Five On It: Alok Vaid-Menon

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Alok is a trans/national south asian writer, performer, and solidarity activist who has organized with racial, economic, and gender justice movements across the world. Their creative & political work grapples with questions of diaspora, trauma, race, desire, and politics. We met last year when the two of us were featured readers at Christopher Soto’s NYC Queer Open Mic at BGSQD. To say that I was blown away is an understatement: I felt like, you know in one of those 80’s movies where the camera zooms in on someone and the background gets all distorted and elliptical? Very clear and very disorienting at the same time? Full disclosure: I’m a crier. I was in tears. When I became the LGBTQ editor at Toegood poetry, Alok’s “brooklyn apartheid" was the first poem that came to mind. Their words/performance/being/strength/wit/etc. consistently mesmerize me, and they are one of the ppl who make me thankful to live and write in Brooklyn rn. As a staff member of the Audre Lorde Project (a grassroots organizing center for LGBT people of color) and 1/2 of the spoken word collaboration DARKMATTER, Alok is committed to building the collective power of young queer and trans people of color. To read more visit www.returnthegayze.com

1. What’s the last song you listened to?

2. What did you want to be when you were ten?

  • A fashion designer, and I would let everyone know it. Until there was that time that my sister’s friends started teasing me about it and said that I would eventually have to make women’s panties and that scared me so I changed career trajectories :/.

3. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

  • If you love something then give it away.

4. What’s the last thing you were obsessed with?

5. Give me some poems or poets you’ve been taken with, recently—

  • I’m loving the new QTPOC literary journal called NEPANTLA
    also cam awkward-rich will be one of my favorite spoken word poets always and 5ever

October is coming up Teebs! I’m still reading in a couple weeks for the Atlas Review like I posted about earlier, but Anna Kamerer will be replacing Niina Polari, as Niina will be reading for them in November. It’ll be at Local 61 bar in Brooklyn on Oct. 8.
ALSO! I just confirmed with the folks at Guernica that I’ll be reading for them on Oct. 23rd at McNally Jackson for the second of their Guernica Annual release parties!
And finally, I learned that a section from IRL will appear in the October issue of [PANK] magazine alongside audio of me reading the excerpt. Huzzah! High-res

October is coming up Teebs! I’m still reading in a couple weeks for the Atlas Review like I posted about earlier, but Anna Kamerer will be replacing Niina Polari, as Niina will be reading for them in November. It’ll be at Local 61 bar in Brooklyn on Oct. 8.

ALSO! I just confirmed with the folks at Guernica that I’ll be reading for them on Oct. 23rd at McNally Jackson for the second of their Guernica Annual release parties!

And finally, I learned that a section from IRL will appear in the October issue of [PANK] magazine alongside audio of me reading the excerpt. Huzzah!

"I’m proud to be different. It’s the best thing about me." – Kurt from Glee. I just read that quote and wanted to know if you thought it nailed the complexity of human experience? P.S - you seem really down to earth, like me. P.P.S - your writing makes me think you probably read bret easton ellis and listen to macklemore

Asked by Anonymous

Lauren “Anonymous” Wilkinson, I am not an usher but I will help you find your seat.

Five On It: Sean H. Doyle

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I literally love Sean H. Doyle [seanhdoyle.com] [seanhdoyle.tumblr.com] —we go back before we even met each other. His wife Theresa is one of my nearest/dearest, and has been since just after I moved to the city when I was like 18 or 19. It started out that she would cut my hair, but then I’d  just come to the salon and hang out, write, do work, we’d get lunch, and just chill. One of the things we always talked about was boys/love. I remember one day T said she met this guy, and if I’m remembering the quote correctly it went something like: “He’s been staying at my place so much I finally just asked him, when are you gonna start paying some of the bills?” So freaking romantique. Anyway that guy turned out to be Sean, and Sean turned out to be a freaking boss ass writer and one of the best and most genuine men in my life. I asked him to be one of the readers at the launch of my poetry app Absent Mindr earlier this year bc he is an absolute crowd-slayer, and it’s exciting to read with other writers who actually take the audience into account—give them something. A “performance.” His book, This Must Be the Place, is forthcoming in 2015 from Civil Coping Mechanisms. He co-hosts the Almost Live at Mellow Pages podcast for Volume 1 Brooklyn.

