Reading THE DRUNK SONNETS (published by Magic Helicopter Press) makes me want to sit on Daniel Bailey’s lap, take the whiskey bottle from his hand, put it down on the table, grab his face between my palms, squeeze his cheeks and mouth into a fish pout and stare at his irises for a really long time until I find out what’s behind them or he sheepishly tries to smile and shifts beneath me.
I don’t know whether that makes you want to read THE DRUNK SONNETS too, but it should. Come on, I know your soul is like a dry town, devoid of intoxicated passion and plagued by inhibition. Don’t you want a lucid moment of connection for fuck’s sake?
I am obviously too plastered and maudlin (only in honour of the book, of course, I don’t habitually drink on the job much) to convey the winsome heart and boozy wit of this poetry collection, so let’s just ask Danny some questions and you can fall in gin-soaked love with him – I mean his poetry – yourself.
AS: Hi Dan Bailey, how’s school?
DB: school is for fools. i want to encourage any kids that read this interview to drop out of school and hop on a train. you don’t need education and you don’t need a family.
AS: Do you have a girlfriend at school yet? and if so, is it because you ensnared her with your awesome poetic ways?
DB: nope. i’ve never tried using my poetry to woo hot babes. usually, i rely on my yodeling, which might be a mistake.
AS: Whose idea was the DRUNK blog and are all the sonnets in THE DRUNK SONNETS from the DRUNK blog? Or if not, what is the relationship between that and this?
DB: the DRUNK blog was started by me and kendra grant malone. kendra and i wrote a collaborative chapbook of DRUNK poems (still unpublished) and then decided to start the blog and we invited other poets to join in. we mainly invited friends.
all the sonnets have been on the DRUNK blog at one point or another, but i took most of them down after mike young said he wanted to publish the sonnets as a book.
i guess THE DRUNK SONNETS is sort of a spinoff of the DRUNK blog. it’s a frasier to the drunk blog’s cheers.
“if i want to wear a coat made from unicorn fur, then i will.”
AS: What do you usually drink and where do you get it and do you think there is a problem with people who drink alone and do you have a preferred hangover cure or pre-emptor?
DB: i usually drink cheap bourbon or beer (either ipa’s or regular pale ales and sometimes pbr or various forties when i feel like keepin’ it real). sometimes i drink gin. i buy those alcohols at liquor stores. when i go to bars i sometimes wear a backpack and bring a bottle of whiskey into the bar so i can drink cheap. sometimes, friends buy me drinks.
drinking alone is socially frowned upon. i think it’s because drinking is seen as a social activity. if you do it alone it’s like you have a dirty secret, like you may as well be doing heroin or something. i imagine farmers or people living in the country a long time ago drinking at home by themselves because they are isolated, but at least when i do it i’m not doing it in front of my kids or something, which seems a little weird and irresponsible. i don’t think it’s a problem for people to drink alone, as long as they’re not getting completely shit-faced and shirking duties like schoolwork or not showing up to work or not doing whatever it is that they value or have committed themselves to doing. i don’t want to imply that that’s evil, but na na na. having a few beers after work or class or whatever can be a nice thing.
for some reason, caffeine tends to cure my hangovers. i don’t usually get hangovers, though.
AS: What would you say to asswads who might say that these aren’t really sonnets and they are also not really drunk, nor were you yourself drunk at the time of writing?
DB: it’s not a big deal to me that these are not technically sonnets. it’s just a title, sort of a joke title, but at the same time i hope that these poems capture the spirit of the sonnet even if they don’t follow all the constraints of the form. all the sonnets are 14 lines, which was my main reason for writing the sonnets. i felt worn out after working on longer poems. the sonnet gave me the chance to really focus on what each poem demanded. getting it all out in 14 lines is a tough thing to do, which is probably why i ended up writing an entire book of these poems instead of a poem or two. i had so much in me at the time that i didn’t know what to do with. having 54 poems in which to pour all my emotions and ideas worked better than having larger, sloppy buckets of poems. for some reason, i’m imagining the sonnets as dixie cups containing some potent thing, carefully poured out of a water cooler at an office or something. whereas if i had tried longer poems it would have been like putting the contents of a baby pool into 5 or 6 pint glasses.
