The Gesture Press & Journal Editrices are thrilled to announce that Ellie Swensson is our new Event Coordinator. As a way to get to know her and what she’s doing, we asked her nine questions.
1. What are you reading now?
A hodge-podge of prose, poetry and comics including Eileen Myle’s Inferno, Richard Siken’s Crush, and ODY-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward. I also have taken to carrying Anne Sexton’s collected poems and the Fountain Tarot deck with me wherever I go; even if I don’t open them on a given day, I feel them and appreciate their proximity.
2. What are some of your favorite small presses? What makes those presses your favorite?
LuNaMoPoLiS because they are killin it on the local scene, foster potent community collaboration and aren’t afraid to liberate a book from its binding. Les Figues because their silhouette is innovative and immediately recognizable. I’m not sure if it counts as “small”, but Wave Books is a definite favorite — subtle texture, palm-pleasing dimensions and a tasty emphasis on typographical cover designs. All of these presses publish work that pushes bends breaks boundaries in necessary ways. And then they craft gorgeous containers to gift these trespasses to the world.
3. What author, book, or piece of writing got you interested in writing/creating?
We can go way back to elementary school days for this one. I found Out of the Dust, a free-verse poetry novel by Karen Hesse, at the book fair at the beginning of my third grade year. It’s written from the perspective of a young girl living through the Dust Bowl. The narrator is a tall, loud, music-loving tomboy with a short temper who told her story entirely in first-person poems. I found a kindred in that book and soon set to writing my story. Haven’t stopped since.
4. Can you describe a memorable event you attended? What made that event memorable/special?
TC Tolbert performing at Counterpath in February 2014. Why it was memorable — it showed me the thing that had been missing. I was attending a lot of readings then and I was at a point where I was getting more and more frustrated by many poets’ and performance artists’ complete lack of aftercare (I use aftercare here as it’s used in the kink community — the attention and intention that brings participants back to their body after consensual trespass). There were so many people throwing trauma in these rooms without respecting its weight on themselves and on the audience. And then there was TC at Counterpath standing naked in this crowded space with “Drunken Love” playing in loops layered with his voice and other sounds. He invited the audience to touch him and flog him. Everyone was implicated. Everyone was there. At one point he read a litany of violent jokes targeted at the transgender community and the weight of that moment was held entirely in his body and in the audience body. And he had this deep set compassion in his eyes — he made eye contact with so many of the audience members in a way that said “This hurts all of us but I’m here and I’m not leaving. We are in this together.” It shattered apathy in this grotesque gorgeous way that I still fail to fully articulate. That’s what a reading can do; it makes us human again. It makes us humans together.
It’s like that Alicia Ostriker quote I now include in my bio — “when did poets decide to stop being actual people?” Readings and performance have the ability to negate that trend and bring us back to the truth of this beautiful mess we are. And to find the hope of healing there.
5. Why are events important for a press/journal/writing community?
It brings the words off the page and into the world. As a writer I never consider my pieces done until I’ve performed them to an audience. It’s a form of alchemy to take written language and loose it on the world. How else can we gauge their potential and their true potency? In a recent workshop at Beyond Academia Free School, Marcus If noted how there are multiple logics at play all the time; arithmetic tells us 1 + 1 = 2 while biology tells us 1 + 1 = 3. Readings and performance allow us to enter those two realities simultaneously as well as the spaces between and beyond them. It’s the power of the erotic — communication and a way of knowing rooted in the body and space extended from the two dimensional plane of the page.
Specifically for presses, who are both gatekeepers and purveyors of written texts, it is important to give the work that opportunity to evolve.
6. What is your favorite sentence?
The one we’re writing right now. The one we can’t pin down.
7. How do you collaborate best?
In equal exchange call and response. You show me yours, I’ll show you mine.
8. What (type of) venues do you see complementing a more interactive/intimate/creative reading?
I’m a strong believer that you can craft almost any space into a performance venue. Take the Full Moon Reading in Boulder, for example. A back loading-dock alley off of Pearl Street at midnight on the full moon’s eve. No MC, no set list, just the honest invitation to anyone and everyone to arrive. That series has run consecutively for years I think because of its openness to the idea that control isn’t central to success or longevity. Venues are less important than intention. Creativity breeds equally in seclusion and in chaos.
That said, for Gesture’s intents I see space like a blank slate — open rooms for movement and exchange. Warehouses, platform stages, courtyards, or a living room floor. Spaces that challenge the hierarchical structure of reader above audience. We are looking to build conversations, so there needs to be physical space that allows for that integration.
9. What would you like everyone to know about you?
Wowza. Everyone? I guess the most fundamental piece of it is that I’m here and I’m excited about it. Here as a new part of Gesture, here as a human trying to figure it out like everyone else, here to facilitate to the best of my ability the collective desire to make a mark.