Thursday, October 9, 2008

NOÖ Loves Everyone #3: Antonios Maltezos

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Antonios's daughter in a museum

Antonios Maltezos's fiction has appeared in elimae, Hobart, Night Train, Pindeldyboz, SmokeLong Quarterly, Ghoti, Pequin, Per Contra and many more. Find out more by visiting his blog.

1) Can you talk about your history with story writing? How did you get started?

I started really late. My first publication was Slingshot Magazine, in 2003, I think. Before that, I was writing in a vacuum, pure gibberish even my mother couldn't understand, a couple stories a year, submitting to magazines like Fiddlehead and Prism, and then waiting months for my envelopes to find their way back to me. But I think our writing lives work like dog years once we get that first pub. Slingshot feels like ages ago though it was only in 2003. But if I keep working backwards, I probably started the process of seriously trying to become a writer in 1993, when I switched from Psychology to English. Was that the beginning of the rest of my life? Did I see the light? Bah, bullshit. I'd given up on Psychology and switched to English because I didn't think I could succeed in any other program. But there was more prestige and honor among my relatives as a Psych student. I had a devil of a time explaining to people why I'd switched. What was I going to do for money with an English Literature degree - was on everyone's mind, mine included. So those first years were kinda hard. I felt aimless, alone, misunderstood, except maybe by my dear mother who'd written poetry in Greek as a young woman. To her, there was much dignity and honor in my choice to pursue my writing. She did keep me going. But Like I said, I was writing gibberish. I've never been too smart at organizing, collecting, rearranging. Most of what I write, even today, is fueled by simple emotions, which makes the writing both easy and difficult. I'm sure there are others like me. I get biggish ideas, but they come to me in that huge, oversized print like for blind people. So I got tunnel visionitus, which is probably why I write so much flash. I also envy people who say they've always written, from as far back as they can remember, people whose parents were educated, well-read. My father was a cab driver and I had to explain words from the newspaper to him. Loved both my parents, but seriously, I don't think I can say writing came easy for me. I only put away my Stephen King books in 93, when I went into the English Literature program. You can imagine what that was like. But still, I managed to graduate with honors, my favorite teacher, Professor Mendelssohn, elling me I'd made him nervous in class because I was always so focused on what he was saying. I didn't want to miss a thing. I was playing catch up. Still am, still feel I got no business doing this.

2) Your story "Garbage" in NOÖ Journal [five] made me feel uncomfortable and kind of electric. A lot of this deals with the undercurrent of violence, I think, between the brothers, between the family and the gulls, between everything. What do you see as the role of violence in literary fiction?

Between everything. That's good. There's a new show on the Discovery channel called Verminators. It's about an extermination company and their travails. If I'm snacking when they're showing a close up, I'll squint my eyes, allowing just enough light to hit my retinas so I know the scene has changed. But I love the show and I'll keep watching, wolfing down my snacks during the commercial breaks. Violence has the same kind of effect on people as a close-up of a cockroach has on me when I'm eating. I want to see what's behind your fridge, but not while I'm eating. People drool at violence in their blockbuster movies, but they fear it in their lives. For me, it's a scab I can't leave alone.

3) Recommend for us some recent faves: stories, books, literary magazines,
authors, etc.

Iron Man!

4) Give us some news on current projects or publications.

I have a couple publications I'm proud of: My Dead Partner in Per Contra. Beautiful in Smokelong. My Wandering Angel in Pequin. I'm also a first reader for Vestal Review -- a gig I'm enjoying.

5) Where do you see your writing in five years?

Better than it is now? If the next five come and go like those dog years since 2003, then I'm not worried. I'll try and enjoy them, try and keep the fire burning, the hope alive.

6) I taught twelve year olds last summer. We read a few flash fiction pieces. How would you explain flash to someone half that age, a six year old?

Oh, crap. You don't need to explain flash fiction to kids. They get it already. It's how they live their lives, in increments of one startling moment to another. In between, it's just scribbling on the walls.

7) What are your interests beyond writing?

I run a brasserie kitchen, so I guess I'm into that hustle and bustle.

8) Word association game with words from your story. Say whatever comes to

Found = Herpes
Father = Jowls
Hungry = Budapest
Fresh = tomatoes
Hair = grey and thinning
White = sheets

Thursday, October 2, 2008

NOÖ Loves Everyone #2: Arlene Ang

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Arlene Ang is the author of The Desecration of Doves (2005), Secret Love Poems (Rubicon Press, 2007) and Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press, 2008), co-written with Valerie Fox. She lives in Spinea, Italy where she serves as a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Press 1. More of her writing may be viewed at

1) Can you talk about your history with poetry? How did you get started?

I started writing poetry in high school, mostly to do with homework. I also enjoyed passing cheeky notes in class pretending to be this Mad Magazine character who speaks in verse, tells everyone he'd stop but then get worse. That, or I was pretending to be one of the witches in Macbeth. Talk about lowly beginnings.

2) Your poem "Swirling" in NOÖ [five] calls attention to the way we fill our lives with marginal players, the idea that we're all our own heroes walking around in a world full of stories we don't know. What's funny to me is that it's such a serious theme, such a serious poem, really, and yet on your blog you're always very funny and full of smiley faces. How do you reconcile those moods in your poetry? Are they like two strangers, like the speaker and the cleaning lady in "Swirling," or is it all pretty easy?

