Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Olive Farmer by Fawzy Zablah

Monday, January 14, 2019

An Interview with Giacomo Pope, Founder of Neutral Spaces

Give me a little bio of yourself and how you started writing and doing music.

Little Bio: Recently Giacomo has been writing poems and releasing spoken word music. When not doing those things, he is writing his thesis on black holes and running Neutral Spaces.

The spoken word music started with a love of Adam Gnade’s “Run Hide Retreat Surrender” and a little later Listener’s “Wooden Heart”. For years I was writing different types of music, generally always with my two best friends Tom and Finn. It was only in the past couple years I tried my hand at the spoken word music itself. I sent Sam a long-shot email asking whether he’d be up for it and I ended up with an inbox full with recordings from the whole of “Your Glass Head Against the Brick Parade of Now Whats”.

I totally fell in love with the process of listening, responding and creating around the world of Sam’s poems. I spent weekends sat with Finn in the little room in my house recording the EP. Some of my happiest memories are from when Finn and I lined everything up and the tracks seemed to just burst with life.

A little bit after, while still writing the EP with Sam I approached Zoë (https://twitter.com/chlamydiot666) after listening to her read. I loved the melody in her voice and a few months back we finally released that EP as well.

Approached another author which I’m really excited about - but I’ve learnt not to talk big about things until they’re finished.

How did you get the idea for Neutral Spaces? What is your ultimate goal with the project?

When I first noticed your tweets online regarding Neutral Spaces I thought it was a wonderful idea, specially the non-profit aspect kind of reminded me of Wikipedia.

I also liked the idea of an online encyclopedia of contemporary writers with links to all their work.

As a writer I do want to thank you for this. I enjoy the community aspect of it, because you get to discover other people’s work.

The idea wasn't really a "cooked" idea. The whole process has been really impulsive and has been edited/moulded as it's got more attention. I think the seed for the site came from a few things.

One was a sadness that came from the ugliness of “Black Friday” and Christmas spending. I was getting hundreds of emails a day telling me to buy shit. It fucking sucked. On top of that, I was trying to explore people’s work and I’d end up on a wordpress site, filled with ads and it just bummed me out to see my friends using such shitty platforms.

Another inspiration came from a Tweet Elle Nash made about how after Tumblr started banning porn, she wanted to move her site. It struck me that writers were giving up control of their work and that’s total bullshit.

I guess all those things together ended up in me wanting to carve out a space without any of that. There’s no “writer of the week” or “buy this specific book” it’s just a big alphabetical list filled with art. I like that.

It feels really good to be able to use my nerdy side to champion my friends.

As a result, there’s no ultimate goal. The project is bigger than I ever thought it would be, which is incredible.

I have a tumblr and I got it because I didn’t really have anything else except for my lit blog: mi patria Es la literatura.

I have friends that tell me I need to get a “professional” website but I’m not really to into that much self promotion.

When I saw your offer on twitter I liked the idea. It was very earnest and kind of you to offer yourself to help writers collect all their work in one place.

How did you run into Sam Pink’s work?

Are you a fan of past spoken words albums like Kerouac with Steve Allen? Poetry for the Bear Generation?

I think the subject of self promotion is really difficult. I’ve always struggled with finding a balance between wanting to shout about the work I’m proud of and not wanting to be too-ego or too boring when it comes to my presence on social media and self-promotion.

I still don’t have the answers.

In fact, Neutral Spaces was a way for me to deal with my latest EP release. I was spending so much energy trying to promote my music, this was a nice way to distract myself. It was an extension of my “every time you want to tweet to get attention about yourself, write a tweet promoting art that you love” mantra that I’ve been working with recently. I think it’s helping.

I can’t remember how I found Sam’s work. A long time ago I somehow found Nosferatu (http://www.bearparade.com/nosferatu/) by Noah. I just remember reading it over and over. I hadn’t read anything like it before. Bearparade is still up there with my favourite websites of all time. I think I found Sam through Noah and maybe bear parade was through Vice? I dunno.

