BY LISA A. FLOWERS
Since its genitalia began unfurling in earnest, Kim Vodicka's Psychic Privates has garnered accolades and made waves. The book manuscript was a 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize finalist, and now, TENDERLOIN has launched a Kickstarter campaign to release the Psychic Privates EP, a sizzling gallimaufry of southern extravagance. The rest of the story is below.
LF: “Like taking a shit and covering it up with perfume, Psychic Privates is a sui-southern freak show, self-obsessed and sexy—a terrible, flirtatious audiotext. These sound poems exacerbate excess, bamboozle gender, and sister the disaster of bodies, seducing via repulsion, erecting atrocities from beauty, and making coprophilic love with all-too-human terrors and embarrassments … [they'll] rub your nose in the gorgeous garbage of their own language, campily ever after.”
So goes the description of this book and this project … and I don't know about anyone else, but color me instantly beguiled and sold. Can you expand a little on the above summary? Or, rather, on how it relates to the mission (if there a conscious mission) of the book?
KV: I'm in love and obsessed with the idea of creating something genuinely ugly, something that doesn't just pretend to be ugly but is honest-to-goodness hideously filthy. At the same time, I want it to be something lovable and enjoyable for people. So there is a constant tension between those two things in my work. It's very much a bridge between intellectual and anti-intellectual, aesthetic and anti-aesthetic (over some troubled-ass waters!) I guess you could say my mission is to make the hideous timeless, or to make the hideous into something that can be loved in spite of, and perhaps even because of, its character of being profoundly damaged. Most of the art I really love and identify with is broken or cracked in some sense, and that also happens to be the kind of art I really can't help but create. "Blessed are the cracked for they shall let in the light," as the expression goes. Those are words I absolutely live by. Whatever that light may mean to you.
LF: Psychic Privates will be appearing on vinyl, which is an ingenious idea. It'll also have its very own Robert Crumb-like (in its brilliant crudity) comic book ... I've seen some samples of the art, and it's fabulous. As someone who really doesn't believe in delineating artistic mediums, I'm fascinated by this concept of merging, and expanding, the ways in which this book/project can possibly be interpreted. Can you talk a little about your own process of breaking out of and/or consolidating mediums?
KV: You might say I’ve grown bored with poetry as poetry, at least in terms of my own work. Psychic Privates did begin as a straight-up poetry manuscript, which I think stands on its own just fine, but the thing about boredom is I’m always dying for more. While waiting around for a publisher to express interest in the book, I decided to see how far I could go with multimedia experimentation, especially in terms of collaboration. It’s always amazing to see what another pair of eyes/hands/ears can do accentuate and even reinvent your work.
T E N D E R L O I N has agreed to release the Psychic Privates EP under their fabulous umbrella. The EP will contain three sound poems (co-written and recorded with musician Randy Faucheux) on 7” vinyl, packaged in a custom cardboard jacket, complete with a handmade booklet of poetry featuring full-color cover art. And this only scratches the surface of my larger vision for Psychic Privates as a whole. Ultimately, I want it to be an ever-expanding, evolving, revolving multimedia giantess. I hope to eventually release Psychic Privates as a full-length vinyl LP of collaborations with several musicians, a different one for each poem. Artist Lyndsay Michalik Gratch has done video work to go along with one of the sound poems that will appear on the EP (which you can view below/at the end of this interview), and I'm beginning to use her work during my live shows, which are becoming less about poetry recitation and more about confrontational, interactive performance.
And, yes, the first in a series of Psychic Privates comic-poems (with artist Egan of Oily Pelican Press) is forthcoming very soon (we sent them to print yesterday, in fact), and the tentative plan is to release a single poem-turned-comic quarterly.
In short, I guess I'm trying to push the limits of what a plain old poetry manuscript can do and see what new types of audiences, opportunities, and possibilities may arise from it, rather than waiting around for a publisher to turn it into "just another poetry book."
LF: Poems from Psychic Privates have been published here on Luna Luna, in Tarpaulin Sky, in smoking glue gun, in Paper Darts, and elsewhere, which means that interested readers have some juicy sneak previews to enjoy. I absolutely love the in-your-face boldness of this project. The lit scene, if you will, has become increasingly restrictive and policed by political correctness as of late, so I really feel like this work is incredibly timely and necessary/important. Lines like "Those starry-eyed sexists/when left to their masturbatory devices/all my kegels turn to sand/Being alive is not PC" are great ... and very funny. The book is also a penetrating feminist manifesto, in its singular way; lines like "I outsourced a boyfriend to auto-complete that pussy," and "I’ll feel less dead inside if I jump on this dick right quick/I’ll make the same mistakes as many times as it takes/My pussy is some Huggie Bear bullshit" are fantastically witty and insightful, and definitely take no prisoners. Can you talk a little about the feminist and/or political subtext in the book?
KV: This has been and continues to be an interesting and difficult issue for me, as a writer who often uses language in her work that is "loaded" and "un-PC." I think it is a shame that provocative language, especially in the creative realm, instead of acting as a catalyst for dialogue, is often vilified and/or erased without question. It is never my intention to hurt anyone with the language I choose, but, conversely, to make people think about some hard, unfortunate truths.
I don't necessarily think it’s fair to declare certain words or phrases off limits in the creative realm. I don't feel responsible, as a writer, to sugarcoat or cushion anything. And I certainly don't feel responsible for another person's lack of ability to do the mental, interpretive legwork that reading a poem or experiencing a piece of art requires. This world is a deeply hurtful place, and I refuse to pretend, in my work, as though this hurt does not exist. I am forever a child of Lenny Bruce, who said, "It's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness." Avoiding problems has never solved them. I prefer to be confrontational, not because I crave attention or shock value, but because confrontation is always imminent. This is what feels REAL to me.
As a woman, I have been on the receiving end of plenty of hate speech. This does not, however, mean that I wish for such words and phrases as "bitch," "slut," "cum dumpster," "dead cunt," etc. to be removed from our vocabularies, and especially not from the vocabularies of creatives. These words and phrases have massive potential for experimentation, obstruction, and estrangement. Even the most fraught language is not such that it can be neatly balled up and discarded, and any attempt to do so would be to discard the power of transcendence. I guess one good thing about "hate speech" is that it's damn versatile, and I'd like to believe that such language can be used instigate thought, catalyze dialogue, and affect change.
LF: Well said, and sensitively observed. I couldn't agree more. As Kathy Acker said, "They censor your work when they're scared of it." But in this book, it seems like you've gone beyond fear, and managed to overthrow the carefully stifling dominion of trauma, and harness it into an elemental energy that's controlled by wild, surreal, and lawless creativity. In other words, you've pimped fear out into the universe to do your bidding, and used its noxious energy source to "green-power" (so to speak) a project that's gorgeous and liberating. Personally, i can't think of anything that's more empowering/freeing than that. And I can't wait to see this project become a reality!
KV: Me neither! Thanks for giving me this opportunity to preach the good news. :)
To help make the Psychic Privates EP an intuition-made-flesh, visit the Kickstarter page here. Then look below for some "terrible, flirtatious" audiovisual text: