AHC: In your piece 'some people are without guitar' there is this line “Obama's drones turn you into a realist” which is a really powerful phrase among many really powerful phrases throughout the piece, “water under water can't be heard” is another one that comes to mind. I'm wondering if you could comment on the inspiration-creation behind this piece. There were so many different mental-threads that were tugging at me as I listened to it, but most of all I was thinking of precarity, third world precarity, the drone will make you a realist, will make your bodies fragility palpable and inescapable, was this one of the guiding inspirations for you, this sense that abstraction can sometimes be an unaffordable luxury for certain segments of the world?
Danielle: I first made ‘Some People Are Without Guitar’ into video in early 2011, layering different sounds and text tracks for the composition. The text itself, though, came into being, as many of my texts do, beforehand, while I was ‘going about life.’ I had been digesting and assembling my work FIRST ASSIGNMENT, which came out of my experience embedding with a unit of US servicepersons both domestically and in Afghanistan. I was also working on a later project, On the Rocks, in the Land, for which I was traveling to various zones with ‘walls’ – Belfast, Juárez, Ramallah. Both projects attest to my desire to interface directly with or to ‘witness’ first-hand that which I do not know so as to better understand or make meaning. The use of drone warfare could be seen as a refusal to interface directly, a disembodiment from facing one’s effect in the world. In this sense, drone warfare is functioning to abstract, yes, but I would not say that abstraction is exclusive to the known power players of the world. Abstraction is an innate reflex – i.e. ‘Americans don’t care about […],’ ‘people from the city are […],’ ‘the air in […] is,’ etc. In the song-poem, following ‘[…] turn you into a realist’ are the lines ‘We should just be able to kill each other, body on body / People documenting people.’ By “realist” I was thinking of political realism, the form of international relations that takes conflict and competition as a given. From this perspective, an engaged party accepts that war is interface and that devastation will occur. What is striking to me is that five years since my making this video drone warfare has only increased and, subsequently, come more to the attention of the public eye.
AHC: "No time for recreational thinking" is another great line from 'some people are without guitar' it reminds me of a book by Slavenka Drakulic called 'The Balkan Express" in which she describes what it's like to try and continue to live an ordinary mundane life in the midst of a war zone in the Balkan crises, having coffee at a cafe while bombs are dropping, going to the grocery store in the midst of rubble, many of us couldn't imagine trying to adapt our lives to such a brutal scenario, I mention this because these are some of the reasons why I think your piece is so powerful, it brings up all of these really shadowy aspects of existence we would rather not acknowledge or spend too much time thinking about, they are also woven together as fragments, related but also disparate, as much of our mediatized reality seems these days, fragmented, related and disconnected, yet your performance forces or beckons a certain ethical cohesion or call to conscience, is this something that you feel informs part of what you do as an artist? Teasing out the social conscious from beneath the rubble?
Danielle: Thank you for this response. Drakulic’s book has been on my list! My process and my aesthetic are idiosyncratic. I conceptualize my poetic gestures as making sense from or even bringing into fact of being, the fragments that populate us - whether they be media noise, the daily concerns of life, or the grand narratives constantly being reshaped and re-sold to us. In another way, though, ‘what I do as an artist’ comes out of an unselfconscious voice. In my resting state, somewhat akin to how we understand young children, I am always making rhythms, cycling in on things overheard, phrasing images I encounter into bits of text. This to me is like breathing or coping or scanning one’s eyes in a crowd. It is in the composition of my texts, whether performed or otherwise, that these sensibilities intertwine. A social conscious is both bubbling up from my work and also studied and scrutinized within it.
AHC: Have you considered creating a new piece along the lines of 'Hope May' for this current election cycle we are in? Also could you talk a bit about that piece?
Danielle: ‘Hope May’ was generated by collecting and composing all the ‘Hope’ statements I received or sent via email in the month of May 2008, the month nominee Barack Obama announced his ‘Hope’ campaign. The reprise is ‘May Come, May Go.’ It wasn’t until the 2012 election cycle, when President Obama was running for his second term, that I created the video. In the animation I have taken gestures performed in Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ music video and drawn them as disembodied arms and hands, which some have interpreted as intimating ‘a magic trick.’ That video-performance, along with ‘Some People Are Without Guitar,’ are part of my collection of thirteen video-song-poems titled And I Think I Like It. in which I examine many of the phrasings and current events over that election time (2011-13).
Beginning in late 2013 to now I have been engaged in my current project, Caution Bomb, which indirectly and directly deals with the current US Presidential election cycle. Specifically, the three-part project takes up the US Homeland Security slogan ‘see something, say something.’ The project began when I was invited to work with the State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart, Germany as a composer. Working with six vocalists and three instrumentalists I created the opera, ‘Caution Baum,’ for live performance and video (“Baum” being “tree” in the German language). The loose narrative of the piece surrounds notions of esotericism within the forests of southern Germany. I met with two known foresters during my research and also spent time at the flagship Waldrof School in Stuttgart and visited the Goetheanum, in Dornach, Switzerland during its eurythmy festival when creating the piece. Throughout the opera the performers whisper the line ‘see something, say something’ with regards to the death and reappearance of a tree/Baum.
The second tier of Caution Bomb resides in Los Angeles, where I live and work. The phrase in this video-performance and accompanying visual material exists in relation to paparazzi and the fantasy of the southern Californian landscape and its palm trees. Over the last year I have been working as an editor at a celebrity gossip blog accruing background for this component. The third and final tier of the project, on which I am now working, deals directly with this election cycle. I attended both Presidential National Conventions this July, the Republican in Cleveland and the Democratic in Philadelphia. The material I have collected and generated will become a dynamic piece for performance, again using the refrain ‘see something, say something’ as in this case, it relates to political agency and protest. In both ‘Hope May’ and this current body of work, the omnipresent slogans, ‘Hope’ and ‘see something, say something’ are repeated, deconstructed, and given space to be reconstituted in the eyes and ears of the viewer.
AHC: You spent some time as an embedded journalist in Afghanistan, which became the theme of your work 'From JBAD, Lessons Learned', could you talk a bit about that project and also what it was like while you were there?
