Paul Corman-Roberts On Doing Your Most Important Work By the Light of a Jukebox

An interview with Paul Corman-Roberts, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Paul Corman-Roberts has had work appear in The RumpusFull of CrowSparkle and BlinkCease CowsOut of OurCrossed Out MagazineFastForwardFlashCorium, and Unlikely Stories. His most recent book is Notes From an Orgy from Paper Press (2014).  He is a co-founder of Oakland’s Beast Crawl Festival.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

That I’m primarily a poet and a compulsive organizer. It’s hard to explain; the two gigs are intertwined for me, but that covers most of my active ground. Inevitably people want to know what I do to earn money and I tell them I have a tedious desk job where I must constantly fight off the urge, not always successfully, to be a poet and a compulsive organizer.

What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

To engage in the performing arts activity that I do, both creatively and organizationally, while being a working parent, and then trying to balance that with dating. Dating just about always loses.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

I would tell them that they can’t really expect anything from this kind of life; that they will be lonely when they don’t want to be and they won’t be able to escape from others or themselves when they want to. If they can learn to deal with and process that, then maybe they are ready to be a DIY artist.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

That’s a tough question because success means a lot of different things. On one hand, yes I’m successful in that I think I have managed to get to a place where I wanted to be, and how many people can say that? What’s more successful than that? On the other hand there are dozens of unfinished projects haunting me that I haven’t been able to manifest, and these things will get depressing when they get the best of me. But that’s a pretty small defeat in the big picture, especially when the fight’s not over.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

The Humpty Dance. It’s impossible to stay bummed on that jam. Also the Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You.” That gets me to thrashing around the room while being able to keep the whole absurdity of the human race in focus.

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

My maternal grandfather Earl was a dust bowl Okie. I don’t admire that he was an unrepentant racist and homophobe; a caricature cut out of Archie Bunker. But he hated Nixon, being an old line union Dixiecrat and he taught me what it was to have a work ethic that was honorable, and that one can’t have too many friends while one enemy is one enemy too many. Of course he was full of stories and dirty jokes that you’re not supposed to tell to teen boys, and being a teen boy, I couldn’t get enough of that.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

Kenny Stabler, who played quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. And I absolutely wanted to be him, the consequences of which I wouldn’t understand for a few more years. The more I learned about him the older I got, the more I thought it might be nice to do my most important work by the light of a jukebox.

Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.

Can it please be three weeks? 3 weeks in the Mojave and Sonora Deserts, no internet, no TV, no satellite. Maybe just an AM transistor for once in a while. It’s possible I wouldn’t come back.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

I would never say never; but it would have to be a pretty compelling circumstance.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

Never enough. Wait, did I just say never? After saying “never say never?” Exception to every rule then.

What’s wrong with society today?

What, you mean besides a few consumerist driven oligarchies operating massive black ops security mercenaries in order to force feed the rest of the planet a fringe economic theory that most of the world’s resources being used for a minority of its population who make all the decisions is not only sustainable but desirable for the future of our kids? Why nothing, nothing at all. Everything is just dandy.

Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?

Yes, I take one aspirin per day.

What is your fondest memory?

That would compromise many people I care about dearly.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

At least once. I fall more in love with my daughter every day.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

That’s hard. I can’t think of anything significant in terms of a milestone, but I would say just MORE peace and justice. Peace and justice are always going to be the right answer to that question for me.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

I don’t view it as an aesthetic choice. It’s an instinct to create. It’s compulsive. It’s wound tight in our DNA. I think most people in this world have that in them to some degree. Many also have the instinct to destroy, right alongside the instinct to create. I think this world lives in fear of the minority who have the instinct to destroy but not so much the instinct to create. How could art not emerge and be necessary when things are like this?

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

Really? Biting, kicking, screaming, hitting, name calling, all forms of socially unacceptable behavior and that’s just the foreplay.

What are you working on right now?

I’m beginning a spoken word production company based in Oakland. It’s going to be called “Now There’s a There.”

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

I’m known to have satiristic tendencies. Before I moved to the Bay Area I was writing and performing sketch comedy in Las Vegas. I love this type of writing for its ability to turn any paradigm on its ass over teakettle.

From an organizing standpoint I think it would be good to establish networks of literary and performing arts in a way that helps benefit people in our own back yards who really need help.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

24 Hour BART yo.

A night on the town: what does that mean to you?

Taking the kid out to Chinese food and then dragging the poor girl to an open mic somewhere. She loves them though. She performs in them now even when I don’t.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?

The mothman.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

In fifty words you can tell an epic story. With fifty dollars you can buy toast and coffee for 3 in the Bay Area.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Does anything beat coffee mixed with the aroma of Island Mountain sativa early in the morning? Perhaps a few, best left for private methinx.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

Hmm, I would need some time to come up with some doozies, but skydiving over the Nazca lines sounds pretty good at this point.

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