Eric Amling and Jon Leon on the bi-coastal, patio lifestyle of Leon’s new book of poetry The Malady of the Century.
My sister worked in a video store down the street from our house in south Brooklyn. It was during my formative years when I dreamed of straight-to-video actresses, the VCR tracking warping the starlets’ bodies into video gamma mutations, the soundtracks having a feigned sensitivity. There was simply money, bodies, and freedom. The moments that occur in that cinema bring to mind the work of Jon Leon. When you are reading his work, there is a soft lens over the page. The shock value is muted by the blasé delivery. But in his work are powerful strobes of truth, the sobering realities from a showman.
Leon’s debut full-length work The Malady of the Century was released in May by Futurepoem. A collection of poetics he would refer to as the “Waste Wave.” A work that showcases a world of pleasure principles. A work that exudes a hypnotic void. Inside this void there is a light that pulses, emanating from this book.
Eric Amling On a flight to Chicago the day after your book launch reading with Wayne Koestenbaum at Envoy Enterprises, I read The Malady of the Century while climbing altitude over Amish Pennsylvania. I was looking at the singular roads through the vast green. I started thinking how your work is majorly coastal, liquid. The urban coast life can be attractive, destructive and inspiring to many, and in The Malady you can see why. Is this something of value to talk about?
Jon Leon Absolutely, that bi-coastal, patio lifestyle, if you will, is a primary motif throughout the book; throughout my entire oeuvre. It’s only attractive to the limit that anything out of reach is potentially attractive. Within the context of The Malady of the Century, that lifestyle isn’t out of reach; it’s just a way of being in the world. It’s not solely about desire. The sequences within the book are about showcasing an experience that isn’t often read about in contemporary poetry outside of Frederick Seidel’s work. Poetry doesn’t reach the very particular luxury-conscious set that is navigating art and culture right now. I aimed to give a voice, through vignettes and prose poems, to that set. In The Malady of the Century, more than any of my other books, I wished to present poetry as a poetic way of life—a life of leisure, pleasure, and thought—refreshed by the very seas by which we lounge. It isn’t excess, it’s largesse and the boredom that follows it. No one actually self-destructs in the book, they just become conditioned by the malady.
Ben Mirov on Ben Mirov.
I feel confronted by space in Ben Mirov’s work. It is a physical presence. A temperate ether. I am reminded of 1987 when I was on Epcot Center’s ride, Spaceship Earth. I was unaware that I was hearing Ray Bradbury’s penned narrative, preparing me for the future world, perhaps. But what was significant to me was around the ten-minute mark, where you were suddenly thrust into a large blackened cavern, some representative flickers of stars in the distance, and below, the illuminated visage of planet earth. I felt vulnerable. I was frightened. But the following three times I looked forward to that moment in space; I felt its weight, I felt the cool jets of air conditioning, I felt holy.
In a matter of forty-eight hours of first meeting Ben, we had traveled 982 miles, played ping pong to ELO cassettes, altered our states of mind numerous times, vomited blood, potentially went to the hospital, saw the demise of our host’s house cat, and did a reading. In Ben’s poetry there is truth, there is proverbial surrealism, there are alternate versions of his one self. Ben is aware of these holograms, these are his chakras. I looked forward to discussing his new book, Hider Roser, out now on Octopus Books, through the following email exchange.
Eric Amling I spent a summer Sunday reading Hider Roser. There was Campari and no breeze. But the tranquil dexterity of the lines made the heat bearable. Being familiar with your new collection of poems in its various stages, I’m still left with the feeling of being in a temple inside of a space station. I feel this is accurate, not as your projected goal, but that the poems leave you in this superior loneliness. Is that okay with you?
Ben Mirov There are several people in the world who have an instinctive understanding of my poems. You are one of these people. I think it has something to do with the way you value images in your work. We have an affinity for images as things in themselves. Not image as a means to an end, but as an end in and of itself. In both our work, images are like points of valence offering many different meanings, not vectors directing towards singular meaning. They are meaning potentialities. I think I realized this by reading your poems, and then later, after I became a devotee of your collages.