Interview with Atticus Davis – Aiden Burke
April 13, 2016
What planet and/or astral plane were you on when you wrote Your Aeon?
Either on Mercury or The Moon because it’s all about communication.
I prayed to the moon before this book finally came out the way some
People do God, with that kind of knowing. I think he’s really helped me out.
What is Your Aeon about to you?
This book has a lot of themes, it could seem very mixed up, that’s why I had it broken into sections. What it’s mostly about is the vulnerability and power struggle in relationships while another part is about power and the differences/horrors of domesticity and the search for something healthy and wild in a world that’s becoming more and more sterile. I feel we are losing our humanity and our animal instinct.
It’s very influenced by the idea of ‘primitivist’ anarchism.
In “Some Other Planet” you write “…more to us Americans than meet the eye.” Are you an American, by your reckoning, and what makes one a fundamentally American voice in literature? How would you characterize American literature, today and in the past?
I’m definitely a proud American. I think it comes through in the voice because I’ve shed, sometimes, even trying to ‘write.’
It works against me sometimes but often works for me.
Being a fundamentally American voice in literature means you’re hard hitting.
Capturing the landscape of American culture all the time is another funny aspect of American writing.
It reminds me a lot of New York where New Yorkers are often very New York in their acceptance and expression of being from there and in doing that, express it even more.
A cartoon of itself almost.
What is ‘very New York?’ Could you lend an anecdotal example or some adjectives?
How was the process of writing prose different for you than writing poetry?
Writing prose is really hard, I am now looking at this story and I’m realizing how much more I could have done with the story.
It’s very simple. I like simple but now I think there’s so much more beauty and ferocity I could put in. To me poems are impulses so they come out a lot quicker. Impulses or subconscious ejection. With prose I really have to know where something is going to sort of hem it in and keep it tight. The process for poetry is blind most of the time while prose, I think of where I want it to go and ‘fill it in,’ in a sense.
I find point A to point B and then write a scene before hand. It’s the difference between playing a song and then writing lyrics to it versus writing lyrics, ‘divorced,’ from a song, like Elliott Smith would. It’s completely different worlds right now. Poetry has helped me write prose and prose has helped me write poetry, though, that’s for sure.
Are you working on anything at the moment? Could you get into it more?
I have a novel I’ve long neglected about a sexually abused kid who bashes another kid’s brains out in class for disagreeing with him about the amorality of pederasty and is sent to an organic farm instead of a work camp because he’s the son of a rich man and gets away with a slap on the wrist.
I started working on a sci-fi that I’m starting to really enjoy. I get really into writing it.
It’s about the tyranny of utopia.
I’m working on poetry right now that’s based off of a lot of Tweets that I’ve made because it’s where I take notes for poems most of the time. It’s already the perfect medium. What I really want to start doing: finish a relationship story that’s worthy of publication. But the problem is I’m having trouble remembering my relationships.
It’s something you have to handle really really carefully or you could end up taking responsibility for too much or making yourself into a monster. Myself.
You reside in the Bay Area, but you’re originally from Indiana. I get a lot of Midwestern imagery in your work…some of it I’d hazard to call apocalyptic. Do you consider yourself rooted in the American Midwest, and how does that experience differ from California? Any weird urban legends, folklore, or family history you’d care to acquaint us with?
I grew up really poor in the Midwest. Old time religion, poverty, living in a town of 4,000 has really been beautiful and fucked up. The Midwest has a brutality that I think comes out as apocalyptic. The suffering youth happens in the Suburbs and rural Indiana, so I really like to capture that. It’s a very American aesthetic I’m into.
I definitely consider myself rooted in the Midwest and I would tell people I’m from Indiana more than California, though California has given me a lot more in opportunity. It’s a lot of teen pregnancy, meth, and churches in the Midwest. But there was also the power of nature and the ability to still relate to land. We never locked our doors at night. It was like this beautiful fucked up Leave it To Beaver world. I haven’t put it into writing yet because that seems like a monster of a book. Dad was working hard to support four kids after the separation of my parents and my Mom was working just as hard in California to support us looking for new opportunity. If you live in a small town for too long your spirit dies. It’s something I haven’t written about because it feels slightly exploitative to use your fucked up past for a novel. And if I was to get into family history it would be a novel. I want to move beyond that. I really want to get into work that’s really fucking happy and positive. I don’t know how to do that yet.
Who’s your favorite contemporary poet/writer? What sort of art or work inspires yours?
It’s hard to say just one writer. Writer’s have different places in my heart.
I’d say James Guida & Don Paterson for their aphorisms. That kind of mind really inspires me. Mary Gaitskill, Elizabeth Ellen (who was my introduction to ‘alt lit,’), Mary Miller (who was my introduction to my introduction), Bunny Rogers, Sarah Jean Alexander, and Vera Pavlova, Julia Vinograd.
How are you getting on these days? Spending your time? What’s an average day like for Atticus Davis in 2016?
I am getting on okay. I’m very unemployed and very living at my Mom’s house.
