In which we ask a contemporary American poet the same questions Teen magazine asked now-pregnant teen idol Jamie Lynn Spears; see original interview here.
Amanda Nadelberg is the author of Isa the Truck Named Isadore (Slope Editions, 2006), winner of the Slope Editions Book Prize chosen by judge Lisa Jarnot. Her poems have appeared in journals including Jubilat, The Canary, Octopus, No, Conduit, Tarpaulin Sky, McSweeney's Sestinas, Poetry Daily, and Unpleasant Event Schedule. She currently lives in Minneapolis, and will be attending the Iowa writing program in the Fall. We caught Amanda on a break of a reading tour in the Northeast, and we're glad we did.
BAPB: You’re in Jr. High, right?
AN: No, but one time I was. Bigelow Bulldogs class of ’96. I was one of the valedictorians. I think the speech was about saying hello to people. Whatever.
What are you most looking forward to?
Living near my family some day. Having the balls to just up and move to Western Massachusetts. Having all my friends in the same place at a big birthday party. Vacation. Next year I will be in school again and I will have school vacations. I will go places!
What kind of car do you want?
I have a car. It is a Mazda 3 hatchback and it is black and it has so much room inside, you can fit a bicycle in the backseat and a baby in the glove box. I bargained the price with the slimy man because I was trading in my old Volvo which was awesome, had heated leather seats and a turbo engine. No shit, it had been my mom’s station wagon. I bargained awesome and then I drank all the hot chocolate I could stomach, from one of those instant Swiss Miss machines. So I don’t want a car. I have a car already.
What's your favorite subject?
I have three: poetry, people-watching and keeping up with culture. Before I got my new job I used to look at the People Magazine’s website everyday. Now I have fallen behind and off the wagon. Some things stay with you, but for instance, I was listening to that “Touch My Body” song on the radio the other day and I heard how Mariah Carey married Nick Cannon on some island. Where did that come from? I didn’t know she was the marrying kind since she had that bad relationship with the record executive. If you don’t keep up with the news, some news can really side-swipe you.
Do you play any sports?
I have always been a swimmer. I was on the swim team starting in 1st grade. In high school I was a captain. I swam the backstroke especially. I’ve recently found some home videos with my first ever swim meet. It makes me incredibly happy to watch them. I had knee problems and had to stop swimming breast stroke and butterfly in 5th grade. I am short but I am an excellent swimmer. I am terrible at all other sports. Mr. Asailey, the gym teacher in elementary school made up this kind of baseball where you could stay on any base as long as you wanted once you got there. Whenever I got to first base I would just stay put until our team got out. This is not a euphemism for sexual activity. I am talking about baseball. Mr. Asailey was always tan. I think he went to Florida a lot.
Are kids in school treating you differently because of Nickelodeon exposure?
Kids in school are treating me differently because I am a poet and that is not very cool. Kids at school are, like, Stop writing poems, why are you always writing poems. I tell them to put their heads in the ground, in fewer words. I have always been sensitive. In 3rd grade I was pulled out of class for a special poetry workshop for a few kids. That’s when this all started. I wrote a poem about saying hello and goodbye in many languages. The last time I watched Nickelodeon was during the Clarissa Explains It All years, that and Salute Your Shorts. Do you feel me?
You have a new puppy named Ali, right? How is she?
I have no dog. I can kind of imagine why people have dogs but I’ve never had one. If I had one it would be a boy dog and I would name him Pilkington and he would not smell or shed. Do you call that hypo-allergenic?
How old is she now?
Pilkington would be old enough that we were good friends but young enough that he was in no danger of dying anytime soon. That is the perfect dog age.
She's a mix, right?
Pilkington would be a mix of quiet and funny. Having never had a dog I wouldn’t mind him not being pure bred. And he would not lick my face. I don’t like that.
What are your feelings about Ali?
She is not my dog, mofo!
Where did you find her?
You just don’t give up, do you. In a fancy dog buying store.
Do you dress her up?
Yes, all the time.
Do you try to coordinate it with what you're wearing?
Sure I do. Actually, when I was 3 years old my mom’s best friend and her family got a dog and named her Mandy. They claimed it was after the Barry Manilow song, but come on. Mandy used to jump on me and she is a big reason I was afraid of dogs for so long. Therefore, no one has ever called me Mandy. Manzy, yes. Mandy, no. I am no longer really afraid of dogs.
What is your fashion style?
Glad you asked! I’m really into shapeless clothing. My friends are forever trying to have an intervention—it’s been going on for years but it’s never worked. A lot of my clothes are from 9th and 10th grade. I stopped growing in like 7th grade. I have things I like that are nice, like pretty blouses and nice skirts but I never know what goes with what. I can’t find whole outfits I’d be comfortable wearing out of the house. I dress up at home for myself all the fucking time. But I am modest outside of the home. I don’t like to show cleavage or nothing.
Yes, I don’t like to show cleavage all year round. But I just got new nice shoes my friend calls them “grown-up shoes” I think because they are not clogs and they are delicate to look at.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to go for sodas in an automobile. I never really drank alcohol in college but now that I know how, I drink beer and I like to dance at parties. But not how you might imagine dancing to be—mine is an untraditional form, but not in a hippy dippy poet way. I throw punches and I jump a lot, often to what one might call an “undanceable song” like much of Smog, or “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen—that ones gets me every time. Once someone described my moves as “a unicorn stomp” but I like to call it hoof love. The other week I engaged in an amazing dance party at Chris Janke’s bar, The Rendezvous, in Turner’s Falls, MA. There were only like 6 of us dancing but that is the best number. Small enough for significant interaction, hi-fives all around.
