Matt Rasmussen

recorded in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN

with Chris Tonelli & Dan Boehl

 

Dan Boehl

My name is Dan Boehl, I live in Austin, Texas. I live there because it’s warm all the time and I don’t own a car, so I can ride my bike everywhere and get hit by cars all the time.


Chris Tonelli

I’m Chris Tonelli, I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina. I was born in New Jersey, my family moved there for my second half of high school, so that was like the late 80s, early 90s. I went to undergrad there at NC State, got my master’s there, then moved to Boston for six years while my wife and I got graduate degrees, and then moved back to teach there.


Matt Rasmussen

I’m Matt Rasmussen, I live in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, which is outside Minneapolis, the Twin Cities. I’m originally from International Falls, Minnesota, which is on the Canadian border. I live here because…I don’t know, I just like Minnesota. It’s a good place for arts and poetry, and so far the arts have been fairly well funded. The literary scene here is pretty strong, and it’s not on the coast.


The Knox Writers’ House

Can you guys talk a little about what it’s like to be a writer where you live?


Tonelli

Yeah. Raleigh’s nice because there are lots of universities, and two other cities that are pretty cool—Chapel Hill and Durham—and they’re all 20, 25 minutes away, so it’s a subway ride, like going from Brooklyn to Manhattan or something like that. So there’s tons of opportunities—there’s Duke and Chapel Hill and NC State, lots of cultural things going on. I run a reading series there called the So and So Series, and people seem to be totally willing to travel from all over to come read, so that’s nice.


Boehl

Austin.


Rasmussen

Austin, Texas.


Boehl

Awesome, Texas? There’s a literary scene in Austin, there’s a bunch of reading series and stuff like that I’m not really involved with but I attend sometimes, but when I moved there, I got really involved in the art community. Most of my friends are artists and I work with a lot of artists and do art reviews in town and around Texas. Sometimes I go to New York and do stuff there. It’s nice hanging out with artists, as a writer, because I am the writer, and I am referred to as such. And when they need a writer involved, they get me involved. So, it’s been pretty nice to, you know, be the only writer that these people know.


KWH

Is it important to your art to be surrounded by other artists or writers?


Boehl

For me, a lot of what I’ve done so far…Kings of the Fucking Sea wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for Jonathan Marshall, who is an artist and wanted to work with me. So, we just started working together, and that’s how that book came to evolve. Now, I work with Jonathan a lot. I’m writing a script for him for a movie that he wants to do. It’s interesting because you can only write so many poems about how weird your life is, and it’s nice to get to write about how weird other people’s lives are, and the way they express them through art.


Tonelli

I think I’ve found it difficult. There are a lot of writers in the triangle area, but I don’t hang out with any of them, and I’m not sure they hang out with each other, unless they’re in school together. I don’t have poetry buddies. And that’s been hard, or at least a transition. When I get together with these guys, either in New York or if they visit Raleigh—if they ever visit Raleigh. Rasmussen.


Rasmussen

You just moved there.


Tonelli

Yeah, three years ago.


Boehl

I’ve been there.


Tonelli

Yeah, yeah. Twice. But just those three days or four days, like at AWP, I just eat it up. I think it would be nicer, better to have that a little bit more regularly.


KWH

That community?


Tonelli

Yeah. And I like all the poets that I like in Raleigh and Durham and Chapel Hill, but there’s not a hang out. Everybody’s got kids.


Rasmussen

You know what you need to do is there’s a guy here who does a thing called Writers’ Night Out. You come out once a month, if you can make it.


Tonelli

Yeah, that’s a good idea.


Rasmussen

Everybody meets at a bar. No format, no reading or formality or anything, you just meet at the bar.


Boehl

Nowadays, I don’t really think those location-based relationships are as important anymore.


Tonelli

Because of the Internet?


Boehl

Because of the Internet.


Rasmussen

Did you just say “location-based relationships?”


Tonelli

[Laughs.]


Rasmussen

Is this math class or something?


Boehl

Okay, Internet girlfriend is not a good idea, because you need to sleep with her, but you don’t need to sleep with your friends.


KWH

That often.


Boehl

That often. And we email constantly. All the time


Tonelli

But that’s not exactly the same.


Rasmussen

So once you can sleep with somebody through the Internet, we’re done.


Boehl

Well, that guy just made the Internet armpit. There’s an Internet armpit now.


Tonelli

I wish my penis were a USB.


Boehl

And there’s an Internet kissing device now.


Tonelli

Oh, you can kiss the screen?


Boehl

No, it’s like a tongue thing that they’re making.


KWH

This is the end of human civilization.


Boehl

And soon we’ll be able to upload our consciousness into the Internet and you and I can comingle in the ether.


Tonelli

That’ll be fun.


Boehl

But until then—


Tonelli

We skype.


Boehl

We email.


Rasmussen

We have these sloppy human bodies.


Tonelli, Boehl

[Laughs.]


KWH

What’s the community like in the Twin Cities?


Rasmussen

The Twin Cities is really pretty good. I’m from Minnesota but I didn’t grow up in the Twin Cities, so I didn’t know too many people when I moved here after being in Boston at Emerson and meeting tons of people that are into the same thing. Going to undergrad, I didn’t have very many friends who were into poetry or writing, so it was nice to find that at Emerson, but then you sort of lose it afterwards, too, like Chris was saying, so you have to find it in your own community, I guess. Here, it’s not hard. There’s the Loft—there’s a lot of readings there. Rain Taxi is here. There’s this thing called the Twin Cities Literary Calendar, which you should check out if you’re around for a while, and it lists every reading by genre, sponsored by Rain Taxi, I think. But it’s good, I think.


KWH

Is it important for you to have that community, as a writer? Or important to your art?


Rasmussen

Yeah, definitely. You sort of have to seek it out, you know. It doesn’t come to you. There’s a salon that’s done here as well, which is kind of cool. You go and they do presentations on writing or other things. MC Hyland just did one on Reagan Era romance novels. It was called “Guilty Pleasures.” There’s a lot going on. It’s difficult though, too, because a lot of people that maybe you don’t resonate with, or they’re writing a different kind of poetry, doesn’t mean that you can’t hang out with them, but—


Tonelli

But it usually does.


Boehl

Yeah, I feel like it does sometimes.


Rasmussen

I don’t. I can read people’s poems and think, “Those are your poems, and you’re this person now, and you’re this poet when you write.” We’re all putting on a persona. It’s just they choose to put on that persona.


KWH

What kind of persona do you think you’re putting on?


Rasmussen

[Laughs.] I don’t know. Dark, depressed boy? [Laughs.] No. I don’t know. Dark humor, I guess, I try to do.


Tonelli

I think there’s two kinds of poets or artists—poets that write their life; it’s like talking to them. One of the other guys in Birds—,Justin Marks—I feel like reading his poems is like hanging out with Justin Marks. And then there’s poets who you don’t recognize how these two people are the same person. Those kinds of people are writing to complete, to be fuller. There’s something missing and then they create that missing thing that’s not very much like them. Like, I’m really busy and disorganized, but I really like things clean, organized, and that’s the only space where I can feasibly do that, you know what I mean? As much as I try in real life, I can’t really do that. I fuck it up. But that’s a very closed environment where I can be tidy.

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