I am always reading three books at a time. You? maybe more. It is interesting how a book of fiction, an autobiography and a graphic novel start to draw parallels. How any three books that are bedside start to call and respond to one another. So it is not surprising that Nikia Chaney, the fourth poet laureate of the Inland Empire, has me dog earing the book of poetry that she edited entitled
San Bernardino, Singing while Mark and I revisited and prepped her
new book on Bamboo Dart Press that is out today entitled Three, Walking. I can’t help but marry both books together. They are similarly titled and both survey the people and the landscape, possible escape and the resignation of trying to make a lesser world a better one. That which is beyond our control weighs heavy in both books and so much of the poetic writing in Chaney’s new book calls me back to look at a specific poem by a different writer in the book of poetry that she edited.
Chaney, in the physical world of ours, has done all of the above, and beyond that, served to open doors for students, for writers in workshops, worked for justice, to light the darker recesses and lend relief maps to those traveling rough terrain. Her talent and her singular voice is rich and real. No showboat, no Queen Mary rust gathering. Chaney’s Three, Walking is otherworldly but not distant. She calls it Science Fiction. I would agree if we are terming Octavia Butler a Sci-fi writer, Andrei Tarkovsky a Sci-fi director & Margaret Brundage a Sci-fi painter. Otherworldly, but not distant.
Three, Walking came to me as a work of science fiction. It is such a maligned genre, was it your intent to write a work of science fiction or did the story come to you without that intent?
Oh I absolutely intended a science fiction story. Sci fi or speculative fiction is my gateway into reading. While I am primarily a poet, I fondly remember being very young and intensely interested in new worlds and different ways to look at the question of being human. Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Leguin were my favorite. Butler wrote about society in a way that the characters themselves revealed the central thems. And Leguin’s work was all about the ways human beings make community. Other writers like Asimov and Sagan wrote short stories that simply blew my mind away. I loved short stories the best as they quickly introduced the characters, setting, and essential questions. These stories, though were still a bit of an experiment. I wanted to know if I could do it. That was crazy fun, though: discovering a new genre of writing.
Giving nothing away to the reader, the lighthearted Goebbels-esque treatment of those that inhabit the keep-pen by the narrator in chapter one is not rooted far from reality. The story can work on a level as simple as campfire oration fantasy, or as dense as a Shirley Jackson short story that is deep on parables without being pretentious.
That story is most like one of the more frightening ones of the three. It started with those first images “wooly heads, keep pen, wild”. As the story developed I keep the picture of the events visually and just went where it needed to go. Inhabiting the speaker was so hard as it takes the pov of someone I find abhorrent. Yet it was a good exercise in exploring resistance, a theme I absolutely love.
Some of your poetry experiments with the absence of words, linking verbs and such are omitted, giving the reader pause. One of the characters in this book does a bit of that. The absence of words – is she new to this language, an immigrant, an alien, a tortured human? Is it a shorthand effort to get this backstory and these possibilities into a short story?
Language. I love love love language. Again this must relate to me being a poet but I also experiment with textual art, so having the story do that felt natural. I also wanted to make it universal in the sense that the reader can place the characters where ever they seemed to be. The beauty of speculative fiction (for me) is that the point of the story isn’t so much the plot but the experience of looking at humanity (as I believe all sci-fi stories touch on humanity) from a very different viewpoint.
The working title for your book was Three Women, Leaving (Walking), I am surely far off in the deep end, but it called to my mind a riff on the Robert Altman film “Three Women”, the ambiguity and amorphous nature of the women in the keep-pen in your book.
Oh I wasn’t thinking of the Robert Altman film, though I have to definitely check that out. I was thinking of Nina Simone’s “Four Women”, but since there are three stories. Ha! The walking comes from this idea of leaving home, breaking out, taking a risk to push against the confines (keep-pen) of the world in some essential way. I love this story by Stephen King, “The Long Walk” and I always think about how the characters react to the stress of their journey. Walking too for me is this strange act in which we use our bodies, or limbs to move slowly away, not run, but walk. As if we are still going but taking our time.
