Anis Mojgani, 1001 Interviews No. 11

Anis Mojgani is a two time National Poetry Slam Champion, winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, and multiple-time TEDx Speaker. He has been awarded residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, AIR Serenbe, and the Oregon Literary Arts Writers-In-The-Schools program. Anis has performed at numerous universities, festivals, and venues around the globe and has performed for audiences as varied as the House of Blues and the United Nations. His work has appeared on HBO, NPR, and in the pages of such journals as Rattle, Forklift Ohio, Paper Darts, and Thrush.

Pulling inspiration from his Black and Iranian heritage, his childhood memories, his worldview, love, and existence, Anis takes seemingly commonplace subject matter and sculpts inspiration from them. Weaving dream-like tales that dip into imaginative imagery, Anis’s poems make the ordinary almost surreal and, through jolts of wide-eyed writing and striking honesty, make that which is fantastical remarkably relatable. Both innocent and heartbreaking, introspective and curious, the humanity his work carries causes listeners to remember and experience a childhood that is not their own but feels like it was.

A founding member of the no longer touring Poetry Revival, Anis is also the author of three poetry collections, all published by Write Bloody Publishing:Songs From Under the River, The Feather Room, Over the Anvil We Stretch. A visual artist as well, his latest book, The Pocketknife Bible, is a fully illustrated poetry-novella. Originally from New Orleans, Anis lives in Oregon. He is represented by Blue Flower Arts.

Connor Miller and Anis Mojgani met at Courier Coffee.

Connor Miller

Pleasure to meet you in person.

Anis Mojgani

Pleasure to meet you too.

CM

Tell me a little about your life in the past couple years.

AM

Past couple years, ah. The past couple years have been fucking crazy and shitty.

CM

Why is that?

AM

I had moved from Portland five years ago to be with a lady that I ended up marrying and it was good for a bit and then the past few years it just got crazy and pretty deceitful and abusive and it was just a really, has been a very strange couple years. Coming out of that marriage and dealing with a lot of just like the drama and crap that happened during it, and now sort of like to… not necessarily like exit it, but you know, move forward, move into the next chapter, find positive ways to heal. So, I mean, the past couple years like, last year I was still in Austin and was just kind of like dealing with that while working on this book, on Pocketknife Bible. And had been working on that off and on for about like a year and a half. But it’s incarnation came into being largely over a period of maybe a month or so. Everything before that had been a very different type of book and it was like the same, a number of the same themes and ideas but… it was still a book of poetry. And then it became something that was different from that. Then moved up here to Portland in the fall. Found myself… I lived here previously for six, seven years. Spent some time up here last year, I realized that I like the person that I am in Portland, and I was not liking the person I was in Austin. Just felt very… little, very scared, very angry, very small. Worthless. Just felt trapped there. And being in Portland was like, oh, I’m around my largest group of close friends, I’m in a city that is so far removed from the life that I’ve had over the last five years, and… I just like this town. So moved back up here in the fall and I’ve been in and out like on the road somewhat over the last (since being here) over the last eight months. Doing shows and kind of trying to situate getting back at home here. February spent like a month outside of Georgia doing this residency where I was just working on children’s picture books. Then came home, went to New Zealand to do some shows out there for two and a half weeks. Came back home and basically just planning to just kind of draw and write and hopefully camp and swim for the next three months. And just kick it here.

CM

Yeah you’re in the right place to kick it.

AM

Exactly.

CM

Excellent. So how do you like Portland in comparison to other places you’ve lived?

