PINK PLASTIC INTERVIEW OF DANI TAUBER
KRISTIN GARTH: I will confess that you came onto my radar because of your Twitter, your adorable selfies and really compelling tweets. I hadn’t read your book yet, but I was totally fascinated. Having now read It’s Always Summer In Hell, I really fell in love with it instantly. It exceeded my expectations, and I think I knew it would be good because to be a good, memorable Tweeter is to write short form compelling verse. And I feel that’s what you do in this book. Being a newcomer to your body of work, is this your first book? Do you write other styles, lengths of poetry? Other forms of writing?
DANI TAUBER: Thank you so much for that; as an awkward, shy child who has blossomed into a neurotic, anxious adult, I have spent the majority of my life trying to say as much as possible in as few words as possible! I grew up a little bullied for it (among other things), and it’s surreal to hear that it’s something people enjoy about me now. It’s Always Summer In Hell is my first professionally-released chap. Jeremy Gaulke at APEP Publications and his lady Cara Herchenrother really blew me away with how beautifully they put it all together, and I am eternally grateful. Prior to this, I released a zine with APEP called At The Bottom, and I’ve released several zines and two chapbooks on my own, as well as having had a Rock n Roll advice column for a time in The Aquarian Weekly. I used to interview bands as well! I’ve pretty much been writing since I learned how. I’m fairly confident I’d be long-dead by now without the outlet it has provided me.
KG: I was instantly attracted to the title of this book, “It’s Always Summer In Hell.” t really reflects the wry wit inside a gritty, at times, coming of age reality you convey so well. How did you come up with this title, and what does it mean to you in the context of this story?
DT: In 1984, Fred Schneider (B-52’s) released a solo album called Fred Schneider and the Shake Society and somehow, it ended up being one of my first cassettes. I assume my father gave it to me because it wasn’t really his sound. I wore that tape out. The third track is called “Summer In Hell” and for whatever reason, even as a kid, that one line really struck me, and it seemed to just kinda stay with me growing up. I think I’ll probably always to some degree feel like an outsider, but growing up poor and weird and ugly, watching the world around me have what seemed like a lot of fun, was at times very sad and difficult. I’m sure almost everyone can in some way relate, but I had no idea that was the case in my teen years, ya know? I think every piece in the book conveys discomfort; everything I’ve ever written is uncomfortable.
KG: Reading the book, I related very much with the speaker’s awareness of the male gaze, the acknowledgment of both the power of it, the decisions to use and not use this power. In my life, I was very aware of sexual attentions long before I had (consensual) sex, so I really related to this poem. In my life, this resulted in me being a very sexual person on the inside and very much as your speaker is labeled a “prudish” label by the outside world. However, when I did have sex I was very, very aware of who I was and what I liked and wanted. I sense that in the speaker of this poem. Am I correct in that assumption? Is the speaker, though inexperienced in the physical world, perhaps more experienced than others around her in a self aware, emotionally intelligent way? (And you can answer with or without acknowledging if this about you)
DT: Absolutely spot on. I have often referred to the male gaze as a prison, but as a social invalid, everyone’s gaze is kind of a prison for me, haha. Growing up I didn’t have a lot of experience – boys didn’t seem to like me, I was / am at times extremely self-conscious due to bullying, I have severe anxiety that has held me back from more in life than just sex, blah blah blah…my connections have laregly been emotional and cosmic. There has always been more to intimacy than just sex, to me. But now I’m grown, and I understand myself and the power I am capable of having. I am able to express my wants, needs, and desires. I am able to bring them out, in others. It’s wild to me, the effect just words can have. Once I added confidence to that, it became a whole new monster. The response to my work since I actively started really trying to put myself out there has been elevating, to say the least. I’ll be 30 on my next birthday and I am really enjoying being this seemingly enigmatic, devastating thing.
