Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
he asks me blacklight blackout
as his bitty big balls bounce
against the throat
of my taint
(by which I just mean my taint)
traveling is so romantic, ain’t it? An ode
that bodes of dynamism
and gutter sluttery. Glittering sea
of one night stand and
Camel Blue ash and pit stain tees
(What time does Panda Express open?)
Panda Express, I mean James Brown, is dead
Crowbar kraken awake every fire hydrant
on every corner
of every city
and mainline that shit into my veins.
in mustard-yellow slip
ons at the waterfront
of a new city made of mustard
greens, metaphorical tether ball courts
and a literal city.
SEPTA. Charm City Circulator. MBTA.
a pink tank
at the bus stop of a new city made of absinthe sugar
cubes, metaphorical troll doll jewel belly
I mean bridges.
El train. Amtrak. Trolly.
spray on skinny
high waisted acid washed old fashionds
at the hotel bar
in a new city
made of tucked in black Wayne’s World t-shirts
(oh dream weaver)
and literal roundabouts.
How do I get you alone?
oh oh onhne
with those boys
in San Francisco, they’re all vers tops
until the red light
careful with those boys
in LA, make plans
and forget how to text
Can I just say!
Seattle is a trick
cos all the boys wanna wear nail
polish but none of them want to suck dick
I’m going to diet coke break eat
a hot dog to the gods
in front of these cat
calling construction workers while making smokey eye
contact until they look
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
I’m gonna eat a banana at Star
of the man who painstakingly ordered
his half caff two pump vanilla chai double
sweet extra hot espresso shot latte HOLY
FUCK JAMES COMEY IS 6’8 TSA regulations
you can have one
carry-on bag and one
personal item only.
All other bags need to be checked
oh and drop
Do you want to get breakfast or something?
At least a coffee? What is the difference
between being alone
Just hold on, we’re going home. Just hold on
we’re going home. It’s hard to do these things
Just hold on we’re going home.
is the physical
feeling, literal proximity
just not being around other bodies
is a desire, the urge
for a companion or sympathetic
Something on the other side of the country.
Something shivering or
(But there are so many people inside of me.)
Is this a recapitulation of that Aristophanes myth?
Ok so in Plato’s Symposium
the philosopher Aristophanes makes
this speech at some white
table linen dinner
about the origin of love.
That at one point
there were three sexes:
the children of the sun (two men)
the children of the earth (two women)
and the children of the moon (man and woman)
attached at the back
Now before you get all
on me, I don’t know this from Plato
I know this from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
N E WAYS, so yeah at one point
the three sexes were whole
adherent to each
other attached at the back and spinning
in their own orbit.
there was no ambition no thrill of the chase
no colonialism. So the gods split
the people down the back
and ever since we’ve been looking
for our other
Lonely as a kind of math.
shock me like an electric eel
turn me on
w/ yr electric feel
is there is a true self
all squishy eternity and Cedré Atlas Atelier toilet water
and the false self
we create to conform to society
Maison de Parfume
On persona, George Orwell says, “The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us. It’s not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness.”
I’ve got Swedish Fish in my bag.
“Kellyanne Conway is the biggest leaker in the White House” blares across the MSNBC ticker tape and gd it that intern deserves a job.
A hot person farts on the tarmac and gets super embarrassed and I’m like this is what it sounds like when doves cry.
the hills are alive… with the sound of booty
Fear me, beer me, from the rear me.
Island of the Bi Dolphins.
Attila the Pun.
the truth is: I don’t get it.
I’m around more people than I’ve ever been
in my whole life but I’ve never been
CTA. MTA. the Metro. the Metro North. Link light rail.
Life on the road performs
a person, a “me,” he fits
into an ideal
“prepare a face to meet the faces you will meet,”
he’s somehow part
of me but pushes
deeper dapper down deep
until it’s like I gotta Dwayne the Rock Johnson
myself out of a crevasse in the
via super dramatic helicopter rescue
Do you think Selena
Is she somewhere eating a whole
medium pizza by herself?
In that way, doing something
is an accomplishment
Hands to the sky
Assurance of the appetite
I don’t need no man for nothing.
Does it all have to co-dependence or isolation?
Couldn’t there be a green valley in between
these polar vortexes
like existential dread lock holiday
I’m not in love—don’t forget it.
