About Paul K. Tunis
Paul K. Tunis is from the desert and eats baby carrots even though they make him sneeze. He holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence.
So, you’re a visual artist and writer. That’s weird.
It’s true. I’m not particularly great at either but when I do them simultaneously it’s like patting my head and rubbing my belly, some are impressed and some find it silly.
Can you describe your relationship to image in words/poetry?
Images are mostly words you get to invent. A picture is not worth a thousand words so much as it is worth one very specific word that isn’t in any language. An image communicates something that was either too specific or would take too many words. We find these distinctions everywhere. Anytime you use your phone to send a picture instead of a text you’re making a choice on the limits of words.
Can you describe your relationship to words/poetry in an image?
Can you provide a brief personal history of your development as a writer/visual artist? For the longest time, the two were polarized in my head, was this the same for you? How are you both?
I’ve always enjoyed making stories and like most children that meant drawing and I suppose never stopped. At seven, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and a fine motor skill impairment. Fortunately, nobody thought to tell me and I continued to draw and write without any shame around it.
My mother finally mentioned my disabilities off-hand in conversation when I was thirteen. I didn’t understand who she was talking about because I was known as the geeky-reading-drawing-kid by most.
Since I’m stubborn I continued work at be a drawing writer. Though I do feel that my ultimate need to draw and write simultaneously is the result of my insecurities of my limits at both.
I don’t always find art and images meeting well together. They will hurt each other just as often as they help, leaving you constantly fighting for a balance. Also, it is very rare that I can switch from one to the other without taking a long break, which can stressfully leave you managing writer’s and artist’s block.
The last answer is filled with so much narrative drama and conflict. Did you have a sense of your limits (as a writer, as a drawer) as a child, and what kind of limits or boundaries were set after you found those things out at age 13? What have you done since then to really push against any ‘real’ or constructed sense of boundaries you may have about being a writer, visual artist, drawingwriter?
Well, the whole story of the diagnosis is even more involved and dramatic. In short, I did uncommonly well on an advanced placement test, however, since I was such a poor reader my first grade teacher let’s call her Mrs. Troll accused me if cheating. Feeling there was no way I could have gotten my score, she blew it up into a more public issue. A child psychologist was brought up from Phoenix who determined that I earn the score but had a couple dysfunctions.
After thirteen I tended to personify obstacles as a way to stick it to Mrs. Troll. Accomplishments like getting a literature degree, admission to an MFA writing program and writing a novel gained the added bonus of not letting Mrs. Troll and social forces define my limitations. I feel my that by thirteen a genuine love or writing and drawing had given me enough practice that I could no longer be considered learning disabled in any clinical sense. The only real boundary that still manifests is insecurity whenever I read something aloud for the first time. The fine motor skill thing isn’t an issue and I don’t mind drawing in front of others.
Can you talk more about the helping and hurting?
Of course. There are a lot of more nuanced problems but one I’ve learned the hard way has to do with character building. Since reading is collaborative you have to be careful not to use pictures to violate or invalidate the role of the reader. You generally have to decide if you are going to draw a character or describe her in words. When you do both you’re cheating the reader out of their role to help write your character by connecting the dots between your words. A drawing can often contradict attributes or qualities the reader needed to add to bring a character to life. Violating this is something the people can sometimes take very personally. Whenever books are cast into movies folks tend to get crazy because this or that actor violates the intimate additions readers made to flesh out a written character.
A way to avoid this is by making a character appear more cartoony. If a drawing is less literal and more like a symbol there is still room for the reader to fill in gaps.
So, what do you do during the break? Are you caught up on Mad Men? And what do you think of this season’s 30 Rock?
Naps are the most effective. It’s like rebooting the whole mess and you can usually be like, “Hey brain, we need to be able to draw right now.” If your lucky your brain will be helpful and let you without forcing it. 30 Rock is still good. However, I’m really annoyed that Parks and Rec has been pushed to mid season.
What projects are you working on?
Do you play with words/images? Submit work to email@example.com.
The editors of Drunken Boat are happy to announce our nominees for the 2011 Pushcart Prize. You can read the poems and stories that blew our minds, below. Congratulations, and good luck!
Karin Gottshall, Care and Feeding.
Margaret gave birth to the octopus in a wading pool in her own apartment. The midwife, who thought she’d seen everything and nearly had, took it in stride. It had been an easy birth. The creature had come out head first, a boneless mass that they at first mistook for an intact caul. No umbilical cord to cut. No blood, no squalling. He was the size of a loosely closed fist, or the bloom of a peony.
Renee LaGue, The Practice of Being in Motion.
charlie wants to retrace every footmark from here to iowa but bones touches his elbow let’s go back now and charlie knows bones is swallowing this place whole; swallowing it and only later will he see the tender retching that follows something you love but cannot hold
Jurica Pavicic, Second Floor, Heaven.
In the winter of 1987 my father built a bungalow on the Batini? lot. He roofed it with a concrete slab spiked with steel reinforcing, onto which he piled a load of cement blocks, the raw material for future storeys. Using a dozen blocks, he made a turret at one corner and connected it to the electricity cable. He hung a TV antenna on it, so it looked like a fishbone. We received Italian television perfectly, Zagreb so-so.
