three poems written in combined ten minutes over three days while watching television & eating ice cream

Removing a nail from your forehead is
No easier than painting twenty thousand
Otter figurines
But nail removal's always
More rewarding which is why
We've committed to un-nailing
American foreheads
You have proper insurance
Documentation and access to
A nail gun
Three raw onions
And fifteen
Lightly rusted tractors

This diagram is not an example
Of your elbow
Or even fifteen Ryobi power drills
Poking tiny holes in my
Tiny sternum
But while ten tons of whiskey
Drain into a barrel
From my perforated stomach
We always make
A textbook origami crane to
Replace the various brains
You jarred
& brought to Saturday Market
March 3rd, 1987


I can digest small pebbles in my hand
And survive
On only hair & fingernails
For five years
My Vegas show will feature
A small lighted terrarium
My face
And five million watt LED backlights
To my 501(c)3 nonprofit
Are encouraged


INTERVIEW: Lazidaisical

LAZIDAISICAL blogs and twitters and tumbles about vandalism, drinking, parenting, novel writing, more. Currently editing her first novel.

LAZIDAISICAL:  I will start by saying that these are all very eerie questions. They somehow triggered responses that are pretty much soul-baring. I typically shy away from baring my soul. I had to drink as I answered them. But I signed up for this because I was beyond curious to know what kinds of questions you would ask, and was sure they would be inspiring. So thank you very much for the opportunity.

HUNT:  What kind of drink did you have? Just curious.

LAZIDAISICAL:  Alaskan Ale. I’m currently obsessed with regional beers and microbrewed beers. We discovered Alaskan Ale on a trip to Seattle in January. I think it’s scrumptious, soft, and smooth.  Being from that area, you have probably had it before, so I’ll say I was drinking it in honor of this interview. Smiley face.

HUNT:  What were you like in the 6th grade? Are you the same now, or different? Or the same and different at the same time? Did you want to write novels when you were a teenager?

LAZIDAISICAL:  Yes, I wanted to write novels as a teenager. I did write novels as a teenager. It’s creepy that you should specifically mention sixth grade. Over the course of sixth and seventh grade, I wrote a novel about a teen girl who was terribly obsessed with a young movie star and, as a result, couldn’t function normally in social situations. She was on her school’s volleyball team and would daydream about him during important games so, of course, she couldn’t concentrate on playing and everyone started hating her for all the mistakes she made on the court. At sleepovers, while everyone was sitting in a circle with their stuffed animals, giggling about meaningless shit, my character would be underneath a big blanket inconspicuously masturbating to explicit sexual fantasies of her dream guy. This novel unintentionally began spiraling out of control. The character inexplicably started wanting to kill people who said her beloved movie star wasn’t cute, and stuff like that. Eventually, the whole school begins to hate her because she acts like a deranged bitch, and her parents even consider sending her to a reform-type school to set her straight. With nothing left to stick around for, she steals her parents’ car and somehow makes it out to LA from wherever it was she lived, and she finds him signing autographs and taking photos with fans at some event. Acting out of debilitating jealousy, she attacks twin girls while they are taking a picture with him. The movie star screams for his body guards to get her away from him, and that breaks her heart. So she starts to attack him with a pair of scissors that just so happen to be on his autograph-signing table. His body guards end up having to shoot her. 

Over the course of ninth and tenth grade, I wrote an “alternate ending”, if you will, to this novel. In the alternate version, my character and the movie star fall madly in love and he becomes more obsessed about her than she ever was about him. He becomes violently jealous if she so much as looks at another person. It gets to the point where he keeps her locked up in his dressing room all day and she is not allowed to interact with anyone. At first, she thinks his obsession is romantic, but soon gets bored of his attention and starts to go mad in that little room. She manages to sneak out though, and she brings one of his co-workers into the dressing room with her one day. She calculates her actions just right so that she and the co-worker are having sex when the movie star returns. The movie star goes berserk and gets violent, so in “self-defense” my character ends up “accidentally” killing him.

I ended up with Cs in my English and Reading classes in sixth grade because I refused to write about what they wanted me to write about. When my teachers assigned homework papers, I’d scowl and say, “That’s a boring thing to write about. I’m gonna write about something else instead” and I’d end up getting detention.  And when they’d talk to my mom about my unruliness, she’d just shrug and say she couldn’t force me to write about that stuff if I didn’t want to. In seventh grade, my class was supposed to write our feelings about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but I wrote about Wuthering Heights instead. In eighth grade, the principal demanded I write an apology note to an idiot English teacher that I had talked shit to in front of the entire class. My apology note said I refused to apologize for acting in a way that society has forced my race to act. My first semester of college, I was supposed to write about Romanticism in literature, but, instead, I turned in a copy of an essay I’d written for Astronomy that romanticized black holes and supernovas and suggested that humans should live their lives as though they are doomed stars. These are just a few examples.

In fact, let me jump back in time to when I was an innocent little first grader. That’s when my earliest memory of writing took place. One day, I was mad at my first grade teacher because she had asked me to please stop raising my hand and let my fellow classmates have a chance at reading aloud. I became increasingly agitated listening to them read because I didn’t understand why they didn’t understand how to sound words out correctly. In order not to lose my mind, I started scribbling obscenities about all of them on the inside cover of one of my folders. That night, as I was taking a bath, my mom suddenly came into the restroom holding open my folder. She had been looking for my homework assignments, but found “Mrs. Shaw is a stupid fucking bitch. She hasn’t taught these assholes how to read,” etc etc etc, “So-and-so should go back to fucking kindergarten.” The berating went on and on towards quite a few students. My mom firmly stated that what I’d written wasn’t nice and wasn’t appropriate, but I could tell by the way she was trying not to laugh that she thought her baby girl was a genius.

Writing all of these memories makes me feel kind of strange because I realize that my current writing still includes many of the same themes that my early writings had. I still make mostly negative observations about everyone around me. I speculate about what made them the way they are and why. Character development is always an integral part of my short stories and novels. That being said, I guess deep down inside I must really be the same now as I was in the sixth grade, or any other grade. Any “growing up” that may have taken place has only served to strengthen and justify the negative notions I’ve had my whole life about people, society, and the world.

HUNT:  A theme I find interesting throughout your answer is 'appropriateness.' This idea of how to be appropriate in society, in interactions between unequal partners (teacher/student) or among equal partners (fellow students). I have difficulty knowing how to be appropriate socially, and occasionally make the wrong calculation and say something horribly offensive. What is the value of 'appropriate' behavior?

LAZIDAISICAL:  My problem in society is my face. No matter how hard I try to keep quiet about something, or not make a snide comment, I can’t stop my face from scowling or looking like “this person I’m talking to is a fucking idiot.” I’m fascinated by human interactions and motivations. I’m the creepy person in the bar who just scrutinizes everyone to death and eavesdrops on as many conversations as I can. At meetings, instead of listening, I watch what everyone’s eyes and bodies do when certain uncomfortable topics are brought up. At work, I inconspicuously appear alongside customers, pretending to perform a work-related task, and listen to them talk amongst themselves. Based on my scientific observations, it seems that, 95% of the time, people are uncomfortable, angry, or put-off by something someone is saying. Is this any way to live? What is wrong with human nature?

