Why You Picked Up the Paint: The Amanda Interview
I’m sitting in Red Emma’s Bookstore Café with Amanda McCormick, author of AMANDA. This poetry collection is the newest release from Ink Press Productions, which we co-curate. Ink Press Productions’ mission is to blur the lines of genre in writing, visual, and performance art in Baltimore and the universe through the publication of handmade books, manual printing, and experimental events. Rather than talking to each other, we’re watching our Google Drive cursors. I asked if we could do the interview this way to mimic AOL, something we never got to chat on together, and because it’s easy to reformat. More on formatting and material soon.
Hey Amanda. What’s the best thing you’ve seen today?
hey! How’s it going?? Everyday I see so much but I’m super diggin on these nachos right now + the sun, I love the sun and air! I love air!
I love air too, except when it’s windy. So, we may edit this, but since we already have a human rapport, I want to jump right into questions. I’ve had some of your Kombucha and 4 shots of espresso.
Why AMANDA, opposed to a title that is less personally invested?
Well, you made me call it AMANDA! Haha but actually it just had to be that. What I mean is, that was the center—the idea of me being an AMANDA and then the character of me emerged from that center.
I did strongly suggest AMANDA. The conversation circles around identity.
I’m glad you mentioned center – AMANDA is also form. For example, circles have been a dominant force in your writing since I’ve known you in Baltimore–in nightmare poems, & the Green, and now, the design and content of AMANDA. Can you tell me what circles mean to you?
Ok, super important question but also oh so complicated…
To start – the entire world is contained in a three-dimensional circle. Circles complete the form of themselves and they very obviously physically and metaphorically represent the boundaries – you are in the circle or you are out. Not to mention I know I can’t be the only one who thinks in circles – logic actually seems to have more visceral wisdom when it circles. Rivers make circles upon circles with just a leaf or twig or fish coming up for crumbs.
The circle encompasses different levels of containment! Like different levels of form spiraling in. What is format to you?
In a way, format seems to be another word for STRUCTURE which I can pretty safely say is categorically everything to me. How something is arranged or set out – I build my life around this idea, almost obsessively. I plan out my year, week, day. I replan. I plan out the way I am going to appear. Even when I was a child I thought (to reference a poem) “I am still too little to do that.”
I, you, us, they, he, she, the cats, the food, the buildings, the fauna, the fish, and the history of the world are set inside the consideration of appropriate and not appropriate. It compels me to think of myself inside a form / structure but more so, my human IS a form, a format, like a book, about its size, rhythm, shape and frequency. Having this kind of hyperbolized self-awareness, you are in turn able to play and tweak it, push it, do something with the form that you wouldn’t necessarily consider. But ya know, that also comes at a cost.
Oh STRUCTURE (2009)! I remember how much you grounded the philosophical consideration in physical things within the essay, like needing lunch and that taking away from art. These poems are inspired by life, but not always about you. They’re about the roles we play, using personal experience of time and place as a springboard. Things would be different if we weren’t in Red Emma’s looking at nachos and pretending to AIM – we can’t ignore space. How does writing and physical location influence your process?
Oh process! I have to a little lol-ing because process is such an encompassing concept for me (like everything, right?). I am the type of writer & artist that never really puts her work down. I am toiler and do tons and tons of preparation before I sit down to literally do anything.
This is why I think ARTIST as a very complicated occupation – it is more than a job, it is a way of living and a receptivity to the many many environments each of us encounters within their existence. At least for me it is.
My writing and art is fueled by a desire to exist – to be able to give outward, to compound beauty, enhance and deepen our conception of it. People often think of process as how something is made but how something is made is also about what put you in the place to make it, why you picked up the paint.
BUT, to speak about the act of writing, I often get there by finding a tension point with the language – it comes from observing how people use language to express their feelings and perception of fact, how it is used in relations to my body and me.
The words becomes glimpses of color in the chaos of stimulation. I approach writing much like I do visual art as a “maker” – moving materials around, the way I approach my existence, my relationships, my various roles.
Hey- you’re on Facebook right now! It’s like you’re in multiple chat rooms. Anyway, what is currency?
Hahaha is facebook currency? Doubtful, but I have always been a hustler. On my better days, I think it’s another listening game, or at least I like to hope. I hate that this question sort of makes me scowl and think about money.
This is promotion. In larger media conglomerates, outsiders seem to think of them as an “other.” How do you feel about promoting your book? Or another question, what is your favorite way to share the book with others?
Full disclosure: It is kind of frightening promoting my own book (especially considering the title is my name) but I decided before coming here that I am just going to have to get over that! I have to own it right? Let people think what they want to think?
Of course, like everyone, I have my insecurities but in the end, I believe in what the AMANDA project is doing and what it can do – and I’m still figuring it out! Like the body & personality, this book has a lot of layers.
I have put 29 years of life into this person (me) that is in a lot of ways at the beginning. The book is a production of that. Especially considering it as my MFA thesis – the journey there being all about me discovering the self I possess, realizing my career in writing and art, my role in society and community.
It is a way to release myself from myself and to bring a critical approach to the practice of branding. It is difficult to try to streamline the intersecting circles – BUT! My favorite way to share is to be honest about my unknowingness – to express that AMANDA isn’t a mechanism in which to understand but a way to embody and empower the existence of living with the gesture of question & to deepen the puzzle of consciousness.
To reference an important Baltimore poet, Chris Toll, as he says in “Carbon-Based Lifeform Blues,” “the job of the poet is not to explain the Mystery./The job of the poet is to make the Mystery greater.”
Amanda, thank you for chatting with me in Google Drive. I feel like people were let into what our conversations are like <3
Of course me too!!! ttyl <3
AMANDA is a project of poetry, a self portrait as performance, composed by Amanda McCormick of Ink Press Productions. The book is hand-bound with letterpress printed covers in an edition of 115. The greater project includes a reserve edition of 20 and AMANDA Doll & Accessories (sold separately) illustrated by Christine Sajecki.