Scary Smart: An Interview with Polly Bresnick, Host of “Writers Reading to Writers Listening to Writers Reading to Writers”

Tonight at Unnameable Books (600 Vanderbilt Ave) in Prospect Heights, local poet-steward-tastemaker extraordinaire Polly Duff Bresnick brings our borough a reading to remember: Writers Reading to Writers Listening to Writers Reading to Writers.  In addition to being a hostess with the most-est, Bresnick is the author of a forthcoming chapbook on O’Clock press entitled Mirror Poems, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in LIT, The Brooklyn Rail, and elimae. Presenting performances from Janaka Stucky, Mitchell S. Jackson, Alex Samets, Margaret Jones, and Becky Bicks, this evening’s BYOB festivities begin at 8pm.  This week, Bresnick graciously answered a few questions for us about ranking tattoos, uniting sassy creeps, loneliness cures, and her role as one of Brooklyn’s rising book mavens.

V1: While potentially self-explanatory, what is the premise/concept/mantra behind WRITERS READING TO WRITERS LISTENING TO WRITERS READING TO WRITERS? How did it get started, and how often does it run? What does the project entail on a day-to-day basis?

PB: I started WRTWLTWRTW when I first moved to New York because I wanted to create and attend my ideal reading every month. It helped me feel less lonely and awkward and new in my new city. It forced me to go to other readings and introduce myself to writers I liked. For the first one, I invited a few of my favorite writers from my graduate program to read and then we all had a dance party. That was back in 2010 (November I think). I used to say that it was an “experimental fiction” series, but I think I just said that to sound cool. It’s a series that celebrates the writing of writers I genuinely like.

V1: How did you select / arrive at this edition’s readers? What if anything unites them? What can your devoted public expect, and why should newcomers make the trip out?

PB: The readers this month are all writers I’ve been enthusiastic about hosting for a while. Janaka is someone I took to, as a human and poet and publisher, immediately upon meeting him. He’s a pioneer with a huge heart of gold. Mitchell and I go to the same gym. He happens to be a writer of magnificent sentences. Alex and I met in graduate school. I knew we liked the same language-y sentence-based writers, but then I heard her read and was all, Whoa, that person is very very smart, like, scary smart. Margaret and I made friends years ago when we thought we were the only people in Portland, Oregon who cared about literary things. Her writing is kind of like Lena Dunham’s, but truer and more hilarious (the same goes for her tattoos compared to Ms. Dunham’s tattoos). Becky is a secret weapon. She’s a silver-tongued life-saver. What unites these reading writers is that I love them all. A lot.

V1: You have become an avid curator of readings and lit events in Brooklyn. How did you arrive here in the borough, and what is appealing to you about the book culture around these parts? More generally, how are you feeling about Brooklyn on the whole these days?

PB: The series has shifted around a lot. It started in Manhattan in my parents’ apartment. Then it moved to the gorgeous Brooklyn apartment of a dear (and generous) friend. And now we’re at Unnameable. I like hosting there because I like the dudes that work there. It’s one of those used bookstores that you walk into and you start looking at the shelves and see that every book is a book you’ve been meaning to read or a book you cherish or a book a trusted friend just recommended or a book you wish you had the guts/time/brainpower to read. I hope people buy tons of books from them.

Probably poets are really smart everywhere, and, until recently, I just didn’t know where to look for them. I’ve had conversations with a lot of really smart poets since moving to Brooklyn. Other kinds of writers, too. But in my pre-Brooklyn life smart poets were kind of rare. There are tons great reading series happening in this borough all the time. Franklin Park is one of my favorites. People Herd is another good one in Greenpoint. And a good friend just started one in my neighborhood called Shit Luck.

V1: If you could nab any three authors – living or dead – to read at W.R.T.W.L.T.W.R.T.W’s next edition, who would you select and why?

PB: In my wildest dreams, Barry Hannah would read and make terrible/hilarious off-color banter between reading stories from Airships, and then he’d drink everyone under the table. I’d book him with Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and Breece D’J Pancake and call it the “The Sassy Southern Creeps Night.” I’d do another night with Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Paul Legault, and B.P. Nichol. That would be weird and great. Ariana Reines would be on my dream list, too. I have a big poet crush on her. I’d also really love for Scott McClanahan to read. He’s making noises about doing so in 2013. He breaks my heart in really cool ways every time I see him read. (It goes without saying that it’d be great to host Herman Melville, but he’d likely read for way too long.) Really, though, every month is a starry group. It’s nice to go to a reading where I really like all the readers.

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