There is a gypsy goddess from the dark side of the moon living in Texas under the guise of Melanie Browne. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing her for Pulp Metal Magazine. She is well known for her strong, quirky flash and abstract poetry, what you don’t know is she is a former sculptor, art teacher, and most recently chooses to express herself through dance. She is editor and creator of the nostalgic and bizarre The Literary Burlesque , and has authored a poetry book called Heaven Is a Giant Pawn Shop. Links to her works are provided below.
JM: Okay, so let’s start with something fun to warm you up. I’m going to sneak up on you sideways so when I hit you head on it won’t hurt so bad. Ready? Mel, what does “over-cultured” mean and why do you want to visit Vietnam?
MB: Haha. I was reading someone’s poem or something on Facebook, and they used the word “over-cultured”, I thought, what in the hell does that mean. I never did figure it out, but it sounds fancy. I want to figure out what shoes to wear when that word takes me out to dinner. I would like to visit the Mekong River in Vietnam because I have heard about some unusual fish that swim in it. I want to see what color it is.
JM: What kind of fish?
MB: Big ones. Fluorescent ones. They do circus tricks.
Jm: Speaking of circus tricks do you have any you perform to get words to leap through the burning rings of fire? Maybe some dancing elephants in the backyard to inspire the muse?
MB: It’s funny you should say that. I was taking S factor classes up until a month ago. It’s pole dancing, but with elements of ballet, and yoga type movement mixed in. People get weird about the word “pole”. Lol. But really, it’s just strenuous exercise. The whole time I was taking it I felt like an athlete. I never felt so strong. It was great for my self-esteem too. Now I sound like an S factor groupie. I’m not, but I did meet Sheila Kelly, who started it. She’s awesome. As far as the muse, I think it’s a lot about finding different things to feel passionate about. Finding your playful side. I have also heard that you have to read to write.
But it has to be something that effects you in some way, gets you to look at life through a different lens. But the muse is a mysterious thing, isn’t it?
JM: Nothing like a ‘Rebel Yell’ Texas gal swingin’ her yoga booty round a pole to get her mysterious muse roused up! I’d hire you for my circus.
A preacher’s wife once suggested to me I should seriously consider becoming a pole dance instructor. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, she insisted it would be to teach wives how to please their husbands only, and that was ALL. Ah! Moments like those make life worth living!
So you work out on a pole for strength training. You put your passion into learning new skills and physical art forms, inspiring the muse to come out and play. But I am curious, would you say that a pole is a phallic symbol? And if so, could you say that a pen is also phallic symbol…and if this is true, do you feel the rise of 21st century technology, such as the use of the keyboard replacing long hand, has had a Freudian impact on the literary culture of our generation?
MB: I can definitely say the pole is a phallic symbol! I never thought about the pen, though. It’s probably more phallic in a dream than sitting on a table, for example. But I think that Freud’s theories have affected our understanding of ourselves, and therefore made us more interesting. Poetry is a lot like a dream, and some stories and novels are as well. The modern writer is probably using all of the tenets of psychoanalytic theory without even realizing it half the time. Maybe text messages are the new Rorschach ink blot test, or even Google perhaps. On the other hand, it has made life harder, technology. We have to try to focus our attention in ways that matter. But if by “Freudian” you meant more sexual, that’s not a bad thing. That’s why I named my Journal The Literary Burlesque. Writing should be fun, I like the new Pin-up, Burlesque, pole dancing, steam-punk feminism. I think I went out in a million directions here. You probably went to Starbucks.
JM: You should be given a million dollars for that answer, and then you could take me to Starbucks. I find it mischievously curious you bring up your latest creation The Literary Burlesque under the previous subject matter and I love your description of the Ezine.
Why did you start the Literary Burlesque, and what is your future vision for it?
MB: I enjoyed being a co-editor at Leaf Garden, and decided to start my own journal. I sat at the table and brainstormed names for one.
I decided that one had the best ring to it. I think it worked, the name stands out and it has a unique vibe. I am getting a steady amount of submissions
and a decent amount of page views. Eventually I might expand beyond poetry and flash fiction but it’s generally what I write myself so I enjoy reading other people’s work in those areas. One of the synonyms for Burlesque is dark humor by the way. Life is ridiculous and ironic. You have to laugh. You can cry too, but laugh more!
JM: I love the word Burlesque, and think it’s perfect for what you’ve got goin’ on at your site. Let’s get to some of your own personal work, which can be found just about everywhere on the net! It seems to me most of your stories centers on relationships, but in an absurd manner. It’s like Van Gogh meets Lovecraft (and that is a compliment). The way you express your fiction is simple, and sometimes buoyant, but the subject matters you approach show there is a lot of thinking going on under the calm lake. Where do your ideas come from? And do you intentionally write from this sort of abstract point of view?
MB: First of all, thanks for that. It’s interesting you use the word abstract. I studied art in college, not writing, my painting were abstract and my sculptures were absurd. I made these giant Papier-mâché sunflowers and in the center of each one was a photocopy of Charles Manson’s face.
