I DON’T WANT TO BE AN OCEAN ANYMORE.

i:
we become stale. a lost breath.
a loose sigh.

ii:        
there is a buildup. a blockage.
we cough. cough. cough.

iii:       
exhale ruins.

iv:       
converse with light.

v:        
your spontaneous rhythm
moves mountains.

vi:       
the rain speaks in syllables.

vii:

i.       c a n ’ t .       g e t .
          c l o s e .             e n o u g h .

viii:     
i am running
o u t
of skin.

Nothing to chance

 

Bitter herbs. The taste of aluminum.
Last night’s sentimental discharge
had me heaving.

It’s the quiet that gets you in the end.
Sometimes, it’s as if I’m a papier mâché
sculpture of a human skull,
hollow and burlesque.
Sometimes, it’s as if I’m tap dancing
over an abyss with a pillow case over my head.
It’s never been like this, though.

There’s a thimble of whiskey
in my heart with your name on it,
etched in an impeccable font.

The forest has taken us farther
from safety than we
ever could have imagined.
The bits of change and receipts
we’d left as a trail to lead us back
have conveniently gone missing.

You called me your human disaster,
so I’m returning the favor
in the form of an anonymous
brown package. What it contains
is up to you – caustic twine.
Allusions to Barbara Guest.
Tools for hunting and gathering.

You’re capable of conceptualizing, oui?

A ménage à trois has developed
between the facets of my personality,
and it’s only a matter of time
before someone plays favorites.
Chatter from the street punctures
a lung in the clouds.

Now, we leave nothing to chance.

-r. miller

 

 

Interview with Rene Franco

Rene Franco is a an artist, filmmaker, and writer. I have had the pleasure of knowing Rene since we were fourteen years old. Even then, Rene was an activist. Inviting me to read, think, and protest any injustices.

Now, ten years later, I am so honored/pleased/ecstatic/am I dreaming/happy to announce that his book, Proposal for an Empathetic Surveillance State was published by Paper Plane Pilot Publishing the first week of November. Cover design by Laura Khayat.

Rene, though he won’t admit it/doesn’t understand why I always say this, was one of the first people to force-feed me literature.

During our Chemistry Honors class (which I failed and had to make up that summer. Okay, I got a D+…long story) we talked the whole period (and somehow didn’t ever get in trouble?) about the books he left for me in my locker. (How do you not remember this?!) Then he moved away to San Francisco to study film/art. He ran an art gallery from his garage in San Francisco. Then he came back home to Los Angeles and worked for just about every major art museum in the city.

We worked on many stupid class projects together. Other than that, our talents had never melded together perfectly to create. When Rene approached me with his ambitious idea, we laughed about all it was trying to accomplish. I smiled and said, “Okay, Rene. Let’s do it.”

I wholeheartedly took on this project, excited to finally combine our talents into something relevant and tangible.

Now, I am pleased to share this timely interview between editors, Michael J. Hetzler and myself and author/artist Rene Esteban Franco:

pess-web
Cover Art and Design by Laura Khayat

 

1.) What part of Proposal for an Empathetic Surveillance State was the most difficult to write?

The world of hackers and whistleblowers is incredibly complex, a Borges labyrinth of insider terminology that is deliberately meant to be unfriendly so as to keep undesired attention away from it. Immersing myself into this world required more painstaking research than I ever imagined. Much of it simply was for my own understanding of this subculture as I realized that it wasn’t crucial for casual readers to understand every aching complexity of the hacker world. Deciding what was essential and how to present it was by far the trickiest thing to accomplish.

2.) What was your goal with this book?  What effect did you hope for it to have?

Over the course of working on this project I talked with many people who essentially said “Yeah, that’s an interesting issue, but I don’t see surveillance as a super important topic.” Or they would say “Yeah, it’s scary but I don’t really have anything to hide.”

These general assumptions regarding mass surveillance were what led me to seek another inroad to confronting this.

