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Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: Scott Wozniak & Janne Karlsson Killing Our Saints (Svensk Apache Press, 2017) 72 pages


Killing Our Saints is a collaboration between the Oregon poet Scott Wozniak and the prolific Swedish illustrator Janne Karlsson. The collection consists of 23 poems and explores many of Wozniak’s well honed topics- loneliness, self destructiveness, drug addiction, facing the demons, suicide and death. Karlsson’s iconic artwork is highly expressive of the deep anguish and alienation expressed in the poems.
In the interview which follows this review, I asked Scott Wozniak how Killing Our Saints came about. He explains, “Janne and I have become friends over the last couple of years. In fact, he was one of the first guys in the small press scene who really went out of his way to encourage me and to express that he liked what I was doing. Which was cool for me because I’d been collecting his stuff since before I ever thought about trying to get published.
“So, for my last book, Crumbling Utopian Pipedream, I contacted Janne and asked him if he would do a blurb for it. He kindly accepted, wrote a great blurb, and informed me that he loved the book so much that he wanted to know if I’d be into collaborating on a project that he would publish through his Svensk Apache Press. Like I said, I’ve been a huge fan of his work, as well as most of the other poets he’s worked with over the years, so I immediately jumped on the opportunity. I was honored, to say the least.”
Asked about what attracted him about Wozniak’s work, Janne Karlsson told me recently, “I always prefer collaborating with people who write honestly without shying away from the shit and the smell. Scott is definitely one of those. He has lived his poems and there’s a lot to learn from them. Actually I’d say Wozniak writes ‘help yourself’ poems.”
According to Wozniak, the process of putting the book together was “quick and painless”: “I had these poems that are loosely based, in my mind, around the hardships and struggles of people living on the skids. I knew Karlsson had previously done a series of illustrations revolving around this same theme. So, I figured it would be easy for the poems and his art to mesh within this framework.
“I threw together a manuscript and sent them his way for feedback. He was into it, wanted to run with it, as is. I decided to tweak it a tad, pulling a couple of poems and adding others, but for the most part, what I sent is what we used. As far as the illustrations go, Janne just did his thing from that point. My feedback was minimal. I just wanted him to do what he does best. Whatever he chose to do I knew he’d kill it, which he did. “
The title poem “Killing Our Saints” sets the lugubrious tone for the collection. Wozniak uses second person perspective & suggests the reason we stuff things up is because we lead self-destructive lives & are blind to the beauty- of “the saints” in our lives.

                                                                                           Killing Our Saints
It’s between
the Devil,
you,
and me-
This life
we lead,
killing
our saints
because we don’t
recognize
their face.

Happy to leave
death
in our wake,
we string up
and torture
every bit
of beauty
this world
offers
in an attempt
to lead us
away
from the offhand
wreckage
we create.

Wozniak says the poem “Kiliing Our Saints”represents the darkest period of his life when he struggled even against those who tried to help him, “When I was at my darkest point in life (which lasted many years), I had accepted that as my fate, and would both sub-consciously and consciously self-sabotage anything with a positive connotation that was offered to me because I felt I didn’t deserve better.”

In the collection, this candid self exploration of angst is counter-balanced by the thrill of living on the edge, of dancing “cheek/ to bony cheek” with death (“A Final Bit of Romance”), of getting “your money’s worth” (“Nothing is Free”).

This hedonistic, I don’t give-a-fuck attitude is perhaps best represented in the poem “The Way the Universe Intended”, which previously appeared in Bold Monkey:


                                                                      The Way the Universe Intended

I’ve lived
under the pretense
I’d die young
and leave
a good looking
corpse.

With age extended
and opportunity
lost, my new goal
is to leave
the most gnarled,
no organ usable,
scarred,
bruised,
beat up
carcass
cemetery gates
will ever see.

I want morticians
to have nightmares
from the sight
of my remains,

I want Earth
to gag
as I’m lowered
in my grave,

I want worms
to be nauseous
at the thought
of digesting
my flesh,

I want hard living
and bad decisions
to read
like an epitaph
on my corpse.

