Interviews & Reviews

TRANSMISSIONS: Another Fucking Writing Podcast

Tyler Dempsey is the author of 4 books. He hosts Another Fucking Writing Podcast and lives in Utah with his dog. Another Fucking Writing Podcast can be found here and at Patreon.Rebecca Gransden: How would you describe the podcast to someone who is unfamiliar with what you do?Tyler Dempsey: It’s kind of a literary podcast. Kind of. I don’t know anything about writing. Don’t have the language to talk about craft or know what a Hermit Crabcake or Villanelle is. I just fell in love with books in college. And, when I’d finish a good one, always hunted information about the author. You’d probably think as a result I like biographies. But I don’t. I hate em. Cause they tell you what happened to a person but rarely anything about them. Their life. Personality. Whatnot. I’d find myself wishing we could have coffee and just talk about the ideas their book made me think about and learn what they felt like growing up and shit. So, that’s what I do. RG: Does the podcast have a mission or manifesto? TD: You know, that’s interesting. Not cause I have one. Not long ago, artists would find “their people.” Then make manifestos. It’s a funny word. Militant for what writing is capable of these days. Maybe I do need one? Shit. Okay. Here goes. I want writers to feel less alone. Like their books can come back to life after they thought they were dead. To be a doorjamb against the onslaught of reasons to give up.RG: How long has the podcast been in existence, and how have you seen it grow over that time?TD: The first episode came out January 15, 2023. Ten months ago. Course, there was research leading up. But not much. It’s kind of hard to track, in terms of “growth.” There isn’t the same sharing online as say, when a story comes out and everybody’s quote tweeting and it’s all right on display in front of you. And you watch the numbers climb as an artist gets bigger and bigger. Almost nobody shares podcasts. But they are listening. And I keep having surprises. Like when I reached out to Brian Allen Carr about an interview, and he was like, yeah, I’ve listened to a few episodes. We’d never spoken or interacted before. That was really cool. And recently I learned Scott McClanahan is a fan. Also, apparently, it’s getting discussed in graduate writing programs. Stuff like that. It’s growing through word-of-mouth or something. It’d probably help if I tried having a website or even creating an AFWP twitter profile instead of just posting from my stupid profile. For those curious about monetary gains, I have 12 Patreon supporters (shout out day ones!) who, before Patreon takes their slice, net me collectively $38 per month. Which, almost pays for the books I read to do the show. I think growth is more these experiences I get to have, and hopefully, you as a listener, have too. RG: Where did the idea for the podcast come from?TD: A new writer comes on Twitter/X. Sits in the pocket. Follows the shit outta writers and journals, trying to figure out who they want “to be.” Prodigiously sharing other people’s work in the mags they wish they could be in. Soon, they become those people. And there’s like a drug addict’s mentality, once you start getting pubbed, and other people are sharing your work, etc. Dopamine or not, it’s about as good a “community” feeling as they’ve ever had. Unless they’re a psychopath or independently wealthy and don’t have to work, there’s no WAY they’re going to keep in that game if they start writing books. Simply no time. In the couple years or whatever it takes to complete that novel that’s gonna rip indie lit a new asshole, the algorithm doesn’t remember them. And it’s really, really easy to be like, Why’m I doing this? It’s awesome people who’ve used social media to create community, but I feel as if that is an outlier. That’s where the idea for the podcast came from. I’m just trying something different. Hoping a real community springs from it. RG: How did you decide upon a title for the podcast?TD: Came up with a few and polled Twitter. This sweet baby was the winner.RG: Are there any podcasts that influenced or encouraged you to start the project?TD: I wouldn’t say influenced me to start, but WTF with Marc Maron is definitely an influence. All I’m doing is that, but with writers, not comedians. RG: What episode of the podcast would you recommend to someone who is new to what you do?TD: Maybe the Mike Nagel one? I think people just tapping in might expect more “literariness” to the show. And in that episode I’m pretty sure we don’t mention Mike’s book once. In my head, that conversation was even better without mentioning the book (which is amazing, if you haven’t read DUPLEX wtf are you even doing?) so yeah, that might give an indication what I’m