AM

It’s very different from when I first moved here. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s like… when I compare it to other cities it’s… there’s a lot of different… versions of it that have been put together to build the version that’s like in my head and in my heart. One of the things that I like about… or… you know… not one of the things I like about it because sometimes it’s also challenging, is just that Portland is a city that is… it’s very easy to live here, or at least it has been in the past and that like, a lot of the things, when one is in a progressive place of mind, there’s a lot of things in the city that you don’t have to… I remember like years ago when I lived here, I’d go home to visit my folks in New Orleans and they would have recycling because they specifically paid for it, it wasn’t like this thing that was everywhere. And up here it was like this thing that you just don’t worry about, you know? So like things of that nature. The public transit system here is (comparatively to a lot of other places) really really good. It can be… It’s definitely a weird city to live in, particularly as a person of color, ‘cause it’s a city that strives to be… to be present with what that entails, in regards to like race relations. But the whole state and the city has like problematic stuff with its history. And I think it’s a history that like a lot of people don’t recognize or aren’t familiar with. And so there’s I think particularly in that realm there’s a lot of blinders on. Like I was never so cognizant of the shade of my skin until I lived in Portland. And it wasn’t much that I was experiencing like things happening to me, I wasn’t experiencing bigotry or racism but was just so cognizant like “oh… “ I remember years ago it suddenly striking me. I was walking around the Pearl and then all of the sudden I was just like “I’m maybe the only person of color for like a mile radius from me?” I don’t know. And I think it’s similar to that thing, about how it’s just very easy to live in Portland. So there’s this… not this belief that it’s this utopia, but it’s a really great city and I think folks who love Portland really love Portland, and it can sometimes be very difficult for individuals in that place to kind of like recognize “Oh there are problems,” like LARGE problems in this city, like ones that aren’t even just ones of race. It’s crazy. Like when I lived here before, it’s crazy to me that when one of my roommates, he had a niece and nephew and they would come stay at our house every Friday for like two months or something and that was because the schools were not open on Friday because they didn’t have the money to have them be open on Fridays in November. But the city built this giant fucking stadium over there! And it’s like… Portland has always had this, I don’t know, I’m sort of like… I’m sometimes dumfounded at it being what I feel is probably a very rich city still mismanaging money in certain arenas. I mean like the housing situation right now is like… like it should not be like this. And it should not be like this [A.] because there’s been housing crises here for a really long time, it just hasn’t affected middle-class white folks that are currently moving here, or middle class white folks that have lived here for the past ten years. But there’s been a housing situation for a really long time, for communities of color that have been displaced, and communities of lower income that have been and are continuously being displaced. So then there’s that element but then also that just like it’s a city that should be… trying to rectify those problems when it’s a city that is regarded and I think perpetuates its character as being like “a progressive, liberal city” and in some ways it very much is and in other ways it’s sort of like, yo, why is there like… I’m not against putting in new houses but like WHY is there a GIANT fucking twenty, thirty story high rise on the other side of the river? Just sitting there. There is no reason for it to be right there. There’s other ways to go about doing it, and ways of protecting people and renters rights… but I’m going off on a tangent. Particularly because that’s not something that’s unique to Portland! That’s happening in like every metropolitan city in this country right now. The things that I love about Portland is that it’s really easy for me to live the life that I like living. I am able to bike or walk everywhere. I’m able to eat really delicious food. I’m able to find support for the artistic endeavors that I choose to be doing. And there’s like, places for growth in this city, both me as a person, my communities and the city itself. And like… I hadn’t really thought about that until it fell out of my mouth just now. I think that that’s an important thing for me at least to be in a city that there’s ways for it to grow, that it’s not stagnant.

CM

And established.

AM

Yeah. And I love the land! I love the land in the northwest. When I came out here… 14 years ago, I was like wow this is… Like I love the land and the south where I’m from but this also so completely different than anything that I grew up with and it’s just really beautiful out here. Really beautiful and I fell in love with it.

CM

You mentioned artistically you have stuff to do, you have a community. What kind of artistic stuff are you working on?

AM

Right now I’m in this weird place of trying to figure that out. One level is that I’ve been trying to figure that out for… been in this kind of transitional thing for the past few years of feeling like I need and want to be doing something different than what I primarily do. And what I primarily do is write poems and perform them. I’m not against that, I want to… I want to find… explore what is the relationship of Anis on a stage with an audience and things that he’s created and whether that is still the same thing that I’m doing but with very different type of work, whether that’s like with a musical element, whether that’s like… a lot more performative art type avenue… and so that’s something that’s been kinda spinning around for a bit. And then also partially being in a new place and coming off of a project that I’ve been working on for a while. Trying to still get my bearings I think. But I’m really interested in focusing on and zeroing in on picture books for children right now. That’s what I’m really geeked to be working on. That’s one thing. And I’m also kinda like curious about doing stuff here in Portland. Like when I left…. It’s nice coming back to Portland at this time in my life and my career. I feel like i’ve established certain elements of that. And that certain… and that this city has also changed and grown in a manner that venues or organizers that I knew previously, like, I’m feasibly able to put into effect things I’ve might not been able to put into effect five years ago, six years ago. And I’m curious as to like exploring that. You know like again, whether that is a bit more performative based or like with music involved. So you know I’m hoping that’s what this summer is basically here for. To kinda sorta like explore and discover.

