Over the next year, Andy Fitch will be asking participants from his Ugly Duckling Presse interview project to pair up and interview each other. By placing parallel interviews alongside his own, Fitch hopes to demonstrate that no one talk is definitive, that there are an infinitude of possible trajectories for such a discussion to take. In this discussion, Amanda Nadelberg and Brandon Shimoda interview each other.
The following are 200+ sentences taken from our letters to each other, compiled into a single prose work, or whatever it is: sentences, fresh and clean. We realized any conversation we might have would be like an inset or detail of the one already ongoing; we have talked in person and by letter and email about, for example, our books, so we thought, maybe our books would want to listen to us, through the guise of some sentences, the interviews with good Andy Fitch, and in the company of browsers and passersby. We didn’t actually say any of this, but it could happen. Our sentences are accompanied by a soundtrack we wanted to share with you, including a weather report, songs we’ve been listening to, and the voice of Xia Bernheimer Hendricks (8; daughter of writers Kate Bernheimer and Brent Hendricks), reciting a small number of our sentences—all interwoven, as our natures. We invite you to read and listen.
—Amanda Nadelberg & Brandon Shimoda, late-September 2012
[mp3j track=”http://theconversant.org/staging/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/The-Conversant-Audio-for-real.mp3″ title=”Soundtrack”]
When do you leave town?
And where to?
Some of the postal workers were just getting off duty.
Rob was an instant peaches.
Hence all the loosey goo of me.
When I first met him he had a terrible “case” of poison oak all about his body—not exactly like an aura, but something like an aura.
I think he had jumped into it, thinking it might save him.
And how does one pretend to have finished?
Is it all in the face?
The pool is a mile down the road in this little “hamlet” (can you see my face while I say that?) and it’s open until 10.
Maybe the person would just push the cart and listen to the shopper and their problems like a hairdresser who also consults on menu/party ideas and who can also recommend the best toilet paper.
My mom is cranking the umbrella in the backyard.
I haven’t played Nintendo in 10 days and I may go swimming again even though I already showered today.
a.m. radio: 690.
I am looking for free instruments on Craigslist.
That was my biggest concern: you, waking up, chocolate having ruined your bag, you having to make a new bag, sew a new bag, etc.
But then maybe you would have met someone new in the process, not the Grim Reaper, exactly, but Moses?
And let’s go again to a cheap bar with another joke box like that golden nugget or something like Jane says, before I go, whenevers, I still don’t know but I had a small epiphany of place yesterday.
Just cutting myself slacks for not having, being home yet.
I wonder if Phil is.
From every angle, Multnomah, Oregon.
I forgot to mention: Phil’s allergic to salt, I’m allergic to pepper, Lisa’s allergic to olive oil, Zach’s allergic to fruit, Lisa’s allergic to vegetables, I’m allergic to sauce, Phil’s allergic to water, Zach’s allergic to soda, Phil’s allergic to cheese, I’m allergic to seafood, Lisa’s allergic to meat, Zach’s allergic to imitation meat, I’m allergic to flour, Phil’s allergic to eggs.
As I said: Zach likes football, I have cramps, I am growing a horn from my forehead.
In the dream she’d had an ankle injury and in real life she has no wheelchair and then we put her in a bathtub to soak and she was researching divorce on her laptop in the tub.
My sister then asked if there was time for us to go get frozen yogurt before dinner.
Ollie was 100 in the dream and her cabinets had been cleaned out.
I woke up with real gumption about the guitar.
If this was Japan—I mean, in the past tense.
Shadows become more entertaining than the people who cast them.
She was having a cookie with a student.
I have to go see a man about a toothbrush.
Today there was snow on the grass and clouds coming down and there’s always a lot of ill-sped trucks but it’s jesus h beautiful.
The difference between GORMAN and GERMAN is, I realize, a Japanese novelist, whose son suffered some disability, you know who I’m talking about?
By now you’re maybe crunked in the hottest springs of your life.