You are working on a memoir. Ladybug, due out in 2022. You have written poetry that is of a personal nature in the past, but I wonder if writing memoir is more difficult to come to than poetry or essays? Curious as you work on this book how you are approaching it.
Oh yes, memoir is the most difficult of all. In memoir there is no hiding or building complexities and creations to get at themes. And pain has to be looked at directly as this happened, this happened to me. For poetry I always feel I can play. I can sing or paint words on the page that look pleasing so what I am actually saying takes a bit of back seat. Writing fiction, though sci fi has taught me that I can build worlds slowly and inhabit them with people (who may look like me) in order to show us the mirror of ourselves. All three genres take different approaches. Equally they ask for the same things though. Truth, the willingness to look at pain, the need to find beauty, and the surprising way it always ends where the writer needs it to end at a new beginning a new story or line in the reader’s hands.
Inland Empire Poet Laureate Nikia Chaney’s book Three, Walking is out on September 20th. You can preorder the book here. Below is the trailer featuring a reading by Chaney from the book which weaves her poetic language into a science fiction parable that explores a world in which three brave women push against the external structures of their realm that abstractly mirrors our own.
Megan Siebe has been writing and recording music for two decades. Her string arrangements dot recordings by The Renderers, Simon Joyner, Cursive, Refrigerator and others. I am so thrilled to have a copy of her debut record in hand as I write this, a co-release between Shrimper & Grapefruit. That this record is out today, August the 27th, is poetic. It is the perfect veranda tonic when the A/C doesn’t work on a humid summer eve. Tennessee Williams. I think of August Wilson. Albee too, I don’t know why. It is literature that comes to mind when I play this record.
I remember being in Omaha for a week one summer, the windows were screened and opened the entire time. Fireflies. It sounded like this gorgeous record by Megan Siebe. She is my John Bonham or Dewey Redman – easy to not even hear her in the recordings that she has done because her playing is that of an empath. She does whatever it is that needs to be done. No smoke blow bullshit. Playing in C minor for eight minutes if needed. Siebe?
This record of hers is everything about her that I know, that for a decade I have arms distance loved, it is all here. You need a simple shrug? You need a two AM ledge talk down? It is all here on this stately debut record of hers. My favorite artists are the ones that are not trying to impress me. I said bye bye to the Bill Bruford grilled cheese beard stroking society when I was 14. I was a servant for most of my life & understand the roll of the server. See? Siebe, she does what has to be done, I mean, religiously, in whatever guise you find her. This record of hers serves her songs. She does not over arch, does not Paris of plaster, caulk the minor disasters, no, she has faith in you. You will see it for what it is worth. She is like that. Light footed, laughing off the heartache, and moving forward, not moving on. August. The windows are open, and if you are quiet, you can hear everything in this record of hers.
Megan Siebe’s debut LP is being co-released by Shrimper and Grapefruit Records on August 27th, a limited edition 160 gram beauty of an LP with a lyric insert, download code, and, for a limited time, a hand sewn slip bag. Check out the debut of the second track and video from the record Swaying Steady, Whispers via Ears to Feed. Preorders are ongoing at Grapefruit with a limited edition cloth sleeve hand screened by Siebe.
Juanita Mantz is a force of nature. Her debut book is a thumbnail polaroid that develops in your hands over the course of sixty pages. There she is burdened as a troubled youth, dropping out of high school to a mix tape of Siouxsie, X, The Smiths and The Cure and then voila, she puts herself through college (spoiler alert for those that haven’t read the title of her book) to become a public defender.
