Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tim Seibles: Ten Queries of Funk (pt.1)

Tim Seibles is one of my favorite poets because he's cool and generous and funny and clever and thoughtful and funky and silly and serious and subversive. And did I mention that the brother is cool?

One of my favorite poems of all time is Tim's "Natasha in a Mellow Mood," from his book, Hurdy Gurdy, where the poet takes on the voice of Natasha Fatale. Yeah, like Boris and Natasha from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. And what I really like about that poem is that it's hilarious, but still sexy (just like Natasha herself):
"...Oh, Boris, Boris
Badenov, I want your mischief-
riddled eyes to invent
my whole body, all the silken
slopes of fresh forgotten
by the blind cartoonist. I want
to be scribbled all over you
in shapes no pencil would dare. Dahlink,
why don't we take off
that funny little hat..."
Tim pulls this off because he's cool like that. He's also incredibly funky, so when we were putting together the Funk feature for Indiana Review, he was one of the first people that came to mind and we were blessed to have his work featured in the issue. As a matter of fact, his funk was so powerful that one of our visual artists, Noel Anderson, cited him as a influence on his stunning Blacktoun Citizen series that was also in the issue. I caught up with Tim recently and we rapped a bit about his take on various things funky.
1. How has Funk influenced your approach to your own work?

Inasmuch as Funk is feeling that operates at the skeletal, maybe even the
molecular level in our bodies, I think I am influenced by Funk in ways that I don't even understand. It's beyond the music-- definitely: It's a style of wakefulness, a way of being in your flesh that's both celebratory, reverent, and aware of the body's limitations-- the ultimate limitation being mortality...

2. Funkier: Bullwinkle or Rocky?

Definitely Bullwinkle. Rocky was way too stiff and goodie-goodie.

3. What writers do you think of when it comes to Funk?

I could write an essay on this question, but I'll simply say Zora Neale Hurston, Pablo Neruda, Margaret Walker, WS Merwin (especially in The Lice), James Baldwin (his short fiction especially), Tracy K. Smith, Tyehimba Jess, William Henry Lewis (his short fiction I Got Some People in Stanton). There are many more, but that's a taste.

4. Funkier: Tweety Bird or the Road Runner?

Road Runner, hands down. (Can you imagine Tweety in your funk?)

5. Your poem in the Funk feature is dedicated to Papa John Creach, can you speak a little bit about who he was and how he relates to Funk?

Papa John Creach was a blues violinist, a funky old brother. I mean, for me, the roots of Funk is in the Blues, which has roots that go all the way back to African drums and the field hollars of American slaves. Funk is a way of feeling your body alive, a groove that speaks the body's language. To be real, it's the language of the black body. It was a way for Black folks to keep their 'Africa' alive in a way that wouldn't scare whites folks too much. However, it can contain and speak through all human bodies.
There IS such a thing as a funky White person-- especially in this country-- because of the steady contact between Blacks and Whites. The Funk vibe "not only moves, it can RE-move, dig?"
Stay tuned for part two of this interview...

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