KG: I write short poetry, sonnets, primarily, and so not more than 14 lines, and I really respect people who master a short form poem. I love the matter of fact tone of these. Have you always written short poems? What is your process of writing them like? Do you write longer and whittle down? Do they come naturally like this?
DT: Well I’ve always been blunt and direct, that’s for sure! Writing has always been sort of a compulsion for me, I’m just lucky that I can be considered ‘good’ at it. I write all kinds of things; my body of work since day one is massive because it just comes, it just happens. It’s a burst of energy and then it’s ink on a page, whether it’s short or long or a poem or a story. As a kid I’d literally just very abruptly ask to be excused from the table all the time to run and scribble. Sometimes I’ll have no idea where it came from. Automatic writing comes to mind, and people just assume my planchette tattoo is Ouija Board related but really it’s an homage to wherever this all comes from before it goes through me and into a notebook. My focus has always been on poetry, it’s my whole heart and soul, and the length really just depends on how quickly – or not – I can say what I feel like I need to say.
KG: Another favorite poem of mine in your collection is Got An A In Math That Year. I have a dark mirror version of this story called 14 and Kneeling that is about abuse and the necessity of earning a change in grade through sexuality or the idea of it. When I read this poem, it felt like the same recognition of the same phenomenon that the body was somehow now a commodity, but the speaker in your poem seems to take glee in it. When you write a character this short, whether it’s a version of you or not, can you tell me what this speaker’s experience of the world is? Because of the poem you write about the young girl saying sorry to Mom for saying she was okay when she wasn’t — I inferred two things about this speaker’s life — a fair amount of freedom from the parental units (an alien thing to me) and also that some traumas happened or were narrowly avoided. Does this speaker come from a stable home life? Does she have Daddy issues? Is she using the world or is she too being used? Both.
DT: A little bit of all of that, probably. I grew up very sheltered, not allowed to do all the things kids around me were doing and, not that I’m ungrateful, but it led to a lot of naivete and ignorance of what was expected of me as a human female person. I had a lot of fun, and I narrowly escaped a lot of awful shit. The things I did not so skillfully evade contributed to the anxiety and fear. When I did start to venture out into the world and form complex relationships, I trusted too freely, like a child. It got me hurt, it got me assaulted. Being raised by a father who grew up getting the shit beat out of him seemingly for simply existing and who vowed to never lay a hand on his kids but still manifested abusive behaviors in other ways definitely also shaped my voice. I’ve survived a lot. And I know one end of the line is overcoming and being an inspiration, while the other is straight up oblivion; I try to hang out somewhere in the middle. I lick my wounds, but I also don’t shy away from the pains that make me human. I write for myself, but it feels good when others relate to it and feel less alone, or feel understood.
KG: What poets, artists, writers inspire your work?
DT: I have the utmost respect for ANYONE who can artfully speak their truth. Anyone who has ever affected me in any way has been an inspiration, positively or negatively. I discovered the A Softer World webcomic in junior high; Joey Comeau is a fucking master of the short-form devastation. I think he’s had the biggest impact on my style. I listen to a lot of dirty punk and rock music, and a lot of sad 90’s music. I read Sexton, Plath, Patti Smith, and I love Sarah Manguso. I like art / music / writing that makes me feel like I’ve been punched really hard in the stomach, I like the wind knocked out of me. And I like knocking the wind out of others.
KG: Your poem “Handful of Dirt” is just a masterful elegy of a death spoken in so few words so eloquently. The line “a boy I loved fell over the face of the earth and i watched him land in a box” is just so simple and guts me the way simple lines do. I adore simple language in poetry. Can I ask about your background as a writer? Did you study writing in school or are you self taught? And I ask this with no bias for either way as I’m a grad school drop out who finished on the stripper pole. I think the world of academia and the world of experience both have something to offer writers. I think some things we may learn in school we have to unlearn such as being too verbose or wordy when simple plain language can say so much. What is the story of your education/journey into writing and how did you learn to cultivate and trust that simple eloquent voice?
