blackmail press 25
Blackmail Press 25: The Rebel Issue

Sarah is holding the microphone awkwardly while sitting on the floor of Bill’s lounge. Two large windows overlook a bushy west Wellington. Bill is sitting on the couch.

S: So what should be our first question?

B: How did we come up with the Rebel Issue idea?

S: Um, I dunno! I think we were just throwing around ideas actually, trying to figure out what we interested in. I remember we had a list of ideas, one of them was ‘Home’, but we decided it was boring.

B: Glad we didn’t go with that one.

S: [laughs] For me it was because I wanted to see what other poets would do if we gave them the opportunity to go crazy.

B: [laughs] I think it just appealed to both of us...the room it might give for interesting work.

S: Yeah, I mean obviously Black Mail Press has its own voice….a great voice…but we wanted to shake it up a bit and do something different.

B: Yeah, yeah. I agree, that’s [laughs] definitely true. And there aren’t a lot of outlets for the more experimental side of writing. Still, I think an overriding factor for us was that it had to be good writing regardless of what it was about. That’s the way we ended up going, eh?

S: [laughs as she and Bill fumble the microphone between them] Are we going back and forward? I feel like I’m being interviewed.

B: You are! [laughs]

S: But yes, good writing. The theme led to a lot of different forms. The issue has scripts, short and long fiction and prose poetry. Did that surprise you? It surprised me that we got so much fiction.

B: Yeah, totally. I think one of the surprising things was how much political poetry we got as well. I guess I should have expected that, but the range was quite interesting. That and the sex stuff too…

S: I’ll talk about the sex stuff! [the microphone is shoved under her nose] I think it is definitely under-published in NZ poetry [laughs].

B: And there were multi-voice poems, which I’ve known about for a little while and I think the ones we got were really interesting.

S: Yeah I liked seeing the sound poetry…

B: Anyway I’m interested to know [laughter]. I’ve heard stories that you were a bit of rebel in your younger years, if you want to talk about that?

S: Ahhh, no [laughter].

B: Well for everyone else: apparently Sarah was a bit of a rebel once upon a time [laughter] and you wouldn’t possibly have guessed looking at her now. So, I don’t know, maybe that is worth talking about because I certainly didn’t have a rebellious phase. Maybe that’s part of what I’m doing now as far as art goes: trying to be rebellious. [Looks at Sarah] I don’t know how that works for you?

S: Oh no, definitely. I think a lot of writers write out things that interest them that they might not be able to do in their real lives. I think about some of the fiction writers that I know and their stories can be incredibly dark, you know, they like to explore the edges of things.

B: And they’re not necessarily like that in real life you know, they’re quite humorous, light-hearted people.

S: Yeah, absolutely. [Pauses] The selection process I found quite interesting as well, to go through all the submissions.

B: Yeah, there as a lot of good work. I find that really encouraging, and that was one of the surprising things for me, that NZ writing is in such a good state and so varied as well.

S: And that a lot of the submissions were from writers I had never heard of before which showed me that there are so many different pockets of writers all across NZ. It’s quite amazing.

B: So I reckon people should read the bios, you might be surprised about what kind of people are writing this stuff [laughs] which is kind of cool to think about.

S: It’ll hopefully encourage people to write in different ways and take risks which I think sometimes writers don’t want to do, they want to play it safe, but that’s something I’ve found reading a lot of the American poets …they take risks.

B: I guess they can afford to in a larger market you know. Even writing on the edge of popular poetry they might still sell a reasonable amount of books.

S: This is our attempt to broaden the market!

B: Yeah, hopefully the publishing companies will start making some rebel books soon [laughter]. What else do we want to talk about?

S: I think that’s about it. It was a great experience and I think the issue looks great.

B: I agree. The End! [laughter].

- Bill Nelson and Sarah Jane Barnett

you eyeballin' me bwoy - mephisto jones