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Q&A with Alexandra Naughton

Alexandra Naughton is a San Francisco Bay Area author, originally from Philadelphia. Her debut book of poetry, I Will Always Be Your Whore: Love Songs for Billy Corgan was recently published by Punk Hostage Press. She runs the popular website Tarista Explains It All, as well as the Be About It zine, reading series, and now an e-book publisher. We sent her some questions following her recent Bay Area launch events in San Francisco and Oakland.

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Q: Congratulations on your book launch. What inspired you to write I Will Always be Your Whore?

AN: Winter, insecurity, living with someone and longing for something else, and solitude.

 

Q: Are you happy with the way the book came together? Is there anything you would do differently now?

AN:I still can’t believe I made this. Some of the poems are embarrassing for me to read now, but I think that sometimes happens to me when I’m working on new material, the older stuff is just like, “wow I used to really worry about this.”

 

Q: How do you know when you’re done writing a poem?

AN: When the urge to vomit passes.

 

Q: Does Billy Corgan know about your book? If not, why not?

AN: I contacted the venue he owns in Chicago, Madame Zuzu’s Tea House, about possibly doing a reading there. They were not into it, but they wished me the best of luck in my future endeavors.

 

Q: Can you explain about syncing the poems with songs from Smashing Pumpkins? Were these the songs that inspired the poems, the songs you listened to while writing them, or are we intended to yell or whisper your lines over the music? If the latter, should readers expect a Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon convergence?

AN: I was listening to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins while writing the book. I listened to live performance and studio albums almost constantly, whenever I was in front of my computer, writing and editing, and whenever I had the chance to listen to my ipod, on the train with a pen in hand and a notebook in my lap. The songs inspired the poems and served as company for me while I was writing them. I was alone a lot, and writing the poems made me feel lonelier, so playing the Dublin live performance of “Blank Page” on repeat was really comforting to me. Those swooning guitars.

I haven’t tried the Pink Floyd/Oz experiment yet, but I’ve been meaning to. I really would like to do a live performance with the songs playing in the background. Maybe one of my more musically talented friends will accompany me.

 

Q: How does one remain vulnerable and take risks in such a cynical world? Or should one even bother?

AN: The world fucking sucks and we probably shouldn’t bother to do anything because it feels like there literally is no point, but that would be an extremely futile experience and I’d rather expose my wounds to something acidic and feel something even if that something is awful rather than laying around in my bedroom and wondering what could be. I’m a masochist. I embarrass myself constantly and show people stuff that I should probably just keep to myself but I can’t stop. I think it’s innate.

 

Q: What is Punk Hostage Press?

AN: Punk Hostage Press is a nonprofit independent publisher where “all rights belong to the artist” and “the publisher/editor is a vessel for the work to be disseminated.” There is an emphasis on publishing the work of writers involved in social and environmental justice, and Punk Hostage donates books to women’s shelters, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, and treatment programs, in an effort to give back to those survivors. All rights of the work belong to the artist, as they should. I appreciate Punk Hostage’s attitude and aesthetic, coming from the do-it-yourself zine tradition myself. When PHP first approached me, it was to congratulate me on my zine. Iris and Razor, editors and rulers of PHP, were thrilled that young people was still making paper zines.

 

Q: What is Be About It?

AN:Be About It is my little literary zine that I put out twice a year. I solicit work from writers and artists whom I admire, and receive open submissions from folks who have heard of the zine over the web and around the Bay. I stared Be About It zine in 2010 when I was unemployed and had nothing else to do, and starting my own magazine was something I had always wanted to do, so I took the opportunity and just started, not really having any idea of how to operate a publication. It’s been trial and error all the way along, but it’s been fun. The next issue is themed “rich” and will be coming out soon.

 

Q: Can you talk about your own press?

Be About It Press (http://beaboutitpress.tumblr.com/) is something I just started. Having a zine wasn’t enough, apparently, and I have all these friends who have ideas for e-books or e-books in the works that they don’t know how to distribute, so I decided I’d start my own press and try to put out a number of e-books and physical chapbooks every year. We’ve put out a few e-books so far this year, Bernard Parson’s ‘to be shown the truth,’ a coloring poetry book I put together called ‘Everything I Love is Dead,’ and Megan Lent and Joe Carrow have e-books due out in a few weeks.

 

Q: What does Alt Lit mean to you?

AN: Alt lit, as far as I care, is writing published on the internet. There is a small community online that designates itself as “alt lit,” but there are communities of writers all over the internet. I don’t think about it too much, but I try to use the resources available in the communities to introduce people to my work and to become familiar with other writers.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?

AN: Write. Don’t put everything you do online, just the stuff that really makes you say ‘wow.’ Edit. Proofread. Edit again. Delete a bunch of shit. Does it sound good when you say it out loud? Don’t be afraid, but don’t be pompous either. Be nice. Don’t be too much of an opportunist or social climber. People can smell opportunists from several yards away and won’t want to fuck with you, unless you already have hella hot connections. I guess if you already have hella hot connections, don’t worry about your writing too much, but try not to piss people off. This is your life now.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

AN: I’m working on a compilation of poems and short stories called ‘Sad Storys.” That’s the working title. I might change it.

You can purchase Alexandra’s book, I Will Always Be Your Whore: Love Songs for Billy Corgan here.

Alexandra Naughton performing from her debut collection of Poetry. (Photo courtesy of Joe Carrow)

Alexandra Naughton performing from her debut collection of Poetry. (Photo courtesy of Joe Carrow)


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