Apoptosis is body cell suicide
for the greater good of the system
Cyanide for soldiers
Apoptosis for tissues
Suzy, ancestrally teased by her classmates
ponders a rooftop-pavement one way trip
she bitterly regrets attending class
the day this phenomena was explained
Sixteen seconds took the class to coin it
“Why don’t you apoptose yourself, girl?
Your smell is like the cancer of this class anyway.”
Can you believe it?
Because we’ll put
Can we kill the chunk of text
in which Suzy considers
jumping from a roof
because of cruel classmates?
yes, we can
for the greater good
of this text
system, and syntax,
we’ll slay it.
We’ve just apoptosed a paragraph.
Topics hard to control
might not fit the mould
you see, Apoptosis is about
the extinction of the misfit
Apoptosis is about
putting off the fire in the plains
keeping the body equations accurate
X equals X; no more, no less
time runs too tight
to knit brand new DNA and
architectural dents are the core
of every system’s collapse
so, we better cannibalise
those cheeky little rebels
before they get you
and turn you
for your work
block, or class
Yes. I know we agreed
to kill Suzy’s suicide
for purpose’s sake.
But, if you still want to know,
Can’t really tell you why,
perhaps, a random encounter
with toilet graffiti
tipped the scales going
“I don’t want to belong
to any club that will
accept someone like me as a member.”
Or maybe, plain and simple:
And the radicalisation of her brain
through the annihilation
of one, single, cell.
“Punk Rock revival has done wonders for our business” - said the sweatshop mogul interviewed in Fashion TV. The stock market express has taken him far enough, from where he can watch his factories decorating the curvature of Earth. They might cave-in now and then, but only because Bangladeshi people is a particularly tough type of cookie. Last employee of the month, pulled out a half knitted pair of Johnny Rotten Jeans from the crumbled building’s debris. Bruises presented no challenge to finish her job back home, wash off the blood from the fabric, and cash out her daily Georgy Washington. A truly natural born entrepreneur. The unlucky ones, left behind within the crushed asbestos boneyard, had become new fashion martyrs who will be honoured in Valhalla with newsflash Technicolored banners cat-walking like a runaway of words across many morning cooking sections in a variety of western TV shows; where the rebellious hosts will dress like Henry Rollins, Ian Curtis, or Patti Smith. All bewildered in awe, how the the morning cook could make low carb curry meat pies for less than a buck a piece.
DE: There’s a certain voice component to your work. It often seems like it was meant to be read aloud.
MRT: Mainly because I started sharing my stuff after I met people like Daniel Rothwell, who put together a gig at 8-Bit last year, and Matthew Byrne who runs Spittoon’s poetry nights. So I started verbalizing my poems with my own voice because that was the medium available. Sometimes being a non-native speaker, when you actually read the prose, poetry or whatever you trip on your own words. Somehow, I strive to keep it trimmed to what I can shoot without a stammer in front of an audience.
DE: Maybe that’s a strength in your writing because you have something to work against?
MRT: Yea, definitely. It’s something that I have to work against because sometimes you sit down and you’re very insecure about it: okay, is this verbal tense right? Is this even a word? Because Spanish and English are very close, but sometimes you make up words and see how it goes. That’s basically my English. I try out words and then I wait and see if nobody’s raising an eyebrow. Phew, this is a word. This works. I guess it is a strength to keep it fluid. I’m very aware of what I write just to make sure I can say it in one go.
DE: When you’re learning another language you’re testing out words, seeing what works. I think this comes out in the way you play with words.
MRT: Maybe because you don’t care that much since you will never own the language. To some extent, you are more entitled to play with it because at some point you can just back off and say Okay, this is not my language. Yes, I fucked up. I didn’t mean it that way!
So you can say outrageous shit sometimes, and you can just play the “lost in translation” card.
DE: Did you come to poetry or fiction first?
MRT: My approach to literature was fiction, but then I realized that poetry gives you, as people love to say, a lot of poetic license, in which you can actually make up words, you can be a bit more playful. It’s something that I can just do and see what happens. But fiction is like you have to be accurate. You have to be right in terms of grammar and composition. With poetry you can mess around more.
DE: Because your writing voice is quite distinctive I’m curious about your writing habits. When you sit down to write, what is it like? What do you do?
MRT: I took a writing course in Toronto and at that time it was mainly sit down, have a shitload of beers and just write and see what happens. And that took me nowhere. So here in Beijing it was like Okay, if you really want to do anything wake up in the morning, be crisp, be sharp. That’s what I do. I start in the morning at roughly 5:30, because I have to be at work at 8:00, so I have like an hour and a half to write and that’s what I try to do everyday. On a good week I do it like five times a week. On a bad week, just two.
DE: There’s also a postmodern aspect to your work in that I’ve noticed in a couple of pieces you acknowledge the text itself. I’m thinking of “Apoptosis.” And then you apoptocize a paragraph. Or the piece about Donald Crowhurst and the sea voyage. It’s about failure and then you admit in the writing that the piece itself maybe has failed.
MRT: The Donald Crowhurst piece, it was mostly because I was running out words—well time actually—for a Spittoon fiction night, so I had 10 minutes. At some point I was timing myself and it was like, I have nine minutes of reading already, I have a minute left, this is what I’m gonna do. It was something kind of lazy, something kind of convenient to do. But “Apoptosis” was something more intended. If we’re talking about killing cells, what if I kill one of the parts of the poem. I used it as a resource.
