DeWitt Brinson: Are you many as a reader, writer, editor and observer or are you only one? If you are one, how is that one? If you are many, how do all of you feel about each other?

Mathias Svalina: I’ve set my tent in the campsite of thinking we’re never one in body, mind, citizen, universe, horse, etc. I think, however we become a construct of one through the dissemination of our writing, no matter how deliberate our multifariousness may be performed. We make ourselves available to become objects. But it's hardly unique to writing either. When we make ourselves available we make ourselves available to be fucked with. When I relate to a person, I have to struggle against coming to a conclusion about her, against making her something I define & thereby control. And most artists & writers are people, who do people-things like write & make art & buy shoes. 

I encourage my many to be at odds with each other, to contradict & confuse & create anxieties & cook kale & call. It seems like that’s good for some things, like looking at art, & bad for some things, like making life with another person. I'm not sure I can untangle the good parts of it from the self-destructive parts, which makes me sad & confused. 

DB: In the center of yourself is a ball of light which used to be a beam until you stopped it. Which is more important, the force restraining or the power restrained?

MS: The restraining. Because I do not want to kill myself. Power is gross. 

DB: How?

MS: That’s one of my favorite questions. I also like the question “if” & the question “so” & the question “throat” & the question “toyotathon.” I like “how?” because it is about lines & about baby pools working in unison. Like I can ask someone I love “how?” & then when they answer we’ve made a baby calendar.

DB: How do you order your poems in The Depression? What made you the kind of person who would order them that way?

MS: I’m still in the process of ordering them. There are ninety-nine pages of these. So if I understand the math correctly there are eleven possible ways of ordering them. I want them to be ordered in such a way that they make a real working duck or a brother-book. In addition to the text, the book contains twenty pages of photographs by the artist Jon Pack ( & we’re still figuring out how to negotiate those. I am still unsure how to order them correctly. I would be happy if there were a way to opensource this aspect of the structure of the book. The book is too much like a book I would write for me to understand what it is supposed to look like.

DB: Do you ever wish? Or do you mostly enjoy?

MS: I wish a lot, mostly for things like a cardboard box or a rollercoaster that runs from Omaha to Chicago. I wish for other things too. And even enjoying is a kind of wish, since that it doesn’t exist. But I really like that new Windhand record, so I probably also enjoy that new Windhand record.

DB: What's your favorite knick knack or what not? 

MS: I have a limited edition letter-pressed copy of Larry Levis’s The Afterlife that Julia Cohen gave me. It means a lot to me & doing things with it often makes me cry. Sometimes when I am eating it, I feel very bad about the fact that I have to be eating it.

DB: When the last person you loved died, where did you go?

MS: The last person I loved is still alive. I hope when this person dies I will already be dead, since I doubt I’ll handle it gracefully.

DB: What was the last thing you wanted to ask a stranger but didn't?

MS: Just now I was at an amazing dance/poetry performance by K.J. Holmes & Julie Carr & in the row ahead of me a woman sat alone. Oh, also, I’m at that &Now conference thingy right now. I’d seen this woman before but I couldn’t remember if I’d met her, I have sort of a bad face-memory & a bad memory in general, or if I’d been seeing her around this conference & experiencing that glitched familiarity that arises out of these scenarios. During a break in the event, when people were standing up & milling, I wanted to ask this woman if we knew each other but I did not. I think I did not because I was afraid she would think I was hitting on her, & also, I didn’t want to interrupt her solitude in case that was something she was actively choosing to have around her. It’s also possible that I did not because if I’d asked her I would have been hitting on her. Some other things are possible. [See above answer to question #3]  

DB: What is it?

MS: I’m not really as interested in this question. Either it’s something & then the answer is wrong or it’s everything & the answer is dunderheaded.

DB: Why?

MS: I guess this is the heart of the word “why.” And then the liver of the word “why” is a human liver. And the spleen of the word “why” is a human spleen, but not like human-human. When we say or write “why?” we bring “why” to life, to human life. And human life is hideous when you look at it from this point of view: ÏÏÏÏÏÏÏÏÏ. And human life is beautiful when you look at it from this point of view: 777-9311. 



interviewed by the tender, young, virile writer

DeWitt Brinson


Mathias Svalina is the author of three books, most recently The Explosions from Subito Press. With Alisa Heinzman, Hajara Quinn & Zachary Schomburg he co-edits Octopus Books. Big Lucks will release his book Wastoid in 2014.