I just got out of a nuthouse so I’m trying not to be as hard on myself. It’s been a year since I’ve worked which is like being broke for two. The jobs I tried to hold this year I had nervous breakdowns at. But now, I’m going to Palo Alto to spend time writing. I go to Palo Alto because I’m afraid my village might hate me. I wake up, browse job listings, and then when I’m done pack up all of my writing gear and ‘Visions of Cody,’ and go to a coffee shop to write or read high on caffeine until mid day. Then go back home watch T.V. or read more. Eating inbetween. I gained something like 10 pounds in the nuthouse off of their bad food I fell in love with in the end so it’s mostly caffeine and books.
I understand you recently went through a bit of a rough patch. Are you willing to share your experience right now, and if so, what you came away with?
I’ve had a really horrible time this year. I went to psychological services four times.
I wasn’t completely cracked but I’ve cracked this year. I was taken in, hardly seen as human at these places, and then spit back out the other end with a prescription for a lot of medications. Apparently I have Schizophrenia. It lead me to do all kinds of insane shit. The worst was when I was emailing a lot of alt-lit writers accusing them of being rapists, purporting rape rumors (some about me), or imagining avenging their rapes, as I was completely, sincerely convinced, that I was an ordained, ‘Washed in the Blood,’ “Word of God Pastor.” I was hearing directly from God. I was meant to call out all of these people as a minister…it was a paranoid/Schizotypal delusion and I sincerely believed this for months. It’s amazing how little I knew about these people and how real anything can become to a person with enough faith/belief in it. I still believe in God though my faith is a little shaken after that experience. Coming out of the other end I guess I would say that it’s easy to convince yourself of anything so you have to be sure to get your facts and be careful, so careful, about what you bring forward when it comes to another person. So I’m sorry if I wrote you a horrible letter this year ripping you to shreds when we don’t know each other.
You asked that a previous interview be rescinded. Ancient history? Or is there anything you’d like to revise from what was said?
In the last interview I shit talked people and artists I love, said it was easy to live in New York, and told people that a certain poet was stealing my work, all of which is UNTRUE.
How do you feel technology and social media figures into the carefully curated digital image of the writer in 2016?
Dude, I still don’t understand how to connect on the level that other writers are on the internet. I’m really old-timey in that I use paper still and I just got on Twitter a few years ago but really started using it this year and last year. It’s a total necessity to me. Twitter, Tumblr, all of these websites are a necessity. I think it sucks in one way because there’s an inevitable competition that comes with it. Curating so carefully an image is really shitty but it can be really funny and immediately inspiring if people are doing it right.
A necessary evil that can be really fun, I’d say.
Could you describe, as freely as you like, what the creative process entails for you?
This is super hard.
I used to meditate a lot a lot a lot.
I’ve stopped this year mostly after my first visit to E.P.S.
My poems come from nothing almost.
I will start to write all of this random garbage to get a hold of an idea, like free association, and I’ll try to make it tell a story at the same time. Then I’ll look again at it and see if there’s any imagery, lines, or ideas that are any good and pick them out.
It’s meticulous after. Then I’ll start writing poetry about that poetry. Ideas about ideas.
Then I’ll whittle it back down to the few lines/ideas that were good.
I try to avoid composition that makes it seem like it’s composed.
I write a diary entry and then highlight what’s good as poetry and make it a poem
Is another method I use. Diaries are the best, I have a hard time keeping one now though. A lot of the creative process is reading other people’s poetry and responding to it. Reading and reading and reading.
What message or feeling, if any, would you want to convey to your readers through your work?
I want people to think for themselves.
I want people to distance themselves from the book in a sense.
I want them to react the way they’d react to what’s being read and not necessarily associate it with the writer, like every thought in this book is about me or came from me or is an opinion I hold. I want people to think about the writing and react how they would and know that a lot of what’s good in a person gets caught up in all of it’s guilt for never really speaking on it’s worst parts. I want people to treat a book like they would a person. To hate it, love it, forgive it, learn from it. I want people to think about love.
Do you feel you’re a part of a collective or moment or movement in literature, or do you consider yourself apart from all that? What do you want from life?
I’m definitely walking into some territory of being an alt-lit writer. It’s not cool to say that or decide that yourself is uncool but I think it’s true. To be full blown is obviously something ‘they’ decide and I would be stupid/weak to think about what a scene is thinking but I think that I have a more mainstream place in literature. I’m a part of a moment and movement of writers under 30 kicking ass at it after that I’m unsure.
What I’d like from life is a lot of friends who make great art together, who live close to each other, and start working on projects together. Or just spend enough time around each other they can be totally inspired and that inspiration eventually causing a political catalyst. We can’t just write for ourselves.
Are you fully committed to the life of a writer?
Yes, absolutely. I’m too far in to ever quit. I love writing I just wish there was more gratification of knowing it’s being read. It’s important for me to be social, I’m an extrovert naturally and being behind a machine or in front of a notebook all day isn’t the best feeling but I’m committed. I may be going to Stanford to start their Creative Writing program and I’m excited to see where Your Aeon takes me. ‘A great fire starts small.’