Monday, March 28, 2011

Cassandra Smith Interviews Nik De Dominic for the Studio One Reading on April 1st.

me: we chat?

Nik: YES


me: "Nik is busy. You may be interrupting."


Nik: so, you've never done this before? gchat?

ok, well this is the part you imagine me in my underwear -- mostly because i am.

me: your underwear should be a lot more impressive.

Nik: YES


me: how's your new orleans?

Nik: i wouldn't mind owning a motel.


me: so uh, so nikdedominic. you’re my favorite writing poet. tell me about that.

Nik: baha, i don't think that's true. but thanks? i wish i wrote more. it's been difficult lately. i'm not sure what a poem is anymore. how to make one. i've been thinking a lot about professionalization lately. and how in some ways professionalization counters the process.

me: so off the record:

hi rusty,

i like the first one best. it looks simple but small and elegant bits. oh, so in love with his poetry. want it to be something i could court, sans person. "i bought your poems these flowers but they aren’t for you. could you find a way to give them to words please&thankyou?"

Nik: wow, that's lovely and thank you. that poem, i think you're talking about 'on translation'?, came from a really weird place. i was trying to translate czech poems, you know, with knowing czech.



me: every groucho, but the best mustache.

Nik: any club that would have you reference?

me: course

Nik: nice.

me: shucks

so. the offending adam.

tell me about that

Nik: HAH

Nik: TOA is a journal, online, that was started by several folk about a year ago -- andrew wessels, cody todd, ryan winet, laurel richardson came on a little after inception. We set out to do a couple things. First, we want to make an online journal that took advantage of the online medium, as opposed to mimicking a print format (i.e., something that would look like a journal, just on yr screen, and that would come out every couple of months, &c). So, we constantly update content, usually a couple poets a week. We believed there was enough work, interesting and innovating to support such a concept. I think we also believed in the idea of editor as a person too, that when something was chosen, there was a reason it was chosen; we believed that reason was important for our readers to know. I think the official language is something like serving as a bridge between poet and reader. I can't speak for the others on the team, but for me, the process of reading is deeply personal (is that too simple minded?). Reader as author. And that was something I wanted to be transparent to all. When I read something, I rewrite it, usually according to whatever's going on in my life at that moment. Many of my intros start with me in a particular coffee shop in the french quarter that I steal away to write them. Beyond that however, and rather than the whole thing being an exercise of ego for me, I want to showcase the work in a way that, again, is deeply personal. This is why I reacted to it, this is why I think it's important, this is why you should spend ten minutes reading, as opposed to updating yr facebook status, or scrolling through gawker, or whatever else myriad distractions there are on the internet. As far as how the things are formatted, we decided that they'd be short enough to not take away from the work. But other than that, we didn't put any other restrictions on them. And I think that's one of the nice things about the site. All of us are writing poets. But all of us have completely different personalities and aesthetics. There's not one person dictating the direction or vision of the journal...

Nik: Andrew Wessels may be perhaps the hardest working man in show business, and he and Cody Todd came up with the initial concept; they had a workshop together at USC where Andrew was finishing up his ugrad and CT was beginning his Phd (I may be a bit off here -- fact checker?). Andrew then recruited Ryan Winet and me. Andrew, Ryan and I all went to USC together and met in workshop but all ended up at different mfa progs (UAz for Ryan, Unlv for Andrew, Bama for me). Once we were on board, I think we spent about six months putting together the concept through emails and phone conversations, and then finally launched. And we're sort of still constantly reevaluating the mission/concept. We do a couple chapbooks a year and will be working with a press to produce a book.

there's a bunch of stuff? are you back outside, is it too cold, should we reschedule?


from: cassandra smith

to: nik de dominic

re: interview


reread google chat.

cut and paste was mostly cut cut cut.

rewrote interview.


i am reading your manuscript.

i am trying to remember nik de dominic the stack of paper, who is a different person from nik de dominic in the marigny.

I had a prof in grad who used to talk about page person and real person. That page person isn’t the same person who can’t park a car in a tight spot at the rite-aid, that’s real me. They are different. I don’t know if I buy that altogether. Page me is pretty close to real me. I think there’s more posturing in real me. I went on a date recently, got a bit drunk, and talked a little bit about XXXXXX. That wasn’t a good idea. Page me gets to talk about that stuff. But real me shouldn’t tell that stuff to people who just showed in my life. Real me always wants to do that, to be like, HEY BARISTA, I HURT, DON’T YOU SEE THAT – SOMETIMES WE ARE NOT GOOD AT LIFE. THAT’S OK. I don’t get to do that though; they’d lock me up? Or I’d be shunned? Although sometimes I already feel a bit shunned.

I don’t read friends’ work if they’re someone I don’t know professionally (or thru poet world). If they are friends who sell insurance, and they write poems, I won’t do it. It fucks up the relationship. I can’t help but to think bad things about them. How were page me and real me different? Was it a good or bad thing?

how is it coming?

have you realized yet that there is something so still that happens when the first two sections are entwined?

Do you mean that blending them in makes it still? Still in a bad way, like the thing lacks engine? I always thought the intermixing, the one essay throughout, drove the book. I want the book to not read like poems but like a novel. That sounds silly. I always thought of that as a narrative engine. Like I read these poems, these poems are informed by this weird thing throughout. I want someone to read those fifty pages like fast, in one sitting. It’s for story telling and not meditating.

that there is death, and there is poetry,

there are the days that move through them, and there is a classroom.

there is something, unspoken, that can only be written.

there is how do you touch things.

that that’s what it means when you called it “not here, not dead”

NHND I think is about memory construction and narrative in memory construction. Stuff that doesn’t exist but exists through utterance. Exists in the inbetween. But all of it. Yes.

you know we are only friends because you are a good poet.

