Penny Goring uses language in the same way a stick of dynamite can blast open a mine. T Rex, candy pink wig, trashy-sleaze-sci-fi, incestuous, rhythmic, bold and garish, Bowie, slurping daisy chain, grotesque, frenetic, raw, Gregg Araki, Samuel Beckett

The Zoom Zoom by Penny Goring
Penny Goring, The Zoom Zoom, Eight Cuts Gallery Press, 2011.

I’m not sure where to start with this review.

Maybe here. Cities across England are descending into chaos; the world is making little sense as riots break out and smoke darkens the skyline. As such, I feel I can’t give this book my full attention – my brain is processing Twitter and news feeds faster than it can process what I am simultaneously typing.
But then, Penny Goring’s The Zoom Zoom doesn’t make sense. It revels in chaotic tumbles of clashing words and disjointed structures, disenchanted and disturbing characters. Apologies if that seems like an opportunistic segue from serious social disorder to a book. It’s not opportunism; it’s about wanting to focus on something that is black and white, tangible and comprehensible, in order to understand the world: a book.
But The Zoom Zoom is not a nicely packaged narrative, nor is it filled with familiar structures, and for that reason, my night has descended into absurdity as I flick back over notes about lecherous, tentacled men and trios of neon wigs whilst breaking news reports broken glass and fire in all my regular haunts. Penny Goring has a fearless approach to creating text, throwing words at the page, making collages from half-remembered experiences of dark tunnels – both physical and metaphorical – and the seaside. And dolls. In talking about her approach, she explains how she moved away from painting – which “became stifling” – to writing which presents her with endless possibilities.
The Zoom Zoom is published by the “brave, bold and innovative” Eight Cuts, who also brought us The Dead Beat by Cody James. Founder Dan Holloway described Goring’s work to DJ Eratic:
As a writer, Penny uses language in the same way a stick of dynamite can blast open a mine. There will be shards and slivers, but a perfect opening and then, a gloriously dark, incandescent space in which to lose yourself among rubble and bones and diamonds.
The simple take on The Zoom Zoom is that, yes, it is a collection of short stories and poems, but they only resemble the classic forms if you live in a sensory deprivation tank.
And this, dear reader, is another reason I feel I’d be selling the book short if I were to try and give you a synopsis of each story, a critique of the poetic styles used. It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever read before. My criticisms lie in how I’d have done it differently, had I tried to paint those characters and encounters with words. But this is Goring’s show and she steals it with sweet, sleazy, salacious and sometimes sickening turns of phrase combined with a beautifully playful approach to rhythm and structure. My advice is pick it up, be blinded by the shocking pink cover and let the wave wash over you. I typed notes into my phone whilst reading this and the first section says: “T Rex, candy pink wig, trashy-sleaze-sci-fi, incestuous, rhythmic, bold and garish, Bowie, slurping daisy chain, grotesque, frenetic, raw, Gregg Araki, Samuel Beckett…”
Whatever else The Zoom Zoom may be, it’s honest and it’s powerful and it makes me giddy to think there are publishers and writers working together to explore the possibilities of language.
And to return, almost, to the beginning of this review, I’m tipping my hat to Eight Cuts. Not just for taking a chance and publishing exciting, raw and honest new writing, but also for offering up their stock, their site and their ideas to save Afflecks Palace, a place where I misspent my youth. Last night it was one of many victims of looting and destruction in Manchester. It has survived before, it can again. As words can, and do, in all their many beautiful and sometimes disorienting forms.- Alex Herod

“Reading Penny Goring’s poetry and prose and prose/poetry, is so refreshing and startling an experience, that it makes me think writing is going to be ok in the 21st century. Hers is a voice so fresh and so honest that it is very difficult not to make comparisons with some of the ‘greats’, especially poets. But she is unique and so I will just urge you to read her words for yourself.” Quiet Riot Girl

“This book of poems or stories or whatever they are – but what do the niceties of form and genre matter here? – sings and swears and screams, raises welts and cicatrices of violent torments, shits tears of fury and frustration, hums with the heartbeat of witchy womanhood and big big universe-love. It laughs a lot, throatily, tossing its head back like a barroom babe encircled by admirers all agog.” - Jim Zovich

“precisely and exquisitely controlled…It has the trappings of dark fantasy, but it is also uncompromisingly true. It is about love, the way it can distort as well as ennoble, twist us from delirious joy to monstrous jealousy with the randomness of a hanged body in the wind. What Penny Goring writes about is difficult, awkward and uncomfortable. It is also essential and she writes about it damn well.” - Words With Jam

The Zoom Zoom by Penny Goring

Under the massive mossy wings of a praying angel we hold hands and dance around the graves. When we are dizzy we lie flat on our backs amongst the toppled urns and dead flowers.
The other girls kneel down and place their skinny forefingers at strategic points beneath us, and with their eyes screwed up, concentrating really hard, they sing the songs we taught them.
We know the right words – we know exactly what we are doing, and it works, every time.
We rise vertically and bob unsupported high above the tombstones. Drifting upwards on the cobwebbed breeze, hair and skirts a-swishing, we look for all the world like three flying rag-dolls.
ZOOM! ZOOM! Darkling girls.
Aloof and rare, we soar.



One of the most exciting things about your work is that you’re not afraid of language. A lot of writers would be terrified of putting the words together that you do. Do you think people have had their imagination scared out of them?

- I don’t know about other people. I had my imagination scared INTO me! I get self-destructive if I’m not making things that give me a buzz. To get that buzz I have to be pushing the envelope. For example, if I’m writing a story and it starts making too much straight-forward narrative sense – it scares me. It scares me because it won’t hold me on the seat. I might fly off the handle instead. Relapse for the buzz. Go jump under a bus. To escape the predictable and mundane. It’s fucking everywhere. I don’t need to be making it. I need to keep my arse on the seat and try to entertain my brain.
I’ve never read quite such a glorious celebration of language as your work. It’s like you fill the page with great big mouthfilling globs of word, and I can’t think of metaphors for it that aren’t about painting. Would I be right?
- Painting became stifling – it felt like everything worth doing had already been done – so I started writing instead. Writing is wide open, more exciting, has possibilities. Painting was heavy – writing is a relief. You can make anything with words – I love that. If I can visualise my story I know I can write it. I might see a red plastic shiny spiral spinning fast in a grey sky – that will be my way forward. For Hexing the Sexing, for example, I saw a scrap of organza gorgeously embroidered to death and smothered in pretty applique – that’s how I wrote it.
Dolls. And the sea.
- I used to make rag dolls – dolls are small and mysterious and you can love them and mutate them and play with them and they can be made out of anything you fancy, as abstract or realistic as you like, and they are good listeners, good at keeping secrets, they always understand. If they get damaged you can mend them. They never go anywhere without you.
I grew up by the river Thames and I’ve lived by the sea. I live by the Thames now. I love the river. I love the sea – but seaside towns, well, the ones I’ve lived in, are dreadful: Hastings, which is a cursed place, strange and evil. And Weston-super-Mare I loathe because I spent six months in a brutal rehab there – it’s one of the toughest in Europe. With Shame Dolls.
OK, I found one. A metaphor, that is, but it’s still crafty. Looking at your writing as a whole, it feels like a glorious patchwork quilt where some of the seams have been picked apart. Like there are gaps, and islands of experience and memory. Do you invite the reader to fill the gaps, or is that how you imagine your life, as patches of colour some of which are islands.
I don’t ever want to bore people – or myself. I only write the parts that interest me. And when I re-write I cut huge chunks. Then I’m always disappointed my pieces are so short!
I see my life as a dark underground tube station tunnel receding behind and before me. I’m standing at the station, which is NOW, and I shunt up and down the tracks, shining my torch on different stops. Darklings is where I looked at my life when I was 9 – 10 years old – way down the end of the tunnel. House – that’s much closer, that’s 1997. Bone Dust Disco is 2020 – my future – up the other end of the dark tunnel.
But sewing, by hand, is something I’ve always done. Not by machine, that kills it for me. I used to make sculptures from fabric. I love what one of my favourite sculptors Louise Bourgeois said, something like – some days you want to MAKE AND MEND, stitch, stitch, some days you want to DESTROY, cut, snip, unpick.
Same with paper and scissors and glue. I spent a few years happily buried in stacks of old magazines – Vogue, I-D, The Face – I was addicted to magazines (and Kit-Kat Chunkies) – making intricate A3 collages. Cutting up – sticking back together in new ways: making skies out of curtains and lips, houses out of jumpers and hair, faces out of glass and jewels… Very absorbing, totally satisfying.
Tell me about the three-part structure of King Size. It feels less like a triptych and more like an architect’s drawing – the same view from three projections.
I never thought of King Size as a triptych. I might write some more King Size. There could be twenty one day! I was thinking about music, the way songs, dance tunes get re-mixed. Like, King Size – the Flamenco mix, King Size – the Rave Mix… How we see things from different angles in different moods. Mood swing stories!
But the architect’s drawing is close too – my Dad used to have his drawing board set up on the end of the snooker table that dominated our livingroom, doing architect’s drawings at home for extra cash – I loved watching him. And those drawings stayed with me. I like to imagine living in an upside-down house. If you look at technical drawings of rooms the wrong way up, it wouldn’t be too hard to live in them – you’d be climbing over the walls at the bottom of the doors, kneeling to look out of the windows and walking on the ceilings…
What was it like being another artist’s muse? Has it helped your work?
Everything you experience can eventually ‘help’ your work – if you manage to survive it!
When I was at art college and up until I got sober and stopped socialising five years ago, it seemed like I was everybody’s muse. I was painted, photographed, written about, filmed, had clothes designed for me and so on… Basically, I attracted all sorts of attention.
But you see, I was labelled ‘ugly’ and ‘weird’ at school and beaten up really badly, I mean broken nose, two black eyes, my spine was damaged – and then I was completely ostracised for two years – so when the tables turned – it was simply another extreme and baffling reaction I was getting from those eternal ‘other people.’
I’m always looking for intense communication, intense connections – and people who idealise you and use you for their work don’t really want anything from you but the perpetuation of their own myths. If you spoil their fantasies by being real – they don’t like it. It got lonely, confusing and distracting.
I need to be rooted down deep inside my real self to work properly – not outside it, not surface me, not Disco me! I like to be scruffy, unwashed, and talking as much bloody nonsense and gibberish as I want, being as uncool or angry or idiotic or ungainly as I feel, with people who accept me as I am. I need lots of time alone, too. Then I can get on with it – make things that might keep me safe.