Danielle: ‘From JBAD, Lessons Learned’ is the product upon which my embed with the United States military was premised. My time in Afghanistan and with troops domestically before and after is part of the larger umbrella project FIRST ASSIGNMENT. In January 2008 I performed as a “media embed” with soldiers in Fort Irwin, California where the military base was then dressed to resemble villages in Afghanistan and the soldiers were given a simulated war experience to prepare them just before deployment. In the short time I was on base I was assigned to a young Lieutenant with whom I befriended. Kelly and I are close in age and have at times been mistaken as sisters. After my stint on base we continued corresponding, and at one point that spring while I was driving in my car in Los Angeles listening to news on the radio, I decided that I wanted to follow Kelly in Afghanistan, on her first assignment, as a real embed. Without reportage bylines to my name I approached a literary press I work with – Les Figues is a Los Angeles-based, independent, nonprofit publisher of poetry, prose, visual art, and conceptual writing – to be my “media outlet.” After six months of my application paperwork, pitches, and waiting I was approved to go to Afghanistan, which I planned for the month of November 2008, knowing that I would be with the troops after the US elections and over the Thanksgiving holiday. In sum it was a tremendous experience. I talked with many individuals in the conflict overseas and accrued much audio and visual documentation. From this, I created a series of video-performances, which I performed throughout the project’s trajectory and have since developed into the feature-length work FIRST ASSIGNMENT. The artist book ‘From JBAD, Lessons Learned’ I created and modeled after the US Army and Marine Corp’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual. The book is an accumulation of phrases I encountered while on base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, loosely and associatively arranged alphabetically, and, particularly, ending with a barrage of statements, from the soldiers, worded in the second-person – i.e. “you gotta be careful of letting your mind,” “you really have to be completely,” “when you try to be like,” etc. Through my role as a “media embed” the project interrogates counterinsurgency and shows that it is not only a strategy used by the military, it is also a rubric of performance.
Interestingly, after Kelly’s assignment in Afghanistan, I was able to meet up with her in her redeployment to Fort Hood, Texas over the Labor Day weekend of 2009. Seeing again some of those I met abroad was an entirely separate and profound experience.
AHC: Could talk about your piece Buoys and the themes that inspired it?
Danielle: In 2010 I was living in Belfast, Northern Ireland as the International Artist-In-Residence at Digital Arts Studios. I came to know the three navigational buoys that sit as public sculpture near Ulster University in Cathedral Gardens and are used as a common meeting-up place. My friends there would of course use to the British English pronunciation of the word, which unlike American English, sounds phonetically like ‘boys’ to refer to ‘Buoy Park,’ as it is informally referred. I knew at that time that there was a piece there, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2012 in a quick burst while back in California that I wrote ‘Buoys.’ The accompanying video is a series of animated water buoys, which bounce and sway upon the black video mass of the monitor’s screen: ‘So I do/ What all the Buoys Do/ Bop-d-bop-bop-bop/ Do What the Buoys Do/ Bounce-Bounce-Bounce/ All the Buoys Do/ Down-Down-Down.’
AHC: In the piece you contributed to Chain Letter, the group exhibition for Shoshana Wayne Gallery, 2011, your quote reads: "HOUSE MUSIC, COMEDY AND PORN are today the most political things one can do." It's a provocative and effective critique of our consumer obsessed society, a type of 'No Logo' aphorism, I am wondering, in the rise of social movements like Occupy Wall St and Black Lives Matter, do you sense a certain turning of the tides in this regard, that people are once again finding their own agency and the potential to reinvest themselves critically in the body politic beyond just the superficial?
Danielle: I turned 35 this month. I fall within that undefined liminal span between Gen X and Millennial. I say this because I find myself with traits characterized by both. Young adults today are for certain taking up identity politics in a way that those coming of age in the 1980 and 90s in the States shied away from. I’m all for this newfound empowerment, particularly of the disenfranchised finding voice. What I also have observed, however, in for example my time at both conventions this July, is a sense of agency in ‘who I am’ veering on overshadowing the very necessary act and encounter of listening and finding out ‘who are you.’ Maggie Nelson whom I worked with at CalArts told me once while I was assisting her at a summer community arts writing workshop many years ago, that one of her favorite expressions – the source I cannot recall – is “Be kind.” This is on the level of Golden Rule basic; you never entirely know the story the person sitting next to you carries. I hear a lot of talking via my travels, social media platforms, news, and otherwise. I can only hope that this talking shares what is true of good conversations, reading, and the body politic itself, which is that to speak to be heard is to also listen.
AHC: Who are some of your literary and poetic influences? Are there any writers in particular who have had a lasting impact on you as a writer? In terms of art and performance art who are some of your inspirations?
Danielle: I have had great teachers who are active in their respective fields. None of whom I am like, but I have crafted my own angle in the presence of their insights. Maggie Nelson is one, also Michael Asher who was my mentor at CalArts, and also painter and scholar Anoka Faruqee. In undergrad, psychological anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann opened up new fields of thought to me. I would say, though, I never isolate impact via a single person. Like in the way I feel films are often frames or conditions for particular scenes, my influences are disparate, incidental, and one-off. The approach of Stanislavsky and his American acolyte Sanford Meisner had a large impact on me growing up beyond an acting workshop in which I was exposed to their techniques. In college, I took to Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Society,” and other sociologists whom I read – Durkheim, Weber – incited distinct opinions and reactions I had not known within myself at the time. Later, I learned of and became sympathetic to the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and his narrative ethics. If you look at my top bookshelf now you’ll find possibly unsurprising yet still under-recognized female modern and contemporary writers: Marguerite Duras, Clarice Lispector, Elizabeth Hardwick, Bernadette Mayer, Lydia Davis, Lynne Tillman, Anne Carson, and surely Gertrude Stein. But I read widely and try to see as much as I can first-hand. When I saw Charlemagne Palestine perform on the world’s largest pipe organ in the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles that was pretty great. When I later walked into a performance of his within Anish Kapoor’s 2011 installation for the Grand Palais in Paris, it was exceptional. Being told off-handedly by a friend of a friend that there is a Bill Viola video installation owned by a private collector but maintained on view in a small church in Milan and going there outside of service hours, where the priest guided me, the only visitor, to it – that reaffirmed some things about context and authorship for me. Elizabeth Price’s 2012 Turner Prize winning show, a waterpower plant I took a tour of in Washington State, the Kolumba museum in Cologne, both of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s sound installations at dOCUMENTA (13), hearing Wanda Coleman read, the changes in my block in Koreatown, Los Angeles, these are all among an accumulation of influences.
AHC: Judith Butler has been calling for a type of performativity of our political and relational bodies, one that is already underway in many of our social movements, do you find your own philosophy of performance and critique resonating with this concept of performativity at all? Do you think that another alternative to the neo-liberal TINA (There is no alternative) is possible and do you feel that art and literature/poetry/performance has a certain role to play in creating and realizing this, or really language in general?
Danielle: In Butler’s and performative utterance theorists’ speak, ‘I do.’
AHC: Do you have any upcoming exhibits or projects you'd like to tell people about?
Danielle: Caution Bomb will be complete with the third component of the project I am working on now. I am editing video, imagery, and audio I collected while at the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention this July. This work will be become a traveling live video-performance and also adapted for gallery presentation. I will begin showing the work this October in advance of the November elections.
Additionally, I am working on a large non-fiction book project, which takes as bookends my project beginning in 2008, FIRST ASSIGNMENT, through to my new work Caution Bomb, which is capped in this election cycle. In total, eight years will be encapsulated through transcriptions of audio interviews and reflections, bringing together a prose illustration of my artistic ethics and aims. I use performance as my investigative tool, and through inhabiting particular roles and/or institutions commit to reveal where the narratives we ascribe to life and the titles we carry breakdown, when experiential and culturally-generated understandings collide.
For more information please visit danielleadair.com/
AHC: You've been making music and been in and around the world of music for a long time, and you've had quite a journey, could you tell us a bit about this long music road you've been on, its highs and lows, and what kind of life lessons you feel you've picked up along the way?
