"Somewhere, There is a Glossary of Terms for the Lives We are Leading Together": An Interview-In-Excerpts With Matthew Gavin Frank
Matthew Gavin Frank is an assistant professor of creative writing at Northern Michigan University. He is the author of Barolo, available in a Nebraska Paperback, and the poetry collections Sagittarius Agitprop, Warranty in Zulu, and The Morrow Plots. Pot Farm is out in March from University of Nebraska Press.us
An excerpt from Pot Farm appears in Issue Thirty-One of The Collagist.
Here, Matthew artfully answers the following interview questions "in the form of excerpts"--by supplying further excerpts from Pot Farm. Enjoy!
1. What is writing like?
...exhilarating, depressing, and, thankfully, fleeting.
...the experience exists somewhere between the hazy and the disturbingly vivid—it is the stuff of fever dream and emotion, and drugs, and hangovers and hard physical labor.
...a thoughtful, if confusing ménage a trois. ...for instance...
Hector [the sniper] smashes a mosquito against the side of his face with an audible slap.
2. What isn’t writing like?
...the militiaman raid... the yoga...the tracheotomy...the want to... stand with her, hug her, the woman who rode out Chicago with me, who slept in my old room with the drawers full of legless G.I. Joe figures, Playboy magazines from the early Eighties, model airplane sets never removed from their plastic; the woman who faced with me my mother’s cancer, and now a [marijuana] farm subject to raids from air and land. I hug her and want us to be safe, wonder if, somewhere, there is a glossary of terms for the lives we are leading together. Wonder which word would begin it.
...my summer spent detasseling corn outside Normal, Illinois.
3. When you do it, why?
...because Johanna isn’t her real name, and she isn’t really Scandinavian, this section was written fill-in-the-blank style.
...because he is sick himself—one of the many caregivers who doubles as a patient.
...because my father still works six days a week, and they maintain three large dogs, my wife and I became responsible, for just over a year, for their feeding, walking, watering, and shit-removal. How we slept on an air mattress in the bedroom I grew up in, and, (I will certainly leave out any discussion about how weird it was to have sex there, in that room where I discovered masturbation and fantasized about the “popular” girls while listening to a cassette of Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet,” because everybody writes about that) always, before falling asleep, cried too much, laughed too much, talked too much, were too fucking silent.
...because of the toughness of the stalks that connect leaf to branch.
...because we’re a vain bunch...
... because of these strange webbed refrigerator boxes, and the tired people who filled them.
...because of my dinosaur fetish...
...because the acoustics of the Bat Cave resembled the acoustics of a bat cave...
...because this lying bastard stopped taking drugs...
...because it was the last place they still had fresh veins.
...because there’s something familial in it!
...because I was reluctant to leave, though convinced it was the right thing to do; I was hanging on to anything I could, belaboring points and conversations and relationships because that blind leap into the dark, that drive out of Weckman Farm, that entrance onto some interstate with its Burger King and Flying J and Super 8 Motel billboards seemed as daunting as death or birth, or anything with the prefix re. There was something safe and soporific in Weckman, and in extending my goodbyes as long as they would run, without officially calling them goodbyes. In belaboring here, is a measure of truth, though again, filtered through the aftereffects of overindulgence by starlight.
...because there is an epileptic sniper up in the redwoods.
...because Lady Wanda pulls off her shoe.
...because it’s one of my mom’s favorite words.
4. When you don’t, why?
...because of marijuana...
...because my thoughts invariably stray to food...
“Because you can’t pick for shit,” Lance smiles, “Slow as molasses. Charlie, the old man, picks like four times as fast.”
...because I’m afraid of what Norman will say—doubtless, something about a historical penis, and its iconic psychopomp.
...because “it’s illeeegal”
...because he distributed cutting tools.
...because he feels guilty for being intolerant and judgmental.
...because they eat his lawn.
...because they smoked a joint.
...because acts of violence on marijuana farms have become so common that the locals refer to early incidents as “the opening shots of the season.” Growers are shot to death by their crewmembers; crewmembers suspected of robbery are shot to death by their bosses; accidental trespassers are shot and killed; purposeful trespassers are shot and killed; confused hunters often cross an unfortunate property line during deer season and are shot by armed guards. Because of the frequency of incidents such as this, local police and agricultural commissioners tend to avoid certain wooded segments of the county during deer-season. Peace, Love, Dope...
...because they are the type of people who would sue my ass over this.
...because he didn’t want to demystify himself by citing Fred Flintstone, his contemporary, as a source.
...because they can’t stand the sight of spattered soil.
...because everybody writes about that.
...because of the smell.