Published on July 25th, 2013 | by PRESENCE0
How We All Respond – Simon Gennard
“Here is saying I love you when you don’t mean it. Here is the smell of your perfume. Here is your mother’s wedding dress. Here is the name on the tip of your tongue and the girl you couldn’t forget. Here are some things we’re not going to talk about.”
I Skype Simon on a weekday evening, slightly anxious at the prospect of interviewing him; his own work is, after all, an ongoing exercise in the careful distillation of conversation into poignant and thought-provoking vignettes; I am nervous about attempting to do the same. On a whim, I ask if he’s willing to be interviewed via Skype-messenger: “I thought it might be interesting like this” I type – “as in, literally not talking about the things we’re not going to talk about”; I also hope that the awkward silences where I shuffle my notes, gather my thoughts, and second-guess my questions might be avoided this way. He entertains my request and, after the exchange of niceties, I quickly discover that I am no more confident in typing questions to strangers than I am asking them in person; Simon, however, is articulate, honest, thoughtful, and a little self-deprecating. All of which makes my job a whole lot easier.
“I remember being motivated to finish the first issue shortly after a breakup…” he says, as I ask him what inspired things we aren’t going to talk about; “It wasn’t a serious relationship … finishing it was more an act of trying to prove him wrong – he considered his work more worthy than mine…” Pretentious comments from asshole exes aside (note: my choice of adjectives) it was also Simon’s friendship with fellow writer Anna Duckworth and his creative interests in other art forms (he studies Art History and English) that prompted his foray into zine-dom. The overarching idea behind the series was his fascination with shared experiences – the things we consider universal – and the “specificity of how we all respond to [certain] situations”.
Indeed reading the diverse confessions to things usually left unsaid (arguments I meant to finish but didn’t, for example, or heart’s I tried not to break but did – two of the titles in the series) induce a fair amount of self-reflexivity – the direct address to the reader which permeates the series, “opens a space for the reader to apply their own experiences”, whilst they simultaneously peep through a keyhole, read someone else’s diary, and learn the intimate details of someone’s messy break up, all without having to worry about being caught in the process.
Simon’s current zinefest project, however, is a little less voyeuristic. His fifth publication focuses on the role of “place” in the formation and expression of identity, something Simon is equally intrigued by: “For the last six months or so,” he tells me, “a lot of people I know have been leaving the city for London or Melbourne. Within certain circles there’s a feeling of despondence, but there’s also something compelling us to stay.” Where his original plan entailed a series of maps of places of particular significance to anonymous contributors, this tug-of-war resplendent in many of us led to something a little more specific: “the project [has become] a look at how Wellingtonians have talked about themselves historically, and how we talk about ourselves now.”
In light of the conversational nature of his work thus far, his ongoing examination of “how we talk about ourselves”, and the fact that he lists podcasts such as This American Life, The Memory Palace, and Love + Radio as sources of creative inspiration and entertainment, I ask Simon if he has any plans to adapt his writing for stage, screen, or radio; I’m a little disappointed to hear that he hasn’t, although he confesses to writing poetry (“very sporadically”) and tells me he is looking forward to taking a creative nonfiction paper at the Institute of Modern Letters next semester.
We end the interview there and I thank Simon for his time; I then spend the next 30 minutes picking out my grammatical errors and cringing at my questions, until I remember there are far better ways to procrastinate than by mentally rehashing my own conversation. I can pick up one of the zines lying next to me, slip off the title ribbon, and, thanks to Simon Gennard, I can eavesdrop on someone else’s instead.
Written by Kirsty Dunn