Taylor Mignon’s first book of poems, Japlish Whiplash, is available from the author (2,000yen/$20.00). Orders receive the companion book of collaborations as a gift. Contact taymig “at” gmail “dot” com
What projects are you currently working on?
Vou Visual Poetry Anthology, with Karl Young of Light and Dust Books
Iam afraid i have really slowed down this project. I wanted to finish my own book first, and next is a book of translations from the modernist Torii Shozo, disciple of Kitasono Katue, who was also a Vou Club poet. Thats coming out next year, 2011. But the visual poets are dying so i can’t flake out on this. Its been hard working with an editor overseas, tho he is the editor, archivist, publisher, poet, essayist supreme, and i am lucky to be working with him, Karl Young.
Creative & Expository Writing Text
Ive been publishing articles and giving presentations on Avant-garde and traditional writing forms in a great, open forum, the association and Journal of Engaged Pedagogy (whose founding mother is Barbara Summerhawk) and the Japan Writers Conference. Using the Exquisite Corpse and Yamamura Bocho’s poem Geigo as ideas for inspiring the short story; Fluxus performances for written text/scores; and English versions of Basho’s frog haiku for the comparative/contrastive essay and beyond.
The Beats & Japan: am still waiting for the publisher to get her/his whip out on this one, but the Visual Poetry book has priority.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was one i edited with Hillel Wright, Poesie Yaponesia, a bilingual book of poetry, mostly. It was named after Shimao Toshio’s idea of the Japanese islands being more a part of greater Pacific island culture, rather than the Yamato of Japan per se. Unlike that idea, it wasn’t a great anthology, because it wasn’t fully bilingual, and some of the inclusions weren’t consistent, but iam proud of it because it was the first anthology which contained poetry originally written in Japanese or English, then translated, so you had Japanese and foreign poets under the same cover. It also helped to spur the revival of publishing activities of Printed Matter, filling a void that was left by Edgar Henry after he passed on.
My next book, Japlish Whiplash, a book of original poems, is dedicated to my father. Actually it was mostly already written, but my dad making his move last Fall really made me want to publish it after crying wolf for long enough. The inspiration comes from, uh, life, interacting in it or not; inspiration was and is usually received slowly, iam not a machine who can just crank out a book a day. Inspiration doesnt hit like a bullet. But lots of decompression and compression. I think iam a slowly blooming bloomer.
Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp?
I think that we are vessels who more and more are force-fed messages whether it be from TV, politics, adverts, techology, didactic elders, music and so on. There are very few writers who can pull off plying messages while not being pandering. Allen Ginsberg, Nanao Sakaki, Antler, and Kenneth Patchen are some who can. If there was a message I would like to give, it might be Stop Making Sense. Poetry should be free from these everyday mundane, rationalistic worldly affairs. It should be purely artistic, rather than trying to fulfill an agenda, or just a forum of self-expression, though of course theres nothing wrong with getting stuff off your chest, i dont think poetry is the best avenue for that, perhaps investing in a therapist is better.
Who or what has influenced your writing?
My Homage section in Japlish Whiplash makes that all clear. Never hide your influences or sources of inspiration — give them due credit. Without the dancers, visual and lexical artists, painters, conductors, photographers, musicians, journalists, Japanophiles, translators and independent scholars, life would be unbearable. So hence my poems dedicated to Chris and Cosey, Shpongle, Ohno Kazuo, Shiraishi Kazuko, Takahashi Shohachiro, Cid Corman, Tsuji Tetsuko, Robert Whiting and so on. Then there’s the collabs in one way or another with Ira Cohen, Ray Craig, and John Solt.