DT: Thank you…I think revenge is what might make it so impactful. It’s actually about one of the people in my life who has hurt me the most. He’s not actually dead (to my knowledge), I just need to kill him poetically sometimes. In regards to my background though, it’s always just been pretty straightforward and organic. Before I learned how to write, I would talk to anyone who’d listen. I’d tell stories to strangers.
I think my parents were grateful when I entered school and learned how to be quiet; I had a very overactive imagination. Of course they had no idea that this would all grow into Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so my mother cultivated it as well as she could. She’d buy me diaries with little locks and pens with my name on them, enroll me in after-school programs like Young Authors’ Club and all that.
As I aged it became a coping mechanism. I had to trust it. I don’t think any particular academic background makes you a writer; you either are, or your parents had the money to send you through program after program where you were told you were special and you just like hearing yourself talk. I absolutely favor experience over academia, which has systematically silenced those who are too poor or not book-smart enough or POC, historically.
To be excruciatingly honest, and at the risk of sounding like an absolute asshole…I grew up working-class and I exist below the poverty line. I didn’t have a formal or even necessarily decent education, and I dropped out of community college when my anxiety became severe. I’ll get a manuscript rejection, then see winners announced with various degrees and teaching positions, already so well-established, and I’m just like, oh. I have none of that. But I refuse to see myself as “less than” in comparison to other authors who know how to mingle and network and find their footing so easily because they, in their work, rely on simple and basic. And I straight up reject poetry that complicates ideas that are already vague with difficult language and big words that are hardly necessary or used correctly.
I reject poetry that feels so familiar and generic that it actually does become pandering, and poetry written by abusive men to either absolve or excuse themselves or to be a hand at the throat of a woman whose story is the one that should matter. I reject the idea that poetry needs to be purely academic and arduous and tough to chew, that it needs to be dissected and the author’s ass needs to be kissed at the end. Much like the art and music worlds, there’s a lot of bullshit clogging the filter.
I stayed away from the world of publishing and reading publicly for a very long time, mostly due to crippling fear, but also because I was so worried I wouldn’t fit into this world that from the outside kinda looked like a very exclusive circle jerk for attractive and wealthy people who’d been told their words matter since birth whether they have any substance or not. But, my voice has reached the eardrums of people who needed to hear it, and I am proud and thankful. I’ve read alongside women who go right for the fucking jugular, who write raw and bloody, and those are my people.
You can know you’re good, but if The Right People don’t understand you, then what? Fuck ‘em, is what. Don’t ever write for people who are set on not understanding you. The right people will relate. You don’t need a piece of paper to prove you’re talented, if you’re talented.
KG: What other jobs have you had that have prepared you to be a writer?
DT: I’ve had mostly either customer service or direct care (I spent years working in the dementia unit of a nursing home) jobs, but I was a theatre student – graduated from the same program under the same instructor as Gaten Matarazzo with an honor cord from The International Thespians’ Society and a varsity letter – and writing for Scene Trash Magazine right out of high school and thenThe Aquarian was definitely a confidence booster. I really enjoyed writing reviews and interviews and my column, and photographing shows and festivals. Had I not had those opportunities, I’m sure I’d still be feeling less than capable.
KG: What is your ideal writing environment?
DT: I don’t even know if I have an ideal writing environment – it happens anywhere, anytime. I definitely would never turn down a secluded cabin in the woods, though.
KG: What is your sign and how does it affect your writing — if you believe it does?
DT: Well, I’m a Sagittarius, and we’re always truthful. I don’t sugarcoat my work. I’m also prone to exit seeking and escapism I suppose. Each poem is a tiny way out, or at the very least, some feeble scratches at the coffin lid.
KG: What is your favorite poem that you’ve ever written? (Can you provide a link if it’s online or an image of it for me to share here if it’s from your collection — or I can take one.)
