SOCIAL MEDIA AIN'T ALL BAD DEPARTMENT: A while back, someone was recommending FreezeRay on a Facebook thread when Ellyn Touchette replied, "I should send them my Gene Hackman poems" to which we brightened up and went, "WHAT NOW YES PLEASE", and to our delight, they were wonderful. Ellyn's "Gene Hackman Suite" was published in FreezeRay #4, and from there, your humble editor bugged Ellyn to find out if there were more poems in the suite, enough for a chapbook. Later this year, THE BOOK OF GENE: APOCRYPHA IN FIRST PERSON will be released on FreezeRay Press in all of its Hackman-esque glory. So we sat down with Ellyn to find out more about the process and the origins of how Gene Hackman might just save your life.
1. Okay, the obvious question: Why Gene Hackman?
Okay, for real this time. It had to be someone, and it had to be someone who could get the job done.
2. Did you research Gene before or during the writing of these poems? Were there movies or roles that informed how the poems unfolded? Or is the Gene in your suite a wholly new version than any we've seen before?
When the idea first sort of showed up, my knowledge of Gene Hackman was about on par with anyone else's. The only ~research~ I really did was to try and figure out what kind of a dude Gene Hackman is. My Gene Hackman is kind of this weird melange of his movie roles, (what I gather to be) how he is as a guy, and mostly what he grew into within the space of the narrative. Can I just answer that entire question with a broad-sweeping "yes?"
3. What was the first poem you wrote in the sequence? Did you intend on writing a suite, or did that happen organically through the process?
The first piece I wrote was "Gene Hackman is a Dick at the Farmer's Market." Initially, my friend David (to whom the book is dedicated) and I came up with this idea of an unspecified piece of media/artwork that detailed a day in Portland, Maine with Gene Hackman, wherein he just acts like an asshole around a variety of scenic landmarks. It kept getting weirder as I wrote out more of the story. And that's fine.
4. Were there other poems or suites out there that got you pumped to do this?
Looking back, I've always really enjoyed poems wherein the narrator interacts with a fictionalized and/or internalized version of a celebrity. "Marilyn," by Cheryl Maddalena, comes to mind as a great example. I like fake people with real people's names, because having a good name makes it hard to keep from being real.
5. In a perfect world, Gene Hackman would have a copy of THE BOOK OF GENE in his heavenly hands. What would you want to say to him about the book?
Jesus, I'd be terrified to say anything to him. "I'm sorry," maybe, or "thank you so much." Mostly I'd just kind of hunch over in preparation to be smacked across the face with a book/lawsuit. Maybe I'd try and give him a hug.
You can pre-order THE BOOK OF GENE until January 13th right here!