chaotician your chaos pubic beast & bathing body
the nitty gritty meeting of the ugly outside its antonym
a mermaid rub a dub dub goshi goshi scrub
you are what your partner eats
in your pretty puke 7
electric ghosts vie for tube time
& #8 kodak a black kojak
lesbos amour waterproof diashock jewels
butt beautiful faces bull’s eye bum mug
sky dark tree silhouette sprouts rect um
angular her trunk body fetus dig
under your gaia geographic skin
SLOW LORIS SEX
with John Solt
flexing voidic muscles they found dried food under a cardboard box
damp & smelling of spring, bonito bits fake paralyzed poses
coffee ocean returns across the history of slow loris sex
youality strutted the “to to totem con plate” swathingly with
all the logic it could muster at the gate of doom and gloom
ala chihauhau chimichanga, beezlebub bathes in lava lamps
genuflecting at her altar with candle drop tears and tea
spoons lovingly fed to the head’s federal bureau of indigestion
who is good at sports, barbeques, and the art of killing
inspired cerebrum shooting for best canvas splash in future olympics
blinked to nine painted Buddhas facing outwards on her fingernails
pointing to clouds of winter ptarmigan praying not to be preyed
what was never real continues the floor spinning olive green
psychic camouflage reflects into sky bumping off truant rainbows
jiggled the coup in her crotch flamboyantly flag color waving
groin butterflies flit the embers of ball clitzpah chiascuro
moonlit stars reflect ceiling in water of contingency flutes
eating a tulip while walking on hell kokopelli & lovely vomit
a sheet of glass placed between his feet and consciousness
espresso at noon drug at 12:15 1200:00: free floating ass peace in
the trenches sacred carbohydrate slop between their frog legs
uncle sam prostrate, in chorus they articulate this meatloaf sucks
nuts and bolts undoing the magnet affixed to the humanimal skull
duggery buggering off its own groan to imperfect friendly pyre
on the other side of conditioning the blood of egg yolkism
fading in rhaita by joujouka at the lunar feast of aid el kabir
atop a horse-headed camel rode across the starlit jellyfish sky
while heavy metal ants ramble off into the underground mudbow
ransacking for plastic mice and lines of ancient poetry
the moon-goddess slammed the word through the sun-god’s forehead
grey clouds of wrinkled dough stretch into a highway of rainbows
she comes in colors even to the Ibiza club w/a dj in the bathroom
head on the bowl, struck nostalgic for anyone else’s childhood
mamallian manna spurts out the ultra pacifier of substitute mama
in the rain he slips by a boat and uncle jelloes his brain
while his heart on a sleeve turned into a honey monkey piggy-backed
in front of giant speakers the music slowly bled his ears
“slap my face isn’t that antonin artaud? cocteau? oh pixies”
“you’re a sick paranormal puppy,” she said, wet as a kappa
“gnaw, just a chameleon in slippery drag” anti-esthetic hit taken
the team required a wind-up sardine to nibble at her salmon
kite flying in a mistbow of fins and whiskers winking akimbo
each line an airstair through which they fell unknowingly
as alabaster bastard gnomes in slowmo impromptu ballet prepare
to admit sheepishly, “we’ve shot houses and cars up our arms”
shotgun wedding: jack’s jacked up jaguar gets low-jacked
the ocean on toes reminded her of the lobster in his mouth
the macaroni beast split diddlely and the souffle splat squat
they were forever on the prowl for found words
doing the hokey pokey full fathom five, afro-leftism
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
My name, my birth, our house/gallery/library. I was named after the subject of my old man’s Phd thesis, the Puritan, pioneer, poet priest, Edward Taylor [Tho it often seems iam more of his anti-thesis!], & i was conceived in celebration after my father’s proposal to write on Ralph Waldo Emerson essays was accepted by Cliff Notes. So it seems i am nearly literally conceived out of poetic sense. Tho the old man went out of his way to say how tedious ET scholarship was! Never did i feel pushed into poesie. My revolt was looking into Po Mo and the Avant-garde, going to Japan, finding other teachers.
Another definite shade was that of the Floating World and J. modernism at our home. We have a virtual gallery of artwork on our walls. Ukiyoe and the portrait of Hagiwara Sakutaro by Onchi Koshiro in its menacing misanthropism was definitely a dark, yet elegant coloring. I picked up a book out of our library (converted from a garage), Mishima Yukio’s The Sound of Waves, and i was hooked on Japan since then, tho i dont go gaga over Mishima anymore. So perhaps when i made my getaway from Lincoln, Nebraska to Japan, i was somehow following my dad’s great appreciation for its culture, an extension of his esthetical love affair with Japan. He created his own woodblock prints. I pursue the love affair in my own way.
Another shading was that of the poets who i heard when i was younger coming in through the English Department at UNL such as the Polish poet Piotr Sommer and the Russian Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It was exotic to hear their poetry in their mother tongues. We had a kegger for Yevtushenko at our house! Then there were the punk bands at The Brickyard, the skateboarding scene and my friends in high school who were into New Wave.
Do you have a specific writing style?
No, specific styles get old quickly. Very few can keep longevity pursuing a singular style. Cid Corman, arguably the finest poet in the syllabic meter form, would be an exception, but even then, the adjective-less dipping into the bottomless void can drag. Or as Torii Shozo wrote in a poem:
A traveler abandons
and flips through a catalog of silence.
Experimenting with all styles: Homage, i write syllabic verse, have written sonnets and pantoums, alphabet poems, free writes formed into poems, and formalist techniques which i invent — based on the “Geigo” for example. I have a certain knack for rhyming and playing with words. So it may be interesting that I can be avant-garde and traditional in method too. I don’t try to force rhyme and rhythm it just comes naturally to me. To generalize then, from formalistic to free form.
What book are you reading now?
The Satires of Juvenal and Three Girls: A Twenty-First Century Tale by Faruk Abdullah (Carl Bloom). Am reading Juvenal as background for an intro of sorts for my translations of surrealist poet Torii Shozo.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Well, i recently discovered him, so new enough for me: H. D. Moe. Until reading him, i didn’t think anyone could write to such a whacky, playful degree as i do. H. D. Moe has this wonderful ability with words, playing with the sounds of them, giving them a real stretch, verbal free form Yoga perhaps. He made me think that i am not so crazy after all and that i have a poetic brother out there and that i should have stronger faith in myself as a poet. Sawako Nakayasu’s and Jane Joritz Nakagawa’s work appeals to me as well.
*Note we have chosen to present Taylor Mignon’s unique spelling and grammatical style unedited.