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Anne Stone: multi-vocal

james hörner

anne Stone is the author of jacks, and more recently of Hush. She is a text-based performance artist and writer.

hush

cancon
are you originally from Montréal?

Anne Stone
People in Montréal are obsessed. So, I'd like to be from there. But no, like a lot of people, I'm from someplace else (which explains my atrocious accent).

cancon
how does the Montreal scene you are involved in differ from other cities you experienced?

Anne Stone
I recently left Montréal. Here (on the Pacific rim), the lighting is strange. An effect, I hear, of moisture-laden air. So, daylight seems unfiltered, very white, much like everyone is walking around on a film set. It was really unsettling until I figured it out. Imagine you are completely lucid, but experiencing all of the nuances of an acid trip -- all the time. I miss Montréal. The more I see of anyplace else, the more I know just how much I miss it.

So, the scene and how it differs: You have really amazing artists (writers, comic artists, performance artists, spoken word artists, etc.) and there is a lot of cross-over. The cabarets in Montréal are unparalleled. I've not seen anything approaching what is happening there. And people are just getting better at what they do all the time.

Last night I caught the end of a film by Anne Claire Poirier. It might have been called "Let me go." It was done by a woman whose daughter had overdosed on drugs. So, her mother interviews people, listens to them, really listens, as if to catch a trace line of her daughter's heartbeat. It's remarkable. I don't think you'd find a film like that done in Toronto. You can buy a bottle of Cabellero at the Deppaneur. Poverty isn't stigmatized like it is in other cities. Rent's cheap. You can sit down in a booth at the back of a particular strip club and for fifteen dollars get a blow job for one song (provided you have a penis or a reasonable facsimile). I think the later option is kind of sexy. Of course, maybe that's not true at all. But the rumours are interesting.

So, Montréal. It's where I learned to eat, really eat, and to write.

cancon
would you rather be writing or performing?

Anne Stone
I don't know that it's a choice between two discrete activities. I like to think of writing itself as a kind of sustained performance. There's a space, with it's own grammar, you enter into in order to write. I guess there are other ways to do that. I know writers who start in a much more cerebral space, who think and write in a very deliberate manner, setting out to do something and doing it. I tend to circle very slowly, the writing becomes as much about tracing patterns in that movement as it is about whatever subject the trajectory describes.

Doing a piece (from memory) is okay. Sometimes I feel like a trick poodle. There's an integrity to the written page. It's finished. What someone else does with (to or on) it in the privacy of their own home is their business. But when I perform, it reminds me of just how messy presence is. And there is nothing I can do about that. I can't anticipate the gaze I'll encounter when I do a piece. Reading faces, I can't turn back time and tactically undo something in order to destabilize a performance. So, oddly, with a memorized piece and all the space in the world for enunciation, I feel like I have less control over the material than I do when it is on the page. It's being written or read as a function of what happens over a period of time. And a lot of what is happening is accidental, people are reading me reading the work. Unsettling. So, just now, it's an area I need to put a lot more thought into.

cancon
what got you started down this career path?

Anne Stone
I've been writing poems and stories since I was a kid. Of course, I also masturbated with Revlon nail polish bottles when I was eight years old and never attempted to make a living at it, so for what that's worth. But yeah, umm, career... that's funny.

cancon
what's the worst piece of criticism you've ever gotten?

Anne Stone
A stranger came up to me after a reading and said my piece lacked narrative cohesion. Okay, the stranger didn't really say that, they said it didn't "stick together." They went on to recommend I break the piece into individual lines, take each line and write a poem from it. Classic. A creative writing exercise. It horrified me because:
One: I hate that.
Two: If the piece sucked (and I'm not saying either way), then why would one go on to grant it exponential space? Imagine if all the fragments spawned other pieces that likewise sucked, and so, had to undergo the same process. Endless. The stranger might as well have come up with the idea of teaching creative writing in a university. Horrible. I felt like crapping ticker-tape.

cancon
you find eloquent and highly literary ways of getting your stories across - do words ever fail you?

Anne Stone
Yes.

cancon
the stories you tell are full of beautiful and terrible people. why do you think you're attracted to these kinds of characters?