Furthermore, I think the appropriateness theme stems from my obsession with the racial divide. People expect certain races to act certain ways. I grew up in a strictly Mexican-American neighborhood, but my biological father (who I didn’t grow up with) was part white, which somehow made me extremely light-skinned to the degree that I am sometimes mistaken for a “white girl” by other Hispanics. As a kid, when I’d say something in Spanish around other kids who assumed I was just white, they would visibly have a difficult time wrapping their minds around what I said vs. what I looked like. And they’d have a million questions. And they always felt the need to have me repeat myself; then they’d critique the roll of my Rs or my annunciation, because I was so “white”. And I thought the whole thing didn’t really need to be that big of a deal. But on my side of town, anyone who was studious was “acting white”, anyone who dressed in certain brands was “acting white”, anyone who did or said anything cheesy was “acting white”. It was frowned upon if you were “acting white” because white people, it was believed, were oppressors. But what were people supposed to think of a supposed “white girl” trying to “act Mexican”?  Back then, none of us personally knew anyone outside of our race. So how did we know that something a Mexican-American kid was doing wasn’t appropriate or normal for his or her own race? I even had a female African-American teacher once ask me if I was white, and when I said “only a little bit”, she gently told me that I should try and get in touch with my “white side” because doing so might prove more successful for me as I grew up. I could speculate for hours on what that says about her own self-esteem and self-worth and all that, but I won’t do that right now (I have before, though).

People try to make everything fit their pre-conceived notions of the world, society, and themselves; instead of learning from things, they desperately try and reconcile anything that makes them uncomfortable, either by denying it or making excuses for it or otherwise putting an end to it. I think that people should be allowed to act however they want to (but only if they are doing so intelligently) without anyone making a big deal about it.

HUNT: How often and for how long do you write? Everyday, three times a week? Etc... Do you type or handwrite? If you type, on what device and why?

LAZIDAISICAL:  I write everyday. I cram all my writing into the hours that my family is asleep. If I'm not at work, then I write for 1-2 hours in the afternoon when my daughter is napping. My husband doesn't get home from work until 11:30 pm so I write for 2-3 hours at night after I put my daughter to sleep. I set my alarm for 5:30 every other morning or so but sleep through it half the time which makes me hate myself. When I do crawl out of bed at that time, I get to write for 1-2 hours. So I write for 4-7 hours a day. And it still doesn't seem like enough. I can't write with my husband and daughter around because I feel guilty for writing instead of spending time with them. Or for writing instead of doing laundry.

I handwrite a lot and I type too. I handwrite when I'm brainstorming or writing poetry or when ideas strike me or if we're on a road trip. I have dozens of notebooks full of chicken scratch. But lots of times the handwritten brainstorming notes will give way to handwritten rough drafts of a short story or chapter. I type when I'm satisfied with an idea and want to create a hard copy of it. Then I spend hours editing the hardcopy. I type on an old school laptop that we've had for about six years. The novel I've been working on for six years is on here, so that's why it's my go-to device. We have an iMac too but I think it's weird. The screen jumps and there's no wire or visible buttons on the mouse and the screen is bigger than most websites are designed for (I'm assuming that's the problem). It makes me want to punch it.

HUNT: How has having a child changed your writing?

LAZIDAISICAL:  Being a mother has made me more determined to write. It has not miraculously made me feel like a grown-up the way I thought it would. When I was pregnant, I feared I might somehow turn into a mommy blogger once my daughter was born. Instead, raising a child has made me incredibly aware of what my childhood was like and has made me dwell on issues from it that were left unresolved. As a result, my characters are less self-confident than they used to be, more paranoid, and slightly more absurd.

Another reason that this interview is creepy is because I am answering this question about motherhood on the very day of the eleven year anniversary of my mother’s death. My mother passed away when I was seventeen, before I ever had any inclination to ask what she wanted to be when she grew up, or what she thought about this or that, or why she was the way she was, or why she just accepted things as they were, or what she was hiding from me, or what her hopes for me were, or how I changed her life, or if she was ever really happy. I don’t want my daughter to wonder such things about me. Because my mom died when I was so young, I can’t help but assume I will die when my daughter is very young, too. So right now I’m finishing up a collection of short stories and poems that I’m gonna self-publish this spring in my daughter’s honor. The stories don’t answer any of the above questions about me, but I hope that, if I die soon, they will at least offer her a glimpse of how I saw things, my humor, my opinions, and my imagination. And, ultimately, I hope they will inspire her to follow her dreams. 

HUNT:  What do mommy bloggers blog about? Maybe you could become the ultra-paranoid/absurd mommy blogger? Change the whole industry. Maybe you could write a ultra-paranoid mommy blogger post below?

LAZIDAISICAL:  Mommy bloggers write about their adventures in breast-feeding, or the techniques they’re using to potty train their kid, or recipes they’ve invented that their kids can’t get enough of. Or they post videos of their kids saying things that every other kid before them has said. Some of them even go so far as to write reviews about the new toy they bought their toddler. So they, presumably, sit there for hours, absorbed in thought over a spinning piece of plastic that makes baby noises and induces headaches with its flashing lights. My daughter can’t even bother with a toy for that long cuz she knows it’s not that interesting to bother with. I’m glad mommy bloggers think their kid is special, I think mine is too, but I wonder what they’d be writing about if they didn’t have kids. Nothing, perhaps?

The “absurd mommy blogger” idea sounds intriguing. I will continue to think about that. But if I were a “paranoid mommy blogger” I don’t think my posts would turn out as promising as the title sounds. One of my posts would go something like this:

“I think everyone who walks too close to us on the streets is planning to abduct and/or molest my daughter. I guess I think other mothers should feel the same way. At the park the other day, I pointed out to two other mothers a strange, dirty man lurking near the fence, almost standing behind a tree. I asked if they thought he looked suspicious, or just homeless, and neither answered me. They literally just mumbled, ‘I don’t know’ and looked away from me and continued talking to each other about their husbands’ promotions without even showing any signs of concern. Granted, their daughters were ugly compared to my daughter, so I guess I understand why they didn’t think their kids would immediately be snatched up by this guy, but anyway they didn’t care and I seriously considered bashing them over their heads with my daughter’s sand toys because I think doing so would have been in the best interests of their daughters. Then, of course, I’d have to bash in the head of that dirty old man, too. I’m afraid I might start getting addicted to bashing people’s heads in, especially if those people are child molesters.”

Every paranoid post before and after that would probably be about child molesters, too. And this post was a true story.

HUNT:  When did you start your Poetic Vandals website and why? After perusing the site for a few days my favorite is the 'Fuck you! We Beast' from an East Las Vegas playground. What was this written on? What's the appeal to you of found language (and also of putting your own language/images out to be found)? I lived in Phoenix for a year or so and remember seeing the words 'deanna loves victor santo always' on a sign that said 'Look Up! Premises Monitored By Camera!' That is my strongest memory of Phoenix.

LAZIDAISICAL:  I admire deanna for blatantly vandalizing something in the name of love right under the nose of a security camera. I hope that she and victor santo are living happily ever after. Or, I might actually wish that they aren’t and that she’s gone back to that site and written what went wrong between them. I would love for people to start following up with their vandalism like that.

I think I started Poetic Vandals about five or six months ago. I’m still fumbling with it. The idea has always been with me; I mentioned it casually in a drunk blog post one night and my friend alyssa (http://alyssagoesbang.blogspot.com) encouraged the idea and offered her own ideas of how we could make the concept take off. I’ve actually written a short story about being drawn to graffiti and found words, so I’ll answer this with excerpts from that story, because the character in the story is pretty much me; the story is the most non-fiction story I’ve ever written:
On nearly every public structure, paint is peeling, stairs are crumbling, base boards are broken, windows are busted out; the Crips have written their gang name in blue, and the Bloods have written their gang name in red. The rivalry between the two groups prompts them to spray-paint the number 187 across each other’s tags. 187 is the police code for murder. Scrawled around these aggressive threats are the passive aliases of various members of the two gangs: "Mickey", "Daffy", "Pluto", and "Snoopy". I am struck dumb by how juvenile and non-threatening these names are. Why not "Killer" or "Bad Ass"? I can’t help but feel sad for the fact that the criminals responsible for this graffiti are obviously kids at heart – kids who feel they must break the law and kill people to get any attention.