But wait, better than that is that her new book Portrait of a Deputy Public Defender (or, how I became a punk rock lawyer is an inspiring read that showcases Mantz’s ability to write in a number of different modes. Essays, autobiography, young adult narratives all crash into one another like the soundtrack of her youth and womanhood, making apologies for nothing and making the case for all that she holds to be of great import. Her family reminds me of my family, might remind you of yours. That she economically fleshes out her uncle and sister in a vignette in the book that still slugs me and stops me in my tracks on the seventh read speaks volumes. This is good writing powered by good intention. Good intention delivered in the work that she does as public defender and as a force for change in our thirsty world. I have told you twice now, she is a force to be reckoned with. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Your book reads like a thoughtful mix-tape. There are deeply personal passages, SE Hinton/Young Adult offramps, Charles Mingus underdog autobiographical entries, treatise that get thick into it on the injustices of the justice system…sewn together by your unique voice. It reads to me like you did a lot of surgery to get to the root of all of these things, leaving a lot on the cutting room floor.
I cut the most from the first chapbook story How Did I Get Here? Interestingly, that story is one of the last stories in my 200 plus page YA memoir which ends with me dropping out. This chapbook, funnily enough, begins with that same “HS dropout” story, and is about why my dropout history is my magic wand as a deputy public defender. It’s a reframing in a way…. it’s a YA tragedy in my other book which is written in present tense YA voice, but looking back as an adult in this chapbook, I’m glad it happened. It gave me resilience, and empathy.
For this chapbook, I cut a lot out of that “dropout story” and left the longer version in my longer YA memoir. The stuff I cut out was about my older half sister Barb dying my junior year of HS and my dad almost committing suicide when she died…It just seemed like too much. So I cut it. But it was hard to cut. In the longer memoir, the dropout story is much longer and more detailed and is retitled “Under the big black sun” as a nod to the LA punk band X which mirrors the cover on this chapbook. I also worked on making my mom more well rounded. In both of my books, I had to show just how much my mom put into me so her anger feels justified. She thought I was gonna make it to college, which I did eventually years later, and then law school, but me dropping out of high school 5 units short almost broke her. My twin Jackie made it, just barely, but that’s her story to tell, not mine, but I’m glad one of us did graduate that day.
It’s funny you mention SE Hinton because I have a whole story in my longer YA memoir book called Stay Gold that’s inspired by SE Hinton’s writing and the book The Outsiders… it’s about me and my friends at a club called Marilyn’s in Pasadena. SE Hinton, along with Judy Blume, was a huge influence on my writing style. The jazz reference is also interesting, because I do tend to write in a trance and just go with it. In fact, most of the essays and stories were written in one sitting. Like I said, I get inspired and go into a trance and write a first draft and then I edit and edit. And edit some more. I edit the whole piece word by word over and over. And sometimes that can take a while. Then again, I also have a couple of stories that came out perfect in the first draft that I never had to edit, one of those was a story about visiting my grandpa in Norco. That’s the universe/muses working through me when that happens.
A lot in the chapbook is really about blue collar life which intersects with punk rock and public defense nicely. And my dad’s bar and my parents’ professions and my upbringing etc.
Ultimately, I could see expanding the chapbook into a longer academic book about the legal “other”, which was the topic of my USC Law school “note” or thesis. I would use Edward Said (Orientalism), along with James Joyce (my title mirrors his book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), and I would use the teachings of Gloria Anzaldúa’ and her book Borderlands / La Frontera and the philosophy/social justice writings of Cherie Moraga, Angela Davis and others…. I do some of that in this chapbook, but there’s a lot more to be said.
The passage in the book about your sister graduating from high school after you dropped out and your uncle’s disgust about this is such a visceral piece in the book. It is not a spoiler if you answer this, has he seen the work that you did and are now doing on behalf of the underserved in need of a public defender?
Regarding Uncle Roland, that was the hardest part of my dropout day. My godfather’s disappointment was palpable. I saw myself through his eyes that day and I was ashamed. Sadly, my Uncle Roland died in 2003, just after I graduated from law school. The year after in fact. He never got to see me as a deputy public defender. But Roland, aka Wolfman Jack, did live to see me become a lawyer. Another fun fact, my uncle Roland was initially only my godfather, but I had to share him with my twin sister Jackie (like most stuff as kids/twins) after her godfather Mickey died suddenly (he was very obese and lived in Montana and died after gastric bypass surgery in the 1970s).
