Ask the Author: Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, a longtime PANK friend has four wonderful, quirky poems in the November issue. In today’s interview, she talks with J. Bradley about presidents, Elvis Costello and slam poetry.

1. You have a time traveling closet.  Using this amazing scientific discovery, which former President would you travel back to and play Seven Minutes In Heaven with?

If I had a time traveling closet & could use it to meet former presidents, I wouldn’t use it to make out with them! There are so many questions that nerds & conspiracy theorists alike would love to have answered, I’d be stoned to death by my geeky cabal if I didn’t use my time traveling close to suss out the truth!

But, I’m guessing the spirit of the question is which U.S. president do I consider the foxiest, right?

Well, the answer is Franklin Pierce. Yes, he may have sent the country into a downward spiral ultimately leading to the Civil War with his support of the “Kansas-Missouri Act,” but, sakes alive, is he a dreamy fella!

2. “Be Prepared” is a sterling example of a happy marriage of research and poetry.  How often do you use research in writing poetry?  Is there such a thing as too much research?

In addition to poetry, I also write non-fiction, and when you do heavy-duty research, you stumble upon tons of great information that is so darn interesting yet had nothing to do with your chosen topic. These little facts and stories just buzz around my brain begging to be used somehow, so I’ve learned that if I pin these excess facts into poems, it will allow me to keep all my non-fiction writing pure & on target.

“Be Prepared” was a poem I stopped and started several times, having collected the stories in it from several sources over the course of several weeks. Originally, the poem ended at stanza three, but when I prepared to read it out loud for the first time at the Bowery Poetry Club, I realized it felt lacking.

I had constructed the poem hoping the reader would be inspired to figure out the connections between the three stories, but when I tried to do that myself, I realized that the main reason I was tying them together in the first place was that I wanted to write one frickin’ poem not about “him.” And the fourth stanza was born from that.

To me, I don’t think there is every such a thing as too much research! If you are a nerd like me, and love doing research, research your heart out! Just realize that you don’t have to use all your research for just one project. Poetry is really my saving grace when it comes to that.

3. What’s it like to eat in a grounded Boeing 747?  Were there themed dishes such as “The Black Box”, a concoction of mystery meat?  If not, what was their choice of cuisine?

Alas, the famous plane restaurant in my poem was already closed by the time I grew up, so I have no idea what the actual menu was like. But I do believe the restaurant was meant to be high-end, and not kitschy. Drug smugglers not really having the time or focus to pun, methinks.

4. What are your five favorite Elvis Costello songs?

To be honest, I don’t really know his songs well enough to name five favorites. I could probably just name five Elvis Costello songs. And maybe not that.

So instead, I’ll name my top five favorite Elvis Costello cameos:

5.) Spice World: He appears as himself in this film vehicle for the Spice Girls… and his career is still standing!

4.) SNL 15th Anniversary Show: The Beastie Boys start playing “Sabotage” and he runs to the microphone, apologizes and makes them break into “Radio, Radio” — recalling his 1970s run-in with the censors at NBC. Well done, sir!

3.) 30 Rock: I love it when Alec Baldwin tries to blackmail him by calling him “Declan MacManus: International Art Thief.” I have tried (unsuccessfully) to have one of my five nephews named “Declan.” It’s a great name. Better than Elvis, I dare say!

2.) The Stephen Colbert Christmas Special: He is eaten by a bear — but lives!

1.)     The Simpsons: Someone knocks his glasses off, and he goes, “Oh no!My identity!” Best self effacing joke ever.

5. Which celebrity would you like to see wear a shirt with an image of themselves on it?  Why?

Philip Seymour Hoffman? Paul Giamatti? I am only naming these two because they are pretty much my favorite actors working today. I am attracted to talented people who are shaped liked bears. Hence my boyfriend.

6. Poetry slam has been around for more than two decades and I’ve noticed that more poets who are or were involved in slam are starting to really gain traction in the literary world, especially in the last few years.  Do you think the beef between academia and poetry slam is over?

I think so. Whew! Thanks for taking the heat off us, Flarf!

7. What are you reading at the moment?

One of the joys of being a New Yorker is the NYC subway system. Occasional unpleasant odors-aside, it is just the most perfect place to read ever. I have a forty-five minute subway commute to work, each way, so that’s (at least!) seven & a half hours of reading I get to do every week, guaranteed, thanks to the NYC subway system. Thus, I burn through an embarrassing number of books.

A few years ago, I made it a new year’s resolution to publicly support books I love by fellow living poets & authors by writing reviews for them on Amazon. My only rules are that I must love love love the book and that the book can’t already have any other reviews. That second rule ensures I spend my time praising books that need it the most (deserving ones that strangely remain reviewless!) AND it inspires me to seek out new books by writers I love as soon as they come out, so I can be that “first review.”

So to answer this question, I would direct anyone interested in knowing what books I’m reading & loving *right now* (no matter when you are reading this interview!), please check out my Amazon reviews here.

But a reminder: if at all possible, buy your books from your local indie bookseller. I’m so grateful for for allowing people from all over the country — no matter how rural the area — to purchase books they love. But if you are lucky enough to have an indie bookstore in your neighborhood, please please please support it.

Bonus, guys who work at indie bookstores tend to look like Franklin Pierce or Elvis Costello — or a combination of the two! And who doesn’t love that!