Posted in The Potty Mouth Interviews

Justin Petropoulos Is All Get Out

Justin Petropoulos

I met Justin Petropoulos in Washington D.C. this past February at the AWP conference. The best thing about Justin is his last name which means something real cool. Just keep reading. The second best thing about Justin is that he is really tall and he wears cool glasses. He wears the kind of glasses that make him look super smart even though he is really super smart and doesn’t really need smart glasses. Like Einstein smart glasses. But I won’t hold it against him. The third coolest thing about Justin is that his real mother’s name is Dorothy just like mine except that I’m Almost Dorothy and his ma is the totally realized Dorothy without the Almost. She must have done something right to get that distinction. There’s one last (but actually most important) thing that I adore about Justin and that is his book Eminent Domain. On many levels, the book communicates with the spirits trapped or hiding out in the remote locations of his heart and head. In Eminent Domain, Justin brings the spirits to the surface, takes them for a walk and asks them to speak to us in tongues. As the spirits (by spirits I don’t mean drinks) communicate through him, we see Justin’s interior world inside his language. I have no idea what I’m saying at this point but it all sounds spooky.  All you need to know is that Justin is an amazing human, brilliant as shooting Tomahawk missile in the night. (I apologize to Justin and his entire family if I’ve misspelled his last name. It’s a gorgeous name that tricks me every time I write it out.)

Almost Dorothy: What isn’t a poem?

Justin Petropoulos: Ah, the time honored question, or more accurately its inverse. I think squat thrusts are not poems, margin calls, pants suits and breaking-up with someone via text message or IM, also burnt flan is not a poem. Though, on second thought, the flan and the squat thrusts have potential with the right spotter. I really don’t know the answer to that question. There is so much collage work in my writing that it’s hard for me not see a poem in everything, or at least something that could be deployed for poetic ends. Poetic Ends would be a great title for a series of photos, don’t you think?

AD: I don’t think. I just type and I think that breaking-up via text message or IM is way appropriate. What’s not appropriate is your last name, Mr. Petropoulos.

JP: Poems should push on the language and the language should push back. Maybe a food fight breaks out between the poem and the language and it’s mashed potato day in the cafeteria. That’s a poem. I want poems to move me, somehow, emotionally, intellectually, make me laugh, however, in some direction, even if I hate where I end up. Ambivalence in a poem is great, but if that’s the reaction of the reader…that might not be a poem or at least not a good one. Lucky for me, being moved is so subjective.

AD: Hmmm…no comment. In your new book, Eminent Domain, where the domain is eminent, why did you write “para meus pais com todo o meu amor”?

JP: Because I love my parents in Portuguese a little more than I do in English, or maybe, they love me more in Portuguese. I forget what they told me before they left me at that rest stop off I-95.

AD: You too!

JP: My parents have always been supportive of my writing; I wouldn’t have a collection of bottle caps, much less a collection of poems without them. There was always a second language being spoken, a pun, joke, (mis)translation or innuendo flying about in my house; language was very fluid, unstable, and there was a lot of it. We’re talkers. At home language was this incredibly dynamic construction, simultaneously personal and public…a performance. I fell in love with words because of that context, because of my parents. That’s what I tell my therapist anyway.

AD: I therapise my therapist. I’m gonna come out and say it: you write prose poems. Deal with it! What is the difference between a prose poem and flash fiction or a short short or a short short short?

JP: Yes officer, I was driving that car when it went over the bridge, but I have no recollection of who was driving the car. Sorry, got my interrogations crossed there for a second. What was the question? Oh, right, prose poems vs. flash fiction, what is the difference?

I want to quote Gloria Leonard here, she said, “The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting.”

AD: I thought it was the size of the penis.

JP: Don’t ask me which is which, prose poems and flash fictions are both pornography and erotica at different moments. The only differences I see between prose poems and short shorts are in the degrees specific techniques expected from the ‘traditional’ or source genres, i.e. fiction and poetry, from which these ‘new’ forms mutated, are employed and for what purpose.