There is a glass vase with red roses in the center of the table, which is obscuring all of our faces, and Phil is on the telephone somewhere elsewhere in the house.
I miss those buses, and the people on them.
I’m imagining you drunk in a cabin I know from my early twenties (in almost Canada northern MN) sending and unsending documents in a slightly lit room.
I guess I’m looking for your response, generally, as a reader, and my desired reader—not a mind like yours, but your mind, in the midst of the experience.
This morning I wiped a few boogers from Maya’s nose and explained to Amit what a Creative Capital grant would do for me.
There is now a dog at the table.
The dog’s name is Joey.
The table is wood.
We are now two, in our caravan of souls: Lisa and I, here in Marfa, staying at Tim’s apartment, surrounded by books, so many my heart sags and sings simultaneously.
And that will be all: you’ll retire to a rambling, somewhat ramshackle house, on a piece of land that will be supremely wild, yet effecting a perfect state of equilibrium—that is, nature will be irrefutable there in its compositional grace—and force, we can’t leave that out.
Three times so far but only asswipes count like that.
I said wild, etc.
And don’t take cake from strangers.
And have fun you sweet souls on the train.
I’m so happy—a little scared, but necessarily so—that you’re reading PORTUGUESE.
From where I’m sitting I can see several cardboard boxes in various shapes and sizes.
I have gone back and forth with it, though I’ve nailed it to a tree: I hate you, I love you, I hate myself … and then I subject other people to these swings.
How will it all look illuminated on the front lawn by the flames of the house going down?
Anyway, I am so excited by your notes—I mean, your notes have given me something to be excited BY—and so now I just want to work, and get things in order: go back through with my metal detector, with a loop, with a case of 30 beers, with the heavily armed neck of fishermen … I mean, a FULL READING, Amanda, thank you.
Today he said that I smelled like Amanda.
I am TEMPTED to include them in the body of the book, but in an extremely LIGHT FONT, almost unreadable—as if the ink did not come through—because what and how they are feels necessary, but almost as spectral phenomena, you know what I mean?
I got a job application form from a terrible store.
You know, when Elton John comes in?
When I brush my teeth in the company of friends I like to say You Talk I Listen.
I want Elton John to come in …
A boat hit a bridge is a poem.
All the children are crying.
I am eating an apple—I just ate a banana—and am about to get into something.
I thought she was THIS close to asking me how I feel about being an Aquarius.
The lady had a unique voice and she was large and she said “you have no focus!” and I left the office laughing to myself.
Two of the friends yesterday were wondering aloud about whether they had a self.
We were in a low-ceiling, rambling house (Forrest Gander: we used to live in a rambling kind of house with gossipy verandas, Rob Schlegel used to quote that).
Outside of poetry I’m wondering about poetry.
And: Rob Schlegel, my brother.
It very much resembled the house that Phil lives in, in Ashfield, Mass: his dead grandfather’s house.
(I simply have to say dead).
I got back the Sorrentino in the mail (thanks) and you have a twin, I have a long time ago friend whose penmanship you match precisely and I was confused momentarily thinking it was from him not you though I saw your name was “Brandon Shimoda” and that you live in Arizona.
I have an image of reaching into the fridge for two cans of beer—one for you, one for me—handing you one, then you turning and walking across the kitchen into another room, and me saying to you, AMANDA, I NEVER REALIZED HOW BAGGY YOUR JEANS ARE, to which you said nothing.
That is my spook for the day.
I don’t think that you heard me.
I would pay good money to have a beer with you right now, so I like your dream, but no, I do not think of you as a commodity, so maybe what I mean is that I would buy you two mildly nice microbrews this evening if I could.
I just watched three small birds FALL OUT OF a hemlock tree.
In the low-ceilinged house I must have looked tall but of course you must have been even taller.
They landed in a head of pale yellow grass.
The first thing I thought to myself was: there, there, little footnotes…
But I’m wearing a belt and a yellow blouse tucked in so the net is PRESENTABLE towards DOES SHE CARE.