The poor, the indigent, those lost in the legal malaise, it is one thing to spray paint “punk’s not dead” on a wall or scrawl “society sucks” on a peechee folder in yer teens, another altogether to work within the system, for the people instead of dismissively rejecting the system. I dig this as your definition of punk rock.
Yes, music is my everything. It saved me along with writing. I love lyrics and beats. I love to dance and sing (I am off key usually) and music is just a huge part of my life along with concerts! I’m excited to see “X” soon. A live show makes me feel young again. It’s what my best friends and I always gravitated to. It’s our joy. Thank god my husband loves the same music too. Ironically, I came back to punk rock and post punk right after I left corporate law. There’s a direct relationship between finding the two things again, ie, finding myself again, and the fact that one of my PD supervisors had seen the Sex Pistols live! Because in HS, I was obsessed with The Sex Pistols. And PIL. And Sid who was long dead by then.
Most of my fave bands in HS were a mix of punk and post punk. I’m not that knowledgeable about later punk to be honest. I’m more into the proto punk bands like the NY Dolls, The Stooges, Velvet Underground and then The Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, and other Cali punk bands like X and Social Distortion and of course post punk people like Siouxsie, Robert Smith/the Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus along with The Smiths… and early U2 and the Replacements (who started out punky but turned almost pop in their last album) and The Pixies. Of course, I’m also super obsessed with Bowie, and I am a huge Runaways/Joan Jett and Go-Go’s fan. Those were my bands. I tend to deep dive into bands and singers.
Being punk for me is now more of a political statement and a way of looking at the world. I’m trying to create a discourse in my chapbook to show the intersections. We’ve created an incarcerated class. It’s tragic. I also wanted to redeem the image of a deputy public defender in the media. We’re hard working, punk rock lawyers. We’re doing it for the clients. Not ever for the money. At least not most of us. We’re usually true believers. I could never go private because I could never have a client’s family mortgage their house to pay. I’d go broke in a month. As a deputy public defender 4, don’t get me wrong, I make a decent living but still after 13 years, I make only a bit more than what I made in my 1st year of practice as a corporate civil lawyer.
Lawyers are white collar but I still think of myself as blue collar in my soul. Public defense is blue collar work. It’s blue-collar life, it’s fighting the powers that be, it’s everything. As is punk music. And what’s weird is that I so resisted writing about my work for years. I had so many blocks, the privileges, privacy, fear, but after George Floyd, I said fuck it. I’m gonna say what I want. It’s why I could never be a judge, among other reasons such as imprisoning and caging humans, because I need to say what I think aloud and loud, and not be constrained, in writing, both personally, & politically. In sum, I need to tell my stories.
Music is such an important part your life. You have touched upon how records by The Replacements, X, Bowie, etc. offered you a place to land in conversations with me, and it is in the book to a degree as well. Your experience having been sidelined and outcast reads in the book as a means with which to rescue those asea. How many years have you now worked as a public defender?
I’ve been doing this public defense work almost thirteen years now which is more than half my almost 20 year legal career. I graduated in 2002. My job is hard on the soul. But I love it. Yet, it’s hard, so I’m hoping to make it to at least 55 and I’m almost 50. But maybe I’ll last another ten years who knows? The old corporate law Juanita feels like a different person, that was never me. I was Eliza Doolittle. Pretending. For almost 7 years. Glad I got out when I did. I might not be here otherwise.
I love my job, but the work gets harder and harder the more experience you have. I handle very serious cases, and I do a lot of consulting with other lawyers from my office. The only thing I won’t handle is death penalty. I’m happy to consult but I cannot do those cases as I’m not DP certified and frankly could not stomach participating as a lawyer in that field. It would probably harm me in my soul irrevocably but I so, so admire the lawyers who can do that work.
