#CopingWith is CCM’s interview series run by managing editor Joanna C. Valente
Ashley Farmer’s books, “The Women,” which came out on March 11, 2016, and “Beside Myself,” which came out on September 30, 2016, came out from CCM this year. Of “The Women,” Megan Martin has said, “Reading Ashley Farmer’s The Women is like reading a cubist painting. These scavenged voices collide, contradict, entertain, horrify, and surprise as they create a dizzying and complex conversation about what it means to be a woman at this particular moment in time. In poems that are by turns witty, beautiful, and moving, Farmer investigates the disturbing chasm between how women are seen and how they see themselves. Even as she unapologetically documents the power that systemic oppression has over our daily lives, her women emerge as brave, hungry, and resilient. The Women simultaneously made my blood boil and made me feel less alone.”
As such, we interviewed her about her books, although instead of asking her boring lit questions, our managing editor Joanna C. Valente asked her about everything else instead, like what her favorite meal and apocalypse plans are.
Describe your favorite meal.
Green curry tofu. Beautiful, simple sushi that tastes like the sea. Tostadas and tamales from Merced’s in Long Beach. This chicken soup I make for Ryan and me that takes quite a while but is worth it. A very occasional filet. Scallops. Wick’s Pizza in Louisville, KY with a good beer and my friends. Anything I’m eating at my mom’s or my mother-in-law’s houses where there are siblings and babies and grandparents and dogs around.
What music do you often write to, if at all?
I listen to all kinds of stuff when I write, everything from the Kinks to Elliott Smith to Rachmaninoff to Otis Redding to Sibylle Baier. Right now I listen to Beethoven’s concertos while I write—they make my brain feel alive, but kind of gut me in a good way. I also like driving around, listening to music, and thinking about a writing project I’m working on. I’ll get new ideas that way sometimes.
What are three books that you’ve always identified with?
I’m thinking about this in terms of books I identified with a long time ago that still resonate with me today:
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan: My grandmother had some Brautigan books at her house and I read Sombrero Fallout one summer when I was maybe twelve. It blew my mind. Brautigan is weird and wild and kindred.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin: I read this in high school and it was frankly the first time I’d been introduced to a “serious book” by and about a woman. That was important to me.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Like she did for other women writers I know, Plath showed me at a very young age that there was a different way of interpreting the world. I just recently went to back her work—almost accidentally—and I’m fascinated by her again.
Choose one painting that describes who you are. What is it?
I work in an art museum, so I love this question. Priscilla Johnson (1966) by Alice Neel is a painting in the Speed Art Museum’s collection in Louisville, KY. I remembered visiting that museum when I was a kid and she stuck with me. It’s a larger painting with a real presence, and I loved that she seemed restless and thoughtful and intense and opinionated. Years later, I had the chance to work at that same museum and see her in person on a regular basis, again and again. I still love her.
Choose a gif that encompasses mornings for you.
What do you imagine the apocalypse is like? How would you want to die?
I deliberately don’t imagine either of these things, if I can help it.
How would you describe your social media persona/role?
More observer than participant. Effusive liker. Listener. I come to learn and pay attention to people who know more than/differently from me. That feels like my role right now. I also come for bird photos and panda videos and to watch my friends’ babies grow up.
What’s your favorite animal and why?
My cat, Karate. She’s a huge tuxedo cat with a disagreeable personality. She wakes me up every morning and attacks my ankles if I walk past her the wrong way. She once got me in trouble with the TSA when I tried (and failed) to fly her across the country. She barely tolerates me and she won’t let me hold her, but I love her so.
What do you carry with you at all times?
Pink lipstick, loose change.
Ashley Farmer is the author of the women (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016), The Farmacist (Jellyfish Highway Press, 2015), beside myself (Pank/Tiny Hardcore Press, 2014), and the chapbook farm town (Rust Belt Bindery, 2012). A former editor for publications like Atomica Magazine, Salt Hill Journal, and others, she currently serves as an editor for Juked. Ashley resides in Salt Lake City, ut with her husband, Ryan Ridge.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016), & Xenos (2016, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Feminist Wire, BUST, Pouch, and elsewhere. She also teaches workshops at Brooklyn Poets.