When Mira Gonzalez's first poetry collection, i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together (Sorry House, 2013), made its way onto Lily Allen’s Instagram feed last month, the tabloids began to speculate that Allen’s marriage was in trouble, and Gonzalez was thrust into the spotlight. It’s not the first time her poetry has shown up on the feeds of the famous: Lena Dunham and Florence Welch have posted references to Gonzalez, who is known for her active Twitter presence. She recently released a collaborative book with author Tao Lin titled Selected Tweets (Short Flight/Long Drive Books, 2015).
PW chatted with Gonzalez about her work, and the interplay between art and social media.
From that book on nihilism, In The Dust of this Planet, ending up on Jay-Z’s jacket to people speculating that Beyoncé named her child after a Rebecca Solnit reference – it seems that various art forms are co-mingling more than ever. Do you think this kind of cross-pollination is the inevitable outcome of Internet life? And what greater implications might this have?
I think that different fields of art, or alternative art, crossing over has been happening since long before the Internet even existed. Movements that were once alternative have been crossing over into the mainstream, and vice-versa, for years. However, the mass availability of the Internet as a tool for self-promotion to all types of artists no matter their background has created a level playing field of sorts. It’s no longer about wealth or access to a publicist, now it’s more about the artist’s ability to market themselves. That is what allows someone like me, an indie press poet, to be noticed by someone like Lily Allen. The implications of that crossover seem huge and important. It is causing literature specifically, a genre that has often seemed inaccessible, to bleed into other genres of art, such as pop music, that are generally deemed as having more appeal to a wider audience. Which, in my opinion, is having an extremely positive effect for people who make art as well as people who consume art.
A lot of times these celebrity posts drive fans to works of art they may have not otherwise encountered. How do you react to the idea of Lily Allen fans reading your work, simply because they saw your book in her Instagram feed?
My goal with writing poetry, specifically, was to make something that could appeal to a large audience by adhering to a short attention span. Poetry has long been something that was only accessible to academics. I wanted to take that same form and make something that could be read by someone who can’t, or doesn’t want to, read an entire novel. Someone who was never taught about ‘literature’ in the traditional sense. I think any type of person can enjoy this book, so if Lily Allen posting a photo of my book helps it to reach a wider audience, that’s great. I don’t care how people discover my book.
The rise of social media, especially Twitter, has seemingly made poetry chic again. Do you feel that’s accurate – or was it never on its way out to begin with?
I don’t feel like poetry was ‘on it’s way out’ necessarily, but I do feel like poetry used to be something that was only truly available to academics — something that required a lengthy and pricey education to be able to interoperate. The rise of the Internet, especially Twitter, has created an attention span that happens to be perfect for the length and form of poetry. Young poets have taken advantage of that and created poetry that can appeal, in content, to people of my generation and in form to anyone who has no past experience with poetry. Hence, the Internet has made poetry accessible to a much wider audience than it ever has in the past.
You expose yourself quite a bit online and seemingly with a lot of comfort – does this random moment of extra spotlight feel any different?
I expose myself a lot online and in my writing, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it feels comfortable to me. In fact, usually writing about myself makes me feel really exposed and embarrassed. I try to be as honest as I can about my flaws in hopes of allowing other people to feel less alone in their flaws, which often times means that I am not shedding myself in a very flattering light. This moment of extra spotlight feels much less embarrassing than what I do to myself online on a daily basis. Mostly I feel flattered.
This interview has been edited and condensed.