SEAFOOD SALADS by Penny Goring. Illustrations Georgie Patterson

  Penny Goring has produced a strange little cookbook that is also a hotel guide, a book of Poetry and a short history of some of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, The Hotel guide is what it says on the cover and gives a list of the Pride of Britain Hotels that the chefs who provided the recipes work for. Some of the recipes I think are written by chefs who have their heads a little to close to their own exhaust pipe, and are in my humble opinion a waste of good fish. But, then, suddenly, there are recipes that bring back memories of childhood, sitting on the beach at Sker, eating fresh Lobster cooked in newspaper on a fire on the beach, so I gave the rest of the book a second chance and with over forty mouthwatering seafood dishes I am glad that I did as there are some superb recipes.
The Poems and Limericks are very amusing, and all have a nautical theme and the artwork is very good, but the history of the Royal National Lifeboat Stations make this a very interesting little book giving details of some of the heroic rescues that have taken place around the country in the past.
This is a quirky little book that I really like and would make a nice gift for any fisherman or boat owner that I would buy. - tropper66

  Temporary Passport by Penny Goring
It is late in the twentieth century and I'm on my hands and knees for you. Down on the boards of this stationary freight train, it's dark and your coat is our tent. Toulon: too long ago to clearly remember your hands or the feel of your mouth.
On a speeding train I took off my knickers and the open window grabbed them from my hands. We were glugging red wine from plastic flagons, going to Nice to beg on the beach.
Those sand-blasted beggars were feral, stole your knife as we slept under sheets of damp chipboard. You forced me to shop-lift a tin of sardines, if it wasn't for you we would starve.
Busking in Brussels was futile, me screaming and you on the bongos, all you'd accept from your father, before he returned to New York. Plastic flowers bunched in my carrier bag, eyebrows unplucked, hair greasily grasping the wind.
Marseilles with a flimsy message propped at my feet, slumped against a wall trying to look hungry, my puppy fat making it difficult. You always watching from a distance, making sure I was safe.
Poverty was too much for me. You said I was too much for you.
At Bettina's expecting a welcome, we weren't wanted at all, but she fed us and took us to the nightclub where her boyfriend was a DJ. Our contest to see who could pull first, you seemed gleeful when I won hands down. All I did was stick my head out, under the lights at the bar.
He was a good-looking Belgian, singer in a band he said, and he wanted to buy me a dress. He came round the next day so I had a shower and he took us all out for coffee and chocolates, then dined and seduced me alone. You were angry I didn't bring a doggy bag back, I was numb with cocaine.
Eating raw cabbage in Oxford watching lots of uppity yahs, we danced with exuberance at their party, heathens, wild for them all. You shagged some girl on the staircase, I nicked a tenner from her dressing-table drawer. It was then you knew I was yours.
I was relieved we lost her before Paris, even though the guards beat you up. I stood frozen, train jolting, as they took turns to punch you and called you ‘roast beef', your teeth flashing broken and whiter against your open mouth slashed with red.
They threw us from their cells early morning, we walked silent streets swigging milk from the doorsteps and I loved you, your beauty coagulated in blood.
I drew you for three days in Calais, my pencil recording your fantastic face, I should have held onto those drawings, I'd have something left of you now.
You never answer my letters but you still come looking for me. You find me at night when I'm trying to sleep and tell me all about why you can't stay.


Ornamental Onion (Atomic Tangerine)

colour me atomic tangerine


i imagined myself & i was phlox saxifrage pompom ranunculus

poppy anemone ornamental onion rattlesnake red ribbon nerine

& i loved the painted tongue

& i wore the rattlesnake

at poppy anemone ceremonies & across myrtle mimosa until morning

i worshipped the ornamental onion

in calla lily seizures

& i bled achillea

& i wished phlox

& i kissed wysteria

my mouth a red wet saxifrage

i want to stand where no shadows fall

insert the knife an inch below the ear and twist by Penny Goring

Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere - articles, conversations and statements by former members of the Situationists’ organisations as well as contemporary artists, activists, scholars and writers

Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere - Click Image to Close

Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere, Ed. by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen and Jakob Jakobsen, Half Letter Press, 2012.


This volume is the first English-language presentation of the Scandinavian Situationists and their role in the Situationist movement. The Situationist movement was an international movement of artists, writers and thinkers that in the 1950s and 1960s tried to revolutionize the world through rejecting bourgeois art and critiquing the post-World War Two capitalist consumer society.

The book contains articles, conversations and statements by former members of the Situationists’ organisations as well as contemporary artists, activists, scholars and writers. While previous publications about the Situationist movement almost exclusively have focused on the contribution of the French section and in particular on the role of the Guy Debord this book aims to shed light on the activities of the Situationists active in places like Denmark, Sweden and Holland. The themes and stories chronicled include: The anarchist undertakings of the Drakabygget movement led by the rebel artists Jørgen Nash, Hardy Strid and Jens Jørgen Thorsen, the exhibition by the Situationist International “Destruction of RSG-6” in 1963 in Odense organised by the painter J.V. Martin in collaboration with Guy Debord, the journal The Situationist Times edited by Jacqueline de Jong, Asger Jorn's political critique of natural science and the films of the Drakabygget movement.

Contributors: Peter Laugesen, Carl Nørrested, Fabian Tompsett, Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, Jacqueline de Jong, Gordon Fazakerley, Hardy Strid, Karen Kurczynski, Stewart Home, Jakob Jakobsen.

“For too long now books about the Situationist International have been blighted by a persistent blind spot. Although often mentioned and just a summarily dismissed, the Scandinavian Situationists have been left to moulder away in unexplored territory for far too long. Now, with the publication of Expect Anything Fear Nothing, the full story of the Scandinavian Situationists can finally be told. And with this, the first full account of the fascinating characters involved and the presentation of new research into their significant contribution to art and contestation, that particular blind spot is about to become nothing more than a peculiarity of the past.”– Simon Ford

“Join the partisans against oblivion. The North will rise again. Read about knots, and what's not, fashionable nonsense and ostracized acumen, smelly herrings and Camembert. Not just in culinary terms, the Germanic and the French tribes battle it out: farmers, self-deluders, underground heroes, ladies. Freedom is not for sale, but this book is. With pictures too.”– Esther Leslie

“The Situationist project was always much bigger than Paris. This book returns Jacqueline De Jong's Situationist Times and the Scandinavian wing of the movement to their rightful place in the story. It is full of resources for the ongoing challenge of contesting everything, everywhere.”– McKenzie Wark
“An indispensible work of historical retrieval. In this homage without hagiography, the landscape of the situationist project is forever changed - and enlarged. Bolt Rasmussen and Jakobsen have produced a myth-busting corrective to Francocentric orthodoxy; above all, they bring the artists back in from the cold. Expect Anything Fear Nothing is a brilliant blend of archival sleuthing, visual ethnography, fascinating memoir from unbowed survivors, and lucid analysis with an eye to unfinished revolutionary business.”– Iain Boal

Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen is an art historian and political theorist. He is associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and has published books and articles on the revolutionary tradition and modern art.

Jakob Jakobsen is an artist, organizer and activist. He ran the Copenhagen Free University, cofounded the artist run TV-station tvtv and has participated in exhibitions and projects all over the world.

Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere - Click Image to Close

Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere - Click Image to Close

Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere - Click Image to Close


Patricia Lockwood - Her 'sexts' are X-rated scenarios that bring cartoon characters, inanimate objects, rappers and politicians into the love den. Killed With an Apple Corer, She Asks What Does That Make Me

Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexual

Patricia Lockwood, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals. Penguin Books, 2014.

Colloquial and incantatory, the poems in Patricia Lockwood’s second collection address the most urgent questions of our time, like: what if a deer did porn? Is America going down on Canada? What happens when Niagara Falls gets drunk at a wedding? Is it legal to marry a stuffed owl exhibit? What would Walt Whitman’s tit-pics look like? Why isn’t anyone named Gary anymore? Did the Hatfield and McCoy babies ever fall in love? The steep tilt of Lockwood’s lines sends the reader snowballing downhill, accumulating pieces of the scenery with every turn. The poems’ subject is the natural world, but their images would never occur in nature. This book is serious and funny at the same time, like a big grave with a clown lying in it.