But it’s all by degrees, scaled, some prose poems have a strong narrative element, others a more associative structure, but they both may have a heavy focus on a highly lyrical syntax or on character development, if one can call a poems speaker a ‘character.’ The same is true of short shorts, both the ones you wear and the ones you read. Leonard is right; it’s all in the lighting?

In the altered words of Justice Potter Stewart:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [prose poetry]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…. (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 1964)

Eminent Domain by Justin Petropoulos

AD: Jeez, I just wanted a yes or no answer. So, do you wear short shorts?

JP: I wear shorts as frequently as possible. There’s never enough time for shorts. That’s why theories of multiple dimensions are so wonderful, because at any given time/position, in at least one of these congruent dimensions, I’m wearing shorts.

AD: Hot. In the “The Coincidence of Wants”, there’s a memory of a prayer for snakes and a bit about punching out zygotes. You write, “If you say the words through the nose the snakes disappear, lassoed off by the wind….”. I’m curious: how is your nose, why are you anti-zygote, and when will you reveal the secrets of snakes?

JP: My nose is quit fit. Thanks for asking. Some light, weight-training three times a week has it blowing at capacity and yoga keeps the nostrils limber and balanced. I’m not anti-zygote, at least I don’t think I am, I just wanted to mechanize their production a bit. I don’t know their secrets. They don’t trust me since I bought that pair of boots. Let’s not talk about it. Feelings were hurt, let’s leave it at that.

AD: What is your favorite word, real or invented?

JP: This week: concretize, putrefaction and hippopotamus.

AD: Marxist, socialist, capitalist?

JP: Activist. At least I used to be.

AD: “We wash each other’s hands, we create phantom syntax, we caress the morning’s flimsy coat, like a whisper” (p.13). What does the whisper whisper?

JP: What the whisper whispers is less important than the (f)act of the whisper itself, I think. The message can be dirty and it can be sad, or shy or really anything, comforting, that doesn’t matter as much to me. I like all the messages I get whispered. They stay with me.

There’s something so perfect about communicating that way, especially now when we’re all on blast twenty-four hours a day, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Plus I love that exchange, the transmitter/receiver dynamic, the body as source (instrument) for words, when people whisper, it’s like they’re two bagpipes playing each other.

I realize that there is an a priori assumption at work in my logic: that this is a whisper between two people, which forces me to rethink all of my previous whisper rhetoric. (Contemplative interlude.) No, it doesn’t seem to change that much for me if we whisper as a group. But to be honest I prefer my whispers as a pair…a bit 50’s of me, but there it is. I’m a cliché maybe, but there’s just something about whispering that tears me up.

AD: I think you’re a liar. What’s the one thing you want people and their pets to know about Eminent Domain? About Petropolulos?

JP: Well, I’m not sure I want them to know anything about me, at least not the humans. As far as the poems in Eminent Domain, I think that the important thing for me when I wrote them (collaged them) was to offer the reader a huge space to read/write into. These poems need readers to finish them; at least I hope they do.

AD: Thanks God I don’t read. Do you own a lion? If not, why?

JP: I’m not sure ‘own’ is a word one can use regarding any proximity to a lion. So no, I don’t own a lion, but that’s just semantics.

AD: The [digression on the corn trade] culminates in a kind wind that “recognizes how lost we are”. Will we ever recognize what the wind sees?

JP: The existential answer is no, we’re too close to the object observed, but I think ‘recognize’ is a great word in this instance. The idea, that to know a person, for example, is an ongoing process, requiring a constant re-imagining of that person as a context in their own right, nesting in other, equally dynamic contexts, is an idea I’ve obsessed over. I also love Venn diagrams.

Symmetrical 5-set Venn Diagram

JP: I feel like these poems were fueled by that desire though, to ‘recognize’ language, to recast certain lexical features from economics or chemistry in an attempt to replicate the displacement of people by and within language itself. It’s also really kind of romantic to me. Like a vow. To think and re-think someone for as long as you both shall live. I now pronounce you. You may kiss the philosopher.