Also, I’ve created this specialty in mental health and incompetency and it’s taken almost a decade to become an expert. I love the field so much and it’s where everything is heading. Recognizing that the majority of those incarcerated are mentally ill and traumatized is the first step to really seeing people. That way we, as a society, can help them. Rather than harm them.
At day’s end, after the myriad of heartaches & injustices that have transpired in your courtroom, there is hope for me and others that it is not always a miscarriage of justice for the working poor. Are there red letter days for you?
I talk about a couple of “red letter” days in this chapbook. I had to change details but over the years, I have had some very big cases go well for the clients. And yet, it’s not a win per se, but a win where justice reigned and the client is in a safe place.
I’m convinced it’s visualization and tenacity. I’ve had prosecutors give in because I simply won’t give up. I fight and fight for my clients and make life hard for the prosecutors and sometimes they come around and do the right thing. Sometimes, I plead, beg, tell them my clients’ stories over and over. I humanize the clients.
Does your work as a public defender get more difficult with time?
Recently, I had a miracle happen in a very serious case with an autistic client who I became very invested in, so attached and invested that I said aloud, if the wrong thing happens, I’ll quit doing this work. Thankfully, the miracle happened and he’s OK. I’m still here as a result. I cried like a baby the day I “won” that case. It is my finest moment.
The hardest part recently is being so open emotionally after Covid. After a year of working mostly from home, my eyes are wide open to the horrors I have to bear witness to. It’s raw. So many people are suffering. All of my desensitization is gone. I come home from court and want to puke. The other day, they took a guy down and he was struggling, and all these lawyers are just in there chatting, and I said aloud, “what the hell is wrong with everyone?”
The title of the book in and of itself is an interesting definition of terms.
The title of the chapbook, like I said, is based on Portrait of the Artist by James Joyce and I use his quote at the start of my chapbook, which is so apt, he wrote:
“I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.”
What Joyce is saying is that be true to yourself. To your art and soul no matter what. Amplify your voice. No matter the cost, whether it be exile, censorship, critique, illness and/or poverty. Joyce dealt with all of those. Because in the end, that’s all we have. I’m a huge Joyce fan. I took classes in him at UCR with a Joyce Scholar. I went to Ireland to see his birthplace of Dublin and his wife’s (Nora Barnacle) house in Galway. His short story collection “Dubliners” was one of the first books that made me want to be a writer.
You might know Joel Huschle from the three decades on writer/singer for the band WCKR SPGT, or perhaps the many side projects of his as a singer over the years. Huschle is also a writer, a performer, and an endlessly creative mind. Hell, I wish I had recorded so many conversations that I have had with him over my lifetime because he is sharp, witty, cutting and never at a loss for ideas or words.
If you are unfamiliar with Joel Huschle, well, you are in luck because his new book on Bamboo Dart Press, False Memories of a Cape Cod Clam Shack, encapsulates all that he is into a book that is just shy of being the size of a 7″ single. Can you imagine that? A six foot tall guy fitting into a 55 page book the size of a 45 RPM record? Careful with that book, Eugene, both sides are hits.
Your book captures your voice which so many folks that know of you will recognize from nearly four decades of writing & recording with WCKR SPGT. I wonder if some of this was written in the absence of recording with WCKR SPGT
Even in the occasional absence of recording and collaborating with Spgt, I feel that much of my output is grounded in the Spgt ethos. Wckr Spgt is in me. Like a welcome disease.
The footnoted diary entries at the bottom of entries which include errands to run, jotted notes and miscellany from the day are fantastic. Was this a conscious effort to ground some of these short stories of grandeur?
Mark Givens (the editor of this chapbook) was given the task of organizing the placement of the footnoted entries. He was able to add a depth to this project that, frankly, knocked my socks off. He and I have collaborated for 40 years and I consider his input to actually be tapped in to my thought process. I handed him, through email, a disorganized heap of writings and he turned it into something I am immensely proud of.
The melding of heartache and absurdism in your writing is amplified by the starkness of delivery in the book. It is an odd mix of lyrics, short stories, essays and asides that succeeds as a whole. I love that the book disarms by being intensely personal and injecting fabulism into the everyday. Did you intend to straddle both worlds?
