Generally feel that I have been aware of Willis Plummer’s presence for a few years, maybe because of this Muumuu House piece or maybe because of another piece, but I have never interacted with him in any capacity (to my knowledge) until this interview. He started a ‘lit mag’ called Western Beefs which is really a ‘lit email’ and he’s found some
good great writers to contribute. He answers some questions about that project and Twitter and dads and art. Follow him at @willisplummer and @willisdepressed or don’t.
Do you consider yourself a ‘writer’? is that how you identify yourself to others?
not really… i don’t write that much anymore. if i ever met someone who shook my hand and said ‘my name is [name]. i’m a [writer/poet/novelist/essayist]’ i would exit the conversation as quickly as possible.
What are your career goals or artistic goals?
i’m currently learning to code and make websites. i recently made a twitter bot. i also do write poems. i just go very slowly, or i write in short bursts. like last summer i wrote 40 haiku in a week and then didn’t write any poetry for a few months. i think some time in the past two years, my ‘poetry voice’ became more consistent, and it feels like eventually i’ll have enough poems that are stylistically similar enough that i’ll be able to compile them into a chapbook or a full-length collection. i’m not really interested in poetry or writing as a means of supporting myself. maybe i’m turning into a yuppie. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What do you consider as your role in ‘literature’? I mean it seems with Western Beefs and doing readings and stuff that you’ve moved into the ‘fan’ role? Is that good?
i think with western beefs what i’m doing is more about editing/curating, which is a kind of fan-role i guess. mainly i just wanted to find the things/authors that i liked and try to expose more people to their work by putting them all together. i like curation and editing, but it’s definitely a lot of work and kind of uses up the time and energy that would maybe otherwise be spent writing. is that good? idk
i started tweeting from @willisdepressed in 2012, and i had like 5 twitter accounts at the time where i was trying to segment out different parts of my personality so that people could selectively follow only the parts that they wanted to read about. at some point, that started to make me feel neurotic so i went back to tweeting only from @willisplummer.
when i got my first job after college and co-workers started following me, i felt like i couldn’t say the insane shit that i wanted to on twitter anymore, so i revived @willisdepressed. i guess it’s like bleak tweets, insane tweets, or mundane tweets that just seem funnier coming from a depressed egg avatar twitter account. here are two examples.
What twitter accounts do you generally like and/or admire?
i like the following accounts:
you can see some of my favorites here
How is Western Beefs going and how did you get involved with that?
western beefs is good. there are some pieces i’m really excited about going up on the site soon, and i’m proud of all the work that’s already on there. i’m currently reading submissions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
i decided to start western beefs in the spring of 2014 while i was hanging out with david fishkind. he was working on a novel at the time that i really admired and we were talking about how there weren’t very many places that felt cool to publish on. it seemed like a lot of publications would just put out anything that was sent to them and he said something like ‘you should make a thing and publish an excerpt of my novel.’ i decided to do it so i built a template for how the site would work and how the content would be formatted. i wanted it to be like bear parade; a bunch of little paginated ebooks where the work was really put upfront. once i had a mockup of a piece, i solicited friends, teachers, and some poets who i admired but had never spoken to and started publishing things.
I think the email idea is good one. Why’d you decide to go for that format?
the idea of announcing new content via email was inspired by miranda july’s project we think alone. she was sending these weird collections of emails from famous people every monday to anyone who signed up on the site. when that project was going on, i was interning at a publishing house and i really liked coming into the office and having this thing in my inbox to read through. it felt kind of exclusive and insidery and i wanted to try to emulate that. i’ve since realized that it’s also a smart marketing move because it’s helped miranda july build a huge email list to promote her new projects.
Is it [western beefs] actually funded/supported by Supreme?
Oh, I seriously thought it was.
yeah. mashing up the supreme and western beef logos was inspired by a t-shirt zachary german made where he printed a quicken box onto a supreme blank t-shirt. apparently he wore the shirt in the supreme store and the employees thought it was an official collaboration. it’s always seemed funny to me to ‘hijack’ branding and it seems like a potentially good way to give legitimacy to something like a poetry website. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Any writers that you think are ‘underappreciated’ right now?
i feel like i can’t really say anything re: underappreciated because it’s all subjective and i’m not that in touch with the poetry world and what it’s appreciating, but i can definitely talk about writers i like.
morgan parker has been doing great work for a long time and i’m happy that she’s been having a lot of success. tommy pico’s ‘nature poem’ excerpts have all been great; i’m excited to read the book. i want everyone to read marshall mallicoat. i really admire that he’s been keeping a blog in a post-blogging era. this poem by wendy xu is 100. heather christle is great. matthew rohrer’s new book surrounded by friends inspired me to write for the first time in a while. joshua beckman was the first ‘serious’/’acclaimed’ poet that i really liked. danez smith is killing it. rain by jon woodward is incredible. maybe the saddest thing by marcus wicker. crapalachia by scott mcclanahan. chad redden. i’m excited to read kimmy walters’ book and i think everything shal nirvanus makes is dope. also i really admire nina freeman’s work; she makes these vignette-style games that force you into her life in a similar way to the best confessional poetry.
I really like dads of shutterstock. What gave you the idea to start that?
i really like ‘dads’ as a cultural phenomenon and i used to do a lot of content marketing at my old job, which meant that i was on shutterstock a lot looking for free images to accompany my blog posts. when i did a search for dads the results were pretty incredible so i decided to share my findings with the world.
Have you lived in new york city long? How has your relationship with the city evolved, changed, etc?
i’ve been in nyc since 2010. i went to school here, and when i moved to new york i had this kind of romantic idea of what it would be like. i’m from a small town in oregon, and i thought like i’d just always be going to concerts in lofts and seeing art or whatever. it’s not really like that for me. the good parts of new york are disappearing really fast and everything is turning into condos and expensive bars. i went to b&h deli yesterday though and i’m happy that they were able to reopen after the explosion on 2nd avenue. i got kind of burnt out on going to concerts and i don’t enjoy readings/literary events, so i do a lot of staying at home and watching tv. there’s a lot of networking and ladder climbing in new york and scenes are all shitty. i live in brooklyn and work in brooklyn but sometimes it feels like i could just live in the suburbs anywhere and have a similar but more comfortable lifestyle. at the same time, i can’t really imagine living anywhere else.