CM

Any favorite picture books?

AM

Aw, there’s so many. I mean like, a lot of the classic stuff like a lot of Maurice Sendak, I really loved “Sign on Rosie’s Door” by him. Erza Keats stuff like “Snowy Day” and “Whistle for Willie”.

CM

What draws you to them?

AM

I don’t know, like. I mean like… there’s a few things like one is…. It’s definitely like an inherent part to, I think, my make-up. For the larger part of my young childhood, my mom had a children’s bookstore. And so a fair amount of my childhood was just spent there amongst those books. So there’s that element but I love the art and finding the ways to bridge word with picture and where like… sort of like with poetry how… I think it’s really important in poems to not say everything. To leave emptiness there. It allows readers and listeners to fill in those gaps themselves and then it becomes something bigger than what I alone could have made and it becomes a participatory art form. As soon as someone is participating in an art form that they weren’t the person that made it, it becomes that much more engaging and picture books I think are very much similar, you know, that they are… allowing for emptiness in art to be filled with words and allowing for emptiness in words to be filled with pictures and then allowing the individual who’s looking at them to bridge those connections together, and fill in that space between them. You know, like, the mortar between these two different shaped bricks. I love that. And I’m really fascinated by childhood, in a way that I think… as an individual like for whatever reason it’s something that continuously surfaces in my own work, but also just like as a society I think that childhood is something that is not something that we spend a lot of time trying to understand, our relationship to it, and really like the size and scope of what it is. I think it’s really important to have… you know I know for me it was extremely important and integral to who I am, being able to have literature that spoke to me at a young age. And so like having literature that speaks to children at a young age, and good literature, and literature that, you know, rewards them and honors them and respects them while also pushing them up and pushing them further and expanding their imagaination is all things that I think is really really fascinating. So like I love…. I love going to Powell’s and going to the picture book section and finding stuff like… there’s this new one out, “The Fox and The Star” that’s really beautiful.

CM

Oh yeah, I’ve seen that one.

AM

And it’s such a very different type of book and it’s like I want more books like that existing in the world for children. I think Jon Klassen is… I’m blown away by him.

CM

He’s so good.

AM

He’s is so good! And also Mac Barnett, who has written some of his stuff… he’s such a fantastic writer. He really is a fantastic children’s book writer.

CM

Yeah, those are awesome. What books do you have on your nightstand right now?

AM

Too many [laughs]. I’m trying to get better with reading these days, because I feel like… It’s always been like an ebb and flow since I got older of reading and not reading… a lot less reading. It’s hard for me to like, go the distance with the book these days. Because I have a bunch of books, I’m like, trying to get better with reading. On my bookshelf, kinda close to my bed I have all these books. I’m like, alright, these are books I own that I just have not read so I need to like start making my way through them. But like currently, I’m finishing this book called “Lovecraft Country”.

CM

Yeah, I’ve seen that around.

AM

Which I’ve really enjoyed. It uses the reality of what was happening in the black communities during Jim Crow era, with all these very… with a lot of different stuff that they were dealing with, and uses that as the background as… not just background but kinda like integral to what this story is, tells this very kind of like horror and fantastical story, but like it’s very much rooted and situated in the reality of Jim Crow. It’s a pretty interesting book. So I’m finishing up that, I’m almost done. Also reading this book that my Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz recommended to me called “The Happiness Project,” which is about this woman who decided to devote about a year to just like… very much concentrating on what are the things that would make her happy. So assigning each month a certain thing to focus on and then contributing stuff to support that endeavor. And so the book is just sorta like a catalogue of her year. So I’m not too far into that but, i’m reading that. The things to approach on the list… some… I haven’t started yet… some French crime book, “Fatale”. Um… I’m really excited, I want to read this book called “The Famished Road” I think by Ben Okri. And then poetry-wise I have Ocean Vuoung’s book which I got a few weeks ago, read the start of it. There’s another book of poetry that I’m reading right now… what is it, what is it… I can’t remember. So perhaps I haven’t started it. But yes so that’s… I guess that’s what’s on my nightstand.

