BUT IS IT POETRY? // Butchering

A medium size.
A medium density.
A medium price.
Generally, it’s dark blue
in the null assemblage point.

(Sometimes it becomes
red or green. But it’s kinda
my little secret.)
A fray is on the back edge
and a slight scent of joss sticks.

Dozens of defects…
The usual thing, in short.
Where is theurgy?
It’s a matter of arrows.
The bright red on the dark blue.

It’s my secret path,
my color-coded loophole,
my molded carcass.
A scheme of the primal cuts
for my gnostic butchering…

Numinous blades slip
and split along my axis.
The golden section…
I yield my offal and meat
under the Karma Cutter.

When my shanks sprawl out
and my round points to the east,
I distinctly hear
chuckling of a sacred cow
in esoteric silence.

 

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TONY: Butchering. Let’s discuss ‘Butchering’.

TATI: Okey-dokey. Let’s butcher ‘Butchering’. Get your knife, Tony the Ripper.

TONY: I’m a bit squeamish at the sight of blood and guts, so please forgive me if I happen to clunk on the floor in a dead faint during our conversation. Even the thought is distressing.

TATI: Don’t worry. There’s a yoga mat. Faint as you please.

TONY: How thoughtful! Have I ever told you how thoughtful you are?

TATI: Hmmm… Should I answer this question?

TONY: Well, questions usually precede answers. That’s how the universe works!

TATI: I will remember this piece of wisdom.

TONY: Anyway, I find that I need a dictionary whenever I read of one of your poems. So many unheard of words!

TATI: Should I say, “Sorry?”

TONY: No no no. Just explain what some of them mean is all. I’m a bit of a dim bulb, you know.

TATI: Who is a native here, Tony? What should I explain?

TONY: Everything! I mean, what’s it all about? And what do you mean by ‘null assemblage point’?

TATI: Have you read Carlos Castaneda?

TONY: No. Did he become a library book?

TATI: Assemblage point: In Castaneda’s works, the term means a locus of perception within the energy field of a being. Moving the assemblage point causes the being to perceive and interact with a different reality.

TONY: That sounds like meditating to me.

TATI: Does it make things clearer, Tony?

TONY: Marginally. I thought the poem was about your yoga mat. It is in the title after all.

TATI: Bingo, Captain Obvious! Yes. Do you know words ‘yoga’ and ‘mat’?

TONY: Of course! But what does ‘it becomes red or green’ mean? And why is that kinda your little secret?

TATI: The thing is… well… Once or twice I’ve had an interesting visual illusion during my lessons. I saw like my yoga mat changes its color.

TONY: Oh, so you find this embarrassing for other people to know? Sounds like a pretty cool altered state of consciousness thing to me! Unless, of course, you’re some kinda junkie. Are you a junkie?

TATI: What? Of course no, Tony! But who could believe I saw this and was completely sober? Could you?

TONY: That’s a fair point, but I always look like I’m stoned, even though I’m not. At least you look like a respectable modern woman, a professional whose integrity is not to be questioned.

TATI: Errmm… is it a compliment? OK. Thank you.

TONY: What I do find a little questionable are the last two stanzas in your poem. I have a feeling that you’re literally sacrificing yourself to some… well… I don’t know what.

TATI: Let me reread it.

TONY: Okay, you do that. I’ll remove all sharp objects from the room.

TATI: Done.

TONY: So, what are those stanzas actually about then?

TATI: Damn… it’s not very easy answering such questions actually…

TONY: Aw… Please do try! I wanna know if it’ll ever be safe to eat with cutlery in your presence again.

TATI: Actually, it’s about my state when I do my yoga. Tony, have you practiced yoga?

TONY: A little bit, yes.

TATI: Have you felt sometimes something special? Something that you can’t explain with words? Just feel with your skin, like goose bumps?

TONY: Admittedly, yes. It’s rare, but it has happened. In fact, it’s more like a deep calmness that comes over me.

TATI: Do you find it’s easy to express? To explain to other people what you feel?

TONY: Not always, no, but that’s what you’ve attempted to do with this poem, is it not?

TATI: Yes… and now I wonder if such things should be poemed at all. It looks like we swapped in our discussion. I asked more questions than you.

TONY: Yeah, I kinda dropped the ball there, didn’t I? I guess we can conclude that some things are better left unexplained and should just be experienced instead. But does this mean that in future you’ll refrain from writing odes to your yoga mat?

TATI: Nope.

TONY: Such a relief! A world without your poetry would be like a boiled egg without soldiers!

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017

TATI’S TRANSLATIONS // Lying Bare by Sudeep Sen

Your bare stomach is my pillow. When I turn my head to one side, warm air rises from the valley to lull me — on the other side, you shield my view of your face with your bosom — to devour me in the gorge near your heart.

Твой голый живот – это моя подушка. Я поворачиваю голову набок, и теплый убаюкивающий ветерок из долины ласкает мое лицо. Позади меня лежит горная гряда твоей груди, сорвавшись с которой, я разбился прямо около твоего сердца.

 

Poem by SUDEEP SEN
Translation by TETIANA ALEKSINA

© All rights reserved 2017

GUEST POST // Okoto Enigma Interviews Tetiana Aleksina & Tony Single

OKOTO: What is your blog about?

TONY: Firstly, we want to thank you for interviewing us, Okoto. What a cool opportunity! To answer your question: Unbolt Me is a literary blog. In a literal sense. It’s a repository of poems, prose, and any other odds and ends that we might dream up.

TATI: Yes, we have also made art, audio clips, and even a video! But we will never deviate from our main axis. We will always be about the writings.

OKOTO: When and why did you decide to start a blog?

TATI: It was July 2014. Why? Because I had decided that six months of studying English was enough, and that I was ready to knock the spots off Shakespeare and Hemingway. I decided to think big and enter the international arena straightaway. That is how me and my ‘blameless’ writings found ourselves on WordPress.

TONY: I discovered Tati’s writings on Unbolt, and was immediately drawn in by the uniqueness of her imagination. It was completely idiosyncratic and out there. She and I struck up a friendship via email which eventually led to her inviting me to work with her on the blog together.

TATI: Tony’s first official post was A Sea Change Involving a Cow’. Unbolt became Unbolt Me after that point. But before this he was featured as a guest many times, and we wrote some cool collaborations.

OKOTO: Where do you see your blog 2 years from now?

TATI: It will be a noisy, busy place. A cheerful community of writers and readers who enjoy communication on our blog. And we aren’t going to turn it into an advertising platform to monetize our traffic, etc.

TONY: Yes, we write books and we want to sell them, like every writer does. But we never want to harass our readers with ads and links to buy.

TATI: Fun, freedom, communication. Those are the three pillars we lean on.

OKOTO: How far have you gone since you started blogging? And what do you hope to gain?

TONY: We’ve gone from being a blog with a dozen regular visitors to one that’s widely read and appreciated by many more from all walks of life.

TATI: Yes, Unbolt Me is a pretty popular blog, but I wouldn’t want to show off with our tinkling, statistical regalia here.

TONY: True. We’re very fortunate to have garnered any level of attention at all.

TATI: As for me… yes, I still can’t believe that my name is on the covers of real books. And this wouldn’t have happened without me starting this blog in the first place.

TONY: And we’re going to write many more. We want to make a living off our books. That’s the end game.

OKOTO: What/who inspires you to blog?

TONY: Tati. My wife. The fact that I’m poor.

TATI: Our amazing community and its warm feedback. We get many comments, many encouraging words. Our dear readers make us believe in what we do and that gives us the fuel to go ahead. Also, Tony, his wife and the fact that he’s poor. Okay, I joke. But Tony inspires me, of course. Especially his bizarre dreams.

OKOTO: What is the easiest thing about blogging? And what do you find most difficult?

TATI: The easiest thing is creating a new post. The most hard is pressing ‘Publish’.

TONY: And we get to work and agonise together. How cool is that? Honestly, we achieve so much more as a team than we ever could on our own.

OKOTO: Who has impacted you the most in blogging and why?

TATI: I read many cool blogs, and I do enjoy them and the people who stand behind them. I was honored to collaborate with many talented bloggers at the beginning of Unbolt Me’s life, and it’s been the most precious experience. But my answer will be… no one.

TONY: My answer would be… everyone. But, as I don’t like sharing the glory, I’ll amend that answer and say ‘no one’ too! Okay, but seriously, I fear that by listing some bloggers I’ll forget to list others. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.

OKOTO: What do you think is the best strategy that worked well for you to get more traffic to your blog?

TONY: First and foremost it’s the writing. You’ve got to really work at the writing, to make it the best you think it can be every single time. Without that there’s no compelling reason for readers to keep coming back.