Kristina: Words are food to me, and guitars saved my life. I’ve always put the two together to make songs, when no one was listening and because no one was listening.
A music career has resulted out of that. I’m persistent and determined, follow my nose and wear a lot of hats. A desire to demystify the business for myself has driven me into all corners of it. It’s always a high point when band chemistry is good and when instruments are exquisite. I like to be a friend to other performers from backstage and in the studio. It’s a thrill to help bring dreams in for a landing.
On the low side, nothing seems to stay the same. The challenges I’ve had with my voice, its lack of stability and refusal to cooperate, have forced me to reinvent myself a few times. Emotion is a strange beast and the voice is its junction box. Problem solving around this has made me a more versatile musician and person. My studio is a place where there’s no judgment and I can sound as bad as I need too until it starts to sound good again.
AHC: What was your early musical environment like as you came of age in the 70's? Was folk always the main pull for you musically, or were there other genres of that era that were speaking to you as well?
Kristina: Growing up near a college campus, I could walk a couple miles and drop in on live music events all the time. There was a vibrant coffeehouse scene at Cornell and there was no alcohol there so I could get in. My guitar teacher performed bluegrass and folk and repaired guitars at a hip local shop. So I hung out there. I was a sponge and trying to be as cool as the college kids I looked up to.
Record albums were currency. They got passed around like contraband. My dad collected records and was talented amateur musician who loved to perform. The turntable spilled over with his favorites: Tony Bennett, Miles Davis, Brazil 66, Aretha, Bob Dylan and many others. I remember the moment I first heard Joni Mitchell up in my friend Alice’s bedroom. Her approach was a matrix I already knew in my bones.
My bare feet covered a lot of ground tagging along after the older kids. We tumbled out of their cars onto country roads and into hay fields. I ended up places I probably shouldn’t have at my age, like moonshine parties & dive bars. But in the heat of those days I would have followed those scrappy fiddlers to the ends of the earth. Their music was stuck on me like buckthorn honey.
So I learned to cuss and chase the raw musical heroin. My guitar case and I became one. I started looking for my audience. I knew I needed to find them, lost as I was in the throes of my angst.
AHC: Your recording studio Pepperbox is completely off the grid and solar generated, what inspired you to go this route and what went into building it this way?
Kristina: I like living in remote locations and so it follows that my last two homesteads have been completely off grid. I didn’t exactly plan it that way but the great, affordable properties are often the unpowered ones. So I’ve been dealing with generators, inverters, solar panels, wind turbines and batteries for a long time. The recording studio came along well after this pattern of energy self sufficiency was established. I’ve done much of it on a shoestring.
When we put my studio together we did some math to estimate the amount power my audio gear would be drawing off the batteries on a typical day and sized the circuits for a pure sine wave inverter. That magical unicorn lives quietly in the basement. Its basic job is to turn sunlight into regular AC power and then deliver clean electricity to my recording system. I have a mess of amplifiers, hard drives and computers that I rely on. They run flawlessly, thanks to the inverter.
I don’t like losing power but I’m not always good at keeping tabs on my energy infrastructure. When I have the luxury to delegate that, I do. The weak links in my system usually rear their ugly heads during the dark days of winter. The worst thing is the generator going down. I have a love-hate with that thing. On the other hand, I bow down to my solar panels. Since I doubled the size of my array they are worth their weight in gold. Our whole world will eventually run on solar; it’s the best thing out there.
Off grid issues that can compromise a recording session are more likely due to equipment neglect than equipment failure. As I mentioned, I’ve been known to deny realities that include engine parts. Another terrible annoyance is having to deal with heavy objects that thrive on battery acid. It’s far easier to get lost in your creative work and forget to be mindful of those things, called batteries.
The good will of batteries only goes so far before they will just die. On a typical December night if I lose track of their charge level, crashing the studio becomes a real option. I guess I prefer to avoid this. I can normally run the distance to the generator switch and get there in the nick of time. But if I’m really feeling it, as I often do, I’ll forget to check the oil in the generator, plead the fifth and admit the truth that I can’t read the dipstick.
AHC: You're also an engineer and producer, a process which you've described as a form of midwifery, can you talk a bit about this aspect of your life and creativity?
Kristina: I think I can honestly say that what drove me to take charge of my technical process was my voice. As a writer and a singer, I needed a safe place to explore ideas and feelings that were intense & overwhelming. It became clear to me in my twenties that doing my own recording was a creative necessity. A conventional path was not going to work for me. Being recorded by others had shown me the process and inspired me, but I knew that doing it for myself, and by myself, was going to shake the best fruit down from the tree.
Bringing my original music into the world was not going well anyway. I wasn’t having much fun or success doing music in public. I had artistic direction and chops but no confidence. I remember once being curled up in the fetal position on the floor begging some unseen power to just “let me do my work”. My voice was giving out under pressure and being judged around that scared the crap out of me.
I had a lot of drama and endings. I needed a home but I didn’t really have one. Relationships were ecstatic then blew up. Call it self-sabotage or shamanic or whatever. But somehow I had the good sense to go buy a four-track tape machine. Along with my guitar, I kept that thing with me.
This is how I came to midwife myself and maybe 20 years later I realized I was not bad at doing it for other people.
Ongoing problems with my voice keep the struggle alive in my process so I never forget how hard it can be to reveal your self, in front of other people. To me the recording studio is a laboratory where we uncover the nuances of emotional reality and distill them to make a strong drink. Productions can fall short due over-thinking. The strongest emotions are pretty simple. It’s best to get to the point and reflect that simplicity with a beautiful form. I try to bring that to my producing, and the engineering is just a set of tools to do that.
AHC: One of my favorite songs of yours is 'Turn off the noise" with that wonderful line "Turn off your wireless, cut us free, Let's take the old road between you and me" to me it speaks to a loss of genuine communication that I think we're losing more and more of in these modern times, while it's easier than ever to communicate I sometimes wonder if that's what we're actually doing, that song to me says 'let's take a different route, speak to and find each other more directly' was that part of your inspiration for that song, and if not, what was?
Kristina: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking about and when I get sort of prescriptive in a song, I’m talking to myself first. Okay, so I’m clearly frustrated & feeling shut out from a deeper more meaningful form of communication but also reminding myself to do some introspection. How well am I “getting quiet” with my mind and straight up really listening – to you, to the natural world and the things that bring me back to what matters most? Because those conversations need to be practiced now more than ever. The digital revolution was inevitable but it’s up to us to remember not to use our devices to obfuscate truth or avoid it.
AHC: Do you remember the first song that you ever wrote?
Kristina: Absolutely. I was grade school age and it was summer and girl scout camp was in full swing on the shores of Lake Cayuga. To start our day, we’d have “morning sing”. The song was in the key of D, in fact that was the only chord. The lyrics went like this:
On a moon lit summer night
Here I sit and watch its rays
Off afar he waits for me
Knowing not that I am here
My themes have not changed a lot.
