PHANTOM KINSHIP: INTERVIEW WITH DIANA SALIER

Diana Salier is a musician/poet/hamburger-eater. We met in Portland last January at a reading. She’d just moved to PDX from SF. I was visiting PDX from NY. She stood by the stairs with a can of beer in her hand. She was wearing black. I was wearing black too. She was more drunk than I was. She was self-deprecating. We talked/laughed, I told her I liked her poetry. We didn’t see each other again until March when I came to PDX again. She came to the Legs Get Led Astray book launch party and bought my book. A couple of days later, her book Letters From Robots came out and I bought it at Powell’s. I read the poem “Hamster Balls For People” and loved this part, mainly cause I get those what’re you dead, d-bag, texts too:

natalie texts me tonight and asks if i’m dead, d-bag
and i’m like no i’ve been OK just hanging
in the recesses of my head,
and when i say i’ve been hanging in the recesses
of my head, TRUST that i do not think
i’m bob dylan or something

Anyway, that night we hung out, ate nachos and got drunk. We were still hanging out come morning when we walked the streets in the rain cracking up and asking each other questions and searching for bagels. We saw this woman spill a container of milk and later I said, “That was funny” and Diana said, “What, no, that was sad,” and then I realized I need to work on my compassion. Later our books would get reviewed and mentioned together, because we are both navel-gazers. We did some readings together. Then Diana moved back to SF and I moved to PDX. She’s not dead or anything so I apologize for the morose tone.

Below is an interview we did when I was in NY and she was in PDX…..

Diana Salier: What drew you to nonfiction/memoir in the first place? What’s your background as a writer/slinger of letter things?

Chloe Caldwell: I just never made things up. I wasn’t a totally imaginative child. I didn’t have invisible friends and stuff. When I was like eight, I began filling journals up like crazy. It was what people gave to me for my birthdays and holidays. I wrote detailed entries about my friends and boys and what I felt and wanted and dreamed of. I think during all of that journal writing I kind of “found my voice.” You know? I went to school for Human Services for one year, but then moved to New York City, kept journaling in depth about my life, then took a creative writing class at the Gotham Writer’s Workshop. It was clear to me in that class that I preferred non-fiction to fiction, so I went on to take three memoir classes through them. I’m still uncomfortable making things up. And in my teens, I really began to love reading non-fiction. And I think that we write the stuff we love to read. What about you, with poetry?? And what poets did you first love?

DS: I studied creative writing at NYU. To complete the minor you had to start with intro to creative writing, where you did poetry and fiction, and then you could choose to focus on one or the other after that. I always found poetry easier. I find it hard to come up with a plot and characters, and every time I try to come up with a character it’s just ME, in some really weakly fictionalized form. Like you said about being uncomfortable making things up. I’m not so much uncomfortable as just not confident in my ability to do it. I have all these short stories and short story fragments on my hard drive. I hate reading them. But one of my biggest ambitions (sort of) is to publish a short story collection that gets shelved right next to JD Salinger’s Nine Stories.

When I got out of college I was doing the music thing for about 2 years, and when my band broke up I needed to focus on some totally new creative project. One of my best friends in San Francisco had just published his first book, and I read it and loved it because it was so “anti-poetry,” and I decided if he could do it then fuck it, so could I.

The first poem I remember loving was Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died.” I think most of my poems in college (and still today) started with, “it is (day of the week) at (time of day) and I am (gerund form of verb) on (name of street) and (today/tomorrow/yesterday) I (past tense of verb) and will eat (some kind of food)”

Which essay in LGLA was the most difficult for you to write? Which one was the most fun?

CC: I had a lot of fun writing Barney, That Was Called Love, The Legendary Luke, and Yes To Carrots. I enjoyed writing all of the essays, but those three were ones I remember laughing the most through. Nightbird had it’s difficult moments. The original version was even worse. More “Do you remembers” and the original first line was “Do you remember what is was like to fuck me?” I have an mp3 of me reading it while I was working on it, two years ago, and I almost break into tears like three times. It’s really pathetic/beautiful.

You just moved. How do you feel going from SF to PDX? Do you think PDX has more opportunities for writers?

And what’s an Eileen Myles poem that you wish you wrote?

What’s the last thing you purchased that you regret?