aiming for.RG: If your podcast features guests, how do you go about finding them?TD: If you’re not a fan it makes for lazy interviews. So, that’s rule #1. Twitter’s my go-to for finding them. Seems the less “online” a writer is, the less chance they’re gonna talk to me. If I have to go hunting an author website or reach out to a publisher, I don’t have high hopes. If they have like four different publicist/agent emails as the route to contact them, unless you’re Brad fucking Listi, they aren’t getting back to you. Bout 1-in-3 authors refuse interviews for one reason or another or ghost me. So, it keeps you busy reaching out to people if you’re striving for an episode each week.RG: If you are a writer, has the podcast impacted your writing life? and conversely, has a writerly disposition influenced the podcast? TD: Michael Wheaton and I talked about this when he interviewed me on The Lives of Writers. Conversations stir up ideas, and those show up later in your writing. Or, in my case, monologues. The fact I meticulously prep for each conversation and strive for some semblance of an arc in the conversation as a whole, a kind of story or something, that’s writerly. I do a fair amount of editing to the audio, something else that sets my pod apart. Not only do “uhmms” and those little lip smacks get axed, also words/phrases I find myself cutting when I edit my writing. I’m considering the listener in a way that stems from being a writer. It all influences what ends up in the final cut.RG: Do you listen to podcasts?TD: Moreso now, then ever. I have a job that sees me alone/driving several hours a week.RG: What is the best podcast out there at the moment, the one you are excited for when each new episode drops?TD: May not be on radars, but The Martyrmade Podcast is hands down the best. Start with Episode # 8 on human sacrifice/cannibalism. If you aren’t hooked, you and I aren’t the same.  RG: What do you dislike about podcasts?TD: When it’s three or four people and sounds like a bunch of dudes who are all wasting really good hairlines, holding Playstation/Xbox controllers, bro’ing out. Thinking of shows like The Dollop.RG: Who is your dream guest?TD: A.M. Homes, Brian Evenson, William T Vollmann, etc. RG: Is there a podcast that doesn’t exist, but you wish did?TD: I wish there was a SNL/Mystery Science/Drunk History kind of vibe podcast where dead writers, played by live ones, are interviewed and sort of drilled or riffed on.RG: Is there a podcast that exists, but you wish didn’t?TD: It’s the Era of the Podcast. So, no. I think even more should exist. RG: For techheads, which single item of kit do you consider essential for the production of the podcast, and what would you say are the basics needed for those new to podcasting?TD: Big fan of my Focusrite Scarlett Solo Interface. Also, I bought a new laptop with a lot of processing speed before I started. A huge investment. But, kind of cross pollinates to other things. I mean, I wrote my previous three books on a tablet, so now it feels like I’m in that giant world in Mario when I sit down to write. All I’d say to newbies is you can literally do this shit with your smartphone and an hour of YouTube videos, so don’t let the tech side turn you away from giving it a shot. RG: If someone would like to support independent podcasts, what are the best ways to do this?TD: Find the Patreon or Kofi or whatever and sign the fuck up. There’s usually a $5’ish option, which, let’s be honest, you won’t even notice. Even if produced haphazardly, it’s a shit ton of work getting episodes together and put out. If it seems like it’s professionally done, even a little bit, I promise that person is dedicating a huge chunk of their free time toward getting you something you can enjoy by barely lifting a finger. We tip our barista for steaming some damn milk for 30 seconds, I mean, come on.RG: Looking back on the podcast, are there favorite episodes, episodes that stand out to you, or episodes that didn’t go as you would’ve liked?TD: They’re all favorites. Always something memorable/unexpected when you go into an interview having never spoken and without rehearsing questions. Plus, it’s close to a miracle these days getting anyone to sit down at an agreed upon time to talk to you. I can’t even get my friends on the phone.RG: What are your plans for the future?TD: I can barely keep up as is. So, I guess, planning/hoping to sustain this drive and motivation as long as I can.RG: If you liked that, you may also like this. Are there any podcasts on a similar wavelength to your own that you would recommend to a listener who appreciates what you do?TD: The Lives of Writers, Otherppl, Beyond the Zero, WTF with Marc Maron, I’m a Writer, But. Another Fucking Writing Podcast can be found here and at Patreon.