The elephant in the room- the biggest demon Wozniak has to face- is that of substance abuse. To “ease the pain”(“Wrong is All He’s Ever Known”), the “torture” (“After the Struggle”), to “end the faceless turmoil” inside his heart (“No longer a Blaze of Glory”), “to silence/ this symphony/ of discord” (“A Risky Mark”), the persona of the poems, presumably Wozniak, cares about nothing but the next fix or drink or pill or snort to obliterate his emotions and dissolve his sense of self.

The poem “Who You Calling Crazy, Motherfucker” is compelling in the sense that it illustrates how out of control the life of an addict is, how they are unable to realize how fucked-up & deluded their life has become: 
    
                                 
                                                           Who You Calling Crazy, Motherfucker?

‘When the voices
speak to you,
wait till no one’s
around
to answer.”

“It ain’t crazy
if ain’t
out of the ordinary.”

He knew
how to cope.

He just didn’t know
this was insanity
in action.

In the powerful poem “Feelings, What Feelings?” Wozniak writes that he used to have “to consume/ un-godly amounts/ of cheap booze/ and ingest/ whatever drugs/ I could get/ to achieve/ my desired state/ of numb/ in the quest/ to not feel” but now he feels a general malaise and senses that the drugs have done their job and perhaps he “may never/ be moved/ to tears again”.

In “Stretch Tomorrow to Eternity” Wozniak acknowledges the need to someday to “start stopping”, but:

For now,
it’s easier
to feed
the habits
starving
my senses.

Besides,
I wouldn’t know
where to begin,
I’m not me
without
the poison.”

Killing Our Saints is fascinating collection of confessional poems from an addict who has lived the life and who now feels the urgent need to tell us about it in a raw, honest way- without the bullshit or pretense. The best thing about the book is that Wozniak never preaches to us or feels sorry for himself or tells us he has been reborn. Instead he lays it bare before us- all his faults and stuff ups & tells us how he’d like to change- but fuck it! He is who he is.



INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT WOZNIAK 12 JANUARY 2018

Scott, can you briefly explain the conception & development of the book, especially your working relationship with Janne Karlsson & his involvement in the project.

Janne and I have become friends over the last couple of years. In fact, he was one of the first guys in the small press scene who really went out of his way to encourage me and to express that he liked what I was doing. Which was cool for me because I’d been collecting his stuff since before I ever thought about trying to get published.
So, for my last book, Crumbling Utopian Pipedream, I contacted Janne and asked him if he would do a blurb for it. He kindly accepted, wrote a great blurb, and informed me that he loved the book so much that he wanted to know if I’d be into collaborating on a project that he would publish through his Svensk Apache Press. Like I said, I’ve been a huge fan of his work, as well as most of the other poets he’s worked with over the years, so I immediately jumped on the opportunity. I was honored, to say the least.
From there it was quick and painless. I had these poems that are loosely based, in my mind, around the hardships and struggles of people living on the skids. I knew he’d previously done a series of illustrations revolving around this same theme. So, I figured it would be easy for the poems and his art to mesh within this framework.
I threw together a manuscript and sent them his way for feedback. He was into it, wanted to run with it, as is. I decided to tweak it a tad, pulling a couple of poems and adding others, but for the most part, what I sent is what we used. As far as the illustrations go, Janne just did his thing from that point. My feedback was minimal. I just wanted him to do what he does best. Whatever he chose to do I knew he’d kill it, which he did. What he came up with was different from what I thought he might do. There’s a very surreal vibe running through the drawings he chose, which I love. I think they help lighten the mood of the book a bit. I’m glad I kept my mouth shut and just let him work.
Are the poems & illustrations strictly synchronised or is there a creative interplay?

I can’t really say for sure, I’m afraid the real answer is rattling around Janne’s beautifully twisted mind, you’d have to ask him. But, in my opinion, I’d say it’s a bit of both going on.

What's your take on the title poem "Killing Our Saints"?

I’d hate to detract anything from anyone’s own take of this poem, but I will say, that when I was at my darkest point in life (which lasted many years), I had accepted that as my fate, and would both sub-consciously and consciously self-sabotage anything with a positive connotation that was offered to me because I felt I didn’t deserve better. I think this is a common trait for people who scrape bottom for long periods of time.

