EM: Right, the subversion is all we know. With a tune and an ad campaign that we now associate with how insipid feminism was . . .
EM: It meant, “Women, try drinking your own blood,” and that meaning’s gone.
CA: I had no idea that that’s where that comes . . .
EM: But the taboo your book violates the most are the hierarchies and boundaries between things. Human over animal, man over woman, parent over child, straight over gay, alive over the whole unclear rest of the universe. The hideous secret of your work, which seems so very pagan, is on the deepest level how very fluid things and categories are.
CA: Well, as a vegetarian for the last 20 years, I want us to understand we’re animals. We have the power to cut meat out, even if it’s just to some degree, at least; do you know what I mean? Leonardo da Vinci was talking about this 500 years ago. He said he hoped that one day human beings will understand that killing an animal is like killing another human being. But we’re also living in a time where we’re just killing other human beings so much that, I don’t know, there’s just so much violence.
EM: The violence is a good connection to the measure of your message. How economical your poems are, how short, how quick they are. How did you come to that . . .
CA: I was in correspondence with Cid Corman, who was living in Kyoto, Japan, and he turned me on to a lot of Japanese poets, especially this anthology of 20th-century Japanese haiku poets who were really radical and had completely broken the form. But, you know, actually Corman hated these poems because he hated surrealism. And he was actually trying hard to convince me to stop it.
EM: Stop this project?
CA: Yeah, and I have such a problem with authority. I would go head-to-head with Corman about it. He would say, it’s just fantasy. And I . . .
EM: What’s that “just” mean?
CA: Well, I think it’s just . . . he really wanted me to do what he told me to do, and what he was telling me to do, and I didn’t want to do. And I would write back and say, listen, I’m going to continue this anyway.
EM: There’s just so much power in that rebellion, you know, and you can’t give that to people. When you tell them to rebel, it’s like they think you mean take your clothes off and go wild at the party. And then come back from that into responsibility. Not that going wild ever is the responsibility itself. Seeing wild. Needing seeing wild to survive.
CA: And you’re right, it can’t be given to you because some people, if you oppress them, they’ll just clam up forever. I’ve been very influenced by looking very closely at the murderers of queers, you know, looking very closely at the murderers of Matthew Shepard, for instance, and how Aaron McKinney, that very same night after torturing Shepard, went out and deliberately got in a fight and got beaten up by another man and then wound up four rooms away from Matthew Shepard in the same hospital.
EM: Wow. Wow. Wow.
CA: So it’s sort of like the sexual tension gets transferred, because it’s really about sexual tension.
CA: Many men I’ve heard of who are in prison for killing gay men had sex with them.
CA: Yeah, and there’s a documentary about it, seven men interviewed.
EM: One of the most shocking poems in here for me is the chocolate man.
CA: Oh, well, that’s . . . yeah. The chocolate man is saying no and . . .
EM: Mouthing and dying and being devoured and Jesus, I mean, it’s very sexual.
CA: Yeah, I mean, it’s a violation poem. . . .
CA: And in some ways . . .
EM: A sweet, a sweet violation, and . . .
CA: It kills him.
EM: Your Matthew Shepard story reminded me of it, because we’re the murderers too. It’s not like we don’t understand it. We understand it all too well. The impulse to violate is a kind of reproduction of memory, to murder a queer is a queer act for sure, to kill a woman is feminine somehow, isn’t it?
CA: Well, what do we deserve? An old boyfriend of mine was tortured and murdered by homophobes in Tennessee, and that was very real and terrifying. And then there are gays who demand their right to join the military, put a rainbow sticker on a machine gun, I guess. Well, I don’t think so, but every one of us is complicit; our taxes buy the bullets and bombs to kill hundreds of thousands of real, breathing, human lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the end we would be nothing but surprised at what we really deserve.
EM: Our little bit of ignorance is one way that we know.