about mark flanigan

Cincinnati native Mark Flanigan has been writing and performing for over 14 years....Works from his collections Wrong-Way Poems For One-Way Streets, Not Necessarily God Stories and Next to Nothing have appeared in a variety of independent publications and, along with his performances, have garnered critical acclaim. He has also co-written a screenplay (“Midway,” with Brian Keizer), edited a literary publication (omnibscure) and worked to develop, produce and curate various gallery shows and performance readings -- notably, VOLK/c.s.p.i. and Intermedia Series readings at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Weston art gallery. Flanigan’s monthly column, “Exiled on Main Street,” appeared for over three years, first in x-ray, and upon his resignation there, at semantikon.com. Performances of his can be found on “the Volk/c.s.p.i. spoken word series CD (2001),” which he co-produced, and on the CD “One Night Only" (2002).   To learn more about his work, read his blog, review some of the works mentioned above, and listen to additional audio tracks:

Visit markflanigan.com

flanigan audio
mark flanigan exiled from archives

October 2007: The Dance

June 2007: Cake
May 2007: Special Edition "Light Travel" Mark Flanigan and Steve Proctor
April 2007: Zero Hour
March 2007: Prelude to a Kiss-Off
Jan 2007: State Of The Disunion Address 
Nov 2006: Youngblood
Oct 2006: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
exiled on main street archives

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THE ART OF POETRY NO. 33
Interview with The Paris Revue
MARK FLANIGAN:
The interview took place on a calm July day in Flanigan’s small, cluttered writing den housed just up the hill from Main Street in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Fresh from a five-show stint at the renowned Contemporary Arts Center and at work on a chapbook of stories for a small independent online press, he seemed simultaneously invigorated and disheartened by his recent activity. A handful of months into his self-imposed exile from the warehouse business, any pretense of his being able to reach any amount of organization had already dissipated, the piles of paper, books, manuscripts, and magazines testament to this fact. Flanigan, meanwhile, remained unapologetic regarding his surroundings, and retained a sense of being at home amongst said chaos.
       Having cut a swath to two chairs, we sat down: him in his leather writing chair, me in a rickety rocker with half of the back cut out, as if to remind me not to get too comfortable. More maelstrom than squalor, the interviewer could not help but arrive at the curious impression that the news of his impending wealth had not quite reached the author. Musical equipment wrestled with bookshelves for what remained of the space, while behind him hung an original Joseph Winterhalter painting of a bull’s eye and some words typed at the bottom of it: ‘ante up.’ Flanigan was dressed with a mildly ungroomed informality, while beside him sat a plate with a small lump of some unexpressed variety, which every now and then he gallantly offered in-between questions.
       The interview was recorded in one marathon session, and ended when—the plate suddenly empty—Flanigan jumped up, exclaiming “This interview is over!” At which time he then ran out of the room, cursing all the while, and left his own house.

 
INTERVIEWER
You have said you got where you are today, an established poet and novelist, “the hardest way possible, unsolicited manuscripts.” Yet, your first published pieces were with the highly esteemed The Quarterly.

FLANIGAN
Well, that is not exactly true. As anyone knows, the publication business doesn’t happen to be run by a batch of ambulance drivers, any number of things can happen before you actually see your work in print. Wars can begin and end, some of them anyway, I mean the author can go to pasture without his or her complimentary copies even, or the magazine can go under first. So, fact of the matter is: the first pieces I had accepted were by The Quarterly, but the first that went to print is an altogether different story. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, wasn’t working and as such was pretty broke. Thus, I would spend most of my nights having bought a two-dollar bottomless cup of coffee and hanging out at poetry readings. And at one of them, I was just browsing at the rack of various local magazines when I noticed my name. Guess they didn’t feel the need to contact me that I had been accepted, but I had been nonetheless. It was one of those one-page type deals, print on both sides, called {Sic}. Not sure if it’s still around, but anyway yeah they took one called “All This And More for Five Dollars,” which was a made up story about me getting a sad blowjob from some prostitute in an abandoned car parked outside a Walgreen’s after my girlfriend back home broke up with me. A real tear-jerker, sure, but the funny thing is these guys took the opportunity to staple a condom next to the poem on each copy, and stamped beneath it the words ‘Cum and pray.’ Top-notch, you know? I mean, it may be worth something now; Christ, I got a hundred of ‘em laying around somewhere in this joint, without the condoms of course, so those probably aren’t worth all that much, are they?

INTERVIEWER
It was at the height of the AIDS epidemic, was it not?

