letter from the editors 2015 was a wild year filled with lots of emotions, hard work, and passion. Normally I find it somewhat difficult to look back on a year fully content with all of my decisions and endeavors, but this past year was one of the first steps into a future that Morgan and I are tirelessly working towards. Hooligan Mag celebrated its One Year anniversary, was nominated as one of the best DIY publications by VAMMAG, and expanded to blog posts that have been circulating around the Internet on a daily basis. None of this would’ve been done without the unbelievably talented and hard-working team that we’ve assembled, the one that has stood by our side, diligently putting out interesting, thought-provoking, and well-written content. A lot of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 was spent trying to keep up with a solid publication on our own and refusing to add on any extra help because we were convinced no one would see Hooligan through the same lens we did. Finally, as Morgan and I began realizing the astounding change after adding on our Editorial Assistant, Kenny Miller, we decided to cultivate a team of those just as passionate as us. Most of 2015 was focused on learning what it means to work with others, the beauty of collaboration, networking, and being apart of something greater than ourselves. Our biggest fear is to let down the Hooligan ideology and stop staying true to the foundation we’ve been building our publication on, but the people involved with Hooligan are on the exact same page, trying to make Hooligan the cultural trendsetter it ought to be. With this, we thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for sticking by Hooligan’s side and watching us grow, from amateur babies that just wanted to get other people’s art recognized to radical thinkers that are not just observers of media, but critics at the very least. We will continue working towards normalizing the alternative, giving crucial voices the chance to be heard, and making statements about where we shamelessly stand in society. We will never stop celebrating art and what it means to the world. Stay with us. From your editors, Becky Yeker and Morgan Martinez
editor in chief: morgan martinez managing editor: becky yeker content editor: meg zulch editorial assistant: kenneth miller assistant managing editor: olivia schroeder art direction: mikey jakubowski rowan misch submissions coordinator: anna bruner special thanks: annie segarra, emily segarra, brian martin, shira, baohien ngo, dr. jessica zucker, annie zidek, jaclyn jermyn, staff: angela imperati, charlene haparimwi, ian kerstetter, jac morrison, jaycee rockhold, joseph longo, kat freydl, kevin allen, lyndsey bourne, nikita redkar, allie shyer, robi foli, sung yim, siobhan thompson skylar belt.
HOOLIGAN MAG ISSUE #13
dr. jessica zucker
Destigmatizing Pregnancy loss
Through Art by annie zidek
I dressed my dad’s desk in the basement for her. Granted, she wouldn’t be sitting across from me. But I wanted to feel professional when talking to the esteemed Dr. Jessica Zucker, a prominent figure in the fight against reproductive stigmas. There I sat, broad-shouldered in my dad’s oversized chair, computer at the ready, my phone bracing itself for the upcoming conversation, and my family’s landline ringing on speaker as I waited for Dr. Zucker to answer. Immediately, I was greeted by a warm and maternal “hello.” Dr. Jessica Zucker has a hefty resume: a Californian psychologist dedicated to reproductive and maternal mental health issues through her private practice, a guest writer for the The New York Times’ Couch series, and a mother of two, just to name a few of her qualifications. Heart swelling, Dr. Zucker dedicates her life to women, to destigmatizing pregnancy loss and the murky waters surrounding it. Through sharing her own experience with pregnancy loss in The New York Times and initiating the hashtag campaign #IHadAMiscarriage in April, she joins the band of women who fight to shed light on and minimize reproductive and mental health stigmas. And she’s just getting started. Her latest project: sympathy cards for those affected by pregnancy loss, including cases of miscarriages, still births, and abortion. These cards carry a weight. They are a commanding representation of the need to normalize a muffled issue which many people face. Though they are only a small part of what Dr. Zucker is doing to tackle stigmas, they reach women all around the world and helping destigmatize their experiences with pregnancy loss. Read on as Dr. Zucker and I discuss her cards, her passion for reshaping the conversation surrounding pregnancy loss, and the way her two-year-old daughter inspires her.
As a psychologist specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health, you get to see the everyday effects that miscarriages have on people. How do they affect their day to day?
