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SDAI P&A #1--Michael Klam at Mic
Hello.  I’m reporter Michael Klam, and it is my great pleasure to interview myself for The Nervous Breakdown.   I was told by the mighty Rich Ferguson to read the other self-interviews on TNB, but I didn’t.  My ego is far too big for that, cosmic big, not like the cosmos of yesterday (we are the only galaxy, etc.) but “Kepler huge” like the infinite cosmos with all of its bits of dust and muck that barely fit into the pinky toe of my self-awareness and enlightenment.

Woah, woah, woah! Hello? Editor Michael Klam checking in here:  Was that last sentence a run-on? Should I fix it? Should I consult Strunk and White? I don’t think it makes sense.

when speaking of reincarnation
nobody ever says
“I want to be a Chihuahua”
but what if you found out that Chihuahuas tremble
because they are in a constant state of orgasm?

if you are a nymphomaniac or an addict
you might think twice about this

Autobiography in ten words.

Brawled my way into the world. Survive is my language.

You firestar. Pool of moonburst.
You turned my skin to dust. Rawblade glasstooth girl.
With your hot rage and bus ticket anywhere.
Never saw a woman run so many directions at once.
One night, you shined so bright the police came to watch.
Your bruises and shirt-shreds. How we all just stood there,
watching you shimmer. Afraid to flinch, for a faceful of claw.
You are some kind of firework. Flipswitch blues.
Broken Sundays spent towing the boulders out of you.
The Brooklyn 3am’s, frenzied as an upturned autobahn.

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What’s the strangest place you’ve ever written a poem?

In a Porta-Potty at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, drunk off my ass on the first beer I’d ever imbibed. The poem didn’t make it past the cutting room floor for my first book, but that feeling of MUST WRITE A POEM NOW before I’d even really started identifying as a poet (I still thought of myself as a fiction writer, ha!) was exhilarating. Though the beer probably contributed to that.

Desperate men do not make patient women.

This town, these years, always living on the edge of something.

Disease, drought, revival, recession.

The woods are musky, dark, but give way softly to water.

Fish and stags float when shot dead.

One year there was no rain; the next, rivers overflowed.

Not a hell mouth or hydrophobic, but even the air here is tainted.

The ice never quite crusts over, babies are left untended, crops go missing.

My wife won’t quit visiting whores.

Song

By Anton Yakovlev

Poem

I will move into a dream home to enhance my image.
I will furnish it with an elephant, build an extra loft and a hearth.
After I shop, the coziness aisle in the department store will be empty.
But at night, I will dream that we’ve never properly said goodbye.

I will put a stuffed bear in a microwave, make him toasty
and hold him to my heart, imagining his affection.
I will floor passersby with space-age flower shows in my windows.
But at night, I will dream that we’ve never properly said goodbye.

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In your most recent collection, The New Testament, you wrote in one of your poems, “Hustle”: “I eat with humans who think any book full of black characters is about race.” Overall, your work seems to revolve around issues of sexuality, love, violence, masculinity, family, spirituality, mortality, and race (among other things, of course). When someone attempts to categorize you exclusively as a “homosexual” or a “gym rat” or a “Southern black man” or a “’religious’ poet,” etc (while misrepresenting or failing to acknowledge the other parts of your identity), how do you resist such curtailment or oversimplification of your identity? 

Well, I don’t exactly “resist” any identifiers because I don’t automatically think of it as “curtailment” or “oversimplification.”  So yes, the parenthetical phase in your question is of utmost importance.

You come with a little
Black string tied
Around your tongue,
Knotted to remind
Where you came from
And why you left
Behind photographs
Of people whose
Names need no
Pronouncing. How

Your signature scent is the apple pie
Yankee Candle on the toilet in your grandmother’s
powder room in La Jolla, which I light
just after I finally shit for the first time in a week
full of casseroles, cobbs and clubs, plus
the hours of sitting in your grandfather’s Lincoln
driving through desert hills decked out in
ranch-style manses, old money, oil and gold,
a wheeling and dealing history as he tells it,
feeling something acidic push up in my throat
as we cruise and swerve through what should be just desert.

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When did you write your first poem?

I wrote my first poem in 1967 when I was a freshman at the University of Southern California. It was my first time away from home, the war in Viet Nam was going full force and I was a confused, angst-filled adolescent who didn’t know what I thought about anything. I had a huge crush on my French professor, Dr. Robin Blake, and one day — I usually sat in the front row of class — he saw that I had scribbled the beginnings of a poem on my notebook. He stopped and picked the poem up off the notebook and said to the class that Ms. Bogen had written a poem and that it was pretty good. For the rest of the semester, I would strategically leave poems on the side of my notebook although he never singled me out again. I probably would have stopped writing but at the end of my freshman year I became the first freshman to ever win the (college) award from the Academy of American Poets at USC.

1.
I tell you the skin alone cannot contain
the brawl of a generation —
we burned flags before the helmets
and the dogs rabid with our parents’ teeth.
Then we locked arms, swaying
and cheered when the match struck.
We watched, swore the jelly of napalm
would not silence the corpses
pulled from rice paddies in another world.

AlexusErin1

 

When did you start writing poetry?

I was drawn to poetry quite young. In the first grade I wrote a ‘poetry collection’- think rhyming couplets and magic marker drawings. When my teacher caught onto how I was spending my time, she allowed me to go ‘on tour’ to all the other first grade classes to present my work. This was my first poetry reading. I continued to read poetry throughout childhood and into adolescence, where I got simultaneously got very into sonnets (penning a few on the kitchen floor of my childhood in cleaning solution) and pop punk lyrics (Fall Out Boy, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday). Even a few years away from its general angst, I’m still a big fan of the genre- there is something piercing, illuminating and revealing (from a cultural standpoint) about a lot of pop punk and emo’s lyrical themes and qualities. More recently, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the poetry of hip hop- hip hop is doing a lot of important work right now. I would be remiss to not mention the lyrical and performative prowess of artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper.

For a moment, we captured all possible danger with flypaper,
speaking frankly about desire as though it was the charred remains of a forest, reset.
Lightning dashed, flame rose and fell and we were left

only with the evidence
that we were a doing a good job,
a kind thing by telling the truth. Our walking culled doubt,

eased the strain
of hand-in-glove disease that warps
the kissing corner and locks

If you laugh at some sacred object you change it. Useful onerosity.

Disbelieving and drinking are always present tense. I mean
what is hard and what responds—my horse and her water. I can be
anywhere, I used to think, happy.

Why would anyone travel when you could be in a field
with one person?

When you left, I swallowed a lemon whole.
I didn’t know what else to do. I knew
to bless but how among the swanky,
dishonest slobs! I do not say these things about you. “I
am the auto salesman and lóve you.” Dear!