JOANNA & PATRICK TALK ABOUT POET & HOW THEY MET with our friend, DANNIE SHANNON
DS: So…clearly Joanna, you’re a Waxing Poetic fan as well as a friend. Patrick, I’ve never actually gotten to meet you. I’m sure you’ve heard this many times by now but, you’re pretty adorable, the two of you.
Joanna: Haha, thanks.
Patrick: She’s adorable. And brilliant. I’m…lucky.
DS: OH YOU GUYS. Ok really though, when Jenna said I should profile you as POET fans, she inferred that there was an actual poetry story involved, is this true? Are you both poets? Whose a poet? How does this work?
Patrick: Joanna’s a poet.
Joanna: Haha, no. I’m a librarian. I love poetry, I tinkered around with it in college, but I’m far from a poet. Patrick’s the poet.
Patrick: We were in a workshop together! I’ve read your work! And no, I’m not a poet.
Joanna: Babe, that was at UCLA in 2002. Also you didn’t know me then.
Patrick: But it was good! And I didn’t know I knew you then until I knew you later.
DS: Ok kids this is getting complicated. Can we back up for a sec? You both used to write poetry? You were in a creative writing workshop?
Joanna: Yes. We were in a workshop together in undergrad, but we didn’t know each other. We weren’t even friends really, we weren’t close. Those things get very clique-y and Patrick was –
Patrick: Kind of a jerk.
Joanna: Talented and clever, but yes, kind of a jerk. Also, kind of a departmental golden boy, but also in a frat, so he had at least 2 distinct sets of fan-friends – the other Greek people, with whom I had nothing in common, and the smart angry girls who wrote smart cold poetry and generally slid by on cigarettes and A minuses. I wasn’t in either group, I wasn’t enrolled to be a Patrick fan, I wasn’t even in the major, I was studying film, poetry was sort of my secret project, so I didn’t really have time for the handsome jackass in the back, I just wanted feedback and I wanted the famous-to-a-known-few poet teaching the class to respect me, so I ignored him.
Patrick: It’s true.
DS: Ok so…what happened?
Patrick: At the time, not much, but…Every week, we’d discuss at least a couple of people’s poetry project from the week before, and then our professor would pass out these packets with a few poems by a poet we were going to discuss, along with some criticism/background on that poet, and one week it was John Ashbery. I didn’t know him before, and although I liked what I read (and tried emulating later for the assignment), the thing that stuck out to me was some old interview of his from the 70s where he’s being asked to explain his poetry – he’s pretty cryptic, there are a lot of fragments, some of it is pretty surreal….and he says something like ‘Actually, I don’t have a hidden agenda, I want poetry that functions like a tube sock – one size fits all, and you can make what you want with it.’ I’m sure that’s not the quote, I bet Joanna knows it though, but —
DS: And something happened regarding this poet, John Ashbery?
Joanna: Sort of. But later. Ok so lets jump 6 years into the future, it’s 2008. I’d put a good 4 years working in film production, but I realized as much as I loved it, I really didn’t have the temperament for it….but I totally had the temperament for archiving. Initially I was planning to go back to school for film archiving, but I also realized that I wanted to stay in Southern California and as much as there are some incredible archives to work at/on between SLC and San Diego, Los Angeles is a film town and the available jobs to talent pool is an insane ratio and…maybe this makes me terribly selfish, but I just didn’t want to be either poor or recklessly hustling for the rest of my life. I talked about this with a few friends who had also studied film and three of them had also made the jump to…library and information sciences. I applied to my Alma Mater’s program, got in, end as part of my work-study agreement ended up working the reference desk of the research library 3 times a week. If you work nights, odd things happen — it’s a time for your own ghosts to appear, people from other parts of your life. I think it’s something to expect, when you are working in a research library at your undergrad institution, that someone you least expect to see will show up at your window with a stack of books. And one night it was Patrick.
Patrick: She didn’t recognize me.
Joanna: I did!
Patrick: No, she didn’t. It’s cool.
Joanna: Maybe I didn’t recognize you because you were nice.
Patrick: Yeah that’s probably true.
DS: So what happened?
Patrick: Like in between that workshop and 2008? Well, I finished the English major, a friend of a friend had started a magazine (I know: starting a magazine during the alleged ‘death of print,’ what were we thinking? But he had a trust fund and his father had been a publisher and so I ended up writing, then editing for them and freelancing for some outdoor/lifestyle stuff and then blogs blew up and I realized…I was tired of selling. I wasn’t writing story stories, I was pushing product. I’d somehow found myself as like the ‘gadget guy,’ which meant there was always something to work on but nothing felt right…and then the world economy tanked, and the magazine wasn’t going under bc we were mostly privately funded, but the type of stuff I was doing was just…draining me, and I realized that I wanted to do the thing I’d never considered as even an option: teaching. High School. English. I ended up in a credential program also at UCLA, and was really frustrated with the stodgy poetry curriculum I was supposed to teach the next week and so I though, huh, I’ll just walk over to the library and see if I can find John Ashbery because something about this poem in this book never got out of my system, but when I got to the library I realized that I had forgotten what it was called, or what the book was called, and so I walked up to the desk and this beautiful woman is sitting there, looking at me in a rather bemused way and I think I blurted out the last lines (which in retrospect was weird): “And I am lost without you.” – and without missing a beat, she looked up, said, “Tube socks are still in fashion?” and I think it was both of us, right there, that realized who the other person was and we started laughing awkwardly and…we’re still laughing. Not so awkwardly.”