TATI: Yes, our strategy is the same for any activity: malls, pubs or blogs… it doesn’t matter. Be cool, be different. Be passionate about what you do.

TONY: Write it and they will come.

TATI: Amen.

OKOTO: What was/has been the most challenging moment in your blogging journey so far?

TONY: Declining collaborations hasn’t been easy. People get understandably offended when we do this. It’s not that we’re snobs or that no one is as good as we are. On the contrary, there are many writers whose abilities eclipse our own that we would gladly work with. However, we’re so focused on what we’re trying to achieve with our own projects that it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

TATI: As for me, it was the moment when I realized that it was pretty hard to handle the growing attention that we were getting. I was happy… and a bit scared. That’s why I’m really grateful to Tony who takes care of the comments on Unbolt Me. I remember how I was struggling with this, feeling unable to catch every interaction, worried that readers might think I didn’t care or something.

TONY: Tati is my favourite person to work with, so any difficulties that arise are mitigated by the fact that we are in this together. That gives me a lot of strength and encouragement.

OKOTO: What is your advice to bloggers and everyone out there?

TATI: Follow your dreams. Go ahead and never stop.

TONY: Wear socks at all times. Except in summer. It’s too hot and sweaty in summer.

 

by OKOTO ENIGMA
© All rights reserved 2017

COMFY CONFABS // Tony Single

Hullo, Dear Reader. Guess what? I got talked into being the second interviewee for my brand new, ongoing feature, Comfy Confabs. The interviewer being the interviewed?! How on Cthulhu’s sweet, barren earth did that happen? Well, I’ll tell you how… It’s all the fault of one Candice Daquin, and if you don’t know who she is then you really need to edjumacate yourself at The Feathered Sleep. Okay, go. Go now! Go and have your eyes opened and your mind exploded. I’m serious! I’ll be here when you get back.

Right, got all that? Good. So, anyways, I approached Candice to be the focus of this second interview, but instead of a yes I got an offer to be interviewed by her instead. “You’ll be more interesting!” she said. “But I’m a career hack!” I protested. She was having none of it, so I folded rather more easily than a deck chair at a conflict resolution symposium…

All joking aside, I am rather pleased with the outcome. Not only have I shared dialogue with a writer of Candice’s calibre, but the resulting Q&A even makes it seem like I’m not a total and utter narcissistic halfwit—pretentious maybe, and a bit of a tool, but still…

CANDICE: Were you always an artist? Did you used to do something before that? If so, when did you decide to devote yourself more toward your art and networking your work for others to see?

TONY: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon, so I feel like I’ve never not been an artist. I was even creating comic strips all the way through my school years, so by the time I was accepted into art college the idea of trying to be a professional cartoonist felt like the next logical step to me. However, my life since then has consisted of being equal parts job seeker, house husband, and struggling artist.

CANDICE: What do you recall as your original inspiration when you began to draw more for others to appreciate? What message if any did you want to convey the most?

TONY: I don’t really recall much to be honest. I do remember Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strip featuring quite prominently in my childhood. I adored its many characters (and still do), and very much aspired to do something in the same vein. As for messages, I don’t think I had any in mind at that age—only an idea that I wished to live out a creative life.

CANDICE: Do you consciously impart messages in your work or do you think they are interpreted by the viewer?

TONY: I believe it’s a bit of both. The older I get, the more I find what I want to say, and so I’ll layer this into whatever I create. However, no one likes to be preached at, so I’ll try to find an indirect way to impart that meaning, a way that gives the reader credit for having their own mind and take on things. Of course, whatever I put out there does often get interpreted in ways that I cannot possibly anticipate, but this is no bad thing. All it means is that people aren’t being passive, that they’re actively engaging with my work, and that makes me happy.

CANDICE: Does your hearing-loss factor in the choices you make artistically?

TONY: Such an interesting question. No one has ever asked me this before! If my hearing-loss is any factor at all then it would have to be in the way I try to write dialogue. I am constantly striving to make my characters sound as naturalistic as possible (not easy to do within the silence of the page). I want their stresses, intonations, and turns of phrase to mimic what I will often hear in everyday conversations.

CANDICE: When did you begin to combine your ability as a writer/poet with your art? Do you feel more confident in one genre than another?

TONY: As a cartoonist, I’ve always combined my writing with my art. I do find it difficult to draw a standalone image as it often feels like there’s no story present. I tend to be more comfortable working with a sequence of images; it’s a less static approach that’s conducive to driving narrative or some overall message. If there’s one thing I like more than writing or drawing alone, it’s putting those two things together to tell a story.