AD: At this point, I feel like you’re either really smart, really high, or i’m really smart because I figured out that you’re either really smat, smart, or really high. High-five! Favorite drink:

JP: Patron on the rocks with lime. It was a gift from a great poet and friend.

AD: Favorite scent:

JP: I love the smell of the ocean, of bacon frying, and the rest, I know I won’t tell.

AD: I smell like bacon therefore you love me! Define Petropoulos:

JP: Petropoulos is a wheel with a grooved rim around which a cord passes. It acts to change the direction of a force applied to the cord and is chiefly used (typically in combination) to tell lies to strangers in gazebos.

Justin Petropoulos | AKA Mr. Bunny

Justin Petropoulos’ poems have appeared in A cappella Zoo, American Letters & Commentary, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, Gulf Coast, Mandorla and Portland Review. He received his MFA from Indiana University.He lives in Brooklyn, New York where he and co-curates Triptych Readings ( with poets Mary Austin Speaker and Anne Lovering Rounds. He is also a part-time bunny rabbit.

Posted in The Potty Mouth Interviews

Terese Svoboda: The Pirate Talker

Terese Svoboda is not a pirate. She’s pirates. And her new book, Pirate Talk or Mermalade, is all pirate talk. It’s a hysterically dark  dialogue between two pirate brothers, a nutty ma, a whacked out parrot, and a host of other freakishly funny characters. Oh, and there’s even a mermaid. Hence, Mermalade not Marmalade. (See below.) In the end, the brothers arrive at the end and end up in the Arctic “where a secret unhinges them both”. I won’t reveal the secret (because I’m still decoding it) but all you really need to know is that all the characters are unhinged. Lovable. And absolutely kick ass. This interview took place in the hull of  a pirate ship and I’m still here. Help!

Almost Dorothy: In your latest novel Pirate Talk or Mermalade (DZABC Books), I hear you. The voices of two brothers, or bros, who fall into pirating and mermaiding, plunder the 18th century with a vocal cast of cooks and crooks, Ma, and a lunatic parrot that screams “hanged” now and then. Hanged! (I can’t get that line out of my head.) How the heck did/do you maintain/sustain the voices throughout the novel?

Terese Svoboda: The fun element. I enjoyed writing the voices, finding out what they would say. That is to say, people are always looking for ways to sound optimistic in the direst circumstances, and that continued to inspire me. Continue reading “Terese Svoboda: The Pirate Talker”

Posted in Almost Dorothy, The Potty Mouth Interviews

Montgomery Maxton: This Beautiful Bizarre

Montgomery Maxton is so bizutiful. He writes. He takes photographs. He makes video reviews of other writers. He wears a mask for fun, but not all the time. And I think he does acrobats too. In other words, he does lots of creative stuff that makes me want to fly on his superhuman wings. He uses  swear words too in front of cakes. (See below.)

Almost Dorothy: Tell us about your first collection of poetry, This Beautiful Bizarre. What makes it beautiful and what makes it bizarre?

Montgomery Maxton: I look at the world as a very beautiful and very bizarre place. And life is very beautiful and bizarre, too. With this book I take excerpts from life, and from the world, and showcase them, glorify them really – love, death, tragedy, triumph, etc. – to the point that it becomes the reader’s life. People who are connecting with this book are those who haven’t picked-up a poetry book in their adult life; your everyday people. The big wig poetry diva’s and divo’s that have read it have given it wonderful praise, but it’s the everyday men and women – the hard workers, the broken-hearted, the ones who can’t write a poem to save their life – who are reading it over and over and A-bombing me with great feedback, for which I’m completely grateful.

Continue reading “Montgomery Maxton: This Beautiful Bizarre”

Posted in The Potty Mouth Interviews

New Interviews Coming Soon…

I’m heading back to school. That means I won’t have time to write, which is good news for Rick Scott and Sarah Palin. However, I’ll be a lot smarter when I’m done! Dont’ worry though, I will have some new Potty Mouth Interviews (coming soon) with Terese Svoboda and Montgomery Maxton. In the meantime, watch out for these two ghouls. They’re eating all the chocolate chip cookies from Miami to Fort Lauderdale.