DT: I love and hate all of my dumpster babies equally, and I’m not sure I’m confident enough to have a favorite. But the first time I think I realized the impact I was capable of having was with a poem called “POTENTIAL.” The piece was about how at 8 I was told there was So Much Potential in me and how at 18, I desperately tried to get it all out with an X-acto knife. I put it on tumblr and it blew up. People really related. Just goes to show everyone has their soft, messy parts whether they have the ability to not only be eloquent about them, but also to share.
A Pink Plastic Poem by Dani Tauber:
i spend five minutes
of my lunch break at work
freeing a moth from a
long-vacant spider’s web;
i understand the weight of
waiting for an end that
doesn’t come and no
creature that small
could possibly bear it.
Dani Tauber is a 29-year-old, basket-case poet, professional ghost, former music journalist, and antiques archivist from NJ. She shares a room with more than 50 journals and several antique locks of hair. She doesn’t know what she’s mourning yet, but she’s beyond consolation.
PINK PLASTIC INTERVIEW OF STU BUCK
KRISTIN GARTH: Tell me about the process of writing, curating these poems for this collection.
STU BUCK: Despite its relatively small size, the poems actually took about two years to write. My writing process has changed massively in the last two years or so. I used to write daily, one, two maybe even three poems. The big problem was the quality wasn’t there. I was writing for the sake of it, for the catharsis of getting the feelings out, but what I was putting on the page wasn’t up to scratch. So I slowed right down, and now I write maybe one poem a week but the quality is there, the standard I pride myself on is back and Become Something Frail is really the culmination of all that. The book itself is split into three very loose sections (and one final poem which I feel envelops all the themes). When I write, I tend to have an image in my head and just describe it in one long sentence. I then refine it a bit and put the line breaks in. I almost never edit any of my poetry, as for me I want to get the words from my brain to other people’s eyes without any fussing. I understand this makes me strange in poetry circles, as editing is vital for most people, but I dislike it. In terms of curating, I knew I wanted the three sections, I knew I wanted the three themes, so I just collected the poems that best fit and it all evolved very naturally. It isn’t explicitly obvious what the themes are, and they are only divided by images, not titled. But the themes are there if you look hard enough. The final poem in the book is for Scott Hutchinson, a singer who committed suicide last year. I wrote it on the night that he died and it just seemed to encompass a lot of what the book was about. He was the lead singer of a band who sung about depression and mental health to thousands of people but he couldn’t tell anyone about his own problems. He couldn’t become frail and it cost him his life.
KG: Do you have a link to one of your favorite poems from the collection where it was published previously? Tell us what it specifically represents about your collection.
SB: I think my favourite poem in this collection is ‘Festival of Lanterns’. It deals with a lot of the themes in the book, from childhood trauma, repression and the dream like worlds we create to escape from these feelings. It also has a killer ending, which is what I look for in a poem myself. The last lines are always the ones that stay with you.
I think it is all too easy to leave childhood feeling dirty and guilty, that too often you don’t get the help you need and (for me anyway), these feelings can linger well in to adulthood.
The poem was actually published on the blog section of @SelcouthStation, the wonderful press who are publishing this book. Here is the link;
KG: Was the length of the book organic or was it an artistic choice?
SB: I wanted to bring out a smaller collection this time round, so yes it was an artistic choice. My first collection is something I am hugely proud of, but it has poems in it I feel like I put there to make it full length rather than poems that deserve to be there. With Become Something Frail, I truly believe every word has a place, every piece leads on to the next. I sold quite a lot of my first collection but I don’t feel that it represented who I am as a writer, but who I thought I was. A great deal of these poems have been published by journals that I really admire, so I feel confident that they are worthy. I wasn’t true to myself the first time round and it was not a mistake I was going to make again. I think Become Something Frail is a really nice overall package, a journey that I hope people want to take with me.
KG: If I may be so nosey as to ask, for the sake of emerging writers seeking to publish a book, as much as you feel comfortable revealing, what was the road to acceptance like for this particular book?