and going back to calling them sonnets when they don’t meet all the requirements of sonnetry: i called them sonnets, so that’s what they are. i could’ve made up a word to replace sonnets. i could’ve called them peelimps and then the book would be THE DRUNK PEELIMPS but i didn’t do that. i called them sonnets, and i don’t think that is something that anyone can try to take away from the poems. i’d like to think that i was respectful of the form and what it means to write a sonnet when writing the book.
the sonnets themselves are not drunk. they are words, and words cannot be drunk. i was drunk when i wrote the words. no asswad can say otherwise. they weren’t there. my brother can vouch for me. i don’t know how easy he is to reach though. he lives in japan right now.
i was sober when i did edits to the poems.
“the things i said are things that are true to the voice that came out of me and etched itself into the poems”
AS: Are you now or have you ever been depressed?
DB: i have been depressed, but i’m not right now. it comes and it goes.
AS: Natalie Portman, really? not like Zooey Deschanel or Chloe Sevigny or something? Christina Applegate maybe? How do you feel about older women, Danny?
DB: for some reason, i couldn’t think of writing about anybody but natalie portman. natalie portman is a qt and has a sexy voice. i’m not ashamed of the answer i gave sam pink.
i hope every interviewer i ever talk to gives me the opportunity to talk about natalie portman. that could be my thing. maybe natalie portman will google herself and discover me and all that stuff i said can really happen.
the only zooey deschanel movie i’ve seen is elf, so i can’t really judge deschanel because i spent most of the movie trying to understand why people enjoy will ferrell movies.
chloe sevigny is awesome in everything. i’m a huge harmony korine fan, so a chloe sevigny crush is a natural consequence of that.
i had to google christina applegate. she doesn’t seem like my kind of woman, though it’s pretty cool that her first film role was in a movie called Jaws of Satan.
older women are pretty cool. most of the older women i’ve met have seemed more “down to earth” than younger women, like they’ve experienced more and understand it’s pointless to worry about so many things that the younger women still worry about. this applies to guys that i know who are older too. it makes me feel ok about getting older, like maybe difficult things will become easier to deal with, like it will be easier to stop worrying so much and enjoy life a little. i also imagine that i’ll have enough money to live comfortably, like i might be able to afford a pet werewolf or a hot tub filled with wild cherry pepsi. i would allow natalie portman or chloe sevigny or older women to use my wild cherry pepsi hot tub, but i would make sure to lock up the werewolf when they came over to my pad.
“i like to think of poetry as an art form that can be badass, that people can read and feel the same way as how they feel after listening to slayer or something.”
AS: Do you ever think about whether what you write is real or surreal? Do those words mean anything in relation to you?
DB: yes and yes. i think i write things that are real and surreal at the same time. i like the surreal. i like the dark. i like the weird. i’m in a nonfiction workshop right now, and it’s so hard to write for that class because i want to jump off into unreality. i don’t want to live in my past or the past of others. i’d rather see an existence that isn’t, but is because i made it that way, an existence that can be equally as fucked and just as beautiful, but where i say how it is, where i let everything come to being through my fingers on keys. if i want to wear a coat made from unicorn fur, then i will. everything is real if you make it. and dreams can be the most real experiences in life. i rarely experience situations in real life that are half as intense as what i experience in my dreams, and that’s what the surreal does for me. it gives the dream staying power. there it is.
i want to say stupid things. stupid things are more real than real things for me.
i like to think of the surreal in relation to the heart, the very human, very real emotional experience that is constantly happening inside of us every moment that we are alive.
AS: Name some things you love (poets, girls, bands, whatever).
DB: 10 inanimate objects that i love:
youtube videos of deep sea life
things that feel weird when you touch them
statues of elephants
old churches (the buildings, not the institutions)
Portrait of the poet’s cute ass
AS: Your writing makes me feel tender towards you and I think there’s a fine line between tenderness and aggression, especially for men. Was it ever a problem being a sensitive sort of poet boy in Indiana? Have you ever had to be a closet poet? Did you rip your jeans, listen to punk and snarl and pick fights so people wouldn’t fuck with you, or am I projecting again?