I have always straddled both worlds. Is it intentional? I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of intentionality. I know of no other way I could be. Some of the more bleak entries stemmed from my retirement from the mental health field that was hastened by choosing to surrender my LCSW license because of my DUI in November of 2016. I went through a few years when fabulism was crushed and I was basically in survival mode.
I read the book a third time and it struck me as autobiography. “Tattered and Thin”, one of the last pieces in the book almost serves as an introduction of who you are to the reader, in the manner of how we shorthand a friend that another friend of ours is about to meet for the first time.
Each thing I write is probably autobiographical. “Tattered and Thin” is perhaps the closest I can get to understanding spirituality. Holy books bore the shit out of me, which is why my holy book would be more of a quick read.
I am forever interested in the physical spaces of the Inland Empire and the how they are presented by writers of the area. You play around with Puddingstone and The Port of Long Beach, presenting alternate visions of them but not very far removed from what they are. Were you born in Southern California?
Born in Minnesota. My father worked for Honeywell and got transferred to Massachusettes when I was three. Then he got transferred to Southern California in 1974. So I have been here since I was nine. It feels like home. Puddingstone Reservoir has always fascinated me. It is a sad and beautiful place. There are warning signs stating that the fish are toxic to eat, yet they allow fishing. The folks catching the fish do not heed these warnings, probably because they’d rather feed their families toxic fish instead of watching them starve.
I think your line about the center of a chair being a “sitty center” is the perfect example of how your writing works. You are mucking around with geography and language, making a huge joke that the center of the metro area is merely a place for folks to rest their asses.
The “sitty center” comes from some of my more recent writings. I like haiku because I am lazy and have a short attention span. Puns come easily to me and I am in a constant psychic struggle to not verbalize the word/meaning structures that are being built in my mind. I am also in awe of chairs. They are everywhere.
Writer Juanita E. Mantz is able to boil down and succinctly connect her formative years as a punk rock high school dropout to her work as a public defender in her debut book out August 10th. The book has a title as long as old diplodocus’ tail because it is in fact quite a tale. Mantz employs her upbringing in the book to underline the empathy and fight that she sharpened over the course of her life to defend those cast to the side, or worse, trapped in a legal system built to imprison and keep the poor impoverished. Her book serves as the perfect introduction to her many talents, including some works of her poetry. See the trailer with a reading by Juanita from the book above.
Joel Huschle’s forthcoming book on Bamboo Dart Press is out on July 25th. Check out the trailer below featuring a new song by the singer and one of the songwriters of WCKR SPGT. The book, available for preorder direct from Bamboo Dart Press, is an amalgam of all the Huschle worlds of fabulism that have made him one of my favorite writers. The book surprises at every turn and is truly a work of art. Check out the trailer for the book below featuring one of Joel’s songs.
Words Become Ashes- An Offering, Cindy Rinne’s new book on Bamboo Dart Press combines her poetry and her fiberverse artwork into a sharp little book. Full color pictures of her stitched work compliment her writing as a truly satisfying and comprehensive whole. Not to simplify the book, but the fire that engulfed and took away Rinne’s home has served as a spiritual reawakening. The quiet of that devastation has revealed new shoots and undergrowth that emerges in the book, growing on the lattice of experience and knowledge. Rinne has had a number of books published, and we are thrilled to be one of the limbs bearing the fruit of her labor. Below is an interview that I conducted with Rinne in preparation for the publication of the book.
Your poetry is an interesting marriage of the magical/spiritual realm and natural world, where the two meet and where the twain exists. You hit this marriage dead on in your poem Riding The Wind where you write that you dance between worlds. As a reader was am taken aback by an ephemeral poem that quickly introduces a polar bear from out of nowhere, or the voicing of a raven as a coda to another piece in the book.