SB: Quite simple really. I knew Haley from Selcouth Station beforehand. We had shared our love of anime and poetry and had read a fair amount of each other’s work. I knew I wanted a publisher who would treat me and my words with delicacy (although I love my first book, the publisher was absolutely disgraceful in the way they acted towards me (although that’s another story)) so I pretty much just asked Haley if she would be interested in reading the chapbook I had. She said yes, liked it and offered to publish it. I don’t think that’s the general rule by the way, I was very lucky. In terms of emerging writers, just remember to take your time and love yourself and your words. And don’t take rejection personally. Because it really isn’t.
KG: In what sorts of environments did you write these poems for this collection?
SB: Mostly I write sat cross legged in my bed with some sort of instrumental music on my headphones. I have zero writing regime,
KG: Are you working on a new collection now? If so would you be willing to tell us a little about it?
SB: I have been focusing a bit more on visual arts the last few weeks which I am really enjoying, but yes I have a collection about half built and I am working on a micro-chap about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I want about ten tiny poems and I hope to illustrate it myself. I suffer a lot from self-doubt issues (we all do I think) so I tend not to think about grouping poems together until most of them have been published. It’s being published that shows me whether a poem is worthy of going in to a collection or not. Again, I don’t think this is particularly good advice, it’s just what works for me.
PINK PLASTIC INTERVIEW OF LAUREN MILICI
KRISTIN GARTH: I’m very excited about the prospect of your forthcoming chapbook Final Girl, and I know I’m not the only one. Can you tell us some about its inspiration, organization, the story of its inception?
LAUREN MILICI: Thank you! When I moved to West Virginia for grad school, I was assaulted. This -inevitably brought up a lot of other trauma I was choosing to ignore. Once I started writing about my trauma, I couldn’t stop. EMDR therapy helped me write these poems/revisit these scenes with a clearer mind.
The Final Girl is my favorite trope in the slasher-horror subgenre. She’s the girl who makes it out alive in the end – the sole survivor. I have always looked for myself in horror movies, and have always found so much comfort in watching these incredible women survive.
I wrote a piece about it for Birth.Movies.Death two years ago: https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/01/13/saved-by-the-final-girl
KG: When and where will be able to order it?
LM: Big Lucks Books! I’m not sure when it’ll be available for preorder…but soon!
(As of the publication of this interview, this book is now available for preorder at: https://www.biglucks.com/store/lauren-milici-emily-oneill )
KG: Are you working on any other manuscripts currently or have any submitted that you can share any details about?
LM: I’m working on adding to the manuscript that was my MFA thesis, as well as a chapbook about Catholic guilt/womanhood/sex. Although I feel like I’m always writing about all three.
KG: I have loved your confessional poetry since I came to poetry twitter. I also deal with my trauma in writing, publicly. What has been the best thing about doing that for you and the hardest thing, if you feel able to share?
LM: Thank you so much, my love. I pride myself on being something of an over-sharer, mainly because that’s what I needed when I was younger. I needed someone to be open and public about the awful, “taboo” things that I can never seem to shut up about. The best thing is hearing every now and then that what I said reached someone, that it made them feel seen, that they needed it.
The hardest thing is that it can be perceived as weakness to certain people. People who don’t know themselves or have zero desire to work on themselves are put off by someone standing on a soap box and shouting about abusers – and sometimes it can hurt.
KG: I loved your poem Bodies that was published in Flapperhouse: https://flapperhouse.com/2016/05/19/bodies-another-failed-poem-about-unrequited-love-and-synesthesia-poetry-by-lauren-milici/ All three of the poems featured are as dense and powerful as medicine. They took me back to sick places in my past with such a bitter sensory immediacy. How do you get yourself to such a pure, honest place to write these perfect encapsulated moments of desperation and truth? Do you write longer and trim down to the essential or is this just how it comes?
