Earlier this year I sat down with Steve Roggenbuck, Alli Simone Defeo, and Dani Planer. You can listen or read below!
Katie: Hello this is Katie Clark with Vagabond City
Dani: Uh, I’m Dani Planer
Alli: I’m Alli Simone Defeo
Steve: I am Steve Roggenbuck.
Katie: And we’re gonna learn some things about each other. Alright, first of all: what makes you want to create art? Whoever wants to go first.
Steve: You should go first.
Alli: I’m gonna go first. Um, well, I don’t know exactly because I remember wanting to be an artist since first grade. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I really liked to draw. So I think that it is something, I don’t know if it’s… is that something genetic? My dad is good at drawing. I don’t know. It seems like something just really innate in me. But I think now like, after just like following that impulse to create, my purpose behind creating is like driven by a wanting to like connect and communicate with people.
Alli: and like, it’s a really good way to heal, and like to really like transcend um, to connect in a way that transcends space and time and to share experiences with people that like really move them.
Katie: For sure, alright:
Dani: Yeah, I think I want to make people’s minds feel wet with excitement. Is all I can say. Sorry to…
Katie: you’re good.
Dani: Um, like I think I create art as a means of like encouraging myself to be more present or like more aware of my surroundings and like more excited about them and then like hopefully that will transcribe into someone else being more excited about the things around them. Um, but I think like I had a similar experience to Alli in that like, since I was young I always wanted to do something regarding writing. Um Like, first I wanted to be a journalist and then a novelist and then I went in between that for ten years. And then I said: I don’t have the attention span for either one of those things. Um, so I started writing poetry.
Steve: Nice. I think for me, I did not want to be an artist as a child or a writer. I didn’t even read books but I always liked to be, well, at least past a certain age, I always was trying to be funny around people and trying to make people, other people laugh and stuff. So I think that is sort of one of the main impulses in my work that goes back a long time. I, yeah and I think making art is so similar to so many other things that you do in life. It’s kind of hard to separate out from other things. So it’s tricky but yeah I think trying to make people laugh is one of the main things for me. And then if I just, if I learn something that really makes my life better, I want to share that with people usually. ‘Cos I’m like wow this is nice. I’ll share this, you know.
Katie: I feel that.
Dani: I think that’s interesting cos I think people are like “oh I learned this special thing and I want to keep it to myself” but like I’m very similar in that like if I have something special I want to share it with everyone.
Steve: I’m always trying to share things before I fully learn them myself. Which is, I can mess up on that sometimes but I’m like so excited by the learning that I’m doing that I’m always trying to tell other people about it.
Katie: I get you. So if you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be?
Alli: Cheep cheep cheep. Um… twee, wait, I take back that first one. Small but big.
Katie: Okay, I like that a lot.
Dani: Will you ask it again?
Katie: If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?
Dani: Big blue stuff inside.
Katie: That was four, but I’ll give you it. You can hyphen one of those.
Dani: I was trying to just– first words that came to my mind.
Steve: Wow, that’s really cool though. I feel like I just want to say Hail Satan 666. But, because, well I guess that’s sort of a cop-out because it’s not really an actual description of my work totally but
Katie: If it fits it fits
Steve: It– you know, yeah. I feel like those kinds of questions are really hard to describe things in one word or three words or whatever. I feel like I’m not good at doing them. So I’ll just say Hail Satan 666. It is something that I say a lot in my work.
Katie: That is fair,
Steve: It’s at least… it describes a portion of my work.
Alli: The spirit of it. It embodies.
Katie: There you go.
Steve: I did an art show recently where we painted 666 on the back wall very large. And it definitely contributed something.
Katie: I’m sure, I’m sure something. Alright, so what is your opinion on ridiculousness or silliness in art?
Dani: I love that shit.
Alli: It’s amazing. I think too, yeah. If it’s, I think, I mean it’s always really important. And when it’s done I’m like YES. Like hell yeah, I get really excited about it. And I think that’s something I have been frustrated with recently in with my own work, I’ve been like “I want to be more ridiculous.” And I’m trying to stir up ideas, I’m like bring it on.
Steve: You seem pretty ridiculous already.
Katie: I was gonna say, I read the entirety of your book this morning lying in bed and I was just like Nice.
Alli: Thank you! Yeah, it does, it says thank you 420 and that’s pretty ridiculous.
Katie: Yeah I liked “Alli Simone Defeo
Katie: It was my favorite poem in the collection.
Steve: I don’t know, yeah I like it a lot, obviously. It’s like one of the main things that my work does I guess is just bizarre. It’s like, very surprising. Which then is like I feel like it can jolt you out of what you’re expecting. Like if you go into an art piece or a piece of writing, there can be a sort of like a range a of what you might be expecting and of what you can like easily encounter and not be surprised. But I like if it becomes something… like my favorite, one of my favorite responses I get on YouTube is people commenting “what the hell did I just watch?!” I really like that.
Alli: It seems related to playfulness too. Like ridiculousness and that’s like really important to me: playfulness.
Dani: I think that incorporates like a part of your personality into it and I think people think of poetry so seriously sometimes.
Dani: Which I think it is important for it to be sometimes for some people. But also, I think a big part of healing is being silly and playful.
Alli: Yeah. Play is one of the most really, maybe not entirely overlooked, but I think really I mean overlooked in a lot of aspects of life.
Katie: Sure. Alright, and be completely realistic, you can’t– you might not know, but if you only had one more poem that you could write, what would it be?