Was it really scary?
Dancing is only scary when everyone starts grinding in like 7th grade. So inappropro!!
TV anything you watch?
The Hills! (Laguna Beach inspired many of my poems during it’s first season four years ago.) I now watch The Office because how couldn’t you. I love 30 Rock and Kenneth is adorable and the Gold Case episode is the best thing ever. I used to watch other stuff but I think all that t.v. break broke me. Like Gossip Girl, I haven’t gotten back into it since the s-t-r-i-k-e. Or Grey’s Anatomy. But maybe I’ll try. I can always count on G.A. for a good cry mid-week.
Are you watching Joey?
So, you have to get TiVo?
I do not have TiVo. But I often watch things on the internets. That’s like a cheaper, less flashy version of TiVo, wouldn’t you say?
Do you have an acting coach working with you?
No. I do all my own stunts.
Is Zoe like you?
I don’t know. Is she short with brown hair and is she really fucking funny?
How are you not alike?
Well, if she’s somewhat like me, then I would say that I’m probably prettier and funnier.
Will that change as you get older?
Yes, as I get older I will become even prettier and even more funny. Humor and beauty grow like weeds, no? And I will eventually get gray hair and I will not dye it. Not at all. You heard it here first. Also, I will learn to rely on people better. It takes me a while to do that. I am very responsible myself.
Have you gotten advice from mom or sister about business?
My mom tries to suggest I give poetry readings to rooms full of her friends on Cape Cod. “My friend owns a gallery” she says. I tell her I will not read my poems to a room full of her friends who will only mostly like me because I am her daughter. My sister is very supportive of what I do. But she didn’t like it when I used to tell her how I would go to poetry readings and no one would talk to me afterward. It was a hard time and also I was shy. My sister taught me that in bowling to “shake hands with the man.” My sister also taught me about metaphor in poetry but she doesn’t remember. And she taught me about “Harold and Maude” from listening to Cat Stevens. And she taught me how to cut in line in traffic by asking nicely. All you have to do is roll down the window and smile, maybe indulge in some slight gesturing. People respond very well.
Do you have a celebrity crush?
Angus Young in 1978.
What was your most embarrassing moment:
When I was little a lot of things: I stuck my hand in another mother’s Louis Vuitton purse at ballet class. One time I put my hand in someone else’s dad’s back pocket, not my dad’s—that taught me to keep my hands to myself—we were in line at the Statue of Liberty. A few years ago I slipped on a strawberry in the checkout lane at Whole Foods in New York. A split right there in front of everybody. Ludacris was there, he saw. . . my best friend couldn’t stop laughing for days. . . and it was so embarrassing!
So you raised your hand to answer a question and it was wrong?
I stopped raising my hand in 9th grade after my history teacher told me I should write down on a piece of paper what I was going to say before I said it.
You probably haven't raised your hand since?
Nope, not really. I have trouble with articulation. Just be with me in a room for a while and you’d see. And I think I’ve developed a latent stutter. My friend Roody posits that I talk faster than I can think.
Movies! Shag. She’s Out of Control. Truffaut. Stardust Memories Oh, and hands down, All the Real Girls. I can’t wait to see The Foot Fist Way, with Bust-Ass from ATRG. It looks amazing.
Nostalgia for the first two. Seen them too many times. Truffaut and the Woody Allen are just too wonderful not to mention. ATRG? However more heartbreaking could anything be! I’ve seen it too many times also. I think I will watch it tonight.
Film star you look up to/like to have a career like?
Do you like Hilary's music?
I like her teeth since she fixed them.
If you could work with any other actor/actress who?
Would you think you'd died and gone to heaven if you got a part in an Ashton Kutcher/Lindsay Lohan movie?
Yes and it would just be like heaven in the movie “Defending Your Life.” You can eat all you want and you never gain an ounce. Have you seen that movie? It’s another Nadelberg classic.
Something you can't live without:
I really enjoy drinking coffee. Kate Bush and Silver Jews records. My apartment. These awesome sunglasses I got when a lady left them at the cafe I used to work at. I let them stay there for a few days but no one came back for them. They are awesome. They make me feel like a 45 year old mom. You-tuber videos of Fleetwood Mac and Neil Diamond and AC/DC. I cannot live without my heart or my liver, also.
Play video games?
Yeah I did! Nintendo. My brother got his wisdom teeth out and won Zelda in the same weekend. Currently my Nintendo is in my mom’s best friend’s basement in Boston. My favorite game though, near the end, was called Rainbow Island.
Who's someone you look up to?
My boss, Tony.
Because he is so fair, he is probably the fairest most honest person I know. He is also very funny. He says things like, “Split the baby,” and “No one likes farting into the wind.” Tony is the accountant where I work and he eats an banana every morning at 10. He has taught me a lot about the business part of the book business. And Tony is a supporter of NEAT, which stands for Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. That’s like when you walk to the warehouse on the bottom floor instead of taking the elevator. Or when you stand, rather than sit, during a meeting. Recently, Tony arranged an in-house auction of items that never sold at previous fundraisers for our company, and for $6 I won a signed photograph of Bob Seeger. Tony won the signed photograph of Melissa Etheridge. How awesome is that.