Irina Reyn, Two Extremes.
“Poisoning always comes in pairs.” My mother says this as if this is a common, ancient belief. “It is this you want to visit?” My father, who had been mimicking Chekhov’s Irina for years—“To Moscow! To Moscow”—is silent.
Sun Yung Shin, WHICH WAY | KICHICHEON | YANKEETOWN.
This is no natural forest. // My lungs can find no mirror of mica, no flaked red // garb of leaves. // Blind at night, blind in the light. // Who here prays to the Snake god? // Who discards the twin he wears on the outside? // When he lays white and waxed and wrinkled—I will double, triple— // Sometimes the child-mind collapses like an umbrella, // spindled ribs and an ivory handle— // Which way may I rise?
Franz Wright, Goodbye.
Each day I woke as it started to get dark and the pain came. Month after month of this—who knows when I got well, the way you do, whether you like it or not. With dawn now, risen from the rampage of sleep, I am walking in the Lincoln woods, a mile or two of train tracks out of Walden, first sapphire glint of Flint’s Pond to the right through the winter trees.
I first became aware of the Eleven Clouds project in an appropriate roundabout, back channel fashion. A once-habitual, now-infrequent visitor to the the i hate music discussion boards, I found myself spending much of this past September catching up on a thread (one which ultimately stretched to more than 320 posts’ worth of responses) entitled “State of Improvisation 2010“. The initial post under this heading, attributed to one “hatta” (Hat-ta? Hate-ah?) is worth reproducing at length:
“… I think there is increasingly less to say about contemporary improvisation as there isn’t much of interest going on. I barely find myself able to raise interest in new releases from the usual suspect and when I do am almost always disappointed. Many of the releases given thumbs up by those [on this board] whose opinions I respect just seem like more of the same—little risk, little innovation; in short predictable. And I’d argue that good improvisation, in whatever subset you focus on, is always unpredictable in one way or another… At the same time there has been an increased interest in composed music, especially composed music that I think captures aspects of the last decade of interesting improvisation. Though frankly there isn’t really much excitement there but some exploration of ideas that I think may lead somewhere.
So the question is for the members of this forum is where do you think improvisation is today? What if anything is pushing the envelop, taking the risks, capturing interest. Is there anything genuinely exciting going on? And can you say how, or why—I’m certainly not interested in lists of albums, that is not the state of anything.”
This is precisely the kind of apparently “simple”, “direct” question that, once released into the Internet, generates all manner of fascinating tangents, which is turn may grow into manifestos, dedicated web pages, denunciatory blog entries, aesthetic retrenchments, mockery, semantic nitpicking, and hurt feelings and recriminations IRL. In short, the true ornaments of any Baroque culture. But the most unexpected of these byproducts also turned out to be among the most delightful, as I only discovered after clearing a path to a post I can no longer locate, in which “hatta” revealed the following (more or less):
“Utilizing his persona on the ?i hate music electronic message board the artist initiated a thread on the subject of improvisation in 2010…. While a participant in this thread it was of course allowed to proceed normally and after several days it had generated several pages of responses. The first page, plus one post, of responses were then collected into a text file with minimal editing (primarily web addresses were changed into text) which was then read aloud utilizing the OS X “Alex” voice and recorded to a file. The resultant audio file was used to create a source audio file which contained silences corresponding to the amount of time in between posts (scaled to 1 minute = 1 second). This new file was burned to CD-R and was played in the worlds cheapest compact disc player, through a very cheap FM transmitter, captured by a nearby FM radio (also cheap) and fed into a Nord Micro Modular. The patch the Micro Modular was running (pictured below) was designed to radically transform input, particularly frequency modulated input and patterns of speech. While any text run through this system would lead to similar sound, the pace, feel and structure of this piece depend on the source material. In this way the twelve people who participated in this thread up to the cut-off point can be thought of as collaborators in this piece.”
Intrigued by the nearly over-determined conceptual nature of this project, I endeavored to learn as much as possible about how to go about hearing the resultant piece of music. However, the musician had apparently made a serious effort of make this music as obscure (in the sense of practically inaccessible) as possible… ” Fugue State is released in an addition of twelve (12) and is available only to the collaborators on the project.” Frustrating, at least initially. But also more and more provocative as my desire to place myself in the audience for this piece and the other pieces in the greater project of which it was a part was thwarted. In fact, I began to wonder if the whole point was not the sounds themselves, their organization, the ecology of their presentation, but rather the vacuum—airless, empty, and incapable of transmitting sound—left in the wake of the music’s realizing the full extent of its essential impermanence. Perhaps I was meant to fill the space created by my knowledge of this unheard, “unlistenable” music with my own attention and my own listening proclivities, and with questions about both how and why I acquire music, and how those habits of acquisition relate to the recognition, simultaneously spontaneous and deliberate, unique yet repeatable, that, for me, makes music “good.”
So I decided to ask Robert Kirkpatrick, the artist behind the “hatta” persona and the singular force behind Eleven Clouds, Hollow Earth Recordings (and much else) to help me clarify my own experiences in trying to hear, much less understand, the individual particles cohering in these Eleven Clouds.