The Write Stuff: Matthew Sherling on Using the Container of Time to Advantage
The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.
Matthew Sherling just moved from San Francisco to a small town in Georgia, where he will surely continue to foster his internet addiction and wander around the woods. He runs the interview blog Cutty Spot and the e-magazine Gesture. He hasn't slept since 2004.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?
I tell them I am trying to never let my fire go out.
What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?
It seems difficult for my brain to shut down. I often have sleep issues because my brain's more awake/alert/fertile at night. It's hard for me to quiet that down. This is a struggle for me, I guess you could say, but I am attached to it because it spurs me to make/write things. I am also a bit addicted to the internet. I have several struggles.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
I'd say 'do your do, be your be.' An internet friend named Jack Serge told me that once. I'd also say, playfully, 'how could you do what I do when you do what you do?' or something.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I think there are several types of 'success' and that unfortunately we are largely conditioned to have a limited scope/definition of what it means to be 'successful.' Does successful mean making a lot of money, having a wholesome family, and feeling fulfilled by 'settling down' to a banal routine that can numb us to the potency of spontaneity? Does it mean living through one whole day in this crazy world and waking up the next day still breathing? I feel like I beat myself up if I don't try hard/place a lot of energy into the things I find valuable. In that way I am usually successful.
When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
My favorite ancestor is probably my grandfather on my mom's side. He passed away before my 'adult' years so I never got a chance to have many substantial one-on-one conversations with him. However, I'll never forget his energy. He was super calm and extremely approachable. Warm, I guess, is the best word. I remember him having a light sense of humor too and always telling stories about when he was young. I like when old people talk about when they were young. He was a farmer from deep south Georgia. My mom now owns the house, on a dirt road and tons of acres, that she grew up in. There's a pond a few hundred yards from the house that my brother's always been obsessed with fishing in. I view that whole property through a mythical lens. My brother claims to have seen a ghost -- a very young straight-haired blond kid in very old drab clothing -- in one of the back bedrooms. At the end of my grandfather's life, he lived in that house alone and would call my mom to tell her that there was a family living in it with him.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
I went through phase after phase. At that time I think I wanted to be a professional basketball player, and Penny Hardaway was my hero.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn't have to be ideal.
I hike ten miles with four friends on a moderately but not extremely difficult trail. We hike to a lake with a secluded beach and set up our tents under huge cedar trees. The sun is warm.
What is your fondest memory?
There is no fondEST.
"The fact of today will be a dream tomorrow. Minute by minute, second by second, everything previous to right now is a dream. And, of course, now is a dream too. When we dream, however, we are not aware that it is a dream. At that moment it is real for us." - Koun Yamada
How many times do you fall in love each day?
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
I would like to see poetry continue to reach a wider audience and evolve with historical development.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
These are huge questions. Art seems less practical than a lot of other things. However, it's always been a sort of survival mechanism, so in that way it's practical. I don't know what I would do without it in my life. It is my life. Art is in the eye of the perceiver.
I like when artists don't divorce their 'lives' from their 'art', when one's art and one's life is one organism.
I like art that challenges my expectations and puts me in a trance. I like art that makes me cry and art that makes me laugh, preferably at the same time.
Art is absolutely necessary, as history has and will continue to illustrate.
What are you working on right now?
Writing that hopes to be engaging/exciting when read out loud -- poems that have a lot of space on the page and prose that is mobile.
Packing my car currently to drive across the country.
Living one day at a time. Using the container of time to my advantage.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
Writing that surprises! That's the main thing for me I think. 'No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader'. Robert Frost said that.
I like writing that takes risks, that's honest and unpretentious on some level.
I like writing that uses colloquial language, that doesn't try too hard to sound smart, that gives me chills, that is willing to have paradox.
I like humor, especially humor with a little darkness in it.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
Make rent the price it is in middle America!
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
Enveloping conversation and wandering.
What's the strangest thing you've ever seen?
This is pretty far up there:
What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?
50 words -- write a paragraph then put that paragraph through copious cycles of translation on google translate until it is completely different from before.
50 dollars -- buy a sound recorder and record tons of different sounds, then make things out of those sounds.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Sandalwood, Big Sur, washed clothes, hot fresh brownies, new cars' interiors, south Georgia fields, Crepe Myrtle trees.
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