CLARIBEL by Karen Laws

The woman I had become accustomed to thinking of as my future daughter-in-law has taken off her white satin shoes but still wears her wedding gown. My son left her at the altar. I don’t know why she’s surprised, why she even went to the church—she keeps saying everything was arranged. I suppose that’s part of it. I’m grateful she has chosen to come directly from the church to the apartment, to me. She paces and cries out in her rage, the dress billowing. The wedding’s off. It’s clear that the rest of the family, the couple’s many friends, the officiator, all the invited guests have gone. He’s gone, she wails. I can’t pretend to share Claribel’s grief. Procumbent on the floor, I continue watching mukbang on the 65-inch TV. The open-plan apartment, with its luxurious furnishings, was supposed to be my gift to the newlyweds. Turkish carpets, new lighting fixtures, sectional sofa. No one has ever fucked on that sofa. Not yet. From the side of the room where romantic dinners will one day be prepared comes the soft whistling of a tea kettle. From the TV, at very low volume even though I love the audio component of mukbang as much if not more than the visual, come the smacking and slurping sounds of someone enjoying her meal. Between bites the pretty girl onscreen describes what she is eating—dumplings—and how they taste. I know what she says thanks to the English subtitles. (I’m keeping the volume down for Claribel’s sake.)She goes on weeping and shouting. I understand her need to vent. Memories of her and my son engaging in public displays of affection compete for my attention with the mukbang. When the mukbang loses, I turn off the TV. I look up at Claribel. In her eyes I see a scintilla of awareness that it’s going to be just her and me now. I’ve won. For months, I’ve been calling my friends by her name. Like when we spent the weekend at Lisa’s beach house. Claribel, I’d say, is there any soy sauce? Claribel, I mean Lisa, I’d correct myself, are you ready for a Boulevardier? All weekend, I kept slipping up like that. You’re obsessed with this woman, said my friends, laughing as they pointed out such mistakes. I couldn’t resist talking about Claribel. Saying things well within the bounds of normalcy, such as: She’s got a good job in hospital administration. She’s plus-sized and body-positive, she loves her body the way it is. She likes me, I told my friends. We’ve gotten close, so close that we have pet names for each other. She calls me Ducky, I confided. She defends me against her parents and other detractors. She even scolded my son one time when he called me a virago to my face. There’s an erotic element to your obsession, my friends warned. I suspected they were right. I may have taken advantage of my son’s fiancée’s affectionate nature. All I know is that I wanted to give Claribel my attention, preferably over a sustained period of time, and that I acted on that desire. My friends would never believe I could do that to my son. My friends—they’ve known me for a long time. They think of me as a loving mother. I, too, once thought of maternal love as unaffected by the passage of time. But as my son grew from infant to child to adult, he needed me less and less. My love shrank accordingly. Imagine a funnel. My love started out big and gradually decreased in size until it became as short and narrow as the human throat.  I faced the consequences of my transgression only today, when my son entered the apartment unexpectedly at 9 a.m. It was the morning of his wedding day. His bride-to-be was stretched out on an antique silk rug, under the chandelier. She had come here because she needed to be alone. With me, she can be alone. I know how to give her the mental space she requires, even when we’re close to one another physically. When my son walked in, my head was resting on Claribel’s capacious ass. I was naked, as was she. My son looked at us and we looked back at him. He slammed the door on his way out. Claribel told me not to worry. She seemed to have no doubt the wedding would take place exactly as planned. I said I hoped she was right, and after she left, I meditated on love as a funnel-shaped object. I imagined refilling a small bottle of olive oil from a large can and how a funnel would make the job easier. I used to love my son so lavishly—I was a good mother. I hope I was.Now, except for the softly whistling kettle, it’s quiet. Claribel is no longer sobbing. She has run out of things to express regret about. If I were you, I say, I’d change out of that dress and into my going-away outfit. Claribel shakes her head at me in a disbelieving sort of way, but she goes out of the room and returns wearing a short, sleeveless dress. The tattoos that looked silly on a bride are now an adornment. All in all, Claribel looks better. Calmer. The tea kettle is still whistling. I say, Do you want chamomile or mint?