I have a feeling it will end—or begin, rather—with the two of you listening to Pedro Infante records on a small vintage jukebox while eating tacos in a brightly-lit taco shop.
Spending a lot of time in my room, which is blue painted.
I was thinking of installing a diaper changing station and setting out a silver tray of deviled eggs.
I could go to Big Sur with a sleeping bag.
A lady looking for a man in her closet with tissues flowering from the neck.
7+ hour drag through the dust, unpacked, took showers, fried chicken and miso soup, internet’s out, coffee shop down the street.
My neck hurts.
When will April light on fire?
The glimpse you allowed us was very brief.
Choose your own adventure.
Anyway, I know that fucking commercial, and I HATE it.
If I could build a tunnel through the week to Saturday I would.
My grandmother—my mother’s mother—keeps a small Gumby figurine on top of her refrigerator which she says hello to every afternoon.
Also, if I could pay some wizard to get all my old problems back, I would.
My aunt Ollie (91) says that if there’s enough blue sky to patch a pair of man’s pants it’s going to be a nice day.
When I was growing up there was a McDonald’s on the way to Cape Cod (the one at the bridge) it was like our family’s bathroom away from home.
The last time we saw her we told Billy Joel jokes for an hour.
One friend, whose baby I took care of for a month last summer, when the baby was 3 months old, my friend is named Liz, Liz says, you’re not cat-competent/confident.
I put a letter in the mail to you two days ago.
What is the tea without tea business?
I think I was really rambling, wishing to be sharing a bottle of ketchup, or with something in the bottle: a bottle balanced between outstretched hands and fingertips.
I love tap water at regular temperatures.
I put a bunch of meatballs in my macaroni & cheese last night, and drank two glasses of coconut water.
I’ve never really examined your tattoos but when you say elbow I think of your tattoo.
I just wanted everyone to be crying.
But it’s so funny, Brandon, and surely you can see this from the rapid differences of my chicken notes to you, that I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.
I might just hook up my speakers because no children can drop them on the floor.
6:15 in the evening, Shimoda Time = 3:15 in the morning, Nadelberg Time: there is a roll of thunder posting over the mountain to the west, beyond which is the Taiwan Strait.
Slaves in the land of Egypt.
We walked down to the water to find the jacks of giants crushed against the seawall.
Now I want nothing more than to be drugged and lowered into bed—by a velvet horse cable—and for beetles to race boats across my tears
I hope you mean the deviled eggs goes on the changing table.
Don’t put them under the bloody lamp!
It was raining.
He ate 4 taquitos.
Lisa just woke up.
Tonight I’m babysitting a little girl named Netta for doughs.
But I was wearing a smart dress, in the sharp sense.
Zach is asleep.
Here is a photo of me with my new hat (attached).
I bought it on Cijin Island, south of the city, surrounded by container ships, ghostly and vibrating in the harbor.
It’s so contained and perfect in a bowl and today I don’t feel so good.
Things here are barrels of underwater laughters.
No no, not a joke, and it’s really the only way since you are nearly a full day behind us, or us ahead: someone is bound to be with uncombed hair.
Well, we are at the front of two advancing typhoons.
Pretending is all in the voice-wrist because she was kinda still sleeping so all the surprises are like double coupons.
Through the window now I can see a wall of rain, though still some swaths of green earth (the park) below, with the clouds peeling away from each other low across the sky.
Last death dance bed sounds like an undiscovered John Fahey record and by that I mean like a winner.
Some of it seems so heavy handed but also sometimes all of it feels unwaveringly perfect when it flies into my head, and it’s true how certain kinds of repetition (like those) do something over an exacting and revisited occurrence.
There is sun on the grass and people flying remote-controlled airplanes and kites.
And the minister says you can eat your bride and this makes me think of you and your habit, not of eating brides but of liking bacon.
A petting zoo for perverts.
That made us laugh for miles.
In the beginning of the 1990s I had a bowl-cut and alternated between being very hyper and very shy.
It was a certain type of mania.
I wore a navy dress from France.
