Monday, September 27, 2021

TtD supplement #198 : seven questions for Cat Tyc

Cat Tyc is a writer/artist who has three chapbooks, An Architectural Seance (dancing girl press & studio), CONSUMES ME (Belladonna* Collaborative) and I AM BECAUSE MY LITTLE DOG KNOWS ME (Blush Lit).  Her most recent work has published in Maggot Brain and The St. Marks's Poetry Project magazine The Recluse.

Her video work has screened at the Microscope Gallery, Anthology Film Archives, Brooklyn Museum, Hauser & Wirth, Kassel Fest and the synthesis gallery. She has directed music videos that have been added to the rotation on LOGO’s NewNowNext and MTVu.

She has been granted residencies and fellowships at Signal Culture and The Flaherty Seminar and has received support from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts.

Her collaborative project Poet Transmit (with artist Victoria Keddie) engages in the connections between poetry, transmission, and performance and has been presented at St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Knockdown Center and MOMA Ps1.

She is the Director of The Home School in Hudson, NY which is a summer intensive / online program with a mission to infuse poetry education with an interdisciplinary approach grounded in the fine arts and multimedia. She has taught writing for several CUNY/SUNY branches, Rutgers University and Northeastern University. She is based in Brooklyn and Hudson, NY.

Her poems “ART OF PRETEND,” “THIS PARTICULAR GOAT,” “THE BEES” and “WHISPER NETWORK” appear in the thirtieth issue of Touch the Donkey.


A: All of these poems are part of a collection entitled XO which is about excavating a path towards love after experiencing various heartbreaks perpetually for several years. Or what I mean to say is that it is a book about love without an explicit love poem in it.

The poem THIS PARTICULAR GOAT is specifically about an astrological reading I had right when I moved upstate in 2019 to escape a situation that felt untenable.

It is also a little bit about the frustration of being a white Latina because sometimes the eruption of witchcraft into the mainstream makes me feel like I have found community in other witches but then I also feel patronized to by people who weren’t raised in it and speak to me as if I wasn’t raised in certain traditions.

The WHISPER NETWORK was a vent after being sexually harassed a few years ago and how desensitized I felt after the fact. In that piece, I am observing my survival mode in action and acknowledging the fact that I got through that moment unharmed but also acknowledging because I had learned how to. It is really different from other things I have written.

THE BEES is about moving to upstate NY. It is partially about hitting dead ends and also relating to nature in a way that felt so much more immediate. In taking in all this knowledge about the natural world. or to be more specific, learning about the interesting politics of bees, I am thinking about the support networks in place in their society and how solidarity doesn’t always come from where you expect it to in ours.

ART OF PRETEND is an unabashedly 2020 ‘welcome to lockdown’ poem. It is about rethinking intimacy in digital spaces and observing how it shifted at that moment in time.

Q: How do these poems compare to some of the other writing you’ve been doing lately?

A: This work is different from my other work mostly in that I identify mostly as a prose writer.

Writing these poems was a way to process what was happening for me emotionally during a really intense few years and the accumulation ramped up around when I moved. I was commuting to the city for teaching that first fall so I spent an inordinate amount of time on the train for several months and decided to use that time to write poems to deal with the isolation and just use that time well.  The work manifested in a way that is very different from the rest of my practice but also speaks to the constraint of time within how they were produced.

Q: Do you have any models for the kinds of work you’ve been attempting? What writers or works are in the back of your head as you work?

A: There are always so many because I ingest a lot of media. When I am at home I usually have a podcast or something streaming. And when I am in motion, I play music.

Since I wrote most of these on the train, I would say that there is some influence from what I am listening to.  I love and listen to so many artists but Mos Def (Yasin Bey), Kendrick Lamar, Princess Nokia and Nas are people that I feel like I was listening to a lot that fall and whose lyrical cadence really resonate with me and kind of stick in my brain long after the music stops playing.

Q: I’m aware that you work in multiple disciplines—not just composing prose or poetry—and I’m curious as to how these various streams of your work interact. Do you see your work as a large, singular project, or are you working a sequence of different threads that occasionally overlap or interact? Do the multiple sides of your work influence each other at all?

