JULY 1ST, 2014
interviewed by N!
Nostrovia!: What would you like to ask your ancestors from hundreds of years ago?
Ben Austin: I'd like to ask them about the end goal of America; what/who does the country care about and why? I wouldn't care about their answer from a political perspective, just from a common sense of society.
N!: If you could live in any ancient civilization, which would you choose and why?
BA: Ancient China, it always seems to me like you could disappear back then and no one would find it odd or eccentric
N!: Is there a particular reason none of your poems are titled?
BA: I do have a handful that have titles, but I think I've seen too many poems that I feel like the title was added at the end as a kind of skeleton key to make absolutely sure the reader got the message, which, to me, is insulting and ruins a lot of the fun and possible multiple meanings. It's funny that now I insist on all of my visual art having titles, and I get tons of messages about those titles ;D
N!: Do you submit to publishers / contests with any regularity?
BA: I never submit to anything simply b/c, other than a small group of elite journals (which often don't take open submissions), an individual writer or artists of any kind can build a more engaged, if not larger, community than most small journals, sites, etc. can offer. The same goes for 99% of publishers too, nothing against them. However, if someone I have context with asks me to submit things, then I say yes 99% of the time. For instance, Matthew Thompson (mbt.tumblr.com, among other sites) works on Cage Match, and he asked me to submit poems, so I said yes instantly b/c he was one of the first people I was inspired by online.
N!: Three favorite small presses?
BA: NY Tryant, Muumuu House, and Publishing Genius are three I am always impressed by, although I always have a soft spot for anyone publishing completely independently ;D
N!: When you write, does it storm out of you like vomit?
BA: I have written that way sometimes, but mostly I write for short periods everyday (literally everyday), so it seems to me now to consistent and controlled, although I might go furiously for that 45 mins. or so
N!: You are locked in a jail cell (with no ink, pens, or paper), and have to come up with a means to record a poem a day or you'll be executed. How would you do so?
BA: Not sure if it would count, but thinking it and remembering it w/o ever writing it down has worked for me while driving in the past and led to some of my most popular poems ;D
"I simply use the “poetry” hashtag for others to find me easily. None of this means I’m writing poetry. If someone argued that what I write isn’t poetry for reasons A, B, C, or whatever, I’d probably agree and continue metabolizing."
***from Ben's interview w/ D. Foy
N!: That is absolutely wonderful. What was the process to obtaining such a notion?
BA: This idea was based partly on Karl Shapiro's idea that "American poetry" is an impossible idea, so it not being poetry would not be an insult at all, and on Jonathan Meese's idea that art just keeps going kind of like hunger or sexual desire. You eat, wait a bit, and then you have to do it again. I found he confirms a lot of my suspicions about art/writing even though I don't make art or write as he does.
N!: What other forms of art do you create?
BA: I make digital art as well, although I do now have an agent that I'm working with who is launching an art collector services company, working with clients and galleries, so I will likely be making IRL versions of my digital art soon. I keep both writing and art on murooned.tumblr.com , but there is a tag for each, so people who prefer one can focus it on my site.
N!: Why are you so interested in Riff Raff?
BA: I've been a Riff Raff fan from early on; someone linked to the Cocaine Cypher Freestyle, which I still stand by as one of the best language things that exists.
On top of that with things like "If you see somebody hatin', point 'em out" and "If you don't like what I'm sayin' I wasn't talkin' to you" etc. he confirms my suspicion of things people make on the internet that if somebody is doing anything, anything at all, there is no reason to criticize anything; it just seems retro at this point ;D He also inspired people like Steve Roggenbuck, even though Steve disagrees with his seemingly crass use of money on chains, cars, etc,
This becomes big when you are trying to write or make art completely independently since there will be stretches of original stuff you worked hard on that will get less attention, views, love than others (it just happens mathematically), and, to me, it's key to love the idea of just doing that infinitely until that day you actually die with not even a promise of it "paying off" other than to the small group of true fans (no matter how many followers or views you have). The same seems to be true of even the biggest names who do things on their own ;D You have to kind of laugh it as a thesis for life even though your art might be something you really love and take seriously since the odds are against everyone despite quality ;D
N!: Where do you see poetry evolving to?
BA: About how poetry is evolving, to me, it seems like all art has a similar trajectory at the moment, maainly b/c of the internet. In the past, there were only so many pages even in the most eclectic journals and only so many books per year even the most interesting publishers could put out; now there is "infinite shelf space" for all art, including poetry, so it seems like there will be lively communities with engaged readers and active writers for found text, image macros, videos, traditional styles, alt lit (which I'm always confused as to what counts ;D), etc. And most interestingly, many writers are not pegged into one category; they can jump around from found text to traditional forms without it being a big deal. So, overall, I think there is no one trajectory since there is no mainstream anymore.