I like you. I am happy that you are my friend. If my only redeeming quality is my poetry, so be it. I got you out of the deal. You say this. Some other people say it. Some one once told me that I was their favorite writing poet. That when my name shows up in a journal it makes him psyched that he gets to read me. This came from someone – and you too – that I greatly not only respect the work of but also everything that he does in the poetry realm. I don’t understand. I don’t think I’m always very good at it. I don’t even think I really understand it.

are your visions actual visions, seeing this, when you write, or are they mostly words?

i mean this:

Backyard, A Photo

A rusty wheelbarrow turned

on its side in brown knee-high weeds and dead

grass. It looks like it grows there

and the rotting carcass

of the raised redwood pool sits,

collects rain water, stagnates a fertile ground

for breeding. I have never seen a mosquito

just the welts grown fat from harvest.

They’re memories not visions, some imagined but all real, and all have actively been contrived. I see it all. Then I try to push on the language/construct of it.

52 Girls Sing, Texas

is not a good poem.

it rushes over itself.

it doesn’t know why it is there.

it is the poem part of how this is perfect.

You’re right. It should go. I don’t know why it’s in there. I think because I like the idea of sexual exploitation and ruining. Here are ruins. Everything in that book is about ruin.

are you the kind of person who falls in love and gets things done,

or falls in love and everything stops?

i am not sure if stops means better or broken.

Falls in love, everything stops. When the love stops, things get done. I’d be much happier fat in love with nothing ever getting done. The production comes in fits in the aftermath.

do you type the sounds or the words.

i think this is what i mean.

Sounds. Then words. Mostly associations. I think of the book as talk. All talk. Always my work as talk. I’d be happiest if I could just steal away in a dark room with reader and talk to them.

what is the difference between the stack of paper and the marigny

Stack of paper nik and marigny nik? Or stack of paper and marigny? For the first, see the first. For the second, the smell.

what is your holy

I was talking to someone tonight who was charged with writing something on the transformative ability of art. And I got stuck on that. This idea that art transforms. I couldn’t get around it. Like, I read something and I become a different person afterwards? Sometimes that happens, but it’s mostly aggregate. Of course, as an artist, everything has formed me, every piece I come across. But with that talk, we got to the sublime, a word I don’t know if I understand in every one of its senses, especially the philosophical. But my holy is whatever that is, the subliminity of beauty. XXXXXXXX. The thing that keeps me going is beauty in things, and that sounds fuck all stupid. But when I say beauty, I don’t mean a rose, but rather the power of an act, or a thing, to shock us out of our every day. I was telling this person I was talking to, the two most transformative music events I’ve had were once when I was 18, after a long week of acid and booze and walking on hot coals, I randomly stumbled across two guys playing ‘paint it black’ on their violins. It was the most beautiful thing I ever heard. The other time, again when I was in my early 20s, was walking into a Chinese rest for take out – one of those small dingy places that people only get take out from – and four women in their late 40s were singing karoke. This beautiful woman began singing house of the rising son and she had the most amazing voice I’d ever heard and it was the saddest thing ever to witness and it was the most beautiful thing. That’s holy.

there is a difference between the stack of paper nik and the drunken boat recording.

i swoon when you say lever.

I want to talk all my poems to you. I want to talk all poems to every one.

there are so many books in this one book.

interwoven seems too literary a word.

the abbot, the highway. the girl, boy,

when it is a word problem,

when it is another kind of word problem.

All those books in one book are the same book. They’re me playing dress up. Me running through trauma. Me taking on disguises.


is a lot like 52 girls,

but now the language, the stumbling over,

is a turn. memory.

It’s supposed to be a hangman/abbot poem but a poem that explains how one would come before them. That book, it’s about sex, it’s about trauma, it’s about childhood. It’s about death and defying it. I like priapism because I like that in death, the hanged’s cock stands still hard in opposition to it.

it is raining, the branches.

i have a blanket that i call the ocean.

there are sirens and the curve in my neighborhood under a rain is the ocean.

i like how we are california, then alabama,

and met first as a mess in new orleans.

i am not sure which of us was first to cry.

i on the walk home.

i am not sure i will keep this question.

These words I thought could’ve been mine. That was transformative. I lost myself in you, the page, the other. Keep it or don’t. It happened.

this is why i like your [ ] poem best.

I want to make wendy into a book.

Apologia, Louisiana

Here is the sound. It is the sound of water. It is the sound of

rushing. It is the sound of being surrounded. It is the sound

of innumerable helicopters above, around us. The sky

blackens in blades. It is the repetitive whir of a ceiling fan off

balance, improperly hung, threatening to loosen itself through

its own motions, its own undoing and behead us both. Until

then, we will be cool and forget the wet in our skin, the way it

crawls. It laps around us, this sound, this water, our skin.

Here our bodies converge and separate. Here it will begin and

in beginning it will end again.

this is how you touch things.

Thank you.

it is like an ocean.



doesn’t hurt as much at the end when it is right justified.

Ok. I will re make?

when you write,

it is a knowing or a forcing,

is it because you have to or should?

I force myself to write. But that’s not the good writing. The good writing comes from the knowing

where are you in a document

In the talk. If it’s a poem in voice. It’s all me. If not, if there’s blocking//description, wait until someone says something.

i wonder if i should mention, to readers,

that there is love and death and holy

in what and how you write.

It’s what I set out to do. I think. It’s what I want. It’s how I think of the world.

that i am sending you flowers.

My poems will never cum first and will never hit you.

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