FLANIGAN
Yeah, no need to remind me. I mean from there I went to San Francisco next, where I was employed as a towel-folder in a bathhouse. It was a big dilemma, man. Our main job, really, was to kick out anyone caught jerking off in the sauna. Which was a joke; I mean here we are with people dying left and right and we’re working for a four-foot gay guy named Harry who writes us up if we go a week without kicking out one of his buddies. Which we never did, I mean that would have been like cutting someone’s phone line cause they’re calling a 900 number, you know? And hell, I couldn’t help but pity anyone desperate enough to jerk off in a steam room, I mean I tried it once and gave up after a few minutes and feeling like I was going to pass out any second. Could you imagine if I had? All those guys getting their revenge on the bath attendant! Well, here I am giving it away for free again, the porn machine’s already on it, I imagine.

INTERVIEWER
That’s where you met Brian Keizer.

FLANIGAN
Yeah, would you believe it? I mean, it’s my first day on the job and I’m being trained in what amounts to the art of folding towels. Which at the time, sadly, I probably needed. But anyway, he’s the one training me and I remember that day better than any other. We’re in a space the size of a closet, and here he is fresh from having been flown by Spin to interview Busta Rhymes or Eddie Vetter, and he’s very patiently showing me over and over, no you have to fold them this way, man. It was the first time, I noticed, that I had ever been in a room with a black guy, which was absolutely staggering to me. That I hadn’t so much as realized as much! And the bottom line is I just wanted to say I’m sorry to the guy, you know? That wasn’t me, and those days are over so long as I got something to say about it. Which is really the point, the education of a young naive chap going off to California. And that guy, well he just about saved my life, really.

INTERVIEWER
Speaking of education, you also attended San Jose State University while there.

FLANIGAN
Sure, great school man. It’s amazing what a good university, plus a small amount of illegal drugs, can do for a young person. The thing you have to realize is that I’ve been to a handful of them, but never once joined any program. I just read what they offered and handpicked the classes that appealed to me. I’d take a class on Buddhism, one on George Orwell, the Bible as Literature, Nietzsche, or however you say it. You get the picture. That’s why I always carried a 4.0, man. I never once had homework, as it were. It was what I was doing anyway and no professor could throw enough at me. I mean if you played it right all the classes would become one and it didn’t matter which chair or room you were sitting in, you knew the answer. Yeah, my favorite thing was essay tests: I’d always make sure I had a little speed to snort in the bathroom before Showtime and man, you can bet not only would I be the first one finished, I would have also filled two bluebooks in that amount of time, smiling as I strutted out the door.

INTERVIEWER
You had an instructor, Waidlich?

FLANIGAN
Oh, man. Yeah that cat was cool. Here he comes, first day of class, right? He’s just had a hip replacement so he’s struggling on crutches as he comes into the room, this gangly white haired of a man. The class is Bible as Literature, and his opening line I’ll never forget. He leans his crutches up against his desk and folds his arms and looks about the room and apparently doesn’t like much what he sees. Then says real sternly, ‘I don’t know what you think is going to happen in this room, but I ain’t gonna save one goddamn SOUL, you hear?’ Man, that fool would have those Jewish princesses in tears more often than not, and I’d just follow him to his next class, which of course was on William Blake. A bad ass, dead surely by now. Never got to say thanks.

INTERVIEWER
For what?

FLANIGAN
For saving my soul, of course. Listen, you have to realize where I was. I lived with the Hell’s Angels at the time. While going to school full time, working fifty hours a week, and amassing a personal literature that’s literally every bit as tall as me. I cry to think about it. I mean, fifteen years have passed and the amount of work I did since then hasn’t eclipsed the size of it. But it took its toll, you know? And I left without saying goodbye to almost everybody.

INTERVIEWER
You speak every sentence as if you don’t know what story to tell.

FLANIGAN
You know it, mate. It was a heady time and no one will ever know the stories I’d have if I could’ve stuck it out. As it is, I still can think of a couple. Take the Hell’s Angels, for instance. Fact was they didn’t even know that I was part and parcel of my girlfriend Aundré moving in, and they always resented as much. Not to mention the fact that they feared that I was a writer, they’d go through my stuff almost every day while I was at work, which at one point I started to have a lot of fun with. Writing poems about fucking their girlfriends and what not. Which of course they could never mention but later that night you bet there’d be pots and pans flying, by god! Truth of the matter was they were the least interesting thing going on, and one day some money come up missing and Kelly, the President and owner of the house we lived in, he pulls me and Aundré out back and he’s holding a Bible. He explains the situation, sitting there in a lawn chair while we stand on either side of him like his children, and he says he’s going to let the ‘Good Book,’ the book I’ve been studying in walking distance to his place, decide whether or not we get to stay. He opens the Bible randomly while I’m wondering if this is how they make all their big decisions in Hell or what, wondering if in the next minute I’m going to be homeless when really I’m just tired, and he reads: ‘The Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Helpstone to Ashdod; then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the temple of Dagon, placing it beside Dagon.’ Then, smiling, he closes the Bible and says, “Well I guess we know what thatmeans.” Yeah, it means I’m fucked, all because my girlfriend won’t put out or something. I lasted another year in that town, but ask me about it and I don’t remember much except for my head being pummeled day in day out.

