It's with great pleasure that I introduce Reb Livingston and Molly Arden. Together they edit the online poetry magazine, No Tell Motel and The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel , a collection of passionate poems published annually. They met in 2003 while attending a luncheon for contributors of FU: An Anthology of Fuck You Poems.
Reb's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2006, Coconut, MiPOesias and The Carolina Quaterly. She is the author of two chapbooks, most recently, PTERODACTYLS SOAR AGAIN (Whole Coconut) and forthcoming, WANTON TEXTILES (No Tell Books), a collaboration with Ravi Shankar.
Molly's work has appeared in The Melic Review, Pen15, Front Range, and Big City Lit. Her translations from Catullus have appeared in Classic Literature in Translation.
They were both kind enough to answer a few questions.
First question: who read the promotional spot for The Bedside Guide? I mean, that was sexy. I felt inappropriate listening to it at work. Do you guys really talk like that?
Molly: I'll let Reb handle that one. She's usually the one doing the handling anyway. I hardly ever read like that. I like it hard and tight and spoken in tongues - good for some spots but not so good for promotional ones.
Reb: Oh, I wish I sounded like that! The promotional spot voice is Alice Ruvane, an actress living in NYC. The spot was produced by Charles Orr and Maury Alamin did sound.
That was inappropriate for you to listen at work - tsk tsk. It's probably obvious, but the spot is an homage to late night phone sex commercials. I'm an insomniac and have been exposed to thousands of them. If you stay very still and quiet you can hear my subconscious singing Pick up the phone. I'm all alone.
Moving on. I'm guessing that your experience editing The Bedside Guide was a pleasant one, because, after publication, you were inspired to launch your own press - No Tell Books. Was the experience indeed pleasant? And what can we expect from No Tell Books?
Molly: Again, here I have to give Regina (see Melinda) the praise she is due. Other than a few minor editorial duties, my job was to finger the submissions and to fashion a rejection letter that was less kind than the version Reb had originally written. Our introduction was a true manage a deux.
Reb: Editing The Bedside Guide was gratifying on many levels from reading all the submissions, selecting pieces from No Tell Motel, working with the contributors, with our cover designer Robin Vuchnich-Salerno and Charlie Orr our promotional spot director. Everyone involved was excited and supportive of the project. So how could we not go back for more?
I'm doing No Tell Books as a solo project, although that's a bit deceptive because all No Tell Books authors come to us from either No Tell Motel of The Bedside Guide - and Molly is of course very involved in that. I always wanted to start a poetry press, but wasn't sure if I could do it - so I decided to start with one book, an anthology, as a test.
It worked. I'm hooked. This fall No Tell Books will publish two full length collections, Elapsing Speedway Organism by Bruce Covey and The Attention Lesson by PF Potvin as well as two chapbooks, Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home by Rebecca Loudon and Wanton Textiles a collaboration by Ravi Shankar and myself. In January there will be a new Bedside Guide and Shafer Hall's Never Cry Woof. I have a stack of manuscripts I'm considering for fall 2007. No Tell Books will not be doing any open calls for manuscripts or contests (yuck - save your $20 and buy poetry books). If you want my attention, send work to the online magazine or anthology.
Reb, I read the interview you had with MiPOesias and discovered that people who throw trash out their car windows "bug the hell out of you." This interests me because whenever I happen upon the type of base, inconsiderate bastard who blithely does his or her bit to trash the world, I tend to lose my head (if you couldn't tell). And, well...I lost track of where I was going with this question. If you caught someone dumping their trash in a stream, what would you do? Or, better yet, what would you do to them?
Molly: It is my firm belief that the real trash is the highway or road or developed world itself. The herds of sheep driving to National Parks in order to experience "nature" are the real travesty - not the litter they leave behind. I am one of those cunts who throws her gum wrappers out the sunroof - but only when I'm in someone else's neighborhood. If I'm local, I not only do not litter, I spend part of each day collecting other bastard's trash and have before called the 5-0 on a gentleman I found dumping garbage bags into the woods at the far corner of my property.
Reb: I really hate people throwing trash out their car windows. Once when I was dating my now husband he threw a cup onto the highway and it was almost the end of our relationship. He's never done it again. At least not in my presence. I suppose he could be sneaking around behind my back littering everyday on his way to work. I don't like to make threats, so I won't here, but if I ever discovered his secret litter-bug nature, it would not be a pleasant time for either of us.
Back on track. What books are you reading now? Are they good? Or do you not have time to read anything but submissions?
Molly: Poetry: Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man, by Jim Cummins and David Lehman - I've worked with both poets on a couple of projects and so I enjoy the work for personal reasons but also for the mellifluous and almost mysterious way the work moves from one poet to the other while never leaving the rigid mattress of the sestina.
I will always be reading Elizabeth Bishop. Something of the inner librarian in me keeps her on the bedside year round.
Fiction: Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir, by Maryann Tirone Smith. This book was recommended to me by a writer friend after a long discussion about James Frey. Oprah's Pollyanna bullshit indignity and Frey's noble effort to explain and accept whatever load of forged shame she was attempting to discharge on him as a result of her overwhelming need to believe in fairytales was vivifying to me. Modern culture is creative non-fiction. I suspect that most memoir writers are probably guilty of some degree of Frey-ism but go undetected only because they fall under the Oprah-radar. And thank God for that.
I read in bed. So, if it's not good, I find something better to do.
Reb: Recently I read the eerily beautiful Vaudeville by Allyssa Wolf and was completely knocked over by it. Alyssa was one of the first poets published from the No Tell slush pile back in 2004. Right now I'm reading Book Business: Publishing Past Present and Future by Jason Epstein for obvious reasons.
When I'm in doubt or feeling weak, I go back to Frank O'Hara.
When accepting work who is the good cop? Bad cop?
Molly: I'm not sure that "Bad cop" even captures it. I'm a wicked cop.
Reb: I'm a naughty cop.
In all seriousness, our tastes do diverge a bit, but so far that seems to be a good thing. Molly has really opened my eyes to different ways of approaching poems. There are a handful of poets we would not have published if it were entirely up to me and that would have been a big loss for No Tell.
Do you consider drinking alcohol while reading submissions unprofessional?
Molly: Yes. However, reading them in the bathtub with one hand submerged is only marginally unprofessional.
Reb: My senses go flat when I imbibe and that's no good for considering poems or making out.
What two poets would you like to see in a fist fight? Of the two, who wins?
Molly: I never want to see anyone in a fist fight. I'd love to see Dylan Thomas and Charles Bukowski get drunk and rage together. There are never any winners in games such as these.
Reb: Yeah, make poems, not war.
Are these questions ridiculous? Wait, don't answer that. Well, you can, but be kind. Anyway, do you have any other projects that you can share with us?
Molly: The only ridiculous question that you haven't asked is what kind of tree I would be, were I a tree. The answer to that question is a Sugar Maple Tree. Anyone who really knows me will vouch that to get to my sugar you've really got to boil the shit out of my sap. But I'm blazing hot in autumn.
I have a new project I'm working on with David Lehman involving classic literature in translation.
Reb: I'd be a tomato plant.
Aside from publishing poems in No Tell everyday and putting out a bunch of books, my only other project is my new poetry manuscript that I re-title about once a week.
Last question: If you were given the chance to say the last line of a movie, right before the picture faded black to the credits, what would you want the line to be?
Reb: "Pick up the phone. I'm all alone."