Interviews & Reviews

LOSS, GRIEF, SADNESS, MAGIC: An Interview with Bradley Sides

In Crocodile Tears Don’t Cause the Flood (Montag Press, 2024), Bradley Sides folds heavy themes like grief and loss into lighter elements like magic, resulting in an experimental short-story collection that feels relatable even at its most uncanny. Set very firmly in the South, each of Sides’ stories hums with an inventive playfulness that always complements, never overwhelms, the narrative. Sides was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his craft, his collection, and more. Elizabeth Crowder: What was your inspiration for Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood?Bradley Sides: The book had kind of a weird, unplanned beginning. My first collection, Those Fantastic Lives, released in October 2021, and right when it dropped, a new story I’d been working on titled “Do You Remember?” came out at Ghost Parachute. I liked what the story did, with a shark boy trying to process loss, loneliness, and grief. It was a cathartic kind of work. The world was falling apart, and it seemed like there was a kind of collective experience of these particular experiences and feelings that I could explore further. With the publication of “Do You Remember?,” I knew I’d started my new full cycle, without a break at all. And that cycle had a focus. So I wrote and wrote and wrote. The collection was ready in less than two years.EC: Grief, loss, and longing seem to be major themes at play here. And yet, there’s almost a playfulness to the way you imbue these stories with magic realism; a playfulness that extends to the experimental forms you use to tell said stories. For example, “Claire & Hank” tackles subjects like paternal neglect and orphanhood but also there’s a Pteranodon named Claire who sleeps indoors and goes for walks on a leash. Or “Nancy R. Melson’s State ELA Exam, Section 1: The Dead-Dead Monster” which is essentially a horror story in the form of a completed and graded test. This juxtaposition of heavier topics mixed with lighter elements creates a welcome dissonance that is as comforting as it is discomfiting. Was this an intentional dichotomy? BS: I’m so glad you picked up on the playfulness! It was intentional. I feel like it had to be there. I mean, these themes you mentioned are heavy, and reading without some fun honestly probably wouldn’t be all that enjoyable. I found that the experimental form and odd situational happenings were a way to include some playfulness—some lightness. Both had to be there for me, as the creator, and also for future readers. We’ve all got to escape darkness somehow…EC: How did you choose which stories to include? BS: I treat my collections the same way I imagine a musician puts together a record. It’s a long, meticulous process. Lots of let me try this one. No, now let me switch to this story instead. Most are from a two-year period because I was writing about the same connectors so closely. Outside of this new set, I have lots of stories, and I went through my favorites. If a story feels out of place, even if I love it, I cut it from the manuscript. One example is that I had “Remembrance Day” in my first book for the longest time, but I wound up removing it near the last editing cycle because it just didn’t fit thematically as tightly as I wanted it to. It was a hard decision because I love this story. I actually read it at my first public reading when Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood launched. But I’m so glad I cut it from Those Fantastic Lives because it’s absolutely perfectly placed in this new book. I also trust my gut. Hopefully that pays off. EC: If the tone of most of the other stories in this collection is Helvetica, “Dying at Allium Farm” is Comic Sans. There is a shift from sober to slapstick in this piece featuring a narrator who is a typical angsty teenager if that typical angsty teenager were also a vampire forced to work on their family’s garlic farm. Why do you think “Dying at Allium Farm” is such a good fit for the collection? BS: Haha! Perfect comparison there. So, I always had this story as a must in the book, and I never doubted the inclusion. It’s different, yeah, but it’s also fully engaged in the central themes of the book. I like to have one WILD story in my books—one that has been previously unpublished. It has to fit thematically, like I said of course, but I just love to hide a story inside that takes the expectation of what’s about to unfold and totally flips it. “Dying at Allium Farm,” while very much about grief and loss, makes me laugh, and I hope other readers find it to be a good, fun surprise, too. EC: I’m curious about your process for deciding how to