Funny that you should mention! People said the same thing about my dad, who was an artist. I remember the vet sidling up to me to whisper the moment his back was turned, "I saw your dad's work in the Sunday newspaper! Those scary, rabid dogs! No one believed me when I said he's my client, that he actually... loves... dogs!" How to explain this? In all forms of art, we tend to express how we feel but this feeling doesn't necessarily reflect how we are in real life. "Swirling" is indeed a sad poem, not something I've experienced myself, but observed in the lives of old people in Italy.

I do like the analogy you made between me/writing and the speaker/cleaning lady. The concept of writing poetry as a way for the self to clean up after itself in some psychological way is fascinating, something to explore under a microscope.

3) Recommend for us some recent faves: poems, books, literary magazines, poets, etc.

I finally received my copies of Forklift, Ohio (#12, #18) and loving them -- it's probably the only print journal I can't live without. I'm also rereading Andrea Barrett's gorgeous collection of short stories, Ship Fever. And then there's Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy -- a fantasy novel that hits closer to reality than a history book: first I hated it, then I worshiped it... but only after brooding over its depressing implications for a whole week. Recent poets I've gone bonkers for would be Barbara DeCesare, Dobby Gibson, Sean Lovelace, Andrew Mossin and Ronald Palmer.

4) Give us some news on current projects or publications.

Bundles of Letter Including A, V and Epsilon, a poetry collection I wrote with Valerie Fox was recently published by Texture Press. We have some readings this October scheduled in Philadelphia to help market the book. I'll post our schedule on my blog before I leave on the 16th in case anyone would like attend.

5) Where do you see your writing in five years? It's okay if you don't think like this. Be as fantastical as you'd like.

In five years, I plan to get my most worthwhile writing on the internet or in print. Burglars have been going through the flats in our condo like a sieve, stealing fur coats and computers. Last week they ransacked the flat next door. It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Once they steal this computer, everything will be gone, gone, gone!!!

I like doomsday scenarios, don't you?

6) I taught twelve-year-olds last summer. How would you explain poetry to someone half that age, a six year old?

The nearest age group I've encountered personally is my three-year-old niece... and explanations have little effect on her. I did notice that she tends to imitate what she sees or hears -- if it tickles her fancy enough. Maybe it would be a better idea to read poetry aloud with kids, make them live the experience. Something fun to help generate their interest, like Ogden Nash's poems or a Dr Seuss book.

7) What are your interests beyond poetry?

The first thing that comes to mind is food, eating more than cooking. In a half-hearted manner, I take pictures creatively. I'm also something of a video game addict. Taken with moderation, I like liquor -- color and taste not particularly important. Oh, and yes, eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers.

8) Word association game with words from your poem. Say whatever comes to mind:

Clean = House
Storm = Water
War = Horse
Here = Burglar
First = Now
Keys = Stroke

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

NOÖ Loves Everyone #1: Alex Burford

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Alex Burford is the co-editor of Pinch Pinch Press. His work has appeared in Cannot Exist, Listenlight, NOÖ Journal, Pindeldyboz, and is forthcoming in Lamination Colony and Robot Melon. He lives in Ashland, OR.

1) Can you talk about your history with poetry? How did you get started?

Four years ago actually, when I met you and Bryan Coffelt. You joked about Billy Collins, so I went out and bought a copy as soon as I could. I was surprised by how much it sucked. And like everybody else I started by writing really trite, cutesy poems that left me feeling like a lifeless hack. Luckily I had good friends who kept pushing me forward. I think the collaboration between our friends really helped get my feet soggy in that old poetic stew. Having Kasey Mohammad as my poetry professor / friend didn't hurt either.

2) Your poem "The Ghost of Wells" in NOÖ Journal [eight] is, ostensibly, a poem about language degradation, but in a fun and actually degraded way. Can you talk some about its inceptions, its furniture, or funny things that happened before/after you wrote it?

This poem went against how I like write poetry actually. I've always been a big proponent of Jack Spicer, the idea of making yourself a kind of radio receiver for "green martians" that rearrange the language furniture in my brain, and this poem began like that, but I found myself injecting little bits of my own opinion against, what felt like, my own will. I was forcing my own hand in a way. I was really surprised when I read it a few days later because what I meant to say didn't really come across in a recognizable way, which was wonderful.

3) Recommend for us a recent book of poetry, blog, or web site, and why.

I just read the Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan and I can't recommend that book enough. His use of collage and false translations are wicked cool, and there's a real beauty in the disjointed language and associations he pulls together in some of his prose poems. We kind of have the same beard too. Other than that... I'm really in love with Gawker. I feel weird about it but I check the site, like, 10 times a day. And the online journal Spooky Boyfriend. Really great writers and really great name.

4) Give us some news on current projects or publications.

I was recently published in Cannot Exist #3, online at Pindeldyboz, and self-published an e-chapbook called Elocutioneering which can be found on my blog. I'm working on a few chapbooks, I just need people to publish them (I suck big time at design). Also I co-edit Pinch Pinch Press and are SO CLOSE to printing our lit mag Barnaby Jones issues 1&2.

5) Where do you see your writing in five years?

I've always wanted to move to Chicago.

6) I taught twelve year olds last summer. How would you explain poetry to someone half that age, a six year old?

Write something pretty, then make it ugly, and then make it pretty again. Try not to talk about yourself in a way anyone would ever understand it is you. And please try not to cry.

7) What are your interests beyond writing?

I enjoy flannel, Spanish, beards, music, Westerns, publishing, collaborating, reading.

8) Word association game with words from your poem. Say whatever comes to mind:

Breathing = felt-lips
Knee = functions
Bee = vessel
Sex = Youngstown
Only = oregano
Dumb = blow dryer