May 4, 2020

Alexandra Naughton

Alexandra Naughton

Alexandra Naughton is the author eleven books and the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Be About It Press, which started as a literary/art zine in 2010 and now publishes poetry collections in print and online.

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Alexandra Naughton is the founder and editor-in-chief of Be About It Press, which started as a literary/art zine in 2010 and now publishes poetry collections in print and online.

Alexandra is the author of a place a feeling something he said to you, as well as ten other published books. To learn more about Alexandra and her work visit www.alexandranaughton.com

 


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Transcript

Lawrence Peryer:  OK, OK, so how are you doing?

Alexandra Naughton: I'm doing OK, yeah, I cannot complain. How are you?

LP:                        I'm doing all right. I'm doing all right; I ride the rollercoaster a little bit but I'm mostly OK.

AN:                       Yeah, I'd rather this than like people getting sick, you know, or I guess people are still dying. But like I don't think that's really being talked about or reported anymore for some reason. And I feel like people have this false sense of security, like oh things are great. We can all go to the beach again, and I don't know if that's true.

LP:                        Yeah, I have two thoughts on that. One is I feel like it's very regionalized. Right, like I talk to my friends back on the East Coast or the New York area and it sounds absolutely awful. I talk to people in Southern California, and they're like yeah, it sucks and all. But the weather has been beautiful and we're just trying to hang out outside. And so, yeah, and then the other thing that strikes me is that it is kind of abstract. Like I think I have some friends that were sick back east, and it sucked for them but nothing was really life threatening. Like they got really sick and then they got better.

                              They knew they were going to get better, but outside of like life being completely different nothing is different. Strange, it's really strange, so that actually, I'm going to read back to you something that you said in an interview last year.

AN:                       Oh no, what?

LP:                        It's great, because it could have been from right now, maybe you'll remember this.

AN:                       Interesting.

LP:                        It's from an interview you did with Luna Luna. They asked you what you'd imagine the apocalypse to be like. Do you remember this?

AN:                       Yeah, I think I remember this, yeah.

LP:                        You said, it's going to be slow, and it's going to cause anxiety and pain for everyone involved to varying degrees. But we're not going to do anything about it, at least not on a grand scale. I hope that isn't the case, but I don't think it will take anything less than an actual revolution to correct our gradual but accelerating decline and demise.

AN:                       I still agree with that. That's like super dramatic, like the way I worded that was incredibly dramatic. Yeah, but I still agree with that sentiment. Like I think like things are really bad. Like I don't know. I don't know if I want to get on the doom and gloom tip, but that's kind of my thing.

LP:                        That's kind of your thing?

AN:                       I like made the mistake of calling myself a cynic, and like I knew what that meant. But then I looked up like what the modern use of that word is, and it's just like someone who is like just incredibly negative. But like I think it's important to question things, and like not just accept answers that authorities give us. Because I don't know, you look into anything and there is just so much injustice, and they're afraid to tell the public the truth because they don't want us to organize. And I don't know, ask me something else, LP.

LP:                        Well I think being a cynic, an element of what you just said is that it sounds like there was a time in the past where being a cynic might have been part of like a citizen's duty or part of being a responsible citizen was to be a bit more critical.

AN:                       Yeah, I mean I was thinking about like the ancient Greek use of the word, like the cynics were, they were a philosophical movement right. And let me look up exactly what they said, but like the way I interpret it is that yeah, it's just like questioning authority, not just taking everything for granted, and I don't know. It's like a more realistic way of looking at things.

LP:                        Well while you're looking that up, I would also say the other piece of that is the socioeconomic piece, which you alluded to, which is we could talk about who they is. You know, and then come back to that but the everybody else, and I think that that, I was having this conversation with someone the other day about racism in this country and nationalism in this country. And how those things are really used to obscure the fact that it's really socioeconomic differences that are driving everything.

                              And racism and nationalism is really just used to keep all of the uses mad at each other, competing with each other. Because if we looked around and said, oh wait a minute there is far more uses than thems, and we've got far more in common. I think that's when, I'll use ruling class or ruling elite in place of they, that's when they get in trouble. Divide and conquer I think is pretty, it's an age-old strategy and it still works really well. It's embarrassing how much it still works.