I tend to see, and the research really supports this, that unfortunately a lot of women report a lot of self blame, shame, and even guilt after pregnancy loss. And so it’s really disconcerting to sit with women and watch them judge their own loss and grief. One of my cards specifically tries to get at this, the orange one that says “Grief knows no timeline,” because I really try to impress upon my patients that maybe you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be in terms of your grief. I really try to help women understand that judging their grief and thinking that they should be somewhere else in their process doesn’t help at all. That, to me, is digested stigma. That is us as women sort of swallowing the cultural norm. I think that we just have a real difficulty in our culture with loss, and when it’s more like a grandparent dying, we have a seemingly better way of addressing it. I think if it’s a miscarriage especially, people are particularly dumbfounded. “What do I say?” This wasn’t a person necessarily. Nobody knew this person. My hope is that my kids grow up in a world where talking about loss is as normal as talking about what they’re going to have for dinner. That doesn’t mean we need to be talking about loss all day long, but just that we can handle it [since] it’s happening so often. Approximately 20% of pregnancies result in loss. It seems to me that we have to try a little harder [to find a] way to talk about this, so women aren’t feeling ashamed or silenced or that they need to feel rushed in very intimate and important feelings. With talking about pregnancy loss, it feels like human connection is a very pivotal part of this, and you even acknowledge this on your website. Your cards are a very mundane form of human connection, but have you seen how they've helped women deal with their miscarriages?
After my own loss, I eventually started writing about my loss, and initially I starting writing more [about] the politics of pregnancy loss. Then last year for the New York Times, I wrote a piece when I initiated the hashtag campaign “#IHadAMiscarriage,” and that sort of shared the details of my personal story. Then I went on to write a bunch of other pieces related to my own journey. Eventually, I thought “how do I reach people who don’t necessarily read essays or who may not want to read something gory, intense, or very stirring?” So I created this how-to guide on what to say and what not to say to someone after they have a miscarriage. Then it was sort of like, “how else can I reach people so that they can reach each other?” I feel like the cards are an antidote to that in a way. There are cards that existed already. [But] some of mine are just more irreverent; they’re trying to really reach the spectrum of emotions that may accompany the aftermath of loss, and I try to get away from the religiosity or the spirituality that exists in a lot of the cards that existed before I made mine. I [also] tried to really involve all types of loss, so it wasn’t just a miscarriage. A lot of my patients are terminating at 20 weeks because maybe the baby is incompatible with life for whatever reason, so I wanted to be sure they were included in these cards. Since sharing your story and raising awareness about miscarriages, have you noticed any sort of change in the way pregnancy loss is perceived or stigmatized yet?
I have, I think there are enough people who are on the same page as I am about this. I have some friends in the community who have written extensively about their still birth experience. I think what I’ve seen though in writing is a lot of headlines that say stuff like “the Silence Around This” or “The Silent Grief.” Why does nobody talk about this? So my thing is, lately, is everybody’s saying we’re not talking about this. So [just by] saying we’re talking about it, [then] we’re talking about it. It just needs to be in a more fundamental way, and that’s why I like the cards. They’re cooler and more accessible and artistic than some of the sympathy cards that already existed that don’t resonate with me. I think that by talking, we do something; but then also by having available in our culture these kinds of options [like the cards] for people, I think that says and does a lot as well.
"My hope is that my kids grow up in a world where talking about loss is as normal as talking about what they are going to have for dinner ."
I love the wording of your cards, and how your cards are not necessarily casual, but put in an everyday light. For example, your "fuck loss" card, putting it in a context where pregnancy loss is just so mundane, is very powerful.
Exactly! Also with that card, I wanted to get at the anger. I wanted to speak to the range of feelings that women may or may not experience. And I feel like anger is something that is hard for us to talk about, especially when it comes to loss. Some people love this card, while others may have a very different reaction to it. I haven’t received a lot of feedback in the negative direction about them [yet], but some people are uncomfortable talking about anger. And so this card feels like it’s very “now.” To me, it feels so good for Millennials, or just talking like it’s real. I love that you keep your kids in mind amidst all this, especially with how you said you want them to grow up in a world where it is normal to talk about loss. I really want my little siblings to have that too.
Change is the climate that [my daughter] will be growing up in. She’s really why this all happened, because if I hadn’t had my miscarriage, I wouldn’t have her. I got pregnant maybe four months after my miscarriage, and that’s partly why I made the cards. It’s all about being pregnant after a pregnancy loss because I was incredibly anxious through my pregnancy. Because of my own sixteen week loss and after hearing all these horrible and intense stories in my practice, it was sort of hard not to worry about anything and everything bad happening in my subsequent pregnancy. So it just took a lot of hope and stamina to go on and do that. And now I look back [on how] I didn’t know [if] she was really here. I think it’s taken me awhile to really settle into trusting that she’s here. A lot of pregnancy losses happen early, so they may not have this level of trauma or dread for a subsequent pregnancy, or like fear or all this stuff I’ve been describing. So I try with the cards to represent all types of pregnancy loss, which is why I created the stillbirth and baby loss announcements. Is the "Grief is Universal" a new card?
