Anna Joy Springer is a prose writer and visual artist who makes grotesques. That is, she creates hybrid texts combining sacred and profane elements in order to prompt intensely embodied conceptual-emotional experiences in readers. Formerly a singer in the Bay Area bands, Blatz, The Gr’ups, and Cypher in the Snow, Anna Joy has toured the United States and Europe being a wild feminist punk performer, and she has also toured with the all-women spoken word extravaganza, Sister Spit. Author of the illustrated novella THE BIRDWISHER (Birds of Lace) and THE VICIOUS RED RELIC, LOVE (Jaded Ibis, forthcoming); she is currently making FEEDING THE DYING, a graphic novel. She received her MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University in 2002, and she is an Assistant Professor of Literature at University of California, San Diego where she truly loves teaching courses in Experimental Writing, Graphic Texts, and Postmodern Feminist Literatures.
What’re you working on?
I’m making a graphic novel called In An Egg. It’s barely in the sketch phase. It’s about the effect of my mother’s death on me, plus Buddhism, the secular sacred, and nondiscursive epistemology. It’s about faking the divine on purpose. Sort of like writing. I’m also supposed to be working on an old book, something I’m coming back to called Thieves with Tiny Eyes – it’s an aviary for punk girls, and it’s a sort of ode to Helene Cixous. I am having a hard time getting back into the lyricism of the book, after not being in it for several years – so I’m thinking of turning the whole thing into a rebus.
When did you start writing and why?
I made little stories with drawings ever since I was a kid. Playing Barbies is a kind of writing. I didn’t have any siblings, so I wrote and drew when there was nothing on TV. I started writing for other people more seriously after Kathy Acker died so young. Before that I did readings and stuff in San Francisco, at the Chameleon at the open mic hosted by Bucky Sinister and with Sister Spit – but I think it took me a long time to understand that writing is something I’m making for somebody else. I mean, it’s for me too, but ultimately the difference between thinking and creating is the fact of the presence of an unknowable subjectivity entering the mix – and I’d like to show it a good time. “Good time” so to speak.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Thalia Field told me a story I was working on was probably a novel. I said, “Fuck. Really?”
Who or what has influence your writing?
Virtual Reality has influenced my writing – Virtual Reality like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland where you are in this ship and you find yourself sailing over London, which is tiny and sparkly beneath you – I saw that once when I was a kid and I thought, “Somebody made this. I want to make this.” And then, lots and lots of television shows and advertisements, the blur and hum of background narrative always making things relate, and then authors that deal in the grotesque – Mishima, Dostoyevski, Bruno Schulz, Kathy Acker, Claudia Rankine, Rikki DuCornet, Helene Cixous. Punk and Riot Grrl Fanzines, punk songs, 20th c. composers, opera, 1930′s cartoons, big Depression-era dance numbers. Jean Genet, Captain Caveman, and Ms. Magazine. Then of course writing by people in Sister Spit and around SF in the 90′s and much of the experimental scene in LA now.
How has your environment/ upbringing colored your writing?
There’s the operatic aspect of punk rock, the melodrama and spectacle of it, the suspicion of television “realism” and of master narratives, there’s the queerness, also operatic, but the wound here is deadly, historical, whereas with punk it’s also historical, but not as ingrained in basic “givens” like gender – and I also grew up pretty poor, so without a lot of art and culture, but without the middle-class fear/loathing/courtship with the upper class, so without a healthy respect for high-culture as separate and “theirs.” I grew up in a culture of divorced singe moms who smoked pot and did diet pills and valiums, moms who danced at the disco and got legal abortions. These were exhausted and sometimes brilliantly twisted women. Mine was.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor and I’m reading a whole bunch of student essays and experimental writing finals. Mostly I read student work, which is the big irony, as you might know, of being an artist in literary academia – all the reading I loved to do has to take a back seat to reading the work of new writers, or not even new writers, but the work of students in writing classes. The batch now is a bunch of essays on comics – visual acoustics and such. My backseat is filled with weird sculptures with writing on them – I forgot to give this class a size limitation on their final projects. I’m also diving into Irving Singer’s History of Love series.
Writers who hold my interest right now, some with books and some not yet – Miranda Mellis, Tisa Bryant, Vanessa Place, Janice Lee, Nancy Romero, Leon Baham, Robin Coste-Lewis, Amra Brooks, and Teresa Carmody. And I’m chewing off my arm waiting for Eileen Myles’ new novel. I’m dying to read Kate Zambreno’s book too.
Is there a message I want readers to grasp?
Yes, in The Vicious Red Relic, Love, which is coming out on Jaded Ibis Press sometime next year I want people to notice that the novel itself is designed as a metaforest, not an orchard and definitely not a city. It is not an efficient or efficiency machine. It tries in performance to prove what it postulates – that ease of reading reproduces belief in certainty. There is no certainty through narrative ease in this book, and that is the hopeful part. Hopeful, but not nice. One is supposed to be annoyed by the interruptions, invasions, and repetitions. The desire to remain comfortable or non-irritated is, within the book’s philosophy, a main basis of violent aggression. Seeking certainty is really a desire to seek final rest. Living death. What stories with one line of logic do is recapitulate that such rest is possible and even desirable. Which is not to say that it is not a particular metaforest, with particular markings as guides. English language is one such guide, as are the captions and the dates. There is a difference between violence to maintain certainty and violence to undermine it – there is importance in intention. There are different kinds of fear – fear that wants to be resolved by comfort and fear that wants to be explored and witnessed.