Brenda Coultas


I'm a failed short story writer in the traditional sense. I write the way I write because I have no choice. I wish I could write in a traditional narrative shape (plot, characters, conflict), I mean that I don't do characters that begin to talk and speak as independent entities with free will. I've always been attracted to language more than plot and character. And I hate most fiction. I hate the whole artificial structure of popular fiction yet love artificial elevated language. My last attempt at straight fiction has left me stuck with 6 pages of notes about Southern Indiana carnival life. But every once in a while I fall in love enough to keep going.

I focus on sentences and images. I like to describe. I'm most influenced by documentary film and photographic essays at the moment, and taking a cue from visual artists and piling up a lot of shit (dumping memories, images, found objects into a journal), then sculpting it for a shape. I use narrative to connect, also I'm a sucker for a narrative riff and for beauty. I'm called a poet and prose writer and I'm at home with both titles: however, my main company consists of poets and poetry is a large chunk of my literary diet. Of course, I follow the proponents of narrativity, whose writers are working out the same issues.

My latest writing project focuses on the Bowery, one block away from my home, specifically the brief section between Cooper Union and Houston, an area that contains the remnants of SRO hotels and the remains of the 1890s Bowery that are slated to be demolished by The Bowery Development Plan in the next decade. The artist coop that used to be McGurk's Suicide Hall, named so because prostitutes used to fling themselves out the windows, the Sunshine Hotel and various soup kitchens will be extinct. The project is centered on documenting and reacting to the layers of debris, including the human kind that layer the streets. The intention is not to romanticize the suffering or demonize the Bowery residents but rather to comment on poverty, class, suffering and my own dilemma and identifications as a teacher and poet one paycheck away from the street. It's the transparent medium I walk through with my own poverty. Needless to say that for me, the Bowery has taken on a metaphysical weight as a passage and frame of mind as well as a power spot where ghosts and the nearly living compete for space with the cell phonies who have come to replace them.

I have failed at traditional forms but I suspect that in the long run those forms have failed me. Maybe, maybe not. Each writer must make and break her own rules. As for now, I'm at work observing, discovering obsessions, and devising a container to carry it all in.

Issue Two
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