It’s always wrong to judge a poem by its retweets, but when a literary work, by a poet not world famous for something else, gets hundreds of thousands of “shares,” “likes” and other such notices online, within weeks of publication, it’s time to ask why. That is what happened, in 2013, to Patricia Lockwood’s “Rape Joke.” Like rape itself, “Rape Joke” was no joke: “The rape joke is that you were 19 years old,” it began. “The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. . . . The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke.” To readers who had suffered similar outrages, Lockwood offered wit and a fed-up solidarity; to others, the poem brought news.
“Rape Joke” stands out in “Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals” not because it is so popular, not because it is her best poem (it is not), but because it is the only poem in the whole book that does not try to be funny. Many of Lockwood’s titles are grabby, over the top, titillating and outré (“Search ‘Lizard Vagina’ and You Shall Find,” “Is Your Country a He or a She in Your Mouth”); many of her characters are grotesques, cartoony, pixelated dreams — a talking basketball, the Loch Ness monster, the “Last of the Late Great Gorilla-Suit Actors.” Usually these characters are uncomfortably childlike, or hypersexualized, or both. “An Animorph Enters the Doggie-Dog World” addresses its 11-year-old protagonist: “You walk to school and sit next / to a girl who was born with a tail and you copy off / her. . . . You seem to be only / a series of places where animal parts could emerge.”
Pointless weirdness gets old fast (as it got old in Lockwood’s too-clever-by-half first book, “Balloon Pop Outlaw Black”), but here the weirdness almost always carries a magnificent, and political, point. If sexual and social norms make some of us (especially the young) feel monstrous, out of place, unheard, unprotected or out of control, then Lockwood will speak for the monsters — for the Loch Ness monster, for example, in “Nessie Wants to Watch Herself Doing It” (“Doing what, I don’t know, being alive”). Like the best stand-up comics, Lockwood seeks honesty, an honesty inseparable (for her) from the jarring, the awkward, the malformed, the disconcerting, from the tones and topics (especially sexual ones) usually excluded from polite company.
No wonder she thinks a lot about who gets to speak. “The Feeling of Needing a Pen” takes the old equation of the male member with privilege, and with writing implements, to a deliberately ridiculous extreme: “Really, like a urine but even more gold, / I thought of that line and I felt it, even / between two legs I felt it.” An even better poem, “The Hypno-Domme Speaks, and Speaks and Speaks,” likens the language of poetry to the language (also accorded special powers) of hypnotists’ spiels, and of sex talk.
Such conceits suit an era in which “eyeballs” are currency, when we may think new work must seize our attention immediately (and what gets more attention than sex?) if that work is to be noticed at all. In her eager omnivorousness, her love for the shocking, Lockwood can be — as Rimbaud aspired to be — absolutely contemporary, and that desire to be scarily modern is one of her subjects.
Another subject is childishness, the needy, awkward honesty that children can bequeath to their future selves. Adult life, adult sexuality, are from a child’s point of view absurd: A child learns to understand them, in Lockwood’s poem “The Third Power,” as he learns, or cannot learn, to view 3-D Magic Eye pictures, which “refuse to open for him / or show even their innocent parts.” And if to enter the picture, to accept the sexual and economic lives that adults see as natural, is to enter the world of “Rape Joke,” wouldn’t it be better to stay outside?
But there is no outside: Even the most puerile characters, even the talking animals, must learn about sex, and money, and death, as if the world were one enormous school. “The teacher writes quiet please on the board. The pig / who came to school today is unprepared for the squeal / of chalk. It asks is something else in here dying the way / I’m going to?” With puns, cartoony satires and asides, Lockwood skewers over and over the idea that sex is the key to happiness, or to the natural, or to the real. “Revealing nature photographs,” in the poem of that name, look just like dispiriting porn: “Nature is big into bloodplay, / nature is into extreme age play, nature does wild inter- / racial . . . nature is sleeping and still nature is on all fours.”
Lockwood sets almost all her work in a rough, run-on line, a bit speedier than blank verse. She puts two poems instead into short blocks of prose. One is “Rape Joke,” the poem least engaged with literary tradition; the other is the most. “The Father and Mother of American Tit-Pics” imagines, or travesties, Emily Dickinson (the father) and Walt Whitman (the mother) amid a crazed parade of soft porn and selfies: In it “breasts have gotten bigger, because American poetry is accumulating in our lungs and has to push its way out.” Lockwood is not the first American poet to combine feminism with shock value, and both with digital-era caricature (look for a 2010 anthology called “Gurlesque”), but she is the first to incorporate such a gift for storytelling, and to get it so right.
“The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you,” Lockwood writes. It will not be. The poet maintains a popular Twitter feed, @TriciaLockwood, full of off-color quips and rimshot-worthy similes. Her pages owe something to such online forms, and something to performance poetry, with its demand for the raw real thing. But with its extended figures, its theme-and-­variations structures, its spirals and twists away from (and sometimes back toward) ordinary speech, Lockwood’s new book rewards rereading. She is never subtle. Her work could seem dated soon. But those limits should not occlude her strengths. She has written a book at once angrier, and more fun, more attuned to our time and more bizarre, than most poetry can ever get, a book easy to recommend for people who do not read new poetry often — as well as for almost all the people who do.- Stephen Burt

The ‘Rape Joke’ Poet Patricia Lockwood’s New Book Is Great

The Rumpus Interview with Patricia Lockwood

The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas

Steak-Umm out of Sacred Cows

Patricia Lockwood, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, Octopus Books, 2012.

Patricia's blog

Patricia's twitter

"There's a savage intelligence at work in this debut collection of poems. ... Lockwood's loping lines follow a Disney dream logic and dance like enchanted mops." - Chicago Tribune

"Lockwood's world is full of potholes and long rhythms, but it's most satisfying when the ideas are big enough to make the punch lines irrelevant." - The New Yorker

"Equally rigorous and insane. ... It invokes something nameless about why we try to create things, how those things we create feel about us, and the bizarre architectures in between." - VICE

"A voice like Julia Child mixed with Zelda Fitzgerald." - The Stranger

"The one must-see work of internet poetry." - Hyperallergic

Even all by themselves, the titles of Patricia Lockwood's poems reveal the sort of surreal, enigmatic, rhetorically-elongated world her sensibility inhabits effortlessly: "When We Move Away From Here, You'll See A Clean Square of Paper Where His Picture Hung," "The Cartoon's Mother Builds a House in Hammerspace," "The Front Half and the Back Half of a Horse in Conversation," "Children With Lamps Pouring Out of Their Foreheads," and the inimitable "Killed With an Apple Corer, She Asks What Does That Make Me."

The year is 1960 and I am Cary Grant. Kinetic typography sneaks up and fingers me. It writes STARRING CARY GRANT all up in my guts

Patricia Lockwood, whose “Love Poem Like We Used to Write It” appeared in the November 28 issue of the magazine, has close to four thousand followers on Twitter. That’s peanuts if you’re a pop star (@ladygaga has eighteen million and climbing), but for a poet, it’s pretty impressive. At the digital-art Web site Rhizome, Brian Droitcour has collected the best of Lockwood’s “sext” tweets, a genre she conceived in the wake of the Anthony Weiner scandal. Lockwood, who once told a reporter that she was ten years old when she wrote her first haiku, is a natural-born tweeter. A trio of examples below:
I am a mushroom in a forest. There are drops of dew all over my tip. Nabokov reaches down a hand to pick me.

You are miniature, and I put you in the bell of a saxophone and play a long soulful B-flat

I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter. You put your whole head through me. - www.newyorker.com/

Patricia Lockwood's Sext Poems Will Make You LOL

Once the love letter dominated the scene for writing your lover. But these days, nothing gets the blood pumping like a good sext. Like "Come over baby" ... or "I need you tonight" ... or "I am a living male turtleneck..." (Don't you dare judge us!)
Poet Patricia Lockwood, whose work has been published in the New Yorker and The Awl creates poems that operate with the shocking and true bizzarre revelations of a genius joke.
And then she discovered Twitter. As you will soon see, magic happened as a result of this fortuitous encounter. Her 'sexts' are X-rated scenarios that bring cartoon characters, inanimate objects, rappers and politicians into the love den. If you were looking for an entertaining entrance into the realm of sweet prose, we urge you to start here.
via Rhizome, who has a whole different but equally LOLworthy collection of sexy and weird texts.

Patricia Lockwood is my Poetry Hero.
I don’t normally read poetry. I have a few favourite poems (Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck” and Al Purdy’s “On Being Human”) that I read when I need them.
I believe that poetry’s mostly subjective; it’s about a mood. I don’t really know how to talk about this book, so I’m just going to write a bunch of lines down that I appreciated. Sometimes it’s because of the way that the lines sound, and sometimes it’s because of what I want them to mean.

On drawing Popeye:    ”The Body: Think of your paper as a pan of milk. A pan of milk will form a skin.”
“Any piece of paper on which ‘popeye’ is printed counts as a Will, as it contains his signature, his witness, proof of his death, a list of all the property he owns, and the name of his inheritor.”
“Inseparable things are easily separated, she knows. The name of the tea at one end of the string, the tea itself at the other.”
“As her idea of hair grows longer, she starts stacking it higher every day, first to make room for bird wings, then to make room for whole birds, then to make room for their cages.”
“and ends on a semicolon, and a gibbous pause rises into the sky and hangs there instead of a moon.”-

“Aaliyah would have been on Twitter. It is fucked up that she is dead.”: An Interview with Patricia Lockwood, Poet Laureate of Twitter

Patricia Lockwood is a poet. (A poet. A very good poet.) She also uses Twitter in interesting ways. Earlier this year, her series of SEXTS got attention from Rhizome, and then The Huffington Post & The New Yorker.
And I look at those tweets and I wonder, “How does someone do that?” Not get attention, though. I mean write those. How? So I asked.
So, I was initially pretty dismissive of Twitter. And then, at some point, I noticed how funny it could be and found it to be a mostly worthwhile distraction. And then—probably while reading the fake Christopher Walken feed—I began to think there could be something kind of poetic about Twitter. That each little update could be a joke, a persona poem, a zen koan.
Did you sense the “poetic” potential in the Twitter post from the beginning or did your approach to Twitter change?
It took me about ten years to join Twitter because, like old men everywhere, I “did not get it.” What is the … where are your mentions … what is hashtag … who is a belieber? When I did join, I spent my first week livetweeting the movie Bambi, focusing specifically on the puberty of Bambi and Thumper, and was subsequently unfollowed with extreme prejudice by the few poets who had charitably followed me in the first place. (This still happens! A real writer will follow me and then four days later be like “what the freak is this” and it is goodbye. CAN’T believe you wrote a tweet about Jesus jelqing.)
OK, so scrolling back, I see that one of my earliest tweets was “I want to see the Beethoven movie where Beethoven finally manages to tear his way out of the dog’s body and play something good on the piano.” About two weeks later I sexted for the first time, like a teen. So it wasn’t so much that I saw the possibilities right away as that … Twitter is the perfect way to disseminate the kind of writing that comes most naturally to me.

