This time, we decided to have some fun, and asked our Interviews Editor, Nathan Rupp, to interview partner in crime Aaron Wiegert. He explains how to be an evil queen, and how to effectively hide your favorite book inside your beard.
1. So, Drunk Monkeys is quite a prominent publishing platform, but the name is a bit strange. Could you tell me about the name “Drunk Monkey” and how you got involved with it?
“Drunk Monkeys”, I believe, is a reference to monks who worked as scribes in the middle ages. They drank beer to sustain themselves and transcribed passages from the Bible. Being a tedious and monotonous task, the monks became bored and often scribbled or doodled in the margins of their manuscripts. This kind of irreverence is the backbone of the D.M. manifesto.
A friend from the Twin Cities told me about Drunk Monkeys in 2012 because he thought my work would be a good fit. And I guess it was. D.M. continued to published my stuff and then they made me a staff writer soon after. Some time later I was included in reading poetry submissions and publication decisions and that’s how I became poetry editor.
2. When you are going through the poems that you publish in the Drunk Monkeys, what draws to or pushes you away from a piece? In short, what makes a good poem for you?
That’s a really tough question. I like poems that are at simultaneously eerie and familiar, poems with a rhythm that you can climb onto and ride like a bronco, poems that reaffirm poetry as a worthwhile discipline that’s alive and well. What pushes me away are poems that are one-dimensional, poems that offer little or no insight or perspective about what it is to be a human being, self-indulgent poems.
3. Has being an editor of poetry affected your writing or your attitude towards others publishers?
Yeah, I mean you start to look at a publishing venue as being made up of actual people. Normal people just like me. People who go to work and buy groceries. So you see a publication as more of an active entity, more like an ant colony than a pillared institution that mysteriously cranks out literature for the public to read.
4. I recently read your chapbook Evil Queen and it is a wonderful collection. Can you tell me about how you balanced having each poem stand alone as well as fitting into a complete story?
Thank you for your kind words. Evil Queen was kind of an experiment. I was re-reading A Girl Named Zippy and the book mentions children playing a game called Evil Queen. I was curious and wanted to know more about this game. Then I became curious as to why I was curious about a game made up by children decades ago. It seemed that there was a universal archetype underlying this fascination. Some kind of mythology that was worthy of exploring. So I started out with a few pieces telling a story that could be a history, a fable or even a religion. Then I found poems I had written previously could be culled or altered to flesh out the tale. The hardest part was making sure everything was congruent and that it had a narrative consistency.
5. Evil Queen for all purposes feels like a fairy tale. How have fairy tells affected your work, if at all?
At that time I was especially interested in how fairy tales leave out the most important parts of how to live. Someone might live happily ever after but the tale fails to tell you how you go about achieving this happiness, or even what happiness means. So it seemed like most fairy tales held these sacred notions of what we should expect from life that were essentially empty. My goal was to create a somewhat subversive response to the notion of how things “ought to be”.
6. Your poem published with Hermeneutic Chaos “Cavestorm” and in “The Horsemen Ride to a 4/4 Time” there is, pardon the play with words, but a storm of literary and philosophic references. What was the purpose of so many references? And who are your greatest influences?
The storm of references is likely due to my lack of ability to explain difficult concepts, so the easiest thing to do was point to something similar. Like when a coffee label tells you what to expect in taste they’ll say: notes of bourbon, cherry, and hibiscus but no one actually tastes those things, it’s just that they’re the closest things we can use for comparison. Also, literary references are sort of a reward. It’s like an inside joke that only others who’ve read something will understand, but ironically it probably just makes people think: wow, this is really pretentious!
My greatest influences to start writing were Hunter S. Thompson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Alan Ginsberg, and Bob Dylan.
7. You publish often, edit and have done readings, what is next on your plate?
I don’t like to talk about what I’m working on because it puts me under a tremendous amount of pressure. Writing, as you know, is hard enough as it is and then if I say: yeah, I’m working on XYZ then I have this awareness that I’m expected to produce what it is that I’m talking about. And if I’m talking about what I’m writing then it seems pointless to go on writing about it.
8. If you were to hide a literature inside your beard, which one would it be?
I love this question. I imagine tattoos of literary passages on my chin and neck that are only visible if I shave. I would harbor passages from David Foster Wallace because he can write some stuff, especially in Infinite Jest and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men that have made me laugh so hard I had to set the book down and stop reading, for full minutes, because it produced a genuine hysteria.