AN:                       Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. I think famously like that's what kind of got Malcolm X in trouble with the federal government. Yeah, like realizing that we're pretty much, most of the people that are living in this country are, we're all on the same team. And like the small superficial differences that keep us separated from each other, it really just benefits the ruling class. And yeah, it's very frustrating to like have that in mind and just see how it keeps happening over and over and over again. Like it's, yeah, I don't know, I try not to think about it too much, but that definitely frustrates me. I'm looking at the Wikipedia article for cynicism.

LP:                        Well that's the source of all truth these days.

AN:                       Yeah.

LP:                        It's highly editable, and you can believe whichever version of it you want. That seems to be--

AN:                       Oh my god.

LP:                        So what's it say, what did you find?

AN:                       For the cynics the purpose of life is to live in virtue in agreement with nature. As reasoning creatures people can gain happiness by rigorous training, and by living in a way which is natural for themselves, rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, and fame. Instead they were to lead a simple life free from all possessions. I also agree with that, like that, yeah, like I'm not materialistic. I don't think materialism is a good way to be, or like to just have that be a goal in life. Like it's empty and meaningless, and a lot of people hurt other people in their search for wealth, and fame, and material possessions. I don't know if I like live in a burlap sack and like travel from town to town, like I don't think that that's like the solution either. But yeah, to like live in our modern life and like be a member of society, I don't know.

LP:                        So how does that philosophy impact your self-conception as an artist? Specifically would your ideal be you could create at a subsistence level; however you define subsistence. Like would you want to survive simply by creating, and I want to--

AN:                       No, not at all, I don't think I could. I think I would have to; I've had this like discussion with my dad before who is a commercial artist. He's a graphic designer, or at least he was when he was working. But you have to like kind of sell your soul a little bit in order to do that type of thing for a living, not really sell your soul. But like you're doing things within set parameters that whoever your client is they're setting those parameters and you have to work within those restraints. And I wouldn't want to do like creative writing for like a blog, or like having to have a deadline, and having to write about selected topics. Like that does not interest me, it never has.

                              I have tried to like write about, I've like yeah, I was looking to like work for Mother Jones when I like finished college or whatever. And like I wanted to write articles and do research and be a reporter. But like I don't think that's for me. I don't think it would make me happy, so I just--

LP:                        So what happens when say your fiction output or your poetry, what happens when you find an audience and people start to pay for your work? How does that change everything you just said? Do you then become beholden to an audience?

AN:                       I don't think so. Like I don't even know who reads my stuff, it's not a lot of people. I have some fans in like Mexico, and they reach out to me through Twitter. I have some fans in Canada. I think they're just happy to hear from me, no matter what I say. So maybe not a good way, it's like definitely not looking at what I do as like a business. If I were, I'd probably be a little bit more careful, or like be more regimented in like my output and like what I decide to write about, and where I try to publish it. But I don't really care, like it's just fun for me, it's like a release.

                              That's why like in that artist tour we did with Amanda, or that I witnessed that you did with Amanda, she was talking about like yeah, it's kind of like a compulsion. Like you just kind of have to do it, it's not like you're not, yeah. You have to get it out of you, and that's why I do what I do, I think. Like it's not like I'm trying to beat myself, or like trying to do better than I did before. Maybe that does factor into it, but I'm not, yeah, it's like just trying to get the idea out and see it actualized. So that I can move on and think about something else. Like that's literally how I feel about writing.

LP:                        So in so much as there is any ambition behind it, it has to do with the craft and the expression and less about getting to a certain milestone?

AN:                       Yeah, I mean I think, like you have a milestone, like a novel or word count. Like I think about word count, but that's also not super important to me, like I if I write something and I edit it and it doesn't turn out to be 70,000 words or whatever I was maybe shooting for. That's fine, like if I'm happy with the way I delivered the ideas I was trying to put out then that's really all that matters, I think.

LP:                        And at the level that you like to publish at, first I want to ask in your role as a writer, and then I'll ask again in your role as a publisher. As a writer does someone edit you?