It’s just a silly phase
I’m going through
10cc is some shit, so in this song: He loves you, but he’ll never tell you in fact he’ll flat out deny it. It’s just a silly phase he’s going through. He cares so much he’ll never let you know.
Do you want to start a honey
flavored THC candy
business with me called
All I Wanna Do is get High by the Bee Get High by the Bee get High?
Do you want to start a line
for the public region called
Beat Around the Bush?
Do you want to star
in a PBS Documentary
short with me called
Hells Angels in America?
It’s mostly about the mid-90s Jim Carey movie Liar, Liar.
for a spell
& He asks me, what’s something
you learned embarrassingly
That it’s called “spur of the moment”
not “sperm of the moment”
(but high key shouldn’t
it be sperm of the moment? Cos it’s like, spurt.)
to hold, gem-like,
a furtive crush on a tall
hottie boom body for five years of heady
before you finally start
and gazing across a taco shop
and vigorously fiddling
only to learn in three weeks
the country six months
to do like art or something in an airless basement in Copenhagen
and two weeks before he gets
back you’re huff huffin
to the other
of the country for a year or maybe forever you haven’t figured it out yet bc not figuring
it out yet is kind of your thing
like mango margaritas, tex mex on the beach
and THEN and THEN and THEN
he’s going off to study brushes and ink
in Japan for three years
and it’s like
of COURSE not him nor him nor
him nor him
yr old selves dissolving old whore petticoats to paradise
instead of carving up the wall
why don’t you open up?
I am ready
I am ready
for a fall
of COURSE yr gonna wind up
forever rubbing yr toes together
and eating peach gummies in a rocking
It’s like this whole
thing about being
“with” somebody is a game of whack-a-mole
and it’s deeply whack
my chin thing on the date
where we say everything’s
okay it’s not like we’re dying
we’re just in between a cock and a hard
And yeah rejection, chronically, can be a tool of character building and totes unavoidable and a temporary butcher knife strikes to the chest, but
talk about a feeling that makes you want to rip
off your own skin and flush
it down the toilet
Anybody got a pair of matches?
Cos I feel like burning a bridge
and when you’ve taken down your guard
if I could change your mind
I’d really love to break your heart
I’d really love to break
If it was going to happen
would have happened by now right? Gravel
Just June Jordan yr way
through small bright affairs
Buck the notion of ugh
But what if I do wanna find the heat with somebody?
When life zig
zags for your job, it’s impossible
to get traction
with anyone. All you get
are the brief blips in Texas
I mean taxes
I mean texts, bending
like plants toward the neon starlight.
Bags from the bodega in the canopy of cum
trees a webbing
in another town I don’t set
I don’t call
Susan Cain says, “In our culture, snails are not considered valiant animals—we are constantly exhorting people to ‘come out of their shells’—but there’s a lot to be said for taking your home with you wherever you go.”
Papa was a rollin stone
Wherever he laid his hat
was his home. And when he died,
all he left us was alone
What’s this town called?
I’m not asking you
I’m asking them:
The Ohlone. Costanoan, Muwekma. Duwamish, Suquamish, Muckleshoot. Shawnee. Lenni-Lenape. Tocobaga, Mocoso, Pohoy, Uzita. Lumbee, Piscataway, Nacotchtank. Multnomah. Anishinaabe. Ojibwa, Ottawa, Pattawatomie.
I can’t stand
in front of the audience
in Columbus, Ohio without wondering
how that last person felt leaving
for the Indian
What is the difference between being alone and being
is a physical
feeling, literal proximity
Just not being around other bodies
is a desire, the urge
for a companion or sympathetic compatibility
Something on the other side
of the country. Something shivering
feeling incomplete, right?
(But there are so many people inside me)
Let’s consult the oracle
shall we? Webster’s dictionary defines
a fart as an intransitive verb meaning to expel intestinal gas from the anus, often vulgar. From the Middle English ferten, farten; akin to old high German (not unlike the dude I blew at the abandoned park in Prenzlauer Berg) Ferzan, to break wind. Old Norse freta, Greek perdesthai, Sanskrit pardate, he breaks wind. First known use: 13th century.
I’m pardating all over
this Virgin America Metro
North Port Authority. SO
YOU’RE the douche with the stand-up
laptop stand at the high
table in the café, and it’s elevated
pageantry leads me to believe he has the
in American history
I eat another banana
w/bullseye eyes trained on the thighs
of his face
by which I mean his eyes.
(PS: remember when Martin called Cole “Thickey Ricardo”?)
Some things you prefer to do
like shit. Some things you prefer
to be appreciated
Like a fart
I mean wit
(Can I just say the name “Millie Bobby Brown” fucks me in the Chakra Khan of my shit?)
The midnight train is winding
I’m so lone
This is going to sound like an inelegant
complaint but everyone I see these days
is someone I’ve known for 20 minutes
which frankly isn’t enough
to take off the strings, to stop tap
dancing along a joke
or an anecdote
I want you to see
me when I’m quiet, quite
I want to be quiet
alongside you, still touching
Shark in the sea
a series of gels Chris Kraus criss crossing criss
cross’ll make you jump, jump ven
diagram style until
of my color stands
in line behind you at the Taco
Bell in the college town
at the bookstore
in the city
where the only other thing I’ve seen is the airport
See, this all sounds like an inelegant
which itself is a stubby snout
of a word. The bombs in Austin
and Flint water
I get to bed most nights imagining your hot
breath on the back
of my neck
Sometimes you take
a bite and I want
to ask if there’s a mouth
feel besides salty Some
times you smooth
closer to me, arm slung
around my torso and now
this is starting to sound like some ASMR shit
“Ben Affleck’s Massive Back Tattoo Mocked”
lol, good one CNN. Who cares if the president’s people have to sign unconstitutional NDAs and the NRAs and the NRAs, We’re talking Ben Affleck’s back
guess who’s back
“Is Trump Giving Authoritarianism a Bad Name?”
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME NEW YORK TIMES
Come a little bit closer
hear what I’ve got to say
Just like children
sleepin, we could dream
I’m back home high on a roof
with my bff on one of those magical
spring early sherbet sky evenings where the city warps forward
into its summer self before dipping
into the lows tomorrow
and I’m recounting the dude
at the governors corner guest cottages
who hocked spit on me balls deep
before I kicked him out kicking and screaming
and she turns to me half lidded saying:
“This should have been the plot of the Lion King”
to this Neil Degrasse Tyson podcast where they talk
about the God Gene
and Stephen Hawking talks
religion and science, saying they both articulate
the nature of who
we are, where we came from and why
and that though science produces more consistent
results, people will always chose religion
because it makes them feel less
Other things Im letting go
of only to rediscover:
dinner pizza becoming a cold and delicious breakfast pizza when the sun turns back into light
The sun dies every night,
she says exhaling & that thought will be
for approximately 6 more hours.
of the overgrowth, the unhealthy attachment
for the sake of attachment
Imagine letting loose
the expectation to keep white
of the dusty rocking chair in the mind The crescendo
moves on into the
we’re reaching the top
of the mountain, the end
of the walk and I think
can art also be the god gene? the art
gene because what is writing
but a Sunday but a worship
but a prayer
All those disgusting people in the Myspace
days with the profile headline MUSIC
IS MY BOYFRIEND in all caps
Yes I’m mewing
into the void and yes
and Yes, there is utility in this loneliness There you are on the other
side of my voice on the other side
of my worship
on the other side of my winter
hearing my prayer, cupped
in headphones in speakers in earbuds
like a pair of hands
A communion wafer in my yellow heart
The father the son and the Biblical three way
Smith & Wesson math lesson message in a bottle of wild turkey
As their eyes
Tell me a bit about your process writing National Park. Where did you write these poems, when did you write them, how did they come to be?
The poems in National Park were written over a long period of time. Something like 7 years. And physically written over a few spaces—northern California, where I grew up, the Midwest, and the Northeast. Also during this time, I took a lot of cross-country trips, visiting the South and the West primarily. So the sense of landscape is huge, and sometimes I imagined myself as a pastoral or cowboy poet; but the poems, like myself, give into the gnawing fields of meaning (scientific, metaphorical, superstitious, metaphysical, etc.) outside the physical landscape. And perhaps in another time, living in a different system of knowledge I could have lived happily—as a shepherd, with my sheep, songs, echoes, and odes.
The process of writing them is somewhat nebulous and intuitive, and is in some respects the best way of articulating how I saw the world over that specific period of time...As both the place where the abstract notion of the West seemed to turn language into a kind of sonic Manifest Destiny, and also as the place of inexplicable phenomena, songs and spells. Sometimes I try to get there by struggling with the mythos of the individual; my mind has a hard time breaking the construct and so I have to do it over and over again.