But because vandalism is the cultural norm, my friends and I [in the eighth grade] give ourselves "tag names" too. Pretty ones. "Honey", "Sugar", "Precious", "Sweetie", "Babydoll". We write these names on our notebooks, and when we go to the mall or the movies we write them on fitting room walls and restroom mirrors. We let people know, for example, that “Honey wuz here!" and we provide a date to prove it. If time and circumstance permits, we draw smiley faces or flowers or butterflies or hearts or any combination of such cutesy things around our tag names to devoid the vandalism of negative connotations.
I think it’ll be cool if a gang member sees our lovely graffiti. Maybe it will make her smile? Maybe it will motivate her to try a positive approach at getting her message across instead?

[After seeing some vandals in action one night]
“Some semblance of letters and words are visible the next day on the side wall of a Taco Bell where that group [of vandals] was loitering. Most notable is the phrase "North Side Killaz". That isn’t the name of a gang. It’s not even a gang-related statement. This is a sociopolitical statement. The north side of the city is where the white people live. The message the authors are trying to get across is: "death to racism".

The writers have most likely been mistreated recently by white people – as is the norm in our city. But they don't know how to properly speak out about it. Socially acceptable methods of communication aren’t open to us because no one cares what Mexicans have to say. Since most people assume we are here illegally, draining the economy, they don’t believe we deserve to be treated fairly. So the authors have taken to the streets to demonstrate their distress – to speak out against inequality– albeit, unfortunately, in a stereotypically ghetto fashion.

Four days later, nearly a dozen of their fellow vandals – some of them dangerous criminals such as Mickey and Snoopy – have signed their names around the "North Side Killaz" declaration as a means of offering support. I find it fascinating that, when gripped tightly by rage and a desire for change, these vandals and criminals and otherwise misunderstood and misguided individuals feel strongly compelled to write down their feelings in a most grandiose way…”
So, that pretty much explains it. I want to write an entire novel on a big blank wall one day, or down the entire length of a sidewalk. I guess that’s what I want Poetic Vandals to amount to. People can avoid reading certain books or certain publications, or they can shy away from certain art forms that don’t fit in with their everyday thoughts, but for the most part people can’t avoid reading vandalism that’s staring them in the face at a bus stop or a stop light. I like for people to sometimes think things that might be uncharacteristic for them to think - to think things that maybe they weren’t brought up to think. Vandalism and found art, I think, kind of make that happen. Street art that makes a statement might end up causing someone to consider an issue or art form that they had never paid any mind to before. Graffiti that consists of gang members’ names forces people to constantly be aware of the bullshit going on in their neighborhood, or in America in general.

The “Fuck You! We Beast” was found on the inside of a swirly slide on a playground in a rough neighborhood of Las Vegas. It appealed to me because: what the fuck does “We Beast” mean?! My first thought, actually, was that it was a misspelling. I assumed some ten year olds wrote it inside the slide so that they wouldn’t be seen and their stupid asses misspelled their own thought. Did they really mean “Fuck You! We’re Beasts [and we are going to get you]!” or “Fuck You! We’re the Best!” or is “Beast” a term they made up for “Cool”? If beast means cool, then that’s fucking genius, really. I choose to believe that “beast” means “cool” or “bad ass” or “willing to throw down”. And I love that some kids from a bad neighborhood invented their own slang and went out and imposed it on the world. I mean, look, it got us talking about it; and hopefully anyone who reads this will walk away thinking about it and might possibly tell the next person who talks shit to them, “Fuck you! I’m beast, bitch!” And, really, me writing about this is probably accomplishing more than the vandals ever imagined their beast statement would accomplish. That’s fucking beast, isn’t it?

HUNT:  That's great. I think I want wanted to read 'beast' as a verb. Like a kind of collective movement forward, a kind of dance, or an aggression, a becoming. I don't know. Reminds me of my twelve-year-old me. What would be the best location for a public art novel? What would that novel be about? What would you want it to do to people? (Personally I'd like to make passersby weep tragically into their palms and then feel confused and alone.)

LAZIDAISICAL:  Best location for a public art novel…hmmm…? I think I’d have to choose a place on a whim. I imagine I’d drunkenly stumble upon the place and suddenly feel like a novel needed to be written there out in the open. The novel would either somehow make people feel stupid about themselves, or be erotic fiction. The whole point would be to teach people a lesson or make them uncomfortable. Making them feel confused and alone, as you suggested, would be pretty perfect because then they’d end up having to figure themselves out and then go and reconcile estranged relationships, and that’s some pretty powerful stuff.

HUNT: Why do you want your daughter to wait until adulthood to read your writing? I'm a little conflicted about sharing my work with my daughter, but I can't articulate why or how or what it means. I think I'll share when asked, but try to provide context, but that may make me some kind of oddball permissive liberal.

LAZIDAISICAL:  I don't want to hide anything from her, either, because my mom hid a lot of stuff from me and that sucks, but I'm worried she's going to want to read my stuff when she's ten and, as of now, I don't have anything written that's suitable for a ten-year-old to read. Maybe I will later. Maybe I will tomorrow even. But even when she's a teenager... like I said, I'm writing an entire novel based on the outcomes of sex, rape, and molestation and it's graphic and crude and the people in the novel lead lives that, as a mother, I am obligated to tell my daughter not to lead. I don't want her, as a teenager, to have her budding sexuality thwarted or negatively influenced by her mother's writings. And if, by chance, she gets turned on by the normal sex scenes in my work, well, I think that's weird, too. I don't know. It's weird and uncomfortable to think about. We can talk about weird things once she establishes a normal, healthy sex life as an adult. I'm probably terrified of her asking what compelled me to write about these things too. I don't know. But a common theme in my writings is gender roles and racial issues, and I think that kind of stuff is okay to talk with her about even at ten years old. But, again, I can't help myself from writing about sexual dysfunctions even when I'm talking about that stuff. My tamest story (that I plan on publishing) mentions sexual fetishes and I don't want my daughter to have sexual fetishes so I don't want to be the one who introduces the concept of sexual fetishes to her. I don't know. Stuff like that. I'm uncomfortable now. And I'm scared to death of dying before ever getting the chance to talk with her about what I write. What will she think of me if left to her own speculation (hopefully her dad will still be around, but still)?

HUNT: How did you end up living in London? How is London different from Las Vegas? From San Antonio? What is your strongest memory of San Antonio. To what degree are all American cities the same? What other cities have you lived in?

LAZIDAISICAL:  My husband’s job sent him to London. He asked me to marry him and I went out there, too. London is different from Vegas because London matters. London has shaped the world and Vegas has done nothing but create casinos that look like cardboard cutouts of Roman and Parisian monuments. People who live in London care about London and people who live in Vegas do not care about Vegas. Las Vegans think their city belongs to tourists, not them; so they don’t give a fuck. They feel like they aren’t treated as well as the tourists are, which makes the community vibe here suck. In London, people of all social classes go to the theatre; in Vegas, half the people who live here don’t know where the Arts District is or what the monthly First Friday Art Celebration is. London is different from San Antonio because people of all different races sit next to each other on public transport without looking disgusted. In San Antonio, Mexicans, blacks, and whites will segregate themselves from each other on a bus and look at each other like “at least I’m not that guy’s race.”

