February 22, 2016

2/19/16 – Caring about things with Casey Rocheteau

Artist: Casey Rocheteau

Location: Dime Store


CR – Coffee (sugar, cream), Voodoo lady blood orange French toast special, 1/2 side order of bacon parm fries

SRS – Coffee (black), duck confit reuben, 1/2 side order of bacon parm fries

It’s hard to simplify conversations with Casey. Writer-on-writer action tends to be far-ranging and heavy on solidarity on issues that might be difficult to understand, from an outside perspective. Writers are a special type of freelancer, chimeralike jugglers of many projects and forms. Casey and I are alike in this respect, and have much to commiserate on, in terms of the unsteady path toward making a living at this most gratifying and frustrating of professions. It is always good to remember we are in this thing together.

Some concrete points of discussion: Casey’s long-anticipated book of poetry, “The Dozen” has finally breached the theoretical and made its way into actual. It is beautiful, and you can order it here. So much of the work we do is in our heads, I know for myself it is real thrill when something becomes a physical object in reality. To go on a personal rant that should in no way implicate Casey for a moment: I think sometimes there is a communication gap between people with kids and people without kids, and it runs along the lines of, “Until you have kids, you just can’t imagine what it feels like to be so totally absorbed by making something and shepherding it into existence and caring for it.” And with all due respect, you are wrong. We are artists. We lose hours just staring and considering our creations. We stay up late or get up early to fit this work into our lives. We are broke. We agonize over shaping them, and worry for their place in the world. We triumph and suffer along with them. And we have always been this way. So, new parents, I’m glad you’ve found something that imbues your life with focus and meaning. Welcome to the fucking party.

Back to Casey. If you haven’t taken an opportunity to read some of her poetry, I suggest you do–but brace yourself, because this woman pulls no punches. Poets! What would the world be without them? Anytime you can assemble <100 words on a page and it still feels like a punch to the stomach, you are working powerfully in a powerful medium. Unrelated to Casey, but currently rocking my world on the poetry tip, I got into Fred Moten–you can hear him reading some of his poems here–and that stuff has left my head spinning.

Related to making a living, and another thing we talked about, are the politics of affiliation. Writers are powerful! We say things, and in saying them, they become more true. What we endorse has ripple effects in the world. I’m not saying this to be self-aggrandizing; I’m saying this because lately it has been really staring me in the face that it’s not only important what we do say, but what we don’t. Tacit acceptance or silent standing-by in the face of problematic circumstances is contributing to them. When you identify something going wrong, but don’t say anything about it, you have played a role in it. This was very much on my mind, as I just wrote back-to-back pieces about Indigenous Beauty at the Toledo Art Museum and Woman in E at the MOCAD (that piece is forthcoming, so I won’t go into to much detail about it at this point). Both of these exhibits contained some good art, and some really troublesome circumstances, and in both cases, I had to confront my own deeply socialized tendency not to rock the boat. HAHA says everyone who has ever met me. Because I am and always have been a boat-rocker. Well, stakes seem higher now. I’m not as young as I used to be. Sticking to your guns at personal or professional expense is hard to do when there’s no one to take care of you, if you fuck things up.

But you know? I have to remember that I am living my dreams every day. I have a roof over my head, my car runs and has gas in it, there are people who love me and will not let me and my dog go homeless. There is food in the fridge and clean running water in my taps. That is more than A LOT of the world. If my future is not 100% secure, well, welcome to reality as it pertains to literally everyone. So I must remember that even if I never do better than this, I’m still doing great. And doing great is the perfect time to make sure there are opportunities for other people to do great around you. And if there is something or someone standing in their way–even and especially if that someone is your friend or business associate or just someone who will listen to you out of politeness or professional courtesy–it is on you to push that obstacle. Maybe I can’t move it, but I can go to bed with myself at night, and sleep well.

Sweet dreams, til next time!

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