Gene Therapy

—maria argüello
photograph by Jim Drain
September 9, 2011 | The Latest Homepage Latest

1 - Gene Therapy
Timothy Stanley and P. Scott Cunningham

This weekend, spend some time with Gene Hackman in Miami. Well, not the Gene Hackman, but the creative writing process brought to life as P. Scott Cunningham and Timothy Stanley perform live literary criticism of the other’s work at the art space Bas Fischer.

How did this project begin?
P. SCOTT CUNNINGHAM: The project began when Tim and I met at Art Basel Miami Beach last December. We hit it off right away and it wasn’t long before we started talking about collaborating. Both of us are writers who are interested in performance, so the idea for [Gene Hackman] came out of looking for ways to write and perform together.

TIMOTHY STANLEY: Scott and I met in Miami during Basel last year. He called me up a couple months ago and told me he was doing a performance in Miami and asked me if I wanted to do something as well. We started talking and it turned into collaboration. We wanted to do something visual and performative while still keeping writing as the focus. Jim Drain and Naomi Fisher were great enough to let us use Bas Fisher and the venue and we took it from there. Still, it wasn’t until the days before we started that we knew what it would look like.

I love Gene Hackman as much as the next girl—Lex Luther in Superman, Royal in The Royal Tenenbaums—but what is with the name?
Mostly it has to do with the sound of the syllables. It’s a beautiful name.

TS: God, I really have no idea. I’m in love with it, though. We’ve been watching motivational clips from Hoosiers lately, but there isn’t really a reason for the name.

Do you feel like you are writing on a daily deadline?
PSC: Yes. For this project we’re reading things we wrote the day of, so in order to read something you have to write it that day. It’s part of the fun.

TS: Absolutely. I’m trying to write a full-length novel in the three weeks I’m in the space, so word count is the objective. I’ve given myself a 5,000-word goal for every day. Who knows if I’ll hit it.

What if you get writer’s block?
I drink more coffee.

TS: I’m beginning to realize that writer’s block is a luxury of time. The parameter I set for myself means I have to write like a coal miner—just get it done before the whistle blows at 5 PM. And I know Scott will let me know as harshly as possible if the writing has suffered as a result.

How old were you when you realized you wanted to write when you grew up?
I was 29 when I realized I was a poet.

TS: I’m not exactly a grown-up yet, but I figured out I wanted to write creatively around the end of high school. Before that, it was torture.

What are you reading these days?
Wallace Stevens and a book about the Chicago jazz movement AACM called A Power Stronger Than Itself by George E. Lewis.

TS: Right now I’m reading Dracula. For a monster book, it’s beautifully romantic. Stoker writes women well, which is something I’ve always wanted to be able to do convincingly. And Renfield is just about the best lunatic ever written.

What other writers should we be reading?
There’s no “should” in reading. If it interests you, great. If not, that’s OK too. No one will die. For those who are interested in poets alive today though, I recommend Kay Ryan.

TS: Scott Cunningham. Oh, and any writer who doesn’t have a least one eye on what Lil Wayne is doing is probably missing something special. I mean that sincerely.

What about Miami inspires you?
You can’t change Miami. It’s too big, too fractured, too complex for any of us to tangle with. For a poet, that’s a blessing. I want to wrestle with my city, not be catered to like a baby.

TS: The small but strong community of creative people. The artists here support each other in a way that’s rare to find anywhere else. They pull each other up, which is inspiring. Also, the tiny lizards that run under my feet in Morningside. The whole place feels like Jurassic Park.

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