Most of the poems identify with those people living on the edge- addicts, misfits, failures, the insane and the suicidal. Can you briefly explain your creds to write this harrowing stuff?

Let me just say this, I’ve been an edge walker for most of my life and have qualified for each of these categories, among others, at one point in time or another. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if I’m full of shit or not.
You nailed that question, Scott. Despite the gloom, you sometimes offer the reader a rare beam of hope. What realistic advice, if any, would you give to those down on their luck?

I’d steal a friend’s line, “chin down, hands up.” Only when we throw-in the towel are we defeated. It might not be easy, but shit can get better.
Do you see people being at the bottom because of "self-inflicted,/ prisons of choice" ("Missing the Target") or for wider societal factors?

As I point to in the first stanza of this poem, “reasons we’d rather forget,” can be a broad spectrum of horrific experiences that led us to the bottom. And yes, a lot of times, it is perpetuated by a lack of resources for help coping with these experiences, which is very much a societal factor. Lack of mental health care, addiction recovery, job training and financial assistance programs are just the beginning. And, in my experience, once you find yourself in a situation that you see no way out of, you often cling to some sort of substance or “self-inflicted prison,” to numb yourself to the “hellish existence” you are enduring. Thus perpetuating the very thing you hope to escape. It’s very much like the snake eating its own tail. But how one gets to the bottom can be a multitude of factors, I think, it is rarely one thing but rather a compounding of many.
Strongly stated! Anyways, how have you faring now? How have you coped with the demons?

For the time being, things are well. My demons and I are living together in acceptance of one another. There hasn’t been a power struggle for dominance by them for a while. I recognize them, know they are always around, but if I treat them like animals at the zoo, don’t feed them, they tend to leave me alone, for the most part.
What's it like living in Oregon? 

Oregon is great! There’s no other place (in the U.S.) I’d rather live.    

What project are you working on now?

I’m working on another collaboration project with an extremely talented graphic designer friend of mine, Andrew Nutini. His work is mind blowing, hyper-realistic and very gritty. The style of his imagery is something, I personally, have yet to see in a poetry book. We hope to have it finished and shopped around to publishers sometime this year. I’ve also been talking to James Decay about putting together a split chapbook. Hopefully we can make that happen soon. Lastly, I’m part of the 2018 Holy & Intoxicated broadside collection, which has a solid line-up of great poets involved this year, as usual.

Thanks, George. I appreciate you taking the time!

Thanks for the challenge, Scott!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Featuring Sanjeev Sethi

Sanjeev Sethi is a Mumbai poet. Asked what the poetry scene in India is like he replied, “A one word answer, vibrant. But it isn’t a monolith. Poetry in India is made up of myriad languages and each language has its canon. For the purpose of this discussion I will restrict myself to poetry written in English by Indians. This is a robust community of earnest practitioners. With the advent of the internet  it really is a global poetic guild. In such a scenario western or eastern are dated concepts.”


Headroom

Freckled by fate I’m a sock puppet of concupiscence.
When the mind wishes to wank it begins to box: you
and your possibilities. It is the nature of spinnakers 
to showboat. Some songs play loud. Were your signals
irresolute? Did I misread? Through maw of memory
regions rich in your residue are ossifying. When one
stocks one blocks: science of countervailing. Regimes
of pattern  have played their part. You possess hauteur
as one privy to my plot, albeit you’ve chosen not to
douse it in diction of bad faith.


Hic Jacet

Rampikes on the ridge unleash acquaintanceship 
with lived experience: I wished to be a rosarian,
ash animates the breathless. Monorail of memory
urges me to carve a station with the argil of your
essence. I refrain, channeling you to rosaries I
never ornamented.


Singsong

On the lattice of my attic your lines reverberate.
They hop on the heart and rattle it like a sistrum.
In its signature tune lodges our lyric.

Peradventure isn’t for the past. It does what
it’s supposed to and cotches on one’s karmic
lounge primed for Big Daddy’s piñata.

The cerate of completion has its own calm
like fondling a nummular rim. Chagrin takes
over only when one spoons your stretch.


