Jon-Michael Frank: National Poetry Month
Author: Jon-Michael Frank
We would love to hear more about your life and interests. What is your day to day life like? What do you love doing? Who are you today and who were you?
Well, I recently moved from Texas to a house on the water of the Puget Sound. I’m getting ready to prep the soil for my first garden that my mother is helping me with. I’m in the middle of watching the series Neon Genesis Evangelion that my friend Emma recommended to me and finishing up the books Beauty Is A Wound and Limit-Experience by Nina Hartmann. As for the day to day, I try to get up every day and do something that doesn’t make my life worse, and if I’m lucky, might have a little meaning concealed in it, too.
When did you write your first poem? What inspired you and what was the poem about?
I wrote my first “poems” in middle school because a girl I used to know would write these compulsory and feverish love letters to no one. I loved her yearning, and wanted to claim ownership of something I was without, too.
You have a book, How’s Everything Going? Not Good, published from Ohio Edit earlier this year. What can you tell us about this book? Did you have a process for assembling poems for this collection?
It’s a book of comics about how life can be a bummer. I had a light narrative in mind when assembling them, but for the most part they reveal their existence on their own terms. At least I hope so.
You are able to simultaneously move the reader deeply yet bring your reader to laughter. How would you describe your comedy? What makes your poems funny?
I don’t really know how to describe my work without ruining the purpose of it, but I will say if it’s not funny or true to me then I don’t tend to share it. The other nice thing about humor is what it does with truth. In humor, I think you can get away with anything appearing true that elicits a response. Your audience doesn’t have to necessarily agree with you, substantiating your truth, but if they laugh or enjoy it they’re recognizing something about what you said as accurate. It’s much easier to disagree or contend someone who doesn’t make you laugh. So I think for my comics, I try and get away with more than I could with literature. For instance, flirting with aphorisms that I’d be too afraid or inept to demonstrate via a poem, story etc. And I really love aphorisms, but often, they are just one-liners that aren’t funny.
How do you incorporate funny not only in your art but also in your life?
Keep in mind that whatever I’m doing probably doesn’t matter as much as I want it to, and not at all, if I’m not enjoying it. Like for instance, the other night I was talking to my friend Tatiana Ryckman about how there’s no real difference between creating a masterpiece and watching T.V. That they are both actions that soak up time and either feel satisfying or not.
What’s been the biggest surprise for you in the process of getting How’s Everything Going? Not Good published?
I don’t think I’m yet over the fact that it is published, that I was able to externalize something of myself in a way that seemed relevant and/or beneficial in some ways to other people. It’s hard enough telling someone how you are doing without jeopardizing everything, so to be able to express a whole book, to me, is equally delicate and valuable.
I’m eternally thankful to Amy Fusselman for publishing How’s Everything Going? Not Good (she has been a dream to work with) and anyone who wants to put anything out by me at all. Putting something out in this world through the avenues of other people can be pretty formidable and I think a lot of people take that for granted focusing their attention on their next project or whatever project in their sphere of people they pay attention to seems more important or more buzzed about than their own work. I think it’s very easy to lose a grip on what’s actually happening in quotidian life being immersed in an artistic realm and I don’t ever want to lose sight of that. I was fairly aimless when I was younger so to think now that I get to do something different, add something to the world, makes everything good or bad up to now worth it. I think once something is done, there’s this dead feeling that happens, and you can easily forget how valuable the whole process was, and how much more it means to your life than say, twitter likes or putting all of your trash out on the appropriate trash day. This is something I want to honor How’s Everything Going? Not Good with and try and be above, although it can be hard because the fetish and pit of validation is everywhere. So to answer your question more economically, I’m still processing the awe of it.
Have you ever wanted to stop writing? Do you think you ever will?
Yes, I’ve thought of it. I think in some ways I already have. If I’m making something now I try and only use language if it’s necessary. Meaning, if there’s no way to convey it the way actually is.
If you could only share one piece of advice with fellow poets and artists, what would it be?
Abstain from academia and use art as an out, not an in.
What else are you working on? What else do readers have to look forward to?
I have two poetry chapbooks coming out this year. One named, TBD, which is a collection of love songs, from the press that pumps my blood, Birds LLC, and the second named, Nostalgia Flower, which is like looking at a hypnosis spiral through the eyes of a BDSM mask, from this beautiful small new press from Denver called Witch Craft Magazine. I’m also finishing up edits on a full-length poetry manuscript titled Dream Creature, and I have great aspirations for doing a series of paintings of teenage goths playing with magic cards in basements and/or just lonely colors. All that, and I’m looking forward to spring, when flowers bloom.
Jon-Michael Frank is the author of the forthcoming poetry chapbooks: TBD (Birds, LLC) and Nostalgia Flower (Sad Spell Press). He has a book of poetry comics out called How’s Everything Going? Not Good from Ohio Edit / Cuneiform Press. Currently, Jon-Michael is the acquisitions editor for the small press Birds, LLC and lives on the Puget Sound. More at www.jonmichaelfrank.com.