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Artists are art, too.

Artists are art, too.

Last week, I got the chance to interview one of the last poets from our first issue of burntdistrict. This interview comes out at about the same time as Liz and Jen introduce their second issue of the magazine and I am so excited to check it out! In the meantime, read up about my new favorite carny poet, Christopher Leibow, who I questioned about Mormons and cats, among other fascinating things. If you want to read the poem we were discussing, from “Assembled Historicity (iii)” you can check it out by clicking riiiight HERE. I think what Chris reminded me of most was how no matter how successful an artist someone is, each person is only human. Something we should all remind ourselves as the internet makes demigods out of Kim Kardashian and Obama. But I digress. Here it is, folks.

First, I wanted to compliment you on the title of your poem, particularly the word “historicity,” which speaks to what is “historical actuality,” rather than the convoluted stories we learn about in school. Do you believe your poem speaks more to the common person’s experience in history, rather than what may be written in a textbook?

I think you might be on to something.  Generally, when my poems are more successful, it’s because they are smarter than I am.  It think the origin of these poems came from the idea of time being cyclical instead of linear and if cyclical, what if the circles of history started to intersect?  It was interesting to have Columbus, Sigmund Freud, and the Mussolini’s Blackshirts in the same poem.  I think it gives the poem a sort of whimsy that turns subtly but very seriously; if that is possible.   Maybe,  that’s how we experience what becomes history,  more as an unfolding, a happenstance, or luck, or chance even at times as bewilderment before it ever becomes “history.”

I love the image of Goya painting moth wings. I think it allows us as readers to envision a regular old guy trying to portray an image, rather than an immortalized “master” of the arts.

Again, back to what we experience.  Most of our lives are spent in the spaces between the moments that define us.  We spend most of our time with the quotidian, the everyday passage of time, the processing of days and chapters to get to the more significant parts, and here in these spaces “a life.” is experienced.  I like the image of this Goya, who could be the “Goya” of fine art or a different Goya, like the merchant Ignacio Goya who happens to also paint and is fascinated by the beauty in “ordinary” the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of things.

Who would you say is the narrator of your poem?

Good question, I would venture a guess that narrator is a TV News reporter like an Edward R Murrow character.

I noticed that your piece in burntdistrict is from a larger collection of “Assembled Historicity.” What are the other poems like in this work?

Very similar.  There is Columbus on the way to the new world, where Montezuma is concerned about the arrival and the appearance of a U-boat.  There is another poem that connects the fall of Rome and the Buzz Bombs of World War II.  They all have a similar feeling and trajectory.

I see in your author bio that you are working on a piece about “carny life.” I’ve never met an actual carny, but I’ve always been curious about the narrative that comes with it. What was your job when you worked for a carnival? Was it wild?

It was fascinating and depressing. It was actually a circus / carnival.  They finally went out of business in 1995.  I was a young man and  just muscle, like a roadie for a band, but we would setup in the middle of a field way out in the woods and wonder if there was even a town nearby and all of a sudden all these people would show up from out of the woods.   But it is a dying way of life, and mostly you don’t get paid anything, just room and board, depending.   Because of its nature, the Carney life is very transient and the “carneys’ are pretty guarded until you prove yourself.  In some ways it’s like being in a world that existed 80 years ago.  

Do you think that lifestyle affected the way that you work, or that it gives you a very unique perspective into how humans work? Did you ever feel outcasted, or is that just a stereotype of the carny lifestyle?

Stereotypes tend to have a grain of truth to them, but I have had so many different jobs and seen a lot of this country, that I think people are pretty much the same. I think anyone who doesn’t abide by the currently gestalt, or by certain cultural values will feel like an outcast, whether they are a Carny, Customer Service Representative or an Operations Manager..

One of the reasons I chose to interview you is that I noticed have been published in numerous online magazines. I have submitting to both print and online magazines, and sometimes I find it sad that I might never get to see the words on tangible paper. Do you feel this same way, or do you enjoy publishing in both mediums?

There is something satisfying about that tangibility.  Here is something to think of.  Your poem is accepted by a well respected journal, with 230 pages of which with 90 are of poems.   Your beautiful young poem sits there between the pages waiting for someone to read it.  It’s not too far into the journal, around page 108 almost in the middle.  She sits there waiting like a young orphan waiting to be taken home.  Now, a different poem is accepted by a well respected online journal, and there are 30 poems in this issue and links that can be distributed through social media and other avenues, the online journal is in Liverpool— a writer in Macedonia reads your poem and sends you an emai—, you start corresponding about poetry and art.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but as Boris Pasternak wrote,  “ I am a writer, I write to be read.”  I have even posted posters of my poems around the city I live in.  I am able to watch the response to them immediately.  There is nothing better than watching someone write lines from your poem onto their hand.

I see you live in Salt Lake City. What’s it like? I think people from the Midwest picture SLC as a Mormon haven of sorts, but I’ve always wondered what else was out there.

Salt Lake City is wonderful in so many ways.  Salt Lake City was voted in the top 10 most Bohemian cities in the US by Atlantic Magazine in 2010.  Salt Lake City has a vibrant arts community and is the liberal haven in Utah.  Let’s put it this way, I have got in more trouble in SLC than I ever did when I lived downtown San Francisco or in Los Angeles.

Last but certainly not least, how is your cat Mr. Handsome doing these days? I bet he was proud to be included in your bio.

He is doing great and has asked me to call him El Guapo, since he is getting in touch with his  ancestry. (He thinks he is a Mexican hairless).  El Guapo says, “Hola.”

Christopher Anthony Leibow graduated from Antioch University Los Angeles with an MFA in Poetry, he was nominated for a Pushcart in 2008 and 2010 and a Utah Book Award. He is winner of the Writers@Work Writer’s Advocate Award 2008. He curated Cabaret Voltage a spoken word, art and music show in Salt Lake City for seven years. He has been active in the arts community and worked with at risk youth. In addition to local participation, his poems and images have been published in Barrow Street, Interim Magazine, Lumina, CHA, Istanbul Literary Review and numerous other journals in print and online. He currently lives in Salt Lake City, with his cat El Guapo.



  1. Matilda Lucero
    October 2, 2012

    I loved this interview, The questions were great and the reponses very interesting especially the response regarding online and print publishing. I like the orphan comparison.

  2. anon
    October 24, 2012

    i want to snuggle with el guapo, nice blog gurl, nice blog it’s smart and funny. keep on keepin on

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