CM

Excellent. Tell me about your creative friends in Portland. Your community.

AM

Word. My community. I don’t know, I haven’t found my way deep into the community since moving back. But I definitely have like my people. I think it’s a lot smaller which at times is like, something I really like and at times I definitely want to feel like I’m part of a larger community. I definitely feel part of like… I love Literary Arts and… I love what they do and I love that they invite me to particpate and contribute to certain things. And I would like to become a bit more entrenched in… I don’t wanna see them as a community since they are an organization but I definitely want to see the ways in which that I can be a part of some of the community endeavors that they contribute to. I feel aligned with the poetry slam community here in town, but at the same time not. Like I’ve gone to the slam twice. It’s just not really on my radar to go. But i’m friends with a number of folks within that community. I’m trying to find my way a bit more into the…. There’s a Facebook group that I haven’t really participated in yet, “Creatives of Color”, which is basically all about having that conversation and community as to what it means to be people of color who are creative in a city like Portland. But, you know, more my community, I think is just my circle of friends, and most of them are artists of some sort. So like, my closest friends up here all moved up here from school together. And then I joined them. Like we all went to college together many moons ago. And they don’t do like…. Some of them keep their… it was an artist’s school we all went to, and so like some of them keep their creative mojo present, some of them not so much. But I think that’s been the case for a bit and it’s starting to catch up with them. In that like, they’re feeling “Ahhh, I really want to be making stuff,” so it’s actually a pretty exciting time to be moving back to Portland and to be with these folks that are really inspiring for me. My friend Matt the other day- he draws comics. And he’s been drawing them… he got like, i don’t know… just on the workhorse of it like a few years ago and has been pushing hard on that which is really awesome. But he was talking the other day about me and him and a couple other of our friends Chris and Ted… doing sort of like a mini-comic anthology. And me and my friends Chris and Ted… I’ve known them for a while and they’re really fantastic artists and so it’s… they’re not… they don’t have the luxury of being a professional artist. It’s something that they have to make time for and sometimes it goes away and so… a big part of the community is just trying to kinda like…

CM

Find time.

AM

Find time, and be there for them if they need it. And I live with like a bunch of poets. I live with Mindy Nettifee and Brian S Ellis, Stephen Michael Meads, so it’s nice having people that speak the same language in the same house. Some of them I’ve known… all of them probably for nearing on a decade. I felt like that wasn’t a very definitive answer to like “my community of people.” Brian has been doing stuff with Dangerous Writers for the last like, maybe almost a year. Lately they’ve been gathering sometimes at our house. So like, that’s another area I’m, interested in maybe sitting in on and maybe having the opportunity to participate in with regards to kinda like delving and exploring a different type of writing than what I primarily do, prose and fiction and whatnot.

CM

There’s a lot comics going on here. And I know you went to school for comics.

AM

Yeah it’s something that has returned somewhat. I’m really trying to… with Pocketknife, one of the challenges was doing illustrations when that wasn’t something that I had had a consistent relationship with for a really long time. I been hopeful that to push myself, to doing that, helps build that consistency. That’s been the hardest struggle, that like over the last more than a decade my focus has just been pretty much 90 percent writing poetry and performing it. And so like I’ve maintained a loose relationship with art. And comics has always been challenging for me. Like even though it’s what I studied, and I studied because I fuckin’ loved it, and I still love comics I think they’re like a really incredible and amazing artform. But it’s also really… it was the hardest thing for me to do. The way that my process works, it’s like really hard for me to kind of like stay on top of doing something for an extended period of time all the way to its finished. You know like with poems, not that I might – there are some poems that i’ll work on for a very long time. But like I can get the entire poem out on the paper, and then like play with it, you know? And it really does feel like a tangible concrete thing. I can’t do that with a comic book. That’s something that I have realized over the past few years and so with… there’s been a desire to explore different stories and ideas through the comics medium, more so as of late. And trying to explore the different ways that I can do that in conjunction with my process of creativity without trying to bend my creativity to be something else. So there’s been some stuff that I’ve drawn out and sketched out and doodled out over the past couple years. I definitely feel it returning. Hopefully I can like, seriously ride the horse instead of like “hey horse, heyaaa, just pet you a little bit, maybe run a little next to you…” [laughs]. But yeah. And it’s also I think it’s a really exciting time for something like comics right now because like the arena of it has expanded so much out with regards to what folks are doing and the folks that are reading it. And there’s so many ways to get it to people, whether it’s online or with how much more affordable printing now is. So it’s an exciting time, I think, to be drawing comics.

CM

What are your top five today?

AM

Top five today… let’s see, what am I reading right now? Um… Lately it’s been difficult with being on the road. There’s this really great book that I’ve enjoyed called “Wit’s End” that’s sort of like a Wind in the Willows meets War of the Worlds. It’s like British animals wearing vests and living in villages and then these War of the Worlds type alien creatures come out of the sky, it’s pretty sweet. I really enjoyed Paper Girls. Saga I think is awesome but I’m like really far behind on it. Not so far behind on it. I just read volume one of Rat Queens and I really enjoyed that. I love Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips I think that’s such a great book. I wish there was a hundred of them, and I could sit in my bed and just read them. I really enjoy that book a lot. I don’t know. Often it will be sort of like either… if there’s like a series run… I really enjoyed Hawkeye when it was coming out, really much so. And it was funny ‘cause it was like… I found myself reading mostly superhero books. And that wasn’t something…. That hadn’t been the case in a really long time but I was like… all my regular books were like mainstream superhero books. Generally it’s kinda like whatever sort of strikes my fancy. Oh, Deadly Class is something that I read on the regular. I really like Daniel Clowes. There’s this cartoonist, Michael DeForge, he’s pretty badass. Not all of his stuff is necessarily enjoyable. Some of it’s really rad but it’s like… it’s also like really grotesque at times. I don’t know, it’s just- but it’s like really inspiring because all the work is so different than the other work that he’s doing. You’ll flip through a book of his and they’ll be like five stories and all of them are completely different visually, tonality, the type of story. And he just pumps it out. It’s really inspiring.

CM

Very cool. Always interested in what people are reading.

AM

What are you reading right now?

CM

Aw man, I just finished A Little Life.

AM

I forgot, that’s actually on my agenda! When I was in Brooklyn, my friend Angel Nafis was like, “Yo. What we’re doing right now, we’re gonna go buy you A Little Life,” I was like “I don’t know, man, like… I don’t know if I can handle-” and she was like. “Yo. It’s honestly the best thing I’ve ever- It’s the best and most important book I’ve ever read maybe outside of The Color Purple. Maybe The Color Purple is more [important],” and she was like, “You’re gonna get it and you’re gonna read it, trust me.” I was like “Okay.” So I started reading it when I was on the road. Yeah, I’m scared of it.

CM

I think that’s the appropriate response.

AM

But I’m also really excited to read it actually. So are you reading it right now?

CM

I just finished it. Like two days ago. Wrote about it. Trying to figure out what to read next. A bunch of different stuff to figure out where I’m feeling.

AM

What are some of the things that you’re –

CM

Into?

AM

Yeah.

CM

Usually I tell people “long, dark, and plotless”.

AM

[laughs] Just wanna keep walkin’ in the darkness!

CM

It’s great! Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis is like my number one. Tropic of Cancer. Going through re-reading Dostoevsky and all that jazz. Stuff that… [grimaces] gives me this facial expression.

AM

[laughs] ten four!

CM

I need to buy Derrick Brown’s new book, because I’m a huge fan. Our Poison Horse.

AM

And actually he’s got a collected writings book coming out, maybe this year? Which I assume will be awesome. Because Derrick’s awesome. But it looks like a beautiful book.

CM

I’m excited about. Our Poison Horse is a little dark too. Just like disillusionment with poetry and whether or not it’s working. Which I enjoyed.

AM

It’s a good book. It is a good book.

CM

So I’m all over the place. I exposed to tons of stuff. So it’s… I have to choose the things that I think either I’m gonna really like or the things that are most relevant.

AM

I don’t know if it would be trouble or awesome to work at Powell’s.

CM

You will never have a shortage of book recommendations.

AM

[chuckles]

CM

As a writer, or just as a person, do you have any words or phrases you think your overuse?

AM

I don’t know if necessarily like specific… I don’t think necessarily like phrases, but there are definitely words that surface a lot and I think more it’s like…  the less the word and maybe like the connotations of the word. I feel I’m always like, knives are always coming up, bees. Things… earth, just like earth in general.

CM

A lot of heart in Pocketknife Bible.

AM

Yeah, the word heart surfaces a lot. Dogs, wolves, bears. Music.

CM

A lot of taste and smell too. You’re all over the place.

AM

Yeah, someone shared something interesting recently. I gotta dig it up. I can’t remember who it was. Part of me wants to say maybe… i think it was Wallace Stevens, but I can’t remember for certain. Somebody was talking about how that thing of like, using the same words often. And it’s suddenly something that I try to be cognizant of, of like… am I using the same word? How many times am I using this word? And is it… am I alright with it? And that’s the thing, I don’t think it’s necessarily, inherently like wrong, it just needs to serve a purpose. Like, there’s lots of repeated words in The Feather Room.

CM

Oh yeah, and I love that.

AM

I mean like lots of them. And I spent a lot of time with that book, so I feel fairly certain that, you know, the majority if not all of them… and maybe its not communicated to the reader, but like, for me they definitely served a certain purpose of shadowing one another or bits of repetition like contributing to the same mountain of some… thing. I think Wallace Stevens was talking about how… kinda of like that’s it’s alright to have these words that you return to. That there’s a… there’s a power to having… just saying like “These words are my tokens, these words are my talismans.” and that’s definitely the case. Because… you know like I was saying I think that often it’s not even so much… sometimes it’s the words, but like.. It’s more… and it’s definitely like on a personal thing of like what those words signify and what they represent and it’s not always necessarily that I can put that into words. And so that’s why I use those specifc words, you know. It’s kind of like… when I use the word bee, that it’s like… it’s sort of as if the bee is standing on top of like a hole and if it moves, there’s a hole underneath there and it explains everything as to regards to like what that bee signifies for me. I really like that idea and thought of… having a collection of words that… some of them, you use because you’re like, being lazy and you’re like “Oh, shit, I didn’t realize that!” but like also you have these words that like you use often because… they’re your good luck charms.

CM

Part of your internal mythology.

AM

Yeah, definitely. But I really like trying to find new ones. I love like trying to find the words that get really specific without feeling clunky. You know like… sometimes you get too specific and it just feels as if it’s like it’s so specific, it pulls you out.

CM

Like you’re using a vocab word?

AM

Yeah. And so like… I really love trying to seek out… there are a lot of words in nature. Like I wish I had more knowledge of nature. I love when things get… you know it’s like when somebody says like, “a sycamore tree” versus like “an ash tree” even though I probably couldn’t pick one of those out but like still I love having that specificity. It gives me a different feeling.

CM

It’s not clunky, it’s functional.

AM

[laughs]

CM

Who would play you in your life movie?

AM

Oh man… I don’t know. My life movie… maybe a really talented raccoon.

CM

[laughs] Talented Mr. Fox style?

AM

Yeah [laughs]. I don’t know. I never know who.

CM

I always thought, for me, it would be Michael B. Jordan.

AM

Michael B. Jordan from… ?

CM

Fruitvale Station.

AM

Oh, gotcha! Ten four.

CM

Him or Nick Cannon, I would really like to play me.

AM

Nice. Nice. [quietly] Who would play me? [pause] I would be honored if Cate Blanchett played me.