In London, people know more about what’s going on in America than Americans do. I lived in London during Hurricane Katrina and the onset of “The War on Terror” and I feel the British media had more insightful, more human things to say about these unthinkable events than the American media did. I don’t know what kind of important things Americans spend their precious time thinking about if not social equality or the bigger picture. I don’t know why we feel so entitled when, collectively, we’re fucking ignorant.

I feel like I’ve said very basic, very vague, very common things to compare and contrast these cities. I could go on and on about this forever, but thinking about it and trying to create some sort definitive statement about what makes London different from Las Vegas and San Antonio is making me exhausted. I don’t know. Vegas feels like a place where everyone plays pretend, but not in a good, cute, whimsical way. London feels like it makes people worldly and aware and always on the verge of discovering something new. San Antonio feels like I want to go there and overthrow the government and really make it feel like the seventh largest city in America; I wanna make it feel like a place that’s progressive and no longer like a place that’s stagnant for no discernible reason what-so-fucking-ever. San Antonio has the fourth largest Hispanic population in the country. It should be trying to pave the way for racial equality. It should be a place that aims to elevate the status of Mexican-Americans in the U.S. But, no. And now I have a raging headache.

I think all American cities are the same in that they are stereotypically American. I hate that New York City, one of the most dynamic cities in the world, is so often personified by Times Square. I hate that Times Square has a McDonald’s and that tourists go to Times Square to gawk and marvel at giant blinking ads. I’ve never been to Times Square (or New York City, for that matter) but I’ve been to Piccadilly Square in London. Piccadilly has a much more scaled down mass of blinking LED ad screens, and even there in London, the city that can do no wrong in my eyes, I felt annoyed by the screens. I just kind of wanted to swat my hand and make them go away like a buzzing insect. But one can walk through Piccadilly pretty quickly and be done with it, whereas, it seems that Times Square kind of traps people and makes them spin ‘round and ‘round in search of a way out, and eventually they have to just give up and go fucking eat at McDonald’s. What was the question again? I pretty much answered it, though, right?



TODD COLBY is the author of four books of poetry: Ripsnort, Cush, Riot in the Charm Factory: New and Selected Writings, and Tremble & Shine, all published by Soft Skull Press, and the editor of Heights of the Marvelous: A New York Anthology. He is a visual artist and performer, and was the lead singer for the critically acclaimed band Drunken Boat. Here is his Soundcloud. He was kind enough to let me interview him via email over the last several weeks.

HUNT: In an introduction to an interview that appeared on Bookslut, Daniel Nester described you as a 'third- or fourth-generation New York School poet.' What do you think about categorization/canonization? Will there be more schools of poetry/writing?

COLBY: Schools, canons and categorizations are tidy tricks the academy uses to break things down into semester-size chunks. It's easier to test categories than just presenting an unstructured syllabus (which is how most of us read in real life, most of the time anyway). So, categorization is kind of necessary and it's something we all do with people we meet, with things we see, feel and experience. To categorize is human, it doesn't make it right, it just is. There's no way around it, but it is important to be conscious of it and find ways to push on the boundaries a bit so they're not so restrictive. Anyway, I like all generations of the New York School, some of them are very good friends.

HUNT: What relationship does running have to writing? Is writing a book similar to training for an Ironman Triathlon?

COLBY: Running to me is really all about rhythm once you get to a certain level of fitness. It's about finding a groove and grooving out for hours at a time. For me, writing is about a certain rhythm or cadence and finding it so the words sort of just roll out in a pleasant, structurally sound way. But that can only be found with years of constant practice and even then, like running, there are bad spells. Breath. Pacing. Patience. Humility. Fortitude. You have to have these five things in order to run or write well, otherwise you blow up, bonk and don't finish what you started and that's no fun for anyone.

HUNT: Do you eat cake at the end of a triathlon? Personally, I like to drink a coke after a long race and eat mac n' cheese.

COLBY: I like to eat enormous fruit salads after long runs and a giant peanut butter and raw honey sandwich washed down by ice cold milk. Nothing better, though mac and cheese sounds good right now on this wet winter night!

HUNT: What if you were forced to make all of your poems into songs for an Ironman training playlist?

COLBY: I could do that easily. I already sort of have. Hundreds of times.

HUNT: Do you have a child/children? If you do, would you want him/her/they/them to be poets?

COLBY: I don't have any children. I absolutely adore children though. A lot of my friends are having children now, so I'm around them a lot. Often times I'd rather sit and draw and talk with a group of children at a party than talk with adults. I'd love my child to be a poet or an astronaut or a water colorist or a hair stylist. Whatever, I'd really just want she/he to feel free and alive and open to the world with all its ridiculous beauty and stunning pain. Openness, and not giving into being a goddamn cynic is the key I'd want them to have in their front pocket.

HUNT: What would this child's name be?

COLBY: I think I'd name my daughter Djuna and my son Jackson.

HUNT: And how would you educate it?

COLBY: I'd educate my child like any parent: with all I could muster.

HUNT: If not, how would you make a child out of words?

COLBY: Whew! 

HUNT: How did you start writing, and why? Were you very young? And do some of your early (adolescent, teen-age) writings survive?

COLBY: I started writing by writing on the bottom of my nightstand when I was about 8. I'd leave little messages like the name of my teacher, my favorite color, my best friend's name, my birthday, etc. Random concrete facts. Then I moved onto writing on top of the water heater in the basement and leaving folded up notes in the closet and in the drop ceiling of a basement with more descriptions of my life for some other "future boy" that would hopefully find the notes and be able to bare witness to my life somehow. I had this idea that the person who found the notes would read what I'd left behind and understand me in a way no one else living around me could at that point. We moved a lot when I was young, so it was also a way to leave behind evidence that I'd been someplace. When I was around 13 or so I had the revelation that writing on paper would be an easier way to write things down and they'd be more portable. But I do marvel at the ingenuity of my 8 year old self writing on these pieces of furniture and hot water heaters. I mean, it's really kind of profound now looking back at it. I hope some of those notes are still waiting for the right "future boy" to find and have some sort of profound moment that I left behind. If you're reading this in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia on Knollview Court, O'Hara Drive or Flat Shoals Road, or in Ottumwa, Iowa on Indian Trail Road, go look in the closet now, there's something waiting for you.

HUNT: I like the idea of the purposeful leaving of evidence. Did your parents know? Or did you show anyone, friends perhaps, when you were eight or nine or eleven, and were there reactions?

COLBY: My parents knew later, when we moved from a place in Iowa and the people who bought the house called my dad and said "we found all these notes in the ceiling...what should we do with them?" My dad got them back and gave them to me, it was sweet but kind of embarrassing. But there are so many others that might not have ever been found. That is very intriguing to me.

HUNT: Do you consider yourself a full-time artist? Do you 'work' outside the arts? Would your 14-year-old-self recognize your present-self and what would he say to you? I have a peculiar relationship with my 14-year-old self. We're completely different people in a way that will never be comprehensible. And it makes me feel weird. Do you ever feel weird?

COLBY: I am a full-time artist. Even with a day job. I can't turn it off. I work outside the arts to support my art habit, like most poets I know. Being an artist for me is really about looking at the world with my antennae up all the time, so I'm never bored or thinking "this is outside of my real life as an artist." It's just all one big amorphous heap of throbbing art all the time for me, even in the midst of some serious job shit, I'm still an artist looking for an angle. My 14 year old self would look at me and be very happy about the current me, that's one thing I'm sure of. Yeah, I feel weird about every other moment, but I've gotten used to it.

