Couplea Jerk Poets: In Conversation with Nic Souder
So, there you are, out in the world. Looking at things and making stuff and doing stuff and working and thinking and by thinking considering a notion that there are people out there whom you would love to meet, whom it would change your life to meet, whom you will never ever meet. People who are out in the world, looking at things and making stuff and doing and working and thinking...
And in the best case, this thought reminds us that we're not alone. That good art, or at least fun and often therapeutic art, is being made. And that art doesn't happen in a vacuum. And that maybe if we're lucky, we can celebrate some of these folx we have had the good fortune of meeting, who possess a lens for making art and collating thoughts that leave us awestruck.
Chicago native Nic Souder is one of those people for me. A podcaster, a poet, poetry show host, visual artist and acquaintance (not at all in that order). One whom I admire because he manages to use his darker experiences and the everyday to lace everything he touches with a kind of mad hipster magic.
He was gracious enough to let me steal him away after work for a few beers and a long chat, heavily abridged and presented here in celebration with National Poetry Month, about process and other creative curiosities…
NS: (After talking about the soundtrack to the movie "Akira") I read the manga this past summer. 1, 2 and 3 in one sitting. Then 4, 5 and 6 in one sitting. I was obsessed. I cried when it was over. Just because there was nothing else to read. It's that good. I have a new long-term-life-goal for the next 20 years to adapt the manga into a live action three-part film. I need Netflix to give me a billion dollars.
DJ: Is there any specific work of your own you'd adapt to manga?
Huh. Well it would probably be something from my collection Kill My Idols. One about Kim Gordon being dead. There's a lot. It's like a 3-act narrative. Something like that.
So say a little bit about Kill Yr Idols the live show.
Started five apartments ago. Twenty... twelve? Having a goodbye reading for my friend Jes who was moving to NYC. We wound up having two of them. At one I read a piece that I didn't finish, because that's a thing I always do. Never goes well, but... Then we did another one right away. It moved over to Cole's Bar and then we were in the Reader as one of the suggested things to do. We did a flip-show where it was a bunch of musicians and one poet at Gallery Cabaret. Slaying or roasting Iggy Pop or Kim Deal or whomever as a theme. Now after a long hiatus it's at Bucket of Blood Books in the weird back room. I overbook because a lot of jerks cancel or don't show up. "A variety show featuring poetry, music, comedy, and conspiracy theories."
You had a photography show last year, how'd that go?
Disasterously. I actually really liked the prints I made. I haven't done a photo show in a decade. But nobody bought anything, and I needed to sell one to make some money back. I went overboard and made too many prints which is another thing I always do. Going back to re-crop and reprint. I would always stay too late at the photo lab in college and they would have to kick me out of it. Anyway I also didn't eat before the show and immediately started drinking. Work sucked. Whatever. But they hung up the big stuff and what they didn't hang I went in the back and wrapped up in my coat and took off. The show was supposed to be up for a month but a week later I texted the gallery curator I was coming to pick up my shit. Over it. I'll still sell them though. They'll become gifts. Eleven by fourteen and quality.
Would you consider yourself to be an "analog" guy? Like, when you write, do you start on paper?
More or less. Well, I start with notes on my phone until I get stuck. Then re-write what I already wrote and hope I get going again. What I used to do a lot, because I feel like a lot of my poems need to be read out loud, I would write them out loud. Kind of as performance pieces. I'd get stoned in the middle of the day and start walking around the house and sort-of just keep different pieces of paper in different places and cycle through those, then bring them together at the end.
That's genius! I've never tried that. Strategic stations.
Yeah, those are my favorite ones. Pieces that are meant to be performed for people. Wandering around and timing it out as I went along. But then, my editing process is so stupid. I hate it. It's like newspaper journalism editing of poetry. How do you get this many words to fit into this many breaths. How do you get this point across using only this set of words. How do you make this a headline. And it comes from schooling, journalism. Even in a text message I won't allow myself to have two contracted words in a sentence.
