"The Truth About Me": An Interview with Kim Rosenfield

by Brian Kim Stefans


Note on The Truth Interview

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Poke around-just click and eat, like Alice in the Lookinglass. This is a
safe-zone free of the prattle of advertisements and toxic tallhouse cookies. Bathe in the essence of cocoa-let Calgon carry you away-but don't forget to read every digital word and face the facts.

"The Truth About Me": An Interview with Kim Rosenfield

Rosenfield saunters into the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, drapes a pashmina over the back of a chair, orders a strawberry milkshake, fires up the first of several Marlboros, and delivers the facts.

Global Note or How I Write a Poem:

The poem's words are always interrupting my activities of daily living. Like when I'm buying cigarettes, walking the dog, waiting to be fitted for my NASA costumes, browsing the stacks of major metropolitan libraries, shopping for underwear on 14th Street, reading the instructions for my paraffin hand softening mitts, reading poems, overhearing conversations-- just being out and about and the poem starts to get written into notes in my head. But the final version of 'writing a poem' comes really with the public reading of it, then I know it's really been written.

Read Alert: Look in the Mirror: (Questions # 8 & 9)

I'm always in living conflict around a reading as I'm working out problems of the text in conjunction to that particular reading. I have a background in theater, so I tend to go for the dramatic, but no full body waxes. I'm also really frustrated with how formal and dull the presentation of experimental poetry can get even though the work is so exciting. The work usually can't show its full potential in a dull reading, unless the intention is to be dull, and that's always interesting. I'm glad poets are starting to think more about presentation and how to get the work across in all forms. I'm not talking costumes by Bob Mackie, but just a subtle intonation, or speeded-up passage, or pause, or sigh, or fumbling. I've been interested in how to speak texts not necessarily meant for orality since way back. Maybe since I first heard the Torah read aloud...

For my Senior Thesis in college, I "performed" Roland Barthes' essay, Steak and Chips, a text not meant to be heard aloud. I worked very closely 'choreographing" the language. For a while in the late 80's I worked with a choreographer Amy White and we used found texts and made performances from these olds books like "The Use of Electricity in the Home" and such. A few years ago, Sally Silvers & I wrote a collaboration "Orphan Deposit Box" and worked out how to perform that together. She's a friggin' genius.... and she and Bruce Andrews really rock when they put text and movement together or not together as often is the case. I like that texts can be scrims or oncoming freight trains, or whatever you want them to be. They can be all that they can be.

I think I'm just naturally making my writing more performative as I go.

For my performance with Dirk Rowntree (former Debris drummer, graphic designer, photographer, art maven) at Double Happiness Dirk and I started preparing months in advance by drinking martinis at Minetta Tavern. We then talked about what constituted the usual factors of a poetry reading, and how we really were bored by that. We talked about the space and materials, packaging, PR, and not really wanting to do the old "Can everyone in the back hear me? Ahem. Tap Tap Tap" on the microphone kind of thing. So it's natural that being audible wasn't that important, in fact I wanted people to be able to go in and out of the text, as if they were falling asleep at the opera, which is a beautiful way to hear things sometimes.

I also passed out product info. and beauty tip sheets before the reading to welcome everyone personally to the bar. I was trying to get non poet bar patrons to stay as well and have this kind of Moonie inclusivity as these scenes are so, you know, the opposite. They were really excited to be included in whatever was going on. I agree with Nada Gorden when she says that poets should have party favors at readings or something like that. I think we should have merchandising that includes, mugs, pens, banners, t-shirts, and perfume samples. I wish we had funding to make all this possible. For me a reading is really like a bringing together of everything, like a wedding. It's a BIG AFFAIR minus the caterer, but you've got to think about the invites and guest list, the gown, dinner, and dancing all the time. That kind of thinking of the whole- of- it creates a necessary ambiance for me in my reading work (Question #9). The lists in my poems are just ways to glue it all together, which is fundamentally, what technology can do for us. And we need technology to seal-in fresh culture. Otherwise we do get a little scanty and bottled up about the pro-em.

Dichotomies Checklist:(Questions # 1, 2 & 4)

1) Science vs. Superstition or Impersonal Modern Beliefs vs. Rational Science. Check.
2) Objective Views of the Self vs. Societal Views of the Self. Check. Double Check.
4)Statements of Truth vs. Statements of Falsity. Check.

Ready for Takeoff:

What to Wear: (Question # 2)

Are you referring to the poem Sarafem? I don't know which poem you mean, but those aspects exist in all my poems (objective vs. societal views of self). Pasting the poem into Vogue magazine was more organizational at first, but then it became important to me how the poems looked on the pages and how it changed the meaning of the intentions of each page. It also helped with pacing during the reading as I had to find the poems during the reading, so I got to play a little hide-and-seek with myself which became my activity while Dirk was playing "emulsion guitar" with Kodak film strips. My nose also was really running, so I had a whole Kleenex using that people thought was meant to look like I was a Cokehead.

That was the practical side of using a fashion mag for the reading, but obviously I'm acutely aware of how the language of beauty and perfection under the guise of guidance marks and reformulates culture. Beware of anyone offering solutions is really what I mean. Science can work in much the same way. Both genders are affected by fashion although women are more targeted and men are more part of the fallout.

I don't think consciously of writing for a specifically female audience but am very much concerned with the portrayal of women throughout history then and now-- the now part being my bordering obsession with popular media and culture. This all comes through in my work. I've had a few good men tell me "Excelsior Reflector" (in Good Morning-- Midnight-- Roof Books) appeals more to women but I'm not even sure what they mean. Because there's a mini fashion show in it? I don't know. Frankly, men rule the fashion world, look at Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, YSL, but there I go again...

How to Pack:

In regards to question # 3, we all are ontologically insecure, not just women. I hope the critique of this is pan-gendered, pan-cultural, and pan-historical, not just limited to the French babes of the Nouvelle Vague, although I love that period in film and am so happy that look is coming back!

My work raises issues women and feminism chronically have to contend with but I do hope also that it isn't delineated solely by those struggles and can be absorbed or connected to on other levels also.

Don't Forget: (Question # 4)

I think Americans are obsessed with getting "the truth" out of people or catching them in their own truth. It's the Temptation Islanding of the Real World. Surveillance, web cams-- the more technological we become, the more we want to share our "truth." It's very odd. I think that's the latent content of the "soothing but mischievous" style you must be responding to when I read.

I hope this quality doesn't come through when I'm with my clients, I'd be out of business! Or maybe I'd be rich! I think the world operates on the polarity of soothing yet mischievous, and has historically for some time. Look at Ronald Reagan and the Iran Contra scandal.

Carry-On Comfort: (Question # 5)

When I'm writing a poem, I don't have to comfort or soothe or watch what I say or wonder what impact what I've said has on someone, or maintain professional ethics and standards as I must in my therapy work. In writing I become my own therapist in relation to being a therapist and don't always have to have one eye on the wheel and one eye on the road (Eugene Gendlin) or something like that. Maybe I'm even more like my therapist's therapist's therapist or more like therapist's software. But making poems for me operates in this Cubist or prismatic seeing everything at once or a little of something for the moment world the way therapy sessions can too.

I don't see Language writing as aggressive or impersonal. I actually find it very relaxing.

I'm going to order another strawberry milkshake, would you like anything?

(Question # 7)

Brian, you don't think my poems are funny?

(Question # 11)

Jesus Christ + Giotto.

(Question # 10)

The contrasting vocal mixes are coming from the source material and the way I have to work now, having a child & no time, which is totally interrupted and chaotic, catch as catch can, piecemeal, on the fly, faster then a speeding bullet... I think you get the picture. It's not a conscious plan to manipulate the audience, it's just how the pieces flow together or don't given the frame I have to work with. Honest. Just a little quiet quilting bee of language. As opposed to a Brechtian kaffe-klatsch.

(Question # 12)

I would respond to this criticism by saying "welcome to the modern world."

(Question # 13)

My 15-year-old ingenue goals were to never marry, never have children, and to become rich and famous. I've failed miserably on all fronts, thank god.

(Question # 14)
I wish to protect my family from the intrusions of the media.

(Question # 15)

In the last 5 years poets seem to be dressing a little better.

I think all the new web technology is really interesting for poets. It forces us to have to do a little more PR on ourselves and think more in terms of product. The poem begins to take on a more flexible role and that is really good. I can't wait until I have time to figure out what's up with all the boys who are really heavily into their cyber life, and that includes you, my dear.

In recent trends I'm really glad fashion is picking up the Victorian influence and I hope we can all start riding in carriages again.

A goal is to form a girl group with Yedda Morrison when we're both in our 50's.

One last thought,

All this will become clear when you buy my book Good Morning--Midnight-- from Roof Books in the Fall.

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