Wednesday, September 12, 2007

CAConrad- An Interview

The Mad Poets Blog
Posted by GEReutter on September 12, 2007 06:53am

CAConrad has been a fixture on the Philadelphia poetry scene for many years. He is passionate about poetry and in particular poetry in Philadelphia. His passion extends to a number of political and social causes in the city and at one point time he considered running for Mayor of Philadelphia. CA has been published internationally and has toured reading his work throughout the
United States. His first love is Philadelphia and if you hear a discussion or are at a reading downtown you will either hear CA or hear someone speaking of his work. He is a regular contributor to the Philly Sound Poets Blog, has been a guest editor at a number of literary journals and has published a number of works to include The Frank Poems, advancedELVIScourse and his recent full length collection Deviant Propulsion. You can visit with CAConrad at his blog

What Others Say about CA and Deviant Propulsion:

“Conrad is a fearless combination of the out front & tenderness, subtlety in the literary equivalent of outrageous drag….” Ron Silliman

“Deviance for CAConrad is survival; deviance is an act of faith: a religion against religions; it’s a private, vulnerable deviance distinct from the grand malevolent brand. There is something loving and lonely about Conrad’s deviance. His poems propel deviancy–his deviancy–into the poetry. In a country that wrongly casts poets and poetry itself as deviant Conrad’s poems here are unflinching. That is, the poems are not about deviancy, each in its own artful way, is an act of deviancy itself” – Tom Devaney.

“I’ve been living with and loving Conrad’s work, and his person — his entire being; the man is radiant! — for years and years. Having the book here is almost as pleasurable as being in the man’s physical presence.” – Joe Massey

“CA Conrad is committed to numerous political issues, most notably economic disparity and gay rights. His first collection of poems, Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press), has Publishers’ Weekly comparing him to Allen Ginsberg. Indeed, Conrad’s poems have that sexy playfulness and the willingness to expose hypocrisy that leads through Ginsberg back to Walt Whitman, with a bit of the New York Schools (Frank O’Hara and Ted Berrigan in particular) thrown in to keep it humorous.” – Kevin Thurston


Q. What direction is life taking CAConard?

A. Most of my family in the dirty little rural Pennsylvania world I grew up in worked at the factory making coffins. Direction is a wondrous idea from there. The factory was closed down during Bill Clinton’s NAFTA reign of terror, so no one back home can proudly say they’re making coffins bound for George Bush’s reign of terror in Iraq. What direction? Aren’t we all headed down the up stairs at this point? What a relief our slide into destruction might actually wind up being, right? It was a beautiful day today. It’s okay to enjoy the day. It’s okay to get the Love. In fact it’s essential to get the Love. Every moment we can we had better do so now. Everyday I feel like storing each beautiful thing I smell and feel and hear. Do it for those burning alive in the deserts of Iraq. It’s going to be a terrible day when we all finally understand how much we contribute to suffering. Tattoos that read I SUPPORT IMPERIALISM WITH THE TAXES I PAY! In the end what do we deserve? If we could understand punishment as a nation the way Germany was asked to understand it half a century ago, what would it be? As a nation we must all pay, not just our leaders who made it happen. And not just the leaders who allowed it to happen. But the tax payers who fund this war and continue to fund this war. The you and me of the equation. The consumer with the house so full the storage rental so full. Everything’s got to stop soon. The direction of this nation is erasing any pencil marks making plans on the map. If freedom is this damnation of bullets at other souls than I don’t want it. Fuck my direction. I have no idea how to make this world work. I have no idea how to make money. I have no idea what to do when the rent goes through the roof. I have no particular angst at the moment either way about it. Last week I was at work in Rittenhouse Square and a man had a heart attack on the third floor of the parking garage next door and drove his car through the wall and out onto the street and flipped upsidedown and I never saw so much blood. It was as if every drop of blood was wrung out of him. And people said to me they thought it was a movie being shot. And other people said they though it had something to do with terrorists. And everywhere I looked people were standing there with their cellphones taking pictures of it. And calling friends and sending the pictures. “DO YOU SEE IT!?” It’s funny how we have to actually KNOW someone to care about their death. Maybe we don’t care about the death of the trees in the woods because we don’t know them. Maybe we don’t care about the end of the polar bears because we don’t know them. Maybe we’re not selfish, maybe we’re just big stupid babies who need to actually know, really connect and know to care. Maybe we are selfish because we don’t bother connecting. Maybe we have no idea what we deserve. Maybe we deserve whatever is coming toward us right now. Maybe the Light we keep hearing about is the path the bullet that hits you takes but you can’t tell anyone about it because you’re quiet, and gone. The light thrown from the sun is beautiful this time of year, end of summer, in Philadelphia. It’s painfully beautiful. What direction? My direction is American and not noble. If I were noble I would have the courage to stop paying my taxes and stop funding an evil I know, and you know, is happening in our names whether or not we choose to say it’s in our names. I participate. I am here with you in this dark feast, gliding in and out of the calendar as if someone else is going to make this story have a nicer plot. Our brutality is daily in Iraq, in the supermarket, the butcher, the child labor, the need to believe in the consumption of joy brushing teeth with a toothbrush someone’s hands made somewhere in the world who we don’t know and don’t want to know. A spasm of recognition as the alarm goes off. Hello hands, hello yourself they say.

