Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.
Who: Paul Cunningham
Where: Pittsburgh, USA
Hi. Who are you?
Where are you from?
David Cronenberg’s Pittsburgh.
What time is it where you are? What's going on?
It’s currently 7:07 PM, Sunday. Feeling Holy. I’m sitting on my porch deck—across from a hospital in Bloomfield. Geographically speaking, I pretty much live between two hospitals and the sky is consistently noisy here. LifeFlight helicopters past my place a lot. I am reminded of my own human fragility at least two to three times a day. I appreciate the constant reminder though. Keeps me busy.
Can you tell us a bit about your piece/pieces in Cassette 68?
You could call these poems crypto-anarchic tunes illegally ripped from out of the Darknet! They come from the language of hackers. They come from a larger collection of poems called Lite-Brite Brain Dungeon. I came up with the title one day when I was on Facebook. I love Facebook. It gives people a place to believe they are morally superior to others and their well-‘Liked’ morale provides me moments of entertainment. Especially since most people these days own a smartphone or a tablet and—let me tell you—those suspiciously smooth screens don’t polish themselves. Cerium. What is it? Where does it come from? I don’t know. Who cares, right? I have to get to Whole Foods before they close…
How do these pieces differ to what you've written before or don't they?
I’ve never written poems in this sort of hacker-language before. A poem like “You’re on Facebook Like an Ad” might sound more like a rap to readers and it contains the “onions” of Tor and taps into the subsequent every-day transactions frequently happening via illegal web pages. These poems are very influenced by social media activists like Nima Fatemi—addressing everything from human trafficking to bitcoin. I also spent many days shooting/editing footage for a short film adaptation of a Joyelle McSweeney poem called “Yeti-Stet” and the repeat-eat-eat of its frack-y sonics kind of infected me after a while. In a good way! I was quite lyrically-motivated during that time and I’m thrilled to have these poems featured in Cassette 68! Yeti-Stet is currently being showcased at Public Pool—an incredible project by John Ebersole and Sugar Tongue Slim.
Can you tell us a bit about what you're working on next?
I’m always trying to finish my novella-in-progress, Doohickey. It’s four years in the making. It’s about a pervy cop and two trailer-trashed teenaged boys. I’ve also been working on a translation of Helena Österlund’s Ordet och Färgerna (The Word and The Colors). I have a new short poem-film called Flag-It forthcoming in Kastratet and my translation of Sara Tuss Efrik’s Nattens Mage (The Night’s Belly)will be available in chapbook-form from Toad Press this Fall!
Heard any good music this year?
I’m loving Pittsburgh acts like slowdanger, TH0USANDZ OF BEEZ, and Sol Persona. I’ve also been enjoying the recent Azealia Banks mixtape, Slay-Z, as well as David Bowie’s Black Star. I don’t really follow music. But a friend posted a link to Cattle Decapitation’s The Anthropocene Extinction and that seemed pretty wholesome!
Do you fancy yourself as some kind of artist or what?
I prefer “artist” to “writer” I guess. People are always like, “What do you do? What is your aesthetic?” and I’m just like, “Just trying to have some fun / help some other artists out during my very temporary time on this gone-to-shit rock!” I kind of always wanted to go to film school, but I couldn’t afford it. Now I’m still writing and just make films anyway! I like to do collages, too. And paint. I’ve kind of always wanted to write a libretto, but I’m not sure how that would turn out… Might as well try at some point. Most of my friends these days are musicians or drag queens, so things will probably work out in the end.
Finally, have you read anything good this year?
I’m currently reading Don Mee Choi’s Hardly War. I’ve also loved The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa (Trans. by Sawako Nakayasu), Roy Scranton’s Learning To Die in the Anthropocene, Kim Yideum’s Cheer Up Femme Fatale (Trans. by Ji yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Göransson), Valerie Mejer Caso’s This Blue Novel, Loma’s Sad Girl Poems, Heath Ison’s Moments of Intermission, Abraham Smith’s Ashagalomancy, Nikki Wallschlaeger’s I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel, Derek McCormack’s The Well-Dressed Wound, Dawn Lundy Martin’s Life in a Box is a Pretty Life, and a collaborative book of poetry-in-translation called Trilingual Renshi by Yasuhiro Yotsumoto, Ming Di, Kim Hyesoon, and Shuntarō Tanikawa.
Looking forward to reading: Lily Hoang’s A Bestiary, Adam Crittenden’s Blood Eagle, and Alireza Taheri Araghi’s book of translations: I Am a Face Sympathizing with Your Grief.
Paul Cunningham (b. 1989) founded Radioactive Moat Press in 2009 and Deluge in 2012. He is the author of a chapbook of poems called GOAL/ TENDER MEAT/TENDER (Horse Less Press, 2015) and he is the translator of two chapbooks by Swedish author, playwright, and video artist Sara Tuss Efrik: Automanias: Selected Poems (winner of the 2015 Goodmorning Menagerie Chapbook-in-Translation Contest) and The Night’s Belly (Toad Press, Fall 2016). He is a contributing editor to Fanzine and his writing can be found in Fireflies, Gigantic Sequins, Bat City Review, LIT, Tarpaulin Sky, Spork, DIAGRAM, and others. His latest poem-films are forthcoming in kastratet.se and Pool: A Journal of Poetry. He holds a M.F.A. from the University of Notre Dame.
His work is due to appear in Cassette 68, Guest-Edited by Nat Baldwin (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2016)