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Saturday, May 31, 2008

interview with PhillySound poet Ish Klein 

(self portrait photo of Ish Klein)


When I finally win the lottery I so faithfully play each week to feel connected to my white trash family, my friends will still remain my greatest fortune. Sounds corny you say? I don't care! My friends are a highly energized creative bunch of fucking geniuses who stay up all night bent over their pads of paper, hammers, paint, and whatever it is they drink and smoke to keep attuned. I'm with them on all accounts, and feel an almost morbid devotion to our lives, but it's good and Loving! The drive to tax our creative cells and transmorph shit into gold is what's the better part of coming to this warring, greedy, murderous planet. FLIP THE SWITCH ON!

Ish Klein is a dear friend who tirelessly CREATES! Films, puppets, poems, sewing, hammering, creating solar systems in her kitchen with string and metal strung over the cabinets and table. I'm a fan of everything she does! She slowly moulds puppets from scraps of garbage, and gives them names, and lives with them, developing their personalities and tastes in music and food. Her dedication is surreal in the best sense of the word, meaning Super Real. The Real-Real, I like to think. (Something Cid Corman and I argued about more than once, he thinking Fantasy, me thinking The Authentic World!) She then builds them a set design and films them into life, these films which always excite their audience!

She's honest and candid, and this makes for GODDAMNED GOOD interviewing! I'm sure you'll enjoy learning more about one of my beautiful, amazing friends in true sanity, ISH KLEIN!

CAConrad,
SPRING 2008, Philadelphia!


CACONRAD:
Ish you make puppets which eventually wind up in the films you make. You make them by hand from things you find on the street, and other places where people are discarding fabric, buttons, etc. How do you connect with your father in this, considering that he made a living as a garbage man when you were a kid?

ISH KLEIN:
Yes. It's true I make puppets with stuff that I find or with old clothes that have worn out.

My dad was a garbage man and then he fixed garbage trucks and eventually he would sell garbage trucks. My world has always been comprised of beloved so-called trash.

I guess I developed an appreciation for discarded objects through him because he'd always come home with this or that and say, "the stuff people throw away, tsk, tsk, tsk." He seemed to care about metal objects.

He would like to find bicycles and parts for machines; he is a Car Freak and as such was always looking in junk yards for parts and stuff. He was riding bikes with my sister once and had her be the lookout while he hopped a fence for a distributor cap (or some such thing). He got arrested and my sister had to call my mom. Apparently he mouthed off to the policewoman who pursued him. I admire his commitment to completing machines. I like to find missing pieces to things. I'm good at finding things that people need or have lost or want.

He was/is committed to machines, older machines but I like to make animals. That's a difference. I love animals. And I am interested in spiritualizing matter. I love the puppets, I'm making a kingdom for them.

The cast-off world is the freest one. Nobody powerful is paying attention so you can do what you want.

That is what I like and love. It connects me with him. It's one of many connections we have.


CONRAD:
Your latest puppet creation is exciting, a dolphin named Herman Silica. The dorsal fin of a dolphin helps stabilize swimming, but with your dolphin there is a patch of jewels in place of the dorsal fin. Do you mind telling us about these jewels? Where did you find all the pieces to create him, and any films in mind for him to star in yet?

ISH KLEIN:
These jewels represent the ten spheres or planets with their corresponding colors. 1=crown (white), 2=wisdom (silver, grey), 3=understanding (indigo), 4=mercy (blue), 5=severity/will (red), 6=beauty/love (yellow), 7=eternity (green), 8=Splendour (orange), 9=foundation (purple), 10=Kingdom/earth (green, brownish red, brownish blue, and black).

I found 3 of these beads on 21st street; they were on a piece of a broken charm bracelet. The other stuff I just found on my travels when I'm looking down. They are qualities that Herman possesses and shares. There is a mirror in his mouth so that everyone can see themselves in him.

Yes he is slated to be in a new movie, he will be a sky guide for Mir and Kosmi (my two spacedogs) Dottie Lasky is going to help me make the video. I don't know exactly what the plot will be. Maybe it will be a wild ride through the strings and membranes of space. I'm not sure yet because I'm still making the set in my apartment.

CONRAD:
It makes me happy that you and Dorothea Lasky are making a film together, two of my favorite artists and poets! It's also a perfect match because you both have a similar sense of the world and the fantastic.

Another similarity is that you both have unusual voices, both on the high side. And you both have gotten a lot of shit about your voices from others over the years, sometimes from other "artists", accusing you both of being childish for the way you sound. I know you're familiar with the attacks Dottie received MERE DAYS after her first book was published, attacks from self-proclaimed "feminists" who didn't attack her work or her book, but THE SOUND OF HER VOICE, saying that she was childish, and this led them to claim that her voice was attracting the wrong kind of men, and that she didn't know how to behave herself around men. It was incredibly vicious and stupid, and wound up saying nothing real about Dottie. In fact in the end it said volumes more about the limitations and mindless brutality of her attackers, not to mention the obvious envy and jealousy, attacking her right after the release of her first book.

Tell us about your experiences with your voice and being attacked for it, BUT ALSO TELL US about how amazing your voice has been for you! Your voice truly is a unique experience, and you're doing voice-over work. You're proof that being different can sometimes be nothing but a gift!

ISH KLEIN:
Well, it's true that people have made fun of my voice pretty much since I can remember, for some reason I never processed that my voice was all the off beat, so I took it personally. I absorbed that fact that the world is full of mean people who will reject you for whatever reason. I also absorbed, unfortunately, that I am somehow a bad person who inspires meanness in others. Those are two by-products of ridicule: self-doubt and alienation.

Nowadays I tell myself that if someone mocks me for something I can't control it's just their own limited self that can't deal with anomalies or let wild things grow and I think it's too bad for them. I do not want to be a replicant, my goal is to actually be myself. Replicant mindsets oppress me.

Regarding recent developments in connecting with my voice: I like to voice my puppets. When I see them in a video and they have my voice I like my voice because I love my puppets. Also I've been singing more. I like to sing at work, ("Get Happy" songs from "The Fantasticks", various Kinks songs etc.) and I sing when I ride my bike and stuff like that. Freedom activities.

CONRAD:
You have an episode of your You Tube show THE BOO SHOW where you read, "I'M AMAZING, I'M A FIREMAN!" one of my favorite poems! That's the episode with Superdog I believe.

Tell us about THE BOO SHOW and how the concept came to you. And please tell us too about your amazing crew of friends who help produce the show.

ISH KLEIN:
Thank you! The Boo Show was created with the intention of sharing things that I find completely inspiring. It's for everyone absolutely everyone but I hope for the show to be a comfort or companion to people who may feel all alone. Boo! is like a ghost sound or a little friend or a shock. Mainly it's a fun time. I have a fun time.

Scott R. Johnston, pretty much my best friend, does all the lights and sound and camera stuff and he edits it. Andrew Geller helps with mysterious technical stuff and he is the wise old young person who bails us out. Marc Brodzik of Woodshop Films lets us use his studio and equipment. It's his world, we just appear and vanish and pay him back with our love. He is a lovable man. We're all kind of an extended family.

Each of us is committed to our own art. Scott is a burlesque luminary and he also makes videos and draws and brings people together, Andrew is a super talented editor and he shoots rock bands and Marc is an artist (painting and design) and is angling to be a media mogul.

I met Marc and Andrew through Scott. The Historical Meetings. The place was an actual wood shop back then. Scott and I used to visit Marc. As I recall it seemed like there was always a motorcross video on. There was a bit where this guy broke his teeth riding and his friend had to pull out the stumps with pliers. I don't know why I'm bringing that up. Maybe it has something to do with friends helping each other out.

CONRAD:
You and Scott were also in the MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA Spidermania! Tell us about this. It was one of my favorite musicals of all time, and I LOVE musicals! The costumes and music were terrific! You wrote your own lines I think? It's something I've talked about with friends who love musicals, and they WANT TO SEE IT. Will it be playing anytime again, soon, you think?

ISH KLEIN:
Yes. Beth Kellner is a huge fan of Spiderman. She and Scott are a couple and they merged their talents and came up with Spidermania. It played at Saint Marins and the Fringe Festival last year, I think it was last year. I'm glad you liked it, it was a magical time, it had everything: videos, burlesque, Jimi Mooney singing, Beth singing, a Big Band and wild fight scenes.

There is a dvd of it floating around. There were also videos that were made specifically for the show and I think they are on myspace or youtube. Maybe if you Google Spidermania they will appear. Beth and Scott did all the costumes and there was Jay Davidson's big band. It was really quite an event.

Yes, I wrote some of the stuff for the Spiderman Roast and I was also the Vulture who is a mutant (I'm not sure if the Vulture is a super hero, it's unclear to me.) I will ask Beth and Scott if they plan to post Spidermania on Youtube.

Beth is working on two different projects one called "Kroftwerks" and a Spock Opera so I don't know if she's going to revive the show. But who knows? if there's public demand, it could easily be revived.

CONRAD:
Tell us what you're now working on? And also please tell us about your newly finished, beautiful long poem UNION! It's in three parts: one in water, one on land, one in air.

ISH KLEIN:
Right now I'm trying to put together some type of narrative for Herman, Kosmi and Mir. And I'm working on poems and trying to stay inspired.

Thank you for liking Union! It's not really one poem. Each poem is sort of a step towards Union! It's really more of a desire for Union! It begins in water because of times when I thought I was drowned but I came back to life. It ends with the poem Act I: Against Death. That poem is a reminder that I am a result of other forces beyond my ego and they have some ownership of my territory.

I recently read that to transcend death one must become an animal (I think) because animals do not seem to know they are going to die. I don't know how this can be proved but I have been just experimenting with imagining myself as an animal where I have magic strength and am at home in the wild with God. So I guess that's another thing I'm working on: changing into a new animal.

CONRAD:
Where did you read that "animals do not seem to know they are going to die"? The opposite has always seemed to be true to me, and it's been my experience that they are more in touch with the natural process of death than we human animals. The very fact that animals live in fear of death from predators. Or how dogs for instance will go into the woods to die alone, knowing they are dying. When I was a kid growing up in the country we had an old dog who did that, and it was explained to me that she knew she was dying and wanted to be alone. And the pigs on my aunt's farm took it hard when watching a piglet die, I remember that well. There are so many stories I've heard about animals knowing death was coming, or how they acted upon finding a dead cub or other member of the flock, herd, family. I'm just curious about this information you say, only because it's been in my interest in my life to learn from animals about HOW TO die. I feel as a human animal that I'm a bit handicapped for death's approach. Death pisses me off, and will piss me off while I'm dying, I'm sure.

ISH KLEIN:
I mis-paraphrased it. Here is the quote from the book Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology, "Art is possession by animal spirits. If consciousness itself arises from an awareness of death unknown to animals, then all human culture must begin with the magic of becoming animal to defeat death."

I guess the assertion is debatable.

Probably animals are not preoccupied with death as humans are and maybe they do not question the validity of their behavior as humans do (I don't think that's bad). I'm sure animals know when they are going to die.

As an aside, do you know if Mercury is still in retrograde and/or where I could find out this information?

CONRAD:
Thanks for clearing that up about the quote, and Mercury will be retrograde May 26th to June 19th. There are online calendars for retrograde schedules. The one I turn to the most is Astro Profile because they take the time to consult the ephemeris as deeply as possible, not just showing the actual retrograde cycle, but also which days leading up to and following the cycle are most vulnerable, and they even highlight in red the erratic days. Many people FEAR Mercury Retrograde, and while I don't look forward to it because arguments and drama can be draining, it's a time when I know I try to be quiet. Trying to be quiet doesn't always work of course, but, it's at least a time for us to build on listening, and thinking before speaking, something most of us need (I KNOW I DO!). ALSO, it's a time to WRITE! Lots of writing, endless writing it seems, can be done during this cycle.

Tell us about your Love for Philadelphia, from being someone who has lived in different places. What inspires you most about our city?

ISH KLEIN:
I am inspired by the friends I've met here. I moved here with my friend John; we needed an affordable place, we'd come lastly from Chelsea outside of East Boston which was a bit of a crack neighborhood at the time. It had it's good points (an old timer community who invited us into their piano bar, what a great place that was!) but too many things were happening that were threatening our lives and happiness.

Before that I lived in Tuscon Arizona, before that Paris, before that Iowa City, before that Queens, before that rural Tennessee before that Brooklyn, before that New York City and before that Long Beach New York. They all have good qualities and I guess I kind of feel formed most by the New York of the eighties but that place doesn't exist anymore.

Philadelphia is where I came into what I would consider my own power. So you can see I'm a late bloomer, I've heard that this is what happens in adolescence but for me it was in the mid (and post mid) thirties where you feel like the things you do will result a desired effect as opposed to living life as a death sentence; serving time instead of having time serve you. All this stuff happened in Philadelphia! And plus my friend John has also come into his own as a great comic book artist and has found an incredible partner so there is magic here; it stands to reason.


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