Miah Jeffra on Celebrating Complexity
An interview with Miah Jeffra, from The Write Stuff series:
Miah Jeffra is from Baltimore. His work has most recently appeared in Glitterwolf, The Citron Review, Jonathan, Fifth Wednesday, Educe and Fourteen Hills. He has been awarded the Sidney Lanier Prize for fiction, the Clark-Gross Award for his first novel, was a 2016 finalist for the New Letters Fiction Prize, and was a 2014 Lambda Literary Fellow for non-fiction. Residencies awarded include Arteles, Anima and Red Gate. He is editor of queer literary collaborative, Foglifter Press.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I tell them I’m an artist and activist and educator, but I’m not sure which is which.
If someone said I want to do what do you do, what advice would you have for them?
The only thing that makes you an artist is making stuff. So, look at stuff, read stuff, consider stuff, play with stuff, and make stuff.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
In some ways. I’m committed to my practice, which feels successful. I do what I love, which is successful. I haven’t overwhelmingly compromised in any particular direction, which feels successful. But if I felt completely successful, I would probably lose motivation. Jesus, that is so Max Weber of me. Forgive me.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Honestly? Figure skating routines. Michelle Kwan is a perfect creature.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
I admired David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper and Prince. They were powerful and vulnerable at the same time. And I wanted to wear all their clothes and do all their abstract gyrations with my little body. And I did, to my conservative family’s dismay. Yeah, last year was a real tough one on my idol-heart.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.
The hike-in camping spots at Big Basin State Park. Redwoods, waterfalls, and that contrast of color between the ferns and the fallen pine needles. Perfection. Another kind? Any week of my childhood in Baltimore.
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
I know my tongue would be sticking out the whole time, which might not exactly be provocative or appealingly sensual.
How much money do you have in your checking account?
How much does this interview pay?
What’s wrong with society today?
Not wrong… concerning: we have become too cynical.
Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?
Red wine. The side effects are delicious.
What is your fondest memory?
Anything involving a stoop. I’m from Baltimore. We love a good stoop. And steamed Chesapeake Bay Crab. So, eating crab on a stoop. Damn.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
What’s your name?
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
For everyone to believe in, engage in, and celebrate complexity, and do so with love.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
It’s the conduit between humanity and the sublime, somewhere on that line. And hell, yeah, it’s necessary?! It provides the pointing finger to the moon.
When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?
Why do we say ‘have’ sex? Isn’t it give sex, or share sex? Or why don’t we just say the verb itself? I’m sexing! Yeah, we sexed last night! It was a giggle-fest! Forgive the chip in the shower tile.
What are you working on right now?
A book of lyrical essays exploring the intersections of art, queerness, violence and geology. I have no idea if they will intersect, at all. I’m just listening right now.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
What I admire most? Work that is aware of itself, and yet isn’t self-conscious. Generous work, that allows itself to be there.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
The politically correct folks that don’t understand why it’s so necessary to be so.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
Searching for Evan Karp!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
A dog humping a pineapple is the only thing that comes to mind. I mean, I live in Lower Haight—there is endless superlative sightings of the human inventory.
What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?
Either will get me out of a speeding ticket.
What are some of your favorite smells?
If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
How about you give me the opportunity, and I’ll surprise you.