Chelsea Margaret Bodnar is made of blood, meat, and bones — the usual suspects. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: The Bennington Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Freezeray, Leopardskin & Limes, Menacing Hedge, and NANO Fiction, among others.
Where did the title, Basement Gemini come from?
Aww, you’re going to ruin my mystique here. So, I place approximately zero stock in the zodiac, horoscopes, and the like—they can be fun, though. Anyways, I read an article (or more likely, a Facebook post) about how a huge number of serial killers were geminis, and it kind of stuck with me. Duality, doubling, and the concept of the uncanny is all pretty omnipresent in horror. And, well, basements are creepy, especially in my parents’ house growing up. Black mold and low ceilings, man. Not to mention that basements are underground and hidden. Plus, it’s a better title than, like, Secret Doppelganger or something. Hidden Double. You get where I’m going.
What led you to Hyacinth Girl Press?
Their books are beautiful, the people are lovely, and I haven’t read a thing from them that I didn’t like. I think my personal favorite might be Like Ash in the Air After Something Has Burned, which is themed around saints and gender, or else Vast Necrohol, which is ostensibly orc poetry, which is exactly as cool as it sounds.
Was it a conscious decision to blend two interests like poetry and the horror genre? Or was that just a topic that came naturally to you?
I think that horror is just easy for me—it has great imagery, weird metaphors, and visceral themes. What people are afraid of says a lot about them, and what’s marketed to scare people says a lot about social climate. If a major movie studio stakes money on the idea that a movie is going to successfully frighten people, the horror element’s got to be culturally relevant somehow. So basically, what’s sold to us as scary? A lot of the times, it’s women, mental illness, and the inevitability of death. And in the immortal words of Hollaback Girl, this my shit.
Jaws IV is one of the most notorious sequels ever made. What convinced you to write a poem about that of all Jaws films? (I mean, it's one of my guilty pleasures, but had to ask.)
Because I love it! Something about the hokey romantic subplot, old lady protagonist, and the roaring shark just resonates with me. I think the first line I wrote was “Brodys! Brodys in banana boats and floaties,” and I laughed at my own joke for way too long. The funniest Jaws IV-specific bit, though, has to be “she doesn’t need a bigger boat / she’s got a new man—Hoagie. / she’s Ellen fucking Brody, bitch / she’s Ellen fucking Brody.” Idk, sometimes you have to make your own comedy, I guess? Plus, Michael Caine’s character is named Hoagie. What’s not to love?
You've mentioned in another interview that you work on your poems on the bus. Are the other passengers ever distracting to you or are you able to hone in? Have you ever missed your stop due to being in the zone?
Other passengers are always distracting. I spend a lot of time on the bus and the train, so I’ve seen and heard some weird stuff. I’ve seen an alarming number of old people reading large print erotic fiction on their tablets. Most of the time, I’ve got headphones on & I’m either listening to music or pretending to listen to music. When I’m doing poetry stuff on the bus, it’s usually editing, which I spend an obscene amount of time doing.
Do you ever listen to music when you write?
No! I couldn’t. I’m a relatively decent multitasker, but I have issues with auditory stuff. If I hear something, I listen. I can’t even do white noise generators.
As an atheist with an interest in supernatural fiction, are you able to be frightened by anything of that nature?
Well, even though I’m a pretty adamant skeptic, the world would be exponentially cooler with ghosts in it, so I’m holding out hope that I’m wrong. As for being afraid of the supernatural, I’ve been terribly desensitized to all of that, but if the storytelling is compelling and immersive enough, I could probably be convinced to feel a little bit of fear. I’m not ruling anything out. When I was a kid, my primary fear was bigfoot, though, and a similar South American cryptid, the mapinguary, which is allegedly a giant carnivorous sloth. I saw it on the discovery channel or something and it scared the hell out of me.
What was your worst experience at a reading?
Cop-out answer—my worst experience at a reading was not being able to attend a reading. When I was in high school, I won the poetry category of the Ralph Munn Creative Writing contest, which is sponsored by the Carnegie Library for student writers. I made the questionable life decision to follow my high school boyfriend to WVU my first year of college, and a mandatory orientation was scheduled on the same date as the reading and award presentation for the contest. I ended up sitting in the basketball stadium in Morgantown crying to Country Roads instead of reading my poem, which was about feeling sad/underwhelmed at the homecoming dance. It was all painfully metaphorical.
Since you have many untitled poems, is it hard for you to identify them in your head? Are they, "The one about the ___"? Or do you identify them with a line from within the text?
I usually identify them with a line. I just really suck at titling. It feels… grandiose or something? Even though it’s totally not.
How do you organize your chapbooks? Do you see them as more of a concept album or a greatest hits collection in terms of organization?
Concept albums, for sure. I go through thematic phases that are pretty distinctive, and usually the form I write in is also unique to the theme. I have way too many documents on my computer with different versions of chapbooks I’ve worked on, though. Sometimes I open them & there are poems I don’t remember writing at all.
[Obvious question incoming.] What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a bunch of poetry about interpersonal disappointment, loneliness, and dating apps. It was a chapbook, but it’s somewhere around forty pages now… These poems address my issue with titling by using the icebreaker prompts on OkCupid as titles (e.g. “One thing you should know about me,” “On Friday night, you’ll find me”). I’m also fine-tuning a poem I wrote for the event Free Fucking Poems About Fucking, which is on March 23rd at the Glitterbox Theater. It’s going to be exactly what it sounds like it is.
Thanks a ton to Chelsea for this interview! Please check her out at the following links and buy everything she has available for purchase.
Buy Basement Gemini from Hyacinth Girl Press:
Rhino Poetry review of Basement Gemini:
"lonely deadgirl seeks unkillable love interest" published over at Freezeray Poetry:
"Jaws IV: Thre Revenge, Sonnet II" at Barrelhouse Mag: