Your stories and poems are brief, but still complete and self-contained. What are your feelings about phrases like “flash” or “micro” fiction? Do you think that it’s true that attention spans are becoming shorter?
I have a pretty short attention span, so I have always been drawn to short poems and stories, but I really fell in love with prose poetry and flash fiction while interning for Rose Metal Press. To anyone who shares my love of these forms, I especially recommend Rose Metal’s field guides, Sean Lovelace’s How Some People Like Their Eggs, and Carol Guess’s Tinderbox Lawn. But their whole catalogue is really special and great.
It seems possible that our attention spans are becoming shorter, but what’s more certain is that the ways in which we pay attention are changing; as a member of the last generation who can remember a time before the internet, I can attest to that much. The phrase “information superhighway” comes to mind, a phrase that I think I last heard sans irony in the ’90s. Information is everywhere, available to us in an instant – “no duh!” Maybe that’s why we feel the need to shorten the ways in which we communicate it. If one considers the Facebook post or the Tweet as descendents of the open letter, then it follows that literary forms consisting of one to two paragraphs or one to two lines should gain in popularity. I think it’s pretty punk rock.
You mention in your bio that you’re a member of a band. Could you tell me more about that? How does your music interact with your writing?
I write songs – usually alone, but sometimes with Kirsten Opstad. We write breakup songs and call ourselves The Crazy Exes from Hell.
A couple of years ago now, I went through a phase where I kept trying to set my poems to music. I usually picked my more “lyrical”, less narrative poems, and I would recite them over pretty basic chord progressions. There were a few such experiments that I think came out okay, but I wound up returning to keeping the two disciplines fairly separate.
For me in my own work, there isn’t as much gray area between poems and songs as there is between poems and stories. On the page, I tend toward surrealism and absurdity. I know there is plenty of room for those tendencies in music – I love Leonard Cohen and David Berman, and I envy both of their work greatly. But for now, I use my music as the space in which I get more “real” with my audience, if only because it’s easier for me to get reality to sound “good” there, having a guitar handy and all. I enjoy the freedom of saying something like, “Who the fuck is that guy?” over and over, and that is the sort of move that’s harder to get away with on paper.