A: It is still project by project and they do overlap and have a conversation with each other. Dare I say, occasionally a debate. I mean, how could they not ? - it is all coming from me.

In regards to mixing media, I do feel like I am entering into a place of more intentional integration. Mostly in regards to how the intersection of media and poetics are at the center of my practice which I am excited about.

Writing is always at the core of my work, though. Sometimes the project starts as a poem and turns into a three person collaboration and sometimes a project starts as a sort of an investigation for a type of documentary poetics and sometimes a poem is just a poem.

Most of the time this all evolves out of my desire to work with people. And sometimes a project evolves because I really need to be alone.

Q: I find it interesting that you suggest you work in poetry to process certain experiences. How is this different from the work you’ve been doing with your prose?

A: It is funny to me that you ask me this today because I just got off a call with a friend who just had a traumatic loss and who is struggling with how to talk about it in her work. And I was talking about how art is what I do to save myself so I guess I was encouraging her to try if she wanted to and when I said that I was thinking in particular of this collection of poems but the fact of the matter is that I am always processing something in my work. .

In prose, I do this more as a way of  letting my overthinking self take over and let her freak flag work off some energy.

I am not really interested in work that is clever just to be clever.

When I am being conceptual in a project, I am thinking of it more like a science experiment to test out an idea or just to see what will happen so I have material to work with.

Q: With three published chapbooks, as well as your current works-in-progress, how do you feel your work has developed? Where do you see your work headed?

A: Well, I have a full poetry manuscript that could be broken down into chapbooks but I am really committed to the process of sculpting it into a full book. So that’s one that I am in the process of reorganizing.

I have spent a lot of time organizing the papers, notebooks and files in quarantine and have come to realize that outside of the one book of essays I was working on, I really have three and that essays are really where my heart lies near these days.  

The other two projects are in much earlier stages of development and I am developing short podcast series as part of the research and development of writing through those.

I am writing this as the world is “opening” back up so it is a weird time of meeting and conversation but there is some interest in a book of essays I have been working on for over a decade for  an online series and that is all I want to say about that for now so as not to jinx it.

And I wrote this script that I sent to an actor friend who thinks it could be a pilot so that is another interesting thing. I really miss directing and the whole running away with the circus feeling of making a film but it is also really daunting because it means working with a lot of people and I am still in the phase where I am trying to not be stressed out about having multiple dinner plans in one week so you know, we’re just taking it day by day right now.

Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?

A: I feel like I am always thinking about Eileen Myles’ work. Their book, evolution, has been on my mind quite a bit for the past few years because the poems reflect this position of really looking at the past to try to make sense of NOW in a way that just paralleled my head space so much.

And sometimes when I need to start my engine, I read a little bit of their book about Iceland or Inferno to get back into that head space of finding my ‘voice-ness’.  

I also get a lot of energy from seeing art and just taking in whole day of galleries and I just scribble the whole time. I went down to the city about a month ago to see a new show by one of my most favorite painters, Kathe Bradford.

Laurie Anderson is another artist that I return to consistently as well which some might think strange as I don’t work in sound but think I think she is such an interesting writer in how she kind of writes these layered meta narratives and there is something about the way she bends that opens me up when I am thinking about my work.

The art and writing I feel connected to is the kind that moves you beyond the art because it transcends the form to be something far more impactful than the form itself.

It grabs you and says ‘hey I see you’ and it holds you because the artist has learned how to do that for themselves. Or is at least is trying to and there is something in that trying is what I find most meaningful and inspiring.

I have also read a ton this year but the highlights have been Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Harry Dodge’s My Meteorite, and Matilda Bernstein Sycamore’s The Freezer Door.

In poetry, I have loved Stephanie Young’s Pet Sounds, Kate Durbin’s Hoarders, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s (another all time favorite poet) A Treastise of Stars and Bhanu Khapil’s How to Wash A Heart.

I have been nibbling on all these books like really expensive chocolate.

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