Monday, May 02, 2022

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Amanda Monti

Amanda Monti is a cross-disciplinary poet and translator based on Lenape land / NYC. Their projects alternate between books and printed matter, performance, soundworks and accidental dance, always using playful research methodologies to explore ecology, language and desire. Amanda's poetry collection Mycelial Person (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2021) has been adapted for radio as Spore Radical at Montez Press Radio.

Amanda has been published through the Institute of Contemporary Arts London, The Poetry Project, McSweeney’s, ExBerliner, Cuntemporary and Radiophrenia, amongst others. They are currently working on a series of soundworks with the MisFits Theatre Company.

Find Amanda cruising at Ridgewood Reservoir or on the internet:

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

my first outpourings of writing were a handful of DIY zines and a chapbook, “in me everything is already flowing” that I clandestinely produced with the printing resources of my day job at the time. I had had no training in poetry and mostly wrote as a way to seduce my crushes and document the ephemeral squat spaces I occupied at the time. I learned to use whatever was around me, materially as well as formally.  Mycelial Person is my first book and similarly site specific and hybrid. There’s polaroids and performance documentation and poems and stories. I did, however, struggle with how long the publishing process took since I have been distributing my work instantaneously up until then. It’s teaching me about the importance of keeping friendly relations to past selves (and crushes).

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I have always been spell bound by good poetry readings. Quite literally! It’s the closest thing we have to magic.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

I am both erratic and painfully slow. I need a long time of not doing anything at all until poems arrive in quick slow bursts like mushrooms after rain.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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?

Obsessions are important. Usually my obsessions will generate a lot of indiscernible material to exist in the primordial broth of my notebooks and clouds until there is an invitation or impulse to activate/recycle the work in sound pieces, a collaboration, the bones of a book, a research project.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

Readings are essential! I used to do a lot of performance work so I feel very at home with readings. One of my performance personas was a nostalgic, lesbian squid. She would squirt all over the place with her tentacles, it was so much fun. I miss her. With poetry I don’t consider a piece finished until I haven’t heard it in a room. Reading out loud makes me feel tethered. Readings are my second favorite way of sharing sociality after going to the laundromat. I love to be alone or flirty or awkward at a reading but I am obsessed with the soundscape of the laundromat.

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?

I am thinking about pop singer Hadaway and theorist Haraway. In 1993 Hadaway asked “What is Love?” and I am still sitting with that. I am writing to learn new things and answer that question. I am writing because/with love and failure (Jack Halberstam’s Queer Art of Failure) and am weaving narratives beyond the capitalist nuclear family, a story that is looking around itself to distribute eros into friendships, fleeting moments, more-than-humans, the shared and the distinct bodies of organic life. I am thinking with Donna Haraway’s call “make kin, not population” and the need for language to explode gender. But I am also thinking about tenderness, asking: what is it that I tend to? Attention is political and I want poetry to slow/expand my processes of (not) noticing.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I think about the writer as a community weaver, a friend. Someone who sends obscure chapbooks in the mail because they know that you needed a poem that day to make you less lonely.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

Not having editors is like driving without mirrors. I need someone to tell me about my blind spots.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Begin by describing what is right in front of you

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to prose)? What do you see as the appeal?

A lot of my poetry follows a narrative structure and my prose doesn’t always contain sentences. I enjoy not having to choose!

11 - 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 love my little morning routines and quickly disintegrate without them. I usually have to do money work in the morning but sometimes I steal them back for poems and meanderings. Nights are strange and electric. I like to write in weird sport bars or at the botanic garden when it gets dark.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

the Aquarium

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

salty warmth, mum’s antibacterial air spray,

14 - 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?

Mycelial Person is like a gay, incoherent biology book. A lot of my writing comes from trying to learn and decolonize “natural sciences” through the poetic lens. I am also deeply in love with contemporary dance and movement practices, which are teaching me that there is always a body behind the writing.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Ursula K. le Guin, Laura Elrick, TC Tolbert, Samuel Ace, Audre Lorde, Eileen Myles, bell hooks, Lisa Robertson

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

clown school

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

A talk show host, but it still might happen, fingers crossed.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I usually get myself fired from most other jobs.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I am finally reading Octavia Butler’s Patternist Series and can already tell that it has changed my life.

I recently also watched the 80ies japanese film Tampopo and am now obsessed with the “ramen western” genre

20 - What are you currently working on?

A Radio Play, Love it Did Love and some smutty poems

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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