AN:                       They've tried. I had a friend like go through ["American Mary"] and line edit, but he like just started line editing it without reading the whole thing first. So just kind of like making assumptions about what was going to happen, and what he thought this could be. And I took some of those suggestions or edits, and like had it inform the finished product. But like yeah, I don't know. I wasn't like super jazzed about how that went down. I'm talking with a publisher right now about this new novel I'm working on, and he's read the document that I sent him. And he has some like questions for me, like what, you know? And it's parts that like the questions that he has are for parts that I know are underdeveloped that I kind of just left there and I'm going to go back and work on them. But the questions that he had for me were actually really interesting.

                              And I think it's going to help me just clarify or improve what I already have there. So yeah, I don't know. When I edit I don't, when I'm editing myself, I like go back over and over and over again, and just keep reading through, and like changing things, and I really do like to like, I feel like I'm sculpting something. Like I'm going in at first with like I've just got a huge hunk of clay and I'm like hacking away at it. And then I go back several times with like smaller and smaller instruments to like make it exactly how I want it to look. And when I'm editing other peoples' work it's really, like if I like it enough to publish it, I'm probably not going to change it that much.

                              I might have like one suggestion, like you should change this, or like maybe move this somewhere. But like not anything huge, I think it's kind of rude to like tell somebody you want to publish their work and then like just change everything about it. I don't know.

LP:                        So then do you have any thoughts as to what's the mystique or the aura around the role of the editor, and is that just an antiquated idea or do editors still play a major role in the publishing world? Do you have any insight on that?

AN:                       It depends on like who is publishing. I think the old guard, I think they take a heavier hand in making edits, or like making suggestions for edits. I think newer indie publishers don't really do that. It's kind of like I trust you enough, like I'm familiar with your work and I trust you enough to write something good. And I don't really want to like change how you, you know, how you put this together. Because I like you as an artist, and like you're already showing me what you want to publish, so why would I go and like, you know, like why don't you include like a thought about this? Or like, you know, why don't you read this and like put that, you know what I'm talking about? Like it's just I don't think it happens--

LP:                        They want you for your voice.

AN:                       Yeah, like it's your voice, so like I don't want to like put it into my voice. You know, cause I could write something in my voice, I don't want to read your writing in my voice. I want to read your writing in your voice. I think that's how a lot of new indie publishers are though.

LP:                        So you mentioned the document that you sent to the publisher for your new novel, was that a manuscript, or was that an author statement, an outline, what do you use when you're having that conversation?

AN:                       I just sent him the Google doc, I shared it with him and gave him commenting privileges. So like he hasn't left any comments, but he did read through the document. So yeah, when I'm like putting something together I just, I'm like writing in a notebook and like leaving, like writing out ideas. I wrote the outline like six or seven times in different notebooks because I kept forgetting where I had put it. And it helps me to like go through and write a new outline, and kind of just walk myself through the story again. Like where do I want this to go, what do I want to happen while this person is on this journey or while I'm on this journey reading this book? And like that changes the more times you do it, but I think that's good.

                              I've been writing this book for like four or five years, and like a lot of it has been in my head. Like I'm just, it's like watching a movie in my head, like I just watch the scene again and again. Or like the different scenes in the film that is the book, and it's changing. You know, it's like trying to remember a dream, like it always kind of changes the more time passes. And you, you know, fill in the blanks that weren't there before. And it just changes how the story works, which I think is good. It's like a form of marinating is what I call it, like I'm just marinating the story in my brain. Just, you know, flipping it over, adding more sauce, and like putting it back in the fridge.

LP:                        Like is this a common practice for your works, or is this a special novel you're working on that's sat with you for a long time?

AN:                       This is definitely the longest I've sat with something; this is definitely yeah. I do think I have that process when I am writing something, but "American Mary" like a collage. Like I didn't have that, when I was stringing it together there is definitely like a narrative arc I guess. But like it wasn't something where I was like tormented by it. I was just writing out stories the way I wanted to hear them I guess, and yeah. It wasn't something like, it wasn't like a complete piece where things had to work a certain way. I could kind of just write a weird thing and slap it in there, and that would help move the story along in a way that I wanted it to. I mean I guess I'm doing that here too, there is definitely weird stuff that I'm kind of just sticking in.

                              I want this to be more cohesive as a whole and less kind of scatterbrained. I didn't know what I was doing whatsoever when I wrote "American Mary". I thought I was writing like a short story collection, like you know "Jesus' Son" by Denis Johnson. That's like what I had in mind when I was writing that, like those stories they definitely form a narrative. But they're all kind of just like suddenly I'm in, you know, Portland. And now I'm in some other weird place doing something completely different with people that I didn't talk about before. You know, so I don't know, that's kind of there. But that was yeah, that was like my ghost book. That was like the book that I was trying to emulate for that.

LP:                        That's interesting. The book that it reminded me of in parts was "Catcher in The Rye." And I thought that because there were things that Mary says that on the face of it you're like well of course, like only a young person could say that, or only a young person feels that way. But when you sit with it you realize, yeah, those are either the things that allow you to connect with that feeling of being young or they're just kind of universally true and don't go away. So that was, I hadn't been thinking about "Jesus' Son", it's funny you bring that up. I just read an interview with Dennis Johnson recently. His life is much more calm now. He's kind of sedate, and I think he's settled into a nice old age.

AN:                       He like lives in Paris with like his wife and children now or something, like he's just living a super chill life somewhere.

LP:                        Yeah, well and he also, he has, I don't remember if it's like Montana or Arizona, like he moved somewhere to the middle of nowhere where he like could not get in trouble. But, you know, he's clean and like--

AN:                       That's cool.

LP:                        Yeah, yeah, yeah, he definitely lives much better for himself. I'm curious, wow there is a bunch of things I'm curious about, let me close off the conversation about the difference between writing and publishing. Why are you a publisher? How did that come about, what was the compulsion there?

AN:                       I started "Be About It" Zine in 2010, and I think that's when I first realized that like I could, you know, I could write. I could be a writer. Even though I was like writing all through grade school, all through high school, all through college, I didn't really know that that was like a thing I could do. Like I don't know, yeah, I never really saw it as like a hobby, or like something that you could be really good at and like get your stuff out there. Like I just kind of wrote in notebooks, and would type out stories for myself but like not send them anywhere. And I read a book in 2010 that my parents gave me for Christmas one year, and like I just put it on a bookshelf and didn't pick it up until 2010. And it was a book called, "How to Be A Famous Author Before You Die," by Ariel Gore. And it was, you know, it was really interesting.

                              It was about her experience becoming a writer, and like realizing that she wanted to be a writer. And that she could do it too, and she could make a zine. And she gave all these different examples of like indie publishing, and like ways that you can make your own books if you wanted to. And I just thought that was like super inspiring, and I got to read with her one day, which was really cool. She lives in San Francisco, or she lives in the East Bay somewhere, so that was really cool. I don't know if I told her like you're the reason why I like started writing or publishing. But yeah, it was because of that book that I started "Be About It" Zine, and I just wanted to do something fun. Like I wasn't working at that time, I had gotten laid off.

                              And I got on unemployment, and wanted to just do something different with some time that I had. Like I never really got a break from, you know, between high school and college. I went straight from high school to college, and then straight from college to like working a desk job. So when I got laid off, I was like I'm going to just take some time to myself and try different things. Yeah, reading that book was incredibly inspiring, and I just realize that if you want to do it you can do it. If like that's something that you want to do, if that's something that's interesting to you, like there is nothing stopping you from putting some work together from people that you like, or people that you don't even know. Like I had a blog at the time, and like I used that blog as a platform to promote "Be About It", and just try to get other people to write something and submit to me.

                              Yeah, I don't know, it's a labor of love. I don't consider it a business. I put out other peoples' books because I like the books and I think that they deserve like a cool cover with like cool artwork. And just have it out in the world, so they don't have to do all the work themselves. Yeah, I don't make any money off of it, but it's just fun for me. And I think it's important to help other people, especially people that are doing good stuff. And like are doing good stuff and probably not getting the recognition they deserve, and just help boost them and use whatever small platform I have to promote their work. So that other people might be able to read it.

LP:                        How do you bring them to the world? Are they print on demand? Do you manufacture some and take them to bookstores, like how does that part of it work?

