SHOW-AND-TELL POETRY BOOKS, YOUTUBE VIDEOS AND SUNSET RUBDOWN WITH JAKE KENNEDY & KEVIN MCPHERSON ECKHOFF
A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Kevin McPherson Eckhoff and Jake Kennedy, two of the valley’s most enigmatic writers. Our conversation – which was frequently interrupted by show-and-tell poetry books, YouTube videos and Sunset Rubdown – took place in Jake’s office at OC, a space with as much personality and fragrance as the men, themselves.
JK: Are you judging my shoes?
Yes, sorry. They’re really distracting
KME: I like them.
JK: They’re a bit hypnotic, I know. For some reason they were on reduced clearance. I don’t know why.
Kevin, I read a review of Easy Peasy online. Snare Books writes that your book is about “the imaginative potential of miscommunion.” What inspired a book based on error?
KME: It is mostly inspired by my life. My life is an error. The thing about error that interests me is that if you break down the word, you get two words; err and or. You have [err], but nothing left on the other side of the equation. It is either err or nothing at all.
And Jake, error is also relevant to your writing? You play with the idea that there is a sort of perfection in imperfections. In your latest book, Apollinaire’s Speech to the War Medic, you seem to take inspiration from many different sources.
JK: I am motivated to make work thinking very vampire-like about other artists’ lives. I actually care more about their lives than their work. In the case of Apollinaire, I am more fascinated by his role as marginal galvanizer of the avant-garde than his poetry. I’m interested in the fact that Becket was stabbed, or that Lowry’s manuscripts caught on fire- that stuff really compels me.
Salman Rushdie is publishing his newest work of fiction on Twitter right now, sentence by sentence. He is an example of a writer who has embraced social media. Are you guys interested in engaging with Twitter or Facebook in the same way as Rushdie?
JK: Your questions are very kind, invoking Salman Rushdie and segwaying to us.
Well when I think of Satanic Verses, I think of you guys.
KME: That was our hope. [Jake] has taken a liking to Twitter. He has become quite a Twitterface over the last few days.
JK: We collaboratively run G’Morning, Poetry! the blog, and also @GmorningPoetry the Twitter. When we first got the account not too long ago, I was amazed that updates like, “went and got some toast” were alongside updates like Ai Weiwei saying that the police had come and punched all the people working in his studio. It just seemed bizarre. [Twitter] has all this potential, but it can also be so banal. Although a lot of our colleagues who are very smart and famous deserve to use it, it also seems like a shameless marketing tool. One of the things I find fun about it, is that we can show off all the places where we think really moving, poetic stuff is happening.
You gentlemen have another collaboration titled Death Valley Collaborative Community Novel. Could you explain it?
JK: We started Death Valley four years ago. We’re making a western novel. We’ve got 1500 lines and we need about 1000 more to make it wonderful. We ask for one line from every person we meet in the valley. We go to farmer’s markets, different schools, street corners, art galleries, hockey games, all over. The project has been really thrilling for us. Even people who do not identify as writer or artist types are really stoked about being a part of the project.
You have also collaborated on a community project at the Vertigo Gallery in Vernon, and a reoccurring literary event called Word Ruckus. How important is community involvement to you?
JK: KMac and I are excited about all the possibilities that lie outside of what we were typically trained to think about art making- be a genius, be solitary, be isolated. Word Ruckus, Death Valley Collaborative Community Novel, and Vertigo projects all enable us to make our selfish connections with the community. It blows our minds how much more interesting everybody else it.
You are both teachers with Okanagan College. Do you see your classrooms as collaborative environments? I am thinking of the way Jeff Wall continued lecturing after becoming an established photographer as a means of fostering an open forum. Do either of you use your classes in the same way?
KME: I identify with [Jeff Wall]. I didn’t at first. I used to think that my writing practice and my teaching were two different things. More and more, I use my classes to bounce ideas off of. Or, I get [students] to work in collaborations. My first year creative writing class submits chapbooks at the end of the course. One student had a concept that blew me away so much that I have asked her to expand what she has done. Her name is Mahala Woodford. She took Animal Farm by George Orwell, and translated it into Pig Latin. I am hoping to print it as a real book in the next few months.
Jumping off from Jake’s earlier comment about vampirically analyzing the lives of other writers, are either of you the type of artist that other writers could make poetry about?
JK: Definitely not. I know the answer to that.
KME: It could be too late as well.
JK: Yeah, it is definitely too late. It is done.
JK: Yes. But it is nice sitting in a room with you two, even if the room is musty.
KME: It is better now.