HUNT: What do you believe poems should do, if anything?

COLBY: I believe poems should just be intense energy fields H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) talks about this idea in Notes on Thoughts and Vision. The idea that poems are chunks of energy and the people that get them or the poems that we get are the ones we have the right receiving mechanisms for. H.D. believed that even if just one or two people had the right receiving mechanism attuned to one another then they could change the world. I like that idea, as romantic as it sounds.

HUNT: Do you listen to music when you write/make art/etc...? If so, what in particular?

COLBY: I do listen to music when I write, not all the time, but when I do it can't have words in it. Brian Eno is pleasant to write to, and Bach. Tonight I was listening to Lucky Dragons and scribbling, that was nice. For the last week or so in the morning I've been listening to readings on http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/ and writing while I listen to other poets read, most notably John Godfrey. I like how the language he uses filters its way into my consciousness and sort of steers my vocabulary around in a very pleasant way.

HUNT: I just read the first poem on your blog and I spent some time considering this: "I'm winning so much lately / that it hurts my arms." Somehow this reminds of "heroes eat soup like anyone else". What do you think? When you google Jack Spicer a lot of the top hits refer to a cartoon character.

COLBY: Heroes do eat soup like anyone else. I think the line from my poem resonates in some way with that. I love Jack Spicer. I've spent a lot of time with his books just going crazy for his imagination.

HUNT: What are three or four poems that you had the 'right receiving mechanism' for? And why or how? Sometimes I think of this as reprogramming. I like to find sets of words that reprogram me in some way. Do you think this is a similar conception?

COLBY: Well, among the moderns (and off the top of my head as I sit in the Los Angeles airport) : "A Blessing in Disguise" by John Ashbery. "Stanzas in Meditation" by Gertrude Stein. "Having a Coke With You" by Frank O'Hara. "I Remember" by Joe Brainard. I believe all of these poems/works had sets of words that spoke to me in some way that "reprogrammed" or cleared my vision in some way that allowed me to look at things like I'd never looked before.

HUNT: Any new projects I (we, all people) should be looking out for? Anything you're fantastically excited about?

COLBY: An old product that is new for me are empty kleenex boxes. I have been cutting them up after I'm done with them and using some of the designs on them as backdrops for my new collages. In other news: I'm really excited about the new film "Gerhard Richter Painting" which is one of the most honest and moving documentaries of an artist working and living that I've ever seen It's really something quite awesome to see. 


thing i'm working on on saturday morning


Consider your genetic fuckup mutations and brain pan defects. Mutual transference by way of ectoplasm. What do you bequeath, all human-like and genetic? Your children destroyed before they're conceived in the sinewy primeval slime of what the fuck. How to know which of us parents mutated the most fucked traits? Brain trauma, googly eyes, suicidal depression, a strange desire to pet three-legged dogs. Imprinting wrongly on hangers and belts—leper marriage fantasies. Scientists and doctors can only guess because knowledge is bullshit faith wrapped in brainy observation corsage, or something. All interlocked and bloomed, flowerlike with tendrils, that great wavy octopus of eyeball popping. The million invisible rabbit of it, tied in titanium wire, bulbous and pod-like, flowers not flowers, flowers, not flowers.
            Do I mean courage? Corsage? Something to pin to your face.
            When I think of scientists I imagine the hundred million gears and pulleys all roiling together hoping to cause one mechanical arm to stab a dictionary with a dagger at the end of the universe.
            If I were trying to be fucked profundity-ist, I'd say, this is how we define our selves.
            How to cover the universe with tarpaulin? Or panties, all sewn together? How to put the earth to sleep?
            When I think of my wife I imagine a frozen peach wrapped in a pink napkin. I think mostly of her nipples. Stifled, maybe. How nipples expand once a daughter is born, how they widen. Diameter, coloring, once pink now brown or the reverse, inverted, all new and finally useful, udders, as it were, fleshy straws. Fleshy targets for the baby mouth. The vampire monster of it. Groaning with milk. Our daughter, with target eyes, crossed up and confused.
            A fear that all one can muster will turn to slop.
            The wife asleep.
            I stand over her, our thermal blanket all body-wrapped to chin, her brownish hair curled and spilling along pillow-gullies toward the bed-edge where it waits, half-suicidal.
            Her hair (of course), already dead, and I'm overly dramatic, a pod-head bereft of stalk.
            Still, so much hair to strangle me, to hold me beneath the placid surface of a slop-puddle.
            To take the edge off a little, I'll mention that her hair only speaks at night, when the wife is fast asleep, when the eyes get all rapid-eye-movement-y, defocused on some dream scene of dancing obelisks and horny crows.
            A soundless talking, that hair. A tangle language. Not unlike bones and blood. Not unlike.
            I came home late that night, as I've fucking told her (and the goddamn hair).
            I hung my rain jacket in the hall closet, after parking the bicycle in the garage beneath the Lego® arch.
            I checked (as always) the thermostats in our little house. I warmed some rooms and cooled others. I peered into the office, the bathroom, closed doors or opened them.
            I stood over our bed and watched the wife breathe in breathe out breathe in (just as now) while undressing dressing in my sleep shorts before the mirrored closet door, the lumpy shadow reflection casually observing the sallow me, my sparsely haired chest. A silent hair, untangled of words, rangy, a kind of mute hair dog.
            And then her hair. I said, oh hair why not tie your strands around my neck and cinch down all winch like until my eyes widen and my face blues into a shit-faced death mask.
            The daughter door half-closed, heat on in its consolidated whoosh, just across from our door (as usual) and so the climb into bed, grasping for blanket corners, for warmth pollution.
            A little restless sleep, all wobbily and cold, and then the text.
            The pair of us ceiling-staring, adjusting our eyes to our phone-screens, getting glow-eyed, transmutated, hypnotized. Mouthing we are we are I am I am not, right?


a bunch of poems about ants i wrote 4-5 years ago and saved in a folder i forgot about


Little ants crawl carefully on my face


Softly I email the little ants who advertise car-insurance during Divorce Court


Where are the ants who will slowly assemble the future?


The bed's infested with tiny people and I'm so tired I lay upon them and eat until I can't eat anymore


I love you more cunningly than ants with robot-arms


From here my tits are prettier than anything


Pickling the little ants may not make them love you


The calcium from the bones sustained us


From there, their tits were so beautiful


To love a thing is to be a thing which's why I hoist my meat in the mirror


There is no red refrigerator


Everyone here's named Dickson and we're murdering the robots precisely


The aliens were taller and better-armed before the sale


The insides were not inside


They have special night-vision-goggles for late-night operations


We only buried three of them and only after we separated their little ant-parts and removed the thin exoskeleton we now wear as eye-glasses


Miniature umbrellas for the parade


I love you because


Ant-movie-blockbusters happen only biannually when the long marches end in the mountains and after the frost-bitten are roasted bitterly for film


Politely cutting faces is beautiful today


Ants crawl from my fingertip to my nose


The ants can march between our body-parts if you want


Sad to know the little ants will never eat


I want so much to be smaller even than ants


To kill one ant you must kill every other ant


The melted snow is undrinkable but we drink anyway and sleep for a while.


INTERVIEW: Amber Nelson

Amber Nelson is a founding editor at alice blue. Amber Nelson is the author of This Ride is in Double Exposure (H-ngm-n), Your Trouble is Ballooning (Publishing Genius), and Diary of When Being With Friends Feels Like Watching TV (Slash Pine Projects). Her collection, In Anima: Urgency (Coconut Books) is forthcoming in 2013. She lives in Ballard, Seattle, Washington, where she makes bitters and complex gourmet foods.