Anne Stone
I keep coming back to this question and am having a hard time answering it. I think it's because the question directs me to a particular answer. Are the characters really beautiful and terrible? Is attracted the right word? Does something happen with these three words that makes me uncomfortable? Proximity. I'd like to slide this question into the next, and come back to it then...

cancon
reading your books is a little like slipping into a trance, a dream, a place where consciousness dissolves. can you describe what writing such intense material is like?

Anne Stone
Like being farsighted. If the eyeball is foreshortened and the lens is flattened, you can see distant objects really clearly, but the objects which are closest to you are not clear, because they're focused behind the retina instead of on it. The prose I work with is the same, foreshortened, it seethes up from under surfaces. You can see a stranger's hands, maybe, across the room with clarity, but your own are smudged by proximity, illegible. But yes, there's a pattern to distortion. The things which are closest to you are made large, strange.

So, are the characters beautiful and terrible? Or, is it something of the flattened lens that tends to produce this affect? If everything imbricates, you can't delineate clear boundaries. Subjectivities slide. Once that happens, an objective perspective or outside measure is meaningless. It's like trying to theorize room temperature. Yeah, I guess you can do it, but what's that worth? I'm here and the room is here, too, and I know I am not the room I happen to be in because of the difference in temperature. I'm warmer. It's colder. I don't know that I want to approach room temperature any more closely than that.

cancon
what would we find on your bookshelves?

Anne Stone
Everything. For six years, I lived in an isolated swamp in the Eastern Townships. The big night out was Thursday, for Bingo at the Elk's Hall across the border. I'd get myself a shitty cup of coffee, buy a hot-dog, and read that week's issue of the World Weekly News. I had my own bingo daubers and markers. After a year or two, I had a lot of copies of WWN, so I cut them up and decoupaged a bookshelf. You could approach an old copy of Daniel Deronda (the pages uncut), and as you scanned for the title, you'd read about a man who'd had hiccups for 27 years, bat-boy, and aliens in Senate. I liked that.

Things that shoulder up together on my shelves just now: De Sade is next to Bersianik's Euguelionne is next to an illustrated copy of "Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls" is next to the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes is next to Zizek's Ticklish Subject is next to One Thousand American Fungi is next to a red bound journal is next to a small pill bottle filled with ashes, labelled: "early manuscrits" [sic].

Books I love today: The Rosy Medallions by Camille Roy, I'm gasping and reading her piece, "Baby (or Whose Body Is Missing?)" Too, lately, I've been making up Clint Burnham and reading Airborne Photo. When I go out, I assign him a body. The other night, he was this older man, very elegant, wearing a flared silk cravat. People told me "that's not true, it's not really him." So I left the club and made Burnham the man ahead of me, carrying a six pack by the plastic rings (you can get them to go at certain bars here). His fingers were very thick. But I suppose that isn't true either.

cancon
besides your creative endeavours, what gets you up in the morning?

Anne Stone
My dog, Wilder (who quietly stares at me until I wake). My partner, Wayde Compton (who breathes my breath when I am sleeping). The first cigarette of the morning. The sound of an espresso pot coming to a boil.

cancon
how about some word association? say as much or as little as you like:

Anne Stone
(I keep cheating and looking ahead. For an instant, I experience an involuntary (and highly personal) association, which I choose to catalogue and put aside for further investigation. Unless I am lying to you. Either way, I do turn the lens on you, try to understand what you are about and calibrate my reading of your reading through this slim fistula.)

-blood-
-family-
-examination-
-sex-
-memory-

(The other day, I had a drink with a friend, a poet named Ryan Knighton. He told me about diseases of the eye. When you have RP, for instance, your sight slowly dwindles to a pin hole. Degenerative diseases of the eye eat away at visual memories at the same rate they eat away at vision. You come to remember through a pinhole, as well.)

cancon
what creative challenges do you want to approach next?

Anne Stone
I want to find a different model for the multi-vocal, something which grants more freedom and range, let's more of the world in. The tower of Babble, I guess. "Baar-baar-baar-baar." Queen is in there, too (in the tower, I mean). I'm not sure why yet, but right now, I'm thinking about Freddie Mercury a lot. There's another card, too, but I've left it face down just now.

cancon
what's a question you've always wanted to be asked?

Anne Stone
There isn't one. Weird, eh? I tried to come up with something, but the questions sounded tinny (like speaking into an empty mayonnaise jar). I question myself a lot, so I guess I've got that covered.


james hörner edits canadian content.

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