DB: i don’t know if i’ve ever been a “sensitive poet.” i like to smash things as much as the next badass.
to answer your specific examples: i’ve ripped jeans, but only on accident. i’ve listened to punk (still do). i’ve only ever tried to start fights while very drunk. maybe you’re projecting. i don’t know.
i like to think of poetry as an art form that can be badass, that people can read and feel the same way as how they feel after listening to slayer or something. it doesn’t have to be a practice of hyper-sensitive people.
AS: I struggle with humor in my writing. Is humor something you ever think about when writing or are you naturally funny or did I just totally insult you?
DB: i don’t know. i like jokes. i wish i could be a comedian. i forget who, but there is a comedian who has a joke that goes something like, “if one of my jokes fails, i just tell the audience that it’s a poem.”
i think poetry has the potential for great comedy and great heartbreak within a single line, and that’s a thing that i love, the space where the two overlap.
also, i’m naturally funny. jk (see what i mean? i was KIDDING. THAT WAS A JOKE).
AS: If I were Natalie Stupid Portman and you could only write one sentence to me to make me fall in hopeless love with you, what would it be?
DB: i would say, “hey, natalie stupid portman, what’s up?”
AS: Do you think jealousy is an attractive trait? (You know, more the kooky than the murderous kind.)
DB: not really, though i think jealousy is a natural thing for people to feel at times, so whatever.
AS: Who is ‘you’ and ‘we’ in your poetry? Is it me? Don’t lie, Dan. It’s totally me. Right?
DB: well, i if i said the “you” is you (which it is), then i would have no reason to ever publish a poem again. i would just send all my poems to you and that would be that. the “we” is whoever me and the “you” is (you).
AS: In some of the sonnets, I feel like shit is very proclamatory. Like I can almost see you with one hand over your chest and the other outstretched, proclaiming, Shakespeare style. Is that weird?
DB: shakespeare is part of the reason i wrote so many sonnets, so that makes sense. i originally intended to write as many sonnets as shakespeare wrote. i stopped about a hundred short. i don’t think i’ve ever read a poem with a hand over my chest (though, maybe i should do that from now on).
Portrait of the poet eating mac ‘n’ cheese, drinking
wild cherry pepsi and reading at home
AS: Are you ever embarrassed or ashamed by the sincerity in your writing? Like do you think about me reading it right now and cringe knowing that I saw something from inside your body and that I can now make a judgement upon it?
DB: i’m never embarrassed or ashamed by sincerity. i think sincerity should be a given in art of any form. i can appreciate irony, but irony doesn’t stick to the walls of my heart the way that sincerity does. imagine if daniel johnston had written a bunch of ironic pop songs instead of Songs of Pain. i feel like i’ve been affected in a positive manner because of daniel johnston’s unabashed sincerity. in fact, i don’t know if i would’ve had the courage to write something like THE DRUNK SONNETS without seeing that it’s ok to be vulnerable and sincere in art with daniel johnston as an example of that.
so no, i don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. i’ll admit to feeling a little nervous that people might create an image of me in their heads as always being the person in the poems, always drunk and without filter. i guess, i fear what my parents would think of me after reading the poems, with the profanity and some comments on religion. i don’t want to alienate anyone.
but i don’t feel embarrassed by the things i’ve said in the poems, because the things i said are things that are true to the voice that came out of me and etched itself into the poems. the poems come first. the poet (me) is not the important thing here. and i feel like that’s the most important thing that i’ve said in this interview. and i really hope that point comes across so i’ll say it again. in fact, i’ll give that point its own paragraph, all caps.
THE POEM IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE POET OR THE IMAGE OF THE POET.
AS: What does it feel like to be loved?
DB: like if every follicle of hair on your body suddenly begins to leak color that falls onto the floor as tiny shards of glass and you are standing in an incredibly, intensely hot oven, and you are wearing ice skates.