CANDICE: If you had endless options, what would you choose to do with your art? Would you like to be a comic-artist, a graphic-novelist? Or something else?

TONY: When I was young, my goal was to write and draw a famous comic strip, just like my hero Charles Schulz. That changed. What I’m doing now with Crumble Cult actually plays to my strengths as a cartoonist, and far more so than the newspaper format ever would have. It’s emotionally fulfilling in a way that a gag strip could never be for me. Still, as a creative, I can’t say that I’ve ‘arrived’. My next big challenge is to write and draw my first graphic novel, and I want to do this in Ukraine. I have no idea how I can make this happen, but I sure aim to.

CANDICE: If you weren’t you and you didn’t know you, and you saw your art what would you think of the person behind it?

TONY: God. Again with the interesting questions! I find this difficult to answer as I’m often wondering what people make of me anyway (could someone tell me?). I’m constantly striving to get personal with my comics, to bare my all, and yet I use them to hide myself at the same time. It’s weird, I know. I guess I just like to confound people’s expectations.

CANDICE: Whom are your biggest influences both historically and in more recent times and why?

TONY: There’s the aforementioned Mr. Schulz. His Peanuts strip has always appealed to my whimsical and melancholic natures, as have the works of Tove Jansson. I grew up reading her Moomintroll books, and they were fanciful but in an extraordinarily mundane, grounded way. Then there was the Osamu Tezuka comics that possessed a certain kineticism which I very much admired. And they had a rather pleasing pulp fiction sensibility too; for me, Adolf and Astroboy will always be his definitive works. Oh, and Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku was another influence. That story was romantic, down-to-earth, very very funny, and humane. I’m also seeing an abundance of that last quality in Love and Rockets by the Hernandez Bros. That’s a more recent influence I suppose, but no way in hell will I ever reach those giddy heights of masterful storytelling. Not with my own paltry efforts. Still, I love what I do, so I can try.

CANDICE: You mentioned wanting to do a graphic novel (so glad you said that, this interviewer always felt this was your destiny, jus sayin’!) but also ‘in Ukraine’ meaning you want to write / draw it in Ukraine or in Ukrainian? Can you elaborate on this and explain to the readers where this momentum began and why? (I think I know!)

TONY: I think you do too! I once asked my writing partner Tetiana Aleksina about her home country, and she challenged me to simply go there and pay her a visit. Her feeling was that it would be better for me to experience Ukraine firsthand rather than simply hear about it from afar. That’s when I had the idea to turn this potential trip into a story that I could tell in the graphic novel format, and so I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since. Plus, it would just be a cool thing to hang out with someone that I love and admire very much! I plan to make it happen. Again, I don’t know how, but I will.

CANDICE: What influence has your writing collaborator Tetiana Aleksina had on your work and how do you feel she has influenced your direction?

TONY: I was floundering creatively before Tati came along, and that’s the truth. I don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for her timely intervention. The width and breadth of her imagination is the one thing that shone through when I first encountered her blog, and so I very quickly became a fan. And as I got to know Tati through our collaborations thereafter, I came to realise she was someone I very much wanted to work with on a permanent basis. With much trepidation, I asked her if I could, and luckily for me she said yes! And in all the time since, I’ve come to see just how meticulous Tati is with her endeavours. Everything counts for her; nothing gets wasted. Things are worth doing properly or not at all. Not many bloggers seem to have this perfectionist drive, and so I’ve really come to value her professional approach and attention to detail. I’m forced to lift my game—to strive for my absolute best—and this clearly is no bad thing. As a result, we now have many projects in the pipeline, and aim to make them all come to fruition.

CANDICE: If you could fast-forward ten years where would you like to be in terms of creative output and accomplishment?

TONY: I would like my wife and I to be living abroad, and for me to be working alongside Tati in person. That’s the dream. We want to bring out more books, to complete our first novel, and maybe even tackle a graphic novel together too. The sky’s the limit. We just have to be foolish enough to reach for it!

CANDICE: What subjects most influence your perspective as an artist and why?