AHC: Could you talk a bit about your time working as a volunteer for avant-garde filmmakers? I'm also curious to hear more about what you described at that time as the weird happenings in weird places of punk rock lofts & circus trains?
Kristina: I went to college for a few years in Boston. I had a double major in poetry and film and ended up working as a projectionist for art cinemas. That meant a lot of foreign films & unusual stuff. I wanted stage-hand experience & found a film collective called BFVF where I could get some. BFVF was the “maker space” and screening room for experimental filmmakers in the area. It was a cool place. I did a solo gig there once; one of my first.
Strange things did happen to me in Boston because I was curious about the low rent side of the city. One time I was waiting for the train really late at night. The platform was empty except for a Ringling Brother’s Barnum & Bailey Jamaican unicyclist. Who would’ve guessed the circus train was parked out behind North Station? You don’t get invitations like that every day. As for music parties and happenings, people were always taking me places but I was invisible. My own songwriting was not plugged into any scene.
AHC: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Kristina: I’ll hear an amazing song and have to put it on repeat for days. Songs like that seem to fly out from nowhere. It’s the songs and the moments they create where time stands still that stick with me. Certainly I have been slain by the artistry of many a performer. But musicians come and go.
The people I’m working with at any given day in the studio inspire me the most. I love to have a personal connection to the songwriter I’m listening to. It adds a dimension that can’t be duplicated by any pop chart performer.
In fact I don’t listen to music much these days. I’ve taken a break from what’s out there, to find what’s in here. Maybe I’m a little wary of sound tracking my life. I don’t want to be charmed anymore unless it’s for a good reason. I don’t use music like a drug now. When I was young, music was rocket fuel igniting my fantasies. I’m less tolerant of that now. I don’t let just anything in.
AHC: Do you have any words of advice for young musicians and singer-songwriters out there who are trying to find their voice and their way in this world?
Kristina: I know every musician goes through periods of emulation and copying and of course you aim to sound as good as the musicians you admire. But what really makes someone stand out is their focus and their personality. And by personality I mean to include the quality of their heart & how much they are willing to expose it.
AHC: Do you have any new projects in motion you'd like to tell people about?
Kristina: Yes. In the works is a 2nd album I’m co-writing, performing on and producing with my cousin Steve Mayone of Brooklyn NY; we’re known as The Cousins Project. I’m also producing Ariel Zevon, who I became friends with through our shared local foods activism and whose talents as a songwriter are knocking my socks off! And thirdly, I’m doing acoustic guitar work and light production on an album of original songs written and performed by Davey Davis, a self described “old ridge runner” 6th generation Vermonter. This will certainly keep me busy all winter!
For more information visit www.kristinastykos.com/
AHC: Can you tell us a bit about your process, themes & inspirations?
Julie: My process definitely varies with each project and with the motivation behind it. The inspiration for all of them comes from all the forms of art that I try to surround myself with: music, art, film, dance, and literature. I've noticed that my favorite kinds of art all successfully transport you to other worlds, whether they are surreal and fantastical or just a beautifully executed portrait of a different time or mindset.
Another major inspiration for me is Martha's Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts that my family has always spent time on. Going to the beach at night is an incredible experience. Specifically, being able to be on the ocean and breathe the air from this enormous, seemingly endless body of strength and calm. It's when I feel the most alone and connected to the natural and supernatural world. This feeling has definitely inspired my recent painting work, and has always appeared in my art of all genres.
I kind of fell into animation and editing, and very quickly realized how much I loved it and how natural it felt to me. I grew up in a musical household, and any time I wasn't spending on art, I spent dancing and choreographing in classes, on teams, and in musical theater. Animation was such an exciting prospect to me because I was able to combine art and dance, basically choreographing artwork to music.
Every time I'm about to start something new I try to saturate myself in art. I'll spend hours falling down the vimeo rabbit hole of weird and beautiful animations, re-watching films that always inspire me, and going to gallery or museum shows. I can always find something to inspire what I'm working on, regardless of what medium it will be in. Before embarking on this huge animated music video I finished recently I went to the IFPDA print fair in NYC, and the MFA in Boston and ended up coming home with dozens of pictures of prints and paintings that had so much movement and texture. I love producing animation pieces that have a handmade quality, so fine art is always a great inspiration. My favorites from those trips were the prints by Sybil Andrews... man are those just waiting to be animated. A couple films that I watch whenever I need inspiration are "The Fall" by Tarsem, and "Song of the Sea" or "The Secret of Kells."
In the last few years I've been equally proud of short films, collaborations, music videos, and paintings. Each one has definitely pulled from a love of movement, music, and "otherworldliness." So far in my career I've been lucky enough to be able to vary my technique a fair amount, learning as I go. I'd love to keep exploring, trying new things, and working with new people! Every time I'm inspired by something new it leads to a new kind of project.
AHC: What first drew you to art?
Julie: I was interested in art at a very early age. I remember one specific assignment in elementary school where every kid was asked to pick a photograph of a sea creature and draw it. I drew an Orca whale, and it was the first time I felt successful at drawing something realistic.
In the next year or two my parents had me going to art lessons with this amazing portrait artist in our town. She made me feel incredibly artistic and definitely pushed me to have a very critical eye. She also taught me to enjoy getting my hands covered in charcoal, paint, and pencil dust. Because of her, I still love drawing portraits, and feel very confident in doing so. I don't necessarily use that skill very often anymore, but I think building artistic confidence very early on in my career helped me tremendously in staying true to my personal style and what I wanted to say.
From then on, there was never really any question as to what direction my life would go in. I definitely had no concept of how I would actually "be an artist" as an adult, but I knew I would do it.
AHC: Your work has so much rhythm, musicality, movement & unexpected moments of magic, as in your short film Alkaline. A lot goes into creating these pieces, what is that sort of process like, working with so many different elements all at once and also collaborating with so many people on a single project?
Julie: Every project that I've done has had a different motivation and evolution. Alkaline has been the only project of its kind (so far) since it was a totally personal project. I had just moved to Brooklyn after graduating from school in Boston and had been rejected by every animation/post-production house that I had applied to. Admittedly, my animation portfolio was very small and pretty lame, but I knew that if I had the chance to dive into that world I would thrive.
I came up with the loose concept for Alkaline because I wanted that chance to create something gorgeous with a group of talented people, and I realized that I had the friends and the resources to do that. I actually didn't plan it out as heavily as I should have, so it was definitely an intense learning experience. (For example, shooting at a high rate of 29.97 fps on project that we would be hand-drawing frame by frame was not super smart).
My musicality and rhythm comes from my background of being surrounded by dance and music as I mentioned before. I'm really so happy that those things are what you took from the piece. That's definitely something that I'm drawn to. On top of loving a gorgeous surreality, I'm absolutely obsessed with videos, films, and choreography that perfectly accentuate the music they are accompanying (and vice versa).