Yes, we just released that one two weeks ago. The cards got so much more international press than I even considered. Once they launched, New Zealand and Australia and Germany and all these other places were writing about them, and I was getting orders from all these places, and I was like “wait.” I wanted to create a card that was in multiple languages (obviously I can’t include all of them). And inside the card, it says “I support you.” I conceived this card before what happened in Paris, and all these other world traumas, but I feel like the card could be given for other things [too]. It’s also just a neat way to connect internationally. [People in other countries are] having miscarriages too. How does it feel to support women across the world?
I have a background in public health, but I haven’t worked in that world for a long time now. It feels like the cards are such a beautiful manifestation of the marriage between my public health background and my current psychological practice. It’s like I’m able to reach more people that I probably wouldn’t have the chance to meet in person and I love that. It’s amazing.
Visit Dr. Zucker’s web shop to check out the cards for yourself: http://shop.drjessicazucker.com/ You can follow her on Twitter at @DrZucker and on Instagram at @ihadamiscarriage
RUNNING HEAD FIRST BY JACLYN JERMYN
Nate Bertone is the type of guy who is perpetually ready to show up to his high school reunion, and dwarf everyone with his accomplishments. Even his ever-present backwards baseball cap screams, “I’m here to get shit done, but I’m going to be really sincere about it.” At 21, the scenic artist and playwright has already made a splash in the Massachusetts theatre community, becoming the youngest person to exhibit work at North Shore Music Theatre with his designs for the musicals Shrek and Sister Act this past summer. His debut play, Letters From War, premiered at the Salem Theatre Company in May of 2015, and has earned four Broadwayworld.com awards in the Boston region, including Best Drama and Best Original Concept For a Play. He’s certainly come a long way since I first met him on the set of a community theatre production of High School Musical. He was 13, and tasked with pressing play on the stereo, serving as our orchestra for the show. I was 12 and playing Gabriella and, as he so kindly reminded me, I almost instantly had a crush on him. To be fair, it’s hard to ignore his magnetic personality. If he decided that his next big project was staging a Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd set on Mars, you wouldn’t think twice before asking how you could get involved. His first experience with theatre was an elementary school production of Three Pigs in Hawaii, in which he played Papa Pig and wore a vest made out of construction paper. But he tells people that his first real performance was in sixth grade, when his middle school put on Into the Woods, a show he is simultaneously nostalgic and bitter about. “I was cast in the ensemble, [which means] I was basically stage crew that sang in three numbers,” he told me. “I was really miserable that I wasn’t an actual role in the show, but it turned into me thinking ‘this is kind of cool. I get to push the scenery around and make the stage look different.’ That was my sixth grade light bulb moment.” In high school, Bertone managed the design and construction process of the sets for two musicals and four plays, earning recognition from the Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild and support from his peers. Together, we served as a design team (Bertone on set design and I on costume design) for four different shows.
“For me, I kind of felt special,” Bertone told me. “It encouraged me that you can be recognized for that [work]. In the time that we were [in high school], those shows were special because of our investment. We were two students that wanted to do something bigger.” The desire to do something bigger that he developed in high school formed the basis of his work ethic, occasionally to a debilitating level. “What I’ve learned now is that the mentality for successful people is not about counting the hours you work on a project or counting the dollars that you made,” he told me. “It’s about knowing what you want to achieve, and doing what it takes to get there.” In 2012, he pitched a design for the North Shore Music Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz, but ultimately lost out to Jeff Modereger, a professor of scenic design from the University of Vermont Department of Theatre. Impressed by Bertone’s level of talent as a freshman in college, Bill Hanney (the owner of North Shore Music Theatre) offered him a job the next summer designing the set of Grease for another one of his properties, Theatre By the Sea in Wakefield, Rhode Island. He was asked back there for the next summer to work on The Little Mermaid, and was eventually offered a job as the scenic designer for North Shore Music Theatre’s production of Shrek in December of 2014. Since the offer was made right before he left to study abroad in London for the semester, Bertone spent a lot of time shuffling his schedule around to make design meetings happen via Skype. “Life often takes you in any way it wants to, and you can control it, but sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride,” he told me. “Part of me always wants to go go go, and that’s part of the reason I was successful and got to North Shore Music Theatre at 21. I sometimes worry that I’ve peaked. So far in 2016, I’ve fallen down a flight of stairs…but who knows what’s going to happen really?” It seems highly unlikely that Bertone will sit still any time soon. He just completed his design work for the Philip Glass opera Hydrogen Jukebox (based on the poems of Allen Ginsberg), which Bertone describes as having “no real plot” and as being “a trip through America on LSD.” This was his final show at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh before he graduates in May. “I don’t weigh my own personal success against the success of other people because it’s detrimental to the health of your own mind,” he told me. “But if you weigh the success of what you did in [the last year] against what you’re doing now, it’s much easier to see that you’re doing what’s right for you.” Before ringing in 2016, Bertone sat down and made himself a timeline of the year in photographs to better visualize what he had accomplished and the connections he had made in the past 365 days. He compares his take on living life to the Peter Howitt movie Sliding Doors, in which the life of Gwyneth Paltrow’s character completely hinges on whether or not she makes the train one particular morning. “What if we hadn’t met in high school?” he says. “You know, if we hadn’t both decided that we wanted to design, who knows where we would be now?”