HUNT: On your last visit to Portland we casually discussed the nature of belief, as it relates to religion, atheism, science etc... while returning with pizza and beer from the NY Pizzeria. Somehow, to me, this subject always relates back to class stratification, and in particular 'coming up' 'trailer poor.' Do you think your individual class story relates in any way to your belief structure? How does this relate to the conscious choice to become a poet?

NELSON: I really enjoyed that pizza. It had so many vegetables!

While I don't normally associate my own class story as being directly related to my belief structure, it probably is. The first home I remember was a tiny house. I remember it in black and white. And then we moved to Parkland, a poor neighborhood in Tacoma, where my parents rented a trailer in a lot from my grandparents. I have some distinct memories of gangs and drive bys. But also of friends in the neighborhood, Jasper in one direction, and Rachel in the other, and walking to their houses to play. And of eating baked potatoes every night. I didn't understand, then, that it had to do with money. But I still can't really eat a baked potato.

I went to Catholic church with my grandparents on Sundays. I usually say I grew up Catholic, and in certain, important ways it was true. I did go to those services, I saw the terrifying statue of Jesus laying prostrate in Mary's arms, bleeding from various places. His wrists and feet, obviously. But I distinctly remember a wound on his chest near his nipple. But also, our family was large. My dad was the youngest of 8. We had big holiday events at the farm that my grandparents ran (they didn't own it, but they lived there and ran it...there were immigrant farmers, I remember, who had lockers in the barn where we had Christmas Eve every year), and inside the barn was also a basketball hoop where all the aunts and uncles and cousins would play HORSE and a sawdust pile out back where all the cousins played Hide and Seek. This is also the place where I rode on the back of a motorcycle that my cousin was driving and she crashed and her thumb stuck in the throttle while the tire was stuck on my thigh. I realize, now, that all of this sounds made up. Yet, all of it is true.

But I digress. What I mean to say is, I grew up going to Catholic church, with Catholic "values" but I never went to Catholic school or did Bible study because my parents wanted me to choose my own way, an opportunity they didn't get to have. (Later they regretted this as both my brother and I turned out without any belief in God.)

But, in regards to my class, I remember my parents both worked 2 jobs and in order for that to happen, my brother and I had to go to daycare. And the moment I realized that I didn't believe in God, or at least where I first started to question it, happened there. Two girls, what would be described as the "cool" girls (though at this point I think that I, too, was considered a "cool" girl), came up to me, hands on their hips, all kinds of attitude and asked me "Do you believe in God?" with that valley girl lilt (because it was the 90's) that told me that there was a right answer to this and I guessed that the right answer was "yes" and for a long time I claimed to believe in God even though in my gut I wondered if I did and so I spent a lot of time thinking about it. It was a year or so after this that I decided to try on religions. I had friends of various faiths. I went to a Buddhist temple. Lutheran services. One of my friends was Greek Orthodox, her father a Pastor, and I went to several services with her. I had many Mormon friends in High School because they were in A.P. classes and so was I...but I can't say I tried that religion on. There was all sorts of things that seemed like it wasn't good for me. Not being able to drink coffee being primary to that. In college I took an Asian Philosophy class, though at this point I was already claiming agnosticism, and in that class I thought that Islam seemed like a good thing, their 5 pillars made sense to me, but that Voidist Buddhism was probably the most likely. (Hey, I was 18.) Frankly, what all of this came down to for me was that all religions offered basically the same things: an ethics, a community. I already had a strong ethics, one which diverged from my fathers and led to many an argument there, and I never felt the need for that kind of community. Most of the kids I knew who went to youth groups seemed like cliquey assholes.

Then again, in my high school, it seemed like there was a class division there as well. Rich doctor and lawyer kids all hanging out at youth group being pious and singing their kumbayahs and then getting wasted and fucking on the weekends. The people I spent the most time with were not Christian. I hung out with some goth kids, some debate kids, some Mormon kids, I had a few friends who claimed wiccanism, one friend who claimed to be a vampire. And I worked at least one job from the time I was 15 on...at one point, during my junior year in high school, I worked 2 jobs. Who had time to go to church anyway? I was at work by 4:30 AM on Sundays. By the time I got out, most church services were over.

And I went to college and stopped investigating these things. Later I got into reading about science. I have always been a little mystic maybe, for all my talk. Not crystals and incense mystic, but I remember a time my grandma was telling me that she had ESP (extra sensory perception), how sometimes she just knew things were going to happen before they did. My mom does too; I've seen it happen. And I've had this experience too. Not like I can just decide to know what's going to happen in an immanent future, but sometimes I get this feeling. Saying this makes me feel ridiculous. But I read some physics about how there's a theory of time and all time exists simultaneously all the time and thought how that could explain deja vu, and dreams, and how sometimes I know things are going to happen before they do. And if I was going to believe in something, I'd like to believe that all time exists simultaneously. But I don't know. And so while I'm probably an agnostic, I usually say I'm an atheist, because it's easier. I also work in a Reform Synagogue, and I have to say, I generally love this place's approach to religion. I work for 4 rabbis, one of whom does not believe in G-d. But the things they care about most, more than a belief in some mystical whosit, is education and being a "mensch," a good person. Rabbi means teacher. And the teachers encourage their students to question the Torah, to question their faith, and to make their own decisions. Which is pretty awesome.

And I'm writing a novel in answer to this question and haven't even touched the part about becoming a poet.

I didn't really consider poetry until I was in my freshman year of college, and didn't decide that that was really right for me until my Junior year. But I was a big reader from an early age. And by the time I was 7 I knew I wanted to be a writer. And by the time I decided to write poems, I never thought about faith, and in fact, most poetry that touched on the subject held little interest for me. And I think class is very related to poetry. My educational goals, my life goals, they were never financially motivated. And I think it's exactly because of the class structure that I grew up in. I didn't have money. My parents didn't have money. I've worked from a young age. I know I don't need a lot of money and I know that, generally speaking, I'll always be able to find a job and eat and live. That doesn't mean it won't be stressful, I won't be broke sometimes, or that I'll make a lot of money. But I don't care about a lot of money. I went into serious debt to get this lit education, and I would happily do it over again. And I think you have to have that sense going into  poetry, because you're never going to make any money writing poems. And if you're writing poems to make money, well, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons. And you're going to be really disappointed.

Sorry I'm all over the place.

HUNT: I like what you typed about money and poetry. When we all lived in Seattle in that Northgate apartment, one of the things I loved about poetry was that the stakes were very low. No money would ever be in the balance, and so I could be my own little tyrant on the page. And fuck all those who didn't like what I was doing. I wanted to fail and fail and fail and enjoy failing. How do you feel about failure? Is success possible? And in a completely unrelated tangent, what do you think about SOPA? And beyond that, copyrights? Another thing I was thinking about this morning is your comment about wanting to be a writer at age 7. Were you writing at 7? If so what? And do you have any examples you could quote?

NELSON: I've been sitting on this (these) questions for a couple days now. We are having a Seattle style snowpocalypse--which basically means there are 4 inches of snow on the ground and the only thing going on is drinking. Seriously. All of the town seems to have shut down except bars. I partook a little bit myself last night.

But I've been sitting on the questions (during the inactive, netflix days) because while watching countless episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I was also thinking about it. And periodically checking facebook. Facebook looked like this: "snowpocalypse!" "SOPA! PIPA!" "snowpocalypse!" "SOPA! PIPA!" on and on for eternity. I took breaks from FB & Netflix to read articles about SOPA and PIPA.

