Andrea Abi-Karam [photo credit: Lix Z] is an arab-american genderqueer punk poet-performer cyborg, writing on the art of killing bros, the intricacies of cyborg bodies, trauma & delayed healing. Their chapbook, THE AFTERMATH (Commune Editions, 2016), attempts to queer Fanon’s vision of how poetry fails to inspire revolution. Simone White selected their second assemblage, Villainy for forthcoming publication with Les Figues. They toured with Sister Spit March 2018 & are hype to live in New York. EXTRATRANSMISSION [Kelsey Street Press, 2019] is their first book.
1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first chapbook, “it is a tight little world that we live in and i am [trapped here]”, emerged out of a small chapbook publishing collective called Mess Editions, whose connectivities were formed out of solidarity in uprising. I had had no formal training or mentorship in poetry at the time and mostly wrote one page poems, a couple 2-3 page poems, and some nightmare series inspired by Diane Di Prima. This process connected my love of print (immediacy, untraceable, dispersion) & poetry.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I wrote poetry in highschool and then moved away from it to fiction during a heavy Faulkner reading period. My first girlfriend in undergrad reintroduced me to poetry through the works of Marianne Moore & Elizabeth Bishop. From there I geared my english towards 20thCE poets & postmodernist playwrights like Caryl Churchill & Sarah Kane.
4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
My work begins by trying to tackle & untangle large political problems running alongside personal obsessions & inspirations. I’m always writing in to a project, that sometimes becomes a book, a performance piece, a one off poem, or a party.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love giving readings, performing & curating. Facilitating social spaces for queer, trans, radical writers is very much where I began first identifying strongly as a poet. My friend Drea Marina & I co-hosted this series in Oakland, CA called Words of Resistance, an open floor radical poetry night that fundraised for political prisoners’ commissary money. Having upcoming readings is essential to keeping my writing practice momentous, it’s the truest deadline. When I was invited to tour with Sister Spit in 2018, I prepared a performance piece titled “ABSORPTION”; For the performance, I stapled each page of the text to my own body in front of a glitching projection. As the text was adhered to sheets of reflective mylar, or screens, they reflected the projection back at the audience. I did this every night for two weeks on tour, and although this particular element wasn’t necessarily visible to new audiences, the accumulation of the incisions & bruises from the stapler approached the limits of what I could withstand. It was on this tour that I pushed myself beyond bounds of the “poetry reading” into that of performance.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
My creative work is driven by intermingled experience & research catalyzed through a critical, theoretical lens. My first full-length book, EXTRATRANSMISSION (Kelsey Street Press, 2019), arose from intensive study of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times by Jasbir Puar, Significant Injury: War, Medicine, and Empire in Claudia's Case by Jennifer Terry, & experiences as a queer/trans arab punk. By applying queer fluidity to Frantz Fanon’s three steps of decolonization, my chapbook THE AFTERMATH (Commune Editions, 2016) attempts to queer Fanon’s vision of how poetry fails to inspire revolution. My second full-length book, Villainy (Les Figues, 2020), is a writing-through of post-Ghostship Fire & post-Muslim Ban grief via desire towards Tiqqun (“How Is It To Be Done”) & Fred Moten’s (Black and Blur) concept of the expansive singularity.
10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I very much thrive through creative discipline, deadlines are great, readings are even better. I love the durational, time-stamped somatic rituals of CA Conrad, & I also love timed interval writing just for generating the raw material that may become poems later.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Queer dance parties.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Performance, Punk, collaboration.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Etel Adnan, Eileen Myles, Juliana Spahr, Solmaz Sharif, Jasbir Puar, &&&&&
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I’ve been deeply immersed in the work of Cecilia Vicuña. I read Spit Temple at the end of 2019 and have been living with her New & Selected Poems which came out on Kelsey Street Press just before EXTRATRANSMISSION.
It’s 2019! I’m constantly thinking about BLADE RUNNER.
19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on finishing my trashy punk romance novel.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;