structure this collection. How do you decide which pieces go in what order? BS: When I was getting my MFA, one of my writing mentors pointed out the space in which I end my stories. Many were either in the sky or at the edge of water. He suggested I give space between these stories with similar landings. I’d never thought about this kind of thing before, but I do now. I also think about tone and length. My ordering takes a long time, and it’s an exercise in balance. EC: “Nancy R. Melson’s State ELA Exam, Section 1: The Dead-Dead Monster” seems like it would be technically hard to create. You had to design a believable ELA exam and still stick the horror-story landing. I’ve never had a pie chart make me uneasy until now, so I’d say you did an excellent job. What was your thought process writing this story? Did you find it challenging?BS: Thank you! You know, Nancy’s story was one of the easiest ones to write. The draft came together without much trouble at all, and I just kind of went with my instincts. I wish I could’ve made it longer due to the amount of time I spent on the technical detailing, but it feels right with its length. I used to teach high school. For almost a decade, I dealt with constant state tests. Like many teachers, I struggled with the importance placed on them. I think I essentially personified my feelings of state test by creating the Dead-Dead Monster and the surrounding story. The grief! The grief!EC: Did you believe in monsters as a kid? How about now?BS: 100 percent to both! As a young person, I experienced sleep paralysis. That’s some scary stuff. For a while, there was a monster just out of my view, and I could hear it breathing. Or so I thought… I was also a kid with a big imagination. The dark offered possibilities for all kinds of creatures, and when you grow up on a farm like I did, there’s even more space in which to get carried away. To imagine possibilities. Now, well, I’m certain monsters exist. They might not be what I thought monsters were as a kid, but they are just as scary. Scarier even. Human monsters can be so much scarier than anything I could probably ever imagine. EC: What’s your favorite piece in the collection and why?BS: Gosh, it’s tough to say. If I’m honest, it depends on my mood, but right now I’m really into “The Guide to King George.” I like to read it aloud because I just love the voice of it. Ritchie is someone I still think about, and I rarely do that with characters in my work. Usually, once the stories are done, they are done. I also feel really proud of the story when I look at it from a technical perspective. The form is so cool. It had to be in a manual, I think, to work like it does. It’s also a very Bradley Sides kind of story. Loss, grief, sadness, magic, and a dash of hope, all put together in the South. For writers, it’s easy for us to be critical of our work. I’m trying to celebrate with this story—and this collection. I did something difficult, and I’m proud of the final product.
Interviews & Reviews

LOVE IS A SHITPOST FROM THE SOUL: A Profile of Cash Compson by K Hank Jost

“You ever waste much time with this guy?”Cash has removed from the bookshelf a tattered volume of Hunter S. Thompson. He holds it aloft with a smirk I will come increasingly to recognize as punctuation to a dry joke. The both of us are now newly in our thirties, young but fresh in our next decade, and our trip to the bookstore has largely been a coming to terms with all that we once read and held sacred. Kerouac. Bukowski. Thompson. Hemingway. All the etceterated, quintessential, sensitive but itchy-fisted guy-reads. The one, though, that we mutually hold in unshakeable esteem is Faulkner, blooming a brotherhood, a surprise in finding your counterpart sits on the same side of the great modernist divide as yourself. Had Cash been a Heming-bro, I don’t think we would have gotten on as well as we did. We both like a ramble. RE: Faulkner—: “What is it about him, do you think?”“I couldn’t tell you, man.” Cash says, flipping through a brittle-spined Absalom, Absalom!, “It’s just good. The best anyone’s ever done it…”I’m tickled to bits…Here’s the thing: Cash Compson is a Connecticut boy. It may seem, and certainly is, retrograde, especially coming from someone who gave undergrad a shot in Indiana only to move to NYC on young man’s gamble, but I grew up in Georgia—deep swamp and red clay Georgia—and I still carry with me many of the class-anxieties and regionalist biases that a backwoods, guns-for-Christmas upbringing will imprint on the softer parts of one’s soul. All to say, Connecticut doesn’t register much for me as a place folks I’d get on well with originate from, much less proudly hail as home. Regardless, a