We sat down with our authors so that we could share a little bit about how they connect to the chapbooks they’ve written for us, and to their writing in general. Here’s our interview with Khashayar Mohammadi about his upcoming chapbook, Moe’s Skin.
When did you start writing?
When I was fourteen, my best friend pressed the STOP button on a mall escalator, and the security guards dragged us by our hands from one side of the mall to the other. That night I was alone, without a soul to vent to, so I started writing to express all that pent up aggression towards the security officer who had humiliated us in front of everyone.
What inspired you to write Moe’s Skin?
I was in Ottawa for the Ottawa Press fair (where I met the lovely ZED Press team!), and among the heap of books me and my friends had bought was a copy of Marc Di Saverio’s “Crito Di Volta (I-IV, VII and XIII)” by Frog Hollow Press. I read the opening poem “Amphetamine Perscribed” over and over again, a single sentence of which deeply resonated with me: “Calvaried in the laughter of the patio, hunchbacked in misfitness, I saw your beam-splitting eye-light boil my wounds into a moment of balm”. Under the influence of that poem I wrote the closing poem of “Moe’s Skin”; dedicated to an old soulmate of mine. The rest of the chapbook retroactively came out of that poem.
Who have been your biggest inspirations, as a writer?
I believe Kierkegaard, Ahmad Shamlou and Yukio Mishima have had profound effect on what I write about; However I feel Rilke, Fernando Pessoa, Qiu Miaojin, Samuel beckett and Hoa Nguyen are the ones who inspire me most in terms of style.
Is there a writing project that you’re planning on tackling next?
I finished a novel last year which I vowed never to publish. But after a recent re-read I found potential in most of its chapters. I’m currently trying to dismantle that novel into a selection of short stories.
Is there something you’re trying to accomplish, as a writer?
I’ve always found solace in language and etymology. I’ve grown up around many languages, but I find English to be incredibly expressive. My goal as a writer is to sift through sedimentary emotions and elucidate them in as few words as possible.
How would you describe your writing process?
It differs from project to project. Moe’s Skin came from awakening some long-dormant emotions, and because of that, it flowed very naturally and with little interference; but on the whole I tend to start poems with simple alliterations or composite phrases that sound odd or even funny, and I let the words carry me to a story. I start with a barrage of words and then revisit to nip and tuck, tidying up to make sure ideas are expressed with as few words as possible.
What’s your favourite thing about your own writing?
I enjoy my writing because I’m my own favorite writer. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not claiming to be the best writer I know; I am simply my own favorite writer and I pity any writer who has failed to establish that. With enough perseverance and practice, I might also become the best writer I know as well, but for now I enjoy my own writing more than anyone else’s, and I believe that’s an important achievement. I think writers need to start by becoming their own favorite writers, and through that process, become better writers on the whole, and not vice versa.
What do you find different about chapbooks versus other styles of writing?
Chapbooks are having a big moment right now. Their length and size allows for small publishers to produce snacksized, yet potent literature without having to spend too much money, and that has been a gamechanger for independent publishing. Here in Toronto we’ve been fortunate enough to have the only Poetry store in Canada. knife|fork|book is selling chapbooks from across Canada and certain parts of the US, providing independent publishers with a much-needed, stable front. It’s great news for readers, writers, and publishers alike. Writers are able to produce smaller works that don’t fit into any larger categories, readers are able to grab neatly packaged, snacksized literature to read on transit, and publishers are able to represent marginalized communities–that would have otherwise had trouble breaking into the literary scene–without spending much money, and having a stable front to sell their work in. It’s a win for everyone.
Moe’s skin has a lot of grungy urban imagery, but also some lyrical nature imagery throughout. How do these two contrasting scenes come together in your chapbook to express the speaker’s experience?
Well I was born by a 6-lane highway, in a city of 8 million people. When I say by the highway I mean it, I’d walk out the door, and there would be a chain-link fence separating our driveway from the highway. My childhood bedroom was filled with fleeting roars of motorvehicles, so I tend to revisit that space as often as possible. That upbringing has instilled a deep-seeded distrust of nature within me that I try to battle from time to time, but nature tends to lose in the end. I prefer sitting by the highway to lying down on the sunniest of beaches. Any romanticization of nature in my writing is purely accidental and unintentional!
In several sections of your chapbook you present two voices, but they both seem to be coming from the speaker. Can you talk about why you’ve created multiple voices in the text, or more specifically why you’ve separated a ‘thinking’ voice from a ‘narrative’ voice?
In my most relaxed state, I live with my heart. I don’t mean it in a romantic I-live-with-my-emotions way; I feel that my heartbeat is the most dominant physical feature of my existence. But often, especially in the face of adversity, I feel myself torn from that heartbeat and taken a ride upstairs to my eyes. Those moments of passive observation are when I start to write mentally. I believe a lot of what you mentioned stems from that simple experience.
That’s all for this interview; thanks for reading! If you want to read more about Moe’s Skin, check out our chapbooks page! If you’re interested in attending one of our launch events, check out our facebook page for more info!