An Interview with Gregory Sherl
Mixed Fruit‘s Matthew Burnside sits down with author Gregory Sherl, whose most recent poetry collection, The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail, was released in January.
Mixed Fruit – Let’s imagine for a moment (for the sake of this very serious interview) that it’s a post-apocalyptic future, and there are still a few poets left because they all hide extremely well. How would you employ your poetic skills to survive in this strange new world? Where would you sleep at night? What objects would you keep in your backpack at all times? What caused the apocalypse?
Gregory Sherl – It’s incredibly sweet that you think I would’ve been one of the few poets who survived but let’s be honest, I would’ve been dead by the time the first bomb/zombie infestation/deer-sharks dropped/began/attacked.
I’m blaming Newt Gingrich for the apocalypse I didn’t survive, though.
MF – Do you have a writing ritual? If so, what is it? Does it involve pantsuits or beer?
GS – Lately it’s been emailing myself half-decent lines and then deleting them ten minutes later. It’s been taking Adderall and drinking 40 ounces of iced coffee, wondering what part of me will blow first.
It’s listening to The National and Modest Mouse on repeat.
Sometimes it involves Dana Scully’s pantsuits and what if there is nothing underneath? What if there is too much underneath?
MF – In the end, what is your payoff for writing poetry?
GS – There doesn’t seem to be one. I’ve been asking myself this question for some time now.
When someone emails me, tells me that my book or poem helped them through something or made them want to write—that helps.
It’s getting to the point, though, where the words are just painful. Not that I can or ever will stop. Still, the words are just painful.
MF – AT&T has contracted you to write poetic advertisements for them, and they want you to write them a poem using these words: God, thighs, swagger, burritos. What does your poem look like?
GS – It would look like a wet bed.
It would look like my word count on my cellphone after sexting all night.
It would be God handing me a burrito because I did everything with my body that He intended me to do with my body when He decided to build it.
MF – What advice would you have liked to hear as a writer just starting out?
GS – I was always told, when I first started writing on the level where I could and maybe should submit, that I should always expect rejection. “Don’t take it personal,” I was told, so I never did.
The rejections never truly bothered me, especially when you realize your odds of placing a poem, much less a manuscript.
What I wish I was told is that another writer would text me to go kill myself and then brag at a party where there were other writers that he texted me to go kill myself.
I wish I was told that insecurities and competition and maliciousness bled through, not just into the work, but also into day-to-day life.
The meanness of writers makes me want to quit. That’s what I wish I was told when I was first starting out: Be prepared to be told to kill yourself.
MF – Words suddenly cost money. How much would you be willing to pay to use ‘mellifluous’ in a poem? ‘Fucking’?
GS – I wouldn’t own the copyright to ‘Fucking’? That seems incredibly unfair.
I’d torrent the words, not pay a dime.
MF – In what way are mimes like poets?
GS – They’re both really good at doing such useless things.
MF – In the movie of your life, who would play you? What are three original songs that would appear in the soundtrack? In which category would this film win an Oscar?
GS – Goddamn, look at that George Clooney. Look at him being George Clooney. Look at him being Gregory Sherl—all salt and pepper, all doe-eyed confidence.
The entire soundtrack is just quiet moaning. Looped quiet moaning.
It’d win Best Special Effects. That scene when Clooney grows wings and flies to Heaven. Beautiful.
MF – What is one thing you wish someone will say about you at your funeral?
GS – I want my wife to not say anything. I want her to quietly crawl into the casket with me.
MF – How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?
GS – How many interviews of mine does someone have to read before they buy my book(s)?
MF – What’s the first word that comes to your mind upon hearing each of these words: X-Files. Valium. Marriage. Submissions. Celibacy.
MF – Who would win in this fight: David Duchovny as Fox Mulder vs. Kanye West as Kanye West?
GS – This is so simple. It all comes down to swagger, which Kanye West sweats into beats and tweets. If Mulder had any swagger, he would’ve fucked Dana Scully halfway through episode one. He would’ve lit her hair on fire with his tongue.
Kanye West as Kanye West > David Duchovny as Fox Mulder.
MF – In Heaven there is a box with an infinite supply of something just for you. In Hell there is a box with an infinite supply of something just for you. What is in each box?
GS – Heaven is moist thighs attached to a girl who used to have pink hair.
Hell is the same thing. Hell is so empty—God never makes you stay down there long enough to even run a fever.
MF – What’s your favorite fruit?
GS – This reminds me of a Mitch Hedberg joke. Mitch Hedberg goes, “I saw this wino, he was eating grapes. I was like, ‘Dude, you have to wait.’”
MF – What is the most beautiful word in the English language? The ugliest? The most misunderstood?
GS – Since high school I’ve always loved the word mellifluous. Ask me why and I won’t know how to answer you. The ugliest? I think there’s a few: poetry, placenta, cohort, distance, death.
The most misunderstood word is fidelity. People can’t seem to comprehend its meaning.
MF – Who is your favorite member of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony?
I’m always stuck at a crossroads when I try to answer this question.
Yep. I went there. And now we’re all there.