I loved going through your writing, and also found myself equally engaging with your visual art. How do you think your visual work functions in conjunction with your text or writing? Further, how do those elements work together when moving a visual narrative form, like television, into poetry?
Some of my artworks like Hello Selfie, a performance where a group of performers in Hello Kitty stickers take selfies in a public space without talking to the audience, don’t have any relationship to written or spoken language.
Yet I do focus on language in other works, particularly found language and cultural scripts. That can be anything from Valley girl speech in a reality show like The Hills, which I explored in my book E! Entertainment, or the kind of hyper-misogynist, video gamer language in Men’s Rights forums online that I explored in my karaoke-style sing-along video, The Supreme Gentleman, which re-enacts Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger’s final Youtube address. In these works, I’m translating these texts from one medium (for example, reality TV) into another (for example, a book of literature) in order to offer the audience a different perspective on them, and to get the audience to consider their own culpability as spectators.
I love that you wrote your poems in such a variety of US landscapes. I definitely get that sense of scope from the text, all these various terrains. I spend a fair amount of time in National Parks here in California, as a hiker—are you someone who engages with the landscape in that type of way, or is it more of an out-the-window kind of experience for you? I was just reading a biography of Georgia O’Keefe, who painted outside in the heat of New Mexico, often. I’m also reminded of Sylvia Plath’s trip with Ted Hughes through the Mojave Desert, where she wrote “Sleep in the Mojave Desert.”
I do! (When I can.) I live in Brooklyn, so the large scale national parks in the west sometimes feel a world away.
Thanks for sharing the Plath poem; I wasn’t familiar, and it’s beautiful. I have a special love for the Mojave. When I was much younger I spent a month in Death Valley National Park, and am still in many ways indebted to the experience. While backpacking through everything from “wilderness designated areas” to vestiges of national forestry land with dilapidated shacks and hunting cabins, I became obsessed with designations and boundaries. A boundary was sometimes natural, like a canyon or mountain range, and sometimes it was constructed and violent like a barbed wire or electric fence, but all the boundaries controlled where and how we were able to traverse the space.
But also the out-the-window part of me wonders how we then navigate and give weight to different boundaries, not just in the physical landscape, but their equivalents in words, in the poetic field, or other fields of meaning. I guess I’m preoccupied with what is ushering us to a specific place, or through a specific route, or determining what we hear, see, and are able to learn.
Speaking of that which language carries...You spoke of how translating the cultural text of reality TV into literature can offer the audience a different perspective on the show, and themselves as spectators. One thing that I found particularly engaging about your new work Hoarders was how empathetic the work is. I was hoping to hear you talk a little about how empathy functions in your work. While writing the poems, you spend an enormous amount of time with the person or character featured on a given show; what’s that relationship like?
I’m glad empathy comes through in the reading. With Hoarders I wanted each poem to do justice to that particular character’s story of their life and the objects that mean so much to them. As you know on the TV show Hoarders there is this message of “helping people” they try and push, with this psychologist and a house organizer who come in to “fix” the hoarder in like a few days, but there is an inherent cruelty in that it is a show for entertainment purposes. I feel that the helping segment primarily exists to make the viewer feel better about their voyeurism, and is patronizing, so I didn’t include anything like it in the poems.
I could go on about how weird it is that we live in a country with so many isolated people in real distress who feel like their best or only help is a reality TV show, but that’s another complicated topic. To answer your question, watching and writing through the show slowly, naturally gave me empathy for the people on the show. It also gave me empathy for their things that they love so intensely (and see as almost animate), which was a beautiful result I did not expect. I also have family experiences similar to the people on the show, which is partly what drew me to writing about it in the first place.
You also wrote about the show Hoarders in National Park. I really love this poem in context of the rest of your book, this idea of landscapes both interior and exterior. Can you tell me about this poem—what initially inspired it, and how do you see it in relationship to the rest of the book?
I mean honestly, I like things. I am a collector of sorts. I collect rocks, postcards, depression glass and stickers, books and jewelry, ephemera etc. And many of the objects and artifacts I hold dear end up on my bookshelves, or my treasure shelves, which is how I refer to them. So there is just straight up a way that I relate to wanting to have the things which you think of as a reflection of your identity around you. I get rid of stuff regularly as I’ve moved around and live in a small city apartment, but I understand a love of objects as a one to one symbol of a place, or person, or time who is in some way gone to us now.