Riding the Wind visuals arrived during a shamanic journey. The polar bear was a surprise. I went along for the ride to see where the voyage would take me. The poem came from what I experienced. The first line As I stand, turn, and fluff the pillows, is from a prompt to take the last line of a poem from a book I just read. I have vintage pillowcases given to me. This became my canvas. I decided to include part of the poem on the art. Text as texture. I don’t include text often. It is a strong element and needs to become a part of the whole. The poem is written in two columns to be read across or vertically. Words from each column appear on the art. I add text in my own hand so it is unique. I am in this poem as ritual is important to me as are the spiritual meanings of animals, plants, etc. I also don’t know a lot about my ancestors. The moths joined the artwork near the end of stitching. Like the raven speaking in another poem, all are linked. Nighttime and the moon are a theme in the art in this book. Finding the richness of the dark.
As Mark and I get longer in the tooth with Bamboo Dart Press, a pattern is emerging of authors whose work we issue work in other artistic realms. I think of Kendall Johnson’s paintings, Meg Pokrass’ poetry, Allen Callaci’s singing, etc. Your thread work is incredible and is woven throughout this book. The gown you made Apology (Page 27 of the book, will insert picture here) is a huge tell of your writing style.
Apology a wall sculpture was designed and created at a residency in Joshua Tree, CA. This dress of beautiful, rich colors had holes and tears. I repaired them by hand. Mending became part of the art. I also hand-stitched the larger shapes onto the padded dress while watching the sun set over the desert. My writing like my art is a collage of gathered fragments. Reflects how I think with various unrelated thoughts flowing through my mind. My perception is a dance between worlds as I believe the spiritual and natural realms exist together. I write of ancient / present and of many cultures. My fiber collages contain past / present fabrics from around the world. Sometimes I have a small remnant of something rare and it is one shot whether printmaking, embroidery, or machine stitching. I hold my breath and give it a try.
Dear Exploration is a beautiful, autobiographical poem (I am assuming) which succinctly captures age, aging and the act of letting go in a stark and concrete manner. The book almost floats into the ether at points but is then brought right down to earth in pieces like this.
Dear Exploration, is autobiographical. I found this object in the ashes of my house in 2003. This book is about trauma, facing it, and ways to put the pieces of life back together. What does your body need? I long for ashen trauma to transmute into music. Throughout the book are experiences and objects that are mine. These intermingle with the magical / spiritual realm.
As with the placement of poems like Dear Exploration at particular points in the book, photos of your thread work appear throughout the book. Do you start these pieces with a finished concept in hand or patchwork as you work? There is incredibly detailed work at play in some of these pieces.
I collect a lot of possible fabrics for each piece like a palette of paints. One or two fabrics start the color wave. I decide the artwork’s size. Then start cutting and placing the pieces together on my design wall. Add and take away like editing a poem. I might have a fabric for years before it finds the right home. I paint with fabric and draw with thread. Creating fiber art takes a lot of time, but I love what I do.
You self-describe what you do as Fiberverse, did this come to you early when you started matching verse and fiber media?
It took me five years to decide on Fiberverse. It is not easy to describe what I create in one word. I made long lists of words and combined them in different ways. This one seemed the best. People seem to connect and understand.
Collaborating is something that seems to come natural for you, in your previous chapbook Mapless you worked with Nikia Chaney, how was that project born?
When Nikia Chaney and I get together, creative sparks fly. Mapless was born from a challenge we gave ourselves. We decided to write and do a piece of art-a-day for a couple of weeks. I came up with the Ghost Fish story. I made drawings, tapestries, and bean bags. Nikia created digital images. She wrote in response to the story. Our writing styles are different, but they work together like the different textures in my art. When we put our images on her kitchen table, we easily found pairs (did I say I work organically?). She fused our images together for the book. Later, I had a solo show of my fiber art and drawings for Mapless and we read from the book at the reception!
Cindy Rinne is celebrating the release of her Bamboo Dart Press book as well as her collaborative book with Toti O’Brien with a reading this Saturday July 10th from 6-9pm at The Metro Gallery located at 119 w. 2nd St. in Pomona