Issue IX, Volume IV : May 2013
Gregory Sherl interview with Meg Tuite
Gregory Sherl inspired and blew me away the first time I read his work and I have never been disappointed, only obliterated, in a good way. I am always on the lookout for a poem/poetic prose/planet by Gregory Sherl. There is a living heart that pounds through his work, and not that Hallmark sentimental crap. Sherl’s is equipped with all the valves, ventricles and atriums. I am honored to feature some of Gregory’s work in this mid-January issue of Connotation Press. In these three micro-fiction worlds he has created, “Things to Do When You Need Things To Do, Part I,” “Facts, Part 2” and “Brand New Music,” I am mesmerized by the stark intimacy, vulnerability and humor in his work. Lines like “Tell the linden tree about your dead sister in her shoebox grave.” “I leave my Valium at home so I chew on a Republican.” And so, so many more. Each line covers its own acreage.
Thank you, Gregory, for sending Connotation Press some of your inimitable work. Can you elaborate on any of the three pieces you’ve sent or all of them? Or the wavelength you create in your ecosystem?
First, thank you so much for the kind words. They’re really too much. You can say, No, no, they’re not too much, but then I will counter back with, Yes, yes, they will always be too much. It can be a thing we do, or something.
“Things to Do When You Need Things to Do, Pt. 1” is inspired by a Bob Hicok poem called “Shed and dream,” which was published in the Paris Review and is about all these things, some mundane, some beautiful and heartbreaking that happen around a linden tree. An entire lifetime with a linden tree. I just love those two words together: linden tree. You can almost smell it. Even if you don’t know what a linden tree looks like, you can still visualize something, anything. Even legs can look like a linden tree. Spines of backs, a linden tree. A really large iced coffee: bark from a linden tree. I also love fucking, so I just kind of combined nature and the idea of fucking. Out of the two poems written with a linden tree in mind, Hicok’s is much, much better.
I haven’t read these pieces in a while, so it was interesting going back to them. “Brand New Music” was one of the first new pieces I wrote after Kevin Sampsell’s Future Tense Books agreed to publish, Monogamy Songs, in which all three of these pieces should appear in. “Brand New Music” was probably the first one written with the collection in mind as an especially thematic unit, and I focus heavily on the two things I wanted the book to be about: fucking and music.
Look for Monogamy Songs this summer.
Cannot wait for “Monogamy Songs!”
I decided a Gregory Sherl interview had to move in its own orbit. One of my favorite quotes is by Djuna Barnes, “The Antiphon.” “Looking down the barrel of your eye, I see the body of a bloody Cinderella come whirling up.” Give me one of yours.
“I’ve always masturbated to words.”
--From an essay written by Chloe Caldwell
I know you’re up for this challenge. I’ll give you random phrases and you give me back a Sherl line.
All the groundswell of my childhood were rising up to beach me.
I buy a breath mint so her thighs know what it feels like to be on a mountaintop.
An abrasion, frugal and stark as my refrigerator.
Electric toothbrushes forget how to work if you don’t plug them in.
Entomb me in your squalor.
It burns everywhere so we only kiss underwater or with ice packs wrapped around our heads and wrists and the bottoms of our feet.
The immensity of your pardon is vertical.
I buy two types of breath mints so her thighs know what it feels like to be on a mountaintop and in a meadow.
All of these will now probably show up in a poem. This was fun.
Loved the breath mints especially! Give me a favorite line from a writer you love.
Probably not my favorite anymore but at one point he was, so I’m going to say Bret Eason Ellis and give you the first line to his first book: “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”
What are you working on at this time?
Right now I am in the process of turning my fiction chapbook, I Have Touched You, into a novel. It was released in January from Dark Sky Books and is now sold out. I’ve never worked on anything so long, so it’s interesting and scary and I hope I am growing as a writer as I continue to push myself.
Also, there are two books set for release in 2014, one poetry and one a tiny memoir I originally wrote on the backs of Starbucks napkins. They’re in different levels of completion, but I’m really happy with where they’re heading. In the poetry collection I am rewriting the Bible because that book has been out forever, you know? Also, I’m vain as fuck.
If you follow me on Facebook (which you probably don’t because I have like twelve friends), you will know that I am obsessed with The X-Files. It is becoming unhealthy but it is also becoming a source for inspiration. Recently, I started a book of prose poems based on the TV show. I love themed collections (this will become more obvious as more of my books are released) and am hoping to have a book-length collection of them done by the summer and will then try to find a publisher silly enough to take a chance on a book of prose poems about Dana Scully’s pantsuits and Fox Mulder’s lack of emotional density.
Here’s an impromptu side interview Gregory and I did:
GS: the last time i was mostly submerged i was in a bathtub with a girlMT: now that's the way to submerge, the dead sea doesn’t let you go underyou are always floatingGS: the dead sea is child lockedthat’s the first line of my bible poem about the dead seayou are getting me all kinds of places hereMT: any moment in time that you remember as a kid that was amazingGS: everything before 19 is kind of a bluris that weird?MT: that's probably a giftmy blur lasted thru my 20'sGS: everything after 19 is kind of a bluri have short term memory & then it just goes awaymaybe that's why i basically just chronicle my life: a way to forget lessMT: what is your favorite beerGS: today: boddingtons. but there's a local brewery in boca that does this beercalled the floridian i fucking loveyou?MT: i'm loving the IPA's right now I'm having a Sierra Nevada TorpedoGS: torpedo sounds badass, angryMT: it is and it really helps calm thingsbecause it's working the anger for mewhatever anger i may be holding in my spleenGS: one day you'll beat your spleenMT: i don't know if beating it will help it cheer up, i may have to coddle it a bitand say nice things like 'you look pink today.’GS: the words i write is all i've got, everything else is empty.i have hallowed legs.
You keep talking about K. in your work. Give us a great K blast to finish this interview off.
K won’t forget what a phone is so I’m forgetting what a phone is for her.
Thank you so much, Gregory, for an exceptional interview. You said you don’t do well in interviews, but this was definitely entertaining for me and I hope for the readers. Look forward to reading your upcoming collections! Congratulations on all the publications! Well-deserved!