When I first signed up, I was aware of a few accounts that I thought were really funny, like @gregerskine and @extranapkins. I followed them, and discovered a bunch of other people who were writing what could only be described as Literature. There was no doubt in my mind. Subjects were: toads, bogs, jorts, gender, Animorphs, Chingy, wasps, “im gay,” Kate Bush, crieing, and pizza; but the tweets themselves were Literature. I was writing in a separate aesthetic, but it dovetailed so prettily with what they were doing that it was easy to enter into conversation with these people, and begin writing the Communal Book of Twit.
You say that they are producing “literature.” Would you call it a kind of “poetry?” Or is that form a little too well-defined at this point? Does the tweet get its own category? (And, heck, is it the tweet that is the achievement, or the whole of the gathered up and examined feed that deserves the title?
WHAT IS POETRY. CAN SOMETHING THAT IS NOT POETRY … BE POETRY. IF IT IS POETRY, CAN IT NOT BE POETRY? In this interview I will answer the question so good that no one needs to answer it ever again! We will lay it to rest like a little baby … who … is dead.
I have no problem thinking of tweets as poetry, because the really great ones function in the same way that poetry does to me. They are clear and cubic thinking, and they repay obsessive thinking-about. 140 characters is just about the right length to get inside your head, so if I walk around all day chanting “apnews: an girl go back in time to shhot cow that start gret chicago fire . cow say “i expect you” shoot her an start fire with i’ts cigaret” to myself the same way I walk around chanting “The milkman came in the moonlight and the moonlight was less than moonlight,” I see no reason to make a distinction, because I’m not some sort of taxonomy psycho. Honestly, when I think of the question “what is poetry” I picture Linnaeus and David Lehman absolutely making out, hands up each other’s shirts, while everyone who participates in modern American poetry watches.
BUT at the same time, I like to call them tweets because otherwise it’s a big waste of the stupidest term that has ever been invented for anything. If we don’t call them tweets then what are we gonna call a tweet, a bird’s sound? Please. Let’s be reasonable.
(taxonomy psycho. heh.)
I understand the SEXT series came out of the Anthony Weiner situation. Did you see someone else post one? Or did you see a void and fill it? (The fact that that question appears to sound like a sext is purely coincidental.)
I wasn’t specifically thinking of Anthony Weiner when I first started sexting (no one, I hope, is specifically thinking of Anthony Weiner when they first start sexting.) I had a long-standing fascination with the media panic about SEXTING TEENS and MARRIED SEXTING and ARE THE OLD SEXTING, IN HOMES? Newsweek was losing its mind with terror. Stock photos depicted crazed sexual geezers* leaning against trees. Headlines were all things like: “Majority of Americans Now Getting Turned On by Misspellings of the Word “Pprenis?” Anyway, so one day I was on a long, long car trip to Key West and I was bored as hell, so I asked people on Twitter to send me sexts, “physically impossible sexts preferred.” I posted a few to start that established an absurd precedent –
Sext: You ask for oral. I get between your legs and whisper the alphabet repeatedly until you scream
Sext: I insert myself into a fog and thrust back and forth until I eject a small area of denser fog
– and then @gregerskine sent me some, including the incomparable “I HAND U A PANINI AND U OPEN IT UP 2 SEE THE COMMAND ‘ORGASM’ WRITTEN IN THOUSAND ISLAND” sext. From that moment forward the form seemed to be set, and other people took it up — it was simple, it was empty, it was elastic.
So yeah I stuffed that huge sucking void.
*Please note that if you like “shocked senior man gets a racy, sexy text message from his wife,” Shutterstock also recommends “shocked senior woman with a towel,” and “mature burned electrician.”
Do you draft your tweets or are they spontaneous? I’m curious about how much deliberation goes into them and if there’s a certain headspace one gets into to create, say, your Sext series.
I’ve noticed there is a certain dark, surreal tone that runs through your tweets and the ones of some of the other folks you follow and promote. DogBoner, say. Or FamousCrab. SPERGERS. Fart. Is there a certain Tweet Wiring in your brain? A path you follow? Is it a similar path to the Poetry Wiring?
I draft like crazy, because: I do most of my tweeting with my phone, and it is so so different to write with your thumbs. Have you noticed this? I often enter Thumb Fantasias where I just move my thumbs around for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, rearranging elements of joke and text and scenario with my stupid thumbs. It is a part of you that should never be writing — eight elegant fingers? Yes. A pencil in your mouth, or between your toes? Good job. Dictation? You are rich, and rich people are known for being good writers. But thumbs? No. Writing with thumbs means all rules about content are out the window; it’s such an unnatural physical act that it requires an unnatural vernacular. It is enormously freeing and enormously frightening, to be a modern thumb writer of the cyber age.
(I made all this up just now but it actually does seem plausible.)
Why the darkness? My eras are the 17th century and the apocalypse. So, elaborate conceits full of burning tires. Everyone is having sex, but so are their fleas? What a magnificent chestnut horse, let’s eat him. Ahhhhh, the gorgeous colors of the sunset are killing us. I believe that any skill that serves in the writing of poetry can serve also in the writing of jokes — the path is the same, but the vocabulary is different. The impulse too is the same: to create something symmetrical, something that shuts to or clicks closed, to make parallel forms with unparallel lines. To make the hugely unlike lie down together, as they must at the end of the world.
Why bring them together — the poem and the joke, or the joke and the prophecy? The hybrid is compelling, always and perennially. It’s the desire to make fucked-up dog breeds that live longer than either of their incest parents. Or if they don’t live longer, they breathe weird and are illegal. Both outcomes are interesting.
Do you have a favorite joke? Is it better than your favorite poem? Do you have a favorite poem? Is it better than your favorite joke? Do you have a favorite tweet? Is it the better than your favorite prayer?
Favorite joke is THE ARISTOCATS, a very funny movie about jazz kittens in France, they are a family and they do the FILTHIEST things to each other, it is almost too much to be believed.
Which is to say, I don’t like most traditional jokes because they seem calcified to me. I like jokes that present a form you can work within or distort or turn inside out. When people tell me jokes I tend to look at them like where the hell do you get your hair cut, Shear Genius? This is a failing on my part. I remember directing such withering looks at uncles who told me knock-knock jokes that I’m surprised they didn’t die.
I go back to “The Glass Essay” a lot. I go back to the Holy Sonnets. I go back to “Fresh Air” and “The Boiling Water.” They’re not better or worse than anything. They’re rocks, and stones, and trees.
This is the closest thing we have to a canonical tweet, and it’s probably the one I think about the most:
YO AALIYAH DONT FILL UP ON ALL DAT BREAD GIRL…..GOT A BIG MEAL COMING WHEN WE LAND Really makes ya think. Eat the bread everyone. Namaste.
When I think of this tweet my thoughts go like this:
Aaliyah is dead and that is fucked up. I loved her voice a lot, I love the light-touch singers best and she was the lightest light-touch singer. She had the ability to just barely land and still feel the note — she was Princess and the Pea with the note 8 mattresses under her! I think of her technique as being trusting, but I think of it that way in retrospect.
If you don’t want to look at tender huge graffiti of her face on big walls all day every day then I don’t even know how to talk to you.
The quieter, the sweeter, the especially intimate voices — is it natural to feel that they are more ours? That the people who own them have more to do with us? Is that why we feel the way we do about Aaliyah?
Why do I feel the way I do about Aaliyah, and if I feel that way about her then why do I laugh at this tweet?
Well, “laughing” is not exactly what I do. More like, “sit staring at it with a sort of appalled reverence, wondering what kind of person I am.”
The reason people like @graeyalien are funnier than “twitter comedians” is because their tweets operate in two more dimensions. They consider who is speaking the tweet, and they consider whether the tweet looks funny. They create a character, and they apply small systematic derangements of punctuation, spelling, and capitalization appropriate to that character.
The recognizable speaker of this tweet is … a white aunt in Manitou Springs?
It makes you picture an Olive Garden moment on a plane that has entered into myth. The dishonesty of myth is that it makes you forget that the Olive Garden moments ever took place — not on that plane, not on that day, not between those two people.
If I think of the people in my life who have told me not to fill up on bread, it is an intimate circle of people. In my life only the people who cared a great deal for me have told me not to fill up on the bread.
Who is speaking? Who is telling her not to eat the bread? The voice is … paternalistic, which seems right because that’s how I remember people treating her even when she was alive. She seemed to arouse more than usual feelings of protectiveness. Protectiveness, paternalism are complicated. But somehow it always sounded nice when Timbaland called her “baby girl.”
But Timbaland would’ve told her to eat as much bread as she wanted. Oh my God. Timbaland would have baked bread for her himself.
She didn’t seem like the type who would eat all the bread. Maybe she really loved the bread! Maybe her handlers didn’t want her to eat it! Maybe she didn’t want to eat too much of it because her stomach had gotten so famous at that point.
Remember when we were all showing our stomachs, and wearing like enormous cargo pants and sports bras outside in the daytime? What the hell was that?
Actually that was awesome and I wish that it would happen again.
But not at the cost of eating the bread.
At some point she got abs? Which because I am visual always made me think of her breath pouring and tumbling down inside her like a cataract of water, over and past the boulders of abs, and the notes having to climb up over them on the way out.
Wikipedia: “In 1998, she hired a personal trainer to keep in shape, and exercised five days a week and ate diet foods.”
I was not allowed to show my stomach, at that time. I probably wouldn’t have showed it even if I HAD been allowed, because stomachs seemed so vulnerable to me.
It is tempting to view a person who died in a plane crash as being entirely vulnerable, even in her lifetime.
Neither was I allowed to listen to hip-hop. Well, it wasn’t so much that I wasn’t allowed as that — hip-hop was seen to be somehow ridiculous, and as having nothing to do with us.
But that is what I loved the best. I could give a fuck about an electric guitar.
I was 18 years old, and she was 22, and for years her music had been everywhere, and I didn’t mind at all.
Not all of this information is present in the tweet, but the tweet walks arm-in-arm with all this information.
The art we like the best is generally the art that has the greatest access to us. So. This tweet has tremendous access to my feelings about Aaliyah. Aaliyah’s voice had tremendous access to me.
Aaliyah would have been on Twitter. It is fucked up that she is dead.
Eat the bread everyone.

Verbal Paintings of Cartoon Dogs Sexting

Patricia Lockwood has a brain seemingly designed to blow up Twitter. Her feed is full of cartoon tween j/o bait and hyper-fantasy sexy stuff like “I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter. You put your whole head through me,” and “I go up to heaven and open God's Bible. It contains only a single sext: ‘Im hard.’” From the same brain now erupts her first book, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, which is covered in nude Popeye dogs walking calmly in a blue horde. The book is equally rigorous and insane, squashing deep into the squishy curves of the unconscious, where all that childhood cartoon sound and whale-sized dreams of death are housed. It invokes something nameless about why we try to create things, how those things we create feel about us, and the bizarre architectures in between.
Here’s some more about Patricia:
Blake: Favorite cartoon/show as a child?
GUMMI BEARS, which I watch to this day. What you have to do is get the reddest juice you can find and put it in a salad cruet and then GULP IT at the exact moment the Gummi Bears drink the Gummiberry juice and then you get a great feeling like you have done something exactly right for once in your life.
Favorite cartoon/show now?
DuckTails, because even though I do not like money I want to touch millions of a thing at once and be touched by millions of a thing at once and only Scrooge McDuck in his little bathing suit seems to need that as much as I do.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Always a writer. Though at one point I got the idea that that was impractical and decided to be “a voice actor” instead, which lasted until I realized what a truly terrible saxophone I had for a voice.
What is your favorite part of anatomy?
Cowlicks are the most textual to me.
What is your favorite planet?
Trick question? The moon, idiot.
What position do you sleep in?
Completely facedown like I'm trying to sink into the center of the Earth.
Song you remember for a particular reason?
“Knees Up Mother Brown,” by Raffi. What's going on? Is Mother Brown a prostitute? I just have no idea.
Do you like candy?
I do NOT like candy and the people who eat it deserve their sticky nasty hands. And I hate them.
What book have you read the most?
I've read The Berenstain Bears' Trouble at School probably 100 times because there's this really mysterious moment in it where Brother Bear walks into the woods with his grandpa and his grandpa shows him a wagon that he pushed into a swamp a long time ago because he "made a bad decision." It makes no sense. Why would he push a wagon into a swamp? Little tiny Swamp Thing fingers are drawn all over the wagon grabbing every part of it and refusing to let go and gothic slime is hanging everywhere and it doesn't even LOOK like a wagon anymore because it's been transformed by the horrifying hug of the swamp. Brother Bear looks at it and somehow learns a lesson about how he shouldn't make bad decisions. It's so good. I read it again and again because to me there is no other moment in books that is so completely closed to my understanding.
Do you have a recurring dream?
I DO. I have a dream every month where I'm trapped in a mansion with all my high school friends and a serial killer in a leather jacket with fringe is picking us off one by one. The fringe swings. He shoots us. I've had that dream since I was 15 years old. It gave me a strange sense of houses. - Blake Butler