Ever since the Snowden leaks of 2013, the questions and qualms brought forth have loomed over me. I was obsessed with researching it because I believe, as Snowden and many other journalists and activists do, what the NSA is willingly doing is an existential threat to the little democracy we have left. And yet, there seems to be a fundamental lack of interest in engaging with this issue. It seems too large, too present, too much someone else’s issue. By taking away some of the off-putting technical language and personalizing the issues in a narrative fashion I was hoping to present an alternative means of creating a dialogue around the ramifications of everyone’s complicitness with the surveillance state.

3.)  How does your artistic and cultural background inform your writing?

I approach every project according to the medium that best suits it. This is a means of remaining open to whatever the process will dictate is the best “end” goal for the project. In this case, I didn’t start out with the intention of writing a book. It was solely supposed to be a short film. However, over the course of researching this and adding in supplemental backstory to the hacker I realized it could not all be contained in a condensed 15-minute film.

4.) You work with various forms of media. What can you do with writing that you can’t do with film/visual art?

Writing allows for a directness that I am not comfortable with in other mediums. I can directly address an audience (such as using the second person) and craft a narrative that is much more didactic and implicates the viewer as well as myself in the process.

5.) What were the advantages and disadvantages of your multi-media approach to this book?

The loss of control of the narrative was something I realized midway through the process. Because, surely, there will be people who only read the book and not see the video and vice versa. And to my mind they may only take away half the intended meaning from one of those forms but that, I’ve realized, is okay too. It’s far outside my control to see what anyone will take away from either experience and trying to assume otherwise is silly.

6.) Did you expect your predictions of the election to come true?

Absolutely not! I was just as shocked as every other liberal in America by the whitelash unleashed by this election. I was listening closely to every poll and every projected estimate all day throughout Election Day and this was not at all what I assumed would happen.

When I started this project, the election was not a factor at all. I was focused on the issues of privacy and surveillance but through the narrow lense of this hacker who is obsessed with Julian Assange. As the election became a spectacle I couldn’t ignore anymore, I realized it was a crucial part of this narrative. Still, even in speculating what a future Trump presidency would look like I only intended that to come across as a metaphor for the consequences of continuing to ignore the mass surveillance apparatus that currently exist. But it’s no long speculative. A racist, sexist, petty demagogue is about to control the most sophisticated surveillance arsenal ever constructed. And that should scare everyone.

7.) Who were your influences for the writing of this book? (artistic and otherwise)

I am eternally in debt to the work of artists who did much of this research ahead of me with access that I could never have. They include Hito Steyerl, Trevor Paglen, Simon Denny, and Laura Poitras.

For the writing portion I’d say Junot Díaz and Leslie Jamison’s book The Empathy Exams.

As for the video there were tons of video artists and filmmakers who shaped my approach from Jordan Wolfson, Cecile B Evans, Doug Aitken, Chris Marker’s La Jetee, and Francis Coppola’s The Conversation.

8.) What aspect of the book are you proudest of?

Probably the part I had no role in: the publishing! I would have never been able to do this without an incredible set of editors who were crazy enough to try to meet my seemingly unrealistic deadline.

9.) Who do you hope reads this book?  Why?

Is it too much to hope everyone does? Namely because we are all implicated in the systems (surveillance, patriarchy) that the hacker travels throughout the course of the book. And I understand that it may not be comfortable reading for most especially in the manner that it parallels reality up until a very key point. But we need dystopias. Relevant ones not ones that cast our villains in an unrealistic manner. The real horror at the moment isn’t going to come from Skynet or HAL. It’s going to come from ourselves and our lack of indecision to do something to stop plausible dystopias before it’s too late.

10.) What’s next for you?

I’ve always aimed to try to make relevant political work. The election of Trump only confirmed my need to continue to make more, only at a much quicker pace. Which is why for the next year at least, I’m attempting to make one completed artwork a month that protests a specific component of Trumpism. I want to make this administration my muse as perverse as that may seem. I refuse to see alternatives because to look away from it would be immoral in my thinking.

 

For a review PDF of Proposal for an Empathetic Surveillance State email thepaperplanepilots@gmail.com. To follow Rene’s art, writing, and film, watch out for Wandering Savage‘s posts on Paper Plane Pilots.

Breathe Out

Outside
we stick to rundown streets to sift through the mud, grime, silt, and shit.  We set up traps with the intention of snaring Inspiration. It’s been a long time since anyone around here has seen her.

