A CONVERSATION WITH RAUAN KLASSNIK ABOUT HIS MOST RECENT COLLECTION "THE MOON'S JAW"
“Leaning down to pet yr dog, you looked up at me, & shot the dog in its face. We fucked: & we fucked again. & when I came to you were sucking me off. Like my brain—Slow & aching. A rat’s in a maze. It stops—Grows—& it is the maze.”
– (from The Moon’s Jaw)
JC: I have to ask about the way this book was written, because it seems to me an eruption, an expressive act – a series of expressive acts – that isn’t concerned at all with notions of decorum, audience, form, or even the usual lyric expectations that reader’s might bring to the page. You mention briefly in the notes that “much of [this collection] was pieced together from bits & pieces of some erasures […] I made one hot, humid Mexican summer. The more they corrupted & decayed the more beautiful & flexible they became.”
RK: A couple of months ago one of my new
writer friends was telling me about his concerns about the novel he’s working
on. Concerned that there may not be enough of a “narrative arc” for the reader
to follow. And I was like “fuck the reader.” And I believe this. Fuck the
reader. What I mean, and what I went on to explain to my friend, is that I
believe the writer should write with himself in mind as judge, mirror and jury.
When I was working on The Moon’s Jaw I
wasn’t concerned about how the book would or would not work for future, potential
readers. I was concerned about how it worked or did not work for me. And my
assumption is that if the book (the system of energy, images, music,
associations, blah, blah,) works for me then I can assume that it will work for
others. Not all others. But, given the chance, at least, in some others. Seattle
So, regarding “notions” or “expectations” that a reader might bring to the table: well, again, I had faith, that if it worked for me then by extension and virtue of human nature, it could work for certain others.
Also, the book, for whatever it’s worth, was written in starved and narrow mental isolation.
JC: Do you think you could have written this collection had you not been living in
at the time? Mexico
RK: I started writing and generated most of the raw material while I was still living in
Mexico, but most of the hard work, the
organizing, polishing, wallowing in it, happened where I now live, in Kirkland, WA (a suburb of
That being said I think the energies and decadences that make this book could have been realized and nurtured anywhere. But, maybe I’m wrong about this.
JC: Tadeusz Borowski is mentioned in your Notes. What relation do you see between his work and your own?
RK: Tadeusz Borowski was a suicide, a Holocaust survivor, and, in the end, an embittered and corrupt romantic who had stepped “on the throat of (his) song.” In his writing about
Auschwitz he is truly God-like
in that he views and portrays humanity without any splinter of God in him. One
writer friends, Gary J. Shipley is like this too, I think: i.e., I think the
making and understanding soul of the work is completely godless. This is
something I envy because besides my bleakness and unmitigated atheism I have a
kind of God-Shadow that colors and poisons everything. U.K.
But I can also be ruthless, hopeless and can see “the skull beneath the skin.”
JC: Reading The Moon’s Jaw can be a disquieting experience. Many poems work that area of strange sexual engagement that can be found in the Surrealists, in the writings of George Bataille and Pierre Guyotat. The lyric voice is ambiguous as to gender and sexuality. The term ‘transgressive’ comes to mind. And then there is the formal matter of the dash, which is nearly omnipresent.
RK: Yes, the sexuality is ambiguous, varied and changing and is tied up with a simple sort of sadomasochism, as well as pleasure. Pleasure for the writer and pleasure for the reader. I very much like the chaining effect of the dash as well as its slashing. How aggressive and violent the dash is! How it cleaves in both senses of the word!
I am not a real surrealist but I do enjoy and dabble. Especially in the dreamlike.