friendship formed fast and the day passed, honestly, too quick.I’d reached out to Cash about a week before to do an interview. Seeing as he’s close enough to the City, I figured best do it in person, make a day of it, see how deep we could get the thing going. Sweat-palmed and nervous in a way our mutual literary hero (and many of his characters) would surely understand, I met Cash out front of a coffee shop in the East Village to kick the thing off.Any anxiety I had toward meeting a stranger from a strange land was quickly quelled. Cash moves through interactions with all the humility one would expect from a poet. I’ve mentioned above the dryness of his humor—but, there’s more to his mannerisms. Though he claims to feel he gesticulates too wildly or meanders too widely in his discourse, I found nothing further from the truth. Cash speaks at a sure and pointed clip but is never one to fill dead air for the sake of its filling.  Perhaps I’d read too much into the title of his debut poetry collection, People Scare Me (published by House of Vlad), which occasioned this interview. I’d expected someone much haughtier or even brooding. My private reading of the collection ought to have prepared me for the generous soul with whom I was about to share the totality of a NYC St. Patrick’s Day…After the bookstore, we arrive at a bar in which I used to work—I’ve convinced the owner to open up early for us and lock us in so that Cash and I can speak uninterrupted. The green-clad masses peer in during our conversation, knock on the glass front, ask us in window-muffled shouts when the bar opens.I have one great burning question regarding the collection: “These are love poems, right?”“Oh yeah,” He says, grins.“But there’s, like, an arc to them.” I’m unsure in my questions, wary of possible misreadings. As a prose writer, my conception of poets—regrettable, and with apology to any who may be reading this…—is that they’re precious about their work.“What do you mean?”And here the fear confirmed—that I’ve overstepped, proposed some great hermeneutic architecture on a text meant to be opposite of whatever it is I am about to say. But I say it anyway, stuttering all through: “I mean, like, look, at the beginning there’s this idea of love all over the place, this consumptive, all-consuming, nearly destructive, eviscerative, notion that I don’t know: a turn-me-to-mush-put-me-in-a-bucket-and-carry-me-around-in-that-bucket-forever idea of love, but then by the end—I mean there’s that beautiful moment of the poet, the narrator, you or whoever, looking at his wife while she’s sleeping and… The idea of love changes over the course of the collection. You know what I mean?”“Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, listen,” Beer down, brow thought-twisted, “Where the book begins—to be totally honest, I started writing a lot of these poems in 2020, going into 2021, a relationship had ended, and I was living alone. It was still COVID times, and I felt very isolated and, yeah, there was this idea of love as this kind of intense, all-consuming thing—a toxicity that I’ve identified with a lot of relationships and loves over the years. Later on in the book it’s not that, it’s like actual real love that I found. The first chunk goes from somebody who’s very scared of everything, of people, of everything around, of myself—I don’t know if I identify it in the book, but I have bi-polar disorder, and that’s something that has shaped my life—and in that first chunk of the book there’s a lot of feeling unsafe, and then by the end we’re looking at a sense of safety, and nobody’s made me feel more safe that the woman I married last year, so… for me that’s the narrative push, the arc, that’s what I latch onto, it feels like the collection is telling that story…”Now we’re cooking: “For sure, but at the same time I don’t want to make it seem like the idea is that this collection comes to a milquetoast, middle-class, panacea point about love—the chaos remains in these poems. Love doesn’t serve to abate the chaos of life and mental illness, it doesn’t get rid of it.”“Yeah, no… I’m still myself… Falling in love is happening while all the rest is happening.”