Plur·al·ity Press interviews the Cringe-Worthy Collective on what it means to build a network, intimately engage in a workshopping process and start publishing DIY style. We laughed. We cried. We read a table full of chapbooks. Join the conversation below.
Shayna: So, we’re live! Misty you were telling me about your book, your chapbook. You were telling me it had a lot to do with the mother-daughter relationship and all of the idiosyncrasies and happenstances therein.
Misty: It’s interesting because I sort of sandwich the chapbook. It starts off with three poems that are sort of random. It has a lot to with relationships. The middle four are almost only about the mother-daughter relationship, and the last three are about romantic relationships. There is one in there, just to screw things up, about a big bathroom counter top. So, there is that, too. It is trying to figure out filling a void and intimacy, what you think is intimacy and sort of falling short on every endeavor. In some senses, it is being surprised and finding it where you least expect it.
S: Filling a void with intimacy? That reminds me of all the books on co-dependency. When you were crafting the book was it all from personal memory or were you researching things? Were you asking friends about it? What's the background?
M: Well, there is a lot of poems in it that I pull from my personal history, but there is a lot of fiction in there as my life is not always as exciting as my poetry is. Narrative fiction as, you know.
[Laughing from all parties.]
But there is a lot of made-up stuff as well. I do a bit of an amount of research for certain poems. If I want to find a certain image, I like to find exactly the words to describe it or what exactly [that image] has to do with anything really in my life. What are of the things connoted by a certain image? What are positive or negative images and how to play with them in my work?
S: Just to talk about the collective group for a bit. I am going to do that in and out to have you guys speak about the collectivity. What do you feel drew you guys together because you are a part of a huge, vast poetry community [here in Buffalo, NY] and [still] formed the Cringe-Worthy Collective? Is there a particular mission, manifesto, pull? Why are you guys attracted to one another and working with one another?
Nathan: We’re some sexy people.
S: Sexy beasts?
N: Yeah. I think that; we’re—they’re young. I think I’m young.
Julio: You are.
N: Sometimes I do not realize I am staring down the barrel of 40. I still feel like a kid. Like I have more in common with the kids I teach than I do with my own peers. I noticed, and I think we all noticed this: that there are not many young people in literary poetry, at least in our initial exploration into it, and we’re...
Shayna: So, you guys, are readers of one another’s work?
N: Yeah, organized. There is a lot of young kids that show up. You don’t see them again, and they show up again. I guess, we are trying to make poetry more accessible for a younger generation, for millennials, for younger people. I mean, there is the Gray Hair series in Buffalo.
S: There really is a series called Gray Hairs.
M: Yeah, there is.
S: I thought you were just saying, "The gray hairs".
J: No, there is.
N: We’re not making fun of that in any way. But we’re pointing to that as a reality that there is no—upon first investigation—legacy. Our elders are extremely talented, some of whom have become friends of mine. I have a lot of respect for Martha B. I have a lot of respect for Lynn, Joel.
J: John R.
N: Yeah, John in Rochester. There is a wealth of amazing, driven, talented, wonderful, really welcoming community. But, again, there didn’t seem to be a lot really younger people in their 20s, early 20s doing stuff.
J: Yeah, in this day and age, you have to pretty much do things on your own. You have to learn what you need to learn from the internet. Some people tend to want to do things themselves. I kind of see our group as being diversely talented. We bring [to the collective] skills that no one person totally has. We also have different perspectives and different ways we think. We’re human. We obviously have differences, but we all have the same interest in poetry. We are all bound to look at things from different glasses--especially with our name being Cringe-Worthy. We look to aim, well I love to aim for stuff that people are not saying. That is what these two [Nathan and Misty] are doing as well.
N: Julio’s poems are kind of a separate bunch than all of ours because his stuff sucker punches. He likes sucker punch poems.
J: Which is funny because I remember attending creative writing classes where the teacher would constantly remind me to not do that. Don’t do that last punch in the gut because it leaves the reader wanting something. For me, I want people to keep reading.
M: Well, I think that is a general, very frequently said thing. You don’t want to leave everything to the end because that sort of takes out some of the artistry of what you are doing. I mean, the way you do it is very artful. It’s funny, and it's sweet. It’s interesting. It’s not like, “Oh I am going to keep this secret.” And the only reason it is going to be poem worth reading is because, “Oh here is this secret at the very end.” Suspense, that is not the way your poems read, as if they are using that as a crutch. I guess that is what I am saying.
J: Mistral, your poetry tends to revolve around a lot of the research you do. Even when it is a personal poem, I can tell that you put a lot of thought into every line. For me, I tend to try to do simple because I don’t have as great, as vast a vocabulary as Nathan; where his words are just there. There are some lines that are just, “Ah.” I can’t wait til people start reading your new poems. They are amazing. I try to do things simple with my poetry. I try to do a natural tongue. I guess, it comes out easier for me and for people to relate to.
Nathan: His stuff sucker punches
S: So, you guys, are readers of one another’s work? That is part of your thing?
M: That is one of the huge parts, that is part of the creative [collective]. It is very difficult to find people you respect enough to critique your work. A lot of times you ask people, “Can you take a look at that?” And they tell you something, and you’re like “Uh, fuck you.” Or you are like, “Thank you very much. That is the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.”
J: “Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s great.” Oh, like there is nothing worse out there.
M: So it is wonderful to have two people to rely on. “Hey, guys, I wrote this. I don’t know whether this is good or not. What do you think?” We are always open to read drafts. We also see each other’s finished works. So if a critique is not listened to, it is not the end of the world because it is each other’s poems.
N: We serve as encouragement, inspiration, taskmaster to each other, creative consultant, emotional and spiritual support network and just friendship. It is challenging to find people that have similar interests, especially as the worlds gets to be all the screens between us. On the phone, the tablet, the computer—all the screens buried between all of us. It has gotten more challenging for me to find people who I connect with.
J: We see each other on a very regular basis.
S: How regularly do you see each other?
N: Well, because we are in the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair on the 9th and 10th of April, which is next week, week from today [Sunday, April 3rd, 2016], we will be packing up the car and readying to go there. We have been meeting almost every day because we are trying to have 600 books printed. Right now we probably have 300 books printed.
S: Are you printing from someone’s printer?
N: We are a kitchen table press. As you can see, there are four out of the six of our books [on the table]. You [Shayna] are familiar with my first book, "Beggar’s Book"; so you have seen that although it has a new cover now. The third edition, the third printing has a third cover. The first edition has one cover. The second edition has those stamped covers. And this one has a printed cover similar to it in the card stock.
S: [Reading one of the covers] “Bumblebee Petting Zoo”
N: This is our second chapbook.
Misty: We are always open to read drafts. We also see each other’s finished works.
J: This [the array of chapbooks on the table] is to show we are not leaving behind any of our previous work. We are also trying to make sure what we are learning tomorrow, today, goes onto make sure the work that we have done yesterday isn’t silent.
S: That’s the question, Julio, are all of your poems new for [your latest] book or is it incorporating the work of yesterday into the present moment? What was your process in “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” Tell me more about the book.
[Tune in the first week in May to find out Cringe-Worthy’s answer to the last question and hear Part 2 of their interview. For the second part of all Part I interviews, return the first week in May—as the blog finishes National Poetry Month off with added content on the intersection of poetry and visual arts]
Cringe-Worthy Collective Reads During the Interview. Listen In.
Shayna S. Israel
Blog Mission: In the spirit of becoming , to provide iterative thoughts toward a deepened understanding of and experience with the intersection of literary and visual arts.