Queers Fail Better – Q / A with Marie Segolene

Queers Fail Better – Q / A with Marie Segolene

In her book ‘The Queer Art of Failure’ Judith Halberstam offers alternative ways of knowing and becoming. Instead of valuing the conventional paths of belonging, achievement and completion, she thinks about and champions the ways of “failure”: losing your way, giving in, being excluded, forgetting, awkwardness, coming apart. Not just rejecting the “normal,” Halberstam shows alternatives to success as paths that have always been there, moving away from mastery and coherence. In this series of Q&A’s with contributors to our upcoming Queer issue, we play with these ideas. When we aren’t trying to finish first (or finish anything) where do we end up?

Think back to when you started writing. What’s an earlier influence you outgrew, abandoned, or turned against?

Evolving always implies outgrowing influences/discovering new ones.  When I read/write I am in constant dialogue between those who have shaped my past and those who influence me now.  Looking back to when I started writing, it was more of an unconscious, therapeutic ritual. I only enjoyed reading my grandfather’s old books, or non-fiction pieces on underground social movements, queer culture, drug culture, punk culture.

Now, I look for writers that play with words, rhythm and tone. I look for writers that move me. I like to be challenged, lost; to travel through peoples work and find meaning. I choose books either for their philosophical weight or their play with language. Recently, I realized that the writing I prefer is mostly from Montreal. It is writing that evokes both the Francophone and Anglophone culture. It has become a technical obsession to trace the use of words, vocabulary, sound patterns & repetitions. When I fall in love with writers, I try to buy all, all, all, their books & read them 5, 6, 7 times in a row.

When a piece of writing doesn’t work out, what do you do with it? Discard? Fold it into another project? Salvage parts?

When it comes to writing and reading I am absolutely a hoarder. Especially on my computer: it is nearly impossible for me to imagine deleting files! I accumulate everything & when I have weeks of complete writers block I go through all the old files, all the old journals – even/especially those I wrote when I was 15, 16, 17, the horribly embarrassing poetry, the pages of quotes from movies, the pictures of old boyfriends/girlfriends/best friends until it triggers me to write.

What do you do with your rejection letters?

I am so scared of them, but I guess, I collect them.

Do you plan out the piece beforehand or find your way as you go along? A combination of both?

Both, absolutely, both. If I plan too much ahead I only disappoint myself, and prevent myself from truly getting possessed by the words, energies and images that I am trying to tune into. Yet, if I don’t plan enough, I just bathe in pages of rants, pathos & anxieties that will bore even me.

When a project is finished, how do you start the next one? Or do your projects overlap?

Projects always overlap, right now I am working on a manuscript for a poetry book, a series of sound poems and ritualistic performances, as well as completing some conceptual pieces I’ve done earlier on in the year. I think my favorite thing to do is start a project and leave it hanging until it feels right to complete it.

Have you ever not sent a piece of writing somewhere because it seemed “too gay/queer” for that publication?

Yes. Too queer, too sexual, mostly too sexual. Most of the time, if I tap into my more erotic side it will unavoidably bring out all the questions I have towards gender, sexuality and their relation to my identity. I feel that cannot always be the center of my creative process though- I want to let my writing to explore every ground. I often wonder if my queerness  through all my writing.

What do you do to procrastinate?              

Drink, make food, loads of food, sex, tumblr, movies – sometimes 3 or 4 a day in a row. Clean every part of my apartment, go to the library and start reading 4 books at the same time, drink 10 million coffees and fidget, then go out & the cycle starts over until I sit down and write.

Has anyone ever said something completely discouraging to you as an artist? Did it take the wind out of your sails or did it drive you forward? Or both?

Oh God, yes – so many discouraging things.  I am somewhat of a binge writer/reader. I think much of it has to do with the comments I receive and the way I absorb them.

My family, for instance, does not understand most of my creative expression: most of it being ways for me to cope with an over religious, conservative upbringing. I think at times I am terrified of writing and then, after a while, I get surges of creativity and I write for days and days.

Can a piece of writing fail, or is that a bullshit notion?

Of course it can fail: its part of the process of getting it right.

I do not mean to say that all writing evolves into good writing, but rather that it is through dead end pieces of work, and constant trial and error that one can really hope to evolve.


Marie Ségolène lives in Montreal, where she founded the Room 22 collective. She is mainly interested in personal mythologies, identity, sound and language.