Q. What would you say was safer; being trapped in a high rise on fire or an evening drinking with Joe Massey?

A. HAHAHA! I LOVE this question! I don’t feel unsafe around Joe at all as he’s a trusted friend, but my inclination is to say it’s safer in a high rise fire because it would funnier. He’s famous of course for his readings, getting drunk and saying things at the microphone you never, ever forget you heard him say. My favorite time was when he wanted me to shove a Rolling Rock bottle up his ass in the bathroom after a reading, and I said, “JOE THERE’S NO LUBRICANT IN THIS PLACE!” Lubricant is often on my mind but later I realized there was soap, which I hadn’t thought of at the time. Yes, you look back and think to yourself, JESUS! WHY DID I FORGET ABOUT SOAP!? And also his girlfriend (from that time) was there and wasn’t too happy about him asking me to do this. Girlfriends are always an issue to consider of course, besides soap I mean. She was very nice and I wonder sometimes where she is. Anyway, soap, Joe, high rise fires. Now if Joe had asked to shove a bottle up my ass instead it would have turned into a different story. And that’s all I’m going to say as I need to leave SOMETHING to your imagination!

Q. Deviant Propulsion, (Soft Skull Press), was your first full length collection published. What effect did the positive reception of the book have on your current writing and when can we expect to see another volume of work?

A. What? What is this question? What? I’m still queer, so the book didn’t make me heterosexual. Was that a goal? I don’t think so. But I’m one of the few queers who will actually admit that our odd race of deviants are going to subvert this world. It’s only a matter of time. Oh yes, you hear stories all the time of queers wanting to get married, wanting to settle down, blah blah blah, have babies and prove how NORMAL we are. Oh yes, you hear these things. But we’re not normal, we’re odd, and some of us will hide it. But we’re not normal, and yes we’re here to confiscate the things the national mind holds pure. Even those (especially those) who pretend to want a normal life do this. As an honest queer I’m telling you I’m always ready to take a giant shit on the holiest of cloth you offer. What the hell was the question again? Oh, I’m confused. But my current work isn’t something I would say is a result in any way of the Soft Skull book. Soft Skull is a marvelous blessing of course as they take very good care of their authors. But I’ve recently completed a series called (Soma)tic Midge, which is coming out later this year from Jack Kimball’s FAUX Press. These (Soma)tic poems were written in a series of 7 colors where I would eat a single color all day long, then write. Several of these have been published online:

RED on listenlight: ORANGE on MiPOesia: GREEN on Sawbuck: BLUE on Coconut:

And now I’m working on other (Soma)tic poems, and have developed a free blog which will contain weekly updates with a new (Soma)tic exercise each week. Here’s where it can be found: Poetry is the CENTER of my world, and has been so for most of my life. The ways to get the poems out is infinite, and no one should be afraid of writing them. It’s kind of funny to hear poets CONCERNED about their poems lasting for hundreds of years when the world is such a dangerous place, and threatened. It will be a miracle if there is anyone left in a hundred years to read them. Now is the time to say FUCK YOU to those who would tell us how to write. Just write! And if you’re having trouble getting started then maybe try one of my (Soma)tic Poetry Exercises, or make one up yourself. What is most important is making space in your life for the writing. And getting out of the pain of routine, and to not allow the pain of routine to become a routine of pain which files down our sharp edges. We must keep sharp to keep alive, keep as alive as we can.

Q. If you were sitting on a bench in Rittenhouse Square and an unexpected person sat down next to you, who would you want that person to be?

