Interview with Margaret Bashaar on Some Other Stupid Fruit

Julianna DeMicco talks to Margaret Bashaar about her poetry chapbook Some Other Stupid Fruit (Morning House e-Chapbook Series, Agape Editions 2016). Learn more about Bashaar’s mission to make art more accessible, her take on feminism (on and off the page), and why she calls her latest book the “mean girl chapbook.”

Editor’s note: The interview below has been lightly edited.


JD: Tell me a bit about your background as an author. What kind of milestone or moment is this chapbook for you in your evolution as a writer or creative person?

MB: Some Other Stupid Fruit is my fourth chapbook, but it’s my first echapbook, and I’m honestly very, very excited about that. I want to work to make poetry a more accessible art and I hate classism, and one way to satisfy both of those feelings is to publish more on the Internet because freaking everyone is on the Internet anymore in one way or another. This chapbook really has marked a turn in my writing style that I’m pretty happy about because I have found genuine joy and pleasure in writing these poems in a way that I didn’t quite reach with my writing prior to Some Other Stupid Fruit. It’s really fantastic to write and have it border on ecstasy and I highly recommend this particular high. I really don’t want to write anymore unless it’s with the same sense of excitement and pleasure that I got with this chapbook.

JD: It seems to me that the language in this collection was designed to create a sort of intellectual and visceral discomfort in the reader. How do you feel this helps the collection achieve its overall goals?

MB: The chapbook is definitely not supposed to be pretty and comfortable and feel-good. I wrote it after I had cried a lot. Though to be fair, I usually write after I’ve cried a lot. I cry a lot just in general and always have (ask my mom. Hi, Mom!). I used to be really embarrassed by that, but I’m not so much anymore, and I think that’s perhaps part of where the uncomfortable language arises from – not really giving terribly a lot of fucks about making other people uncomfortable, and rather putting my energy toward accurately expressing what I want to express. I think this chapbook thrives on that because it is, in part, trying to talk about a whole bunch of conflicting feelings and conflicting ways of presenting oneself as a woman/feminine being at once.

I was in Chicago last week, and on my way to the airport before heading back to Pittsburgh, I passed a girl sitting on a bench outside the airport who had clearly been crying her eyeballs out. Her mascara was doing that perfect tear-streaks thing down her face, her eyes were all red, her nose was a little drippy – the whole nine yards – and she wasn’t trying to hide it. She was sitting there having her feelings and fuck what any of us thought. I like that girl.

JD: The poems in this chapbook seem to take an unconventional, confrontational approach to issues of feminism and gender. Can you tell me a little about your background in/relationship to feminism? What do you mean for this chapbook to say regarding feminism?

MB: I think there are parts of every person, no matter how feminist they may be, that run counter to or at least somewhat in conflict with some definition of feminism. Unless you have no personality of your own, I think it’s pretty much impossible to be part of any social movement without somewhere along the way coming into conflict with someone else in that movement. And I’ve run into that, personally, over and over again. Some of the people in poetry in particular who have been the absolute meanest to me have been people who would say they are feminists, who, ostensibly, I should be sharing goals with. I’m sure there are people out there who think I’m a big ol’ meanie, too. So I guess this chapbook is sort of working within that context. I keep calling it my “mean girl” chapbook. And I tried to keep it from being terribly clear who the mean girl is (it’s everyone).

I mean, my personal relationship to feminism? Most days I call myself a feminist. I’ve been in that pattern for the last 10ish years. I get super grumpy with things like white feminism and TERFs. I don’t understand that shit.

 

And yeah, most of the time I call myself a feminist, I guess, but I also am really excited that my partner just bought me a pair of Jimmy Choos. I’m a woman of contradictions or something.
JD: Do you envision or hope that this chapbook could be influential in changing the rhetoric of feminism?

MB: Oh man, I don’t ever like to presume that anything I do could be influential? Honestly, when I started writing these poems I wasn’t setting out to write something that would make people uncomfortable or cause any sort of feminism-adjacent conversation. I was going through some sort of dark night of the soul re: my relationships with other women.

These poems were (and perhaps still are) profoundly selfish when I started writing them. I was frustrated and sad and I had a poetry reading coming up, and I just wanted to get some of those frustrated, sad feelings out, so I wrote a rough draft of probably 3/4 of this chapbook and read it all in one go at the reading, and writing them made feel good and reading them was fun. After the reading, a couple of people told me they felt like how the poems sounded to them when I read them, and they liked that. So I guess that’s what I want to happen when I write things – I want to feel good when I write them, and then I want other people to be like, “Hey, I feel those feelings, too,” and then we all get to feel a little less alone in how we aren’t always perfect or even good and that’s okay.

JD: Do you have any upcoming projects?

MB: I’ve been writing poems about cannibals and non-cannibals. The Southeast Review has determined that they should publish one of them. Eventually, it will be a chapbook of cannibals and they will eat your toes.

Margaret Bashaar’s first book of poetry Stationed Near the Gateway was released by Sundress Publications in early 2015. She has chapbooks from Grey Book Press, Blood Pudding Press, and Tilt Press, and her poetry has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including New South, Caketrain, The Southeast Review, Copper Nickel, and Menacing Hedge, among others. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, where she edits Hyacinth Girl Press and encourages art anarchy.

Julianna DeMicco is a senior at Binghamton University. She is currently pursuing a double major in philosophy, politics and law, and English with a concentration in creative writing and global cultures. She is a student leader on her campus and has focused her experiences on a service-based learning mentality. As a vocalist, trumpeter, ukulele player, and poet, she is fascinated by the musicality of poetry and loves to experiment with different rhythms in her own work. In her spare time, she furthers her independent study of Italian, French, and Chinese. In addition, she is pursuing a study of poetry and literature from different eras, specifically the Medieval Era to the Early Renaissance.

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