Expectancies

Decibels exhaust their edge when the mind
superintends the self. On uneven days even
wheeze makes one uneasy. Invisible bankits
animate inner conflicts neither accepted nor
articulated. Lightheartedness by peaceniks
remedy for a while until verities paratroop
their way to combat theatres. Arrayed in
rouge fatigues, estimates fail to ignite.


Meaninglessness

Pestiferous extortion is best abandoned.
Urge is to move with flawless momentum.
Walloped feelings have no way to reach
if refrained from flowing. Splinters of truth
are splayed on texts, perused in far-off posts.
Can words recoup the hollowness of hying?


Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). A Best of the Net 2017 nominee, his poems are in venues around the world: Stickman Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, Olentangy Review, Home Planet News, Angry Old Man Magazine, The Stray Branch, Cholla Needles, Ann Arbor Review, Empty Mirror, Peacock Journal, Morphrog 16, Communion Arts Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Review: Ryan Quinn Flanagan. Gangbangs and Other Mass Rallies (Pski’s Porch, 2017) 190 pages


Gangbangs and Other Mass Rallies is prolific Canadian writer Ryan Quinn Flanagan's latest stab at poetry. The book consists of 157 typically short, highly accessible small press poems. The collection is highly varied in subject matter and form and includes childhood anecdotes, personal reflections & opinions, confessional verse, portrait poems, list poems and cryptic “wandering” poems. In the underground tradition, there is undercurrent of violence, of dead-end jobs, of drug taking, of barely tolerable relationships in many of the poems.

Gangbangs is the thirty-eight year old Flanagan’s 24th stand-alone volume. In the interview which follows this review, Flanagan explains his usual intuitive method of putting a book together, “I have never really liked writing from a single unifying theme. That process seems limiting and constricting to me. I have tried it and don't find that process very enjoyable. I much prefer to sit down and write whatever comes to mind over a couple of months, and then look at what I have in its entirety and choose from there. A few loose themes or motifs often appear, but overall, the idea is to just let things flow and see what comes from that; to mine the subconscious and make sure the conscious just gets out of the way as much as possible.”

The cover is designed by Mark Pietrzykowski, the publisher of Pski’s Porch and appears to be of an African-American rally from the Depression era or perhaps earlier. Flanagan says of the cover, “Marc has access to this great mass of New York photo library archives which is fantastic to look through. For the front cover I knew what I wanted and began looking out old rallies in the archives. The images had to work with the title as well as placement of the title. I sent a mock up to Marc, and he had it done and back to me in an hour. It was perfect.”

The title poem itself is cheeky and perhaps an extended metaphor of Flanagan’s “singular purpose” to get the writing done at any personal cost. He says of the poem, “I do tend to like choosing a book title from one of the poem titles and "Gangbangs and Other Mass Rallies" seemed the most catchy.  Besides that, the poem conveyed some of the loose overarching themes I wanted to address such as individual alienation in a mass urban society.”

Gangbangs and Other Mass Rallies

There is nothing wrong
with large numbers
of people
working towards a singular
purpose
unless of course,

you are that singular
purpose.

And you find that-
with arched back
and ass
in the air-
you have
their undivided
attention.

(all poems in this review have been posted with the permission of the poet)

Flanagan writes honestly and urgently and with little revision. He is experienced and confident enough to be ruled by his instincts, “When the poems are written, that is the way they are. I never revise anything beyond simple spelling and grammar issues. I believe that when you write, what came from that day, that specific time and space is specific to that place and not to be polished up or amended later on when you find yourself in a completely different headspace. I don't want to censor anything I may say, so I just go with my first natural instinct and trust that.”

His poem “Distance Runners Miss the Point” appears to sum up Flanagan’s usual take on writing- be simple & direct & use your words economically:

Distance Runners Miss the Point

it is best
to say a lot
with very
little.

Most say little
with very little,
or even worse,
with a lot.

The more words
you need,
the more you have
failed.

Everything
simple and poignant
and direct.

Flanagan says of the poem, “It does sum up my personal view of writing pretty well. I do like to wander at times though, to play with words and images and strange ideas. But in the many quasi-narrative type poems my natural approach seems in keeping with the aesthetic laid out in "Distance Runners Miss the Point." Life is short and we're not here for long, so it's best to say what you mean and get on with things before you're dust and can't anymore. I find such a simplified approach is much more relatable to the reader as well.”

