Featured Nonfiction/Hybrid Interview: K Chiucarello
Flock, we got my dream piece, a cross-genre wonder about turning into an alligator. Join as as we talk hybridity and messiness below. Haven't read their piece yet? Check out "Iodine" here.
Ashely Adams: First off, this is such a beautiful piece. You submitted as a hybrid piece. Would you be willing to discuss your relationship with playing with genre with this piece and maybe in other works?
K Chiucarello: Thanks so much! I'm so happy it found a home at Lammergeier. It's great to see publications fully embrace hybrid writing.
I’ve always been awful at sticking to genre. If you give me a format to work within, it’s very difficult for me. When I began writing I was trying to produce poetry and someone gave me the suggestion of letting my work breathe because it was clear that my words were getting confused and constrained in a poetry context. I thought of that as a failure for a long time until I started reading other work that floated in the in-between (T Fleischmann, Diana Hamilton, Lucy Ives, Catherine Lacey, etc). I focused on defining my own style and voice with little regard to structure and things began to flow a bit more naturally. In the pieces I’ve written that deal with body or violence, the stories are rarely linear and rarely fit into a neat fiction, non-, or poetry box. By letting go of genre I feel I can grasp at pieces to gain the whole rather than starting whole and breaking it down. And since my current work is heavily trauma-based, and trauma is so unforgiving, it feels most representative, unhinged, and successful when I start in Place A and unravel throughout to land somewhere else entirely.
AA: Reading this piece, it really encapsulates what we set out to do “a celebration of the grotesque”, playing with ideas of ugliness and beauty. Can you speak a bit more about bouncing between the playful, fantastical, and terrible reality?
KC: I took a workshop at Wendy’s Subway with Anelise Chen who has a spectacular column in the Paris Review about becoming a clam. Her work really inspired me to project my writing onto concrete objects that differ substantially from the original body telling the story. It gives you a bit of a pass to blur the lines and create by fault this ‘whimsical’ ideology with a wink and a nod to it. I do think that when all barriers are off, or when you can speak from a Leonard Cohen song or from an alligator’s point of view, you are forgiven almost anything and rhetoric translates seamlessly. Writing about this relationship within the box of ‘nonfiction’ was incredibly taxing emotionally. I felt I could never get the picture right. I felt if one emotion was conveyed the other had to suffer. Especially being two years removed from the relationship, there were so many things I wanted to be sure came across in the final stories I was telling of it.
Escaping violence has always made my body feel ugly and celebratory simultaneously. I constantly feel isolated within my experience and then surrounded by community at times. So it was only with this workshop was I able to explore it from a playful point of view that captured way more than writing within one straight narrative could have. It felt good to finally laugh about the violence rather than drown in the heaviness of it. And bouncing between the realities of disappointment, gratitude, sadness, lonesomeness, relief is akin to healing from this in real time. So ultimately I felt I owed it to this story to have the narrator always be squirming around a sort of flatness while also building a slow burn of relief.
AA: To turn briefly towards “the discourse”, I think marginalized writers face a unique pressure in representing their identities to the broader audience. As such, there’s a lot of anxiety and push back in exploring the messiness of these identities, a thing I think is really allowed to exist and be examined in this piece. Could you talk a little about your thoughts and approach to this?
KC: My experience with violence was within a queer relationship that was incredibly nuanced with multitudes of identity, so it’s invaluable to me as a writer (and as a general human) to constantly look at identity through a shifting lens. There is always going to be a murkiness with representing your identity and examining your identity, whether that’s your own identity versus society or whether that’s overlapping identity within a relationship. I think to present hard and fast on gender or sexuality totally fails us as queers and it fails a reader who may or may not also be queer. It perpetuates a system that we as queer folks are trying to outrun. It perpetuates a picture of glossiness that none of us can live up to. A lot of my current work on gender and body operates in these shape-shifting realms. I want to see identities grow and/or contract on the page. Freedom for change, admittance of fault, constant dissatisfaction with the current is more interesting and true to me than examining and presenting one side as a blanket fact. And as difficult as it can be at times, it’s very important for me to present my flawed partner or another flawed identity as capable of wrong but also capable of change and pain and joy. I give myself that allowance and it’s always deserved when pulling another marginalized identity in.
AA: Finally, the most important question, what is your favorite bone?
KC: I’m embarrassed I had to look up proper terminology for this! But my final answer is the radius bone on your forearm. That's the correct term, right? I feel like my lower arm strength is totally indestructible and the strongest part of me. My bread doughs will tell you that. I’m now kind of into writing a piece from this bone’s function in the body….
K Chiucarello is a non-binary queer writer and editor living in Brooklyn, NY. They currently oversee submissions for Susie Magazine and were last published in Trampset and Slaughterhouse. They have work forthcoming in XRAY Lit and Nightbird. They can probably recite 93% of Leonard Cohen's catalog on-demand. Twitter quips on gender and writing can be found @_kc_kc_kc_.