An Interview with Punk Poetess Leia John @suckasspoetry

Check out this interview I did with Punk Noir Magazine!

Punk Noir Magazine

Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got started in the Literature scene?

I’ve been writing my entire life, but it wasn’t until last year that I started posting old poems to a WordPress site while going through a rough patch in my personal life. It was an idea born of too much coffee (large, of course), very little sleep and a desire to take the edge of a nasty depressive episode. I had this enormous backlog so I just typed that shit up and scheduled it to post every day. I must have tagged it right because people began following.
At that point I wasn’t thinking about publishing anything beyond that site, I was content limiting the content to whoever managed to stumble upon it. Then Matthias over at Newington Blue reached out to me to see if I was interested in submitting a poem…

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First Week of Classes | Updates that Suck

The first week of classes is officially complete … and, holy shit, am I tired.

My first class with Cornel West was on Tuesday, and his presence is… stunning. He holds forth in the classroom, and like the best of Baptist preachers knows how to move his body and use his voice to draw you in, raise the energy in the room and hold that energy for three hours. He is intellectually powerful, and his spirit is Titan. Coincidentally, I met him on the street after class. I was smoking a cigarette while speaking with another student when he stopped to have a chat. I was amazed by the change in him; he was gentle, and very, very PRESENT WITH YOU IN THAT MOMENT.  And I don’t mean present with you like you feel you’re under a microscope – I mean that he is THERE. The only time I’ve felt that way is a few years ago when I was running from soldiers with a group of teenage boys in one of the conflict zones I work in — we were running, and I felt totally in my body but at the same time to totally present with these boys…. we were TOGETHER.

These brief interactions with him gave me a lot of food for thought as I rode the train to my room that night. I was thinking about how so many of my seminarian friends perceive me —  as the loud mouth that makes them giggle in delight. I never particularly understood that last part – why my sassy mouth would bring such glee. As the train was cutting through the city I thought about the contents of what I say – that my “loud mouth” is often a product of my frustration. You can say I have a particularly low tolerance for bullshit – and you know some shit is about to go down when I say something along the lines of, “let’s call a spade a spade,” which is always followed by me calling it how I see it.

And then it hit me; my goal in coming to this particular seminary was to “find my prophetic voice.” Prophets, as Heschel described them, are the scream in the night. Over the last year I’ve gotten less and less patient, which has caused me to become louder and louder in the classroom and elsewhere. Paralleling that, I’ve noticed that my care for offending people, pleasing them, comforting them, their judgement or their discomfort has plummeted to zero. I just don’t give a FUCK. I have no hesitation in calling someone or something out on their bullshit. I’m done.

And that’s when I realized that I’ve found my Prophetic voice. That I’ve become so deeply rooted in my own work and message, that everything else has burned away – that I can see clearly and move forward.

Now what?

Camping Trip | Poems that Suck

Camping Trip
I was once convinced
by an ex to go with him
to a music festival.

Three days of speed metal
during the daylight hours and
techno and trance at night.

We spent two days high
on acid, laughing ourselves
silly at random shit.

When we were finally
able to fall asleep, I was
woken up hours later by

the sound of rushing
water and when I opened
my eyes I saw my purse

float by. I turned over
to find him standing at
the mouth of the tent

and pissing into it,
rather than out of it;
understandable, really.

“Friend,” I asked in my
gentlest tone, “is this
prudent? Do you think,

maybe, this is a bad
decision?” He looked
at me, a mixture of

confusion and defiance,
and without hesitation
aimed his dick at me

and pissed between my
eyes. That day I learned
you don’t ask questions

in these situations, and
you can’t argue with
a pissed off pisser.

Seize & Desist | Prose that Sucks

‘God, I hope she doesn’t shit on me.’

That was the stray thought that flitted through my mind like an alley cat as I held Calva’s head off of the tiled floor.

I was the first to see her eyes roll and her face contort into the ghoulish carnival mask that foretold of the oncoming seizure – facial muscles jerking, mouth sucking at the air like a fish out of water – but a blockade of chairs and anxious lookers-on prevented me from being swift enough to stop her head from slamming onto the cheap tile floor with a crack that echoed through the room.

It was by luck of the draw that Nancy – another Worker’s girlfriend who was an RN – was visiting at that time, and that she was the first to Calva’s side. I hovered dumbly over the both of them, never having seen someone seize before I had no idea what to do.

