IT SEEMS Portland poet Casey Fuller's open to writing about anything: He's published book-length collections made up of letters to the editor, poems about being a receptionist, poems about images of masculinity, and poems about selling fruit. The book he's currently working on is a collection of syllabic poems based on formerly classified U.S. government documents.
"I like philosophy and writing, but I also like boxing and professional wrestling," Fuller says, by way of explanation. When asked about his far-ranging interests, he also mentions T.S. Eliot's idea that the poet is "constantly amalgamating disparate experiences." "If you think about Whitman merging industrialism to spirituality—I mean, that seems incredibly contradictory," Fuller says. "Or Emily Dickinson talking about insects and using the form of the hymn in this ethereal, quick-witted, cognitive way, [it] seems impossible, but she does it."
Fuller's 2011 book A Fort Made of Doors (Floating Bridge Press) is an entire collection of disparate worlds. It's a part insider, part outsider take on the world of men. The poems extend from Patrick Swayze to Romantic poet John Keats, from questionable fashion choices to the prehistoric origins of spray-painting penises on warehouse doors.
In a roundabout way, the poems "argue that the sort of archetype for masculinity that we've been given is kind of a lie," Fuller says. "And you can be any version of the kind of guy you want to be. Or you don't even need to be a guy. You can be whatever kind of gender you want—it's totally open."
The book manages to simultaneously embrace and poke fun at various interpretations of masculinity. "I really like Judith Butler," Fuller says. "[She] has this idea that gender is performed. And we have to take people's performance of [gender] totally seriously. And I think that extends to people being stupid in the way they perform their gender... The way they're performing without any thought. We have to take that seriously, too."
His yet-to-be-published collection, The Work, is a series of prose poems that uses the form of the author bio to create a near-memoir culminating in his accidently being shot by a childhood friend.
The project started when he was leading a poetry workshop in Bellingham, Washington. Instead of writing the typical bio covering his academic credentials and publication history, "I sent this really weird bio," he says. "[It] talked about my life, I guess, more than my life as a writer. It felt really good to write. It was funny and serious and odd. There was something both intimate and distant in referring to myself in the third person. So I just kept writing more of them."
- Casey Fuller
- Katrina Garza
The stories told in The Work include growing up in a trailer park outside Olympia, encounters with a dog that bit everyone in Fuller's neighborhood, skipping high school for two weeks straight, and getting into a bar fight on Christmas Day. For Fuller, the form created "a nice little frame for all these things to fit into."
That said, if Fuller were to write himself a typical bio, he'd have a pretty impressive one. He's had over 100 poems appear in literary journals and magazines. He's published a book collection and several chapbooks. He's been the recipient of poetry prizes and art grants, hosted poetry workshops, taught in Portland's Writers in the Schools program, and shared the stage with distinguished writers throughout the Northwest. All that, with almost no web presence at all.
When I ask about his opinion on the internet and internet culture, he tells me about the nine postcards he's written in the past two days. He tells me about the poems he's written about the internet. He tells me about the books he's been reading. All before saying, "I think it's kind of rad to not be involved with the internet as much as other folks. It just frees up massive amounts of time."
To Fuller, the internet "doesn't feel like what I call 'experience.' It doesn't feel like the world. Things are going on, but I wouldn't call it an experience. So I don't know if you can learn a lot from that. Or maybe it's because I'm an American and I think experience is a big deal. But I do think writing a letter or sending a postcard to someone is an experience."
I ask him if he's concerned about his lack of web presence affecting the popularity of his work, and he stifles laughter, trying to take my question seriously. "I'm not concerned about it at all," he says. "I just want to write. And write poems that only a handful of people are going to read anyway—I realize that. I'm totally fine with whatever happens by not being easy to communicate with. Write me a letter and I'll write you one back."
He's serious about that, too—serious enough to give me his address. Casey Fuller can be reached by mail at 6636 NE Tillamook, #211.
More Fall Arts & Entertainment Articles:
This is Everything
Literary Portland: A Brief Tour