AN:                       They're print on demand, I haven't, this is like the part that I have trouble with. Like I like don't have a distribution network or anything like that, like you can buy them on Amazon. I buy books, I'll buy like a box of books and take some to bookstores. But yeah, there is not a good way to do it, and there are services. There is small press distribution, but that costs a lot of money. And yeah, I just, I would like to team up with someone who has a more business mind who wants to like help in some way or maybe just get better at that myself. And like really just figure out how to do it, but until then yeah, it's kind of--

LP:                        Yeah, well Amazon is sort of, I mean it's interesting because the ease with which I would imagine you could distribute through Amazon. But then there is also that piece of the indie bookstores, that it's a romantic notion but it's an important outlet, it's an important network, a community. But it seems like that last piece of the plumbing is the hard one to tie together to go from having a physical book to actually having it on a shelf somewhere.

AN:                       Exactly, yeah, it's pretty hard. I have a friend who has a bookstore in Minneapolis or something called Bunky's Books, it might not be Minneapolis, it might be St. Louis, Missouri, don't quote me on that. It's in one of those states. And I was able to send them like a bunch of zines, and like copies of the different books that I've published through "Be About It" to them so they can live in a store. And when I go on tour, I haven't gone on tour for a while, but when I go to tour different cities I always bring like a bunch of books. And try to leave them in bookshops somewhere, or sell them at readings, like not only my books but like the books of my "Be About It" authors. So that I don't, yeah, I wish there was an easier way. Maybe I'll--

LP:                        Well it's incredible to hear that. Because it's essentially the same model and infrastructure, you know, I owned a bookstore about 25 years ago. And what you just described is exactly what I experienced from the other side of the counter. People would find the store, and it wasn't always people locally. It was I'd get a letter in the mail, or I'd get an email to my AOL account or whatever it was. Somebody would have found a catalogue or I don't even know sometimes how they found out about the store. But they'd ask if they could just send a half dozen copies of their zine, or if they could send a box with random stuff in it. And it was not even necessarily an economic discussion. It was just I want to know my stuff is sitting on a shelf somewhere.

                              You know, in a world where pretty much like the barrier to entry to writing is pretty low, at least in the western world, and then the barrier to entry to publishing has gotten lower and lower, having the physical book with a real ISBN number on it is still, it's amazing thing as a writer. But then knowing it's a on shelf somewhere, where like somebody you don't even know is going to pick it up and look at it. I think that's still a powerful notion.

AN:                       It's the coolest. It's like how did this person who like isn't friends with any of my friends, like doesn't come to my readings, doesn't follow my social media. They have my book. They got it from a bookstore that like happened to carry it, like that's one of the coolest things. Like yeah, yeah.

LP:                        Are the readings, what role do the readings play for you in terms of are they purely promotional? Or is it part of the art itself? Like is there a performance art aspect? I'd love to know a little more about that.

AN:                       I think there is a performance art aspect, but for me readings are just an excuse to have a party, yeah, to be perfectly frank. Like I think there is like this weird misconception about poetry readings by the people who don't go to poetry readings have, that like it's stuffy, it's like in a well lit room with like, you know, a bunch of like bookish people who are snobby and like standoffish. But you go to a reading in Oakland in some dark dirty bar, and like people are whiling out, and like charging, and like it's an emotional experience. It's fun, it can be super cathartic. But yeah, I think that poetry readings are typically just like an excuse to party. And like a lot of poets are kind of introverts. I'm definitely one.

                              But yeah, I love throwing a huge event, and like having a bunch of different readers who represent different ideas and different styles of writing. Have them come up and just share their work, and like it's always a good time. Like we have like a bonfire, and like you know, lots of food, and drinks, and like people are just chill. It's like not, I don't, yeah, it's not what they show on TV, definitely.

LP:                        Yeah, not a lot of people in berets.

AN:                       Yeah, there is no berets, like not since the 50s, right?

LP:                        Yeah, no it's been a while, huh? So there is a community aspect for sure it sounds like.

AN:                       Yeah, and like for people, hold on someone is calling me. For people who don't get out a lot it is like sometimes the only time to like engage with the writing community. Yeah, and like they're free, it's just a free party, like--

LP:                        An excuse to be surrounded by art for a little while.

