Reading Monica McClure's poems taught me a new word. That word is "chiflada," which is Spanish for a "bratty and wild" girl. It's also the title of one of my favorite poems of hers, wherein she describes her complex relationship with the word and the ethos it projects. McClure has reclaimed "chiflada" and is using it as an aesthetic for her poems and persona.
When she reads her stuff aloud, she adopts the tone of a bored millennial ordering Burger King at a drive thru. The tone initially made me recoil—if she was too cool to read then I was too cool to listen. But when I started listening more closely, I realized she was morphing textspeak, fashionspeak, and theoryspeak into meandering poems that critiqued personal and institutionalized sexism and racism. Which was cool. Plus, every third line was a lyric stunner.
McClure's first full-length collection, Tender Data, was published last month. At the Factory tonight, she'll perform along with Sarah Galvin and Ben Fama. I caught up with McClure via Facebook chat. We talked about Tender Data, Tinder data, fashion, and football.
Your new book of poems is called Tender Data. Does that title reflect the content of the poems at all?
Yes, the context is composed of data, emotional and some more zeitgeist-y sound bites of current events and found text. In early drafts, the title poem was disjointed private messages from social media, massaged by cultural theory. I got rid of the appropriated text and kept the theoretical responses. That's why it still reads as disjointed. Which I like.
But now I'm all curious. What was in those private messages?
You can imagine. Can you?
One time I asked a guy to Paypal me $200 if he wanted me to respond to his provocations on Facebook. He asked me for my e-mail to send the money. Then I got scared.
And fear is a tender feeling.
I've heard of people buying pizzas for women via Tinder, and I've heard of women using Tinder just for the bro lulz, but that's some very weird and particular shit. When I try to imagine what PMing trolls look like, I just see a stereotypical creep in a shoddy office chair. Does your experience match my assumption?
Oh, funny. I love collecting Tinder data. No, there's quite a range of PMers. I got that idea from another woman on Facebook. Aside from the obvious security risks, it would have been nice to get paid for some affective labor, to be a kind of therapist. Though it would probably be more akin to sex work since the premise is that this man saw my picture and felt entitled to access.
Tender Data was published by Birds LLC, a small press that operates out of Austin, Minneapolis, New York, and Raleigh. How was it working with them?
Working with Birds was like being on a really good high school football team, like the Dillon Panthers - or better yet, the East Dillon Panthers - and I was the temperamental and physically delicate quarterback in the red practice jersey. They were there for me.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading the Streets of Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Shultz. My friend Menachem recommended it to me in preparation for my trip to Poland last month. When he asked me about it, I said it was so lush and fecund and too vegetative to read in the subway. Then he said, "I like the way you talk about books; it's so personable," which is the coolest thing I've ever heard anyone say about the way another person talks about books.
That book will be perfect for Seattle. It’s pretty lush and fecund around here.
I'm excited to be in Seattle and Portland. I'll be hanging out in the forest / beach area of La Push, where the Cullen family frolics in Twilight. So, talk about lush.
That reminds me: You’re visiting us all the way from New York City. In the movies it seems like living in NYC is like living in a giant subway where you fall in love with Woody Allen all the time. Is that true?
Living in New York is thinking you're the center of attention at a party - like making everyone laugh and stare - and then realizing that actually, no, everyone else is just really enjoying their sense of being the center of attention at the party.
You work in fashion, right? Isn't the fashion world full of attention-cravers?
I don't really work in fashion anymore. I will teach Creative Writing to fashion students in the fall and I coordinate events for a software company with e-commerce clients. Oh, and I have an amazing time writing product descriptions, blog posts, and artist profiles for Fab.com. I use a lot of sumptuous adjectives and middle-school-level puns.
How can you still like poetry, even after all these years?
I don't always like poetry. Every time I embrace it or reject it, it's for a different reason. I used to read a lot of poetry to learn how to write poetry. Now I am much quicker to dismiss a book after a few pages if it isn't making my heart beat fast. I hope to look at what makes a Tumblr poem a Tumblr poem and what makes an Instagram caption punchy and memorable. I'm interested in the ways words and images work together, so lately I have been wanting all poems to be videos.
McClure will be reading at The Factory tonight. Mary Anne Carter, an artist with "professional and sexual ties to the poetry community" who's known for "wearing a shit ton of capes" will be showing and selling art based on the poets' work.