Excerpt from Balloon Pop Outlaw Black:

It is the house of your childhood: rooms hide, merge, relocate, paint themselves during the night. The same route never works twice—you are the force that sends a live hallway shooting out of another hallway. There is a never-ending bowl of oranges in the kitchen, always the same oranges and never the same oranges; the oranges section and eat the weeks. The dog’s markings—black on white ground—change whenever we want them to. Some seasons the lawn disappears out from under you like a tablecloth, and you’re replaced so fast you hardly feel it. And it is the house of your childhood because she lives here.
In the kitchen, one cupboard refuses to open. It thinks it is another place, it thinks it is the land of spices.
A house in Kansas is made of Kansas. A house in the jungle is made of the jungle. The house here is made of there, is made of the air that a house displaces.
Her garden flourishes: a row of little signs that say pumpkin, a row of little signs that say lettuce, a row of little signs that say radish.
When she wants to pick one, she gets down on her knees and grasps the name with both hands, and tugs, and it will not come, and tugs, and it will not come, and in the other world her son cries “Carrot!” and she feels the taproot go tense and then snap.
It is a good place to grow things; the thermometer on the front porch registers always a human temperature.
Last thing she knew he lived in the west. When his name appears in her mind, it is written in lasso.
He always liked a good lie about storms, so here, when it thunders, a stampede of horses is flattening her son.
And in the morning her trails are washed away. The ground here is a dapple animal, it won’t stand still long enough to let her pull a bridle path over its head.
And where is the west now? She tugs down the map to look and it flies up again like a windowshade.
At the edge of the desert, she discovers a rich vein of Detroitite—a “stone” made of the layered paint that streams away from car factories. She takes a pickaxe and a shovel and begins to dig. She dynamites the color deeper and deeper. She lives away from home, she rides a gray donkey down, she eats sandwiches in the mine at night. It is her Grand Canyon, and she sleeps in a long silver river at the bottom. Above her, new layers keep arriving; they will run here from the other world as long as there is somewhere to go. Then the vein is inside out, and she wakes up one morning in her own bed again. The house is suddenly one floor deeper, she feels a room of basement rocks below her.
One shop appears when she needs it: a model train store. It sells everything a town needs, from portable tunnels to instant road, but she lingers most over the miniature “You Are Now Entering             ” signs. They have one for every city you can think of, piled together in a clear glass jar. She slips one in her pocket and lets it burn a hole there. When she wants to travel, she sits on a bench in the middle of nowhere. The scenery train pulls out. The scenery train pulls in. When her ticket is right, she will leave on it, and ride to the end of the line.
She is always on the lookout for lines here; the line is her only natural predator. If she let it, a line would swallow her whole and then lick the corner of her lip, and lay in a black earthquake on her floor, and draw itself in black boxes all over her calendar. It would ride out to her yard and draw a tree full of grasshoppers until there was not a leaf left, and still not be full. The line says, “When I draw a stomach around all of it, then I will have eaten.”
Her son keeps a line, she remembers, and feeds it a mouse once a month. As soon as the mouse is fully digested, it appears here in her house, a long tail snaking behind it. Sometimes a line disguises himself, and goes house to house with a paper and pen asking for signatures. She refuses to answer. He raps, then knocks, then threatens to put a shoulder through her door.
She sends her son a book, with her pop-up house between the pages. He sets it aside and lets it gather dust. She raps, then knocks, then threatens to put her shoulder through the door, but still he does not open it.
She brought all her books with her, too many books. She makes bookends to hold rows of them together: geodes the size of her head, sawed exactly in half, all gray crystals on display.
The line would like to cut her up and hang her from the ceiling. If he did, you
would see a clean white portal in each piece, like a hambone. She is tempted to
let him do this—like all good cartoons, she believes in an Afterimage, where
her colors will become their cool opposites. Where her hell-colored ham will
become the blue sky.


Sexts from Patricia Lockwood

Editor’s Note: “"Tricia u MUST join Twitter to network with Poets" *tricia joins twitter, falls in with a million Comedy Fuckers, forgets what poem even is*” — @TriciaLockwood, September 2, 2011
Patricia Lockwood is an actual poet—published in the New Yorker, even!—who has inappropriately touched the imaginations of a thousand followers with her “sexts.” Born around the time of the Anthony Weiner scandal, the genre congeals gobs of glowing poetry from networked life’s greasy stew of blunt spam copy, collaged pop culture, and constant little spells of titillation. This is a selection of Lockwood’s hottest sexts.
A ghost teasingly takes off his sheet. Underneath he is so sexy that everyone screams out loud
Do you smell like a mousetrap? I am a cruel woman and I simply adore the smell of mousetraps
A Teenage Turtle takes extreme pleasure from sticking his head in and out of his shell very slowly while a rat watches
Midnight. My wife and children are asleep. Breathlessly I begin to search for my favorite kind of porn: "Women Standing in Big Jeans"
These jeansluts stand up really straight with their tits out, holding the jeans as far away from their bodies as possible! SO RAW
This girl wants a denim vest, a denim scrunchie, and denim Keds -- are YOU the sicko who's going to give them to her
You are miniature, and I put you in the bell of a saxophone and play a long soulful B-flat
I am Everest and I JO while a 100-year-old grampa tries to climb me. At the moment he reaches my peak I produce a thunderous rockslide
I am FWB with Scrooge McDuck. He asks me to pretend to rob him. "IS IT A BEAGLE BOY," he gasps, as I break into his money bin
"I'm so wet," you murmur. Marmaduke raises his glistening face. "That's because I'm famous for drool," he laughs
Easy-Listening Dracula drinks the blood of a saxophonist. He smiles and feels the mellow blood spread through him like smooth jazz
I am a Charmin bear. You are a bear trap that is baited with a soft roll of toilet paper. I step inside you and "lose" my "leg"
I am a mushroom in a forest. There are drops of dew all over my tip. Nabokov reaches down a hand to pick me
I teach an African Grey Parrot to sext. He sexts at the level of a two-year-old -- "mama, mama, mama"
I guess the number of gumballs in a jar. I'm off by just one gumball. "I'm pink," it whispers, & then leaps into my mouth & chews me
I repeatedly crush dollhouse furniture under my feet until I feel "big enough"
A leprechaun sits in a pot o gold. He removes gold pieces 1 by 1 to reveal his nudity. At the end he tears off his beard. It's a woman
An elephant picks up his 1000000th peanut. Whoops, it is the orange candy. He sucks it up his trunk and tastes sugar for the 1st time
The year is 1960 and I am Cary Grant. Kinetic typography sneaks up and fingers me. It writes STARRING CARY GRANT all up in my guts
I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter. You put your whole head through me
Rainbow go into a prism and it shoot SO MUCH white light
You walk into the bathroom and see a baby in a tuxedo peeing at one of the urinals. He turns around and smiles. It's Jordy
You unzip and begin to tinkle like a man. Jordy looks over and his eyes get huge. He begins to cry. "It's hard to be a baby," he sobs
I kill a big wasp with an Animorphs book. When I turn the book over there's a baby leg stuck to it! Animorphs are real
The word "gaylord" falls in love with another word that means the same thing. His dad Shakespeare CRIES with joy when he tells him
I play Whac-A-Mole and all the moles let me whac them. They rise up to meet me, they desire nothing more than to be whac
You get a Tyra Mail that tells you the date of your death. You scream uncontrollably in the voice of an excited model
Mavis Beacon bursts out of the computer and shows me where to put my fingers
Mavis Beacon urges my fingers to move faster, faster, and ever faster. "80 words a minute or your money back," she whispers
"Type this random sequence," instructs Mavis Beacon. The letters T-E-A-C-H-E-R W-A-N-T-S T-O F-R-E-E-K appear before my eyes
Mavis Beacon's neck gets long & she bursts out of her clothes. She was a bronto all along. "Type my new name APATOSAUR," she thunders
I read "The Monster at the End of This Book" to you. Together we turn the final page. Surprise, I cut a hole in it to put my d through
I go up to heaven and open God's Bible. It contains only a single sext: "Im hard"


from Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

Killed with an Apple Corer, She
Asks What Does That Make Me

For all her life she did piece work

on the orange assembly line, she tied

awful flesh knots at the ends of oranges

to separate one from the next,

        (her father was the same, her father

        squinted at blueprints of bulls, and built

        them up room by room, and then sent

        them into the fields

                                to graze on pure

                thousands instead of the grass,)

she lived in the squarest state, she was soft

as map creases are, her lover, one floor

above, worked to make things themselves:

steel driven home in steel and shoehorns

shoehorned in, he lost piece by piece

                his whole body that way;

                until she no longer wanted him

                and took a lover one floor below

who brought game after game to life—when she

told him, “The forest is as tall as a paper mill

tonight,” he took her walking there, and they

envisioned each tree as a bundle of cues, or horseheads

set on endless Ls, or a deep sleeve of letter tiles.

And when he was unlucky too, he climbed upstairs

and raised a right arm that suddenly seemed to be


        and cried, “Machine beats man,” and finally

fell at her feet, his wounds pouring red rolls of the dice;

and then using her terrible skills, she tied him off from her,

and then went to the man who made things themselves

and lay down on his line, and he said her name

like industrial noise but finally it meant nothing,

                and “What is happening?” she asked,

and he leaned down and told how the air

                        drilled a hole in her to breathe,

and he leaned down and told how the red

                                spiraled off in one neat piece,


The oldest living cartoon character is the word “popeye.” A cartoon
character works this way: it is written so many times, with minor
variations, that it appears to walk, to cast a shadow, to eat green
leaves. Here are the known facts:

His pants are not white, they are empty. His face is not white, it is
empty. His arms are not white, they are empty. When we say “pants,
face, arms” what we mean is “where the ink ends and the rest of him
begins,” or, “the him that the ink contains.”