At the end of the 1990s I was living on a farm in Oregon, very interested in plants and in love with everyone.
You’ve been wearing the same clothes because you’re sad or because why change or because you can’t find any quarters for laundry or because you felt the most like yourself you’ve ever felt the day you put those clothes on or because you burned all the others?
I like how you shimmied up a pole did you get to keep the light bulbs?
I smell pancakes.
Threw the tupperware and chopsticks into a wastebasket in a stairwell.
There was more fighting in the ’80s but they got through it.
There were thousands of gilded Buddhas, and Pure Land Cave, which was filled with hundreds of fiberglass monks, a rainbow bridge, and dancing maidens, playing lutes and offering baskets of fruit.
I don’t know what time it is where you are but I just figured a way to improve my apartment.
How DO you get your imagination back, and does it come back with the same force as it came back before?
What is the light like, what time does the sun go away, are you writing and how are the children?
Its an old, sad, pitiful story…Man finds dog, man loses dog.
Man eats dog.
Man becomes dog.
Field trip is an emotional phrase for me.
Man is found by another man.
Another man eats dog.
Stay safe and carry extra socks, maybe, when you go out.
It was Picture Day at the International School of Brussels, in Belgium, where my career as a student officially began.
There is no way to respond but twice.
Otherwise, I’m eating from a bag of Cola-flavored candy that I bought in Taiwan.
Thanks and here I go into door number 2.
I just wrote a letter to Jane Gregory.
What did you find when you Googled “moving to the country”?
I went to one beach but a family there was bothering me, their conversation, and I didn’t feel like relocating and it was cold.
So I went to another beach that looked more like Cape Cod and on the drive there I saw a cow vomit in a pasture.
I started laughing and the road felt good.
I can imagine the top candidates but I haven’t seen any of them for too long.
My butt is numb.
I’m still sorry I wasn’t less weird than I was.
We’re back in the States, working on our rhythms.
From where I’m sitting I can see five paintings.
How your sister is almost grabbing your butt but not quite.
Besides, “the end” has not yet been reached, so who knows what we trespass in between.
Will you sew the post fire parts to the other or are they all in a document for another form of organizational art?
I love that you remember throwing chopstick-tupperware into a trash.
People were scarce, though the locals would come out for lunch, and every day at 7, 12 and 6, loudspeakers mounted on utility poles around the towns would play music, to mark the passing of the hours and to say, I guess, here we are, there you go.
Did you wake your mom up?
The berries are done.
To end a movie with a painting!
I liked helping but once the helping to set up was over I felt like a fish in an airplane.
A common housewarming gesture, it has always seemed passive-aggressive to me.
Jane for instance thought I looked radiant yesterday when I felt like I wanted to die.
It’s 8:22 p.m.
I hoped I didn’t see a neighbor, walking into the house with fro-yo in one hand and beer under the other.
The ceilings are high.
The walls are white.
I hope you provide them with tissues.
We have a record player, of course, with Heart’s LITTLE QUEEN and Bob Seger, whatever we found cheap at the used bookstore.
The third is about a watermelon.
I feel like I just say Yes to anything, with no idea.
I am very sensitive to noise (neighbors—I Googled moving to the country last night for an hour) smell (flowers and everything else) and I have incredible vision save for the astigmatism.
I had a thought this morning, while standing in the kitchen, wondering what the hell to do with myself.
I have a sixth sense that you’re under a blanket somewhere, somewhat unhappy.
It inspired me to look at Cezanne’s apples.
There’s my motherfucking blanket.
The voices came over my shoulder, but then the tomb opened, and that was the end.
She paints faces on small, flat rocks.
I think the endless back-and-forth between the air conditioner and the tyrannical heat has me totally depleted, and my head is a SWAB.
I can’t put the first fucking word together in thinking about what, but I deeply appreciate any conversation taking the form of sharing and appreciations.
I’m like someone’s grandfather, alone in a room, with his hair combed.
I was eating a clove of garlic while watching, to fend away the pickled gremlins.
Was there a mattress to lean on?