AN:                       Yeah, and people who do not write poetry who come are always like wow, that was really fun. Like Karina came to a reading once, like she had a good time.

LP:                        So when did you first get on stage to read?

AN:                       I've always like been a ham, and I've always loved performing and like putting on shows for my family or whoever, like signing up for talent shows even though I'm not necessarily talented. But I think the first time I did a poetry reading I was in college. I was living in England, and I was part of like the poetry club. And we had an event at a bar one night, and I went up and read the piece that I had written. And it was such an exhilarating feeling, like I'm performing something that I wrote, and like only I know how this goes. And like I'm not singing somebody else's song or like, you know, reading somebody else's poem. I'm reading my own thing, and like it was really cool.

                              And like the reception that you get, and like the feedback that you get, it's, I don't know. Like I think I was looking for that without knowing that I needed that.

LP:                        What did you study in college?

AN:                       English literature. Only because like I started off as a Spanish major, and I don't know why. I think I wanted to be a public-school teacher for a while, and I thought like that would be a useful thing to know. And just like maybe I could be a Spanish teacher, or like just teach a grade. And just have that language behind me, so that I am able to be bilingual. But I had a really hard time with it, even though like I studied Spanish in grade school and in high school. But I like can't roll my tongue to do the double R sound, and my accent is not good. Like I sound like a Philadelphian speaking Spanish, so I just decided it wasn't really like the path that I wanted to take, even though I went through like two years of it, that being my major.

                              So I switched to English literature, cause a person that I talked with who was a Philadelphia Public School teacher she told me that all you need is an English degree to like be able to teach public school in Philadelphia. So I just changed tracks, but then I lived in England for a year my junior year. And just like really immersed myself in poetry at that time, like I was reading poetry all the time. Like all the classes I took were about poetry, I took a class on the beats. I took a class on the modernist novel. And yeah, I think that's when I like realized that I wanted to just develop this more, and like start writing a little bit more seriously. And yeah, I don't know.

LP:                        Where in England were you?

AN:                       I went to UEA, so I was in Norwich, it's two hours by train to London from there.

LP:                        Wow, and where were you in school before that? Were you in college in Philadelphia?

AN:                       Yes, Temple University.

LP:                        Oh nice, how did you wind up in the Bay Area?

AN:                       I moved here in 2008 after graduating and working at an insurance company, and just like I don't know what I'm doing with my life. Like this is probably going to be sad and pathetic. And I visited a friend who lived here, who had studied at UC Berkeley and then just decided to stay in the Bay Area. And I came to visit here, and I just loved everything about California and the Bay Area specifically. I loved the weather. I loved the art scene, and people were just so creative and interesting. You have to look a little bit harder these days, and I think it's better in the East Bay than San Francisco these days. Like that's where you're going to find more people doing art just for the sake of art. Like lots of weird--

LP:                        That's an affordability issue?

AN:                       I think so, I think so, it's really expensive to live in San Francisco. I don't live there anymore. I don't think I could. If I did I would have to like live with like five different people in like a three-bedroom apartment or something. It just wouldn't be comfortable. But yeah, like I just really loved everything about it, and it was so far away from everything I grew up with. You know, I think Philadelphia is like a really small town, like it's a city but it's a very small town. Like everybody knows each others' business, and I just thought like I'm going to die or like get addicted to drugs if I stay here. Like it's just, there is nothing happening.

LP:                        It's a nice town, Philadelphia is a nice town, but I know what you mean. It feels small. It feels small to me in the same way Boston feels small, and Boston is actually somewhat sprawling. Because it's a sort of city of neighborhoods, but it doesn't have the same sense of scale as obviously a New York or a Chicago or a Los Angeles. San Francisco feels small to me as well, but when you bring the East Bay into it you get a bigger sense of scope.

AN:                       True, are you from Boston?

LP:                        No, I'm from outside of New Haven, so I'm sort of like halfway between New York and Boston. And I always tell people like houses were divided, like some people gravitated more towards the New England, Boston vibe either in their sports teams or their orientation. And some people gravitated towards New York, and although I love New England and all the things New England offers, I wound up in New York pretty quickly.

