Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Toads Chat - Björn and Izy

On a Saturday in July two writers sat in front of their computers. One in Sweden, with a cold mojito in his hand as the night was just getting started. One in Minnesota, clutching her first cup of morning coffee. 

The mission: to chat. 

The following is the conversation as it took place over messenger. 

Izy: Hiya!  Happy Saturday, Bjorn!

Björn: Hi Izy, Happy Saturday... Hope you are settled down. I sit with a cold Mojito so I'm well prepared.
Ahahaha...I just poured a fresh cup of coffee and am ready to roll.  I would much prefer if I could have met you in person. Perhaps at a street cafe.  Instead, I am sitting among unpacked boxes in my living room in my pajamas.

Guess that's the beauty/pitfall of technology

Technology has a way of both building bridges and barriers I think, being and engineer I think a lot about the world we are creating. They say that technology is neither good nor evil, but I'm not always sure.

Right?  The double edge sword that is my smart phone

The one you check the first thing in the morning and the last thing to check when you wake up... I know that all too well. I just had 2 weeks out of internet, but when I get home I start to check my phone the same way again.

And we keep doing it, even though we know it is slowly draining our humanity.  Such silly creatures, aren't we? I was so happy to be paired with you, because I really like your pragmatism and how you filter absurdities onto the page!
Also, when we post this convo, I will probably take out like all of my exclamation points


I have to second the pairing. I know you mostly from the prompts, and always try to write for them... the make me think out of the box and come up with new ideas...

I might have to edit out my ellipses ... ...

Word is heard! I haven't been as active on my blog and in the garden, because so much of my writing for the past two years has been focused on performance, publishing and the magazine I started.  Sorry to leave you with so little to reference. But I am glad you enjoy the out of standard. I started it with the intent to shake us somewhere new!

This is as it should be, I would love to come into performance, but the scene for live poetry in English is so limited in Stockholm. Please tell me more about your magazine and live performances.
Ah, in the Twin Cities we have one of the best literary scenes. So many talented writers and reading series and lots of great presses that promote poetry specifically.  I have really fallen in love with reading poetry on stage, so I do that as much as I can. Be it a dive bar or a massive auditorium. I have found that poems live differently when spoken out loud, and it's neat to see something I put on the page transform as it falls out of my mouth.  The magazine, Nice Cage, has been a similar experience. I edit it with one other person, and climbing into the role of editor (instead of writer), has empowered me to think about writing and how I can help shape the literary landscape beyond my own words. With Nice Cage we are a mission to provide a platform and voice to those who seek to transform normative thinking.

but basically, we just want to publish awesome work by cool people.
That's a perfect mission statement. Stockholm is of course an international town, and if you seek it you can find good things. One of the best thing I have done was to join a course in Creative Writing locally which later on led to joint publication of two short story collections. I agree about the editing, I loved the part where we worked collectively in editing the stories making them fit together. To actually hold a book in your hand is a great experience.
Indeed, it's like...whoah....I made a thing appear and now others can hold it too!  When you start a story or poem, do you start in English or does that come later?

I am so curious about what it must be like to write in different languages

I never write in Swedish actually, I actually started late in writing. I think it has always been a specific purpose for me to challenge myself a little bit extra. Everything I have ever written is in my social media. So I'm not one of those people who had a passion for poetry from very young age. I remember more how I hated it when I was in high school and university

So it's a passion blooming late.

How is your life story of poetry?
I kinda love the fact that you hated poetry.  I was the same way (late bloomer), mostly because I wrote fiction and short stories and just felt I was no good at poetry.  But then....I read Ginsberg and Dorothy Parker....and I thought okay, these folks are saying things in a very powerful way and I think I want to explore it.  Also, I was inspired a lot by the lyrics I heard in songs. Music is very powerful, and poetry is at its back bone.
I have always loved music but more the melody than the lyrics actually. I think it's more fiction that has captured me. From time to time I will read every book I can find, and somehow I think that when I started to realize how much I appreciate how good prose use what I later realized was poetic tools. So you might say that I was tricked into poetry by well written prose.

And it's amazing to see how many great novelists who are also good poets.
There is a lot of connectivity between the two.  Yet I find so many prose writers are a terrified to write poems  — my burning question for you is - how do you see your role/responsibility as a writer in the world?  Are there things you are trying to call out/bring to light?

I have to say that I always hope to have a voice of reason in this crazy world. The purpose why I have created my persona, the aged librarian is exactly because of that, but I feel it's probably quixotic to approach these questions in poetry...

How about you?

I adore your aged librarian persona, by the by, for the reason you mentioned above.  Me? I am currently confused about it, to be honest. When I started writing poems a few years back, I just wanted to share stories and emotions and make people think.  But as an American today, it feels almost irresponsible not to try to do more. We' to say it politely, have had a set back in terms of how we approach each other, and......action is needed.  So, yeah, just sorting through my own end of empire angst

I get scared by actions actually. What we need is to sit down and talk... Compromise is not a foul word I think. Pragmatism is good.