The thing is, I had already signed petitions against these things, and letters to my congresspeople (thank you all the millions of organizations that flood my inbox asking me to do these things) and I knew that I was opposed to these laws, but I hadn't really thought about them. Or, rather, hadn't seriously looked into them. So yeah, I'm opposed to the bills. But it's not that I'm opposed to copyright--I believe in a free sharing of information, and yet I believe in intellectual property. I'm of two minds. I'm not clear, totally, on any of it myself yet. I'm working through it. I'll bring you back more when I have more sorted out. What I can say is I've seen lots of good reasons why the bills should fail, and not that many good reasons on why we need them in the first place. But I liked this article in Slate. And that 4 minute video that keeps showing up everywhere.

So yeah... to the meat & potatoes.

When we lived together in Seattle, well, sometimes I miss that...but anyway... we started alice blue and I remember part of why we started alice blue is because we weren't getting published, and the people getting published in journals in our stead...well...we didn't always love them. We wanted to make a journal that published things that we were excited about. And we wanted to do so in a super socialist kind of way. Or, at least, I did. I just wanted to do this for people. Honoring their work. Making something great. It was never about money. And I definitely didn't have any then. At one point I was definitely working 3 jobs and about 80 hours a week, and Sarah was volunteering for a while, and you had a job but...money wasn't a motivation. We forked over time. You guys forked over money. (Thank you.) Later, when I started the alice blue books, I forked over the money. And sometimes I still do, though it mostly manages to be self sustaining. No profit, but sales from one book have mostly paid for the creation of the next book. (But, ps, I remember Sarah feeling really strongly about copyrights. And for alice blue, all copyrights belong the authors. They aren't our ideas, yo, we just put them out there for the people.)

Then, I had specific things that I liked to see in a poem. Now, I think that's still true, but I think I'm more interested in various kinds of poems. I grow weary of tidy, uncluttered, edited, structurally sound, perfect, pretty poems. I find myself more excited by a poem that fails when it tries to do something daring than a poem that succeeds at what so many poets are doing well. Like, ok. I get it. There are thousands of poets who can write a competent poem. Really. I mean it. All of you out there who I rejected, well, your poem was probably fine. Maybe even kind of good. But the hardest part of reading the poetry for ab and narrowing down to the top 30, is narrowing it down to the top 30. After reading 50 really bad poems and 350 totally competent but not exciting poems, it gets really exhausting. It gets hard to see anything. That's not to say gems don't exist and I have loved the things we have published. But at this point in my life, I would say that I can avoid writing a truly terrible poem if I want. And I'd say that's true of most of the poets in our circle, extended circle, and that circle's extended circle. But I've probably written 100s or 1000s of totally acceptable, mediocre poems. And if I'm being honest, I'll probably never write a truly, truly great poem. And maybe only a dozen of us writing today will.

So yeah. I love failure. When I was in my second year of grad school, I decided to write an epic...following in the tradition of Alice Notley and Anne Carson and Lisa Robertson and Laynie Brown and I'm missing people but you get the idea. And I knew there was a very sincere possibility of failure, but...what was I going to do? Write another 100 competent relationship poems? Nah. That's boring for me. And boring for people to read probably. So I decided to go for it. And I failed. Granted, at the time, I thought I was doing ok. I mean, I got up 3 mornings a week and wrote for an hour or two. I had ideas, man. But in retrospect, well, there are still things that I think are really great about the ms. But overall? I mean, it's kind of a big old mess. But I'm totally grateful to the friends that supported me all the way through it. And never once told me how bad it was. I suppose they knew I'd figure it out. Or maybe, because they knew me, they were as excited by my ideas, if not the execution. Or...who knows. But yeah, failure.

I try to be motivated by risk. I don't want to succeed at the same thing over and over. And so I just keep trying different things. And sometimes it bombs. Risk means a potential for failure. And doesn't risking something give the poem something at stake? I feel like I'm usually on the right track when whatever I'm writing makes me super uncomfortable. When I have to send it to my 8 favorite readers to have them tell me I'm not totally insane for doing what I'm doing. When I know whatever it is could go one of two ways: either really great, or really terrible. When I don't have that, well, it's because I know the poem is probably fine.

As for writing at age 7... I was, in fact. At this point it was fiction. The thing that made me realize I wanted to be a writer was a story about a frog named General Jim Jumpingbones. The notebooks have been lost, but there were a couple 80 page spiral notebooks filled with his (mis)adventures. The name was my mom's idea. And so was the story. And it was all sparked because I was bored at the Italian restaurant and bugging my parents (who didn't want to play hangman for some reason...). I do, however, still have the really terrible, angsty poetry I wrote in middle and high school. After a quick flip of the pages I stumbled upon this little gem, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Fic Poem:

Gone & Back Again

created by darkness, born to the night
living for evil, living in spite

then something happens that changes it all
a gypsie you killed, they gave you a soul

future becomes past, a spry girl comes
you fall hard into a pit of love

one night of passion, you forget all your pain
your soul goes away, you're now living in vain

you broke the girl's heart, but right now you don't care
but she's strong, she'll come back. beware!

I even dated it. January 1998. Obviously, this was after I was 7 years old. That was, what, 9th grade? I was in Junior High. Yowza.

Bigger yowza? There were so many Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fic poems. Some of them were collaborative amongst my group of girl friends.

On the other hand, I was in the 9th grade. What did I really have to write about? My parents weren't divorced. I wasn't "dating" anybody. My life was largely about working, going to class, reading, and Buffy, of course.

HUNT: I liked your teenage vampire poem. I liked how the lines rhymed, and how it reminded me of the fairly similar (though not vampire inspired) poetry I churned out in middle school and high school. This reminded me how you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Joss Whedon stuff generally, and I've been thinking about how much of our generation seems to communicate/align via a shared pop culture. I can't count the conversations I've had that structurally look like this: "...Fraggle Rock...the A-Team...The Snorkels...Tyler the Creator, or something..." What do you think about pop culture and intellectualism that surrounds it? Academic Lady Gaga, etc...?

NELSON: Well, you know I'm a pop culture junkie. I have a love of television that goes back to childhood. I watched a lot of tv as a kid. (Small Wonders, what up?!) My parents didn't really encourage me (until it was probably too late) to be really active. They encouraged me academically, but not physically. Hell, I would get home from school and I wasn't allowed to go to friends houses or ride my bike in the street like they do on tv (in all fairness, I hated riding a bike when I was a kid). So I watched a lot of tv. And I think that's why we have these conversations about pop culture now. They are really about shared experience. I mean, Jane Austen made fun of her society for going to tea parties and talking about who got what dowery and who had a shabby dress and what that party was like etc. People talk about their experiences. We're a tv generation, a video generation, a going to shows generation (not that they didn't do that then too...I mean, they talked about plays, read reviews in the papers). It's just that now our shared experience is music videos, internet memes, tv, movies, music. I remember bonding with you over Ernest Hemingway, and then later the WB show Roswell (and to a lesser extent, One Tree Hill because, and I remember you saying this distinctly, it might be smart because it quotes literature at the beginning...but that it ended up that One Tree Hill is not that smart.)

When I was in middle school, in the midst of all the MySoCalledLife style identity and growth drama, I made friends with the aforementioned misfits. A couple of gay boys, girls who got kicked out of school for dying their hair a funny color, wiccans, etc, we bonded over Buffy. It was the show that, when it came out, we couldn't wait to get to school early to talk about last night's episode. And we identified with it. I mean, obviously not the killing vampires part, but they were teenagers that were totally believable. Right before Season 2 happened, me and the other girls had a Season 1 marathon from the VHS recordings one of us had made.