“Go get something to cover her bottom half,” Nancy’s voice snapped me out of my useless fretting, and gave me a task to focus on. Calva had been wearing a dress, and was now familiarizing half of the shelter with the exact shape and texture of her genitals.

“Now what?” I asked once I ended the peep show.

“There’s really nothing you can do for someone having a seizure. You just turn them on their side and let them go,” she replied with a glance to her watch.

I held Calva’s head in my hands, her course buzz cut tickling my palms as I willed my comfort into her flesh. The seconds crept into minutes as her body continued to jolt until, bit by bit, her body relaxed and her breathing became steady.

Of course that’s when the ambulance came.

The slamming of the stretcher caused Calva’s eyes to snap open, and whip wildly around the room.

“It’s ok,you’re at the shelter,” I cooed as they roughly hoisted her body on to the stretcher.

“I’m clean! I’ve been clean for years! Don’t let them put my in jail!”

“Calva… CALVA!! You’re not going to jail – you’re going to the hospital, you had a seizure.”

“Shit, that’s all? Well, let’s go!”

Dead Dogs | Reviews that Suck

1Like almost all the other authors I’ve written about on this blog, Manny and I met on Twitter.  I think we were following each other before I sent out the call for book recommendations – but he did respond to my call with his own book, Dead Dogs. 

Book Details

  • Moonshine Cove Press
  • 151 Pages
  • 6×9 dimensions
  • $14 price point
  • Matte cover with glue binding.

Summary

“There are bodies to be disposed of and all the local dumpsters are full. There are armed terrorists in the backseat … and they’re all smoking sherm. Yuppies have taken over East Atlanta, and the drug dealers are at war…

Read the misadventures of two Atlanta misfits involved with a circus of outlaws and revolutionaries, coerced into various criminal activities.”

Review

So, I want to acknowledge something. One day, while I was reading this, Manny just so happened to tweet that English wasn’t his first language – that he had to learn it as he grew up. That bit of intel forced me to sit back in my chair and blink rapidly.  English is hard enough to learn how to speak, but to write it (and write it well) — the odds are against you.

This dude wrote an entire god-damn novel in a language that he had to learn — and wrote it well enough for me to not even question whether or not he was a native speaker. God DAMN!  Manny, you got the biggest set of brass balls I’ve ever encountered — and I mean that in the best possible of ways.

Moving on to the story —

Dead Dogs is a WILD ride! My head was spinning throughout the entire book, the most common questions being: What the fuck is going on?! Who the fuck is this?! What the fuck just happened?! Where the fuck are we?! What…. the… FUCK?!!! To say this book is dizzying is the understatement of the century. It’s fast-paced, it’s gritty, it’s good.  If you dig pulp, grit lit, transgressive fiction — you’ll love the hell out of this.

I do, however, want to point out a MAJOR miss for me — the editing.

This book jumps backwards and forwards in time – think of a Guy Richie movie – and while there are three parts to the book it NEEDS to have individual chapters to help that transition between time and space be more definitive and obvious to the reader. There were many times I had to flip backward to figure out the timeline of events – which was frustrating because it slowed the pace of the book.

Like I said, this is not a writing problem – the writing is good and solid – this is an editing problem, and that falls at the feet of Moonshine Cove. The editing just fucked this book for me — and I’m pretty pissed about that because it’s a damn good story.

I really look forward to the sequel to this book, which will be published by Outcast Press next year (I believe).  I trust their editors, and know that what comes next in the Dead Dogs series will be amazing!

Now, don’t be a dickhead buy Dead Dogs here.

What’s Coming | Updates that Suck

Hey ya’ll,

Just want to give you a heads up on what’s coming down the pike.

Summer is coming to an end which means that school begins shortly. For those who are new here; I am a Master’s Candidate at Union Theological Seminary in NYC (my degree is, officially, an M.Div). It’s my final year – which, for the first time in my academic career, I am excited about. To say that I am tired is the understatement of the century.