Rather than fixate on the role that fate may or may not play in his life, he prefers to look towards the future. “I’m about to graduate in May and I have no idea where I’m going to be in five months,” Bertone told me, “but I also know that in January of 2015, I had no idea that my play was going to be produced. It’s all about being comfortable with being uncomfortable.” The play that he’s referring to would be Letters From War, his own take on a love story spanning over decades and inspired by his grandparents—specifically his grandmother and her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. I read through two early drafts of Letters, glimpsing fragments of my time spent with Bertone—a song we sang in choir or a play we saw together. Of course, it took on a life of its own because of his dedication—he is hoping to launch another staging of the show in Pittsburgh or New York City in the near future. “What I’m interested in doing with my art now, whether it’s designing, writing, or directing a show, is to find a way to listen to the world around me and adapt those stories,” he told me. “I believe that we meet the people around us for a very specific reason. They push your life to a new path. We can change the world around us with the way we interact with others through art.”
wants you to know
that she is welcome here and
so are you by brian martin photos by emily segarra
ANNIE SEGARRA AND I
are Skyping at the tail end of “the holiday season,” when the New Year is a car ride away and you’re either broke, lonely, or overwhelmed by your family’s very liberal opinions about your body－who, for whatever reason, feel entitled to ask questions like “So, when are you getting out of your wheelchair?” or “Have you even tried walking?” At least, Annie tells me, that’s what she’s been experiencing the past few weeks. She even published a video entitled 7 Things I Wish People Knew About Chronic Pain (Over The Holidays) regarding these fun family time conversations and the tenuous privacy of being “visibly” disabled. ANNIE: I mean, do you say that shit to cancer patients－ do you say that shit to anyone else in the world?! That their illness is in their head?! I can’t even deal. I think too many people have watched and bought into The Secret documentary. Have you heard of that? BRIAN: Nope. Annie: Well, synopsis: the idea behind this ‘Secret’ philosophy is that everything is a consequence of the way we think, the vocabulary we use, all due to some law of attraction. If we’re thinking in our heads, for instance, ‘I’m gonna be late to work, there’s gonna be traffic,’ we’re putting it out into the universe and basically asking for ourselves to be late to work or for there to be traffic. Our ‘brain powers’ manifest it. I kinda like the idea of positive language, psychologically speaking, for your own mental health, your spirit, your stress levels, and so on. But it is harmful when you tell an entire community of people that the reason they aren’t able-bodied is because they are attracting disability to themselves, they are attracting illness onto themselves, and that because they are not using the ‘Secret’ they are not getting better. That is problematic as fuck! Having combed through Annie’s formidable array of work; YouTube videos, blogs, paintings, theatre performances, writings, recordings, and so on I had come to this videochat with full intention of producing a simple, formal call-andresponse interview.
We were to talk about her incisive, nuanced critique of Interview Magazine’s sex-doll-wheelchair-Kylie-Jenner cover (we did), and her opinions about Frida Kahlo (we did not). I had hoped to talk directly about her body-positive initiative, Stop Hating Your Body (we danced around it). Instead, we were leaning into a conversation around the philosophy and politics that drive Annie’s work, and more general ruminations on living as a disabled woman of color. Annie: Not everything is in our power. There are a lot of things that are inflicted onto us. The only thing we have control over is how we react to them, but it doesn’t change that it is happening. One doesn’t choose, for instance, their family, the geographic location they’re born into, their racialization, the gender they’re assigned at birth, the laws that govern their body, or their disabilities. These things generally don’t arise coincidentally, but they aren’t things we “choose”－the way Annie and I have deliberately chosen to speak to each other on Skype, given the privilege of having laptops, hearing, and time. Brian: I honestly struggle with any kind of positivity. I put a lot of hope and energy into the world, but really it’s undergirded by a sense that people suck, the world is evil, gender is concrete, I’m poor, it’s cold, and death is always the right answer. Annie: Positivity isn’t the end all be all. Everyone has to figure out what’s best for their own survival, and all I can do is express what’s been helpful to me and what I’ve learned. And if that speaks to someone on a certain level, then that’s good. I think positivity can be problematic for a lot of people, especially those with mental illnesses. Positivity has been my way of surviving and I can’t see myself living much differently－ except when I’m in a depression. I have depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and anxiety issues. If I’m in a depression－in my dark place－someone telling me to be positive is the last thing I want to hear: [because] everything is terrible and I want to die. I take hiatuses from [publishing work] because I don’t think the experience of my mental illness is necessarily beneficial to other people. I mean, I still express it, I’ll still write about it (especially on Tumblr) with a trigger warning in case it can negatively impact you.
Annie also struggles with an undiagnosed chronic illness which, as she words it, puts her “whole body in a lot of pain all the time...like constantly walking through broken shards of glass.” This has hugely impaired her mobility in the last year. She’s begun using a mobility device－a wheelchair, which, she reminds me, is not a symbol of limitation (as the people of Interview Magazine would have you believe), but the very useful and expensive thing which facilitates movement. Annie: This might sound fucked up but naturally, when you’re an able-bodied person who becomes sick or injured and then is no longer able-bodied, you want to mourn the loss of your privilege: “I can’t go out to clubs and dance anymore,” “I can’t climb up the stairs anymore,” “I can’t weave in and out of crowds,” “I can’t run on the treadmill and destress,” “I can’t jump at concerts anymore.” You wanna mourn the loss of all these things. Because those are a huge part of our lives－especially mine. Which you can tell because I made very specific examples.
After mourning was anger and determination. People kept telling me that with practice I’d get better, but the problem wasn’t the ability to walk. I can walk, but it hurts too much. There’s something in my nerves, my joints, my blood, or my muscles－something’s happening in my body that we still don’t know about causing me this pain and it’s not gonna stop just because I practice. After realizing the only thing that happened when I pushed myself was more pain, I came to acceptance and gratitude. Lemons into lemonade...
"if you do have the emotional energy and capacity to communicate your story (not everyone does and thats okay), that's how you turn the wheels of the machine." Among the things Annie is grateful for is the Internet, and the community of people who listen to her as well as others like her－the people who uplift marginalized narratives, learn, and work towards being even better the next day. This a stark contrast to any decent Baby Boomer’s characterization of Internet communities as lazy harbingers of idiocracy, softies, or, as Greg Lukianoff might put it, the origin points for the “the coddling of the American mind.” But what could be more vulnerable, dangerous, and forward-facing than demanding you be treated with dignity in a world which continually violates you? Certainly, Annie understands that this community isn’t perfect, and that everyone is in their own process of learning outside their lived experience. She admitted to me, for instance, that although she’d considered herself a disability advocate for herself and others, there is always room for growth. “We are all learning, and I definitely have more to learn about disability activism,” she told me. And now, as an activist with a well-crafted voice, she can better advocate for other wheelchair users, chronically ill folks, and disabled women, as well as be a better ally to people with disabilities different from her own.
Brian: So, I do have some questions that are pertinent to the arts part of Hooligan Magazine. Annie: [Laughs] Brian: You’re a multimedia artist. You’re (clearly) a multi-faceted and introspective person. Do you put different facets of yourself, or different emotions, into different art forms? Annie: I think so, definitely. Now that I’ve been bed-ridden, I’ve gotten back into painting, and especially the art of self-portrait and self-photography. Because a lot of time is spent alone in my room and usually in a lot of pain, I’ve learned that those are the tools that I have to keep me sane. I have my phone with the Internet and a camera on it, my paints, and honestly I paint on pieces of cardboard because I don’t have money for canvasses. Definitely one perk of becoming disabled in the last year and a half has been the ability to come back to my roots and really explore the things that I love and that make me happy and [feel] like life is worth living. I want to be able to keep doing these things that save my life every day.
Painting and drawing is just very therapeutic in physical gesture and in creating pieces that I want to give myself. I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, and I’m creating my new friends. With writing, I get to express myself a lot more (it’s a lot more vulnerable), as well as creating video content. It’s all my imagination, thoughts, feelings, and stories. I do worry a bit about how to properly communicate these things to readers and viewers. The world of photography, videography, and modeling has always felt like uncharted territory for me.
Look out for her newest works on her Tumblr (http://anniesegarra.tumblr.com/) and YouTube channel theannieelainey. Follow her on Twitter via @annieelainey.