Anyway, I first really got into Sam's writing when I was travelling through the states. I managed to get hold of Rontel, Person and I am going to clone myself… at Powell's as I passed through Portland. I remember the books had this massive affect on me. My internal voice changed and the whole world felt different. Sam's way of writing about the world made helped me understand it better. I really think he's up there with the best of all time.
I’m mainly into more punk spoken word than the Beat stuff, but I wanna support it all. Poetry and Music should be friends

I remember Nosferatu!

I always felt that there’s a strong connection between music and the written word.

There’s music in poems and in novels. There musicality in a clean page of prose.

Was your first love music ?

What was your musical education like?

For example — I was born in El Salvador and I remember my brother collected records and i still remember some of them: Iron Maiden: Kill Em

All, The Tom Tom Club, Michael
Jackson: Thriller and Kiss: Dynasty.

When I moved to the USA as a kid I was into hair bands and then got really obsessed with the blues: people like Son House, Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Then I saw the Doors movie and after hearing the Velvet Underground in that Factory scene - I just became obsessed with Lou Reed and the VU which I listen to this day. Eventually i got into rap and techno and other alternative acts.

Also, how has music influenced your own poetry and vice versa?

Yeah, it was music first. When I was younger I found reading hard. I could never focus on books, it wasn’t until I was at university that I really got into reading. Poetry was even harder. School made me think it was just writing with extra rules. Counting syllables or finding rhyming words always seemed like a strange way to try and express yourself.

Music ed. wise I learnt guitar after I got my cousin’s old guitar. I played pretty obsessively for a while and after by GCSEs (16-17 years old) I went to art school to study music. I ended up dropping out after a year though and since turning 18 everything has been DIY.

Musician wise I feel overwhelmed trying to talk about all of the influences I’ve had.

Recently my partner and I went to a Karaoke bar to celebrate her birthday. They [her & her friends] did Earth Song. It triggered a memory of me stood in my Dad’s work, watching the music video and crying.

Lou Reed is amazing. Totally with you on that. Techno is a funny one, because recently I’ve been really getting into it. Acts like “Giant Swan”, “I hate Models” or the older electronic stuff like “Burials” are some of my most listened to albums now. I used to work in a pub / bar and the owner would always tell me I’d stop listening to metal one day and that I’d love techno. I used to just dismiss him. Sorry Dan.

Speaking of, have you listened to the Gil Scott Heron remix by Jamie XX? That’s a really cool piece of spoken word music.

As for me, I dunno how music and my poetry are related really. Sometimes people read it and say it’s musical. Other people say that it’s obvious I’m a mathematician from my poems instead. I don’t know what that means. I think maybe people like to say these things after they find out I do music or maths as a way to try and express that they understand me better.

I have not heard the Gil Scott Heron remix but I will be looking into it.

I did listen to the Gil Scott Heron track “Who Will Survive in America” In Kanye’s MBDTF and I looked up some of his stuff on YouTube.

I really need to listen to more spoken word stuff. I haven’t listened too much. Except for the Beat stuff I find on Spotify.

So you’re a mathematician? Majoring in mathematics?

I hated math in elementary school and in community college I had to take remedial classes and I just didn’t click with it until I met a teacher in college that had such a passion for it that it made me look at it in another way.

He was a Cuban refugee, former MIG fighter pilot and even spoke Russian. I took one remedial class with him but sometimes I wonder if I would had him in grade school how different my life would be because with my disdain for math, my love for writing and books grew.

But now when I write stories or novels, I try to look at it as a math problem that only I can find the answer to. Many times, I find that a lot of the issues in a story or novel or whatever can be solved by fleshing out the symmetry of a piece.

i hope you enjoy it. That LP is one of my favs.

I’m doing a PhD in theoretical physics. So it’s a bit of maths & a bit of physics.

