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By Jené Gutierrez
Jené graciously agreed to step in again for Paul Adams who has been traveling. Following are excerpts from multiple discussions with Laura Warman. We’re happy to get her thoughts on other writers, the influence of her body on her work, and journals that create inclusive and diverse spaces.
Tell me about the writers and artists who you've drawn the most inspiration from, or have taught you a lot.
Kim Kardashian, Kathy Acker, Chris Kraus, Susan Howe, Hiromi Ito. Oh, Louise Bourgeois!
Interesting choices! I read Kraus' I Love Dick last year and have wanted to talk to someone about it ever since. Of course, Kim K stands out as the only pop culture figure in your list - how does she inspire you and how does that relate to your writerly choices?
I Love Dick is definitely one of my main inspirations. The idea that I can possess other people and make them my own in an empowering and colloquial way. Kim Kardashian does a lot of the same things in her work. She takes her body (or the desire for it) and turns it into money. And this is also about coloniality/whiteness which plays a role in my work. Also, surveillance and the knowledge of being surveyed for others desire. Hito Steyerel also plays a lot with these ideas.
Right, I definitely find that idea very refreshing, the transformation of the lens in various ways. How do your personal bodily or sexual experiences inform your work? How much do you source from it?
My body narrates my work almost completely. I feel like I cannot speak past my body (although I desire departure from this). So much of my recent work is meant to be placed on my body (clothes with poems on them) or narrates my journey to alter my body into something other than my body. Which is why I go to the gym. Or why I slip. Or why I don’t want to label my desire. Or the cyborg. Or acceleration. Or these ideas that have been around for years but are becoming more real but I am still here and I still get labeled as things while walking down the street and I am that and I am this.
Have you always written from this place? How have you managed the vulnerability of writing from such an intimate place?
I think I used to believe in a Poetry apart from that but now I can see Poetry as part of Power and this is a power that determines intimacy/privacy and I have never been able to be fully there but when I tried to write Poetry, I was instead repeating/ dictating what others thought as Good or Smart and now I am fine with being Not Smart or a Bad Poet.
That is perhaps the best thing I can do.
Also, poetry for me has always been a risk because my evangelical parents did not support my work (at first) so for awhile I had to leave my idea of Family for poetry.
Also, it is a privilege for me to be vulnerable in this way because I am choosing it.
Did your parents not support your work because of the themes or the more common, general aversion to poetry as a "career"?
Not as a career, but because of my content - it was pretty openly counter to everything they believed in and I was raised in a very specific way (homeschooled, evangelical, future wife) so it was a shock. I tried to edit my work at times to make it more acceptable, but I was never happy with the edits.
Do you think their evangelism encouraged a part of you to express yourself as a response to this rigid ideology?
I think more so it prepared me to not understand or be understood by others. It taught me how to be alone & feel confident in myself and to stick to intuition. The ability to believe is becoming rarer and I feel thankful I can do that. Sacrifice is also a tenet, so if I create work that includes a sort of risk, I don’t generally think twice. So I don’t see my work as counter to the evangelical faith it generally adheres to the ideas of the faith.
So you'd say your work embodies faith, despite how some evangelicals would approach your work? I love this idea of making a sacrifice, giving a part of yourself to the community, and having faith in that sacrifice. So would you say you're an evangelical or a person of faith?
Yes! My persistent dream as a child was to be a martyr for faith so maybe that is still alive but now my faith is in Future and queerness and community.
I’ve done a similar thing with regard to how concepts of religion influence my views. “In the beginning there was the word” is a powerful opening sentence, especially for writers! The body seems to be something that more women than men address in their work. Why do you think that is?
Yes to the beginning was word! Women are forced to talk about their bodies because that's the only thing they are given semi-agency over. In the end there are always Women’s Bodies.
I guess for men, is writing not as much of an experience of the body? Doesn’t it seem that way?
Maybe men historically can deny that their body grants them certain privileges, but for people who appear to be women, the importance of our bodies is constantly forced upon us as soon as we leave our house and are on the street or at the bar.
I am made known by what my body appears to be and how I should function in society.
So I write to try to leave my body, to reach zen in the way that zen is apart from the body.
For people who identify as men, this may not be an inherent journey because they can get past identity in the way that philosophy "gets past identity” and in the way a Higher Understanding is generally an embrace of power.
So, philosophy/men try to transcend identity but they can only try to do this because of the privilege of not being relegated because of their gender, because of their power?
Yes, that is what I am trying to say.
How do you use humor in your work? Is it deliberate, or is the way you talk about sex and the body naturally humorous? How does humor serve your larger writing purpose?
Humor is the trick or the only way to respond to Reality, as in "If I cant’ laugh, I’m dead." Or you will listen when you are laughing or you laugh at _______ and that is uncomfortable. As in you laughed at the assault in the poem & turned and realized how commonplace violence is. Laughter is a violence, a rejection. I use humor like a dirty rag.
Who are some contemporary writers you're excited about?
Too many. Chelsea Hogue. Francesca Capone. Halie Theoharides. Natalia Panzer. John Rufo. V Manuscript. RRLEW. E. Viszk. These are my friends.
What's the last book you read and what did you think?
In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities by Jean Baudrillard. I thought, "whoa." I also read The Green Ray by Corina Copp and got jealous. When I read, I feel behind & in shock constantly.
Which journals do you think do the best job of creating inclusive and diverse spaces?
Will something be inclusive where there is rejection? I've always been impressed with Poetry Magazine. I've always been distraught by most online journals. There is always something lingering in the corner underneath the floor waiting to be exposed. And this isn't just most journals, this is academic institutions and any place where a few in power think they know what good work looks like. The Offing says my friend John Rufo when I ask him. One cannot just create an inclusive space because there are no relationships without power. It's something I've struggled with and left journals I have worked at. Also, censorship is important. Censorship can be used advantageously. Maybe GaussPDF is the best because they publish whatever at no cost and everything is free.
Of the work you've done so far, what are you most proud of?
My art collective, dadpranks, has a video piece up right now at MOCA Cleveland. Going to the opening and seeing it was the most real I have ever felt as an "artist." For a few years, I ran a poetry postcard newsletter. Buying the stamps and paying for printing was a big chunk of my salary so it always felt like a paper cut. My poetry robe is beautiful.
What's the hardest part about writing for you?
Trying not to prove points.
What frustrates you the most about the literary community?
Racism, misogyny, transphobia, elitism. Belief that "we", "The Poets", sacrifice body and money for Art when we are really making just ourselves look better always. This is not a sacrifice but a gift. Also the belief that poetry is academic. Also the belief that poetry is hard to understand or hard to write.
What has been the most helpful tool for your writing?
Running my body into actual walls and reminding myself I have nothing to say.
What are you working on now?
I run a small press (www.glasspressofthefuture.com) that publishes poetry and art and computer trash on flash drives. I recently finished an art installation. I am filming a public access show about grilling. I perform music. Anything but write.
Jené Gutierrez is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She's the host of The BodPod, a podcast about bodies and how we live in them.