LM: This is beyond lovely. Thank you. I don’t think anyone has ever said that about my work before.
Sometimes, it’s a long piece that more or less looks like vomit on the page. Sometimes, it’s line by line. The honesty just sort of happens without me really thinking about it, to the point where I’ve received workshop feedback about it being “too” honest. But it’s hard for me to use metaphor or describe a flower blooming outside. My poetry is point blank nonfiction. I just write it as it comes – and I never really get to pick what I want to write about. If that makes sense.
KG: What is your writing process like? Do you have rituals or conditions you must have to write (music or silence, for example, favorite locations)? Do you write every day or most days or are you a person who writes more sporadically or spontaneously?
LM: I’m moving to a new apartment (that I plan on turning into a spiritual, witchy sanctuary a la the HausWitch book) and starting a new job, so I’ll be starting the trial-and-error of finding a brand new writing process. I tend to be very sporadic/spontaneous, but I think that had a lot to do with me being in school and teaching. Now that I’ll have some structure, I hope to turn into the writer that churns out work every single day.
KG: What is your sign and how do you think it affects your writing, process and product, if you do?
LM: I’m a Cancer, so naturally I’m an emotional babychild. I’ve never really thought about my sign affecting my writing…other than that I tend to hate something after I finish it and get really pouty until someone tells me it’s fine. Haha.
KG: How long have you been writing? How has your writing evolved as you have grown and evolved as a person?
LM: I’ve been writing since I was very small, but I always thought I was going to write the Great American Novel. I started seriously writing poetry in 2013, after the poet Melissa Carroll told me that I was, in fact, a poet. I used to stick to what I call “stock imagery” – lots of blood and broken glass and all of that. There’s definitely more music in my poems now, and the speaker is so much more sure of herself. I have to thank Mary Ann Samyn, who I worked with for three years, for that.
KG: Will you share a published poem that you are particularly proud of and perhaps some of the story behind its creation?
LM: You know what? This poem is about my period…and it’s everyone’s favorite – everyone meaning my close friends and such. I wrote it after getting my period after two years, and it became a meditation on a woman’s choice or inability to have children. It’s something I think about a lot more than I’d like to admit. https://www.swwim.org/blog/2019/1/26/no-children-1
KG: I know that you are a crafter/visual artist in addition to writing, what do you gain from these mediums as an artist that is different from what we gain as writers?
LM: Oh my gosh, I am so not a visual artist. I like to sketch and play with paint as a means to relieve some anxiety. I was really really depressed this year and all I did was order food, watch Netflix, and paint/collage a shelf. It gives me a release that poetry doesn’t. The poetry has to be good. The sketches and paint blobs can be whatever they want to be.
KG: I feel like as someone who also writes, at times, confessional poetry that people feel they know you very well from your writing when they know, in fact, a piece of you, often a past piece you might have evolved or outgrown. Can you confess to us something that your readers don’t know about Lauren Milici — even if it’s — maybe especially if it’s something silly or mundane?
LM: Oooh…okay, I love the Food Network. I love watching people cook. I’m going to have my own kitchen in my new place…and I plan on getting all gourmet and fancy and trying to recreate everything I see on Chopped and Guy’s Grocery Games. Guy Fieri is an absolute treasure.
A PINK PLASTIC POEM BY LAUREN MILICI:
Today, I am thankful for the clumsy lock on my bedroom door.
For the dust that collects on the radiator.
How a structure so old can become sanctuary, if you let it.
For two years, the makings of a haunted house.
The windows I will never close, not even in winter.
Still, I want the carpet ripped up where he bit me.
I want a new mattress, one that knows only my touch.
I want. I want. I want.
But do you love?
I love knowing what I shouldn’t. I love waking, alone.
Lauren Milici is a Jersey-born, Florida raised poet and writer based in West Virginia. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia University. When she isn’t crafting sad poems about sex, she’s either writing or shouting into the void about film, TV, and all things pop culture.