Kevin Sampsell notes: Brandon Scott Gorrell is a poet who lives in Seattle, Washington. His book During My Nervous Breakdown I Want to Have a Biographer Present was just published by MuuMuu House. It's full of dryly humorous observations and what you might call postmodern confessional poems. Brandon recently emailed me and asked if I'd submit his interview with Chelsea Martin to our blog. Chelsea is the newest author on my press, Future Tense Books. Her book is called Everything Was Fine Until Whatever. It's a hodgepodge of weird stories, funny lists, confessional bits that make you feel like a voyeur, and some really cool drawings. Chelsea and Brandon are friends and have done readings together. They have one in New York on July 3 at the PPOW Gallery. This is their email exchange.
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Brandon Scott Gorrell: I think that your drawing and writing are equally good, but that your drawings are more accessible to the "general population." Sometimes, I think you should just focus on drawing because, to me, they show a more "immediate talent" (when looked at from my perspective of the general population's perspective), and if your goal is to be an artist, then the more efficient way to achieve that would be to focus on drawing.
Do you ever think "Should I, generally, be an artist or a writer?" and if you do, what is the answer and why?
Chelsea Martin: I learn a lot about myself and about life and about writing by writing. Language is inherently funny because people use it all the time that have no concept of literature. And even people who do still have to use language to do something like ask an employee at Long's Drugs where the denture adhesive is kept. And they have to ignore language when it's trying to sell them a miniature cheese grater. But I think that that is one of the things that make writing so interesting. If you write the right thing in the right order with the right words, you can manipulate anyone who is paying attention. Or you can make someone feel amused and sad and irritated at the same time.
But I like drawing. I really like drawing. It's very engaging and you don't have to think very hard about what you're doing while it's happening. You have an idea and you start and you do it and you're done and it's exciting. There are very few complications, at least in my style and process. But it feels so insignificant. To me, drawing feels like cooking. Like, it's fun to cook something and spend time cooking, and it's exciting to enjoy food. But you're not really achieving anything except some very basic human need. And the enjoyment of it doesn't last very long anyway.
I think what you mean by "more immediate talent" and "accessibility" is that the general population responds more quickly to visual work, because it's easier to take in and has no real time requirement. But I went to art school and no one there thought my drawings were special. Not that that means anything to me. I just mean to say that maybe my drawings seem special to you because they are being displayed in a literary venue.
So, to answer your question, I think I'll keep writing and I think I'll keep drawing.
BONUS REPLY: A COUPLE DAYS LATER: Today I've been thinking that I want to stop writing for a while and just make drawings. I know I said something before that was like the opposite of what I just said. It's easier to feel productive doing drawings. I can lay them all out in front of me and if they look colorful or if they take up a lot of space, it makes me feel good. Writing is sort of never like that. If I open a lot of Word files, it just makes me want to change words or move a sentence from one paragraph to a different one, or to a part of a different story or something. Or I'll look at them and feel disappointed, like I've changed and can't appreciate what I've written anymore. I get discouraged with writing sometimes because I put so much value in it, and am so disturbed by writing that is bad. But since I don't feel passionate about drawings, they seem easier to appreciate, because they're not failing at trying to do something meaningful. They're just a drawing of someone on the couch or whatever.