I think that’s true with all teaching (maybe maths more so). A good teacher shows you the joy in learning about the subject. Maths suffers twice as hard from the harshness of it being right / wrong. Teachers can really destroy a student’s self confidence by not encouraging growth. A lot of people are left behind by bad teachers and left feeling alienated or stupid by the subject.

I like the sound of using problem solving for your work. That seems nice.

I guess for me the writing is an escape from analytical thought. A place where I don’t have to be so strict. A lot of the contemporary poets I love are writing poems that seem super charged with emotional truths but leave all other rules aside. I think that is powerful.

Who are some of the contemporary poets that you’re reading now?

Any novels/poetry books that you reread every year or keep coming back to?

Some UK based poets who I want to shout about are Jack Underwood, Emily Berry, Sophie Collins, Rebecca Perry and Sophie Robinson. I recommend losing yourself in their work. I hope that I can introduce some of my American friends to these people by mentioning them now.

Cristine Brache’s recent book tore my heart out. It’s wonderful.

When I visited new york last month I picked up some stuff at random and discovered Amy Lawless, Katie Fuller and Emily Skillings. I was really impressed and inspired by those.

Noah’s Nature Documentary and Shy Watson’s Cheap yellow are two of my favourite poetry books I read last year. I’ve gone back to those again and again. In particular “I cant help you, dad” by Noah. That poem made me realise some stuff I was trying to ignore.

I talk about how much I love Sam’s writing all the time, but I can’t not mention him. I think I’ve been more inspired to create in all forms by Sam than anyone else.

Richard Silken’s “crush” is another poetry book I carry around with me a lot. I find it really inspiring. I don’t actually know how old that is, maybe it’s not “contemporary”.

Non-poetry wise the work I go back to most is the work Édouard Levé. Every time I go back to his work I feel like electricity runs through my blood.

Another writer who I feel like I can’t learn enough from is Markson. There’s always more juice from his fruits. Both in the context of the content of his writing as well as the form.

Eimear McBride has a book called “a girl is a half formed thing”. It feels like reading someone who has perfected the ability to use and manipulate language. I open that book and just dive in when I want to remember there’s always more rules to break.
Stephan Dixon’s “His Wife Leaves Him” is for me the ultimate book of consciousness. Stunning.

That’s probably too much isn’t it. I’ll just stop typing now.

Oh shit. No.

Elizabeth Ellen’s poetry book last year needs to be added to the top books.

Holy shit I love her work.

Person/a changed my life.

Fuck! Add that in. Can’t miss out EE!!!

You mentioned a lot of poets I’m not familiar with.

I am taking notes and will be googling names.

On a side note, I just received your e-mail regarding the Neutral Spaces project http://neutralspaces.co/ and I’m planning to contribute my part to it soon.

This is a great idea! The Miami Herald used to have a Sunday Magazine called the Tropic that serialized a short novel composed of thirteen chapters written by different writers. Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard each wrote a chapter.

In a short period of time I’ve already noticed writers taking part in the Neutral Spaces are already discovering other writers and sharing links and talking to new people. Everybody is checking out each other’s work and discovering stuff that was published old and new pieces.

What is your dream for the future of this project ?

I hope you enjoy the UK poets. They’re really talented writers.

I’m glad you like the project. I have no idea how the stream will go. Whether people will like it or not or when I decide it’s “finished”. I guess I’ll just wait and see.

Someone earlier described it as a literary exquisite corpse. I like that.

Yeah!! People finding new writers through the site is so beautiful. I love that. Makes me so happy to know that the site is clean and simple enough that people feel a desire to explore.

The lucky dip is popular too. That’s cool.

I don’t have a solid dream future. I want to be able to help as many people as I can. So a short term goal is just to keep producing interesting ideas and projects to try and reach new people.

I want Neutral Spaces to be a hub for emerging authors. Something that people grow out of. A place where people can place their work when they’re still finding their way.

Maybe I’ll have a good idea one morning and a true dream will appear. For now I just want to help. To be a support for a scene of authors who I love and respect.