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Mindy Nettifee - a whole lot of sweet sense

i am a minister’s daughter through both my parents, so i pretty much have an instinct for pursuing spiritual enlightenment, making up a whole lot of sweet nonsense, and being unbearably preachy. so poetry’s pretty much been a perfect medium for me. as for the church, it’s taught me about the value of sleep on Sunday mornings and scared me away in general from systems that traffic in future rewards instead of present realities.

Ed. Note

 

Mindy Nettifee is heartsoulmagic and bountiful brains stuffed into a wise-way-beyond-her-years package. She has integrity pouring out her pores and a wicked sense of humor to boot. If I tried to pretend she wasn’t one of my favorite people on the planet I would be lying to you, dear reader. And I respect you far too much to lie to you. But that’s not why she is featured here. Wait, just wait, until you read this freakishly prodigious wonderwoman’s poetry.

 

1) Most writers come form unique and bizarre backgrounds and you are no exception. Tell me about the role the church has played in your life and if it affects your writing.  

 

i am a minister’s daughter through both my parents, so i pretty much have an instinct for pursuing spiritual enlightenment, making up a whole lot of sweet nonsense, and being unbearably preachy. so poetry’s pretty much been a perfect medium for me.  as for the church, it’s taught me about the value of sleep on Sunday mornings and scared me away in general from systems that traffic in future rewards instead of present realities.

 

2) I remember seeing you perform before you had pubic hair. How has your writing changed since you were 13 or 14?  

 

it’s definitely less hormonal, not so insecure, and not much about the secret longing for all-consuming lust-love and heartbreak.  so i would say my poetry has pubic hair now.  and hips, too.

 

3) There is a lot of tragedy in your work. Do you prefer writing about tragedy or beauty or sex or sexual tragedy? We as readers are hungry for the mindsets and inner working of writers. Is this a lost cause? Do you have a process?

 

there is only so much tragedy in my work as there has been in my life.  i’ve had my years when every week was pretty much “...and then my dog died,” but on the whole i don’t have anything to complain about.  life is suffering and work, and poetry should reflect that, but i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t having a blast.

 

if writing poetry were more of a choice than a compulsion for me, i would prefer to write about all the small changes in perspective that turn something from beauty into tragedy into sex into sexual tragedy and back into beauty again.  but writing for me has always been like talking.  i can’t shut up, and i can’t stop writing, only with writing you don’t have the awkward moments of i-can’t-believe-i-just-said-that-and-can’t-take-it-back. so writing is a little safer as a coping mechanism than, say, a bottle of southern comfort and a stranger.  i don’t have much to say about my process, though.  the process changes when i change.  if i had some great perspective on my own inner-workings, i probably wouldn’t have to write.

 

4) I would consider you a pretty hardcore feminist that isn't an attack freak. What is a balanced modern feminist like?  

 

wow.  this might be the strangest back-handed compliment i’ve ever received.  if i am a “balanced modern feminist” and “pretty hardcore” but not an “attack freak,” it’s only because i am aware that i have a way with words and i am terrified of really hurting people.  i was raised by women and gay men and don’t have great coping skills for bull-shit macho energy, so i’ve definitely had to work at the not-attacking and emasculating part.

 

i have been blessed to be raised under the opposite paradigm that my grandmother was raised, and i am deeply grateful to the women who fought and worked their asses off so that i could go to college and vote and make my own choices in this life.  it is out of respect that i would identify myself as a feminist.   but i see feminism as a primarily political movement, and am suspicious of all struggles for power for power’s sake.  also, i’m not so sure the right to vote has ever gotten men very far.   so i take more of a womanist stance on the day-to-day.   i pick day jobs where i get the opportunity to advocate on behalf of women, girls, and anyone who has the cards stacked against them, and the goals are usually meeting the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and education rather than equality or power.

 

5)  You used to do the dirty work of running a slam. Is that the murder that everyone says it is? What is wrong with slam today?  

 

not only do you get work hard long hours with no pay running a slam, you actually lose money.  so in the bleeding-emotional-and-financial-resources way, it’s murder.  (also, you may not know this, but slam poets can be very sensitive and dramatic and needy.)  certainly the national slam competition is one of the greatest parties thrown all year.  spending quality time getting sauced and jumping on hotel beds and throwing down dead serious poetry with some of the U.S. and Canada’s most amazingly talented artists is a pretty big pay-off.

 

slam has been suffering and will continue to suffer from the same things all new art mediums suffer from: the emergence of formula, the identity crisis that comes with success and exposure, and the growing pains of becoming an institution.  the catch-22 is   that you want to keep it fresh and allow it to change, but if there’s too much change, it will no longer resemble what you fell in love with.  as long as the participating slam poets write and perform amazing work that inspires and blows audiences away, the form will survive. there are some true believers out there in the power of slam to change the way Americafeels about poetry.   they might be geniuses and they might be crazy. 

 

6) When you perform you have the spirit of the blues and several dead women inside your voice. Should young poets pick a style and work on it or let it come to them magically?

 

i don’t have anything original to say about this.  young writers have to read good writing to write well.  becoming a good writer is a process that involves both imitation and creation.  you have to know what works in poetry by reading it, and you should steal those devices and tones that make you giddy in other poets’ work.  which isn’t to say you should plagiarize.  a unique voice stems from the effective use of personal subject matter and the desperate attempt to communicate your own experience of the world. somewhere along the way a clear style emerges, but you sort of don’t know it’s there until you try to step out of it.

 

 

 

7) I would also consider you an insanely busy activist. Is poetry quality activism?

 

poetry is not quality activism.  there is a big difference between, say, bitching about the declining literacy rate and dedicating your afternoons to teaching kids to read.  activism is work.  going to a poetry reading is more like getting together with other people that can already read and write and communicate relatively well and proving to them how clever you are.  poetry is only activism to the extent that it inspires action.

 

8) If you had all the resources, how would you make the poetry scene in LA and the OC better?  

 

i would build fabulous venues just for poetry.   a building in each city  that combined elements of an Irish pub, a blues lounge, a giant theatre, a recording studio, a day spa, a book store and a classroom.  basically Beyond Baroque with a ten-million-dollar endowment. 

 

i would also provide services for struggling poets, like job-development for finding cool day jobs, or emergency temporary housing for when your roommate flakes out on you.   and maybe provide grants to poets to teach and mentor children and run for local political office. 

 

finally, i would build some amazing space-age public transportation system that would make sitting in traffic on the 5 freeway obsolete, and we would celebrate by seeing each other more often.

 

read mindy's poetry:

the college girls are trying the 1960's on for size...

untitled

darling

 

check out this fly-ass song

about mindy by Rick Lupert!

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