Posted in Almost Dorothy, The Potty Mouth Interviews

Steven Cordova: The Long Distance

Steven Cordova + Long Distance

Welcome back to the Potty Mouth Interviews and I hope you enjoy my new interview with Steven Cordova (love his name!), a poet, who may also be a Borg, who is based in Brooklyn. More on that later. I read Steven ‘s book while I was held hostage inside a flying sardine can (American Airlines) and it made me laugh, smile, cry, and eat lots of pretzels. It’s a wonderful book. Steven is not afraid to speak universal truth without throwing it in your face. Long Distance is delicate, deliberate and really, really awesome. In fact, Steven’s poetry closes the distance between the reader and writer. It shines a light and that light illuminates the stars.

Almost Dorothy: In your first collection, Long Distance, you enter unlit rooms and bump into dressers, pose nude for Spencer Tunic, travel the federation starship Voyager, and hang out with the Chicken & the Egg and the last AIDS cat. How did you do it, how did you write this collection, and do you have the photograph? I guess these are questions of process.

Steven Cordova: Leading the life of whimsy that I do, I bump into a lot of things. Really, it’s amazing Long Distance got written at all. But the poems you make reference to above all came to me after I hit my stride as poet. Before that I was poetically constipated, and it took a long time for me to draft and finish a poem. So I think that a variety of subject matter comes from confidence, and from reading a lot. Reading has shown me a poem can be about anything—
Continue reading “Steven Cordova: The Long Distance”

Posted in The Potty Mouth Interviews

Cowabunga : An Interview with Sandrine Orabona

Yes, Sandrine Orabona was “one of two cinematographers on Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’, using her skills to document the artist, cast and crew as they prepared for their run of shows in London.” Yes, enough said. Who cares about that stuff, anyway? In this Potty Mouth Interview, Orabona and I discuss via long distance telepathic underwater communication, her work as a documentary filmmaker, her process & multi-tasking talents, and her most beautiful mistake. We also gab about her love for surfing (while surfing), black coffee with sugar and milk, the World Cup, and the little pager that couldn’t (my dog ate it). Don’t say anything about France losing in the World cup, either. Hush. Hush. Seriously. Orabona is magic, distilled, and illuminating. I want to use that cliché too to describe her, but she’s beyond inspirational. She’s just pure spirit. Enjoy the interview.

Almost Dorothy: In your bio, it states “Sandrine Orabona has always believed in the power this genre [documentary filmmaking] to convey the intensity of human emotions.” Where does this power come from and how is it created?

Sandrine Orabona: People. Moments in time. These days, so much drama is created and inflated in our media – so called “journalism” or “reality” television (I’ve spent my fair share working for both). Documentary work takes just a little bit more time and attention than the general media is ready to give – time is money, baby. They skim the surface, take a tiny bit of information and blow up some headline without even taking the time to see if it’s true, let alone live with it or understand it. It’s simple in concept, really, the documentary format – be an aware, involved observer and then distill the emotion from the material. It’s always there.

AD: Is it image alone, above, beyond, or in conjunction with other forms of artistic expression, that gives film the power to awaken?

SO: I’d start by saying that this power depends on the quality of the filmmaking. But in my opinion the art form that holds the greatest power to move people is music. When music and visuals are combined I think that power is amplified exponentially. That’s why I tend towards music documentary but you can also find many examples in narrative film and television, when they’re done well.

