Diana Salier is a musician / person who writes. She plays guitar for Swells. She wrote Wikipedia Says It Will Pass and Letters From Robots. She is wearing striped pajamas.
Monkeybicycle: Night Bomb Press describes Letters From Robots as part of a mode called “confessional poetry.” What does that depiction mean to you? How would you define the collection?
Diana Salier: I wrote the poems from Letters From Robots from 2010-11, so I was about 23, 24 years old. It’s basically a snapshot of that time in my life, which is kind of cool now when it feels so far away. It’s almost a nostalgia thing at this point. At the time I was reading a lot of Frank O’Hara and free-writing in coffeeshops, but not ordering coffee. I’d say the confessional part is apt. Some of this stuff is really personal, like the one about downloading porn with my girlfriend in a cafe. I was living in my head a lot and emptying the loneliness out.
Mb: Letters From Robots has a great tendency toward wit: “i had this girlfriend once / we made an emergency escape plan / that if california broke apart / from the rest of these united states / we’d walk down the street / to each other’s apartments / and reunite among the chaos / assuming we still had legs / and were still on speaking terms” How do you evoke humor in your work? Is it mostly a game of irony and juxtaposition?
DS: Thanks! I’m glad you mention that. Humor is super important for me because I want my work to be accessible. I like to write the way I talk, and in regular conversation I sometimes make goofy asides like the one you picked out – just like a parenthetical that’s meant to lighten the mood. I also find humor and absurdity in mundane, everyday things like eating breakfast or commuting to work, and I try to stick those in wherever I can. But sometimes I think I’ve got something funny and people tell me it made them sad.
Mb: The collection also seems very focused on love: “on the tennis court / everyone is a loser / who has / love” Where does this attention come from? Is it desire, personal investment, exploration of the less tangible?
DS: For better or worse I’ve found it hard to write about anything except love (or lack thereof) and girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, all that. I wrote half of Letters From Robots while dealing with a string of weird dating situations and in-betweens, and the other half after breaking up with my first serious girlfriend. I was way fucking earnest and lonely. These days my love life is pretty intact so I want to move away from that and write about other things that are more concerning to me now – like on-the-job existential crises, work-life balance, how to pick a shirt for a job interview.
Mb: Several of the poems in Letters From Robots are about or allude to the end of the world / 12.21.12. How does this aspect of the collection feel for you now that it is 2013 and all is (ostensibly) well?
DS: I thought about that, and actually posted one of them to Tumblr on 12.20.12 with some quip about how it’s about to become irrelevant. I think it timestamps the collection into the 2011-12 era, which is good in that I want my work to feel like it’s happening now. Not in the old west, not in the 50s, not in 1985. I guess if robots read it in the year 2312 it’s gonna be way outdated, but what can ya do.
Mb: You mention Joe Meno and Frank O’Hara in Letters From Robots. Which other writers are you reading or influenced by?
DS: D.W. Lichtenberg, Ben Mirov, Eileen Myles, Russ Woods, those are some of my favorite poets. I’ll always love J. D. Salinger.
J. A. Tyler’s latest novel Colony Collapse is available now. He also runs Mud Luscious Press.