Upon closer examination, Flanagan appears to use two different styles in Gangbangs.  In the solid core of book, the poet uses well-honed conventional underground verse. The best amongst these include “Talking Shop”, “Sporting Goods”, “I Started Thinking of Jesus”, “Hoover”, “Attrition Monger” and “Burial Wrongs”. Alternatively, Flanagan has written about a dozen or so extended cryptic, associative poems which he calls “wandering poems”. The best amongst these is perhaps the five page “Long Lines at the Grocers so Cars can be loaded full as Sniper’s Rifles” but also impressive are poems such as, “Bloodlust & Chicken Wing”, “White Rhino”, “Aggressive Sales Tactics Like Swallowing a Shotgun for Breakfast”, “A Box of 100 Letter Sized File Folders” and “Punctured Lungs & Cryostasis”. The poems are usually set in public places like a bar, mall, park or public library or bathroom. What follows is a series of triggered thoughts and layered associations which jigsaw down the page and collect like a multiple car pile-up.

Flanagan says of this second, more complex style, “The wandering poems as I like to call them are probably the best example of how my brain works. They are non-linear, almost steams of conscious, but not quite. I honestly enjoy writing these types of poems more and more I find. I don't consciously set out to do so, but I find that more of them are appearing in newer works. I have always loved surrealist paintings and Dada and such and the wandering poems allow me to jump around a bit like a frog stretching its legs a little.”

The poem "Beds that are also Couches so the Efficiency Expert can Sleep at Night" illustrates this challenging homegrown style:

Beds that are also Couches
So the Efficiency Expert can Sleep
At Night

The water falls over your hands
like liquid spastics
into a sink basin beaten out
of the general bathroom nightmare
with lead pipes

and someone starts making homemade postcards
and someone else stands in front of mirrors
sucking it in, imaging the clumsy suction
of angled vacuum love

beds that are also couches
so the efficiency expert can sleep
at night

the factory is productivity
in human form,
hands after hands as though cloning
a massage parlour ten million times over
and setting it loose on the fed pablum
of bald-headed parking meters

and the paper towel from the roll
is a child leaving home

my hands sufficiently dry to make purchases
and gang signs in equal measure

the fly done up
and the street walker
as well

coin laundry malcontents
tumbling dry cycle out
of hell

and I have worked enough of the convenience racket
to know there is little convenience
in anything…

Time is wrong.
All the clocks have lied.

Flanagan says of the poem’s style, “It is more a comfortable free association as you go along, not locked in on anything specific, but rather gliding through loose sentiments and never forcing a cohesion. There often is a loose cohesion when you are done, but it is flexible and free and therefore often the most rewarding.”  

Another fascinating aspect I found about the book is although Flanagan is an apolitical writer, he often takes a back-handed swipe at the system through a series of the book’s poems. He is critical of factory closures due to outsourcing (“It came down from the top”), offshore dummy companies (“Dummy Companies, like Incorporating the Mentally Retarded”), the malleability of the law which favours the rich (“Body Condom”), crooked banks (“Usury”), shonky telemarketers (“Exit Strategy”) urban congestion & the pill-popping culture (“City, City”) and an array of other societal targets.

Asked about this anomaly, Flanagan replies, “I am not a political person in the least, so I approach such things in a rather detached way.  I see that things are fucked and the system is rigged, but I tend to avoid specifics and just comment on the overall process because that is what is most universal to all of our daily experiences, as opposed to some very specific griping which seems limiting to me in some way.  Plus, I just don't really care that much about the specific politics in all honesty.  What concerns me is the alienating system as a whole and its effect on everyday life.”

Flanagan’s poems “Party Politics”- his take on how house parties tend to splinter into three groups- “the women in the main room, the men in the kitchen,/ and the peripheries mingling about like spiders by the walls”, and more importantly, the satirical “You could Do Worse than Lawn Furniture”, clearly demonstrate his underlying disdain for all things political:

You Could Do Worse than Lawn Furniture

The thing I like about lawn furniture
is that it never talks politics.