AN:                       That makes sense, I think you got to leave your hometown. You know, and even like you don't have to, but I had to. I had to like not stay there, like I worked at Whole Foods and people would come up to me and like be somebody I knew from pre-school like asking me about, I don't know. I'm a weirdo, like that just, I couldn't see myself doing that for that much longer, that's why I left.

LP:                        Yeah, yeah, I think there is an element of, I don't know if it's reinvention or evolution, but geography plays a big role in it. And if you're too close to your original home it's hard to try on new things, I think. There is always somebody reminding you of what you were.

AN:                       Yeah, yeah, I think I had to get away from my parents too, like I love them but like they're very opinionated, like they definitely support me. But like they want to put too much of their own, they want to put themselves on my life, or like try to influence me in some way. Hold on a second. My best friend is texting me, and he's like are you mad at me cause I didn't pick up his call? I'm on a call.

LP:                        We'll edit this out.

AN:                       What's that?

LP:                        We can edit that part out. Were your parents strong willed?

AN:                       Yeah, my dad especially, like he's very opinionated, and like very in your face about stuff. And like thinks he's right about everything, and like that definitely rubbed off on me. And I'm trying to like not be exactly like that anymore.

LP:                        Good luck with that as you get older.

AN:                       Oh my god.

LP:                        We become them.

AN:                       Yeah.

LP:                        It's very strange.

AN:                       It's not always a bad thing, but I want to be my own person too, so.

LP:                        Yeah, of course. Is there a scene or a movement that you identify with, either literary or just in the community you move in now?

AN:                       Good question, I have no idea. I don't really identify with anything. I wish I did. I identify with like albums, like I'll listen to something and I'll just be like this is my religion right now. Like I'm just going to listen to this New Order album over and over and over again, and like when I discover a new album to me, something that may have came out 20 or 30 or 50 years ago or whatever, or 2 years ago, I like listen to it. And like it just takes me, and like I want this to influence how I think about things, and like how I process information, and how I articulate myself and my thoughts when it comes to like making art.

                              Yeah, I don't know if I like really, besides like being a cynic, I don't know if I really like belong to any school of thought or like a movement. Like I though the beats were cool. I don't know how I really feel about them anymore. I think--

LP:                        A lot of it didn't age well.

AN:                       Yeah, it really didn't, yeah, it really really didn't. I think I really like out of the beats specifically, like my favorites were Diane di Prima, who is still with us, and Gregory Corso, who was like kind of like they say like Neal Cassady was like the mold for Jack Kerouac. But I think Gregory Corso was like, he like defined that movement, and like didn't really get the credit. And like they kind of used him. He was like a poor kid from New York City who like got locked up as a kid, like and came out of prison. And he was illiterate when he went into prison basically, but like taught himself how to read. And like taught himself how to read a 1901 dictionary, so like that really informed how he spoke and like how he wrote. And his favorite poet was what's his face? John Keats, he got buried next to Keats

LP:                        Is that true, wow?

AN:                       Yeah, yeah, they think Allen Ginsberg petitioned to have him be buried in this Italian cemetery where John Keats is buried, that was like his, yeah, so that's kind of incredible. But yeah, I don't know. I don't know if I really like, you know, there is things that I believe. And I believe in what other people think. But I don't really want to like ascribe myself to a school of thought or like a philosophy. Cause those are just, you know, just things that someone made up. Like it doesn't always stand the test of time, and it doesn't always reflect everything that I believe. So I don't know, what do you think? Like do you find yourself appealing to or like have a certain philosophy or movement that appeals to you?

LP:                        Well I think your answer is very consistent with a lot of other people in the arts, right? Like if you talk to say musical artists, they tend to reject the notion of genre being limiting. Even artists that as a listener you're pretty clear what their genre is, you find that even if at the beginning of their career they emerge from something they don't like to be associated with it. So I get that. I don't know. It's a great question. It's something I think about a lot because sometimes I think of myself as very much a classicist in that I'm very open minded in my tastes within certain narrow realms. And like I don't listen to a lot of newer rock music because people always introduce it to me by saying oh, you'll like this because you like so and so.