Alkaline was amazing because all of my friends were incredibly supportive and just hopped on board this idea of using all of our talents to create a beautiful piece. I was living with two cinematographers at the time, knew the dancers from my college dance crew days, and found the perfect song by another of my good friends. My theory was that if you bring all of this talent together, something amazing would come out of it. I didn't give much direction to Adrian, because he's definitely the best choreographer that I know and I trusted him immensely. The only planning I did was to watch Leslie and Michael's dance rehearsal footage and figure out what shots I wanted, and in which part of the train yard.
The editing was actually pretty easy because the cuts felt like they had been choreographed into the piece. The animating was definitely a struggle however. I went through several totally different techniques, and landed on drawing it frame by frame with a tablet. I wanted the animation to match the energy and fluidity of the dance moves, and I think the imperfect drawing style ended up being perfect. I got the base down (after 2 years of work), and then actually found a couple other amazing animators to build up and accentuate what I had already done.
Probably half way through the animation process I realized that I could use the animated energy as a window to show this other world that the characters are trying to escape to. So I ended up going to Martha's Vineyard for a few days by myself and lugging this camera around to line up all these gorgeous pathways to add this subliminal feeling of another dimension in the same space.
It was a really amazing project, thanks to so many wonderful friends. Even down to the nature sound effects at the end, and the color correction throughout, I had so much help in making this project come to life. From start to finish it took about 2.5 years, so it was definitely a huge labor of love. Someday, I'd love to do another big personal project like this, but hopefully with some funding this time so it can be bigger, get done faster, and so I can pay people back for all of their hard work!
AHC: Music is heavily fused throughout your work, could you talk about the role that music has played in your creative evolution and process? Music seems to have that rare quality of totally transporting you elsewhere as you listen to it, and I get that same feeling from a lot of your work, is that element of transporting something that you aim for in each piece?
Julie: Again, it makes me so happy to know that you get that feeling from my work! It is absolutely something that I strive to achieve with pretty much every project that I work on. I know that when something or someone can create that feeling of transportation, it ends up sticking with me and influencing not only my artwork, but how I live in this world.
AHC: Do you have any upcoming exhibits or projects you'd like to tell people about?
Julie: I have a bunch of music videos that will be coming out soon which is always exciting. No intense personal animation projects in the works at the moment unfortunately, but hopefully soon! The only other thing that I'm excited about is that this will be my second year participating in Bushwick Open Studios on October 1st and 2nd in Brooklyn, NY. My studio is in a large building with an amazing and diverse artist community, and the whole event spans an entire neighborhood. It's definitely one of my favorite weekends of the year. I met some really great people last year, and saw some super beautiful events. I'll be showing some paintings, and screening some of my animations and short films and can't wait to meet everyone involved who stops by and participates! My studio is at Brooklyn Brush Studios: 203 Harrison Pl in Bushwick and we'll be open all day both days!
For more information visit juliegratz.com/
AHC: Can you tell us a bit about your process, themes & inspirations?
Kit: My process is the antithesis to my work, and sort of chaotic. I'm really all over the place; constantly changing up my approach, methods, and techniques.
The themes in my art- for the most part- seem to gather around space/dimension and the psyche. I tend to lean towards intimate crops and forms that give way to something beyond the surface. I find inspiration absolutely everywhere, but it seems my need to understand and decode my emotional state, and my personal struggles seem to inspire the work I produce. I find the ability to articulate this metaphysical world through paint just utterly fascinating and inspiring. I'm captivated and moved by artists who can so genuinely and wonderfully express the visceral and rawness to the nature of the mind, through their work.
AHC: What first drew you to art? Was there a specific moment in your life or turning point where it became clear to you that you were being called to create?
Kit: Creating has always been something I've just done. Like filling my lungs with air, art has always been my breath. It has always been without thought. I was born of two artist parents, and so it has naturally been a predominate part of my life from day one. (I didn't choose the art life, the art life chose me. hah)
AHC: Who are some of your artistic influences? Is there anyone outside of the art world who has had a huge impact on your work or who just generally inspires you, writers, filmmakers, musicians, philosophers etc?
Kit: I feel like any artistic influence is mostly subconsciously so. No one person (aside from my parents as a child) has stood out to create any significant impact on my work. I imagine it more collectively and inadvertently.
My work is not only a result of my emotional state, or my circumstance, but cumulatively incorporates bits of information I plug into my mind every day from everything that surrounds me. Songs I've heard, art I've seen, films I've watched, letters I've read, and of course the people I've met. All this information affects us and plays a role in how we think, and act, and so it would make sense to assume it would then affect how and what we create. My paintings are just the sum of how I process all the information from the world around me.
AHC: You write that the goal of your work is "to provide an entrance for the audience to one transient moment of connection" and to "breathe a vital life force into transformed renditions of the world." Could you talk more about this? I think that your piece "Pa" is one of the best examples of this, there is so much intimate energy coming from this piece, you can feel it, palpably, the moment that your eyes encounter it. It must take a lot of mental and emotional energy to create work that is so alive and intimate in this way, do you feel slightly drained after completing a piece?
Kit: oh no, on the contrary, I feel very much alive and more full of energy than when I start a piece like that. I find my more intense works come from an emotionally strained place. I find myself creating them b/c I need to. I need what it gives me. When I finish a work, I'm replenished. I somehow feel more full for having created it, and at the same time I feel this weightlessness, like a burden has been lifted. I often paint out of a place of pain, where art is my escape- my medicine, and when I complete a painting, I am healed... at least until the weight of life floods in again, and then it's onto the next piece. With my work, I want the viewer to feel that weight. I want them to feel the pain- only to find a resolve the longer they look at it. I have a great difficulty forming interpersonal relationships, and so I wish to connect to people through my art. Bare my soul in paint, and have the viewer be able to feel me through that caught point in time. I want people to experience life when they see my art, and not just see paint on a canvas.
AHC: What is the first work of art you encountered that took your breath away?
Kit: I'm honestly not really sure. I've been around art my whole life and remember being filled with such awe and wonderment as a child when I seen what people were capable of ( I still feel this).
Now this isn't one particular piece, but I do remember stumbling upon my parents portfolio as a child though, and just being completely struck. I had no idea what they could do... They sort of became superheros in my eyes after that.
AHC: Do you have any upcoming exhibits or new projects you'd like to tell people about?
Kit: Ahh I'm always busy with new shows. I'm not sure what I'm allowed to divulge at the moment, so the best way to keep up to date is to visit my website and click the EXHIBITS tab.
For more information visit www.kitkingart.com/
AHC: Can you tell us a bit about your process, themes & inspirations?
Anne: If I’m being honest, my art making process is probably 50% research, 30% experimentation and self-questioning, and 20% production.
Of course, it’s always my never ending goal to increase production, but it goes to show that when it comes to achieving success as a professional artist, there's so much more to it than meet’s the eye.
The single most important component to my work (and actually, my happiness) is just getting out there…. Traveling, learning and seeing more. New places and people carry new ideas and new ways of thinking. Connecting with other artists and seeing their process is also imperative. I spend most of my time, money, and energy traveling and absorbing everything I can outside my own reality, just to bring it back, and attempt to put it all in a picture, because I firmly believe content without context is nothing.