It is goofy and ridiculous beyond belief,
But I know a world of people like that.

And they talk about politics day and night.
It hurts my head in a way the common headache
could only dream of.

And another thing about lawn furniture:
you can sit on its face and it never complains,
sometimes for many hours
until your ass grows
numb.

When people do that to other people,
someone always complains.

Usually someone else, not even directly involved,
who claims that act itself
IS political.

Gangbang and Other Mass Rallies is a clever, solid read full of interesting and diverse poems for the seasoned reader. Flanagan is a committed small press warrior who writes whatever he wants, when he wants and publishes his stuff on his own terms. Flanagan's work continues to evolve and his “wandering poems” in this collection add a new layer of complexity and maturity to his already substantial body of work.

Buy the book here:  http://www.pskisporch.com/?p=606

Bio:  Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born writer who presently resides in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: The New York Quarterly, Horror Sleaze Trash, Evergreen Review, Bold Monkey, Outlaw Poetry Network and Your One Phone Call

Some other links: 



INTERVIEW WITH RYAN QUINN FLANAGAN 8 JANUARY 2018

How long was Gangbangs and Other Mass Rallies in the making, including the writing and publication processes? How was Pski’s Porch to work with?

 About ten months in its entirety.  After the MS was written I sent off a sample to Marc Pietrzykowski at Pski's Porch.  I wanted to work with Pski's Porch because I really dug the work of previous authors under the Pski's Porch banner, namely Catfish McDaris and Steven Storrie.

When Marc got back to me, I built the full MS and did a quick spelling/grammar edit before shooting it off.  After that, the process was seamless.  Marc was totally top shelf and it was honestly the best experience I've ever had working with a publisher.  I wish it always went that smoothly when doing a book.  Pski's Porch is first-rate professional all the way!

You often nominate a title for your books from a poem in the collection. Why was Gangbangs and Other Mass Rallies chosen besides its catchy name?

I do tend to like choosing a book title from one of the poem titles and "Gangbangs and Other Mass Rallies" seemed the most catchy.  Besides that, the poem conveyed some of the loose overarching themes I wanted to address such as individual alienation in a mass urban society.  The only other poem title that was considered was "Feeding the Machine" because it both implied and dealt with the same issue, but that poem was more personal so we went with the more universal one to make things as relatable as possible to the reader. 

I note that Pski’s Porch designed the cover. Where was the photo taken from?

Marc has access to this great mass of New York photo library archives which is fantastic to look through.  For the front cover I knew want I wanted and began looking out old rallies in the archives.  The images had to work with the title as well as placement of the title. I sent a mock up to Marc, and he had it done and back to me in an hour.  It was perfect. Marc came up with the image on the back cover trying to capture the carnivalesque nature of the poems.  He explained that the image came from an old ritual which perfectly represented what I was trying to express. I really love that image on the back cover!



In some of your previous collections you don’t appear to have a dominant unifying thematic concern but rather structure the work through motifs. Is this the case of Gangbangs? Do you usually just write a shitload of poems and then offload them in book form?

I have never really liked writing from a single unifying theme. That process seems limiting and constricting to me.  I have tried it and don't find that process very enjoyable. I much prefer to sit down and write whatever comes to mind over a couple of months, and then look at what I have in its entirety and choose from there. A few loose themes or motifs often appear, but overall, the idea is to just let things flow and see what comes from that; to mine the subconscious and make sure the conscious just gets out of the way as much as possible.

When the poems are written, that is the way they are. I never revise anything beyond simple spelling and grammar issues. I believe that when you write, what came from that day, that specific time and space is specific to that place and not to be polished up or amended later on when you find yourself in a completely different headspace. I don't want to censor anything I may say, so I just go with my first natural instinct and trust that.

Does your poem “Distance Runners Miss the Point” sum up your view of writing?

It does sum up my personal view of writing pretty well. I do like to wander at times though, to play with words and images and strange ideas.  But in the many quasi-narrative type poems my natural approach seems in keeping with the aesthetic laid out in "Distance Runners Miss the Point." Life is short and we're not here for long, so it's best to say what you mean and get on with things before you're dust and can't anymore. I find such a simplified approach is much more relatable to the reader as well.

