Pizza, Poetry, and Twin Peaks: A Brief Interview with Joshua Ware
NS: Tell me how Michael Earl Craig came to smear his pizza on your copy of Thin Kimono. When you read it now does the pizza grease get on your fingers? Do you lick your fingers after reading?
JW: Well, late in March of 2011 Trey Moody and Jeff Alessandrelli (who run the Clean Part Reading Series in Lincoln, NE) invited Michael Earl Craig and Christian Hawkey to read at the Drift Station, which is a local art gallery in town. After the reading, all of us headed down to Yia Yia’s Pizza, a local purveyor of delicious pizzas. From what I can remember, I was sitting next to Earl Craig eating a slice of The Eastern (a vegan pizza) with sun-dried tomatoes, jalapenos, and pineapple; I believe he was eating a slice of The Equator.
There had been some moderate to large amounts of alcohol consumed, the pizza was yummy, and the aesthetic of Wave Books’ covers is so beautifully minimalist, that I felt an urge to grab MEC’s slice from his hands and slather my Thin Kimono in marinara and cheese. Of course, common sense kicked in and I realized doing so was a bit too aggressive; instead, I asked him if he’d slather the cover for me.
You can imagine the puzzled Earl Craig gave me; after some initial hesitancy, he relented. So, now I was sitting there with a Thin Kimono cover in red goo, cheese, and grease. The book, at this point, really looked like shit. I feared I might have made a mistake. Why the fuck did I just ask a relative stranger to deface my copy of a book he wrote? I suppose I felt a bit stupid. Maybe, I thought, if I asked him to sign the book the moment would be less awkward.
But here’s the thing: I haven’t asked an author to sign a copy of a book since April of 1999. At the time, I was attending Ohio University, and Anne Beattie was in Athens, OH for the Spring Literary Festival. During the period of my life, I thought Beattie’s writing, particularly her earlier minimalist material, was the cat’s pajamas. When the reading concluded, I approached her, held out my trade paperback of Chilly Scenes of Winter, and asked her to sign it. To my disappointment, she kind of rolled her eyes, mumbled something unintelligible, dashed off a signature, and walked away. As a young reader and writer, the experience was demoralizing, and I vowed to never ask for a signature from another writer. So in order to lessen any weirdness, I had Earl Craig sign my copy of Thin Kimono,thus ending my 12-year author signature hiatus.
As for the book nowadays, the cover is crusty, if anything (but mostly the pizza stuff has flaked off), so my hands don’t get covered in grease or anything. But, yes, I still lick my fingers whenever I flip through the book because it contains tasty poems. Sometimes I lick the book as well. You see, I like to lick things. It’s a bad habit of mine that I picked up as a young child that I have been unable to kick.
Thin Kimono is an awesome book. The second poem of the collection, titled “Bluebirds,” inspired me the next morning to write the final four lines of the first of my Imaginary Portraits, which will come out on Greying Ghost sometime in the near future. In an attempt to further mitigate the weirdness, I let Earl Craig know that the poem found its way into my writing the next day when a group of us were eating at China Inn, a solid restaurant in its own right. They make a couple fantastic seafood soups (one Korean, another one Chinese). Albeit another Korean dish, China Inn also has a huge Kimchi appetizer that is very delicious.
NS: Food, drink, or eating appear in Thin Kimono approximately 64 times. The most common is ice cream, which appears 6 times. That’s a lot of food in these poems, which is something I like. With Earl Craig’s poems, food often becomes an occasion for the strangeness of the ordinary to leak out. Lately, I’ve been finding a lot of food in my poems, especially as a way to think about feelings related to how we interact or how we are separate, together, both. Do you find food in your poems? If so, are you conscious of those inclusions? What happens when anchovy vinaigrette or a “trunk full of deer meat” ends up in a poem?
JW: On one hand, I’m very impressed that you know there are approximately 64 references to food in Thin Kimono; on the other hand, I’m frightened that you know there are approximately 64 references to food in Thin Kimono. But, however I’m feeling about your Thin Kimono food knowledge, I will agree with your assessment that, indeed, 64 references is a lot of language dedicated to food.
As for myself, I don’t write about food all that often; that absence probably says something about my complex relation to it. I have food issues. Although, lately, I’ve been inserting “gorgeous pies” into several of my poems. The hope, of course, is that I’ll write an epic poem about a gorgeous pie. It hasn’t happened yet, but that says more about epic poems in the 21st-century than it does about gorgeous pies.