From this process comes a handful of core themes I frequently explore in my work, including self-examination, subliminal symbolism, history, surrealism, folklore, society, womanhood, cultural differences, and great journeys. While they are not always exactly definable, and I prefer a viewer to come to their own conclusions, my paintings are usually allegorical symbols of my life experience.
AHC: What first drew you to art? Was there a specific moment in your life or turning point where it became clear to you that you were being called to create?
Anne: I have always, for as long as I can remember, been into art and art making. I credit my parents for much of my early exposure to art. From a very young age both my parents made a point to take me to museums. My mother was especially influential, providing me with proper art making tools and resources from a very early age. As a youngster, I spent a lot of time in hospitals (in simple terms, I was born with my heart backwards) and I was raised as an only child by a single mom, so I had lots of solitary time, perfect for introspective activities, which I believe naturally led to art.
AHC: Who are some of your artistic influences? Is there anyone outside of the art world who has had a huge impact on your work or who just generally inspires you, writers, filmmakers, musicians, philosophers etc?
Anne: I consider myself a Neosurrealist, inspired by movements such as Surrealism, Folk Art, Fraternal Art, Dadaism, Portraiture, Circus Art and Sign Painting.
Those who’ve influenced me include Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Rene Magritte, Jan Van Eyck, Johannes Vermeer, Hieronymus Bosch, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo DaVinci, Jean Michelle Basquiat, Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Bob Marley, and Shel Silverstien, Neo Rauch, Chuck Close, Alex Katz, Matthew Barney, Andy Goldsworthy, Jeanne Claude and Christo, Marina Abramovic, Elizabeth McGrath, Kanye West, The Strokes, Fiona Apple, Tom Ford, Shepard Fairey, Mickalene Thomas, Maurizio Cattelan, Mark Ryden, Mira Nair, David Llynch, Baz Luhrmann, James Rosenquist, and Jacob Arden McClure. I’m sure I left some out.
Beyond art, I am really inspired by the interior design and antiques industries, both which I’ve worked in, on and off, throughout my entire career, and which I feel pair hand-in-hand with art.
The business of art really inspires me. As a former gallery owner, I’ve gotten a 360 degree view of the industry, inside and out, and I know what it takes to create and move works of art. I’ve been so fortunate in my life to connect with amazing forces in the industry that go about their jobs behind the scenes, procuring the finances, curating, and selling works of art. Collectors are some of the most fascinating people I’ve met. These are the people that are actually driving the industry of art.
Places inspire me too. The energy, history and passion of the country of Spain is unrivaled in my mind. And the coolness of places like Berlin and New York always keep me on my toes and looking towards “the next”.
AHC: Some recurring themes throughout your work are the heart, the hands and the eyes, which are perhaps our most important body parts, the eyes give us the world and our hands let us feel it and the heart makes all of this possible, what are the reasons, for you, for these particular images?
Anne: Well, I am glad that you’ve noticed this, and applied your own conclusions, as that’s the goal of art… the transcendence and convergence of ideas though vision.
At shows people often point at my work, and say, “So, what does this all mean!?” But often, as we look at the piece together, they answer before I can, with their own conclusions. I love this. I always hope for this. That’s because each of my paintings is purposely made as a layered, open-ended narrative. I reuse particular recognizable symbolic elements to build a story within a picture, which often relies on surrealistic thinking and subliminal messaging. The eye is indeed a symbol of examination, and the heart, of growth. As I mentioned before, I had heart issues in the past, and open-heart surgeries, so some of these elements are personal things I put in my paintings as a sort of “signature” if you will. But ultimately, each piece is it’s own saga, and I hope that people look at a painting and think about what each symbol means to them, and attempt to decipher the story on their own terms, from hopefully, the walls of their own collection.
AHC: You’ve done a lot of work in other areas such as designing album covers and even making designs for shoes, what has been your favorite or most exciting venture so far beyond the core of your painting work?
Anne: I love working with musicians, and my collaborations on Strata and Carolina Lima’s album covers were really fun crossovers to me. And I love the exposure that brand partnerships offer, like my collaborations with VANS clothing and shoes. But I have to say, doing concert posters for the legendary Fillmore of San Francisco was really special for me. The Fillmore posters are collectables, and there’s been one woman behind most of them since the 80’s, Art Director Arlene Owseichik. I wrote a fan note to Arlene when I was a teenager in art school offering my services- I was totally green, but eager to make a connection and get a job. No surprise, I didn’t hear back… until about 8 years later, when I had a few sold out shows under my belt, and a lot more experience. She responded to my original note, and together we did posters for Matt Nathanson and Dita Von Teese. It just goes to show that reaching out, no matter how far out, with good intentions, will eventually, somehow pay off.
Also recently I’ve done some educational guest speaking to students at the Academy of Art University and Cypress College. I love academia, and it’s been really awesome talking to the new, motivated and uniquely situated guard of artists coming up!
AHC: What is the first work of art you encountered that took your breath away?
Anne: Early on, I was very influenced by Salvador Dali.
My mother had an epic rare silver edition of Dali De Draeger that I used to sneak peeks at.
I was born in Victoria, Canada, when I’d visit the island from Seattle as a child, my father exposed me to the work of the First Nations Peoples of British Columbia and I loved that graphic style.
As an adult, personally attending the exhibitions of Neo Rauch, Mathew Barney, Maurizio Catalan and Robert Gober really blew my mind and changed the way I thought about art, made art, and talked about art.
AHC: If you could spend the day with any artist, from any field, living or dead, who would that person be and how would you spend the day together?
Anne: Of the living, I’d like to spend a day with Neo Rauch and just watch him complete a painting, beginning to end.
Of the dead, I’d spend a day with Bob Marley, and just listen. Or perhaps with Diane Fossey and her gorilla friends.
AHC: You say you are obsessed with travel and the "subconscious journey within", are these two themes interrelated for you? Which is more sublime, the physical or mental travels of life?
Anne: Travel brings about “a subconscious journey within”, intended or not, so to kill two birds with one stone, I prefer a physical trip. I love to be out walking around, and most of all I love to see things I’ve never seen before. I can’t wait to get back to Europe in 2017!
AHC: Do you have any upcoming exhibits or new projects you’d like to tell people about?
Anne: I am represented in the U.S.A. by Martin Lawrence Galleries, and I look forward to continue exhibiting my work in their 13 locations nationwide this year and next.
For more info:
Follow Anne on Instagram @annefaithnicholls or #longlivetheartlife for related artsy stuff.
AHC:: What drew you to a life of song making?
Lisa: I always sang and then started learning how to play the guitar, but I mostly wrote poetry and fiction. So, I decided to put music and poetry together to see what I could come up with, and I realized that the melodies and sound of the acoustic guitar created another layer of expression to the words. For me, the sound and the words just went together so naturally. It was also fun to put together – kind of like working out a puzzle.
AHC: Your first album came out in 1993, were you playing for a while before this? What year did you first start writing and performing music and what was influencing you musically, lyrically, culturally and emotionally at that time?