Continue reading “Cowabunga : An Interview with Sandrine Orabona”

Posted in Almost Dorothy, The Potty Mouth Interviews

Matthew Hittinger: The Bride of Hybrida


Almost Dorothy’s Potty Mouth Interview series is back, yahoo!, with a new interview with the fabulous poet Matthew Hittinger, who may be one of the infamous X-Men (or Women). It doesn’t get better than this. Matthew Hittinger is pretty darn awesome even if he doesn’t get to wear white on his wedding day. (More on that later.) In our interview, Mattthew reveals & rumbas about hybrid poetry, splicing & dicing literary forms, queerness, and the art of identity or the identity of art. We talk about X-Men, Jeanette Winterson, and Alice in Wonderland. I may have just made that up, but you’ll find out if you read on, sisters & brothers. I dare you. Enjoy Matthew Hittinger: The Bride of Hybrida. Smiles.



Matthew Hittinger: Do I get to wear white?

Almost Dorothy: Hush baby, don’t you worry, I do the interviewing around here. You can wear white if I can wear my ruby red platforms.

AD: Now that we got that settled, a real question. If you were a hybrid mythological creature combined, spliced together from two or three, a hybrida of sorts, which mythological creature would you be, and why?

Continue reading “Matthew Hittinger: The Bride of Hybrida”

Posted in The Potty Mouth Interviews

Sandy McIntosh: He Can Dance in the Style of Flamenco

Sandy McInitosh

Sandy McIntosh can dance, write, cook, shimmy & shake, and invent whole universes in his sleep. He can sing too! Well, not really, but Sandy is super sweet and his poetry is full of friction. His latest work, Ernesta, in the Style of Flamenco, traverses the “fascinating social dimensions of music and its impact.” I have no idea what that means, but Sandy has given me an interview in which he reveals the music behind the music of Sandy McIntosh. Enjoy.

Almost Dorothy: Ernesta, in the Style of the Flamenco is a monumental collection of poetry—experimental, musical, hysterical. Tell us about the process of putting Ernesta together.

Sandy McIntosh: I’d often tried my hand at fiction but was never satisfied with the results. I’d written short stories and even a novel, which I found to be a painful, confusing experience. I realized that my instinct was to write expository fiction as if I were writing intense, condensed poetry. I was at war with myself. In the end, I decided to rewrite from memory these stories as narrative poems. Seen through the lens of poetry, the stories began to make more sense. For example, a story based on a dinner I’d had with a friend, was called “Susie the Idiot.” But when I revisited it through the lens of poetry I discovered that, in truth, I had been the only idiot in the piece. With this as a starting point I made poems of other stories, and several of them are in Ernesta.

Continue reading “Sandy McIntosh: He Can Dance in the Style of Flamenco”

Posted in The Potty Mouth Interviews

Heather Christle: The Difficult Farm

The Difficult Farm

Heather Christle’s book, The Difficult Farm, is a beautiful space that inhabits a transliminal world inhabited by goats and bunnies, dragons and little owls, and maybe a few camels. Well, maybe not all of those animals, but some. Heather’s poetry floats and whispers soft curses. Whips the reader around. Juxtaposes and poses right in your face. In fact, when I received her book in the mail, I decided to read the book backwards, so I curled up in a small corner where no one would find me, not even mom. You should do the same. In this interview, Heather and I discuss trust, Miss Manners, and the famous pizzeria Pizzeria Unos.

Almost Dorothy: Just a warning: I’m not real, so everything I say is real. First of all, I’ve never been to a farm, so I want to know what a difficult farm is like?

Heather Christle: A difficult farm is also not real, but I think it is probably common, tough, and rewarding.

AD: In your book of poems, The Difficult Farm, I laughed and cried buckets of milk. Well, I didn’t cry, but I felt like a bunny missing an ear. What informs or reforms your aesthetics?

HC: For a while in my first year at grad school, “your aesthetic” was a phrase that got tossed around kind of in place of “your mother.” Carson Cistulli was doing most of the tossing. I think my aesthetics are informed by Miss Manners, a belief in Enthusiasm, some Serbians, some Russians, a love of animals, and a pursuit of being deeply, deeply wrong.

Continue reading “Heather Christle: The Difficult Farm”

Posted in Almost Dorothy, The Potty Mouth Interviews

Charles Jensen: Way Better than Ke$ha

Charles Jensen

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.

Continue reading “Charles Jensen: Way Better than Ke$ha”