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A Toast to Autonomy: CA Conrad Interview

Hello lovely readers,

For your reading pleasure, we’ve decided to release an excerpt from Bombay Gin’s upcoming interview with the incredible poet CA Conrad. Look for the interview in its entirety in our soon to be released issue, 39.1, and check out CA’s poetry and (Soma)tics at caconrad.blogspot.com.

Brenna Lee: You’re work seems to explore elements of working class culture and white-trash culture. I’m interested in these ideas as history but also as archive and art. It reminds me in a way of Ilya Kabakov’s archives of trash as installation. Or Warhol’s film Trash. How do you think your interest in these cultures affects your own work?

CA Conrad: I won’t deny where I came from, but I’m not interested in it any more than I am interested in any small-minded group of mean-spirited people. There’s nothing romantic about homophobia and racism and an inane sense of power from alcohol. Trash may be an aspersion, but it’s accurate. I saw my mother arrested when I was nine, and her third husband was a pedophile, and by the time I was ten, I was completely paranoid from the task of protecting my younger sister from this creep. I hate where I came from. Hate’s a strong word, and I’ll use it. These people will always disgust me. I grew up in a part of rural Pennsylvania where the Ku Klux Klan has a foothold. Two filmmakers from Delinquent Films are making a documentary about me, and they went back to where I grew up to interview my father. I think they were wondering if I was exaggerating the details of this bigoted little town. They asked my dad about the KKK, and he closed the windows and drew the blinds before saying anything, and he talked about their resurgence in the 1990’s. In the 90’s, the coffin factory in town closed, a factory that had been there for over a century and was one of the area’s main sources of income. The Klan feeds a community’s financial fears with their illogical and frightening campaign to blame people of color. Meanwhile, it was President Clinton’s NAFTA that was to blame, of course. Anyone who lived in the initial era of NAFTA in America knows how the factories all headed south to use the people of Mexico as fodder for new factories with NO EPA standards, NO OSHA standards. Decades of labor rights to protect workers could be wiped clean in Mexico. So, the Klan was blaming immigrants and African Americans when the real people to blame were rich white men who owned the factories and bought their way through Washington. When I was outed in high school, the town’s hatred of homosexuals changed me. For me, there was life before I was outed, and then a very different life after being outed. It’s like one day no one will talk to you and this new way of living begins, and it’s amazing when that kind of societal switch gets flipped in your life. It’s most definitely a form of Hell on Earth with the ridicule, daily assaults, and the shunning. There was a bet about when I would kill myself. Junior year? Senior year? I wonder if someone bet that I was too strong for the tyranny? They were the winner! Being branded a zero gives you tremendous freedom though. In fact, it makes you freer than your oppressor will ever be, because you don’t have to follow their rules, because you are forbidden to signify the good citizen. Unless of course you’re one of those boring faggots or dykes who actually wants to assimilate. A toast to autonomy! Eileen Myles once said, “It’s good to be hated.” I understand that.

-Brenna Lee

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