Later, I came to understand how smart it was. I mean, not much later. It was still on tv. But I was getting old enough to get the many layers going on. And part of what I think makes Joss Whedon so brilliant is that he is a pop culture nerd himself, and old school comic books and Star Trek style nerd. He's witty and observant. He understands character. He understands that pop culture is part of the shared experience. I mean, I can think of all kinds of examples, but the one that comes first to mind is the last in Season 4, Restless. In it, Buffy & the Scoobies have just beaten the most recent badass, Adam, by combining their essences into one Super Buffy. They're going to sit back, eat some popcorn, and watch Apocalypse Now but they all fall asleep. And one of my favorite parts is where Xander re-enacts part of Apocalypse Now, he talks about how it's all about the journey. And then he calls himself a "Comfortador" which always makes me laugh.

At the same time, the people that I loved knew that I loved Buffy, so they gave me books about it. I got the Watcher's Guide when I was in middle school. Later I got Buffy & Philosphy, wherein real academics engaged with BTVS in accordance with philosophers like Kant, and Marx. And I remember reading it and being surprised about how well thought out it was.

But it's not such a stretch, I see now. So I'm ok with pop culture being something that people engage with academically. Because part of the role of the academy is to ask questions and try to understand. What better way to understand people than by engaging the things they spend their time on, the things they talk about, their shared experiences.

For me, it was Buffy. At least it was then, though I can't say I've loved a show as much since. I guess, also, My So Called Life and Freaks & Geeks were pretty big in terms of creating characters and experiences that I found believable and relatable. How did Buffy get in the mix? Because, despite the fantasy and horror, it really does depict high school. I totally related (to Willow). I wanted to be Buffy. I was friends with Xander, and he was not so secretly in love with me. I knew so many Cordelias and hated them all. And I had a weird relationship to the library, and my elementary school librarian with the hippie pony tail who came to my XCountry matches. (Shout out to Mr Lumberger.)

Anyway, there's that idea that we create art to deal with and understand the world. And that critics are there to deal with the art. Now tv and movies are the way we mediate and deal with the world. And academics are there to parse it out.

I mean, Lady Gaga was a serious phenomena. And I liked how it seemed like she knew exactly what she was doing. She was making pop songs and celebrity and she was playing this game to the point of absurdity--but people ate it up. You're always saying how you feel like people in our generation like really obvious things. Lady Gaga was simultaneously obvious and baffling. She was an artist of pop. Of course academia will flock to her. They want to understand.

HUNT: Somehow I keep locking onto/rereading this statement from your answer below: "Hell, I would get home from school and I wasn't allowed to go to friends houses or ride my bike in the street like they do on tv (in all fairness, I hated riding a bike when I was a kid)." This seems like a point of departure from my own childhood, where my parents work schedules prevented them from enforcing rules. From about age eight, I was on my bike with friends and perhaps miles and miles from home, except perhaps when I need to care for my younger siblings (though, often enough, I just took them with me). Was your early childhood rigidly structured? How does this relate to Amber 2012?

NELSON: In talking with other people, and seeing the other kids while I was growing up, I know that the way I grew up was different. Some kids had curfews. I didn't. I had to ask permission every time I wanted to go somewhere that wasn't school or home. My dad grew up on a farm, and in a lot of ways he raised me like a farmer parent, just without the farm. The year I was going into 5th grade, my parents bought a house. An old house. And for rest of my time there I did a lot of chores. I helped with insulation and sheet rock. I did a lot of the finish work on the trim throughout the house. I dug holes. I helped build fences. Every weekend I had to mow our acre of yard (thankfully on a riding mower). My brother and I shared a rotation of house chores: dishes, dusting, vacuuming. My dad was an evil genius about these things. He would mark (or place, I've never been sure) some piece of schmutz on the floor, and if I didn't get it when I vacuumed, he'd tell me that I obviously hadn't actually vacuumed. He expected a normal-sized room to take at least an hour to vacuum. Our living room was supposed to take 2 hours. I don't know how other people feel, but I feel now as I did then: that just seems ridiculous. As far as seeing friends, I have distinct memories of my father saying things like "You hung out with your friends last weekend. You don't need to hang out with them this weekend." My parents would leave before me most week days. I would walk to school most of the time and leave about a half an hour after they did. I wasn't "allowed" to watch tv in the morning. At first I did anyway, figuring how could they know. But the first couple of times I did, they knew. It didn't stop me from watching the tv, but it did give me a strict ritual. Before picking up the remote, I would mark where it was on the coffee table. Then, before changing the channel to Fraggle Rock, I would mark what channel the tv was on, AND what channel the "channel return" button took me to. Then I'd watch Fraggle Rock until it was time to go, and then set the channel and channel return to their original setting, and make sure the remote returned to its original resting place at the right angles and everything. It was a rather intense ritual.

Most of my life was ritual. Breakfast, Fraggle Rock, School, Sports, Homework, TV, Bed.

Now my life is much the same. I'm a scheduler. Frequently my life is planned two weeks or more in the future. If you call me and want to hang out that day, it's not likely I'll be able to. Hell, I have one friend who has never managed to call me when I wasn't with somebody else. (I don't answer my phone when I'm with other people.) I rebelled against cleaning when I was a kid, but now I'm hardcore about organization. I'm a master with time management. People often wonder how I manage to do as much as I do. Sometimes I look back and wonder myself. But as much as I resented all of the crap when I was a kid, now I feel good about it. I'm pretty self-sufficient. And I have a really fulfilling and full life. And I don't think I would have been able to live the life I lead now if it wasn't for learning to manage my time, to work within a schedule, and to do general home maintenance as a child.

HUNT: Please provide three youtube links that you think are important for any reason at all.

NELSON: So, I've had a pretty crappy day today, and so I chose mostly videos that are important because they make me laugh, or make me happy, or make me feel better about anything at all.


This is because, if anybody out there has watched Game of Thrones you know, the amount of pleasure I get at seeing Joffrey get slapped is nearly insurmountable, and even then, only insurmountable by him getting slapped by Peter Dinklage.


Dance movies make me happy. Even bad ones. Which is why I had a dance movie marathon for my 28th birthday (Tap, Strictly Ballroom, and Step Up). However, when it comes to the Step Up franchise, the last two Step Up Movies had excellent dancing, and the quality of the dancing was in direct opposition to the quality of the acting. Wow that's some bad acting. But the dancing makes me happy. So hopefully, Step Up 4, which looks absolutely terrible, and actually looks like The Fast & The Furious The Musical, will still have excellent dancing and terrible plot.


This is important for reasons that are two-fold.

1) It's really funny.

2) It's a really sad reflection of our society's "stuff" problem.

3) When I was about 15 my family still celebrated Christmas Eve with all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my grandmother gave me a barbie. And I cried. I cried because I was humiliated that she would think that I would want a barbie at that age. I didn't even like barbies when I was young enough to really like barbies.

Even as I was making a scene, however, crying in front of my whole family out of humiliation about this barbie, I cried further because I was so ashamed for responding in this way. I knew it would be hurtful to my grandparents, and I didn't want to do that.

It turned out that my grandma thought I had said that I wanted this particular barbie. A 35th Anniversary Barbie. And it's possible that, without even thinking about it, I had said "hey that's cool" while walking through the store with my grandparents and she was paying such close attention that she took it as a hint that I wanted one.

I apologized to my grandparents, of my own volition, not twenty minutes after the last of the gifts were delivered, but my response to that Christmas gift remains among the list of things for which I'm most ashamed. And I wonder how these kids will feel 20 years down the line.