He loves you and hates you. Lance Mercer

Every day for more than two years, West Seattle's Danny Bland wrote a haiku. Three lines—five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables. Danny Bland wired his writing mind to this traditional Japanese format and took it on an all-night drive west from Tucson to Long Beach. For 30 years, Bland has roamed as a writer and musician, playing in the bands Catt Butt and the Dwarves. He's also logged miles as road manager for the Supersuckers, the Gutter Twins, and Dave Alvin. Bland's haiku is raw, playful, and spiteful at times. This isn't your frog-in-a-tranquil-pond haiku. This is the blood smudged on the wall in a back room, or the teeth marks from someone you barely knew. On September 23, Sub Pop is releasing a collection of Bland's haiku writing called I Apologize in Advance for the Awful Things I'm Gonna Do. The 120-page, full-color paperback designed by Victor Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven) features photographs from the Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli and calligraphy from Exene Cervenka. The Bland/Dulli combination takes a moment and picks its lock. It's up to the reader to finish the story or let it sit there, longing. Bland's first novel, In Case We Die, was published in the summer of 2013 by Fantagraphics. Mr. Bland spoke from the French Quarter in New Orleans.

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I love this one: "Took out her stitches/with a steak knife at Shoney's/pretty as can be." How did the idea for this book happen?

It's funny, the idea didn't start off for it to be a book. My regimen for writing is a daily thing. Whether it's a page, a sentence, or some notes, something has to be done every day. When I finished In Case We Die, I didn't have anything to do. Haiku is a pretty classic writing exercise. So I started doing them and posting them on Facebook. I didn't explain what I was doing, and it caused great concern among my friends and relatives. I was getting little notes from people asking, "Are you okay?" [Laughs] The first ones I did were all notes for the next book, so they sounded especially strange. The vagueness of haiku is the beauty of it. How vague they can be with such a short template to work in. I'm working on a follow-up for In Case We Die, and still writing them, though not as often.

The dynamic of your haiku and Dulli's photographs has this duality. You can flip the pages quickly, or you can sit on a page for an hour. How did you go about matching the photos to the haiku?

I only own one book of haiku, by Richard Wright, who wrote Native Son and Uncle Tom's Children. It's very traditional, lots of nature. It's very, very good, but it's kind of boring because it's basically just hundreds of haiku on a page. Once I'd been doing it for a year or so, people were saying, "You need to put these out," so I thought about publishing them and how. At the same time, I'm friends with Greg, and we'd worked together, and I just admire his eye for everything. Haiku is really a short story—like the shortest story you could possibly write [laughs]—same thing with his photos. The things that he finds interesting, and the things that he captures, to me, they're all short stories. We have similar aesthetics. We both gravitate toward finding beautiful things in dark, dirty places. Some of them I wrote for the pictures and some just worked together. We took some time and placed them together. I'd send him a handful of poems, and he'd send me back a couple pictures.

It's like you're looking into somebody's window, a voyeuristic thing. The elements work together.

I think photos and words work well together. And Exene has been a friend for years. I love what she does. So I sent her a bunch and she mailed me back these huge pieces of cardboard, three feet by two feet, with her writing on there. Some she cut up into three-piece sections; some she made a mistake on, so there's a line through it, which I love. And I'm such huge X fan. To have her writing of my words makes 17-year-old me scream like a little girl watching the Beatles at the Budokan. You can see her calligraphy work from their very first album—she did all their writing and lyrics sheets. And I tour managed the Knitters, still do. And we spent a lot of time driving the van across deserts and talking about art. Then the last piece to fall into place was Victor Krummenacher, the designer, who's the bass player from Camper Van Beethoven and another friend of mine who wanted me to publish the poems. He just volunteered. He said, "Look, let's just do this, I'll put it together for you." Once those four elements came together, you got a nice little piece of art out of it.

Did you find yourself thinking, talking, and dreaming in haiku?

Completely. Yeah. I did them every day for two and a half years. Some of them are funny. Some are like jokes. Some are sad, and dirty. Or romantic. I don't wanna misquote myself [looks in book]: "I like my women/just like I like my coffee/tattooed and slutty." That doesn't mean anything. It was just a goofy thought I had. But at that point in time, I was pretty much thinking in haiku, and it came out that way. Of course I had to count it on my fingers; after that, I was like, "Hey, that's a haiku."

You coded your neurons to spit out writing this way.

I gave myself a deadline of 6 p.m. I'd post one by that time every day. It forces you to look at the world around you. Say you're having a totally dull workday. For me, say I was just driving from Houston to Dallas. So within that, you'd need to find inspiration. It's a brain exercise that teaches you to observe and maybe realize that things in your life are a little more interesting than you thought. Looking at it like that, it changes your brain.

"You are prone to poor/choices dear and I am pleased/to be amongst them." What do you remember about writing that one?

The thought there was Hallmark card. I wanted to make a kind of Valentine's Day card. An oddly romantic thought from someone who doesn't know how to express themselves romantically [laughs]. That's more than I've ever explained a haiku in my life, and probably ever will again. They sit there and they mean what they mean to you, and that's perfect. You don't really need to know what I was thinking.

The photo for that one is looking down at bedsheets. What about that photo made you want to pair it with that haiku?

To me, that photo is a guy who has a hard time expressing himself, and he's looking down thinking, "What am I gonna tell her?" It's a day or time lots of guys might have. A Valentine's Day card, and you're awake, staring at your feet, going, "What can I do for her? How am I gonna pull this off?" Maybe it's a guy who doesn't have money. Maybe it's a guy who feels awkward buying flowers. Whatever it is, he still needs to give her the gift of comfort on this wretched commercially based holiday [laughs].

Did the haiku come easy or hard?

They were different at times. Some just popped into my head. Other times, I was like, "Fuck, I got half an hour to do this. I gotta come up with something." Sometimes those worked out nicely. But after two and a half years' worth of haiku, they're not all golden.

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When the haiku weren't coming to you easily, how'd you get them to happen? Where'd you find yourself looking?

When under the gun, what I would generally do was go to the timeline of the next book. I'd pick out a detail in a room or some event that's going on there. A minor detail, an ashtray, or whatever. But I don't advise staring at ashtrays for too long. recommended

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