DS: I wouldn’t necessarily say more opportunities. There were tons and tons of readings in SF and resources for writers. A reading every night, if you wanted, which I usually don’t (I get oversaturated easily). In general though – going from SF to PDX, I feel like I live in a small town with the perks of a city. that’s the easiest way to put it. I’ll always love California, but I’m loving my time here too. Shit, I sound like a politician. And this is the first place I’ve lived where my entire social life revolves around being a writer, simply because I met most folks at Kidnap last November and have forced my way into their orbit.

Full disclosure. I read my first Myles book two weeks ago, her new one, Snowflake/Different Streets. In 2010 a girl I was kinda sort of not dating loaned me Not Me, and I remember really enjoying it but can’t pick out a specific poem from memory. I also have a recording of “American Poem” which everyone should check out.
[i left my copy of her book at Robert Gray’s house i will get it back and answer this question fully.]

The last thing I purchased that I regret was these cheez-its last night. I ate them while watching Submarine on Netflix Instant.didn’t really need them. they didn’t solve any cravings. I think gummi bears would’ve been a better match for stylized, twee British teen angst.

We talk about food a lot. What’d you have for breakfast today? Or lunch, as the case may be. You’re 3 hours ahead of me and stuff.

CC: I woke up in Brooklyn at my friend’s house. She made coffee which we both agreed tasted like an ashtray. She also made toast out of cranberry bread and slathered avocado on it. That shit was good. And blueberries. For lunch we went to this place called Urban Rustic which I’m obsessed with. You build your own salad for 8 bucks. I had spinach, sprouts, carrots, chicpeas, and cucumbers. Then we split up. I bought a orange and a coconut water. On the way home from Brooklyn my friend’s car broke down and we had no food. Later my friend’s husband picked us up and brought us granola bars and water, We stopped at a gas station and I had pita chips. When I got home my dad and his friend were hanging out and had some snacks out. I ate some cheese, bread, tortilla chips and refried beans. And red wine.

How do you feel about readings? Do you get nervous about what to wear? What to read? Do you ever even remember reading? Sometimes I think I’m so nervous that I’m out of body and I don’t even remember the experience of it. You? Do you think it’s weird that writers have to have some kind of persona?
DS: Lol, I like that you asked about what I wear. I’m gonna sound like such an asshat when i answer this but i will answer it.

(Some weeks go by…..)

Diana and I in Portland, June 2012

DS: I want to know more about this out-of-body reading experience that you mentioned…

Readings, readings. I like readings. The first reading I ever did was in Montreal at this 2-week writers’ conference (aka writing, reading, drinking) and the next day one of the older male participants (I almost said “male members”) told me I had a voice for radio, and I was slightly creeped out. i just realized i’ve been writing with proper sentence capitalization and i hate doing that. anyway. you know i get nervous about what to wear. i feel like you knew the answer to that question already. i totally freak out about what to wear. it’s the same as getting on stage with a band, except this time you’re alone and everyone is absolutely definitely looking at you.

in terms of what to read, i sometimes try to think about the audience, but other times i say fuck it and A) read something that i’ve just written the previous day that i’m excited about, B) try something old that is still new because i’ve never read it in front of people, or C) drop my pants before i start reading and surprise everyone (that seriously happened) (i was wearing pajamas underneath).  in Letters From Robots there are a handful of poems that I always read when i’m going to read from the book, and same with Wikipedia. Reading something new for the first time is hard. i don’t have the cadence down, and sometimes i stutter over my own words like they’re foreign to me, even though i wrote them myself…  And yeah, i worry about my hair.  🙂

today you tweeted about an ice cream truck and directed me to chipwich.com which i still have not checked out because i feel like you’re pulling my leg. is there seriously a chipwich.com/chipwiches?? that being said, i’ve been thinking a lot about summertime and how it used to be so much more exciting. (ice cream trucks > summertime  — you get where i’m going)

what’s your favorite memory of summertime?

(Chloe never answers.)

baseballbaseballbaseballbaseball

by Diana Salier

today the sea

swallowed me

after i remembered

how much

i liked you

i wish we had

a magic handshake

 

is it springtime today

where you are too

i’m afraid you’re

giving airport hugs

to someone you love

chloe says

when you read out loud

and want to cry

just think

baseballbaseballbaseballbaseball

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