I would like to thank Charles Jensen and his pets for enduring this Potty Mouth Interview. I’m proud to say I’m gay because of him. Or maybe not. Actually, never mind. All you need to know is that Charles is ballsy, brilliant, and (one more B word) muy auténtico. When I proposed this interview, he wrote, “I think I suffer from a disability that prevents me from being irreverent.” I had to look up irreverent in the dictionary and I discovered the word comes from Middle English, which I guess is in the center of Left and Right English. Charles simply occupies English. Nuff’ said. He is a reverent artist, writer, soothsayer, rabid fan of Gossip Girl, America’s Next Top Bottle, and the Vampire Diaries. He is a good gay uncle, friend of Dorothy, a voice calling for the end of violence, and a newly minted Ke$ha fan. If you beg, he may let you see his fabulous acoustic version of Tik Tok. I wasn’t a Ke$ha fan until this. Enjoy.
Almost Dorothy: On your blog, you have this quote, which mom says is really dumb, but she’s an ass so don’t pay any attention to her, that says, “I can’t remember when the world turned slowly, so I’ll just lay here with the lights turned out again.” What happens when memory returns and the lights won’t turn off? What then?
Charles Jensen: Then we are all trapped after hours in the Museum of Past Wrongs, forced to constantly confront all the ways we’ve failed the people we love. That, or we run out of popcorn. Neither is a reality I’m ready to confront.
AD: Where do you exist?
CJ: Ideally at 20° 52′ 0 N 156° 30′ 2 W
AD: You know that tract of land is barren. Anyscare, I read somewhere that you’re having a relationship with Dorothy Gale. What? (Note that ‘what’ was spoken with a Southern twang. Think Reese Witherspoon.) Explain your relationship with Gale, not Spoon.
CJ: Dorothy Gale is the fictional representation of my inner person. She is a frumpy Midwesterner who wears drapes. (This is essentially how people sum me up after meeting me. Charles’s words, not mine.) (Yes, Charles Jensen is a drape. Yes, I said that.) But she years (or yearns) for so much more that she creates a fantastic dreamworld where she becomes a Christ figure. It’s positively transgressive. In the “backwards” fantasy world, all the men are impotent. Girl-on-girl violence is the only means of bringing about radical change. This is essentially how I would describe growing up in Wisconsin. I believe Wisconsin has historically developed the highest per capita instance of cannibalism in the history of America, excluding the Donner Party.
AD: I’m a vegetarian now, at least 4 days a week. So mom says one can’t really know anyone from their latest book. You must read his first book, she said. I haven’t had the chance, yet. Don’t fret. But I have September in my pocket. What are you working on that will change the world’s heart?
CJ: I do not seek to change the world’s heart, only to remind the world that its heart exists.
AD: Whoa, I almost cried!
CJ: What I’ll tell you I’m working on depends mostly on my mood. Today I feel connected to Jill Johnson, the heroine of Musical Theatre in Hell, my novel in progress. She is a self-described student of the human condition who won’t let anyone get in her way of complete theatre department control and ultimate fame—especially not superqueer Evan Quincy Evanston, who seeks to destroy her.
But what I really want to do is direct.
AD: Are you a collagist or a mesmerist?
CJ: That’s probably the most brilliant question I’ve ever been asked.
AD: Nice answer. So, if you were Ke$ha, would you remake Stevie Nick’s “Rhiannon”, Madonna’s “Material Girl”, or another song of your choice? And, why?
CJ: “Material Girl,” obviously. Ke$ha is the new Madonna. Lindsay Lohan is the new Stevie Nicks.
AD: Ok, now record it and upload it to YouTube for this interview. Yes, seriously. Go!
CJ: I’ll give it a shot.
AD: We know Matthew Shepard wasn’t the last? When will the violence end?
CJ: When we stop letting it happen.
AD: From your p.o.v., what’s your outlook for equal marriage rights for same-sex uncles?
CJ: Equal marriage rights are coming for loving uncles, but they will pass right over philandering lawmakers who hate on gays and then cruise Manhunt.com at night. I think marriage is a beautiful thing. My boyfriend and I are good gay uncles. We played Life with my 7-year-old niece. We told her she could have a girl or a boy when she got married. She picked a boy but we weren’t allowed to tease her that it was her boyfriend. When Beau and I stopped at the church and got married to other men (his husband was named Buck Naked), my niece giggled and said, “You can’t marry boys, you are boys!” But we told her that we could marry boys where we lived, and she said she guessed that was okay then. But she still won the game, which means true marriage equality is still beyond our grasp!
AD: Best answer ever. I’m going to register for a Manhunt account now and use mom’s true name. So, curry or B.B.Q? Tofu or Teppanyaki?
CJ: BBQ, esp. Famous Dave’s. I’m a fool for teppanyaki. I love watching people cook my food. That way I can ensure nobody spit in it.
AD: In Pedro Almodóvar’s film, Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother), La Agrado says she’s muy auténtica . What makes one muy auténtico and how?
CJ: The path to autenticitá is a personal journey. For La Agrado, the journey was much like Heidi Montag’s. We must each spend our lives becoming the person we are to be. Sometimes this involves knives, sometimes ink.
AD: Favorite Almodóvar film?
CJ: All About My Mother. I am Manuela and there are two worlds: the boring, sterile world of Madrid, and the cartoonish, surrealist world of Barcelona. But what you should know is that in both worlds, miracles happen.
AD: Mine too. The first risk you took that changed the course of your life as an artist, a professional, or as a human being?
CJ: I read a poem at a writers conference/competition for high school students that used baseball as an extended metaphor for sex. It was truly high art. I had to read this poem in a small group setting where it would be critiqued by other high school students and a writer-mentor. We were in a small auditorium. I read the poem at the podium. In the middle of it, a nine-months-pregnant high school girl stood up and shouted at me that I was full of bullshit and that my poem was offensive. (It was.) She said I didn’t know anything about sex. (She was right.) But the girls from my high school that were attending with me were tough girls. They were the girls who put the tip of their eyeliner into their lighter before they put it on. They wore denim jackets and chased dudes who drove loud cars. Sometimes they smoked and drank. And they liked me. So they stood up and shouted back at the pregnant girl. And it almost became a riot. My first public poetry reading almost resulted in blood shed.
AD: The biggest mistake you’d make again?
CJ: This interview. Oh, snap!
AD: You sassy betch! Well, it’s been a blast, off you go. Last words:
CJ: In the immortal words of Kellie Pickler: “What’s a ‘ballsy’?”
Charles Jensen is the author of three chapbooks, including Living Things, which won the 2006 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award, and The Strange Case of Maribel Dixon (New Michigan Press, 2007). His first full-length collection, The First Risk, was published in 2009 by Lethe Press. A past recipient of an Artist’s Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, his poetry has appeared in Bloom, Columbia Poetry Review, Copper Nickel, The Journal, New England Review, spork, and West Branch. He holds an MFA in poetry from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing an MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. He is the founding editor of the online poetry magazine LOCUSPOINT, which explores creative work on a city-by-city basis. He serves as director of The Writer’s Center, one of the nation’s largest independent literary centers. He is also active in his local community by serving on the Board of Directors of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County and in the national community by serving on the Emerging Leader Council of Americans for the Arts.