                              Or their new song is just like such and such, and my initial though is always but I already have Led Zeppelin so I don't need the new Led Zeppelin or what have you. So I find myself, you know, a bit more, I would much rather listen to like, I'd be more excited if you told me there was a new Miley Cyrus song than if you told me there was a new Strokes song. Because I think the odds are I'm going to hear something different from her, and I'm only going to hear their take on something that's already come before. I don't know if that's true, that's the way my mind works. But then there is other areas that I love, you know, like I like weird music.

                              I like weird shit; I like weird noise and sound. So yeah, it's hard. There is nothing in particular I like though. Like I can't say like I'm an opera fanatic. Like there is no genre with which I know so much about, I know a little bit about a lot of things. And that's kind of always been my, that's always been my personal sort of thing is like I'm really good at trivia, I'm really good at like, I dabble. I go through phases, like and I'm not overly sentimental about it. Like I don't tend to stop liking things. It's all cumulative. I don't grow out of stuff. I'm not embarrassed to like things I liked a long time ago. I don't really distinguish between high and low art.

AN:                       I agree with that completely.

LP:                        Partly because I'm not trained enough to be able to, you know, I would only be able to rely on like posture.

AN:                       I think that term is like, you know, that's like something an art critic made up, high art, low art. Like and that's, yeah, I don't think there is a difference. I think there is just like if you have an institution behind you or not, you know. Like a comic strip can be just as groundbreaking in its ideas as like a piece that you would see at the MOMA or something. Like it's, yeah, it's an arbitrary distinction, I think.

LP:                        I think--

AN:                       I agree with you in terms of dabbling also, like that is what I do. I get obsessed with something, and like that'll be my thing for like a week or two and then I'll move on to something else.

LP:                        Yeah, I can't even remember all the things I've liked.

AN:                       Yeah, yeah.

LP:                        Has the, I don't know if it's too soon to tell yet but has the current situation impacted the tone or the substance of your work? How does it filter in?

AN:                       I don't think it's changed much because like you started off with, like this is kind of a reflection of how I feel about what's, just like the priorities of this world. Like the world doesn't really care. I mean not the world, but like the powers that create the rules do not care what happens to unfortunate people. It doesn't, like these people have always been kind of left behind, and like this current thing that's happening is just showing that. Like, you know, it's frustrating, yeah, I don't know if it's changed anything in how I feel or like if it's changing the way I'm thinking about society and the way I'm writing about that.

                              But it might just be reinforcing what I already believe, and like you know what? It's not all doom and gloom. I think that it has been also very inspiring to see how community can come together in times like this. Like yeah, I don't know. Like we're not going to have one savior. We're not going to have like some grand sweeping change that is going to fix everything. But it is nice to see people helping each other in small ways. And I think that will add up to like positive change in a big way. I don't know who said this, but I think it was a tweet I read. But somebody said, like this situation is showing me how much people really hate each other.

                              But not only that it's showing me how much people really love each other, which I think is completely true. Like personally I'm talking to friends that I haven't talked to in a long time, I'm reaching out to friends that I don't normally reach out to. And just hearing from people more often, it's really nice. And everyone is just so generous with like their time, my friend sent me a mask from Texas. Like, you know, I'm writing letters to people, like sending people stuff in the mail because what else are we going to do? It's nice to have that kind of little surprise, it's just a nice gesture. Yeah, I don't know. I think it will, I mean this has only just started right? I think this is going to go on for a lot longer than everyone else is predicting. And I think the more we can do to like just build community and help each other out the better. And I'm trying to do that.

LP:                        Yeah, well I think that's a good note to go out on.

AN:                       OK.

LP:                        Thank you for making time to do this.

AN:                       Thanks [LP], I hope it wasn't too depressing, sorry.

Alexandra NaughtonProfile Photo

Alexandra Naughton

Writer

Alexandra Naughton is a writer based in Richmond, California. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Be About It Press, established in 2010. She is the author of six poetry collections including You Could Never Objectify Me More Than I’ve Already Objectified Myself (Punk Hostage Press, 2015), I Will Always Be In Love (Paper Press, 2015), and Rapid Transit (Nomadic Press, 2018). Her first novel, American Mary, was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2016. Her next book A Place, A Feeling, Something He Said To You is forthcoming from Spooky Girlfriend Press.