His parts are letters. Letters make up his mind, and also emerge from
it. And the point where a needle touches his thought bubble to burst
it is a letter also.

When he fights his number-one enemy, he undergoes a transformation:
he smiles hugely, his teeth turn to rows of movable type, and then
rearrange themselves to form an ultimate insult. The enemy then
begins to cry, and “popeye” is the winner.

He does not eat, exactly, but the existence of bite-marks in pen-andink
apples is enough to keep him from going hungry. “Grainy,” he
often complains.

When he develops goosebumps, when he forms a knot on the head,
when his legs fly apart and form a fast-moving cloud, his line suffers.
When his line suffers, it is said that he is “in pain.” Whenever he is
“in pain,” a doctor appears and injects him with a straight line, and
he sighs with relief.

Much as gold injections are used to treat lions with arthritis.

He has never worn a mustache, because he is not capable of growing
a mustache. This is because he lacks both the letters M and W.

What does “popeye” mean? The doctor swabs the inside of his cheek
and smears it on a slide, and looks and looks and looks.

He wakes one morning with amnesia, and when one doctor asks his
name, and another doctor asks if he knows where he is, he will only
say slowly, “My name is ‘popeye,’ I have no other English.”

“Popeye”: An Outline

1. Opening: First draw him a mouth, to ask “who, what, when,
where, why, and how?” Then fill the mouth with ink.
2. The Body: Think of your paper as a pan of milk. A pan of
milk will form a skin.
3. Closing: There is a small gap between where the arm of
“popeye” ends and the fist of him begins. Please join them
with your pen.

Eyebrows are his most expressive feature. He himself, straightened, is
someone’s eyebrow.

In moments of grave danger, his bicep turns transparent, and reveals a
sizable ink-clot, with small rivers of ink streaming away from it to
form his outline, day after day, year after year. This is to reassure his
viewers, who continually fear his death.

“Popeye,” in his adolescence, goes through a period of floating off the
page. His father sits him down and recommends an anchor tattoo.

Although he is “drawn,” and although he is “a place,” he is not a
map. If anything, he is a “cartouche”: the area of a map that encloses
information about the map itself.

He is often captured and sentenced to slave labor, always the same: to
row oars in other moving words, and be whipped within an inch by
ascenders and descenders.

Watching him works this way: he walks the length of your vision until
he reaches the end. You gulp like a gangplank and he falls into the

Or:             He disappears into the sunset, riding a little
killie over and under the waves.

Or:             His enormous boyfriend is named Perspective;
he ties him to train tracks again and again.

Any piece of paper on which “popeye” is printed counts as a Will, as
it contains his signature, his witness, proof of his death, a list of all
the property he owns, and the name of his inheritor.

Occasionally a schoolgirl will write “popeye” over and over with a
pink pen, and it is then that he wears a dress and pretends to be a

Depending on the decade, draw seams up the backs of his legs.

Parts of his body exist only when he is looking at them. He uses his
shoeshine to stare up his own skirt.

At the school dance, “popeye” feels a pang in his belly and an urge to
push. “Why me?” he wonders. “Why now?” Alone, he disappears
through the door marked & and does what he must do.

When he is angry, a frizz of black ink appears above his head. No,
forgive me. That is not ink at all. That is the least favorite hair of the
typesetter, the one that emerges from the thought of his mother.

The Ongoing Crimes of His Mother and Father

His mother reaches out, hatches ink under him,
and commands him to stand and walk.

His father bursts into the room, screaming,
“What is the meaning? What is the meaning
of this?”

His mother rushes to explain, and feels
the pain of a strikethrough fly through her.

“Popeye” famously wets himself—the worst
mistake a young image can make.

His father lifts a ruler, brings it down hard
on his “boy,” lifts a paint-stirrer up again.

“Popeye” is an extension of the human arm. When driving horses, lift
and crack him until your horses break into a black streak. Then set
him upright in the whip socket again.

He is famous for being always on time; he arrives at his destination in
one second flat.* In one minute flat. In one hour flat.**

*How? We suspect that he lives in an atlas, where all distances
are collapsible.

**“Flat” is not the word. Say instead, there is a limited
amount of him, like water, and it seeks its level.

Is he “made of paper”? No, he is papered like a hallway. Is he “made
of ink”? No, he is a ghost who had ink thrown on him during a fight,
and as a consequence is now visible.

Regarding ink, why black? Black because something was extinguished

When rain falls on him, it falls in interruptions, incompletes, brokenoffs
and bitten-backs—it is true to its typographical nature and never
touches the ground.

Every second Sunday, his mother combs kerosene through his hair.
The lice that live on books are not the same as the lice that live on
scalps, and “popeye” has them both.

Occasionally he is left unfinished—that is, winter comes and snows in
the page while his mother still has three fingers left to knit.

A poster called “Phases of the Moon” is tacked on the schoolroom
wall. It shows his face in shadow, half in shadow; in light, half in

Page by page the “popeye” calendar is torn away. Page by page he is
sent through the shredder, and finds himself in long days like the

“Popeye” goes hunting and brings down a 12-pointer. He drags the
body to a clearing. “Thought bubble, thought bubble,” he says
meditatively, and eats the lungs.

Were you a carnivore before you saw him? You are a carnivore now.
He is served in slices. He is served bone-in and skin-on.

While he sleeps, “popeye” dreams of being eaten by the lion, the
tiger, the leopard, the jaguar. All the roaring cats appear to him, and
he dreams of being spoken backward through their strong black lips.

And being reborn on their backs as: a pattern on a solid-color coat.

And being shot, skinned, and laid out on a library floor. And his
mouth forced open to seem always to be speaking.

“Popeye” stars in a revival of A Sensation Novel. He stands on a bare
stage and delivers everyone’s lines. Between acts, all-in-black move
back and forth and break down the scenery behind him.

The purpose of a shadow is: to put “popeye” where he is not.
Shadowed he stands, like a stencil letter, always next to himself.

His protruding “pop-eye” is a world-ending button. When its dark
outline disappears, you will know that the button is being pressed.

His other eye a crow walked closed.

“Popeye” loves all literature; he keeps hens for their scratchings and
chickens for their prints.

One flipbook depicts him walking out to his garden and watering his
own buried body until a white cabbage grows from him and prettily
presents its outer leaves. This book is perpetual, and flips back and
forth continually.

This flipbook is so thick that even the strongman cannot tear it.
Instead, he tears a phonebook filled only with the names of “popeye”
and his descendants, and the page numbers that are their addresses.

(Of sick numbers, it is said, “Number one is: number one on the
list for a transplant; number two is: number two on the list.” The
first and oldest “popeye” waits for his living donor to appear, and
takes comfort in the knowledge that there is no death in his
phonebook, and there are no unlistings.

Picture his impossible funeral: hundreds of him, laid out
in the little coffins of the prepositions: under under, over
over. In in.)

So many mouths to feed! In a permanent kitchen, in a permanent
corner, he stretches a single meal as far as it will go. Slices and slices a
transparent pie.

After supper, he sits on the porch with a long black shotgun and waits
for a buffalo to wander into view. He uses every part of the buffalo—
he uses them down to their eyewhites, he uses the very lines that
make them up.

He walks to the city to be counted in the census. A wind gets itself up
and ruffles him relentlessly, but miniature monuments hold him

His paper is usually neatly stacked, especially when still in original

Lives where? In voices: hills and valleys. Lives all in the alphabet as if
it were a rowhouse. Lives at the peak of the tallest chalk hill.

Or lives: nowhere at all. He wanders the desert, written on
old skins, moaning, “Where is home, where is home?” And
waits for a tent peg to be driven through his skull.

He walks to the edge of his very country, he walks forward till he fills
his profile completely, he walks into the water of Marblehead.

“Popeye” sits on the riverbank and sends himself sailing into the
water: he is a good graphite rod with a strong fly line; he sings away
from his reel.

His occasional girlfriend, doodled in the margins, cannot have
intercourse with him; she suffers badly from vestibulitis.

A disorder of her entrance.

She faints every time he tries. “Popeye” reads the dictionary out loud
to revive her. He reads, “Syncope is: a blackout, a loss of consciousness.
Syncope is: the loss of one or more sounds from the interior of
a word.”

While her eyes are closed, he must suppress the temptation to spread
her out and pin her like a map through a single place. For her skirt is
cut to here, her blouse is cut to there!

Notes on His Movement

He is photographed in the still old style, wearing
a shirt patterned with white cartwheels.

His pants patterned with instructions for a two-step.

The old music players have a strong solid base like the base of a
statue, and a flowering-out above. A statue of “popeye” rises in the
center of the song that is playing:

Popeye the man is no longer standing!
Popeye the man has been killed in the stomach;
his French horn spills out and out!

“Popeye” drops from the sky. The townspeople gather to watch him
fall and wait to see his imprint in the pavement, but he reaches out at
the last moment and grabs a branch—of what?—of the clock tower.
He is suspended there still, hanging off the hour hand.


In a town with no clock tower, “popeye” falls from a great height and
his thigh-bones are driven up into his body, click, like the first length
of lead in a mechanical pencil.


Past, present, and future: “popeye” falls in a painting. In the foreground,
a farmer pays no attention, and binds bales of newspapers in a field.
“Popeye” will limp to him later, and ask to be splinted with rolled-up

(A broken leg is often fatal for a “popeye”;
one blank to the temple will take him out.)

If the dailies succeed in prolonging him, he will heal into a new
configuration: his body will bend and twist and seize; he will become
a living monk’s cramp.

“Popeye” is the priest, and you must confess to him. There is a black
grate where his face should be.

What does he worship—the Cross or the Clean Line? The churches
here have lines for the pews to sit in, and the Bible here is Dürer’s

And who is his higher power? From time to time, he feels the glass
hover above him, feels magnified, feels “read,” and feels it move

Believes he walks on a beach, but above him, a lens is ground and

And what was broken open to reveal him? In his world, all visible
things stand up on the half-shell.

Correction: “I do not live in a world at all,” “popeye” says
indignantly, and tightens the equator around his waist.