I always feel like I’m exploring, a little cautious. I find modeling particularly vulnerable. Photographers have to make me feel incredibly comfortable for [the] best results. But when I’m behind the camera, I think of the future. I think of what would aesthetically represent a moment, or what I or someone [would] like to keep for this moment in time. I’ve been making “end of the year” videos since I was maybe 15, and scrapbooking since age 11. Memories and recording have always been important to me. Our memories will fade, documenting things will help us hold on. Acting is like riding a rollercoaster, it’s exciting to be someone else and express things that maybe I don’t get to in my own life. And singing for me is like floating. It’s my happiest place. It’s an artistic space where I feel the safest, like swimming through calm waters. Ultimately, Annie’s art and activism are works of self. Her YouTube videos and blogging, for instance, have tracked her venture into body positivity－or, moreover, her struggle against a disordered sense of a body imposed, on many levels, by an oppressive standard of beauty and systems of media (mis)representation. In her video We Need Better Media Representation, Annie asks viewers, “In the world of movies, TV shows, books, comic books, etc. how many characters can you name with physical disabilities/using mobility devices? Name as many as you can, but I’m personally looking out for chicks in wheelchairs, preferably of color, and bonus points if they’re queer.” Indeed, an accompanying crowd-written list on Tumblr could only come up with 20 characters, most of them cisgender white men, as evidence of the under representation of disabled people (especially the queer POC unicorns). While not technically a popular TV show character, Annie’s voice is precisely one which is exciting and demanding change in that arena－and she’s doing it, primarily, by showing other people the way she loves herself. Annie: ...when you experience traumatic or unjust events, there is an opportunity to communicate it and inspire change. If people who were bullied, abused, or raped like myself didn’t speak up, a lot of people wouldn’t even acknowledge [our struggles] as problems－which, it isn’t [the oppressed people’s] job. But if you do have the emotional energy and capacity to communicate your story (not everyone does and that’s okay), that’s how you turn the wheels of the machine. Annie plans to continue to produce YouTube content, and work towards making a living for herself and her family by doing the things she loves and feels are important. She’s working on two long-form writing projects: an autobiographical expose on character assassination, and how it’s made her feel unwelcome on this planet; and an evolving sci-fi novel inspired by dreams of her family evacuating a naturally uninhabitable earth on ships.
by anna bruner photos by baohien ngo
what we can’t express, we dream As an artist, Shira is easier to find than she is to define. Born in Israel and based out of Brooklyn, she’s been a powerhouse in the DIY scene for years, and has made a name for herself as an equally talented musician and poet (not surprisingly, seeing as her name means both “song” and “poem” in Hebrew). She’s performed with artists like CocoRosie, Ani Difranco, Mirah, and a slew of others, solidifying her place among the greats of folk, experimental and indie rock. However, Shira’s presence as an artist blurs the boundaries between poetry and performance, and her unique sound transcends the rules of genre and trend. She’s currently working on her new album Subtle Creature, which features artists Shira admires like Shannon F of the Light Asylum and cellist Emily Dix Thomas. “All of the artists I feature on [the album] are folks I was itching to collaborate with and that I want to spread the gospel of,” she told me. She added, “I like things a little weird, uncomfortable. There’s a lot of that on the new album.” She’s also working on her first full length poetry book, Odes to Lithium. With the book, Shira intends to break the stigma of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder (as well as the medication used to treat it), and begin normalizing it through her art. As she describes, it’s “in praise of the medication I take, a medication that is highly stigmatized and has saved my life more than once.” Fresh from a recent writers’ retreat at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, Shira speaks with Hooligan about her artistic process, female empowerment and her goals as an artist. As we tend to do here, we’ll let the artist speak for herself.
What is one of your earliest experiences with art??Was there a specific moment or feeling when you knew you
When I was in third grade, our art teacher had us make plaster molds of our faces. We were then told to decorate the masks. My mask was a swirl of blue, purple, and white paint. I loved the sensual confusion of colors. I hadn’t even noticed that the other kids were creating likenesses of their faces, painting the red mouth here, the brown eyes there. When the teacher saw my mask, she grew very cold and said, “That’s not your face” and forced me to “do it right.” At the time, more so than thinking about art or myself as an artist per se, I remember having the distinct feeling that she was an unhappy person, and that her unhappiness wasn’t allowing her to really see me. In a very real way, every step since that moment has been toward continuing to paint my true face. This includes keeping intentional company with those who encourage this. These are the holiest relationships.
were an artist?
What are your thoughts before you write or compose? Is there a particular feeling you stay focused on when
It’s more like casting a spell than gathering thoughts. My body or presence has to be a hospitable space for creativity to happen. First and foremost, I need curiosity. If I can enter the creative process curiously, so much becomes possible! In a very real way, sounds become weighted, visceral, a synesthetic experience where notes have color and shape. I climb into the mood like a pool. The more immersed I can be, the more freedom I feel, the less control I think I need. It’s like walking through a jungle, but then realizing I amthe jungle, we’re not separate. I have to listen very carefully in order to catch what it needs, where it’s going. It’s going to tell m e how fast it’s beating, where it’s tangled. Sometimes it doesn’t want to tell me a thing. It doesn’t want to be born. That’s okay too. I can wait. I never went to music school, and at times I regret not being more technically proficient or literate. At the same time, I’ve always used sensuality to explore music-making, and it can nurture a real sense of adventurousness a lone and with others. It’s a balance, a dance. you produce your music?