Inspiration is a bitch, the kids smoking Moxie on the corner call.

Three hits and they think they’re who they’re meant to be.
They blow smoke and criticize and point fingers and watch others and say whatever they think and they never ever apologize.
They don’t show weakness.  They point it out.

We probably look like fools.
Inspiration is outdated and
nobody feels like caring these days.

A voice from a dark doorway.  It asks if we want to have a good time.
We look at each other, two sets of eyes filled with doubt, but
our feet make the decision for us.

Inside
DJ Apathy spins warped records at Club Hopeless.  There are sold out crowds every Saturday night.

Sunday morning we wait at the bus stop with the others trying to explain away the pain we’ve caused.  The damage we’ve done.
When will I learn to stop listening and just accept what I am?

One day that bus is gonna be a chariot and take us far away from here, someone says.

One scoffs.

Another applauds, thinking he’s caught a rare glimpse of what we’ve been missing.

Those who have temporarily adopted a straight face know he’s still just high from last night.

What I keep preserved:
I’ve never ridden in a chariot and I never would.
Even if they let me fucking drive it.

Interview with Eric Morago

In November of 2016, the Paper Plane Pilots had the honor of publishing Feasting on Sky by Eric Morago.

I initially met Eric during my undergraduate studies. The writing circle at my school announced a reading featuring Eric Morago. After hearing his poetry, I bought his book and proceeded to follow his writing for the next four years.

Eric’s poetry had a large influence on the growth of my writing. I had initially sought a degree in creative writing to develop my fiction, but after hearing Eric read, I realized that I gravitated toward contemporary poetry.

Thanks to Eric, I am now not just a poet, but a publisher of poetry working with some of my major influences.

Now, four years later, I’m pleased to present to you an interview with Eric Morago on his latest book published by Paper Plane Pilot Publishing, Feasting on Sky:

feasting-on-sky-web
Cover art by Gabriel Chavez. Cover design by Laura Khayat.

SK: What was your main goal with Feasting on Sky?

My last book was more of a collection about love and longing, and with Feasting on Sky, I wanted the narrative to evolve and take risks.  My goal, working on these poems, was to explore subject matter that was uncomfortable to confront, to shine light on some of those guarded parts of myself that I keep hidden from the everyday world.  As someone who struggles with anxiety on an almost daily basis, there’s often a lot of shame associated with admitting it, but in my poems, I find I can take ownership over it.     

SK: What type of poetry do you aim to write? Who is your demographic?

I set out to write poems that communicate to the reader, and audience, what I am thinking and feeling in way that allows them room to infer their own meaning.  In doing so, I hope my poems reward with multiple readings. I consider my style direct and sincere.  As for my demographic, I want my poetry enjoyed by the “everyman,” by those who wouldn’t expect they’d like hearing/reading a poem, so I strive to make my work, as Billy Collins would say, “hospitable.”  I try never to alienate my readers with ambiguous imagery or obtuse language, yet still strive to explore complex themes.  

SK: You write a lot about mental illness in this book.  What effect do you hope to have by elucidating this topic?

I hope to empower others who suffer from some form of mental illness and to start a dialogue about how it’s more normal than not to feel a little abnormal.   

SK: Who are your main influences as a writer?

I tend to gravitate to poets who write clearly and with a razor’s edge honesty.  I enjoy reading poems that are bravely imaginative and offer surprising imagery.  I like poets that make me laugh as well.  There are so many poets I could name that have inspired and influenced me over the years, but if I had to name three who have had the biggest effect on my growth as a writer, I’d give credit to Charles Harper Webb, Ron Koertge, and Mindy Nettifee.

SK: What role does your humor play in this book?

Humor plays a large role not only in this book, but also in my writing.  I think humor is the perfect vehicle to drive a reader through complex emotion.  Humor is healing.  When we laugh, we open ourselves to the bigger truths of the universe, reflect, and release.  

SK: What does performance provide that unspoken words can’t?  Is there a particular poem from this collection that you love performing?