Lisa: I started performing in the late 80’s here and there playing only my own songs, trying to find my voice. Then little by little, I started recording when I had the money. I think there was so much weighing on me that I felt the need to express, but I wanted to do it in an artful way. I was discovering other singer/songwriters who worked in a similar vein and was really inspired by them, as well as through books I was reading, movies I was seeing, and just everything around me. All of it paved the way and informed my craft. It made me want to work on writing all the time. In a small way, I felt that I had something to offer too.
AHC: Your songs, lyrically, are some of the most poetic, in structure, that I can think of. Is poetry a huge part of your world? Has it had a significant influence on your songwriting style?
Lisa: Poetry is a big part of my world – absolutely. I was an English major, so I read a lot and I think I really internalized the structure of poetry. I also tried to use imagery in my writing to create a lasting picture. I liked the idea of using a central image as the core of the song that all of the other images floated around. Poetry has a way of stopping time, so we can look at a feeling or experience from so many different angles. I wanted to do that too, so listeners would hopefully, find something new every time they listened. The more I performed my own songs; I would hear something new too, which made it more interesting for me. One way songwriting and poetry are different though is that in songwriting, the words have to fit the melody, so I had to learn to write a little more sparingly and let the music do the talking. It can be a challenge to come up with a balance that feels right.
AHC: Your album 'Close Your Eyes' is a very sad, hauntingly painful record. I've always felt a strong connection to your work because of this, and yet on your last record 'We Were All Together' I also sense a lot of hope creeping in through the cracks, in some ways it feels as if the song 'You Are So Loved' is the type of thing the characters/subjects in your first album probably needed so desperately to hear someone tell them. Is this a product of living long enough to become comfortable with living? As a songwriter, an artist, as a human being, do you feel that there has been an evolution for you from this place of rawness, a scream, to a place where, while the hope is never perfect, it's at least something one can sense and feel as available and possible? While creating that last record, did you sense a change, a shift?
Lisa: What a great question. I am not a religious person in any traditional sense, but I feel strongly that no matter how sorrowful life can be, there is hope. It is definitely an idea that I want to impart on my children; I want them to see how extraordinary life is. At some point, although it is important to take a hard look at what is painful, it is just as important to figure out what you are going to do with it. Are you going to let it rule your life and let it kill you or make you bitter? Those were not options for me. So, with this choice that I think comes with age and perhaps being a mom, I was able to let more light into my life and my songs. I think I also felt that I wanted to be selective in what I put into the world.
AHC: I hate to use the cliché term 'music therapy' with all its clinical connotations, but I also wonder, beyond this, or maybe also embroiled in this, if you see songwriting and music this way, as a type of therapy or healing mechanism? Or at least as a way of pointing out something gone wrong, life gone amiss, blows dealt, wounds suffered, wounds healed? Does music, and creating it, help you to process and make sense of a life?
Lisa: Writing can be emotionally draining sometimes; I am not sure how much healing occurs – sometimes it does and sometimes it does not. It can dredge up things that make me pause and wonder how the characters in my songs or I survived. Other times, it can be somewhat healing because a feeling or experience is finally being communicated instead of buried. When that happens, you can see it for what it is and sometimes even reframe it for a better understanding. I think things become cathartic for me when others relate to it. That sense of community makes the experience less isolating in the end.
AHC: Of the records you've made over your career, which is your favorite and why?
Lisa: I think they all make sense to me given the time they were put into the world. A musician I was working with told me that it is a snapshot of that time in your life, flaws and all. I agree with that. Using that idea as a lens, there is something I like about each one. For example, I like the first because it brings me back to that feeling of being in the studio for the first time with the headphones on. It was pretty exciting thing for me, and I remember thinking at the time, how did I even get here? I was definitely green and still figuring out the whole process of recording and working with other musicians.
The second recording was fun because I was on an actual record label, recording in Atlanta. It gave me the sense that I had reached some kind of “legitimacy” as a songwriter and recording artist. The third was so memorable because I got to work with Mark Kozelek in San Francisco. At one point, we were going across town to get two-inch tape left over from Chris Isaac’s last session. There were some open tracks on it, so I got it for a cheaper price. That was pretty cool since Chris Isaac’s voice is still on the tape we used for my songs. Also, having Mark play guitar on my work was a dream come true. I saw the way he worked and learned how to create a more organic type of recording.
The last recording was special because I did it mostly by myself, and I had never done that before. Plus, it is a record primarily about all the people I deeply love in the world. So, I like them all for different reasons.
AHC: Which musicians/songwriters have had the hugest influence on you as a recording artist? Is there a particular album or song that you can't live without?
Lisa: Wow – so many artists have influenced me. I love Fleet Foxes, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Aimee Mann, Tom Waits – the list can go on and on. I even like some of the music my kids are listening to. My daughter likes Twenty-One Pilots and we listen to them a lot in the car. She is always trying to get me to sing along with it. For some reason, that really makes her laugh. I find them to be very inventive.
There are so many songs I cannot live without. Suzanne Vega’s song “Rusted Pipe” is one that I sometimes listen to over and over again. I can really relate to that one. Mark Kozelek’s “Have You Forgotten” and “Ruth Marie” are very special too. The Beach Boys “God Only Knows” is magical. Sufjan’s Stevens’ Romulus” is another favorite. There are too many songs to list here.
AHC: Do you have any thoughts of returning to music and possibly recording another album someday?
Lisa: Yes, I would like to. I have started one but was busy working on my Masters degree in TESOL – Teaching English as a Second Language and started working as an ESL teacher at some of the nearby colleges, so I got a little sidetracked. I would very much like to finish the one I started. Many of my students have told me these amazing stories about their home countries and coming to the United States that I have been so moved by. I would love to find a way to give them a voice in my songs in a way that is not exploitive of their experience.
AHC: What advice would you give to musicians-songwriters who are just starting out and struggling to find their voice, their place in the world?
Lisa: I guess I would tell musician-songwriters to do it for no other reason other than they love it. I am no expert on this, but for me, being open to the world around me is so important. They should find those things that speak to them and find a way to express themselves in a way that feels pure and true.
Special thanks to Lisa Cerbone for talking with us, please take a moment and visit her website. Her latest album 'We Were All Together' is available at CD Baby, Amazon & itunes. www.lisacerbone.com
DEEP AS THE BEAR
Above me, the big bear
growls silent in the northern sky,
ascends through clear darkness
disappearing endlessly as it does.
I want to lie down here,
the bear asleep on my ceiling,
and breathe like the tiny window bells,
a slow stirred cream of soft notes and stillness,
but what I want is nothing to the world.
I envy the rock, the leaf, the crumpled up paper,
natural — tree after tree,
hill upon hill, sealed off by moonlight.
But silent and still
and anonymous as I struggle to be,
my lungs rise and fall with my name.
To be as fixed as the stars,
guided by nothing but the ripple of my lips
toward the new horizon,
while frogs drum, breeze flutters,
I’d be self-satisfied,
except there'd be no self.
for a brief moment,
you're unknown to me.
In dream places,
I've been with dream people.
You were not among them.
My mind is temporarily unavailable.