I engage in a similar kind of obsessive logic as hoarding when I get caught in a loop sometimes, trying to think my way around time. As a construct, category, a plane of existence. All of it. And I have difficulty understanding how things can be gone, let alone beginning how to “let them go.” But that said, the poem “After Hoarders on A&E” deals with a the frustration in trying to think oneself around linear time, and around history only to find the familiar containment of categories to be untrustworthy but a necessary tool with which to approach the world.
I found the poems in E! Entertainment to be very empathetic as well as the poems in Hoarders! I was struck by something you said earlier, about moving reality tv to another context (literature) can offer perspective on “our own culpability as spectators.” and I was wondering if you could speak a little to that. I am in awe of Hello Selfie, where you share the physical space with the spectator, and am curious how you negotiate being both the spectator/spectated in the different art forms.
Time is weird, isn’t it? It sometimes seems like life is one long process of letting go of things that should never be lost; it’s almost unbearable in that way. One of the things I like about the invention of cinema is that it’s the closest thing we have to time travel in that we can see the past so vividly unfolding before us again on the screen.
I love, too, that you are a collector, and your treasure shelves sound beautiful. I like the idea of a poem as an attempt to “collect” or capture the fleeting. And after all we do call them “collections” of poems, don’t we?
Moving back and forth between the role of spectactor and spectatee in my work perhaps gives me a greater sense of the humanity of both the spectator and the spectated. We all move back and forth between those two roles all the time, when we post pictures online and then when we look at others online. And yet we are not always doing so consciously. My work seeks to make these unconscious processes conscious.
Of course there are other factors at play in how we see ourselves and one another, factors such as late capitalist consumption, which attempts to render everyone and everything a non-living object. I explore all of this in my work by ultimately searching for the human inside our images and simulacra. Sometimes I feel like I have to go deeper and deeper into the image to find the person there, like a deep cave diver who has no idea what lies beneath, but I always find them. And so I know not all is lost.
LA Warman is a poet and performer. She is the founder of GLASS PRESS, a publisher of art and poetry on flash drives. Warman has had work in shows at MOCA Cleveland, ICA Philadelphia, Time-Based Art Festival, General Public Collective, Flying Object, and Open Engagement. Warman is the author of Whore Foods, a serialized erotic novella. Her chapbooks How to Become a Lesbian and THE CAVE THE CHURCH THE BEDROOM THE MALL were published by Inpatient Press and After Hours Ltd. In February 2018 she presented a solo show of new installation art at A.T.M. Gallery in Austin, TX. Warman wrote and directed a 12 hour text and movement performance piece, Break, that premiered at Deli Gallery in 2018. She teaches Erotica classes online and in Brooklyn.
Tommy "Teebs" Pico is author of the books IRL (Birds LLC, 2016), Nature Poem (Tin House Books, 2017), and Junk (Tin House Books, 2018). He was a Queer/Art/Mentors inaugural Fellow, Lambda Literary Fellow in poetry, and NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and he's the winner of a Whiting Award and the Brooklyn Public Library's Literature Prize. Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now lives in Brooklyn where he co-curates the reading series Poets With Attitude (PWA) with Morgan Parker, co-hosts the podcast Food 4 Thot, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub.
Kate Durbin is a Los Angeles based writer and artist whose books include E! Entertainment (Wonder), The Ravenous Audience (Akashic), and ABRA (1913 Press), a free, interactive iOS app that is "a living text." ABRA won the 2017 Turn On Literature Prize for electronic literature, and was funded by an NEA grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. Her novella Kim's Fairytale Wedding was recently translated to Spanish and published in Mexico/Spain. In 2015, Durbin was the Arts Queensland Poet-in-Residence in Brisbane, Australia and she is currently a Digital Studies fellow at Camden-Rutgers University.
Emily Liebowitz grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is the Author of National Park (Gramma, 2018) and the chapbook In Any Map (Songcave, 2015). She lives in Brooklyn where she co-edits LVNG Magazine and serves on the board of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP)
Evan Matthew Cohen is an illustrator and comic book artist. He currently resides in Beacon NY.