What are your thoughts before you write or compose?? Is there a particular feeling you stay focused on when you produce your music?
It’s more like casting a spell than gathering thoughts. My body or presence has to be a hospitable space for creativity to happen.
First and foremost, I need curiosity. If I can enter the creative process curiously, so much becomes possible! In a very real way, sounds become weighted, visceral, a synesthetic experience where notes have color and shape. I climb into the mood like a pool. The more immersed I can be, the more freedom I feel, the less control I think I need. It’s like walking through a jungle, but then realizing I amthe jungle, we’re not separate. I have to listen very carefully in order to catch what it needs, where it’s going. It’s going to tell me how fast it’s beating, where it’s tangled. Sometimes it doesn’t want to tell me a thing. It doesn’t want to be born. That’s okay too. I can wait. I never went to music school, and at times I regret not being more technically proficient or literate. At the same time, I’ve always used sensuality to explore music-making, and it can nurture a real sense of adventurousness alone and with others. It’s a balance, a dance. You've described your music as "the ocean tearing away at a cliff. A small gun, but when the trigger is pulled it shoots seaweed, stars, and honey. A murder of crows whose flight is controlled by a woman's anger/hunger/ light."” Why do you feel compelled to capture those specific sensations in your work? What draws you to this way
Like an ocean eats away at a cliff over time, I want my art to wear away at what seems solid. So much seems solid, doesn’t it? But we’re recreating on a molecular level all the time! We act like horses on a carnival carousel, “This is my home, this is real, everything is moving in the right direction.” Living with Bipolar Disorder has shown me that what seems like capital T Truth one day can be ripped out from you instantly. Because of my illness, I’ve been knocked off the carousel. I’m constantly wondering: What’s myth, and what can I rely on? My song “Myth” moves inside this space, the mystery of who we really are, what we’re really after. “A small gun, but when the trigger is pulled it shoots seaweed, stars, and honey” is of course a rather masculine image. The solidity I’m interrupting could be patriarchy, heteronormativity, or any ”ism” at all. I suppose I want the weapon I employ to surprise, to gift you the feminine. of creating?
You’ve performed with such artists as Cocorosie and Andrea Gibson. Tell us about your biggest influences, musically and otherwise. How do you incorporate your inspi?
As a kid, I worshipped Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and sticky heartfelt tunes. Both my parents play guitar; music was always on in the house. My mother’s CD collection took up the living room wall. Skimming it, you’d find a lot of folk and rock albums, but I could always find something unexpected. I grew up memorizing Boyz II Men, TLC, and Salt-N-Pepa lyrics. Later in life, it was my brother’s songs: Bjork, Queen, James Brown, Sleater-Kinney, Kate Bush, Diane Cluck, Sufjan Stevens, and 60s girl groups. Lately, I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Radiohead, and have revamped an obsession with Jagged Little Pill. The common denominator I find between all those that have influenced me over the long run is that they’re natural performers who value the stability of a solid pop song while experimenting beyond the comfort zone.
ration from other artists in your art?
There is something neurologically satisfying about the formula of 60s girl group pop songs. So many of those women sang in a way that I can only describe as lazy, which I find so sexy! It’s not giving it all away. There’s a holding back.
"it s impossible not to engage viscerally with Feminism. For a woman to be herself to the fullest, ocean roaring at her back, bats flying from her hair, that's Feminism to me."
At the same time, when I came across Bjork, Diane Cluck, Kate Bush, Sleater-Kinney, The Gossip, Hole, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TuneYards-- part of the appeal was the exact opposite of this formula. These musicians have an unhinged, wild, experimental quality to their work. From my teens to my mid-twenties, there seemed to be a trend of “cutesy” girl singers, and at times I found myself stuck in the safety of that vocal landscape. Kate Bush, Bjork, and Diane Cluck in particular inspired me to dive into a deeper range and touch the ocean floor of my voice. That was a conscious shift, to pull the accordion of my voice wider and investigate. As a woman, this is powerful. Sure, I could do “cutesy” but now I had more tools. I could also wallop and wail. These women propel my work. Simply listening to the power in their sonic choices, it’s impossible not to engage viscerally with Feminism. For a woman to be herself to the fullest, ocean roaring at her back, bats flying from her hair, that’s Feminism to me. [Also] artists who take sudden turns, are willing to release something animal, and want to push their form further are the ones who guide my work. This includes poets, scientists, activists, rivers, washing machines. Yoko Ono and John Cage’s examination of the whole natural world as a sonic experience influences me every day. Poet Wislawa Szymborska is my Patron Saint. I need the words of these revolutionaries in my mouth. Echoing them, I believe, serves the world.
