Brittany Billmeyer-Finn on Being Urgent and Invisible at the Same Time
An interview with Brittany Billmeyer-Finn, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:
Brittany Billmeyer-Finn is an Oakland based poet, community organizer, arts educator and shopgirl. She is a co-curator of the bi-monthly living room performance series,Manifest. Her work can be found in some local publications, such as Where Eagles Dare, Mondo Bummer, and The Poetic Labor Project, and is upcoming in a few more. You can also find her work at Dusie.org, Issue #15.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I usually reply, “for love or money?” or one/all of these: poet; community organizer; arts educator; shopgirl.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I am definitely a successful procrastinating overachiever.
I pulled a tarot card today. I often pull from my Collective Tarot deck in the mornings to start my day with something to think about, a sort of lens to look through. The Collective Tarot is a wonderful deck created by a collective of queer radical artists. I pulled the Eight of Bones. The Bones suit is likened to the pentacles which is often attributed to fortune and success or lack there of but the Collective Tarot is thinking about fortune and success in a more embodied way, an anti-capitalist way. An excerpt from the description for the Eight of Bones reads, “In the age we are living in now, time is a linear construct. Something to race against.” Time seems relevant to the cultural impact of what success might look like given one’s race, socio-political, gendered context. So what might my expectation of success be as a 30 year old, white, cis woman with a middle class upbringing? I live pay check to pay check, I have a home, food, an overabundance of clothing. I have a master’s degree. I moved across the country. I have published my poetry. I have meaningful and collaborative friendships, a partnership, a dog, a car with a dent in it, I’m taking a singing class, I watch so much TV, I smoke pot, my bank account is currently overdrawn, my apartment is full of altars, I’m chubby, I am a supervisor at a consignment shop, my health insurance is covered by my work… are these examples of successes or failures? It seems that success and failure are not binaries or opposites but instead convergences… simultaneous and linked.
So… yes and no and both.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
I am pretty into the “unlikely animal friendship” videos. Watching an elephant and a golden retriever reunite warms my heart. Also, admittedly, clips of The Ellen Show. I’m thinking specifically of the episode where actor Kristen Bell freaks out about her birthday sloth.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
There is some family lore that we are related to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I don’t know if it is true but I like it.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
I’m sure if you asked my 10 year old self who I admired most I would say my Mom. It is still true. We have the whole single mom/only child thing going… have you ever seen Gilmore Girls? Well anyway, she was the first feminist I ever knew, she is a life long educator, and has always been someone I can talk to… we are different in many ways and those differences have been a journey for us. But my mom has never shamed me or punished me for being who I am. She has always tried to see things from my perspective and taught me how to do that as well. We are both Pisces. I was born four days after her birthday. Pisces are old souls and I think we have had many lives together.
Also, when I was 10, I wanted to be a mermaid with gadgets and gizmos a-plenty.
How much money do you have in your checking account?
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
It certainly feels necessary to my own story and the development of my imagination, of my coping skills, and self-expression. As I have gotten older it has gotten more complicated, more political… art making has sites, communities, aesthetics, risks, processes and ideologies in which one analyzes, creates through, with and against.
I think about art in its contexts and its successes and failures, its visibility, its invisibility, its hierarchies…
I remember something from… maybe it was an interview with Myung Mi Kim in which she discusses political discourse and action around radicalism, race and poetry and what I got from it is that poetry or art is a thread in a matrix of meaning… how it matters and doesn’t matter at the same time, how it is urgent and invisible at the same time. I think of art in the context of institutions, in protests, between friends, lovers and oneself. I think of all the work it can do and wants to do…
So yes and no and both.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve been in a bit of an editing hole the last few months. I am excited to say my manuscript the meshes is fully edited with the help of my friend and poet Cosmo Spinosa and is now being interpreted into an artist book by Kate Robinson of Manifest Press. She is going to make a small edition of the project, which is a book of poems, a poetic essay and play iteration written through the filmography of Maya Deren. You can follow her progress on this project and many others on Instagram at MANIFESTPRESS.
I also finished a manuscript, This Tender Heart, that deals with queer love, the mundane, identity in the process of art making, relationality/positionality, memory, tenderness and sincerity.
I’ve started some mapping of new projects. They are currently outlines in a notebook or mind maps on big sheets of paper or jotted down between to do lists in my planner.