I’m drinking a V-8 at the coffee shop a block away.
The bathroom is holy hell.
I sound like a fatter version of myself, like my cousin, or something.
There is thunder and lightning in Tucson.
Reminds me of listening to the Annie soundtrack in the house I grew up in (CT).
I miss some rhythm of the impossible sweetness that was last winter in Tucson.
I’m on the front porch, 2012.
I’m constructing them from the beginning, not that it matters, but I’m just saying.
I just want you to re-tell the story, then to re-tell the story back to you, and add a song.
Went last night to see a kind of repeat performance of that show you, me and Phil went to back in the days of Tucson prime—in that dingy basement apartment, with bunched carpet and mattresses leaning against the walls, plaster in toilet.
It was your “birthday,” remember?
Snak opera, I miss you friend, I guess most of all from that conjuring up of my last pretend birthday, what is anyone even doing in this world.
I was thinking of what I like to do: I like to write, and I like to write letters, emails, etc. and I like to talk, but in person, I like to be with people, but often without talking, like that, with music that is compelled somehow coincident to what and how we are.
It’s about what is simple and what can be mustered, I am never certain of what I want to or what is worth sharing with others that are not my friends, this is like some kind of sickness in terms of archive fever, was it that Derrida called it, or worse?
Blue and then passing fast white with green ears.
It WAS somewhere else, in an empty warehouse space, the toilet was in a room with no light and was really far away from the wall, it had the aspect of a guillotine.
Ok I need to get out of this parking lot, or call my mom, or take a nap, or get a haircut, or urinate, or watch a movie, or dumb my face with ice cream but I’m not hungry.
My ex-girlfriend was at a party once with Cyndi Lauper, and my ex-girlfriend was wearing enormous hoop earrings and Cyndi Lauper was also wearing enormous hoop earrings, but my ex-girlfriend’s were even more enormous, and Cyndi Lauper went up to my ex-girlfriend — this was like an art world thing, or something, my ex-girlfriend was then an archivist for a photographer — and said, I love your earrings, you know, we live in conservative times.
Not a REVELATION, of course, and you don’t need C.L. to turn on that light for you, but…whatever.
People like you, doubly offended.
Lisa made turkey with raspberries, delicious.
I took some notes for a poem about a lime, and then another about seeing my grandfather’s eyes floating beneath an underpass, and then just sank into my pillow, face-down.
Yeah, G-Chat is like a bad dance, or online dating between sexual predators, I’m sorry.
One of the poems I wrote is about spinach.
You’re so observant, ebullient, like a beat reporter on lunch break, loving, hopeful.
Maybe you’ve left already for Pt. Reyes.
She said: at the end of life, what do you want yours to look like, what do want to have accomplished, do you want to have had a career? Do you want a family? What do you see? And I said: I want to have been a person.
For my pleasure, I guess.
Amanda Nadelberg is the author of Bright Brave Phenomena (Coffee House Press, 2012) and Isa the Truck Named Isadore (Slope Editions, 2006) as well as a chapbook, Building Castles in Spain, Getting Married (The Song Cave, 2009). She lives in Oakland.
Brandon Shimoda’s books include O Bon (Litmus Press, 2011) and Portuguese (forthcoming jointly from Tin House & Octopus Books, 2013), both featuring women dancing, men taking their clothes off, and cabbages. Born in California, he has lived most recently in Maine, Taiwan and Arizona.
0. National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, WXL130 162.4, Tucson, AZ
0. Xia Bernheimer Hendricks, from Amanda Nadelberg & Brandon Shimoda in Conversation
1. Bob Dylan, Santa Fe
2. Widowspeak, Gun Shy
3. Mount Eerie, Ocean Roar
4. Times New Viking, Love Your Daughters
5. ALAK♡, Soul Mates
6. MV + EE, Workingman’s Smile
7. PJ Harvey, England
8. Bruce Springsteen, Wild Billy’s Circus Song (Live)
9. Women, Eyesore
0. National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, WXL130 162.4, Tucson, AZ