In anticipation of the big kick-off book release party of Great Weather's latest anthology, I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand, on Thursday night the 21st of August at The Parkside Lounge, we wanted to introduce some of the poets who will be reading that evening to you. Tessa is a writer who may not be familiar to everyone on the New York poetry circuit. But she is immersed in the downtown art scene, and I think you will be hearing a lot more from her in the coming months and years.
TESSA LOU FIX is an artist, writer, and scholar. Her work has been shown in various New York City galleries and spaces including the famed Chelsea Hotel. Currently she is studying Trans Politics and Feminism, and producing her punk-wearable clothing line TessaLou. In addition, she is working on a multimedia project about abandonment connected to the Holocaust and forgotten Jewish histories, and writing a series of essays about the Erie Canal region of Upstate New York. Her short book, White Trash Lesbian: A Post Sandy Illusion, is forthcoming.
DL: Tessa, you are such a multi-faceted artist: you're an exhibited visual artist, you design a line of clothing, you write essays. How do you feel these different disciplines nourish your poetry?
Tessa: I love this question because actually I feel that everything I do is an expression of my poetry. I really realized this when I got into making short art film and saw that the films were actually each a visual poem. I was lucky because since the time of my birth my father recited Dylan Thomas to me in dramatic verse. I started writing poetry (formally) when I was a very young child, even before I could read and write, my parents would write down what I dictated. Even then I could hear the birds and the tractor engine and my own thoughts combine to make this lyrical rhythm of words; i.e.. a poem. Or in the city (I grew up in Chelsea in the 70s) the shouting on the street, the trucks braking, my parents arguing, all that was like one giant poem.
My photography also expresses some internal narrative I am having about the exterior world. The hope is that the camera brings it together in a single or series of images. My clothing expresses a conceptual patterned chaos I visualize and plays with iconic imagery with a slight twist. Just to clarify what I do, I silk screen images on clothing. I often also re-sew clothing to change its form before I print on it. My clothing is Punk Rock Couture and can be found at http://tessalou.co and at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tessa-Lou-tm/304944386193998?ref=hl.
I also love the academic format of writing an essay. It is such a satisfying process to me. Recently I did a series of essays on The Mohawk River Valley where I live in Upstate New York, which explore the economic, social and historical factors that culminated to get the culture of Upstate to where it is today. How fascinating and poetic in its own way!
All of this is poetry to me, the words that I put together in stanzas are just one specific type of expression of it to me.
DL: You have an ongoing book project, White Trash Lesbian: A Post Sandy Illusion. What can we expect to experience when we lay our eyes on this?
Tessa: Actually that book has been partially absorbed into a book I am putting out with poet Puma Perl, and photographer Mark Hanlin this year, about The American Summer experience. It is a photographic and poetic journey depicting the gritty yet beautiful American truth in the eyes of, say, an 11 yr old boy at the county fair, or first love and the rev of a Thunderbird at the El Dorado drive in movies (that place actually exists up here), or the soft sadness of a crack addict on the street in Gloversville, one of the small run down cities in The Mohawk River Valley. All of these towns and cities where once vital industrial hubs starting with the Erie Canal and the Industrial Revolution (not to mention the native populations that were violently marginalized but still exist in small quantities). Gloversville literally was the glove making capital.
Obviously it will fuse poetry or prose with photography. I am also hosting an event up here in Sharon Springs on the 30th of this month called American Beauty/American Dirt where Puma and I will perform together. It will feature poets from across all of New York State! A friend from the Palm Beach Poetry Festival (an annual amazing workshop I attended last year where I had the absolute honor of working with poets Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Tom Lux) will be coming from Ithaca to read! Among many more.
DL: I know that you have a beautiful young son. How have you and he been enjoying the summer?
Tessa: As a poet and deep observer there is always part of me that is not fully fledged in whatever experience I am in, so even up here in the bursting green beauty of nature and the dusty honor and dilapidation both, of depressed rural towns, I am somewhat of an outsider- even to myself. I am always composing the next poem, collecting evidence to figure how and why people live the way they do. That said my son and I are having a wonderful time at the community pools and snack bars (haha- the pool is free up here!), at my friend’s vegetable farm, at the local unbelievably luscious and dramatic swimming holes with friends, playing in the woods (I’ve never had a tick) and trying to learn how to roller-skate. Really, I don’t know why I thought I would be able to do that after 22 yrs - it was so hard! But the sweet thing is that there are literally roller rinks up here that are like $2 a rental and have major DJ parties on Friday nights. We also love going to the county fairs, and riding the ferris wheel with Motley Crue on in the background, if you haven’t guessed already. We are also going to volunteer on a wonderful very low profile, rescue horse barn together. I am building a Facebook page for them too. Oh my son is taking guitar lessons and apparently conceptually understands the music, chords and mathematics in a way that the teacher has never seen (not a gift from me at all). Mind you, my son is 5.
I want to add that my son is an absolutely magical and wondrous little person.
DL: You are involved in a multi-media art project regarding forgotten Jewish histories related to the Holocaust. Based on your experience working on this, how do we preserve the history of the East Village and Lower East Side so many of us grew up with and loved - that of the punk clubs, the Polish restaurants, even the spots we copped dope.
Tessa: I am working on an ongoing project about this amazing little town called Sharon Springs which is lined with abandoned and decaying old bath houses and hotels. These hotels where part of a community of vacationers centered around the healing natural sulfur springs. The Jews originally came there to vacation because of the anti Semitic attitude that kept them out of Saratoga Springs around the turn or the century and later after WW2, the German government gave reparations to holocaust survivors and they went there to heal. Later very religious communities chose it as their vacation spot. It is mostly empty now. So you see it has a very interesting and haunted past. Abandoned structures of all kinds, and exploring them, is like finding clues as to how people lived! It's very exciting to me. There is a small wonderful gay community and art community there now (this is where I am having my event this month). So this question of preservation and history is very interesting and deep to me. It has many implications about how we as a society view our past, our history and what "progress" and the capitalist paradigm we live by, mean.
As far as preservation of the LES and our old spots, all we can do is keep the arts community going. We can make sure art stays vital and accessible to all in a time when everything is becoming so commodified. A lot of it is just plain sad, and we obviously don't have the money to exclusively save places, but we can keep writing about it, keep staging events as you guys do! It is important to document and keep talking and of course support the local businesses that are still here.
DL: We are all excited about the inclusion of your poem, The Chosen One, in the new anthology. The title has a double meaning, does it not? Give us a little background.
Tessa: As you intimated the title The Chosen One refers to a number of things. Jewish people are called the Chosen People, by god - or Hashem (haha- god in Hebrew) and in the poem I refer to being a Chelsea Jewish Princess and all the connotations being a JAP has had in my life and in society at large. Also the school I refer to in the poem and the whole downtown faux liberal but very privileged attitude, had a big effect in my life growing up and who I am today. I was never quite “right” for it and was shunned in many ways, though it was supposedly so liberal and accepting - unless you don’t fit in - haha. The Chosen One also refers to being an addict, a hooker, a suffering soul - all that stuff talked about in the poem. A special soul, in other words.
Don't miss Tessa and all the fantastic poets on Thursday as they let go of their stars!
I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand - first NYC Book Launch
Thursday August 21
7:00 to 9:00 pm
The Parkside Lounge317 E Houston St New York, NY 10002