And does he fear death? He dreams he is a brand that sits in the fire

It is impossible to know when he was born. A fragment dating from
500 BC refers to him; the title is translated as “Popeye Wavers a Little
in the Heat,” or alternately, “Popeye Lives in a Hell of Line Boil.”
Many have attempted to translate:

A pencil ship is difficult to wreck, but “popeye”
manages every time. The sun shines directly
above him, he floats on a raft of reflection
all the way to shore. He is caught. Cannibals
carry him home on a pole, and cannibals
cook him alive in worst-hot sketch-water.
            He lives in every mouth now,
            he cannot call himself his own!


A ship drawn only with parallel lines will never
reach its destination, and will sink if it sinks
only straight down. “Popeye” sails for the horizon
because it is all he can see: he lacks the vertical
stroke I. He sails and he sails, tied to the mast,
            the ocean boiling over below him,
            feeling his own head turn to a ham,
            feeling slices turn over one by one.

A long book of him is called a “brick,” and a long book of him is
called a “doorstop.”

When it came time to put these pages in order, I laid them all out on
the floor, creating the appearance of a city of rooftops seen from
above. And “popeye,” who lived there, had climbed to each one.

And lay on his back reading “The Myth of the Bookcover.”

And stood up like a writing tendon, and said, “Why did you leave the
book open? Anyone could have walked in.”
let’s all write about cartoon characters dang

He Marries the Stuffed Owl Exhibit
At the Indiana Welcome Center

He marries her mites and the wires in her wings,
he marries her yellow glass eyes and black centers,
he marries her near-total head turn, he marries
         the curve of each of her claws, he marries
the information plaque, he marries the extinction
         of this kind of owl, he marries the owl
that she loved in life and the last thought of him
in the thick of her mind
         just one inch away from the bullet, there,
                                    he marries the moths
who make holes in the owl, who have eaten the owl
almost all away, he marries the branch of the tree
that she grips, he marries the real-looking moss
and dead leaves, he marries the smell of must
that surrounds her, he marries the strong blue
         stares of children, he marries nasty smudges
of their noses on the glass, he marries the camera
that points at the owl to make sure no one steals her,
so the camera won't object when he breaks the glass
while reciting some vows that he wrote himself,
he screams OWL instead of I'LL and then ALWAYS
and takes hold of the owl and wrenches the owl
away from her branch
                  and he covers her in kisses and the owl
thinks, “More moths,” and at the final hungry kiss,
“That must have been the last big bite, there is no more
of me left to eat and thank God,” when he marries
the stuffing out of the owl and hoots as the owl flies out
under his arm, they elope into the darkness of Indiana,
Indiana he screams is their new life and WELCOME.
They live in a tree together now, and the children of
Welcome to Indiana say who even more than usual,
and the children of Welcome to Indiana they wonder
where they belong. Not in Indiana, they say to themselves,
the state of all-consuming love, we cannot belong in Indiana,
as night falls and the moths appear one by one, hungry.

The Feeling of Needing a Pen

         Really, like a urine but even more gold,
         I thought of that line and I felt it, even
between two legs I felt it, the legs I wrote
just now, a panic, a run-walk to the private
                  room with a picture of a woman
on the door, or else the line was long, too long,
I barged into the men’s, and felt stares burning
hard like reading or noon, felt them looking
me up and over, felt them looking me over
and down, and all the while just holding their
         they do it different oh no they don’t,
they do it standing up, they do it at the window,
they do it so secret in a three-hour bath, they do it
         aloud to someone else, their wife is catching
every word and every word is gold. What you eat
         is in it, blackberries for breakfast are in it,
fat atoms of Shakespeare and Hitler are in it.
The sound of water makes me need to: Atlantic,
Pacific, Caspian, Black. I feel it so much because
I am pregnant, I am pregnant with a little self,
                                         all of its self
is that spot on a dog that causes its leg to kick.
It kicked and I felt and I wrote that last line. Even
now it’s happening. I eat only asparagus like arrows,
I am famous for my aim. I get almost none on my hands,
almost. Under my feet the streets, under the streets
the pipes. Inside the pipes a babble sound.

Sexts, Surrealism and Twitter Poetry

In conversation with poet Patricia Lockwood, author of Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and more comically unsexy sexts than we can count.
Patricia Lockwood has been described as “the poet laureate of Twitter” (HTMLGIANT), a godhead of “cartoon tween j/o bait” (Vice), and “completely non-linear,” like a Zooey Deschanel character that does not exist (Connect Savannah). In her own words, she’s a “discursive” nerd-child who “turned funny,” ended up in Georgia by way of the Midwest, and amassed 16,000+ followers for her Twitter oeuvre of cartoon lyricism and surreally unerotic sexts. But she was a poet before she was anybody’s poet laureate, published in places like the Awl, Rattle and The New Yorker, and an unusually autodidactic one; Lockwood, who is now 30, never went to college or enrolled in some creative writing program. Her aesthetic just happened to complement something already taking shape online.
Despite her intermingling of poetry and comedy, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black is most overtly funnyon its cover, a parade of nude Popeye-faced dogs drawn by cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt. The poems in this debut book are no less fantastical than Lockwood’s tweets, but they take a different tone, fixated on the mutability of words and symbols. One imagines wild reflections hunted to extinction: “The frames hang straight and still know nothing. / They believe they are still the body of their animal, / strung and stood up with wire, filled with fat / organs of baby looks.” She ensnares archetypal stories, like a boy swallowed by a whale, and makes them devour themselves.
I called Tricia in Savannah, where she lives with her journalist husband Jason, and we talked in a half-interview-half-DM-conversation for two hours, which was systematically mutilated into this Q&A. (After Jason’s eyesight was threatened by a rare eye condition that their health insurance didn’t cover earlier this year, Twitter followers donated over $10,000 to her hastily registered Paypal account.) Another deadline was hanging over her as we spoke; Balloon Pop Outlaw Black has already shifted half of its initial print run, and if it sells out, she’s publicly pledged to get one of those adorable sailor-dog monsters tattooed on her lower back. “Jason is blind now, so it would ruin doggy style forever for any other man in my life, but not that guy.”
How would you describe/explain Balloon Pop or your Twitter persona to an aging relative?
It is like if you had a bad daughter—a VERY bad daughter—and it is Thanksgiving, and she keeps yelling sexual things at the turkey as you set the platter down, and she won’t stop telling the mashed potatoes what they look like, and at one point she gets up and attempts to stuff herself into the refrigerator because she “needs to feel the constraints of form.” Then when everyone is trying to say grace she bangs both fists on the table and shrieks, “I’m thankful for William Wordsworth and big butts,” while staring directly at you, knowing that you prefer Coleridge and long legs.
What did you do on Twitter at first, and when did the sexts come about? What was their genesis?
Honestly, sexts came just a couple of weeks after I started my account. The first 200 tweets or so were weird. I was only following poets. I thought that you made hashtag jokes, which obviously we immediately understood later to be extremely lame, but I was like, “ha ha, hashtag joke, let’s make one of those.” Along with those, I livetweeted Bambi, essentially from memory [laughs], in the first couple of weeks. So I was tweeting about Bambi, and then I was on a long car trip to Key West, and I was bored, because I don’t ever drive. Let me tell you something: my husband went blind earlier this year, and he has little pieces of plastic in his eyes now to see, and he is still a far safer driver, by far, than I am. I never drive.
So I’m just sitting there with my phone, I’m like, “alright, sext me, guys.” And it was so early that I didn’t even understand that people who didn’t follow you couldn’t DM you. But, guess who actually did, was Greg [Erskine, @gregerskine]. A lot of those early sexts are me and Greg talking back and forth, and the panini sext IS Greg’s. I didn’t understand that when it got retweeted the one I posted immediately afterwards saying it was Greg’s would not go along with that. He is such a humble man, because he was raised Unitarian, and he was like, “oh no, I just want my ART to be in the WORLD, I don’t care if my name is on it.” It was probably because the Anthony Weiner thing was just starting to blow up, it was just starting to gather steam, and there were tons of shitty stories on Nancy Grace about how your kids were sexting and that sort of thing. It seemed like a really funny, stupid word. But the form, the form took shape almost instantly. I don’t think that it ever particularly changed or grew more complex.

Yeah, one of the things I love about it is that you’ve basically used the most lizard-brained, utilitarian form of romantic communication and turned it into this font of surrealism.
Yeah, these are metaphysical, crazy things that I’m writing, which is why it is so funny still when a man—and it’s usually a man—responds to you going “yeah girl, I want to put soap on your boobies in the shower.” You’re responding literally to a tweet about me riding down the neck of a brontosaurus until I come. You would think at some point that people would get the idea that these aren’t actually sexy, but they never, never do.
I think I saw an interview with you somewhere where you said that—and unfortunately this happens with any, you know, woman says a thing on the Internet, some gross dude pops up—but I think you said that you actually got less weird attentions than you expected?
You do get some strange things. My favourite is the man who tweeted me repeatedly that I looked like the little girl from Fatal Attraction. And I was like, “Ooh, you know, what most people don’t remember from Fatal Attraction is the little child?” I think most people are like, oh, the bunny that she boils, sexy woman. No, “you look like the little kid from that movie.” He kept talking about my delectable cheeks. I don’t know. My strategy is just never, ever to respond to that kind of thing. Most people don’t follow up if I don’t respond to them. Some people do—it’s not threatening, or it hasn’t been in my particular situation, but it is really tone-deaf. You don’t respond but they just keep coming—I don’t know what they envision the outcome to be, but it’s fascinating to think about. Like, what’s gonna happen? “I fell instantly in love with your father when he talked about his cum to me on the internet.”
What’s your background like? Because I don’t really know—I know that your dad was or is a Catholic priest, I think you’re from the Midwest originally but now you live in Savannah…
Yes, Ohio and Missouri, and now I’m in Savannah, Georgia. But my background’s really not—like, I don’t have any educational background to speak of. I didn’t go to college or anything like that. And if you look at my last 10 years it was just writing, with occasional stints doing waitressing at diners and things like that. I do have an interesting family origin story, but as far as my background goes, there’s really nothing. It was always just me reading and writing at home in my room all day [laughs].
My father married my mother when they were respectively 18 and 19. He was an atheist then, because he was just a huge cool a-hole. You know the kind. He had sweet jeans and big hair and he just talked shit to everybody all the time. Anyways, they got married when they were really young, and he was an atheist, and then he went into the Navy, and he was on a nuclear submarine during the Cold War. They screened movies for them occasionally on the submarines, and one night one of the movies was The Exorcist, and he got freaked out so bad he just found God on the spot [both laugh]. He got on the phone to my mother, like, “I am a Christian now.”
Oh my god.
I know, right? That should tell you a little something about the kind of person—we’re very affected by art! If there are loud, scary demons onscreen that is enough to convert us wholly to a new religion. We’re strung that way. I don’t know why he chose Lutheranism, but he was a Lutheran minister for a while. Now my mother had been raised Catholic, and I think it was very difficult for her to be a Lutheran minister’s wife, to be a Lutheran, essentially, like he was. And then when I was a toddler, he converted to Catholicism. And when that happens, and you’re a minister of another faith and you’re already married, you can get a dispensation from Rome and continue as a married Catholic priest. It was very rare then, there were, like, 50 or 100 or so in the U.S. But you had the feeling that they wanted to keep it under wraps.
It’s kind of like a cheat code.
Yeah. I think there may be more of them now, because there was that recent thing where the Catholics were like “heyyyyyy, Anglicans, aren’t you really upset? Women are being ordained ministers, and how about those gay people. Well, if you are, then come on over to the Catholics.”
It was a very strange upbringing, but it really did give you a strong sense of authority and also of the naturalness of performing in public. If you see your father get up every weekend and just declaim, that does seem very natural to you. And even when I was a child I had this very authoritative voice, and I think that’s probably where that came from.