Your poetry is typically apolitical but in the collection you touch on how the system is rigged- the banks, the law, the news, how the economy & the environment are fucked, but you offer nothing specific, your criticisms are more of a hunch than a stance. Do the poems, such as, “You Could Do Worse than Lawn Furniture” and “Party Politics” best represent your views on political writing?

They do. I am not a political person in the least, so I approach such things in a rather detached way. I see that things are fucked and the system is rigged, but I tend to avoid specifics and just comment on the overall process because that is what is most universal to all of our daily experiences, as opposed to some very specific griping which seems limiting to me in some way. Plus, I just don't really care that much about the specific politics in all honesty.  What concerns me is the alienating system as a whole and its effect on everyday life. I've never voted in my life because I figure if a game is rigged don't play it. It's the same reason I never gamble when my wife and I go to Vegas. The house wins at your expense. I understand the set-up and choose not to partake. Many of my poems have no overtly political bent simply because other things seem to interest me more. 

Although some of your poems are set in Canada and you make numerous Canuck references, the poems are more about universal rather than Canadian concerns. (The tongue in cheek “Je me souviens” is perhaps an exception). Is this an accurate assessment of your writing?

I write in Canada, but do not consider myself a Canadian writer. Again, I find the geographical title limiting. I prefer to write in a more universal vein, whatever comes to mind, and not have it limited or constricted by such things as sex, religion, country, politics etc. Je me souviens is a playful exception.  The title comes from the official provincial motto of Quebec which translates to: I remember. I found that a simple and playful way to write a poem about when I was younger. It's a true story as well, which I always prefer.

Ryan, you appear to have two distinct styles of writing in Gangbangs. One is essentially confessional- usually first person narrative poems. Poems such as, “Hoover”, “Dykes on Bikes” and “Milking Your Prostate Is Not Like Milking a Cow” are easy to follow and somewhat simplistic, although they are often original in subject matter.

In other poems, perhaps a dozen or so, are more complex and often work through association and more intricate word play. I’m thinking of poems “Bloodlust & Chicken Wing”, “White Rhino”, “Aggressive Sales Tactics Like Swallowing a Shotgun for Breakfast”, “Punctured Lungs & Cryostasis”, “Long Lines at the Grocers so Cars can be Loaded full as Sniper’s Rifles” and the like.
I was just wondering how you developed this style and what you are doing, by say, taking us through the poem “Beds that are also Couches so the Efficiency Expert can Sleep at Night” (or any other you wish) by way of example?

I have found this as well. The more matter of fact confessional type poems are much more straight forward, and often the backbone of the book. The other intricate word play or wandering poems as I like to call them are probably the best example of how my brain works. They are non-linear, almost steams of conscious, but not quite. I honestly enjoy writing these types of poems more and more I find. I don't consciously set out to do so, but I find that more of them are appearing in newer works. I have always loved surrealist paintings and Dada and such and the wandering poems allow me to jump around a bit like a frog stretching its legs a little. "Beds that are also Couches so the Efficiency Expert can Sleep at Night" is a perfect example of this.  It is more a comfortable free association as you go along, not locked in on anything specific, but rather gliding through loose sentiments and never forcing a cohesion. There often is a loose cohesion when you are done, but it is flexible and free and therefore often the most rewarding.  

Have you come across any new writers over the last year who you have immensely enjoyed?

Oh plenty! Many of them seem to be centred around the Kansas City area for whatever reason. Other I have read though presses I like such as Pski's Porch. As well as a few Aussies in your neck of the woods like Brenton Booth and Ben John Smith.There are many cool writers out there today doing their thing.

What’s next on your plate?

It should be a busy upcoming year.  I have a chapbook coming out with Alien Buddha Press in April called "Hello Brinkmanship," and another with Clare Songbirds out of New York called "these things you see." There is also full-length collections forthcoming with Weasel Press, Leaf Garden Press, Marathon Books, and White Gorilla Press. I'm also slated to do broadsides and a split chap with John D. Robinson who is a very cool writer. And hopefully working on something again soon with Pski's Porch!

Thanks George!!


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