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“Monster Theory”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: I’ve admired Broadsided for years, ever since I saw my friend Christina Olson’s poem “At the Christmas Party for the Infectious Diseases” (from 2010) on the website. And I love broadsides, making them and looking at them. But I kept on missing the reading period. For ten years I kept missing the reading period because sometimes I can’t get my act together. Glad that I made it this time.

What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Jennifer Moses: Fathers, ghosts, sadness, fear, comfort, and monsters who hide their neck bolts!

Describe your dream “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: Give me a weird science fiction sky where this broadside can loom enormous over every landscape at night.
Artist Jennifer Moses: I would really like to see the broadside posted on subway trains mixed with the usual advertisements. Posting on the side of a bus or two across the country would be nice. 

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem? Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: I think monsters are something that captures the imagination of a lot of artists, but the monster in the broadside is way scarier than the monster in my head when I was writing the poem. Like, I was picturing that old Boris Karloff monster but Jennifer’s version is way scarier. I don’t know if it makes me see the poem differently, but it makes me think about the monster differently.

Did anything shift for you or come into new light once you saw the poem and art together on the page?
Artist Jennifer Moses: The poem precipitated a dive into my own relationship with my father yet again. He is a heroic, formative, and comforting person to me but also quite mysterious, with many secrets of his own. Someone real whom I know well but a specter at the same time. When I read the poem with the image beside it, perhaps the motif of “presence and absence” was foregrounded. I meant for the “monster” to look as if it was moving out of the dark into focus, but when placed next to the poem the image seemed to be more about the sense of memory and the way the mind slips between the vivid and the vague. 

Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art? What was that experience like for you? Why were you inspired to do so?
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: My first book, The Dead Wrestler Elegies, is made up of poems and illustrations. I wanted a visual reference for readers who don’t know pro wrestling as another point of entry into the book to help create for the readers the reality of the speaker who elegizes his father through their mutual love of wrestling and the dead pro wrestlers.

If this broadside were a type of weather, what would it be?
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: If this broadside were a type of weather, it would be a dark fog. The scariest dark fog ever. With that monster emerging at some point.
Artist Jennifer Moses:
Night rain with a mix of the occasional muffled rumble of thunder. 

Read any good books lately?
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: Some of my favorite books of poems I’ve read recently include I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World by Kendra DeColo, Green by Melissa Fite Johnson, Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy by Amorak Huey, Seize by Brian Komei Dempster, and Dialogues with Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon. I read a lot of books. This could have been a much longer list.
Artist Jennifer Moses:
I have been reading poems from Book of Dog by Cleopatra Mathis and short stories in You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: Because of the pandemic and childcare, I haven’t really gotten out to see much art outside of my own house. My son just made this awesome painting of fireworks using Q-tips and paint on black construction paper.
Artist Jennifer Moses:
During the pandemic I saw a lot of art and exhibitions online and watched experimental films. One standout screening was the premiere of the artist Katie Vida’s wacky and remarkable video “Shelly.” It knocked my socks off. In May I went to the Basquiat show at the MFA in Boston. It was nice to get back in front of a canvas!

Anything else? (Here, we invite the collaborators to invent a question, add a comment, or otherwise speak to what the questions so far have not tapped about their Broadsided experience).
Poet W. Todd Kaneko: I’m grateful to see this poem broadsided for Broadsided with Jennifer’s incredible visual. Thank you, everyone.
Artist Jennifer Moses:
Yes, what Todd said… only substitute Todd’s and writing for Jennifer’s and visual. I am always thrilled to be part of this platform.

Note:  This broadside and interview are included in the anthology, Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic/Artistic Collaboration, 2005-2020 (Provincetown Arts Press, 2022).

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