interviewed by the tender, young, virile writer

DeWitt Brinson

DeWitt Brinson: What is the aesthetic and emotional differences between the letters "U" and "W"?

Chris Tonelli: You want to date the letter W; but you should prolly marry the letter U (note: it's hard to use "W" after George Bush attempted to hijack it. He's essentially a letter terrorist. And maybe an actual terrorist.).

DB: Have you ever written a poem while having sex? Explain why or why not.

Chris Tonelli No. I can barely have sex while having sex. Plus my poems are already short enough as it is.

DB: Would you or do you enjoy having/being a Siamese Twin?

Chris Tonelli: I have to assume a certain amount of patience, graciousness, humility, etc. is necessary and is therefore hopefully inherent in order to make being a Siamese Twin work. Based on the amount of these things that I currently possess, I think I would make a pretty terrible Siamese Twin. I have a hard enough time trying to be a good husband and father, even with the ability to go into the other room and shut the door.


DB: How does poetry change you?

Chris Tonelli: I like how this is present tense. I think because it is in present tense, this sort of change, for me, is local. And has a sort of overall neutralizing effect (net zero) rather than some sort of permanent net change. Meaning, poetry reminds me how to think, how to feel, and how to be. Maybe that's too prescriptive sounding. How about, poetry reminds me to think, to feel, and to be.

DB: How do you change poetry?

Chris Tonelli: Ha...I think I have the same effect on poetry that it has on me. I think I serve as its reminder.

DB: What kind of things do you write that you don't consider publishable?

Chris Tonelli: Just the stuff on the way to poems..the current document I have open is something like 54 pages long but only has 12 or 13 actual poems in it. But I'm the opposite of prolific (there's prolly a word for that), so I have to make each poem count.

DB: Whose poetry do you read when you're having trouble writing?

Chris Tonelli: I never don't have trouble writing, so ALL the poetry I read is the poetry I read when I'm having trouble writing. There are a bunch of stacks of books on my desk and these are currently on the top of each stack: Jon-Michael Frank's Here It Is My Beautiful Fucking Heart (El Aleph Press), the Factory Hollow Press tarot card deck, Paige Taggart's translations of Henri Michaux called I Am Writing To You From Another Country (Greying Ghost), Christopher Salerno's Aorta (Poor Claudia), and Mathias Svalina's Wastoid (Big Lucks Books). 

DB:  How often do you embarrass yourself vs rile yourself?

Chris Tonelli: Hmmm...I think I use embarrassment intentionally, as a tool, and therefore, when I do, it isn't actually embarrassing. So I'm going to go with rile on this one, since when that happens it isn't intentional and therefore is actually riling. 

DB: Talk about an irrational fear you have? Do you ever try to hide the fact of your fear?

Chris Tonelli I think my two most nameable anxieties are a general claustrophobia and whatever the fear of heights is. And no, I don't hide them. Unfortunately for my friends and family, I talk through my anxieties. Is there a fear of not being in control of one's own time? Or is that just a pet peeve and a bummer?  

DB: Talk about what you're working on and what you're excited about.

Chris Tonelli: I don't know about excited, but what I'm currently not abandoning is essentially an extension of the Rye House chapbook Increment, which is essentially an extension of the last section of my now-ancient full-length minus the Noh Theater trope. Basically very distilled, virtually imageless meditations on archetypal thoughts and feelings. The stuff here in TENDE RLOIN. Recently my friend Emily Kendal Frey facebooked that poetry isn't entertainment. I sure hope she's right.

Chris Tonelli works in the Libraries at NC State and co-owns So & So Books in downtown Raleigh, where he lives with his wife, Allison, and their two kids, Miles and Vera. He is a founding editor of the independent poetry press, Birds, LLC, and he curates the So & So Series and edits So & So Magazine. He is the author of one full-length collection, The Trees Around (Birds, LLC), and five chapbooks, most recently Increment (Rye House Press).