Search
  • guts publishing

Kes Brookland Interview - Cyber Smut

Kes Brookland's poem 'Document Recovery' is in our Cyber Smut anthology, release date 15 Sept 2020. For pre-orders visit: gutspublishing.com/books


Are you primarily a poet, or do you also consider yourself a prose writer?

Curiously, I consider myself a prose writer first and foremost, but I’ve had far more success with poetry - make of that what you will, I suppose. There’s a particular, visceral joy in poetry that can’t quite be found in prose: it’s at odds with the very deliberate, analytical tradition in which I was taught to write, and that feels very worthwhile - if also a little uneven. Sometimes you want to make something precise and clockwork and beautiful, and sometimes you just want to scream, and have that be beautiful.

What are you working on now?

I’ve given poetry a break for the moment, in fact - you’d think short-form stuff would be ideal during a pandemic, when our attention spans are so limited, but I’ve found my attention drawn to long-form prose instead. I’m about 35k words into a novel-length piece, ​Phantom Limb,​ a story about communication, abuse, the limited extent to which we can ever really know the people we love, and confronting unpleasant truths amid the end of the world. It’s been on my mind for a year or two, and at this stage writing it feels like a kind of exorcism - you know when you go into such detail on a character defined by self-hatred, neuroses, and their own looped and inescapable thinking that it starts to get to you a little? That.

Your bio says you're a political scientist. Tell us when your interest in political science began, and how this has impacted your life?

I’m in the frustrating limbo between Masters and PhD at the moment, but, yes, political science is where the heart is, academically speaking. I used to be very theory-aligned: I could quote you Kropotkin line-by-line, and so on. That changed over the course of my Masters, though, less because I don’t personally value theory but because it generally isn’t highly-valued. I don’t really believe in the idea of the ivory tower - it’s often used to demean theorists, and the arts and social sciences more generally - but in the absence of tangible results from your research, study can get a bit alienating. With the digital spaces and cybersecurity work I’m looking to take on in future, I’m looking to blend theory and practice in a way that might actually do some good. If I’m lucky.

Can you clarify what you mean by your writing being ‘concerned with digital spaces’?

Around a decade ago, digital spaces seemed to have incredible emancipatory potential, from online libraries to neat little html experiments on MySpace: art, knowledge, self-expression, all distributed freely without even the hint of a profit motive, with tools available to twelve-year-olds in their bedrooms. Some really extraordinary, experimental art was made, but it never made the jump to a lasting or respected tradition, and the political connotations never added up to very much. That potential was never properly realised, and a process of colonisation took place instead, with all that entails: homogenisation, corporatisation, and - if I may beat a very familiar drum - corporate control of the means of production. That old chestnut! So, these spaces represent both the cutting edge for political and cultural developments, and the newest and most visible battle in a whole sequence of very long wars. It’s an exciting place to be.

Would you be comfortable talking about being non-binary?

Certainly! It’s a fairly familiar story, I don’t doubt. I’ve 'been' nonbinary - inasmuch as that's a concept that makes sense, which is its own issue - since about halfway through my undergraduate work. I interrogated my feelings on the matter, and decided to present as such, assuming that this would make little difference to anything and was primarily exploratory more than anything else. Instead, it was almost instantly life-changing. I’m aware that might sound strange, that some changed pronouns and clothes were enough to so utterly improve and enrich my life. But it did, in functionally every way. It was the acknowledgement that gender was meaningless to me that actually gave it - or its absence - meaning. It puts you in an interesting place vis-a-vis ‘trans discourse’, too - you tend to get less active abuse, but exist as a bit of a joke or an artifact of curiosity instead. Which is miserable, of course, even if it is worth it - and worth it, even though it is miserable.

As a writer who is also non-binary, do you filter out publications? Do you do any extra research to make sure they are LGBTQ+ friendly?

Oh, would that I could afford to be so selective! In practice, unless I’ve heard something actively bad about a publication, I’ll be happy to send a submission. That said, actively queer-friendly publications do tend to catch my eye. It’s encouraging to see that you’re welcome, and that encouragement increases the rate at which you send out submissions - but you kinda have to turn up in places where you’re not welcome at some point or another. That’s just part of being queer.

Your work is concerned with digital spaces, the darker corners of interiority, and the end of the world. The second has very interesting wording and it almost begs to be interrogated. What have you discovered about ‘the darker corners of interiority’?

I appreciate the framing of this as something exploratory: we can get a little stuck inside our own heads, in certain ways of thinking, in conventions and incentives that form a sort of geography of their own. That sense of looking around and seeing bits of yourself reflected back at you, so many it makes you feel nauseous - that’s something that has never been more of a challenge than it is today, and something I want to keep writing about. Something nasty lurking behind a mirror.

What are your favourite conversation topics?

There’s a whole bunch of candidates, but I think it’s fair to say that I enjoy discussing the future, in some way or another. That might seem weird, given how broken the future feels for a lot of us, but to grapple with that is animating, and worthwhile - or at least, as worthwhile as anything we can do. A lot of political science is about how to get from A to B: what processes make that transition, and what events signpost these changes. That’s a fascinating thing to apply to cultural matters, and how political and economic damage can deform societies, psychologies and entire epochs of art. There is a potential future free of all the pain and oppression around us, after all - it’s hard not to think about what steps might lead us there.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Perfectibilist. Transmutationist. Idealist - in the philosophical sense, that is.


* * *


Kes Brookland is a writer and political scientist who came from the middle of nowhere, and so can't really complain about being somewhere. Their work, which has previously been published in Riggwelter magazine, is concerned with digital spaces, the darker corners of interiority, and the end of the world. The first two make for far better research objects, but all three make for excellent poetry.

35 views

©2020 by Guts Publishing. Proudly created with Wix.com