JC: One can’t help but think of Emily Dickinson when one reads these lines:
——Sailing By——On A
——Pale & Slow—— Calm Blue Sea
——I’m So Young——& So Fresh——& I Can’t Stop Coming——
——In A Taxi——Crushed In A Lobby——The Phone’s Ringing——
——It’s My Voice——& It’s Beautiful——“You’re Beautiful”——
These lines suggest in me an agonized Romanticism, reworked through the nightmare of a modern narcissism. (The ringing phone suggests an earlier contemporaneity, a Modernism as opposed to a post-Modernism.) Was
anywhere present in your mind when you were writing these poems? Dickinson
RK: Not really. I tried reading reading
when I was in my early 20’s and then again in my early 30’s (I’m 45 years old
now) and failed pretty miserably. So, all I really know about her is 2nd
hand: masochist, mystic, ecstatic, religious poet, etc. And I guess I’m ok with
that. And am ok, of course, with comparisons. Dickinson
Considering how much I used the dash, it’s inevitable that
comes up. And I’m ok with that too,
of course. Dickinson
“An old man’s riding his daughter’s breast milk. She tries to rise—Boned in light. But he’s dragged her down: & pulled out her heart. Her skull. & her spine: Floods of red surging smoke: Crows, falling, like bits of ice. Or a Peacock—Rattling its universe: Blue & green. Like the skies over
Welcoming us. W/ arms wide open.”
JC: I have an old copy of the King James Bible, given me by my grandmother, and the back of the book has a section titled “Summary of the Books of the Bible.” About the Book of Revelation, the summarizer writes: “Its main theme is “I come quickly.” Which got me thinking about The Moon’s Jaw and what I might say about it if I were asked to reduce it in similar fashion. I’d go with something like: “The fallen world is fallen. Hold me. Fuck me. The fallen world is still fallen.” What should I have come up with? What essential meaning am I missing?
RK: Something like “I’m coming, over & over”?? I dunno, man, the book seems now to me like a wasteland where the corpses are still stirring. Perhaps with maggots. Or maggot-like electrical brains, flesh and urges. It’s dark and bleak, but it’s still surging with this dead (this “necro”) energy.
“Essential meaning”?? Again, I dunno. But let’s have a beer and I’ll tell you about my dog.
JC: Not too long ago I saw you give a reading from The Moon’s Jaw at Dave’s Fox Head Tavern in
. First, what struck me was how
musical your poetry is when heard out
loud, how wonderfully metered your lines are. Second, – and this I’m not sure
what to make of this, then or now – was how much laughter the audience offered
at moments that were especially violent. Was this reaction expected or did it
surprise you? Iowa City
I’m dead—But alive. & we’re in kind of a 69 position. To heal me. The side of yr head: Against my cold, black panties. “Please, be careful,” you tell me. “Please.” & it feels like we’re kissing—& it feels like we’re making love. A woman, dead, in childbirth: Tiny bones, resting, still, between her legs.
RK: Thanks, I work hard at the “music” of my work. And with The Moon’s Jaw I worked hard (and was compulsively doomed) to fuck that and everything else up with incompetent and diseased punctuation and typography.
And, sure, I’m ok with laughter if I think it’s legit (not just some drunk, insecure punk types who think they’re cool—you know how those readings are).
Sometimes laughter at my readings might be of the nervous sort. But, then again, when it comes to my new book, laughter, at many points, is a reasonable response. I mean a lot of the violence and grotesque sexuality of this book is just over the top. Really kitschy. Really camp.Also that night Johannes Göransson (that fiend!) was in the audience and I think his sudden and genuine outbursts of laughter (which I loved) were infectious and/or encouraged others. Johannes, of course, is an authority on dark, violence, kitsch, etc, and I really like reading when he’s also “in the house”, so to speak.
JC: What else? Did I miss anything?
RK: You missed how good looking I am! And you missed how great a blogger I am (http://htmlgiant.com/author/rauan/) and how my twitter feed (@klassnik) is kind of a bible, epic and sustaining. Nah, really, man, you’ve covered everything like a small pox blanket.
Just kidding, because, seriously, you’ve been very thorough--and I appreciate you spending time with and thinking about the book.
[END OF CONVERSATION]
Bio: Rauan Klassnik was born in
spent much of his life in Dallas, TX, and now lives in
with his wife Edith and their two dogs. The
Moon’s Jaw is his second book from Kirkland, WA Black
Ocean (Holy Land, released in 2008, is the other).
Below the trailer for Rauan Klassnik's book The Moon's Jaw (Black Ocean, 2012).
To order your copy of The Moon’s Jaw go here: