by Jason Bayani
We are back with 5 Questions after a brief hiatus (mostly because we went two weeks without a feature). Our slam team selection process begins this week as the first round of semifinals kicks off. Our feature is Write Bloody author, Jade Sylvan. Jade recently released, Kissing Oscar Wilde, an autobiographical novel that travels the familiar territory of the Bohemian artist in Paris, while serving to break and deconstruct the conventions most commonly associated with it. She’s a multi-talented artist and member of the 2013 Boston Poetry Slam Team. She also released the film, Ten, this year and has been published in Pank and Radius.
I’m halfway through Kissing Oscar Wilde. You have a prose style that’s very pleasurable to take in. It’s fast paced without being erratic and feels like whimsy but is more knowing and present than that. You also manage to blend in your poetry without it feeling jarring or inappropriately disruptive to me and I’ve been trying to figure out if that’s due to style or structure. How did you approach melding these together in crafting the book?
It was important to me that the prose itself be pleasing and not invisible. Since the story focuses so much on self-narratization and mythologization, I wanted the writing itself to be a character in the novel. The voice, style, and genre of each different section changes, and each one serves its own purpose. The parts that are written as plays draw light on a very specific audience/artist relationship that I wanted to highlight. I also wanted a lot of different forms and styles represented in the book because I think it’s entertaining and I have a short attention span.
In the book there is a struggle to reconcile sex and intimacy as the narrator moves between primarily sexual relationships and intimate relationships that do not involve sex. There is also the idea of attraction and how it relates to a more fluid idea of gender. In literature I feel that the exploration of an individual’s search for love and connection is is a well to which we will always return. What do you feel this book has to say about that journey?
Oh man. When I set out to write this book, I wanted to break romance. I wanted to explore the ways in which we’re in love with stories more than people, and how these stories are written sometimes before we even actually meet the meat-and-bone person we share the romance with. In the end I feel like our romances and personal stories are something we can author ourselves if we have enough awareness. I also feel like we can author our sexualities and genders.
You have a religious studies degree. I’m curious as to how you think the study of spiritual practices effects a student’s relationship to spirituality and how this work informed your writing over the years?
Spirituality is a huge part of my life, but I’m agnostic in the sense that I don’t think any of us really “knows” anything about the Big Whys. Mythology is the abstract flipside to culture. It’s how we create our values and make social agreements. I majored in Religious Studies because I find that you can best understand people and culture by understanding their religion, and religion can be a lot of different things. I also feel like if you understand how mythology and religion work, you can create your own with intention, and there is honestly not anything that is more powerful than a successful mythology. It sets the direction of the entire human-based world. I try to create new mythologies and gods in my work. I make stickers that say “Art Saves” because I think art is a type of big-G God, whatever God is.
Not only do you have a considerable amount of publishing credits for your poetry and prose, but you are also a musician, you work in film, and seem to juggle any number of projects at a given time. I imagine not only is there some difficulty in managing time, but also moving from one practice to the next. How do you personally manage these spaces in order to give each the proper amount of time and attention?
Generally, I focus on whatever has the deadline, and let the other projects sit until their deadlines come up. I’m always writing something. It’s less a discipline at this point and more a neurotic compulsion. It’s how I know how to exist in the world. If I can write about something, I can deal with it and work through it and move on. If I can’t, I get stuck. I’ve also used it to hide in the past. There was a year in 2012-13 where I wrote two novels, wrote and starred in a film, and produced and performed in tons of shows. Literally the only time I saw people was working with them in some capacity. I almost went nuts. I’m trying to be more of a human being this year. I intentionally booked this tour with some extra days here and there so I could relax and enjoy just being in a place. Of course, I’ll probably use the time to write.
What are your five favorite love songs?
“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell
“Joga” – Bjork
“Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” – Bob Dylan
“Us” – Regina Spektor
“So Long, Marianne” – Leonard Cohen
(“A Case of You” and “So Long, Marianne” might technically be breakup songs, and I believe “Joga” and “Us” are about friendships, not romantic love. As you can see, I don’t understand romance at all.)