"This is life. We walk through wilderness. There is no hero. We keep waking up to new complexities. What we cant express, we dream. What we canâ€™t say, we sing. What we can t sing, we allow a friend to hold."
Is your identity as an artist close to who you are as a person,,or do you try to distance the two?
No distance. When an ambulance siren catches my ear because it sounds particularly melodious, that’s not “Artist Shira” or “Person Shira” hearing it. It’s both. It’s neither, something else altogether. It’s that deep animal self that loves what it loves. I study other artists, ask them questions, write letters. I’m starting to think the highest form of art is conversation. Tell us about your work as an artist outside of music.
I just launched the website for my art project, SQUARES, where every day for a year I filled in a square inch of space with art. My visual mood diary. You can check it out at w ww.squaresproject.com. share with us the most soul-wrenching song you've ever written.
When I was 21, my family visited Israel (my birth country) for the first time in a decade. On a layover, [and] in a foggy and tired mental state, my father and I had a short, intimate conversation about the death of his parents. He’s generally a reserved person, so the sharing felt like a bloom in snow. When I returned from the trip, I had a string of nightmares. In a particularly vivid one, my father died. I woke crying, immediately grabbed my guitar and wrote “Oh, Dad.” Dreaming that he had died put me in very close contact with all that I wished I could ask him, or tell him about myself. When I sat down to write the song, I was overwhelmed, spinning. I knew that to approach the nightmare, I’d have to employ a tactic one of my favorite songwriters, Sufjan Stevens, exemplifies: say it simply. When I wrote “Oh, Dad,” I took Stevens’ advice. I sing, “Do you know how the plane gets up / Do you care? / What do you care about? / Are you scared / like I’m scared? / Do you know I dream you’re dying?” Equally powerful for me was the experience of The Tiny Tornadoes, the band I formed that summer, who brought this song to life. It was six of us: sax, cello, guitars, viola, and flute. A strange, tiny orchestra. Right when I’d reach the precipice of an emotion, my band would sweep in with an instrumental section, not allowing the emotion to be resolved, but instead creating new swells which were voiceless and without lesson. This happens in “Oh, Dad.” Right after expressing a hard question, my band takes over for my voice; the violin tones wordlessly what I can’t say, relieving me of the task of explaining or resolving. This is life. We walk through wilderness. There is no hero. We keep waking up to new complexities. What we can’t express, we dream. What we can’t say, we sing. What we can’t sing, we allow a friend to hold. What are your plans as an artist going forward? Finishing my book. Releasing Subtle Creature this year! I’m looking forward to new collaborations, touring, and fostering my inner quiet so I can better harmonize with the rest of the world.
Look out for Shira’s newest works on her website www.shirae.com and keep up with her on both Twitter and Instagram via @Shhhiraaa.
Clean by Catherine Keller An empty fridge, an empty stomach, Overprotected and oblivious, To what’s outside the chipped front door. Scissors, lighters, and empty bottles, Cluttered under the bed, The scale is a monster, Reading lies, Spelled out loud and clear, Evicting what remains into the porcelain throne. It’s a miracle at all how you’re alive, After all that blood spilled out of you like paint, And how we managed to get it out of the carpet, In the house that was never quite home. In and out of twelve step, Clean and pure as snow, An unpolluted mindset, Refusing to stoop so low. You ejected all the poison, That was coursing through your veins, From your scissors, cries and tear streaked eyes. Within this, one can see, How dark the mind can truly be.
My eyes close. by Armie Christine Miraflor I am drunk again with dreams of a thousand 5 AMs spent watching the dawn creep slowly above silhouettes of apartments and rushing laborers - our thermos filled to the brim with coffee. You, capturing the pink sunshine and on the valley of your spine, crook of your neck, warmth of your lips I burn with my poetry.
(SAD) by Becky Yeker In my room, there is a lamp with four different lamps attached to it. Each lamp is a different shade of blue. This room doesnâ€™t change in color, only in temperature. It is freezing and below zero, it feels like icicles are forming in every corner. It feels like the heater has forgotten to let itself in, even though I ask for it to make itself at home. Even though I beg for it to live with me, like one, even though I am so tired of the cold.
Cities by Eric Dolan cities are cancers stopped only by waters and there is no straight road to the house you grew up in that makes us both uncomfortable i barely speak to my mother and i love you most when youâ€™re sleeping always have awake at four between pitch black blankets so I drove to a Walmart for plastic, whatever you wanted i beat the sun and (nearly done) put one over on the whole fucking world - the roads were paved and music made for me and me alone
Featuring a special letter from the editors, Annie Segarra, Shira, Dr. Jessica Zucker, Spilled Ink + more.