Thursday, March 17, 2011

Evelyn Hampton is Balding interview

COUSINS emailed Evelyn Hampton and asked her semi-feeble questions because time is short and because "Your work is awesome I love you" is not a question.

Evelyn is the author of the chapbooks We Were Eternal and Gigantic (Magic Helicopter Press) and The Lost Body Projected (Mud Luscious Press). Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in many journals, including New York Tyrant, elimae, MAKE, Unsaid, andAction, Yes. She edits Dewclaw.

One of the funniest and humble footnotes ever put in a book is in We Were Eternal and Gigantic:
"The notion of absolute greatness is not inhibited with ideas of limitations" is from Kant's Critique of Judgment via the Wikipedia article about the Sublime.
Reading those footnotes, I saw that the book title was taken from a sentence by Clarice Lispector. And altogether, your work seems to not really fit in any one um genre-- just like I feel that Clarice Lispector's newspaper columns did not at all (luckily!) fit the idea of a newspaper column. And I was wondering around the same time whether you considered the pieces you write (in the book) poems or prose or what. I would like to claim them for poetry, but I guess you could make a millions more dollars if you called them prose, and I wouldn't begrudge you that money. Also, I really like your pieces on html giant, but I wouldn't necessarily call them blog entries... because they are too good, too formed/digested, and also not... daily-opinion-ish. Do you have some kind of secret/private/etc word for what you write? (That was not a great question-- I know-- but we do need new content for the site.)

Evelyn Hampton: This is a good question--I mean, people want to know what to call things. I don't have a private word for what I write. The writing itself feels like the best description of what I write, but I think most people, when they ask "What sort of thing do you write?", are not ready for me to read them everything I have written. So I have been trying out one or two-word descriptions--lyrical fiction? That seems to include some of each of prose and poetry, though it maybe sounds pretentious. I sometimes resort to describing something I've written as a "thing". When I say "piece", I picture a codpiece and then have the confusing feeling that I am trying to protect genitalia that I do not possess.

I don't think anyone's paying a lot for "lyrical fiction" these days. I think what people are paying for is "content".

COUSINS: So now you're in Providence. I don't know whether to offer condolences or welcome. I know a writer who recently moved here who refers to the fact of living here as a "situation." But some people say that Providence is really nice... for a mid-sized city. They always add that last part. So here you are, in a mid-sized city, in the smallest state in the union... And we have no mountains. So what do you use for scale here?

EH: There's this scene in the movie Julien Donkey-Boy where Werner Herzog is standing at a window in his underwear, drinking cough syrup out of his slipper. He says, "Where are you, Mount Everest? Give me some Everest." When I was living in Seattle and I could look at mountains in the distance, I still felt like, Where are you? I think I will feel like that no matter where I am.

I have been finding many tufts of synthetic hair on my street in Providence--it tangles in the broken glass and trash that collects along the curb. It seems that people who wear wigs are often losing pieces of their hair. Providence feels like the oldest place I have ever lived. It is falling apart in many places, and there's something comforting about this--about being able to see outside of me something that I feel is happening inside of me. Am I losing my hair? I guess I must be. I guess what I'm saying is that there's a mid-sized city falling apart in me.

COUSINS: is the standard question, which you're welcome to interpret any way you'd like: Who are your literary cousins?

EH: You know how if you stay long enough in a bakery, you start to smell really good--I think this is how I've tried to be with the writers I admire. I spend a lot of time inside their books and hope that what's good about them will sort of molecularly bond with my clothing, so that I can smell it when I go back to my own writing. I do this with Virginia Woolf, W.G. Sebald, Robert Walser, and recently, Rilke. Plus there are so many other writers I admire--can you smell me from other there, on the other side of this screen? My mother worked for a while in her grandfather's bakery. Every morning, up at 4am to mix and knead. She said that she became nauseated by the odor of sweet, rising dough much sooner than she expected to. So I try to keep that in mind.