(Note: this interview was first featured on February 17, 2012 and is reposted here for archival purposes)
Philadelphia-based poet CAConrad is an unabashedly unique and moving voice. Author of works such as Deviant Propulsion and The Book of Frank, Conrad employs majestic surrealism with blunt grit to achieve visuals and movements previously unrealized in poetry. His infinite imagination continues to soar with his latest collection of his (Soma)tic exercises, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, released through Wave Books. The Esoterrorist had the opportunity to chat briefly with the poet during his tour of the South, discussing the new book, (Soma)tic poetry, and his recent scuff with the elitist Philadelphia Magazine.
Your new book, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, consists of your (Soma)tic poetry exercises. For those of our readers who may be unfamiliar with this creative process, could you discuss a little about what this method entails?
I like this question. Let me say first that in 2005 I wanted to change my relationship with poetry. I LOVE poetry, but didn’t just want it in my life anymore, I wanted it to BE my life! I wanted poetry to be something that became my life, my days, my nights. The poem as something I fit into each day.
These are very physical poetry pursuits as a result. The first poems were the color poems, where I ate a single color of food for a day, and would wear the color in some way. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white. Here are a couple of samples: Red: http://archive.listenlight.net/07/conrad/ and Blue: http://www.coconutpoetry.org/conrad1.htm
The rituals grew more complicated as I desired an even more engaged process to create the poems. For instance there’s one exercise for Aphrodite that I title “Aphrodisios” where Aphrodite’s metal and fruit are held in the mouth while walking into the world. It’s here in BOMB! http://bombsite.com/issues/1000/articles/6195 And there’s also one that I wrote where you eat a deceased poet’s poem with garlic and oil over rice. Here at POETS.org: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22454
All of these exercises have forever changed the way I relate to poetry, and they are included in my new book.
How would you say your last publication, Book of Frank, related to this process? The images are vivid with a lot of thought on the body. While it seems the collection is somewhat autobiographical, somewhat not, would you still say your work with (Soma)tics was an influence on the physicality of some of this work?
Thank you for asking this. Hmm. I never thought of it the way you put it. It makes so much sense what you say, with those poems being of the body. They’re not (Soma)tic poems, at least not deliberately. The pain of Frank, the pain it is to BE Frank. It’s a terrible world, mostly, and it cannot help itself, the pain. Some people HATE these poems because of the body fluids, the use of those fluids, as though anything could be degraded after an American landfill of the Earth came into being.
In support of the new book, you are currently embarking on a tour of the South with Magdalena Zurawski. What are your impressions so far from your journey throughout the conservative Bible Belt?
Oh, I love the South. Some people NEVER want to hear me when I say this, but I feel very strongly that there is more racism up North. You weren’t asking about race, but I like to talk about race because I’m not at all convinced that things are as good as we’re led to believe that they are. Some people think that because president Obama’s father was African that we have ended racism. But the South, well the South is filled with amazing people! Last night I read with one of my favorite poets Chris Vitiello. Magdalena set up the reading, and she had us read at an Outsider Artist gallery. Outsider Art is very much southern it seems. Not entirely, but pretty much. I believe that ALL of us are creative, and capable of the most amazing possible, beautiful creations! I feel that here!
What would you say is one of the worst things occurring in poetry today?
Hmm. Nothing. There REALLY IS room for everything. I mean there are a lot of poets whose work is kind of boring to me who tend to get all the big prizes, but then I meet their fans and realize that a lot of people LOVE their work! So who am I to judge in the end?
Would you care to comment on Philadelphia Magazine’s slander of the Mummers Parade and the subsequent confrontation?
Well they published a list last December of 10 things Philadelphia “should” get rid of, and the Mummers were on that list. I wanted an apology, and I wanted to be able to say publicly what the Mummers mean to me. Can mean for all of us. But they refused to apologize, and then blocked me from their Facebook page. So I went to the office to discuss this situation. I was nothing but polite to the receptionist, and she was polite to me. I said that I would wait, but then when they found out who I was they called the police.
In the end what’s important is that Philadelphia Magazine is only interested in the wealthy 1% of Philadelphia’s citizens. The Mummers are working class citizens who work hard all day, then come home to make elaborate, beautiful costumes, become literate in reading music, learn to play instruments, learn songs, learn dance maneuvers. It’s INCREDIBLE how much creativity goes into The Mummers. If anything is PROOF that we are ALL creative, it’s The Mummers. I love them. They make me happy for so many reasons. It’s one of the most important parades in the entire country as far as I’m concerned, and it happens each year in Philadelphia. I will NEVER forgive Philadelphia Magazine for saying what they said, and for calling the police on me, and for refusing to make an apology to The Mummers and to me. FUCK PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE!
What projects are on the horizon?
For the first time in my life I’ll be going on writers retreats. One in particular that I’ll doing this year is at Ucross, Wyoming. I need a place where I can outside each and every night to watch the stars to come up. It’s a (Soma)tic exercise dealing with star charting.
I will also be in Mexico for the RADAR writers retreat. Having never been on a writers retreat before, and now I have two. But Philadelphia is my home, and where I love to be the most, and where I find myself writing the most. The Pew Fellowship turned the entire city of Philadelphia into a writers retreat for me, but then again I feel like it always has been one for me. I moved here to become a poet in the mid-1980′s, and it’s a love-affair that’s never ended. Poetry and Philadelphia, my two favorite things together. And of course my amazing poet friends who live here and inspire me! Poetry has never been more alive in Philly than it is right now!