A stranger occupies
the tousled sheets.
Never touched this woman.
Nor threaded her hair with fingers.
Nor pressed my lips against her cheek.
My desire's waylaid by a phantom on a horse.
My pulse still beats for
the lady flaunting blue crinoline at the ball.
But then, summoned by the situation,
a name forms on my tongue.
I'm more and more confident enough to speak it.
"Hi," you whisper through your own personal fog.
You're at the end of your identification process.
I emerge clearly from the last time you saw me.
Side by side all night but only now are we together again.
You slowly rise. I follow. Another day
when a name is as good as any place to start.
They have their lives
and I have mine.
They peer in their own mirrors,
sleep in their own beds.
Likewise, my mirrors are
for my face exclusively,
my bed comforts nobody but me.
I wave, I say hello,
and they return my greeting.
That's enough to preserve
the sanctity of our mirrors, our beds.
that I'm who I am,
they're who they are.
wouldn't be neighborly.
YOU HAVE YOURSELF A POET
A cheap suit claims a cheap soul,
a coward's curses get off easily,
a hunchback is lost for words,
a traveler is a traveler all over again -
it always exaggerates
in the face of personal history -
and a poet is never in exile -
if poetry's to matter,
he's always under our beds.
Yes I'm ripped and ragged
and if you saw my underwear,
you'd have me neatly pegged.
And I'm a belligerent wanderer.
Even the gypsies stand clear.
Get you gone, says the landlord.
Give yourself up, repeat the cops.
Just not to us is their caveat.
So I blow my nose,
I scratch my arm.
I don't hesitate to shine anywhere I can.
I scream from the parapets of Notre Dame.
I'm a wreck in Rome.
A bum in the frugal warm of twilight April
in New York City.
Boston won't have me.
I'm as disheveled as a vacant lot.
That's me - gone to seed
in as many places as there are places.
But, without me, who sees
mocking moon, self-absorbed stars,
who reveals the panic?
Ripped jeans, dirty collar.,
I report the fever,
rising from my throat,
take the world's hottest hour
and settle on a blistering moment.
Bio: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review,
Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.
The Bird Songs Tonight
It was after a reading, crowd thinning
cleveland poets back to cleveland
pittsburgh poets back under their rocks
one straggler looks for a couch
didn't make the usual twenty four hour reservation
i offer him mine
Silsbe and i talked after-party
i offer after-party even though
this poet doesn't seem like the late night
still he comes along
maybe we are rowdier than usual
the beer tastes great tonight
everyone is holding
the pipe is never not packed
always making the rounds.
Dude isn't participating
he's turning green, barely sipping his beer
uptight, brother needs a Xanax bad
obvious if offered, he wouldn't partake
walking back to my place
late march and 3am and beautiful
streets light aquarium glow
there is one lonely bird
singing a song
no birds sing on penn ave
not at 3am, or ever
my slow atom head
has interpreted this as a mating song
I interview every tree home
looking for the bird
i want to have a long heart to heart
i want to remind the bird
no one is getting laid tonight
i can't find the bird
i stand in the parking lot
the bird needs to know
tomorrow will be better
i suppose i hadn't noticed
the poet had dropped behind me
every sentence i utter
he says over and over
I unlock the door
he races up the stairs
covers his head in a blanket
a knock kneed ghost
scared of his own shadow
It's too late for admissions
I stand in the door
holding one word between my teeth
Bio: Jason Baldinger has spent a life in odd jobs, if only poetry was the strangest of them he’d have far less to talk about. He’s traveled the country and written a few books, the latest of which are The Lower 48 (Six Gallery Press) and The Studs Terkel Blues (Night Ballet Press). A short litany of publishing credits include Blast Furnace, The Glassblock, Lilliput Review, Green Panda Press, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Beatnik Cowboy, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call and Fuck Art, Let’s Dance. You can hear audio versions of some poems on Bandcamp, just type in his name.
ANOTHER TO THE RANKS
Never particularly known as
friends or enemies but
whenever trouble happened
he and I would always be
around and involved in
someway and we met today
nearly 4 decades since those
days and he is thin, grey
haired and hunched a little
and he tells me right off
he drinks too much and his
wife left him because of
the bottle and that he lives
alone now but he still works
regularly as a decorator and
he passes out every night
and what the fuck he drinks
he didn’t say but he
seemed almost pleased to
tell of his alcoholism and
of the failures it had brought
him; it was like he was
talking of something that he
had been awarded for an
outstanding contribution to
and maybe he was.
THIS POETRY BUSINESS
“Okay, so what is it?
that some poems of yours
have appeared in a
what does that mean?
what does it do for you?
so fucking what!
who gives a shit?
blow it up my ass!
the world doesn’t
know or notice shit
like that, it’s far too
and what’s the point
of it all?”
‘I don’t know’
AT THE FUNERAL
“I’ve started to read your book
and what an introduction by
someone like that guy from
“John Grochalski” I say
“Yeah’ my mother says “the
poems, they’re personal
poems and all those things
you did, I never knew you
did such things”
“You do now” I say
“It was a nice service wasn’t
it?” my mother says
I nod my head as we moved
away from the crematorium
and the sullen people
dressed in black.
IN OUR 20's: A DRUNKEN EARLY EVENING
I would guess that
she had her reasons
for her actions;
the heavy glass
ashtray thrown in
was a quality throw
and opened up a
deep gash across the
bridge of my nose;
I picked up the
and threw it towards
the screaming and
missed the target
miserably and I felt
the warm blood
streaming onto my lips
and down my chin
and I began laughing;
she moved and
switched on a light
and began crying and
apologising as she
looked at my face and
then behind her at the
upon the floor and
then she knelt down
and embraced me,
kissing my bloodied
face, diluting the
red with her tears.
Bio: John D Robinson was born in 63 in East Sussex, UK; his work has appeared widely in the small press and online literary publications; including Rusty Truck; Rats Ass Review; Red Fez; Bareback Lit; Dead Snakes; The Kitchen Poet, Underground Books; Pulsar; Poet&Geek; The Commonline Journal; The Chicago Record; Mad Swirl; The Clockwise Cat; Poetic Diversity; Your One Phone Call: Ink Sweat & Tears; Horror Sleaze and Trash; Poetry Super Highway; Zombie Logic Review; Opal Publishing; Hastings Online Times; Bold Monkeys; Napalm and Novocain; The Legendary; Yellow Mama; Winamop.com; The Beatnik Cowboy; Outsider Poetry; Revolution John; BoySlut; The Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine; In Between Hangovers; Eunoia Review. Locust Magazine; Hobo Camp Review; Message In A Bottle; and poems appearing in; The Sentinel Literary Quarterly; Cavalcade of Stars; Degenerate Literature; He is a contributing poet to the 2016 48th Street Press Broadside Series; His latest collection ‘When You Hear The Bell, There’s Nowhere To Hide’ (Holy&intoxicated Publications) carries an introduction by poet and novelist John Grochalski. He is married with 1 daughter, 2 grandchildren, 3 cats, 1 dog and he likes to drink wine whilst listening to quietness.
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