Interview With Jenn Nunes

Enter, View, STRIP
by Jenn Marie Nunes

STRIP is a new book of poetry out by Jenn Nunes, it’s available for free download at PANK.

I’ve read STRIP, maybe three times. The first time straight through, then I’ve read over it in a non-linear fashion like two times worth.

This book is great. It has many permutations of sex: sexy sex, gritty sex, dirty sex, clean sex, unsexy sex, regrettable sex, laudable sex, landscape. It has fantastical creatures: Dragons, Unicorns! It has Las Vegas and Houston in it. Jenn’s thoughts on cities is awesome, always.

It’s also just a tight collection of some badass poetry. I would classify it as generative poetry rather than consumptive poetry. The quick playful language, the turns, the narrowing and widening scope of vision give me that itch to write as much as read it--one of those books that the desire to finish it is as much due to entertainment as a need to explore these ideas on your own. A writer’s writer? Maybe. A writer writers should read? Definitely.

Here’s an excerpt and then the interview:

From page 31:
When I was younger I went through a period
of terror at the thought of getting into a car.
I used to imagine what was really happening
to our bodies
leaned back legs splay hands pushed
away from our chests hurtling along the road
at 90 mph. I would picture
our soft bodies zipping along
positioned carelessly like dolls fallen
out of favor. Our hair perfectly motionless
our faces dull as mother’s casual dinner plates
toes curved to the pedal like Barbie’s high-heeled feet. The world
its wooden trees concrete divisions small
furry animals with teeth. There’s a lot to be said
for cars their metal & plastic casings
power steering & the names we give them
how they help us forget both that we could die
& that currently we’re still alive.
Enter, View, STRIP

Q1) What is the most important and least important aspect of this book? or what could and what couldn't be removed from this book?
Ask me this question again in 5 yrs and I'll have an answer. And again in 10 yrs, 15...it'll probably be a new and exciting answer each time.
Q2) Where did the titles go? Did they go away for a conceptual, theoretical, emotional, or some other reason?
There never were any titles, so in that sense they never went anywhere. They never were anywhere. But if you mean where did they go, as in when they didn't come in the first place, I suppose it has to do with all of those things. I started writing this as just an exercise in not writing like I usually do, and so it was less controlled and pointed in its conception. It came like one long piece, the same voice speaking, the same ideas in and out throughout. Of course, I've edited it around since then, but I still don't see it as individual poems. When I first sent it to PANK, I just sent a selection from it, and Roxane Gay told me she didn't think it was working that way...I guess she was right.

And it does have to do with the ideas I'm working with in the book. The sense of something never ending or being never-ending - like a Moebius strip. The highway, our particularly human types of progress, the way relationships can stretch on, when they should really have become something different, because of the circumstances surrounding them. I suppose the book both felt like one long thing to me as I wrote it, and then I wanted it to feel like one long thing as the ideas in it clarified themselves.
Q3) Some poems give the sense of being written by a dragon (pg. 27 The other thing is what’s the thing) some unicorns (pg. 23 Someday there is no difference). Does that change in spirit reflect the time-frame of the writing or an intent of the author?
It may partially reflect the time-frame of the writing - I had written a number of the pages in here well before the road trip frame occurred to me as a way to organize the different things I wanted to say. So some of the road trip writing may well feel more different. But it's also intentional in the sense that both the author and the speaker feel conflicted about the things going on in here, and they are both aware of that.
Q4) Many poems discuss directly or indirectly identity/gender. Do you feel the use of these shamanic or zodiac-ish spirit animals is a better way of representing the anima/animus gender duality?
Better than simply speaking in human terms? And what do you mean "better"? Maybe so, just in that it's another way to talk about or think about or describe such a duality, which creates a broader space to explore identity/gender, which is what those things need. But to be honest, I wasn't quite thinking about the dragons and unicorns in that way. I'm going to start now.
Q5) How important is the narrative of a road trip to this book?
Like I said, it's the thing that sort of let the book come together for me - the structure or map, if you will, that the stuff I'd been writing needed to become a book and not just some stuff I'd been writing. So in that way, I'd say it's pretty important. I had also been wanting to express how I felt when I was on the road, how every city looks the same from the highway. You know. It's in there. So that's important too.
Q6) At the end of one poem (pg 21 & Vegas where I take a picture) you jump at the end to an "informal" interpretation of what you just said about Vegas. It's really funny as a moment of blunt redefinition. Were you thinking of the James Wright poem with the hammock and was that trope an intentional way of relooking at a city in the same way one might relook at a body or the past?
I wasn't thinking about that poem specifically, but of course I am engaging with that sort of poetic trope. Nothing is static really, because no one person - no one person's perspective - is static. So we're always relooking at things - even if we don't mean too - and maybe it's helpful or interesting or fun to be reminded of it. It was an intentional move - although it came about because I wasn't sure how to end that line and I decided to see what the definition of "rich" was exactly, to see if the dictionary had any useful language for me, and there was that and it seemed to me to be the perfect way to re-imagine everything I was talking about at that point.
Q7) What do you think is the best and worst line in this?
Yikes. Ok, I'll try:

Best: Fuck you Nature
I've got a Master's degree.

Worst: they're just an elbow in the ribs
just the buddy system

The first one isn't even my line really, I stole it from a friend, which is probably why I can like it so easily. The second, I don't know. That whole TV section nags me.
Q8) What writer living today makes you jealous? makes you fall in love? makes you think "I'm way better than that"?
The first two are easy...and I'd say they go together so here are a few of the writers (in no particular order) that I am jealously in love with: Ariana Reines, Richard Siken, Larissa Szporluk, Joshua Beckman, Joe Wenderoth and Laura Mullen.

Since I'm kind of a negative person, and I'm trying really hard to be less judge-y and to be more positive, rather than answering that last one I'm now going to expand that first list to include more up-and-coming that is super new on the scene maybe don't even have a book yet poets that make me jealous and I'm all a little in love with: Mel Coyle, Jennifer Tamayo, DeWitt Brinson, Kristin Sanders, Susan Kirby-Smith, Jordan Soyka and Christopher Shipman.
Q9) What is the trans importance of this piece to you? (trans in the broad way I see it in your poetry, as transitions between identities, maturity, lovers, poetics, lines, narratives)
That feels like a huge question and I'm not sure how to answer it. In terms of transitions, I was thinking about how life is nothing but transitions - the way the road never ends while you're on it. I used to think that one day I would arrive somewhere and things would be peaceful because I would have arrived, but actually one never arrives. Somehow you have to be peaceful anyway - if peaceful is something that appeals to you. On a really basic level, we more or less only exist in the moment, but the moment is always passing. We are always in transition.

And if we exist in many layers of moments at once...

Also thinking about Fitzgerald's quote: "The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." I think this may not be the test of first rate intelligence but a matter of survival. A lot of the rules or laws or mores or whathaveyou that we've (and by "we" I mostly mean American's, but also somewhat humanity in general) spent hundreds of years trying to adhere to (such as what it means to be female or male or mature or a poem) are or have been sort of falling away. We're in one of those periods where, culturally, everything is up for grabs.

Q10) Can you recommend a sex toy?
The feeldoe. Absolutely. And I would just like to note that when I googled it to check my spelling, one of the first stores that popped up is called "deepmemories." There is certainly some surprise and charm involved in finding things via the internet.

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