CM

Yeah! You see her do Bob Dylan? She could do it.

AM

Exactly! I feel like it’d be a copout to have Aziz Ansari play me ‘cause sometimes I watch him like… I feel like there’s things that he’s doing that maybe I’m doing.

CM

I feel the same way. People have told me that he would play me and I just have to actively reject it, even though it might be accurate.

AM

[laughs]

CM

I have a question…. I don’t know if you have maybe answered this before. But I was looking at your website and you list Bukowski and Richard Brautigan as huge inspirations. I feel the same way. Both of them, though, have been abusive to women. How do you reconcile liking someone’s art and not supporting their actions?

AM

I don’t know. I don’t want to say it’s a difficult thing. But it’s… I think it’s a pretty fluid thing, unfortunately, you know? Like… why… more of me believes the accusations against Woody Allen than rejects them. But I still really enjoy his films. You know? But… like… There are definitely some artists… I remember I was having a conversation after all the Bill Cosby stuff and just like saying his name on my mouth like felt so… weird, you know? I remember when the stuff against… the accusations against Greg Sherl rode up. The Oregon Trail came out, I was so horrified by that stuff. I couldn’t read his book anymore, which I thought was a really amazing, beautiful book. And I couldn’t. I’d open it up and just felt sick. With someone like Bukowski and Brautigan, I think that with them it’s so much in the past for me, with regards to my relationship with them. Like when I found them both, the reality of particularly Bukowski, like of… that stuff that he did and what he was capable of wasn’t as… coming towards me, wasn’t as cognizant and I was just reading these words that were like, this is like nothing like i’ve ever read before. And there was something… and perhaps this also contributes to, you know, Bukowski… one of the things that like I… it’s hard I think for me to not know why I don’t just reject someone like Bukowski, because like… he’s a really shitty person, you know? And has said some really fucked up stuff. But there’s also, one of the things that I’ve always really loved about Bukowski is that like he’s one of the few writers I’ve read so much of his work. I gobbled it up. By no means have I read all of his stuff, he wrote so much. There was a period that I read so much Bukowski. And the thing that I loved most about it that it provided an opportunity to… a window into a person’s life and world that extended for a really long period of time. And that I’d read these collections of poetry from him, from when he was younger, and it painted a portrait of a person that just like… was… ugly, internally. And alone. Both in positive ways and not positive ways. And just despising of the world with these like bubbles of being in this place to kind of like recognize and observe and allow the beauty of the world into a lens to refract back out. And to read books over the course of his life and watch this journey of this person who hated everything with these little glimmers to then become a person who found himself capable and welcoming and wanting of love and people while not changing his voice. That I think is a really beautiful and powerful thing. And I don’t think that that justifies or excuses, you know, abusive, sociopathic, crazy bullshit. But I do think that that’s like a really beautiful example of like persons, you know like… so many of us like, all of us at some point, do something that is not in line with either what we feel the person we want to be is or what the world around us says we’re not supposed to do. And sometimes those are things that are out there, we get run through the polls for. And some of it is something that we are battling with internally. I think that’s it’s kind of removed from the person he is just to be able to see the charting and journey of an individual that like… I don’t know, like the power of what it means, honestly, to be a person. To be human. To have to deal with this shit and wrestle with this shit on a spectrum of like, fucked up or super fucked up. And to find your way at least somewhat out of it, to me… I don’t know, that’s a really beautiful thing. That’s like my relation with Bukowski. But I have no desire to read him these days. And you know, more of that is just because that was a period of my life when I read that, and now I’m reading other things, and less because like I’m taking a stand, of like “I’m not gonna read this guy.”

CM

Right. It was there and you were into it.

AM

It feels… nothing is black and white. And I say that not in a dismissive, excusatory manner, but more that like, all of us have people whose art and productivity we’ve recognized as being in conflict with the reality of the person they are. And all of us have this shelf of people and some of them we’re able to like not see any conflict and still welcome them and other folks we’re able to knock off the shelf. And so like… and I don’t know why… for me, I’m sure, for all of us, I don’t know why it is, why am I alright with this person and not alright with that person. But there’s always going to be like this gray area of like where… some people I’m just like “no” and other people I welcome in. I think all of us are gonna be like that. I have lots of friends who are like “Fuck Bukowski” but they’ll rave about somebody else who is also a piece of shit. And like that’s… that’s fine. You know?