INTERVIEWER
Was there another strain? Another story?

FLANIGAN
Yeah, that last day in Frisco. My old man was getting remarried and he wanted me to be his best man, so he had sent me his credit card through the mail and told me to have some fun before coming home. Of course, I end up in North Beach, high as a kite, at some strip club. Chatting up this eighty pound twig who is going to go get her coat, but while she’s gone I leave the joint and walk next door to City Lights Bookstore, which I hadn’t been to since the day I arrived. And I’m looking around; find myself at the periodical section just checking to see what was new. Picked up a copy of the Asylum Annual, which I had submitted to once before. I liked the guy who edited it, read a book of short stories of his, can’t remember his name but one of the stories was called “The Ladder.” Anyway, years before while in Los Angeles, I had sent a story to him called “God, Sighted.” I had written the thing in one sitting the night I finally quit my job as a valet, the day before I was leaving for California. And it was one of my favorites, because of how energetic and strangely optimistic the piece was. And so I’m there in City Lights and I’m holding the Asylum there in my hands, they got a new one by Bukowski and I read it. “Last Call,” I remember, a long good one. And when I finish, I turn the page to see if there happens to be another and, bam, there’s “God, Sighted by M. Flanigan” staring up at me. It was so overwhelming I just stood there crying and reading what I had wrote, from Cincinnati on the eve of moving to California, to the present: me on my eve of hanging my cap. And realizing I didn’t even recognize that guy, I bought one as a souvenir with my daddy’s credit card, and came home. Took a sabbatical, a long one.

INTERVIEWER
Went back to school.

FLANIGAN
Of course. I mean, the day after I came home, I’m forced to work. Which was absurdly funny, because now I wasn’t folding towels I’m slinging freight. Cases of cigarettes, actually, thousands of ‘em a day. Each weighing forty pounds, they didn’t have half cases back then, they weren’t so expensive yet. And I say it was absurd because I had come home from Frisco weighing all of 114 pounds—I’m 160 as we speak—completely malnourished and a bit strung out, and suddenly I’m expected to play the front line, you know? Good thing I came home prepared, which helped me to adjust on my own time. And so I was working in the warehouse and I figured hell, I have a closet full of writing so I may as well get credit for having written some of it. Thus, you have my one and only foray into creative writing.

INTERVIEWER
It didn’t end well, I presume.

FLANIGAN
You could say as much. In fact, you just did. It was simply one of my many missteps, really. I wasn’t there to learn, but just to kind of coast awhile and see what was out there in the meantime. But I’d have these teachers, god love ‘em, they had one story in print or their first chapbook on the way two years from tomorrow. The poetry teacher was a good sort; her and I both liked to eat pussy so we had that in common. She loved my stuff, too, had some tough and smart things to say about them that I respected enough to almost quit writing altogether, but then we went heads up over her grading policy. She wanted to give me an A for my work, but I refused to do a journal, which counted in her demented mind as a third of the grade. I pleaded with her that my poems were my journal, which was the point you know, but ended up taking an incomplete in that, and all the other, classes.

INTERVIEWER
Was there anything in particular that you took away from the experiment?

FLANIGAN

I tell you, yeah. I remember my girl at the time, a girl that will always probably be in some type of school whether as a student or teacher makes no difference which, I remember telling her I’m quitting and she turns to me with a disgusted look on her face and asks, What? You gonna work in a WAREHOUSE the rest of your life?!?!? That relationship didn’t last long, I tell you, but I still got the scars to remember it all by, thankfully. And, really, if you’ll indulge: I’d like to take this moment, you know being interviewed by such a prestigious magazine and all, surely one almost everybody in the know reads daily if not more often, I’d like to extend my apologies to all of my ex-girlfriends, even if we haven’t met yet.

INTERVIEWER
There are those critics who would say statements such as that epitomize their argument that you deal almost exclusively in sentimentality.

