Mitchell: Before we get into the serious questions about poetry, performance art, and the normalization of gay culture, let’s play a Marcel Proust, Justin Bieber, and David Wojnarowicz edition of fuck, marry, kill. Whom would you kill, whom would you fuck, and whom would you marry?
Alex Dimitrov: Fuck Wojnarowicz, marry Proust, kill Bieber. But I love Bieber.
You attended University of Michigan for your undergraduate degree. The Homo Life Editor-in-chief Alex Hughes and I receive emails from readers asking us for advice about being gay in towns and schools that are more Friday Night Lights than The Rules of Attraction. We can’t give advice, because we go to Sarah Lawrence, a school that’s queer dominant and straight friendly. What was it like to be gay at University of Michigan, and how did your years there affect your poetry?
If you’re gay or an artist and you don’t want to just sit in your room and read and masturbate, leave suburbia.
We see writers like Marie Calloway and Cat Marnell using the tools reality television stars and pop singers use to promote themselves (social media, pop culture references, and decadence) as mediums to produce art. You’re at the forefront of this movement. How much do you think reality television and social media has influenced millennial writers?
I’m not really familiar with Cat Marnell but I don’t think Marie Calloway and I have anything in common. And I think it’s fine for a writer to not want to engage in the project of fashioning an identity off the page. Me, I’m interested in living as more than one person. I’m interested in that project. And I can do that in the poems but I can also do that online and walking down the street and alone in my room in my underwear. I think everything you do in life should matter like everything in the poem matters.
Like Lana Del Rey’s songs, your poems recall American motifs—highways, flags, and individualism. History taints these images. Do you think the images’ loaded history makes them more interesting artistic references?
I think all of us have a complicated relationship with America and with our past and our families. Lana Del Rey is an extension of Warhol who is an extension of Whitman who was, really, one of the first great self-promoters and champions of the individual.
In our post-9/11 world, the left tends to piss on writers who express love for America. Your poems show a deep love for the country you immigrated to as a child. As a child of immigrants, I find myself defending America when talking to liberals whose families have lived in the states for centuries. Do you think immigrants love the country in a different way?
I’m not sure. I know that I’m deeply haunted by an America I’ve always wanted and never saw. And I feel that way about being queer too. And about being a person. I suppose most things in life are a disappointment so you have to transform them into something else. Hence the impulse to make. To make up.
You’ve tweeted about both Bret Easton Ellis and Lindsay Lohan, the bisexual provocateurs whose collaboration The Canyons comes out in June. Do you see them as more queer than supposed queer icons like the Glee cast and Jodie Foster?
I think Bret Easton Ellis is a great writer. I still remember the chair I was sitting in when I read Less Than Zero for the first time. And I think Lohan is a talented actress even though we don’t want her to be. I mean, this is nothing new, America picks a handful of individuals like her every few years and the pleasure is to see them knocked down, to engage in the hysteria, which is also fueled by the potential of the individual—oh she’s so young and has her entire life ahead of her, why is she crashing her car again, etc, etc. But secretly, America wants her to crash her car as long as they can watch. We are creating the culture. We are responsible. Pointing a finger at Lindsay Lohan isn’t going to help anybody. Do you know what I mean? I like her. I think she’s talented. I don’t want her to crash her car. I want her to make movies.
You often write about Justin Bieber and retweet his tweets. What do you find fascinating about the Biebs? Also, why is “One Love” your favorite song, and what do you think of Bieber’s Lohanesque meltdown?
I would like to write a song for Justin Bieber, though more so for Lana Del Rey. When I first heard “One Love” I thought it was the perfect pop song. I’m interested in Bieber because he isn’t self-destructive and he has a vision of himself. He also handles the hostility directed toward him by taking off his shirt and tweeting things like “love u” and “how’s everyone today?” Sounds like a role model, looks like a boyfriend.
In recent years, GLAAD and the HRC has transformed the culture’s idea of a gay man into a man who wears suits, wants to adopt Russian babies, and refuses to talk about the poop they accidentally ate while rimming a bear over the weekend. ACT UP has reappeared in the news thanks to How to Survive a Plague, and young queers are using social media to reject the marriage mission. Do you think we’re about to see a new sexualized, radical queer uprising?
I just hope I meet more radical queers so I have more people to go to dinner with.
What gays should young queers in high school and college be reading today?
Well me, obviously. But also Eileen Myles, CA Conrad, Tim Dlugos, Leland Hickman, Dawn Lundy Martin, Brenda Shaughnessy, Mark Wunderlich, Mark Bibbins, Randall Mann, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and many others but let’s start with those.
Since we started with fuck, marry, kill let’s end with another round of fuck, marry, kill—this time the Jonathan Franzen, James Franco, and Bruce Willis edition.
No, let’s just keep talking about me.
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Image via Alex Dimitrov