A. Franz Kafka, my first Love. I’ve never Loved another man like Kafka. It breaks my heart over and over and over and over thinking about the dumb fucking luck to be born decades too late. But I would LOVE Kafka to sit next to me in Rittenhouse Square on a bench! And I would want it to be a bench where we could see the little goat statue, you know that statue? He’s a little goat, and a little pissed or playful, and he’s getting his horns ready to RAM someone! But Kafka, yes. And I mean the dead Kafka. Capital D, Dead Kafka. I’d like to nibble his Dead ear, listen close for his Dead pulse that never appears, and of course ask him what he’s been up to all day. “Where were you earlier Dead Kafka my dear? Oh, don’t answer, your jaw hurts, I know, I know, don’t worry.” It would be even better if Dead Kafka were some kind of freak literary zombie vampire, and I would GLADLY let him chew on my wrist and drink my blood, a little snack from my wrist. Ah, Dead Kafka, my dear one. There’s a Kafka altar in my apartment, and a lot of Elvis things as well. The Kafka and Elvis connection is bigger than most people realize. Two special forces with separate beams of energy, but when combined, WHOA, let me tell you, IT! IS! like breakfast with a CASSANDRA!

Q. Who were your major influences growing up and who currently influences you as a poet?

A. Kafka turned me on first. Turned me on in the sense that the imagination suddenly had this GASH in the side of the wall someone else had put up in front of me, and I could see through. Poets, early influences? Molly Russakoff came to my high school to give a reading. I was in a bad way out there in deep, rural Pennsylvania. My life was so fucked up, and unsafe in an extreme way surrounded by fascists who were not armchair fascists. But Molly told me to read Joseph Ceravolo, Alice Notley, Ron Padgett, and off I went! I had already discovered Kafka, my mind was already ready and open. Molly gave me this silver platter. I’m always in debt to her for this. But influences now? You mean poets whose work I Love and am STARTLED BY now? My friends! No doubt about it! The best poems I’ve ever read in my life are by my friends! Frank Sherlock, Dorothea Lasky, Ish Klein, Ryan Eckes, Linh Dinh, Jessica White, Jenn McCreary, Brenda Iijima, Joe Massey, Laura Jaramillo, John Coletti, Erica Kaufman, Stacy Szymaszek, Carol Mirakove, Brett Evans, Magdalena Zurawski, Kathryn Pringle, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Divya Victor, the list goes on. These are the poets I read and feel a velocity of color, ingenuity, problem solving, entire new structure, sand, wood, metal, wickedly honest, and like none of it ever imagined in my past. The fucking pyramids could be rebuilt in a day!

Q. You have been active for a number of years in the Philadelphia poetry scene and all its ebbs and flows. What directions do see poetry as an influence in Philadelphia moving?

A. Hmm. Philadelphia is a bucket of shit now that the rich are taking control. Fuck the rich! They have NO IDEA what this city was like in 1986 when I first moved here! Yeah, now they want to claim this town, call it their own, say it’s building an arts scene. Building an arts scene!? Wow! They know NOTHING! In 1986 I moved into the Imperial Hotel, just a teenager at the time. And the center city area was The Zulli Nation, named after landlord Al Zulli. He was a generous guy, and his friends Doug and Cindy were my crazy, generous landlords. They all loved artists, and kept the rents low, and we could afford to create things, write, paint, whatever we wanted, and NOT have to fight all the time like we do now! Now these rich greedy scumbags are here to cut everyone’s balls off and make everyone work and work and work. Unless you’re fortunate to have money, it’s going to be rough in this town soon, very soon. I’m planning on opening The Philadelphia Poetry Hotel one day to make room for poor and working class poets who want to move to the city and WRITE! I meet young poets all the time now who are the age I was in 1986 and they can’t do what I did! My rent was 210 a month in The Zulli Nation. That same apartment is now almost 1500 a month. And people say stupid shit all the time like, “Well, you have to consider inflation.” What!? This city is 300 years old! How can you excuse THAT as inflation? That’s NOT inflation, that’s GREED! Greed wants to stand in the way of the history of art, and I’m going to do my best to stand in the way of greed, at least for some poets. My goal is to open this hotel and have it be cheap rent so poets only have to work a part time job like I did when I first moved here. Then they can spend their time in the libraries and bookstores, and museums, learning, writing, reading, learning, writing, reading, being beautiful.everyone’s got no time for bullshit, which is what I Love most about Philadelphia. You want bullshit, fuck yourself and look elsewhere because we’re BUSY! Philadelphia is not a place I ever intend to leave. They’ll have to drag me out of this town clawing and screaming. This city is where I learned to write poems. This city is always ready to give that to anyone who wants it. I truly did understand how to Love the world here in poetry. And I learned that I need NO ONE’S permission to do that. And I learned that I need NO ONE’S direction but my own in how to do that. Some people say (especially ignorant newcomers) that this is a mean town. First, GO HOME if that’s the case! But second, there is a grace, a powerful grace in a city where everyone’s got no time for bullshit, which is what I Love most about Philadelphia. You want bullshit, fuck yourself and look elsewhere because we’re BUSY!


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