FLANIGAN
Yeah, but they’re not reading either. What more do I have to say? Next question, you know? Shit.... You gonna do that line or what?

INTERVIEWER
No, you go ahead.

FLANIGAN
Alright, thanks. And another thing: Drugs are OK. I mean, really, if you boil it down to the few things I have to offer a reader, that statement must be one of them. We don’t have any heroes that offer what I do: a reminder that what you felt was real but still there’s a line you can’t either cross or snort. Hell, I’m a rare bird. Still doing the good work, still getting high. Still electric. I know, it’s a lot to think about, get your hands around. Hell, it’s even tougher to do. To get through those few nights without. Just to be able to still do it. Appreciate it. Recognize it’s shhher and angelic beauty so much that you want to be able to do it until your dying day. One down the line, of course. Dig?

INTERVIEWER
I don’t think anyone has ever said ‘dig’ in a Paris Revue interview before.

FLANIGAN
Not even Eminem?

INTERVIEWER
I don’t know, I’ll have my people look it up. Anyway, you were saying....

FLANIGAN
Oh yeah, that’s about the time that I moved to Main Street. Damn, it took me four years of living there before I even realized where I was. That much was going on. I mean, for starters, the day I moved in Kurt Cobain killed himself. I’m not kidding; he really pissed on my parade. It was my first place of my own, no Hell’s Angel deciding my fate with a random and stupid Bible overhead. And, wammo, just like that I had to write a book. Which took me six years, though I wrote it in a week. It’s called Next to Nothing, or really it’s called nX20, but if I hadn’t told you, you probably wouldn’t have got it.

INTERVIEWER
And where is this available?

FLANIGAN
Wherever they sell fine books, of course. Quit interrupting me...Yeah, Main Street. What a place! It took a few years for her to open up to me. After that, hell you could barely pry me off the place. That many stories, my own personal little California. Another type of education. I mean, I’m not sure here is the place to tell those particular stories, buddy.

INTERVIEWER
Yeah?

FLANIGAN
Oh, yeah. I had to burn that bed, baby. Don’t miss it none, cause it stunk. New one smells on occasion too, but in the right way, so I don’t miss it much. She doesn’t let me talk about her, so I always gotta do it in these sly little ways. I ask her if it’s okay if I don’t mention her name, but can’t get an answer for sure either way. It’s rather fucked up, really. Doesn’t she know I’m a published writer, that most of my stuff is, at the very least, semi-autobiographical?

INTERVIEWER
Life is always interesting, isn’t it?

FLANIGAN
You got that much right. Yeah, I’m not joking when I say I don’t miss it much, though. Make sure you publish that, you hear?

INTERVIEWER
Yeah, life is good.

FLANIGAN
I like you, man. However, you got to start pulling your own weight.

INTERVIEWER
You mean you’re not impressed with my questions?

FLANIGAN
No, man. Chop some of this shit up, would you? I can’t talk and do it at the same time, we’ll kill two birds with one stone this way. After all, I got things to do; I’m a busy man.

INTERVIEWER
Do you think The Paris Revue will even publish this?

FLANIGAN
With some editing, maybe. But we better hurry up and start saying something they will. There’s a lot riding on this, you know? My entire career, really. And what do you do? Bring coke? Really, just what the hell were you thinking, man? As of tomorrow you’re no longer my manager!

INTERVIEWER
Come on, relax. We got some good stuff here. You can’t get a whole life in one interview is all. There’ll be more, here let me ask you another question. Okay, alright, forget the past for a minute, what now? I mean, what the fuck now?

FLANIGAN
Well, I’m working on an album that is due to be released six months from whenever you happen to be reading this. One that will be available whenever it’s ready, as far as I’m concerned. For it, too, is like cooking. And Steve and I, well, not only are we cooking, but were ordering preparing and paying for our dinner, so we’re taking our time. Teen and Tiger Beat will just have to wait, really. I figure I’ll be able to afford plastic surgery or, at the very least, a good dentist at some point. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, not to mention the big Christmas show coming up.

INTERVIEWER
Your fifth annual Exiled On/From Main Street Gig to be held on none other than December 25th at the Northside Tavern from Nine or Ten to Close Never a Charge?

FLANIGAN
Yeah.

INTERVIEWER
Which reminds me: two last questions. What was the best experience you ever had performing?

FLANIGAN
That’s easy. It had to be one of the five completely different shows I did at the CAC for that Festival with a pretty annoying name this past summer.

INTERVIEWER
And the worse?

FLANIGAN
That’s easy, too. The same night probably, but that’s next month you know? Now get the fuck out of my house....














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