Steve: I would be encouraging people to live in the present moment or something like that. I would be, whenever I get a real, somebody who is really asking me life advice or something, like they are in pain or something, because sometimes people do for some reason, and they come to me on twitter dms, and they’re like “I’m struggling, what would you recommend because you seem pretty happy in your videos,” or whatever. And I’m like well, I don’t know if I’m really the person to ask but what I would say is just to like breathe and listen to sounds and feel anything that you can feel against your body and just, if you’re rooted in the present moment, if at least for a moment, or if you bring yourself back there repeatedly, it just seems like it makes life a little bit easier or a little bit more not-shitty and not as painful and bad and I just… that’s the thing that I like truly believe in to the core. And I feel like I can, with a poem I could get people into the present moment, for a moment. And that’s what I would do, yeah.
Alli: I think that I would, I have that one poem that is for the earth after the end of the world. And I think that I would do that poem or, a little different but that is, if I was about to die, or could only write one poem I would do that one.
Steve: You should explain what it is.
Alli: Oh yeah, so it’s a poem that I wrote for the earth after we have killed it. And it’s just I am talking about all of the things that I love about earth like pumpkins and all of the really special things like mountains that don’t like… and the way they exist on earth and don’t exist in other places in the universe.
Dani: I think that all of my poems end up being love poems. And I think my poems would, my last poem would just end up being a very uncensored confession of my… everything, of everything that I’m in love with. Um, whether it be like my best friends or the things that I interact with on a daily basis, or like my bike or something, you know I think that it would all be in one. But I think that it would end up just being me trying to write whatever comes to my head without trying to anything in particular and I have a feeling that it what would come out. Because I think that’s what I think about most.
Katie: Sounds like a good poem.
Katie: Alright, so last question. What things are you currently really excited about? And that could be projects of other people, that could be projects you’re working on, etcetera.
Dani: Me and Alli are working on a project called & thriving that’s an anthology of writing and art by trans, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people ages 0-25. And we’re releasing that in late November or early December. Um, and we got a ton of really, really great content in it and really cool contributions from like very young people and like it’s very exciting stuff. And that’s what I’m super excited about. I think it’s one of the first projects I’ve really worked on. And I think I feel good about it for sure.
Steve: What’s the youngest person you have in it?
Dani: Is he like fourteen?
Alli: Fourteen, yeah.
Steve: Because you said 0-25.
Dani: Yeah, I was looking for some youngs.
Alli: Youngs people.
Dani: The reason I think we did that. My friend from home, back in Atlanta, her little sister is an incredible artist and I was really trying to get her to submit and um, she ended up not submitting, but she is like thirteen.
Alli: Wow, yeah. It’s just so important to, for like, even like I was like way older when I realized, when I was having gender thoughts. But like, I felt like, not lonely, but “oh where’s community” and trying to find community. To be like thirteen! I’m really excited about & thriving too, especially for that reason, too. Wow, being so affirmed at such a young age in your gender and being nonbinary, trans, or gender nonconforming and having the space for that. And being art focused. That’s so cool. I was going to say, I’m really excited about & thriving too. I’m also about to build a rock, which I’m really excited about in my own personal life. I’m going to build a really giant rock that melts wax from the inside.
Katie: Oh nice.
Alli: And I’m starting that project really soon.
Katie: Very cool.
Steve: I’m not really sure what I’m… I’m trying to figure out something epic that I can do during my last year of my twenties, because I’m about to turn twenty-nine. And I would like to do something epic before I’m thirty. Something that’s… I was thinking about just making a list of all the things I want to do before I die and try to do them all before I’m thirty.
Katie: There you go!
Steve: So I might just do that, but
Katie: Thirty, flirty, & thriving!
Dani & Alli: Yeah!
Katie: Oh my god, you’ve got it.
Steve: Thirty, flirty, &
Alli & Dani: & thriving.
Katie: Look at you,
Steve: I’m flirty, too? Is that a saying from something else?
Katie & Alli: It’s from 13 Going on 30.
Steve: Oh okay, I haven’t seen in really. But I make a reference to it in my own poem. I’m also excited to learn more about socialism. And capitalism, and all the alternatives and just finally, hopefully be able to participate in those discussions a little bit more thoughtfully and consciously. Because it is so important to everything going on in the world right now and like, there’s… in most radical spaces it seems like there’s definitely a suspicion towards capitalism but I’m finally learning more about all its ins and outs and all the different opposing viewpoints about it. And that is opening up something, lots to think about.
Katie: Well thank you very much. I really enjoyed talking with you and… any last words, bird sounds, etcetera?
Alli: Thank you!
Katie: Of course,
Dani: What do you say?
Alli: Thank you?
Dani: You know how parents do to children…
Alli: Oh yeah!
Katie: Alright, we can sign of with this:
hi i’m alli simone defeo and i’m a poet, visual artist, professional darkroom printer and a recent graduate from the new hampshire institute of art. i co edit glo worm press, a digital archive and small publishing press and am currently living in philadelphia. im also known as the fastest poet alive.
dani planer likes trains. follow for some good train content at @justababyeagle on twitter
Steve Roggenbuck is a poet and video artist based in Tucson, Arizona. He has published 6 books and performed at over 300 live events. His work is available on http://steveroggenbuck.com .
Katie Clark is an Interviews Editor for Vagabond Lit and a poet. Katie has been published in Voicemail Poems, Alien Mouth, and Nostrovia!, among other kind pages. Tweets @octupiwallst.