Queers Fail Better – Q / A with Mat Laporte

Queers Fail Better – Q / A with Mat Laporte

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?

I’m always abandoning. I don’t think my way of doing things is the “right” way; it’s just the best I could come up with at the moment. So pretty much everything I’ve tried I’ve abandoned for something different, or “better,” maybe?

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

Save it for sure. “The Experimental Boy” poems, for example, are made up of fragments of things I’ve written, or found and other people have written or found, cut-up and re-deployed. My writing is almost never a flowing, continuous thing but an assemblage of disparate particles of things I gather and save. When I end up making something that is cohesive, complete or unbroken, I’m shocked and appalled. I’m interested, right now, in the idea of the ‘serial’ poem. What I like about it is the idea that each poem doesn’t have to be a polished thing, that the point is to move on to the next one, the sequence will have its own narrative thrust that will take even the person who wrote it by surprise. One of my models is Ted Berrigan and especially his work The Sonnets which can be thought of as using a method similar to Cubist art. Fragments from different perspectives are collaged and refracted into a new take on perspective, multiple perspectives, or no perspective? The serial work is always changing and surprising you, the one who is writing it. I like that.

What do you do with your rejection letters?

I save them and print things on the opposite side. Paper is expensive!

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

“You just go on your nerve,” Frank O’Hara said. Even when it’s a “conceptual” piece, with a pre-planned concept, I have to hit the ground running immediately or it fails me and I don’t want to do it anymore. Nerve, always.

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

Confusion is one of my natural states and I have not-a-great memory. I find this is good for making art. If I’ve failed, I’ll be too absorbed in some other maelstrom of things, to notice or spend much time worrying. I’m just grasping at straws. What is self-confidence? Who am I trying to convince? Is this done? Who am I when I finish this sentence?

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

I don’t think so.

What do you do to procrastinate?

Use your imagination!

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?

I’m easily discouraged so it’s not really fair for me to blame it on other people. I send people poems and other things obsessively. I inundate my loved ones, looking for affirmation, pity, shame or a dinner invitation. I get discouraged often. It’s no one else’s fault.

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

Oh yeah!

Mat Laporte is the co-founder and co-editor of Ferno House, a micro-press publisher of poetry and fiction. He is the author of the chapbooks Demons, Chance Poetics and the forthcoming collection, Billboards from Hell. He lives in Toronto.