20 Questions with Mourning Goats
INTERVIEW THIRTY SEVEN
When I was asking people who I should interview for the site, Monica Drake recommended Nick Flynn. After doing some research, I saw that he was friends with a lot of other Mourning Goats interviewees and his book, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City was being made into a movie. Here are his answers the the twenty questions.
1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"
I confuse it with the band, Mountain Goats.
2. What did you say when you heard about the big names that were going to be in Being Flynn, the movie adaptation of your book, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City?
It was a long road to the film being made, so I was able to feel many things along the way. De Niro was the first actor attached to the film, and what I said when the idea was floated was, “perfect.”
3. Do you think that being a poet first makes you choose your words more carefully as a memoirist?
Do you mean more carefully than other memoirists or more carefully than myself? I assume all writers chose their words carefully, or else they might not be writers—they might be something else.
4. Do you still teach in Houston? What did you teach?
Poetry, creative non-fiction, collaboration…
5. You're going to be touring a good bit in 2012, do you enjoy it?
I enjoy being on airplanes, it’s just hard sometimes to get to the airport.
6. How did you get away with having Bullshit in one of your titles? Did your publishers push for another name?
Norton was 100% behind the title from the beginning, I have no idea why— maybe because it is a good title?
7. You were a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001, what did this mean to your career?
Career? It sounds like you think poets have careers.
8. Mourning Goats first interviewee, Stephen Elliott, said that Another Bullshit Night in Suck City was "a near-perfect work of literature" how do you take a compliment like that?
I made Stephen my best friend.
9. You've done poetry, a play, and memoirs, have you thought about writing any fiction?
The play is in the realm of fiction, I’d say.
10. What made you land in Brooklyn? It seems as though you've been all over the world.
You have to be based somewhere, and Brooklyn is a good base. I tried to west coast—seattle, Portland, san Francisco—but it was the wrong ocean.
11. You were on set for Being Flynn, did you get to offer any input into the film, or did you step back from it?
I saw my role on set to get the physics of life in a shelter right, and to attempt to avoid portraying the homeless in a stereotypical way—I’m actually coming to hate the word “homeless’” which has become utterly contaminated by stereotypes, perhaps irrevocably.
12. Did seeing such success with Another Bullshit Night in Suck City change anything? Time to write? How you write? Etc.?
When the book came out I had much less time to write, for a year or so. But I knew that wouldn't last.
13. What do you think an MFA does for someone's writing career? Or what do you think it should do?
Career? The day I start talking to young poets about their careers is the day I will stop teaching.
14. I heard that a piece you wrote for the New Yorker was highly edited, does it still feel like your piece or is it theirs at that point?
It becomes a collaboration of sorts.
15. What can you tell us about being in Africa for Darwin's Nightmare? Was it what you expected?
Africa is a big place, we were in one town on the shore of lake victoria, and from that tiny experience I had I’d say one learns very little of Africa from reading newspapers.
16. Has becoming a father changed the way you see things? Your writing?
Becoming a father has changed everything.
17. Was publishing through Graywolf much different than publishing through Norton? How?
18. Do you think that social media is changing how books are sold and marketed? Have you noticed things changing since you started?
I should probably pay more attention to that.
19. What are you most proud of in your writing career at this point?
Again with the career? I'm not a fucken lawyer. I'm sorry, I just can't quite line up what I think of as writing with the word "career". No one I know chose to be a poet, it was more a process of elimination.
20. What's coming up next for Nick Flynn?
I’m working on a book about making suck city into a film, called The Reenactments, coming out in January from Norton.