1. What’s the last song you listened to?

  • "Marrow," from Yob’s new album, Clearing the Path to Ascend. I like to zone out to songs that have scope and emotion, to let them take me somewhere other than were I am while listening, and this song covers all of it. Something beautiful about the way they sneak some major chords into the changes of such a slow-crawling beast of a song. This one has been on repeat a lot lately.

2. What did you want to be when you were ten?

  • Evel Knievel. I wanted to be fearless and jump over everything and crash through anything and come out the other side alive.

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3. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

  • It wasn’t given specifically to me, but this passage from The Hagakure is something I think about every single day and try to remember when situations arise that distract me from the life I want to be living —-“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”

4. What’s the last thing you were obsessed with?

  • The same thing I am always obsessed with: writing sentences that help me untie knots inside of myself to help me understand myself and the world I am living in.

5. Give me some poems or poets you’ve been taken with, recently—

  • Natalie Eilbert — Just. Damn. Read everything she has ever written. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
  • Joanna C. Valente — Her upcoming book of poems, Sirs & Madams, is lovely.
  • Matt Nelson — I keep going back to this —- http://shabbydollhouse.com/How-a-Scene-Changes-So-Fast —- and feeling so much.
  • Eduardo C. Corral — I saw him read last night at an Atlas Review event and I had to hang my head because his work made me cry and it was so fucking beautiful.
  • Carrie Lorig — Feels like reading secret code that speaks to DNA. Dive in here: http://carrieabigstick.tumblr.com/poems

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wilkes1:

BY JAMES WRIGHT

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Nature Poem zines have begun to snake their way into the natural habitats of peeps who asked for one—I still have some copies left, so if u want to read a long poem that includes combating stereotypes of NDN ppl, a sex proposal in a pizza parlor, and a lil Beyonce thrown in for good measure, send me a message or email heyteebs at gmail PEACE

Five On It: Sam Ross

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I first knew Sam Ross as a friend-of-a-friend: He and BFF Wilkes were both MFAers at Columbia, were in a couple of the same translation classes, and became close when they worked together in the main office as department fellows. A few months ago I was doing some poetry leapfrogging around the Internet and came across Sam’s “Time Expanding the Air Forcibly" in Hunger Mountain—my face went all @_@ and I sent Wilkes a subjectless all-caps email that just read HOLY SHIT SAM ROSS IS SUCH A FUCKING GOOD WRITER. So of course I had to embarrass myself in front of him at a party and gush, which lead to a discussion about Robert Graves and Mariah Carey, which lead to me being able to happily call Sam my friend, and not just Wilkes’s friend lol. I put his poem in my fifth poetry mixtape, and the rest is history. Sam Ross’s poems have appeared in Tin House, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Guernica, and other journals. He is co-editor of Circumference, poetry in translation.

1. What’s the last song you listened to?

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2. What did you want to be when you were ten?

  • Large animal vet

3. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

  • Put it in a drawer

4. What’s the last thing you were obsessed with?

  • Herve Guibert’s Mausoleum of Lovers, beautifully published by Nightboat Books. Guibert was a French photographer, critic, journalist, etc. who brought greater attention to AIDS in France in the early 90s when he published a novel about Foucault called To The Friend Who Did Not Save My Life. Mausoleum of Lovers is a collected volume of his journals from 1976-1991, translated from French by Nathanaël. It’s filthy, funny, beautiful, deprecating, French. Wayne Koestenbaum wrote about Guibert in an essay at Book Forum.

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5. Give me some poems or poets you’ve been taken with, recently—