-gay girl who has to figure out how to live in a body, in the world, among people. I’ve been trying to write gender-weird and strange/gay girls for a long time, and it seems like you can either write The Girl or a sort of tomboy-platonic ideal– that you’re either writing about Gender or you’re writing about The Girl– whereas what happens in The Bruise is this sort of both/neither.
Tell me about three of your favorite contemporary artists (writers/filmmakers/musicians/
I will pick two peers for this question– both of whom are folks I’ve connected with over the past couple years. Valerie Wetlaufer I met through Glitter Tongue a couple years ago. Valerie is a genius poet and doula– I love the way she engages with history in her writing, women’s history, disability/mental illness history, the hidden and intimate. Her Mysterious Acts by My People came out this year through Sibling Rivalry, and it’s just stellar. Megan Milks is another friend-favorite– I love her Kill Marguerite and her way of writing about pop culture and gender. I came to Megan’s work through Birds of Lace— I read Twins when you published it, and just the way she engaged all this tween/teen material– it’s so exciting and strange, and uses theory in these weird and great ways.
An artist I don’t know– LaToya Ruby Frazier, who makes these really intimate black and white portraits of her family and also aerial photographs of white flight and industrial waste, and other stuff too. I saw an exhibit of hers at the Seattle Art Museum this spring. Jenny Holzer— from tumblr, endlessly rebloggable. My favorite artists when I was in high school, when I was more into visual arts and especially photography–Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman. All those cute photos of Kathleeen Hanna in her “Julie Ruin” mode. I was such a wanna be riot grrl, but I was too shy and a few years too late.
Tell me your favorite things about the loose community of artists that you’re a part of, if you’re a part of one in some way, shape or form. What is most exciting about the work you see coming out of this community? Do you make work in response to any of it? What do you wish to see coming out of this community that you feel is lacking or underrepresented?
A few weeks ago, Gina, when I came to Athens, remember how people kept asking how we met? We both kept saying, I think on tumblr? On the internet? I’m constantly blown away, impressed and humbled about the writers and artists I’ve connected with online (many of whom have turned into IRL friends and collaborators as well). I love seeing how people combine the digital and the tactile, which was a lot of the impetus behind starting Unthinkable Creatures, connecting in digital space to collaborate on tangible and highly personal book-objects. I’m thinking of Oliver Bendorf’s work with theory and watercolors that he calls “power paint” especially.
Also, and this was totally unexpected when I set out to Become A Writer when I started my MFA– how nice people are. obviously not everyone everywhere, but the loose and overlapping web of writers I’ve fallen into is so, so friendly. The Goddard community is so not competitive, and it was a really pleasant surprise. You hear lots of nightmare stories about MFA programs.
You’re a big part of that, too, Gina– I love the way you lift up writers and texts, both in your publishing and just the way you engage. It’s so celebratory. My mom went to AWP with me in February, and she still talks about how inspiring it was (she’s a photographer), and how nice my friends were.
How do you build and/or define your community?
Community is interesting to me, especially because the work I do on the daily, is for the most part not writing-related, (but i AM an educator in these sort of subaltern– that is the wrong word and i feel weird putting it there, but i’m going to keep it– spaces. Maybe I mean super-altern, well in the light of day, education with very specific objectives.) i help coordinate an academic enrichment program for little girls, and i lead violence prevention groups for the local domestic violence center. so my colleagues are for the most part not writers, but are social workers and counselors and teachers. i live in a small town in the south– a town that i love dearly– so my community is diverse in a different way than it would be if I lived in a big city where there was a big queer community, or where i could exist mainly within a writing community, where i might know more people in their mid/late 20s with arts degrees. so i feel really grateful for that, even though sometimes things don’t translate from experimental writing to the helping professions. i definitely have creative and queer and artistic friends, i’m not saying i don’t! my IRL life is rich and interesting and challenging in ways that it would not be if i could exist in writing and art bubble, i think, though.
Tell me about an instance where a piece of art you’ve made directly responded to art made by your peers. How did your response engage (or not engage) with the inspiration?
I guess I can think of essays and interviews as art, right? A few weeks ago Megan Milks hosted an electronic roundtable on the trigger warning here on Entropy, which I wrote a response to, on my blog, working out some of my thinking about the difference between working in counseling (broadly speaking) and teaching at the college level; about how a lot of the teaching I do has therapeutic aims, and how in social services there’s a completely different understanding of trauma– we don’t assume rape or partner violence are things that happen over there to an abject or Other person, as some academics and teachers sometimes seem to. I/we assume every room has survivors in it, every room has mentally ill people in it, who may need care in a different way, and I would never prioritize my abstract ideas of how I need to teach Art over someone’s well being, in that moment. this is a good example of the overlaps and conflicts between my work-work and my creative-work. i get frustrated with myself sometimes, moving between spaces, and feeling sometimes left out of academic spaces, but i have to remind myself that i made a choice to do this kind of work– how healing and educational aims do and don’t overlap.
You get to curate a festival of art/writing/film/music/etc. What living artists do you invite to present/perform at your festival?
Imogen Binnie, because I loved Nevada so much and I bet she’s an awesome reader. Jes Kramer, who’s a solo performer from Michigan– she played at the summer camp I worked at when I lived up there and she’s so sweet/funny and the cleverest songwriter. Mary Feng Chen and Lucas De Lima. You, Gina Abelkop, to read from Darling Beastlettes! Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift, because I love girly country-pop. The Mountain Goats. Bhanu Kapil because I always want a chance to hang out with her. roxane gay. ariana reines, selah saterstrom. there’s this young mom here in gainesville who dresses up as spiderman for story time at the library, I’d be into that. i am terrible at watching films because i always just fall asleep, so there would be no films.
What are currently some of your favorite venues (magazine, journals, presses, youtube channels, websites, zines, libraries, museums, collectives etc) for art? What makes these venues particularly exciting/fresh/engaging?
i love tender journal. Sibling Rivalry’s Adrienne: a journal of queer women’s poetry (edited by the aforementioned, amazing Valerie Wetlaufer). Here in Gainesville, the Sequential Artists Workshop, run by the impossibly sweet Tom Hart. My friends’ babe church zine. Birds of Lace, obviously. Black Hill Press, because they only do novellas. robocup press, because tamryn is a badass.
Please share five links to art that we can view online (website, music, video, writing, visual art, etc.).
http://www.tenderjournal.co.uk <– tender journal
http://muthamagazine.com <– michelle tea’s mutha magazine with essays and comics about parenting
http://arielbui.bandcamp.com <– my bff ariel bui’s dark folk pop