DE: In “Apoptosis,” you cut away a part of it and you say, I’m not going to talk about this. But in a way it still comes out by saying you won’t talk about it.
MRT: It does.
DE: It would be like telling someone, “I’m not going to tell you you’re ugly and stupid.” But you already have.
MRT: Maybe it’s just a cheap trick to grab your attention. To say, I’m not gonna talk about this, but listen.
DE: Exactly. But then also with David Crowhurst and the failure. At the same time you want to catch the audience’s attention and declaring the piece to be a failure does that. So it succeeds through failing.
MRT: Failure is captivating on its own misery. It’s very fertile. That story drew my attention because of Donald’s desperation, but also because the Times Globe Race actually happened in the terms I mentioned in the story. It’s fascinating. For me, what really kidnaps my attention is factual stuff. When I hear about stories like Donald Crowhurst -which it’s something that I catch in an anarchist dictionary called Contradictionary- it gets easier to grab the pen and try out. When I read it, I was like shit man, it just blew me away. So I had to write something about that man who tried to navigate around the world and failed miserably. When it comes to writing material, I don’t think I have the kind of luggage—or baggage, better said, in which I feel the need to express about myself. I don’t feel the urge of sharing personal stuff and try to enlighten or move someone.
DE: So much bad poetry and fiction comes out of that impulse.
MRT: It can become very self-centered—which is fair enough, there are people doing great stuff based on their own experiences but that is not my case. If there’s something that I think is interesting enough, I do my research, I dig about it, and I give my output.
DE: Another thing that struck me is that you pack so much into a small space. You’ve got these short pieces and many of them don’t have just one setting. They often jump from country to country, like you’re looking through a global lens.
MRT: If I have to pluck something out from my own experiences, it would be that: itineration. I’ve been lucky enough to live in a few countries. So it’s something that is not alien to me. The sensation of moving around and doing this and that. I like people who moves around. People who regardless if they have to go, they don’t ask and take the plunge. The translation element in the things that I do is present, so I guess that’s how my own being seeps into what I do. You were mentioning the voice element in my work and I think that’s just the outcome of what we’re doing now in Beijing. I mean everybody has something to do and share on the go. There’s little time for hesitation because opportunities are all over the place. In my case since I was prompted to do stuff for Spittoon, and I have people around like Daniel who pushed me into the lion’s den and said Okay, you should share your shit. Then I realized—okay, it’s something that everybody can do. Right now that’s the most distinctive thing that we have in Beijing, people just doing their stuff and willing to share with each other. That’s brilliant. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’ve been doing stuff with Gerald and Spittoon and whoever is down for collaboration. So whoever is reading this: it doesn’t take much. Just a page with your rant, or 16 bar beat and go out and share with your buddies. That’s it.
DE: You’ve also taken over the Spittoon Fiction Night. How was your first experience with that?
MRT: Oh man, I was super nervous. Inheriting it from a fired host like Chris Warren was a challenge. It came to me as a surprise. I was in Shanghai when he asked me.
DE: He was keeping it a secret as to who his successor would be.
MRT: He kept it, yea. At some point he just dropped me a message. I was in this museum in Shanghai. He asked if I felt like taking over Spittoon Fiction and I was like what? He totally ruined my museum experience because I was seeing James Turrell and at some point he just dropped me this message, and I couldn’t focus on anything else anymore. I’m very thankful of him though—
DE: And James Turrell is the kind of artist where you have to be the correct contemplative frame of mind. You have to be in the zone.
MRT: Exactly! You have to be there. But I just kept checking my phone and then telling to myself, Okay now I’m going to pay attention. So he dropped me the message. And of course, when you go somewhere new and start sharing your work, you don’t necessarily expect people to like it. At all. And you don’t expect people to welcome you in the way that Matthew Byrne or Chris Warren did. Do you want to take part in this? Do you want to take part in that? For me I’m in a state where I’m just saying yes to everything. But my experience of hosting Spittoon has been good so far. After grabbing some stage experience, I thought it would be easier. But to manage the strings of a gig is a complete different animal.
DE: How was it working with musicians for Spit Tunes?
MRT: Oh, it was super easy and pleasant. With the musicians involved in the first edition of Spit Tunes, it’s their element. So I just went to the first session and Gerald took over and said okay, we’re going to do this and this and that. I had a few ideas to add, and that was it. He made it real easy for me and Kev (who was playing guitar). It was great. Listening to yourself with a microphone and listening to yourself on a recording is a completely different experience than just being on stage and then dropping your shit. I mean you have to actually go through it again, so it’s a bit mortifying. Right now, with the momentum we’ve got going here it’s just like doing, doing, doing and the more you do the less you care, and the less you care the more you do. It’s packed, it’s done, fuck it, bye bye. And you go and you jump to the next one. It’s not like you don’t care in terms of the final product, but like you don’t care about being destroyed by an audience. If I go back four years in time in a Delorian and tell to myself “Hey man, in four years from now you’re going to be doing poetry with an electronic musician from South Africa in China” I would say Fuck off man, there is no way. There is no way that is going to happen. I would punch myself in the face.
Matias Ruiz-Tagle No longer adman, dishwasher, pottery maker, kiwi fruit picker, shoe store servant, or hospitality slave. Committed cat sitter, plane seat hustler, filmmaking soldier, and beat maker wannabe; spending his days between dubious online courses, early morning writing rants, and high-rolling Montessori sketches.