CM

Yeah. It’s the nature of the game.

AM

It’s the nature of the game, it’s the nature of being a person and like figuring it out, you know? I don’t, with Brautigan… the abuse stuff I think never was really prevalent or cognizant to me. He was just this dude who wrote weird, strange, beautiful things, you know like… I think that there’s definitely like… I think there’s something in me that is drawn to… I think that there is something probably in a lot of us that are drawn to like… tortured suicidal artists.

CM

Yeah.

AM

I mean like, my favorite writer is Frank Stanford and he killed himself in ‘78? ‘76? You know like… but Brautigan just served as something that was like, I don’t know, just something very different. I remember reading In Watermelon Sugar and… you know it definitely… [especially] it was very much like a period of my life, I think Brautigan very much spoke to the young, whimsical romantic that I was or saw myself as, while still creating these poems, some of them being just like so silly and almost like irrelevant, and I loved that. And then some of them being so strange and dark, and I loved that. Yeah.

CM

So it’s like the relationship of what the art did to you.

AM

Yeah. And you know it’s like…. And I have to respect and honor that while also… depending on the person…honoring and respecting like “Oh”… some people I can like separate and some people I can’t, you know? But I mean… I think that also happens on an individual basis. I hope to arrive at some point where like I am able to honor and respect and appreciate more fully like, the love that exists between me and my ex wife without acting [that being] tainted and shaped by the wealth of fucked up stuff that went down. And like right now that’s not necessarily the place. Like somedays it is. But like, you know… some other things, how to hold and honor things that existed in the past for what they were and what they did and what they contributed to. And just like learning to, I don’t know, it’s like… I think a lot of life is and should be trying to find the ways you’re able to carry things both objectively and subjectively at the same time. You know like everything we carry is personal. All of it, you know? And it should be. And I think it’s a really wonderful and powerful thing to be able to like carry that in a personal manner while also being able to look at it objectively if one needs to. And to look at the big picture while looking at the little picture with both eyes.

CM

I think that helps me clear it up for me a little bit at this point. It is grey area. Whenever I’m talking books and art with people I always ask that question.

AM

Yeah.

CM

What are your favorite spots in Portland. To read, write, or just hang out?

AM

[overlapping]. Well, Powell’s. Powell’s is a really special important place for me honestly. When I first moved here I lived about maybe… I lived like at 6th and Everett. I would walk to Powell’s like… at the very least once a week.

CM

What year was that?

AM

That was… I moved here… I arrived here Halloween Day 2004. I thought I’d be here a few months, maybe six. Stayed six and a half years. So Powell’s it just like… it’s a special place for me. Not like in a unique manner. I’m sure it’s a special place for the majority of people in this city. But that place is special for me. I mean I spend a lot of time at the Powell’s on Hawthorne. I generally go to Fresh Pot and that’s where I generally go to write because it’s close to my house and… because it has a Powell’s attached to it. I’m there four to six days a week. I was saying to Drew… Drew’s involved with Poor Claudia and Octopus, works at Hawthorne Powell’s, like, “Sometimes I worry that your co-workers are like ‘why the fuck is that guy in here every day?” [laughs]

CM

Let me tell ya, I think we’ve all been this person at some point.

AM

[laughs] Yeah. I’m there a lot. I’m at Por Que No a lot. I probably go to the one on Hawthorne at least twice a week. I’m at my house a lot these days. I used to go to the Bagdad when I was second run. I still like going there. I haven’t found kind of like my new haunts, I think. Like my old haunts were often movie theaters. Like I’d go to Avalon a bunch. Go to Bagdad a lot. But yeah, most of my time is spent probably at Fresh Pot and Por Que No [laughs].

CM

Nice. Do you have anything you want to add?

AM

Nothing that I can think of.

CM

Nice.

AM

Nice interview.

CM

Yeah, thank you so much.

AM

Great questions.

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