TONY: Religion and mental health are two huge subjects in my life, so they tend to crop up in my work a lot. After suffocating in a Baptist church environment for nearly twenty years, I realised that I needed to get out and truly be myself for once. I’d also given up on the idea of a loving god by this point, and was feeling tremendous guilt about that—I felt like a heretic and a failure as a human being. There were also lingering questions from my youth regarding my sexuality and self-identity that were still not going away, that could not be adequately addressed the longer I stayed in such an emotionally and intellectually toxic subculture. I felt stained and stunted. I needed to escape. Add ongoing anxiety and depression to the mix, and you can see why I write and draw the things I do. I have to.

CANDICE: What role do you think you play as an artist in terms of being a ‘truth’ bearer to subjects most close to your heart and what subjects would you include? (Example; This interviewer holds mental-health and gender close to her heart and incorporates them into her work often.)

TONY: The more I follow my current path, the more I find what I want to explore in terms of themes. Of course, there’s the aforementioned religious and mental health issues, but I’m now branching out into other areas such as sexual identity and gender politics, and finding that there’s quite a bit of crossover. Actually, it’s shocking to note just how much church and society have framed my thinking in general, and in ways that are less than helpful, that quite frankly fly in the face of reality. Back in my church days I tried to cleave to some pretty dangerous ideas dressed up as piousness and a sacrificial love for mankind, but really… I was only robbing myself of the ability to empathise with others while at the same time deliberately taking leave of my senses. One particular issue seemed to crop up again and again amongst my peers: homosexuality. God and his ‘chosen ones’ were disturbingly obsessed with that, and sought to box it up as something which was ‘aberrant’ and ‘evil’. This kind of bigotry troubled me as I’d always believed that homosexuals were as normal as anyone, but I never had the guts to challenge the church’s prejudice head on. At the time, I was more invested in gaining total acceptance from my fellow Christians than in pursuing a form of ethical honesty. So, yes, I now incorporate such concerns and themes into my works as often as possible. It’s kind of my duty, and I have a lot to atone for.

CANDICE: Thank you for your time answering these questions. As long as I have had the fortune to know you as an artist, I have found you to be a continual inspiration, but I also know you personally to be very modest and unaware of the impact you have upon others. Do you think this came about from your life thus far? Have you felt working in this creative community and especially with your creative partner Tati, that you have begun to shed your modesty and become fully the creative person you wanted to be? Do you see this as a process of transformation? I say this because in the last year I see a shift in the courage of your work delving deeper into issues and subjects that matter to you with more willingness to ‘go there’ than say, before.

TONY: Oh, Candice, you’ve always been very kind to me. I wish I truly was modest. The reality is that I possess a massive ego, and it offends me. Seriously, I must have an overinflated sense of self if I’m trying to tear that down on a constant basis! If I was truly humble, I wouldn’t even be thinking about myself in the first place. As for the impact I have on others, I’m always worried that it will be a bad one, so I find I overcompensate and try not to have an impact at all. I know—messed up or what? I’ve always suspected that I’m not being totally honest with myself, which is why I write and draw. I just want to get closer to the truth of me—whatever that may be—so the creative process is very much an act of attempted transformation. It’s taken me a long time to ‘go there’, to work up the courage (or foolishness?) to tackle issues and subjects that I personally still find very painful. I also hope I don’t end up fashioning a narrative for my life that’s dishonest, or a narrative that paints me as some blameless, long-suffering saint, a narrative that fools even me. How do you stay true to something like that? I’ve no idea.

 

Interview by CANDICE DAQUIN
© All rights reserved 2017

Open-Source Poetry #1

Dear Readers,

As those of you who have read our FAQ page will already know, we no longer collaborate with other bloggers, and haven’t done so for a long time.

(You! Yeah, you! The one with a surprised look on your face! Yes, we do have an FAQ page. Go on! Go and read it now, lazybones! Also we have many other cool pages such as About Us or Hole-in-the-wall but now’s not the time for that.)

So, anyway, we have a proposition for you. We’d like to amend this case of affairs by offering a space for you all to collaborate on a poem together instead. Let’s explain how this would work…

1) We provide the first line of the poem.
2) You write the next line.
3) You submit your line via the comments section of this very post.
4) We pick the line we like most and add it to the poem.
5) We publish the first and second lines in a follow-up post.
6) Steps 2-5 are repeated until we have a masterpiece!

Please be assured that we won’t forget to mention the names of all the contributors. This way, everyone gets the acknowledgement they deserve.

So, what do you think, Dear Readers? Would you like to have a try? It could be fun! Yes? All right then, here’s the first line…

Вензель

What if I said sorry for saying sorry all the time?Вензель_нижний

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017