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Starving Artist Interview #6: Brandon Holmquest
February 23, 2010, 1:43 am
Filed under: interview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In MP3, Brandon Holmquest was interviewed about Calque, the translation journal he edits with Steve Dolph; he also generously contributed some translations of Nadaist Manifestos for the issue. His literary activities since include a translation of Manuel Maples Arce’s City: Bolshevik Superpoem in 5 Cantos forthcoming very soon from Ugly Duckling Presse; and a book of his own poems, The Sorrows of Young Worthless, right behind it on Truck Press. (And hey, hey, what’s that you say? Brandon will soon be joining us on this here blog.)

BEHOLD: Holmquest on hunger, theft, cigarettes.

Brandon Holmquest

If/when (now or in the past) you have used the term “starving artist”** in relation to yourself, how literal are we talking in terms of actual starving? What would you count as part of the territory that comes with being a “starving artist” and what would you disallow?

I myself have never used the term in a self-referential way. It has occasionally been put forth by someone else, usually in jest. This is one of those terms that don’t get used that much anymore, however accurate they may be, like “bohemian” for example. I have used the snooty, Joycean term “inanition aficionado” on at least one occasion, but again I was joking.

That said, we are talking about some actual starving. I was on what I called the one-meal-a-day plan for years. When I came to Philly the first time this morphed into the one-hoagie-a-day plan. I would eat one substantial thing in the middle of my nocturnal day, and supplement that with something like bread and olive oil as necessary.

None of this ever seemed like that big a deal to me, though. Having been homeless a couple times as a teenager, a whole hoagie everyday was material wealth to me. In the homeless days I used to cadge pizzas out of dumpsters and day-old donuts from delivery guys. Or just go hungry.

What would you say is your general level of starving as a starving artist? By that I mean, when you look around you, or think about starving artists in history, how would you place yourself in a kind of spectrum?

I wouldn’t place myself very high on the historical continuum, cause you’d have to be an idiot to starve to death in this country, an idiot or a suicidal germophobe. Khlebnikov died of hunger, so he’s a ten, and I suppose John Updike or some talentless New York hack like him would be a zero. I have known very few people who I’d classify as starving artists in my own life. The overwhelming majority, all but a handful of people, have had at least some money. I think a five might be as high as a contemporary American could even get, in the worst-case scenario.

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Starving Artist Interview #4: Leeyanne Moore
January 15, 2010, 11:05 pm
Filed under: art, interview | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Our series of Starving Artist Interviews (defiantly sans scare quotes!) continues with fiction writer, playwright, and longtime MP contributor Leeyanne Moore on the hard times and the life skillz she got out of em:

The marvelous Leeyanne Moore reads as part of MP's Issue 3 release party at the Bridge.

The starving-est time had to be when I took the big leap. After years of earning only minimum wage, I was working at an after-school program. I got no respect, not enough hours, and hated the alky boss with a passion that left me stinking with rage. I literally suffered from Rage-Sweat, each night peeling off my clothes to take a bath (our little attic appartment only had a bath stuck under the eaves) and my husband and I would notice how badly I stank from the stress.

So I quit and decided to start teaching creative writing workshops to children and teens. I kinda snuck in under the radar at this arts organization where I’d started taking writing workshops myself, and sent out fliers in the summer. The first day of the first week, no one came. I sat there alone at a table with paper and colored pens and felt pretty bad. But when I got home there were two messages on the answering machine and the second day of class I had three students. The fourth student showed up by walking into the room through the emergency exit. She had Asperger’s but was an awesome writer and I was on my way to never being employed by anyone else again.

I think that being a full time writer takes that same kind of business creativity that it takes to start a business. As someone once said: a lot of people are talented writers. The most successful writers are talented at managing their talent. For me, teaching those workshops became a set of life lessons in being entrepreneurial that have stayed with me. The most successful times I’ve had as a writer have had the same feel as that breathtaking plunge where I left behind the regular paycheck once and for all.