I thought that it was a disaster, but one day I walked through the hall where they were being displayed and two girls were laying there drawing them in their sketchbooks. I was always fascinated by the dark side of the hippie culture. How Woodstock eventually became Altamont. I always end up on the dark side of the moon. Sometimes ideas come from memories, snapshots from life. Other times I draw inspiration from music, movies. Sometimes it’s more like I can see the picture of it in my head, especially if it’s fiction. It’s trance-like. More mysterious. But yeah, I think I’m always trying to understand how people really communicate with one another. It took me awhile to realize fiction needed some dialogue. I’ve heard you’re supposed to make your character want something, like a glass of water. My characters want stuff they see in the movies. They want to dress like Olivia Newton John from Grease and get high on absinthe while chasing red balloons. You write mostly horror right? How do your characters relax after a long day?
JM: Closets. Black paint. And dental floss. Enough about me, and more about you…
I’d like to talk about polar points of view and opposites. This is in almost every single one of your stories or poems. It fascinates me. It singles you out among the cookie cutter lemming authors of today. It says, I have many points of view or at least I can see from many points of view and I’m not afraid to state it point blank even if it means absolutely nothing- damn it! How did you get to the point where you feel at ease putting yourself out on the line?
MB: Lemmings are just trying to survive. I went to YouTube after you asked me this question and found a video about Walt Disney films faking the suicides of Lemmings. Maybe they chunked them off the side of the cliff!! Is the Lemming suicidal or was Disney manipulating us for dramatic effect? Everything has two sides. Everyone has an alter-ego. I find it very hard to be an independent thinker, a unique individual. People will say “let your freak flag fly,” but that’s really hard to do, even in writing. I have a lot of societal censors that live inside my brain. It can take a while to get them to drink enough vodka to be quiet. I don’t think I’m really at ease yet. I long to be Jeff Spicoli of writing. I want to do battle with some humongous waves. I want to jam with the Stones. I want to learn about Cuba, and have some food.
JM: Suffer the little lemmings! Let’s switch back to musing. Obviously, you are a very artistic person, expressing yourself through dance, sculpture, and writing. Who influences your work more: Olivia Newton John or Charles Manson? Are there any others who inspire you?
MB: I remember in sixth grade, the P.E. teacher played Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s get physical,” and some of the parents thought it was too suggestive. Also, Xanadu rocks. Billy F’ n Idol inspires me. Although I didn’t like his dreadlocks phase. Didn’t work for me.
JM: Ha! I must have been too busy Rockin The Cradle of Love and missed Billy’s dreadlock phase. So, Mel, men & women. Mars & Venus. Cats & dogs. Do we create as differently as we think? Do you think the playing field is level when it comes to imagination?
MB: We aren’t that different when it comes to imagination. We have the same needs for self-expression. In trying to answer your question I ran across a website where someone was wondering why their own bookshelf was mostly full of books by male writers. They thought perhaps it was because many fiction books written by women focused on dysfunction, abuse, family history, etc… I think maybe women need to step up their game. Let’s become great storytellers, lets become entertainers again. Let’s throw a little Gypsy Rose Lee into our craft.
JM: Gorgeous. And I agree. Your gypsy thoughts reminds me of a lady friend who recently blogged about a tradition called mummering where one collects whatever is at hand in their house and throws together a sort of a disguise or a masquerade, if you will. Friends and family meet up and throw a party with instruments, food, and drinks. It’s all spontaneous and done this time of year. I’d like to think that was a woman’s idea… mischief, entertainment, and love rolled into one. So what do you see in your future, Mel? Do you have any ‘mummerings’ of longer stories or novellas perhaps?
MB: I love that! As far as longer works, I think if it’s going to happen, it will.
I’ve got to learn a little discipline, though. I’ve got to learn not to wrap things up
so quickly. For now, I love the shorter forms, but never say never. I think
If it happens, it will be a novella, of course. I’ve already figured out the page counts
of the novella, to see what I can get away with! I just read Point Omega by Dellilo,
and it was just as satisfying as a longer tome.
JM: I look forward to that! Last Question, and this is a sort of trick or treat
for you and PMM’s readers.
Stephen King says, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” Based onthis truth, my last question to you is this: What is one of your deepest, darkest secrets or desires? Truth or fiction. Your choice. And we will leave the readers to decide which is truth or the ‘truth inside the lie’.
MB: I would like to purchase Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and walk around with a chocolate Martini in my hand answering the phone with “Fallingwater, Melanie speaking.” That would be kick ass.
Thanks so Much Jodi, this has been great fun!
Your mind is a gem, Mel, and this has been an absolute gypsy tango on the almost dark side of moon delight on and off the record. Thank you for engaging with the pirate crazed interviewer of PMM.
Discover the mind of Melanie Browne Below
The Literary Burlesque
Mel’s fiction on The Literary Burlesque’s editor’s site
Mel’s Pulp Metal Fiction
Heaven Is a Giant Pawn Shop
Mel pole dancing
Jodi’s Favorites: The Wild Beast & The Revolution.