“One of the big things I noticed in the book is this wild, sometimes line-by-line, oscillation between the poet’s feeling very small and very large—the jump from the squished and smothered to this almost heroic or epic grandness…”“Sure thing. I mean, I’ll have a feeling or be in a mood of a certain way and I’ll have this thought of like, is this the bi-polar making me feels this way, am I having the beginnings of an episode, or am I just feeling life? And in the book there’s that constant toggling between the two, and honestly that’s just kinda something that for years I’ve felt in my life, for years I’ve wanted to make that go away, and I’ve just had to realize that that’s how I am. If we’re looking at one line or page versus the next—I mean, there’s a section of the book called Blowing My Brains Out on Your Foliage!! It’s all there! Honestly, the poems are just me writing down what’s going on and I think it all shows up there, it’s just a big pile of a lot of different things…”“But, how do you go about getting that stuff down? There’s so much life in this collection, real lived-life, true shit—what’s the process like for you? Are you setting time aside or—?” “When I was growing up I’d read about writers like Stephen King getting up and writing 10,000 words, I’d be like ‘Oh my God, I didn’t write 10,000 words today, I must be a loser!’, or reading about Toni Morrison who talks about getting up at the absolute crack of dawn—that all sounds great, and that’s awesome, but me…I’ve just constantly had a notebook with me since I was a teenager and I’d slip off to the bathroom or go somewhere and write a couple lines and revisit it later, or more ideally I’d sit down and write for three to five minutes and it’s there, you know, that feeling where it’s just coming out and you’re not really thinking at all, you’re just doing something—and then afterwards you do a lot of revisions and stuff like that. So, I’m just writing poems at random times and then going on the computer at home and editing them that way, and honestly once this collection got going it was just a word document with a lot of poems in it: I’d have more poems, put more poems in the document, and it would just be like a line or two that would start it. Long hand, occasionally typing on my phone—I get obsessive though, once something starts, I’m not moving until it’s done, obsessively returning… I’m glad this book is out in the world so I can stop fucking writing it… I haven’t heard from a lot of people who are like ‘These are brilliant love poems’ I’ve mostly heard that ‘wow, there’s a lot of fucked up shit in this book…’”But People Scare Me is, in fact and without a doubt, fundamentally a book of love poems. And they’re damn good love poems. The aforementioned arc toward that purity of care and fascination which defines true love aside, it’s the fact that the love survives within its environment of chaos, not only of mental illness but also the general anxieties that plague our generation here at the edge of apocalypse. This positioning has too often made writers of this generation ironic or flippant in their tone—trafficking so much in ‘a lot of fucked up shit,’ and the fucked-up-edness acting as the metric for their work’s value. Everything must be crazy, twisted, and fatalistic in its humor. What stands out about Compson’s collection, other than its clandestine centering of the arc of learning what love really means—and it is clandestine, covered over with all the internet’s baroque referentiality, irony, and shit-posting—, is his treatment of these millennial trappings, superseding the merely ‘fucked up.’If you’ll allow me a moment’s exegetic digression, there’s a few poems that stand-out most clearly to my reading wherein the indie-lit, internet poetry mode reaches a clinamen, twisting and breaking onto a path of sublimity:The first of these blasts its colors in the title: I Watch TV All Day: If Gilmore Girls Was Rebooted by HBO. The following several pages of verse reimagines the saccharine, no-stakes comfort watch with all the egregious grit we’ve come to expect from so-called ‘premium’ television—the imagery itself imbued with the purple, blue, and orange of Euphoria and A24’s ‘bisexual lighting.’ It’s a brilliant dig, a funny thought to spend some reading time with—but, it's masterfully underpinned with complex feelings beyond the joke’s wit. The central question is our relationship with media, particularly television, and what we expect it to tell us of the world we live in. Even an updated Gilmore would be as much the lie as the unremarkable innocence of the original—the amount of evil and venom Cash imagines in the gritified version is almost too much to bear, bounding into the hilarity of its spectacle only a few short stanzas in: ‘Richard Gilmore makeshis moneyfrom child laborand wears a monocleand Emily is nevermoreafter an uprisingof all her fired hired helpleaves her hung crookedfrom a chandelier in the roomwhere they once had drinksat Friday Night Dinners.’ In a poem reflecting on the practice of writing in the present day, Why I Am Not the Next Great American Novelist, Compson tackles again the question of whether or not things can ever be as they were—this time, though, without any nostalgia and a tad less venom. The question posed is one woven through much of the collection’s work, and perhaps the reason my reading became so hung up on the love poems—in that they build an argument for some forever-notion, some attempt at truth in the storm. It’s that anxiety over forever, over having missed out, over the words we grew up knowing the definitions of changing their definitions—the fear that there might not be any more great writers, not because nobody reads, but because the world won’t allow for a sustained moment of silence and calm, because no writing can get done anymore:‘He [Jonathan Franzen] does that. He isthe Great American Old Unfazed UnWoke UnBravenovelist whois a flash of ludditebrilliance and he does not say sorryeven when what we do nowis say sorry, a lot.’ And this sentiment reaches its highest expression in the closing poem of People Scare Me. I’ve half a mind to print the whole thing here.  It’s a perfect cap on the building gesture of the collection. Here, just listen a moment:‘So this is as good as writing into nothingness, vacancy,about you and the way smoke clingswhen the air is almost all ocean. I do itbecause we’re here.Hello, wind.Hello, Keats.Hello, Sexton. Vuong. Lowell. Emily.In 70 years we’ll be the same.Unremembered. Beauty-less and unnervedAt the end of us. I hope it’s a pasture.I hope I’m never alone.’ …In 70 years we’ll be the same…The collection’s end, expressing an increasingly common anxiety among millennial artists, myself included: That we’ve missed the opportunity to leave our art to the future, because there’s no future to have. The fatalism in this sentiment is one that every artist I know is currently fighting against. Some have cow-towed the certainty of extinction and history’s end by giving up the grind altogether, plowing headlong into games of clout and short-term ladder-climbing, or they’ve surrendered art completely and sat themselves in the dying stream of bourgeois aspiration, clambering at fake email jobs, bullshit startups, or the hollow promise of crypto-currency’s supposed and soon-to-be-seen supremacy—either way, all grabbing what little flotsam of economic security they can before the imminence of collapse becomes the immanence of regular catastrophe.Here too, in the fundament of love Cash has built his debut upon, lies the sweetening of this millennial bitterness: this arc of love, from selfish and destructive to selfless and constructive, is one that hinges upon the hope for things to come. ‘In 70 years we’ll be the same…’ We’ll still be in love. We’ll still be writing poems. We’ll still be celebrating the poems of those who inspired us to write poems. We’ll still be inspiring others to write poems. We’ll still be… Together…About a month after Cash and I spoke, had our rollick about town, and formed a friendship, KGB hosted the release party for People Scare Me. If the singe and cinder of nostalgia for a literary world that matters encapsulated in those few lines of his collection’s last poem could be prescribed a salve other than raw, naïve, dumb hope, a reading and party like this would surely be the first course of treatment of most medical professionals. A near-carnival of twitterati, NYC locals and travelers alike. Jillian Luft, Bud Smith, Lexi Kent-Monning, Danielle Chelosky, Emily Laura Costa, Kirsti Mackenzie, Catherine Spino, and, of course, Cash himself. That’s just the readers! In the audience that night, and spilling over into the bar downstairs for lack of seating in the upper room, were yet more indie-lit writers, people known mostly by their posts and publications in our little rambunctious internet rags. …In 70 years we’ll be the same…Brother Cash, we’re the same now! The Algonquin folks got nothing on the party that followed that night—whether it was the East Village spanning bar-crawl after the fact or the reading itself! This is the literary world now! The Beats ain’ shit! Big 5, take a hike. We spend an afternoon perusing the bookstore, nostalgic for days and movements dead long before our birth. And good, we learn from that stuff. We’d be nowhere what we are without Daddy Faulkner! But, damn, look at us go!We’re the same now: chasing something worth building a forever on, redefining love, smoking too many cigarettes, drinking the sun up, publishing in our generation’s versions of those lost mimeographs, zines, and reviews, partying with our peers, reading each other’s work.Goddamn right, ‘Hello, Keats!’ It’s nice to see you!

by Benjamin Niespodziany

Perfect bound | 100 pages
Paperback | Die-cut matte cover | 6×6″

Read a page before sleep and thou shalt dream insanely.

–Alex van Warmerdam
Director of Palme d’Or nominated film ‘Borgman’