Performance allows a poet to really bring a particular piece to life.  Not all poets are skilled in performance, nor do they need to be.  But, if a poet knows how to read well, they can captivate and engage an audience with more than just their words on the page.  As far as a particular poem from the book that I love performing, it changes based on how I’m feeling on that particular day and on the audience.  

SK: What do you think poetry can achieve that other forms of writing can’t?

I think poetry, as a writing form, can offer a more concise and intimate look into an experience, and benefits from the musicality of language more so than other genres of writing can.

SK: What do you particularly love about the literary scene in Los Angeles?

What I love most about the literary scene in Los Angeles is its diversity of voices, and how vastly rich this city’s poetry is with its history and culture.

SK: Do you have any social media links you would like to share?

Sure.  If people want to stay up-to-date on what I’m doing in the poetry world, they can like my Facebook author page . You can also follow me on Instagram where I usually post pictures of my dogs, Legos, and sometimes my writing life.

SK: What’s next for Eric?

I’ll be setting up readings throughout Spring for Feasting on Sky, but will also be starting an exciting chapter in my life as the new publisher and editor-in-chief of Moon Tide Press.  I am very grateful for this opportunity and looking forward to giving back to so many deserving writers (and readers) of great poetry.

If you are in Los Angeles and would like the chance to see Eric perform in the coming weeks he will be a feature at:

Coffee Cartel in Redondo Beach with the Redondo Poets on Tuesday January 17th at 8 PM.

1820 S Catalina Ave #102
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

He will also be a feature for Two Idiots Peddling Poetry at The Ugly Mug in Orange on Wednesday January 25th at 8 PM ($3 cover).

261 N Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866

Eric Morago is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominated poet who believes performance carries as much importance on the page, as it does off. Currently he hosts a monthly reading series, teaches writing workshops, and serves as an associate editor for the online literary journal, FreezeRay Poetry. Eric is the author of What We Ache For (Moon Tide Press) and has an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach. He lives with his wife and three dogs in Los Angeles, California.


Sara Khayat was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is editor-in-chief of Paper Plane Pilot Publishing. Her latest book, ¶: unspeakable poems, is an experimentation with strikethrough and language (nouns that become verbs, verbs that become nouns in different contexts). She always chose truth over dare at elementary school parties. Proof of her writing can be dated all the way back to old kindergarten findings and floppy disks. Her mind is full of wildflowers, ladybugs and grey matters. Give her a shout and she’ll give you a whisper.

Metamodern Americana

I smoke too much, and I think too much.
I drink too much, and I hope too much.

I write too many mediocre poems,
but I publish them anyways so the un-initiated will be re-awoken–

–holy roman centurion firing roman candles
over coliseums of societal obstacles,
and the crowd’s reaction
is open
to interpretation.

Literary vacations are
for the fake,
and I’ve made the beginnings of a career
by showing my low-resolution face with
the warts intact.

The world moves faster than pop-culture becomes
obsolete, and trying to keep up is a madman’s
quest–
–but God bless the child, my satin headrest
is the bigger picture, the kaleidoscope of metamodern tinctured hard liquor,
and
I’m brewing the essence of a generation in an aged casket—
–bottling the good and the bad shit in a goddamn wicker
basket
worthy of Moses;

Lord, let my fellow weirdos go, and deliver them from watered-down gin-and-tonic,
and, Lord, let all the shit we create
be
quintessentially dope and potent.

Hope is for the weak,
but willpower is the magnum-opus shotgun blast fired into these nests of rodents—
–and this bulletproof supersonic
is the elixir
of the strong–

–and we’ll battle this uphill Sisyphean current
with
an Eminem song
between gritted teeth.

Prepare to meet your maker,
but don’t be surprised when
she’s everything ever
multiplied by
fucking
infinity.

Willie Watt
01.10.17

Free Poetry PDF Feasting on Sky

Haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy of Eric Morago‘s Feasting on Sky? We’ll give you a FREE PDF in exchange for an Amazon review. After we receive 10 Amazon reviews your name will then be automatically entered into a drawing to receive 2 books published by Paper Plane Pilots. Let’s all share the poetry love. Email thepaperplanepilots@gmail.com for your free PDF.

feasting-on-sky-web
*Offer ends after 20 Amazon reviews are posted.