The history of the gorgeous pie, of course, begins with Season Two of Twin Peaks. Gordon Cole, played by David Lynch, comes to the town of Twin Peaks to help Special Agent Dale Cooper crack the unsolved case of Laura Palmer’s murder. For 20 years, Gordon hasn’t been able to hear people speak at normal volumes, so he needs to wear these weird hearing aids. Anyway, one day Dale and Gordon head down to the Double R to get some coffee, and Gordon sees Shelley Johnson, a waitress at the diner, working the counter. He’s so knocked out by her beauty that he walks over to the counter to speak with her. Lo and behold, he can hear what she’s saying! (He still can’t hear anyone else.) He’s so stoked about this fact that he orders a pie with his coffee. Well, as you can guess, he loves the pie and declares: “I’m going to write an epic poem about this gorgeous pie!” (Unfortunately, the only video I could find online with the scene ends just seconds before his triumphant declaration.) So maybe that says something about my relationship to, at very least, gorgeous pies: they act as a strange edible conduit when falling for someone you can hear (or, conversely, with someone who can hear you).
With regard to what happens when anchovy vinaigrette or a trunk full of deer meat ends up in a poem? In the former instance, I don’t want to know; in the latter instance, I think it’s the impetus for a killer meat hat party.
On a side not, though, I really like coffee, which, yes, reminds me of Twin Peaks as well.
NS: I want all of my poems to be some kind of translation of the moment when Big Ed walks into the RR, waves his hand in the air, and shouts “CUP’A COFFEE!” What foods would you want smeared by these poets on their books? 1) Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons 2) Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems 3) Federico Garcia Lorca, Poem of the Deep Song 4) William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (separate) 5) Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems 6) Kenneth Koch, Thank You and other poems 7) Lisa Jarnot, Ring of Fire 8) Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman, Nice Hat. Thanks.
JW: Heavens, this is a tough question to answer. I mean, especially with Stein, you have to think she has loads of options in the “Food” section of Tender Buttons to smear on the cover. To answer this part of the question, I’ll suggest a spreadable food item I ate earlier this evening. At the Happy Dog, I ordered a field roast vegetarian hot dog with Oaxacan red chile and chocolate mole on top. The sauce was delicious, so I’d like Tender Buttons to be coated in it. For O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, how about some mint chutney: you know, the sauce they serve with papadum at Indian restaurants. Lorca’s Deep Song? Well, what about Maple Walnut ice cream from Sweet Moses? I had some for dessert after dinner; it was yummy. For Blake? Dowse both those volumes in hollandaise. Dickinson? Cholula. Koch. I’d say Coca-Cola, but I not a fan. Maybe the ghost of Koch could just cut lines of cocaine across the cover of Thank You and host an all-night disco party. Jarnot? I’m pretty sure she’s Canadian, but I’ve already used something related to maple syrup. How about dumping a bottle of Tiger on the cover of Ring of Fire? Granted, it’s an Indian beer, but I’ve got a six-pack of it in my fridge so I’ll go with the path of least mental resistance. Finally, it would be apropos of Nice Hate. Thanks. to melt down some Cheeba Chews, spread liberally, and lick away. Yes, drugs are food too.
NS: Let’s tie this all together. Do you see any connection between Twin Peaks and Thin Kimono?
JW: Many of Lynch’s films predicate themselves on dream logic or out-right absurdity. The most evident exception to this tendency, though, is the pilot episode and first season of Twin Peaks. Outside of the iconic scene wherein The Man from Another Place (played by Michael J. Anderson) speaks backward to Cooper in a dream, any strangeness during the initial season, almost exclusively, roots itself in the everyday interactions between the town’s citizens, etc. On some level, it reminds the sentence from Craig’s “Poem,” wherein the speaker states: “To those people who are always talking about ‘surrealism’ can I suggest opening your fucking eyes?” (84) The suggestion, of course, being that there is so much weirdness in the real world, as it is, there is no reason to delve into our dreams in order to engage the bizarre. I suppose, if anything, that could be a connecting principle between the two.
Joshua Ware lives in Cleveland, OH. His first book, Homage to Homage to Homage to Creeley, won the 2010 Furniture Press Poetry Prize and was published in 2011. He is the author of several chapbooks, three of which will be released in 2012: Imaginary Portraits (Greying Ghost Press); How We Remake the World, co-written with Trey Moody and winner of the first annual Slope Editions Chapbook Prize; and SDVIG (alice blue books), co-written with Natasha Kessler. His writing and collages have appeared in many journals, such as American Letters & Commentary, Colorado Review, Conduit, New American Writing, New Orleans Review, Third Coast, Quarterly West, and Western Humanities Review.