I can’t decide if I should ask you when you began writing poetry or when you started using the internet, because they both seem equally important.
It’s this bifurcated thing. I came later to the internet, probably when I was 13 or so, which is just about the time when I got funny. I wasn’t always funny—I turned funny because we moved a lot, and you had to go to new schools all the time, and it got so wearing, you had to sort of distinguish yourself in some way. And at one point I was just, “fuck it, I’m going to be funny.” Eighth grade, oh my God [laughs]. I had to go to this super super rich, privileged all-girls Catholic school, and I was so behind academically—previously I had been at this little parish school. I was like, “fuck, I can’t do any of these papers, I can’t do any of these tests, they know Latin, I can’t catch up, I’m just going to become funny.” Before that I was fairly quiet. But I was always writing poetry, since I was a little baby child. The first time I can remember was a fourth grade haiku that I also illustrated, about diamond drops on a leaf or something. I very carefully drew this leaf with a pool at its centre, which isn’t really how a leaf works, but you know, fuck that, it was an extremely proficient haiku.
I always had the sense that the internet was where you wrote funny and real life was where you wrote serious. Which is nonsense, of course, but I thought that for a long time. I never attempted to merge the two voices until fairly recently. But yeah, I was writing all of this intense poetry, I was the sort of person who had a manuscript when I was 15 years old, and I was sending it to contests, all this ambitious stuff. I was really interested—I was basically attempting a key to all mythologies [laughs]. I was like this hot teen Casaubon. “Oh, Christian symbolism intersects in interesting ways with the symbolism of other mythologies. I shall write poetry exploring this!”
Like anyone would ever care. But I was very serious about that. “This is the sort of poetry that people will truly want to read.” I don’t know where I got that idea. So I was writing this really thoughtful, highly metaphoric stuff. I always had a very keen sense of metaphor, it’s just the immediate way that I think. And parallel to the poetry I was just being funny in my everyday life and on the internet, but when I sat down to write that was never coming out. I had a Diaryland diary for a while—
Balloon Pop Outlaw Black is divided into three different sections, and they each start with a longer poem and then there’s a bunch of shorter ones, so I was wondering, did you always have that structure in mind, or did that come about organically?
I don’t think I altered the order of those poems from the order in which they were written. I didn’t always have it in sections, that was something that was suggested by my publisher, and my publisher also suggested breaking up the longer poems so that there would only be a few sentences per page, which really gives it a little more air to breathe. Yeah, that book, that was my crazy book. That was a book that I just sort of sat down and over a year-and-a-half period just blazed out. I think that everyone has a crazy book where they’re too isolated, they don’t have enough money, and they’re in a weird small dark apartment, and they’re not going outside enough, and they’re just every morning going to the computer and blazing out this book. That was that particular one for me. Although maybe all my books will be that way, but I don’t think so. The crazy book is good, and I think that you can point to different writers’ trajectories and pick out which was the crazy book.
I started with the Popeye poem [“When We Move Away From Here, You’ll See a Clean Square of Paper Where His Picture Hung”] because I was on drugs, not in a purposeful way, but because I had really bad bronchitis, and so I had this cough syrup that was prescribed by my doctor, and it was the [Obama] inauguration. So I am just, like, floating on clouds of drugs during the inauguration, my television is showing Barack Obama, and I have the Popeye DVDs right next to it. This is literally how this happened. This is like a baby’s method of conceiving a poem. I’m looking at Barack Obama, and I’m perceiving that we’re seeing a man being flattened into a symbol at this very moment. But also, at the same time, my eyes are flicking over to this Popeye DVD, and you know the linework used in Popeye cartoons is not like the linework used in Disney cartoons, where Disney aims to make the outlines disappear and not be noticed. In Popeye it’s much more calligraphic; it’s a thicker line, there’s more swoosh to it, it’s a gorgeously designed pictograph, really. To the point where if you put his face on a spinach can, everyone would know what it was. So I’m thinking, Popeye is a pictograph, Barack Obama is a symbol, and then I write this poem. That’s really an idiot’s way of hitting on an idea, but it’s how that particular poem happened.

I noticed that a lot of the poems in the book—they’re prose poems, but they’re interspersed with these tighter metres and enjambments, what people would more traditionally think of as poetry. I’m a total dilettante with later 20th century poetry, but I’ve never seen that particular technique before and I was curious about it, why you chose to employ that.
It was instinctive. Most of my formal techniques or innovations are really just to direct the reader how to read something. So if the format suddenly becomes tighter, or if a line breaks out of nowhere, or if the rhythm suddenly becomes more insistent, that’s to direct the reader how to read something. The same is true of punctuation. I’m not using traditional punctuation—I know how to traditionally punctuate, but I’m working off a sense of how long I want people to pause, and which words I want to be emphasized. So I’ll use a comma if I want a light rest, and a semicolon is a fuller rest. In the whale poem I allude to that, when I talk about the “gibbous pause,” [laughs] of the semicolon. That’s actually a very felt thing for me, how long certain punctuations cause people to rest in their heads. I grew up reading poetry, but it wasn’t as if it were contemporary poetry, and it wasn’t as if I were well-versed in all these different poetic techniques. All of that for me has been feeling my way, and I have a very strong sense of what feels right.
That makes me want to return to the whole comedy-and-poetry thing that youdo you find that’s not really understood or appreciated in the poetry world, or at least the academic one?
Comedy, you mean?
Yeah, I guess comic poetry, or—
I think that the trap is in the poem itself, and I haven’t figured out why yet. I’m writing new poems that really are attempting to merge the two voices, but it’s very difficult and the reason seems to be because, in poetry, when things are funny, they tend to never be funny enough for people to laugh out loud. I either want to write something that’s completely hilarious, and that usually occurs to me in the form of tweets, or something that’s really, really unselfconsciously beautiful., and that usually occurs to me in the form of poetry. Sometimes you’ll see people read poems, and they’ll read something that’s neither entirely funny nor entirely beautiful, and it reads well, and audiences really like it, but it also seems more disposable to me than something that’s fully one or the other. What’s great is that my second book is a lot funnier, and I thought, damn, all these people who are following me on Twitter are gonna read [Balloon Pop Outlaw Black] and be like “what the fucking hell is this shit, Tricia, it’s like what a grandmother would read on her deathbed.”
I was going to ask you about people you see as working in a similar vein, whether they’re established poets or even consider themselves poets at all. Kenneth Goldsmith comes to mind as someone using the Internet in an interesting way, but I just don’t know enough about contemporary-poetry-as-poetry to go much further than that—
I’ve been telling people for a while that I should put together a list, and I really should, because it’s not something I could extemporaneously drop. I told people to follow Mark Leidner a couple of weeks ago, and I think that he is a great recommendation for anyone who’s like, well, I recognize that what’s going on with some of these tweets is that they’re more than jokes, really, they’re also sort of poignant and poetic, but where would I go about finding that in poetry? He would be a good place to start.
Kenneth Koch, I think, is a wonderful recommendation for anyone who is interested in that intersection. Jennifer Knox. Maggie Nelson. Michael Robbins and Frederick Seidel, who are the biggest trolls of all. I need to make a more fleshed-out list, because it’s sort of doing a disservice – if you’re the ambassador from the country of poetry; you really should be making people aware of poets they might love.
Yeah, it could be a weird platonic matchmaking service between people who teach in creative writing programs and 17-year-olds who—
Right? It’s the only good thing I ever did in my life, forming an alliance with all these teens. And they’ll ask me, “Who are some poets that I should read?” And that is the greatest thing. It’s the most touching thing that could come out of all this. When I was a teenager, I was less tolerant of people who didn’t know much about literature, or didn’t necessarily care much about it, but for some reason, the people that I interact with on Twitter – a lot of times they’re younger, and they’re so sweet and eager, and they really really want to know what to read, and it’s beautiful. Any lingering sense of book snobbery, you know, people should be reading more and people should know what to read, was instantly gone as soon I started talking to The Teens. It was fantastic. They wanted to read poetry, what could be better than that?
You mentioned this coming second book, so I wanted to ask about that, but alsough, I sound like a guidance counselorwhat your plans are for the future.
Well, a very cool thing about me is that I have no concept of the future whatsoever. I essentially have had the part of my brain removed that thinks about time, what’s coming next, even what’s happened in the past, really. I live in a sort of eternal present. So I’m like Baby New Year, wandering around, with no sense of that, but I am writing a second book, and it has more funny poems, and I’m writing more long-form things like the prose poems in Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, but they’re funnier. So we’ll see if I’ve been able to straddle those two things correctly. I never feel like I’m doing this to transition into some other kind of writing. I never wanted to write for TV or movies or anything like that.
Or novels, even?
Well, you know, weirdly, I wrote a novel when I was, like, 19 years old. I had an agent. I wrote a novel in a month, I got an agent instantly, and then, thank God, that novel never saw the light of day [laughs]. It was such a piece of trash! It was about two sisters who have sex with each other and then one sister bites the other sister’s hand and it gets gangrene and has to be cut off. That was the plot. I have absolutely no idea. The problem with me is that I can write individually, sentence-to-sentence, very well. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I know how to do anything good with plot or characterization, and certainly I didn’t when I was 19. So I had this novel that on a sentence-to-sentence basis was beautifully written, and was totally terrible. I’ve never returned to it. I can see myself writing something longer in the prose form that I use, short sentences, a David Markson type book. That form has always been very comfortable for me and I could see myself doing something a lot longer in that.