But when all is about winning, the world is on a dangerous route I think.

But that said, I love to see anger expressed in poetry. You mentioned Ginsberg above, and I must say I love listening to Howl.

Ah, yes.  All of Ginsberg's work is delicious in its outrage.  I think by action, I just meant feels like something I could do more instrumental and intentional with my writing :)  Sorry didn't mean to get all political, etc. It's just reflective of my current brain struggle. If we were at that cafe, this is where I would buy you a drink and cheers for the good dialogue. Then move on to a happier subject.....What haven't we talked about yet that you wanted to?
We have not talked anything about the rest of our lives... but for me that is so mundane compared to my life as a poet. To me the only other thing would be influences for your writing. I love the outdoors myself and try to get into the mountains as much as I can, and sometimes that seeps into my writing.
Ah!  the mountains!  Can you'll me a little more about what they are like?  Over here is all prairie flat! Are they close by? Do you see them in the distance all the time like  friendly ghosts?
Alas, no mountains close, my favorite area takes 18 hours by train, so it's clearly a vacation thing, but we have a good archipelago and woods nearby, so we can get out also for weekends.

So they are more like ghosts in my dreams.
Squeeeee!  I can see how they would inspire you.  For me what influences my writing the most are tiny moments that I want to explore more.  For example, when I read a news article about privately funded space travel and how excited folks are....I think, okay but let's explore that.  What is brunch even like in a world where stupid rocket ships are tearing up the sky? And how stupid would the gift shops/t-shirts be. Stuff like that :)

Ha.. that's exactly what I like about your ideas. For me it's always hard to spin such thoughts from an article. I try and sometimes I manage. One trick I do sometimes is to look at a random picture and try to write something that you don't see there. Is there a pirate's ship just outside the frame? Is the photographer a serial killer planning his next crime? I find it a lot easier with pictures than stories.

Ah yes!  I love pictures too, so much to interpret and explore. is that Mojito treating you?
It's all gone, and so is your coffee I guess.
I just poured another cup, and am ready to tackle the day officially!  You're probably thinking about settling in for night things. lollers

how do we wind this down, so much I want to ask, but I don't want to take up all your weekend.

Ha.. Let us get this into a document and then send it around. Maybe we can complement it with additional questions...
sounds like a plan!  I can do that tonight, so you'll have it tomorrow?????

Sounds great. I will go back and prepare our dinner... Great talking to you
Back at you, Bjorn!  Thanks for chatting. I enjoyed the conversation.  Cheers and tah!


Kerry O'Connor said...

Wow! I am blown away... This is so COOL!!!
You guys rocked the chat show.. I had the very real urge to join the conversation.
Izy, I would love to see you performing - that is officially on my bucket list.
Bjorn, the fact that you came so late to poetry heartens me to know that poetry will never die, because it lies dormant in all of us.
Thank you both so much.

Anonymous said...

This was such an unexpected presentation - wow! I'm still reeling for the "cool" of it - the dynamic energy and tech savvy!

And what a great way to share an exchange, a conversation :D And of course, a wonderful way to get to know you two better. What a fascinating "back story" - perhaps coincidence that you two paired together for this, and both came "later" to writing poetry, influenced by prose first? At any rate, this is a wonderful exchange, and exciting for the different projects you both have in your hands - and how you share it with us, here at Toads, and in your own spaces, too.

Thanks for taking the time to do this and offering us such delightful insights about how you both create, and what it means to do so.

brudberg said...

Hello all... still on vacation, enjoying the last of summer by the sea... I have to thank Izy for a great idea of form and questions... having a real chat like this was really a lot of fun...

Sherry Blue Sky said...

You two are too cool for school! I LOVE this presentation, and it must have been a very fun chat, alive and immediate, rather than sending documents back and forth. How very cool. I enjoyed every line. So much fun!

Susie Clevenger said...

I am with Kerry, I too would have loved to join the conversation. This was so much fun to read.

Rommy said...

This was frickin' adorable! I loved being able to look in on this chat.

annell4 said...

Loved your conversation!!

Kim M. Russell said...

Brilliant presentation, Bjorn and Izy. I also wanted to join in and ask questions. Yours is an excellent pairing as you are so yin and yang that you fit perfectly! I would like to attend one of Izy's performances - I have watched what I can find on the Internet but there's nothing like the real thing. I'm a huge fan of Bjorn's aged librarian and also love writing from images. Thank you Bjorn and Izy!

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

What a delightful chat! I so enjoyed eavesdropping. said...

This was a delight to read. i was involved in writing short stories for some time, before
I decided to try poetry, which I used to write as a child in grade school. Now, I cannot find
a better way to express myself. Thanks Bjorn and Izy for letting us listen in.

grapeling said...

yep, cool ~

Marian said...

Man, I would love to be part of this conversation. Maybe one day! Toads Coffee Clatch, anyone?

Margaret said...

Lovely! Thank you for the conversation - I'm sure we all wish we could have joined in.