For those who have been with me for a while, or since the jump, you know that this tends to be a slow time for me posting and writing since all of my time is wrapped up in school work. (Six mother-fucking classes, ya’ll… SIX). What you all haven’t experienced yet, since we’ve been in pandemic, is the fact that I travel 16 hours (one way) each week in order to attend these classes…. did I say I was tired? Despite wanting to have classes in person and to see my friends and beloved faculty – I do have hope that classes will go back online given the upsurge in COVID caes. I HATE travelling by bus every week (I did it my first year, and it was FUCKING AWFUL) and would like to be spared that again this year. I doubt that will happen, though.

So.. six classes, travelling 16 hours a week, homework, writing some poems when I can…. what else can I add on to that flaming shit pile? OHHHHH a PhD application. Yeah… which means writing a thesis.

So yeah.. what does this all mean for you?

I’m suspending reviews until January – simply because I do NOT have the bandwidth to do all this shit, and review books. I will then continue to review in January, and then suspend them again in February so I can focus on finishing out my last semester. My last review until January will be Stephen Gold’s “Love Like Bleeding Out” which will come next Friday.

I will continue to post life updates, and – of course – poetry/prose. I just won’t have a schedule for this. They’ll come when I have space, time, etc.

I just want to thank you all for an amazing summer… a chap release, a handful of publications, a strong Twitter following. Ya’ll are so amazing and supportive – THANK YOU!

xxx

L

Eyeliner | Poems that Suck

I watched him - 
as beautiful as
any woman - from
the doorway of 
the bathroom

as he smudged 
eyeliner along
his ice blue
eyes, an artform
more men should learn.

When he glanced 
at me in the 
mirror, I wisecracked
"You want some lipstick
with that?" 

Causing him to
arch his thin
brows in defiance,
"If you weren't
being such a 
smartass about it
maybe I would."

Tantric Tanankh | Reviews that Suck

CaptureI came across Rose’s chapbook when she posted it to my call for new books to read. This was absolutely a blind buy as I had never encountered Rose before, and had never read any of her work.

The title of the work interested me – as most of you know, I’m a seminarian whose focus of study is Biblical Studies/Theology and Social Ethics – and was curious what I would find when I opened the book.

Book Details

  • 8.5 x 11
  • 75 pages long
  • Self-published
  • $12 paperback
  • Matte cover, glue binding and cream colored paper.

Contents

I’m pasting this directly from the Amazon description:  Artistically a self-instructeur, her philosophical studies incessantly contrasting within Metamodernist Formalist poetic dialogues creating fragmented automatic texts evoking Neo-Dadaist, Surrealist, and Futurist aesthetics in imagistic contortionist vortices.

Review

I read through this collection of poetry a few times. I really tried to understand it, to derive meaning from it – but I just couldn’t. The words ran together, jumbling in my head and made no sense to me no matter how slowly I took each poem and thought about each word.

For someone who loves genres like Dirty Realism, Transgressive Fiction, Grit Lit, Meat Poetry and (now!) Pulp this was exceptionally difficult for me.

There were so many times I stopped reading either in exasperation or exhaustion. There were many times I was close to saying “fuck it” and not do the review – just review other books and hope that Rose wouldn’t catch that I didn’t review hers. But that’s a shitty thing to do to an author and a writer – and, let’s be real, it’s both inauthentic and would lack integrity on my part.

What kept me coming back to is is the fact that I know Rose is trying to say something. And I want to know what that something is.

On my final read-through I tried a different approach. Instead of viewing this as a collection of poetry in which words are meant to carry meaning – I approached it as something like an art collection (an audio and visual one).

On the final read-through I spoke the words Rose wrote out loud.  About halfway through the book I began recording myself speaking these poems and played them back so that I could listen. The physical sensation of reading them out loud curled my tongue in the most curious of ways which was not unpleasant. Hearing them replayed back to me… I lost the grip of the words. By this I mean that the words weren’t discernable as words anymore, but as sound. Sound which was rich, and complex.

After I finished that final read through, I had to think about what just happened. What’s Rose trying to tell me through this art exhibit? Is it that words, ultimately, mean nothing – that they are just symbols which are transitory and malleable which indicate that they are socially constructed and only mean what we want them to mean at any particular point? Is it that, when words mean nothing, the only meaning we can garner is through sound or movement?

If you read this book as you would a traditional poetry collection – you’re probably going to hate it like I did.

BUT – if you approach this book like an art exhibit and not only ask yourself what the artist is trying to say but also what she’s trying to get you to experience I think that you’ll enjoy it.

Check it out here