“I bring ideas into conversation”: A Conversation with Diarist & Antipoet Kenning JP Garcia – curated by Kristina Marie Darling

Kenning JP García is an editor, diarist, antipoet, and humorist currently living in Albany. Xyr work tends towards the absurd and speculative while always attempting to keep the real close at hand. Xe is the author of OF (What Place Meant) (West Vine Press) as well as several ebooks and xyr can be found in various magazines and journals. 

Kristina Marie Darling: With was recently launched from Really Serious Literature.  What drew you to this publisher for this particular project?  

Kenning JP Garcia: There was nothing in particular about this work that lead me to want to work with Really Serious Literature. This piece was available (nothing is ever finished) and at the time there was a Black editor there that I thought would be able to read my work with honesty and sincerity in ways that some other folks might not be able to do. This editor was Kelsey Marie Harris. Also, I have known Barracuda Guarisco for many years now by many names and we’re pretty familiar with each other’s sentiments even if our styles are continuously changing. This is to say, this was about community on a couple of different levels. I reached out to the community that I already was a part of in a certain section of the slipstream writing world as well as reaching out to a younger Black writer who I had read with before and whose work I was somewhat familiar with. I wanted to be with familiar faces. With was never going to be sent out to a publisher with whom I’ve never worked with before. It needed to be a familiar if not family affair so to speak (or write). 

KMD:  In the past, you have described your writing as “anti-poetry,” which is fascinating.  Can you say more about how you would define anti-poetry as a genre?  

KJPG: The term is Nicanor Parra’s and one can look him up quite easily to get a firm grasp of what he meant by antipoetry. I won’t go into quoting nor reinterpreting what exactly he declares antipoetry to be. What I will do is state some basic thoughts on antipoetry 2.0 or maybe 3.0 at this point as there are antipoets between myself and Parra. I don’t see antipoetry as a genre any more than antistory is a genre and I have written a lot of antistories to return to antipoetry. Antipoetry can take on the form of the visually poetic as people tend to think of poetry with broken lines and empty space, but it can also be prose, and perhaps there is room for antipoetic vispo, soundwork, and film also. The point is to push back against poetic values and posturing. Antipoetry for me is very similar to Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures – all of the form and none of the function. And, even the form is sagging and unable to hold itself up. Is it pastiche or parody? It is often comedic and works with the mundane very closely but does seek to be imbued with the sincere yet irony can slide in to increase its politics and to better point towards something while not always actually making a point. The basic tenets of antipoetry are to maintain the order in which things were written so it is the cousin of diary. Next is to remove the poet as divinely guided and yet there is room for mysticism as there is room for mysticism within atheism. And most importantly for me is to move away from comparisons and being both sound and image driven. In some ways my take on antipoetry is better described as anti-talk poetry as I agree with David Antin in many ways but my goal is to focus on ideas, thought, and cognitive processes. This creates shattered and scattered narratives also known as guessays and as stated before, antistories. The final thought is, the antipoetic is always political and it is antiart for both antiart’s sake and hopefully for humanity’s sake. Some antipoets are anti-love poem and this is something that I gave back to antipoetry by allowing love to be broken down into smaller more thinkable/sense-able sentiments. 

KMD: With also contains elements of literary collage, as well as an enviable command of the fiction writer’s repertoire.  How would you describe your literary genealogy?  

KJPG: I come from many lineages. I was forever changed by spending years working on Andalusian writing written by both Muslims and Jews. Ibn Zaydun and Wallada’s nunninyas especially dug into me as it brought me back to where I began with diary and letter writing. I certainly grew up with Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries and Kerouac’s Some of the Dharma notebooks and read through Camus, Kafka, Ionesco, and Cocteau’s diaries but they were missing the conversational aspect that I needed. So, I also have a connection to Neil Simon’s autobiographical trilogy of Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound as well as Beckett’s radio plays and Mamet’s monologues. I owe a lot to drama, comic books, and stand up comedy which is where I hoped I would end up instead here. With all that written, my work is urban literature or street lit. It is maybe a weird take on the genre but it comes out of Donald Goines and other gritty writing about being poor. I remove the drug dealers and pimps but my work is seeking to thug the avant-garde and experimental. It is forcing the streets and the blue collar into places where it isn’t always seen and vice versa in adding odd turns to the real/keeping it real. My desire is to bring Zola or Proust to hood writing. It would be easy to call me neo New York School if the New York School actually included any work by poor Black New Yorkers. 

KMD:  What draws you to prose forms as a creative practitioner?  

KJPG: I am not a creative anything. I am conceptual at best or worst. I am a craftsperson. I assemble. I put things together. I bring ideas into conversation hence the collage aspects of my work as asked about in the previous question. As for prose, prose is significantly harder for me than using broken lines, empty space, and odd uses of punctuation. Working out sentences, paragraphs, and scenes made me really ruminate while writing in newer ways. Prose is much slower for me than “poetry” was. I wanted to become even more meticulous which would give me more time and space to work with moments. My work is hyperreal and it requires staying close to the moment. One cannot rush this process but in “poetry” I often hurried as disjoint and disconnection were all a part of my appeal. Prose made me think rethink distance as a form of duration which brings me back to a sort of mystical realism which is what I now call the vast majority of my diary work. 

KMD:  What else are you working on?  What can readers look forward to? 

KJPG: Diary. I am working on diary and that’s all there will ever be to look forward to from me from here on out. How that diary appears on the page or is performed on the stage has yet to be determined. 

An Excerpt from With