Friday Sep 25

Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. He lives and writes in New Jersey.

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Kyle Hemmings interview with Meg Tuite

 

These four micro-flash, “Scranton, Ohio,” “Her Love is a Space Shuttle That Never Lands on the Right Moon,” “Promises,” and “There Was a Chill and We Wore Mittens,” are universes unto themselves. Tell me, if you can, about the inspiration for these pieces.

Actually, they were responses to prompts in a Zoetrope writing office given by the great poet, Lisa Cihlar. Lately, I've been getting more surreal in my work, and I was experimenting with adding this in my flashes and micros and poems. I was also drawn to the idea of world building from some of my readings of Sci-fi stories.

 

Would love to hear about your history with writing? When did you start writing? Did you go the MFA route or did you work it on your own path?

I started writing at the suggestion of an old friend, some 12 years ago. For the first few years, I was just writing drafts of novels, became obsessed with writing, taking an online class here and there, until I decided to enter an online MFA program at National University in 2005. What's interesting is that some of my work or bits of it before I entered the MFA program –got published. For example, "Burning In Pairs," a kind of horror/love story, was published in The Battered Suitcase. And bits of this one draft I wrote, "Dreaming with Your Eyes Open" was published in Rose & Thorn in 2006. Of course, the MFA program did help. There were some excellent teachers there, like Colin Dickey, a West Coast writer, and I received some great feedback. I think in the long run, the MFA program did help more than not.

 

Tell me about Scars Publication and what it is that separates them from the rest? You’ve published three chapbooks with them. 

They seem to like the work I do, whereas some zines would consider my work too "specialized," to put it in the words of one editor. For example, I wrote a series of flashes/prose poems based on Manga comics. I titled the series Manga Girls Need Love! Later, Scars published it under the title Anime Junkie. Some editors wouldn't touch it because they felt it catered to a certain cross-section of readers. I can understand that.  The same with the kind of experimental hybrid prose/poetry I was aiming at with Cat People, again with a surreal playful tone revolving around cats and East Village lovers and their outcast lives. And before that I published a chapbook with them called Avenue C, which was kind of part surreal and part Bukowski in-your-face realism.  So they seemed to tolerate a wide range of styles and Janet Kuypers, the editor, does a wonderful job with chapbook covers. And there are some very talented writers who've published with them.

 

They sound amazing. I checked them out to order one of your books when I saw there was a publisher I hadn’t heard of and you had three books with them. Looking forward to reading more of your work. Where do you live in New Jersey and how is it going out there after the storm?

I live in Union County, which is not that far from Newark. For a good six days, I had no power—no lights, no heat, no gas. I had to place my milk outside my window at night so it would stay cold. I slept with a coat on. It was brutal. Some had it much worse. Some trains to New York, I understand, are still not running.

 

What a nightmare! I’m so sorry you had to go through that and so many are still dealing with the hell of the aftermath! It’s heartbreaking!

Who are you reading now?

Right now, I'm reading some Yoko Tawada (The Bridegroom Was a Dog), some one-act plays by Sam Shepherd, some short prose pieces by Roberto Bolano, and I just finished a great collection by the Philipino-American writer, Jessica Hagedorn. And also the Miss Peach poems by Catie Rosemurgy, who, by the way, was very influenced by music.

 

Any writing influences you’d like to share with us?

Well, I was always impressed with the stream-of-consciousness styles of Wolf and Faulkner. Julio Cortazar's work, for me, got the ball rolling with the non-linear narrative. In terms of prose, poetry, I fell under the spell of James Tate. As a kid, I read Poe and Lorca's Poet in New York. So there were some varied influences, but I was more attracted to writers, such as The Beats, who worked away from the straight narrative, e.g., Burroughs.

 

Any music that motivates your work?

I could go on for hours about that subject. I think music is more an influence on my work than anything else. I have a special attraction to the garage and psychedelic bands of the 60s, groups like Quicksilver Messenger Service, 13th Floor Elevators, Arthur Lee and Love. So many others. In fact, I wrote a chapbook called The Lives of Rock Stars that was based to some degree on the bizarre, sometimes empty, evanescent lives of rock stars of the late sixties I read about.

Roky Erikson, for example, is one survivor of the LSD craze that overtook some and derailed their careers. Some, like Skip Spence, did not survive. Danny Kalb, who still plays acoustic blues in Brooklyn, is another great musician whose promising career was derailed by a bad trip.

My favorite album of all time is Forever Changes by Love. It was an American version of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper but with a different style, one based on complex chord progressions and brooding undertone. That album, which came out in early '68, or late '67, didn't get the attention it deserved until recently. Lee did an amazing comeback tour around 2003-2006 and performed the album, which was big in Britain. It was right before he died. But anyway that kind of music has inspired my work. I also might mention Iggy Pop. I don't care what anyone says. I love his music, especially the early Stooges and the two solo albums he did with Bowie producing.

 

I had a feeling about music when reading your pieces. Thank you for giving me some bands to check out that I hadn’t heard of before. Always appreciated. Do you have a writing schedule that you adhere to? Or is it whenever it seizes you, grab a pen?

Well, I belong to a writing community, so in the sense of deadlines, much of it comes from there, writing a flash per week, or in a poetry office, doing one poem per day. But occasionally, the impulse does seize me.

 

What are you working on at this time?

I just finished a collection of flash fictions/micro fictions/prose poems titled Void & Sky. This time I went the route of self-publishing, just to see what it's like. I am also considering a collection of my best work.

 

Can you write a micro-flash with the prompt: a tribute to one of my favorite writers and tell us who that is?

 

For Catie Rosemurgy

It might take a while to get over you, how to put things back together without turnkey or worm screw. My Siberian Husky by the fireplace, one eye, ice-blue, the other-- bottomless amber. Here are some possibilities for a hook: the two most repeating digits I learned in school, the first girl who raped my idea of a love affair, chaste and sound, those platonic moors. Come to me, she said, after reading some obscure Victorian romance novel. I brought the guilt-ridden longings, the glue, and my mother's broken Japanese tea cups. Excuse me for my falsehoods is what I wanted to tell her in braids and plaid dress. She was too old by then, and I always fell in love with bright surface colors. But she taught me that I could be split in half. Like you, she walked away empty handed, but laughing, full of herself.

 

WOW! LOVE this. I am also going to check out Catie’s book. Thank you so much, Kyle, for putting up with all these questions and sending Connotation Press some of your pure brilliance. Outstanding work!

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