Bippity-bops, Turnstile Hops, and Poofing Doobs: An Interview with Cody Caetano, author of the Pleasure Dome Poems

Cody Caetano’s first chapbook, Pleasure Dome Poems, was published in January 2019 under Knife|Fork|Book’s What Queer Reading (WQR) imprint. Award-winning poet, Billy-Ray Belcourt, says Caetano’s work “bears a kind of pop art sensibility – it is slippery and agile and revisionist and campy and ethical and ultra contemporary. Some of the turns-of-phrases here are so inventive you will be *catbringsitspawtomouth.gif* shocked.” In this interview, Cody dishes on rituals, doobs, community, and the pleasure dome that is life.

Shazia Hafiz Ramji: How did you arrive at Pleasure Dome Poems (PDP)?

Cody Caetano: I first discovered the Pleasure Dome after I broke up with my first girlfriend and went id-chasing for too long. PDP carries with it temporal, sexual, relational, and historical connotations. This chapbook is just a tiny peek into a place I’m currently investigating in my nonfiction work. This is the demo disk, if I may.

SHR: The design is exquisite: minimal and industrial, but clean and pink.

CC: Cover is all thanks to Kirby, my publisher. Big fan. I love his orientation of the type. There was an early iteration of the cover that had black type on pink backdrop, but then he shifted it to pink on white. I don’t like a busy cover because they are often too ugly, desperate, or compensatory.

SHR: How long did it take you to write the poems in this chapbook?

CC: I wrote 19 of the 20 poems between the spring and the winter of 2018. Some were commissions and some were beach visions.

SHR: What was the editorial process?

CC: My editor, Fan Wu, came over to eat Thai food and chatted. I rambled extensively about the backstory behind the pleasure dome and he nodded a bunch. I poofed a doob and then we went at it together. Fan is quite a solipsistic editor with a rather playful intuition: more curious than authoritative, and very in-your-corner feeling. He’s a sweetie.

SHR: What has been the most life-changing experience for you as a writer?

CC: Graduating high school with a 79% average and subsequently getting rejections from St. George and Ryerson. If that never happened, I would have never found the Professional Writing and Communication Program at UTM (University of Toronto at Mississauga). Found some clarity after that.

SHR: Why poetry?

CC: That’s a good question because I don’t have a good answer. After the first year of my MA in Creative Writing I felt quite directionless and spent the summer dating another Taurus and just drinking and making dinner with them. It was nice but it was the first time I smoked cigarettes and read zero books and racked up my credit card. I slowly began opening my phone up and plotting in notes and those lead to poems. But a part of me feels like I’m treading.

SHR: What are you currently working on?

CC: I recently completed a colloquial taxonomy called Half-bads in White Regalia, which is the first of three raunchy memoirs.

SHR: How does living in Toronto affect your sense of being a writer?

CC: The city of Toronto is a wonderful environment to live and play as a writer. There are so many lovely writers who care about their respective communities and its always cool to see them converge at events. From Vacant Nobodies, Common Readings, Coach House, Wise Bar, Anstruther Press, Another Story Bookshop, Pen Cap Chew, Knife/Fork/Book, touring writers who come to town, WOTS, the institutional networks via UofT, and beyond. It’s huge and there’s zero excuse to not connect with an audience and/or attend events. I don’t want to hear it. Everybody’s friendly.

SHR: Whose work do you want to read, but haven’t yet read? Why do you want to read their work?

CC: The complete epic-ography of Marlon James. I’ve heard plenty good about his writing, but it wasn’t until I read his New Yorker profile that I was motivated to look into it. I just downloaded my free-trial Audible of his new book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which I listen to when I’m chopping up chicken and raw meat for dinner. A fitting pairing. The voice actor rocks.

Cody Caetano at Knife | Fork | Book

SHR: Where does a poem begin?

CC: On the first line, of course! I guess the better answer is with a hunch. Sometimes I will poof a doob or listen to a song and then I’m off with an mood until I don’t know or care to do anything else. I’m uncharacteristically submissive when it comes to poetry: I’ll run out of energy or need to meet a deadline and just think to myself: “Okay, it’s time to say goodbye for now.” Though plenty of poets tell me this will presumably change. I’m a baby poet compared to my cohort or other poets.

SHR: How does a poem begin?

CC: With a bippity-bop and a turnstile hop!

SHR: Why does a poem begin?

CC: Because the writer has a desire to articulate the particular of their world-view.

SHR: Got any writing tunes or rituals?

CC: I like rap or ambient or 2000s music, followed lots of free-writing, followed by praying, followed by a pee, followed by a boogie, followed by a chonky kitty pet, and then I’m carving. Sometimes I smoke if I’m working late at night (though I know that won’t work for my fellow repressed writers, lo).

SHR: What advice would you give to emerging writers who are hoping to put out a chapbook?

CC: Find a community of writers and support them. This means effort and time and energy and reciprocity.

SHR: What is the best advice you’ve received?

CC: For writing? My mentor Lee told me good stories keep no secrets. For life? Don’t date another Taurus.

SHR: Which presses and mags do you love?

CC: Bad Nudes is my favourite press. Fawn Parker and Tom gave me the confidence as a poet because they were some of the first people to ever publish my poems. But that’s not why I love Bad Nudes. I love Fawn and Tom because their quality control is a shared intuition and taste. I cannot wait to see them take over.

Cody Alexander Joseph Caetano is a writer of Anishinaabe and Portuguese descent. His debut chapbook, PLEASURE DOME POEMS, is now available through Knife/Fork/Book. Find him or @cody_caetano.

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