Oh yeah, rules after a while are meant to be undone. Don called me out on my routine phonetic spelling of "thourally" and "thru", and he's correct, but I like the way they look.
I like that. I like that a lot. I use "yr" all the time for "your" then one day I tried "y're" for "you're" and said, fuck that, that looks awful.
Composition is kind of funny right? Things have to sound good and look good.
It has to be both. It sucks to have poems that you really like but sound like shit and you'll never read them out. I spent a lot of time on a few of them. The whole idea at that point is to finish them. But out loud feels like my tongue is too big for my mouth. They just don't sound natural. Rhythm is huge. Which is funny because when I do a reading it's always something unfinished. Just so I can hear how it sounds out loud. Touring on my new shit. Five years of Kill Yr Idols I think I've saved two pieces.
Oh sure. There's always a handful of works that will forever remain 99.99999% finished. There's always a word or two that could switch back the other way. Not the same necessarily as the struggle to actually finish something...
Yeah, I either finish or get to the point where it's unsalvageable. I do this a lot. Throw out the whole thing except for one or two lines I like, and just carry those around for years until they finally slide into place. I've got a series I've been working on for five years. "Stoner Review of ___." Reviews of movies that aren't about the movie. When I go back to smoking it'll come back with a bullet. I go back and work on it every once in a while. The beginning and the end are fixed. It's hard to edit because it's so topical. Now wherever I am editing is at some point in the middle. I haven't been back to it in a year. "The words shot out of her mouth like an accidental fart popped out of a slapped ass." That's the line at the end. Eventually I'll finish it and read it once at that'll be it. (Laughs) They're super long, but right now I've got less then ten unfinished pieces, but if I finished them I wouldn't know what to do with my life. Which is a strategy I've also applied to reading. Sometimes I'll get to the last ten pages and never pick it back up again. Ambiguity is the best thing ever.
What? Ha! Seriously? I could never do that. Wild. Well another question I had for you: is there a habit or a physical manifestation that mirrors writing for you? Or that aids concentration?
Like during the process? I clean. Do dishes. Sweep. Laundry. I used to do this when I had panic attacks when I was younger. Cleaning the house helped me calm down. Now I'll clean my room and have a few beverages. After work I'll go to my local gas station. Get a coffee for the next day. A Topo Chico and a Gatorade. Topo Chico never lasts into the next day. I should have a sponsorship. Making lists too. When I make lists I do things. The worst habit I probably have in general is Lyft. I've been trying to get better, but I'm never on time anywhere ever.
When did you start writing?
The pretentious answer is six. The honest answer is sixteen or seventeen. Six because that's when I saw Tim Burton's Batman in the theater, first movie on the big screen, and wanted to start making movies. Worked on some films when I was younger. Was in a scene in one where I was supposed to get pissed 'cuz a girl threw a rock at my face but we had to retake because I was actually really into it. I've downloaded some scripts and written some scripts, but haven't taken any screenwriting courses. But I wanna shoot 'em. Wrote a script for my friend Erin Rose, who hates everything that we watch and doesn't use computers, and her brother Bob who loves getting wasted. We've got a really bad podcast together called Erin Rose's Never Seen It. They're on iTunes and I made a dumb Squarespace website for it. But really I just want to nerd out and not care. I have a short attention span and want to make homage. I feel comfortable with dialogue and have lots of ideas, just no real discipline. Easily distracted.
Oh lordy. Nice. That's fair. Ooo, before I forget tell me about Hobo Slumber Party and other new self-publishing endeavors.
I don't know how long it's going to be. More than seven pieces probably. Five act structure per poem. Maybe a line or two as an act. Somebody asked me once to describe my poetry and I said "it's pop music". There'll be one called "Roll Call". An alphabetical alliteration in the middle of which is a palindrome in iambic pantameter. It doesn't work yet, but when it does it'll be great! That's the thing! It's all form, then function comes later. I'd say body of writing as a whole is like a staircase. But be careful because parts of the railing have worn away and there's no board on the third step.