An interview with Kristin Peterson DUETDUET 3 contributor and Filmmaker!!

IMG_4379Kristin Peterson (KP) is an amazingly talented and inspiring maker/writer/doer from Milwaukee. Pitymilk has known them for a long long time and we were all sorts of happy to include their work in DUETDUET 3 alongside Tessa Berring’s work… We sent KP some q’s about their work and otherwise… ENJOY!!


Pitymilk: In addition to writing, you spend a lot of time working on and thinking about film. We’re curious, where is the intersection of those two pursuits for you? 

Kristin Peterson: Writing and filmmaking is a harmonious tag-team for me.  When one needs to take a nap, the other steps in to keep the qi flowing. And when the other is ready to “go and get them”, the other graciously steps back and stays home to keep things tidy. I couldn’t exist without either of them, and they can’t exist without each other.

In a more tangible explanation, I feel more at home with writing. I do most of my inner work with words on the page (first handwritten, then typed) and this is when I am my most raw and honest. With filmmaking, I am always in the dark. I have no idea what I am making at any moment. There’s only so much control when collaborating with other people and fighting against the odds. It’s truly a miracle that movies get made, or finished, and when they do, it’s because dozens of different people cared about the project so much. And, in the caring about it, the dozens of people altered its course with their own desires, sensibilities, and inspirations.

Writing centers and comforts me. Filmmaking keeps me fresh and scared shitless.

PM: Your work in DUETDUET is one long piece, do you often work in long form? If so what draws you to this form?

KP: It’s strange to be asked this question. Right around the time I completed “Fold” – the long form poem in DUETDUET – I was worried I was not able to write long form pieces. I was worried I could only stick to writing short films, short monologues, short poems, short, short, short. I was worried my brain did not have the capacity to think in more than one bite at a time. And then KA-BLOOM! in almost the same year I exclusively wrote long form pieces.

Now I am worried that whatever worries me is my destiny until I conquer the worry.

PM: You recently released a book with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in Milwaukee, tell us a little about it? Does the process you used for writing that text overlap with how you produced the work in DUETDUET? Are there aspects of your process that are consistent/recurring? 

KP: In August, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press published “somnieeee”, a collection of poems written over the past 7 years. The majority of them were written around the time I had significant sleeping problems. More specifically, my tonsils were choking me when I was sleeping and I let it get so bad that I was a ragged, haggard, oxygen-less human for too long.  And, then, a number of the poems were written after my tonsils were removed and I could finally sleep a full night. It was an incredible awakening. I felt cleaner, purer, simpler, and I had hope again. The whole book is either the decline or the ascent of my attitude toward other humans.

The poem in DUETDUET shares a world with these poems. It was written after I got used to being a full human again. It has the playfulness I loved about myself when I could sleep well but it has that hangover of distrust in people that is present when I could not sleep, or process each day fully. Also, a lot of the images that come up in my head in this poem are that of beds, pillows, bedroom windows, still woefully domestic. Still so womb-y, intimate, and private.

As for process, many of my poems come from that moment where I wake up and a phrase or image haunts me until I write it down. The act of writing it down is like throwing a flibbertigibbet in a bottle and corking it tight. Later, I go back and open the bottle up to ask the little ghost questions about what it wants. And that’s a poem.

PM: What’s your relationship to place? Do you find yourself influenced by particular geographical locales or intimate spaces? You are a long time resident of Milwaukee, do you feel its influence on what you do in any way? 

KP: I think the most important distinction to make is that I’ve exclusively lived in places that are neither fully rural nor fully urban.  Even where I have lived and live in Milwaukee, I don’t hear traffic or crowds at all.  Of course there’s the occasional joy ride or the illegal fireworks in the alleyways, but those noises have specific origins, out-of-the-ordinary flavors. And illegal fireworks can happen anywhere.

And I am not sure how I would adjust in a fully rural setting or in an urban setting. I think I might feel overwhelmed by either one of these extremes.

So, yes, I believe place is a major factor in my writing. With enough effort and intention, I can gain any type of environment in my day. I can seek out bustle (the Milwaukee Public Market.). I can seek out contemplative calm (the lake!  Our ocean.). I can find my friends, my acquaintances, my foes. Both the desire and the ability to be anonymous in my home is instrumental in me exploring the questions I write to answer. Conversely, both the desire and the ability to be “a part of something” in Smallwaukee allows me to gain intimacies with numerous types of people, in so many ways.

My setting makes me feel empowered. Because of how innately available it is, I am free to explore and be playful with my time and my work. I can “shake things up” often and I am thankful for this.

PM: Is “Fold”, from DUETDUET no. 3, part of a larger work? Do you want to explain who the characters are? Are they people you write about often? What role do characters play in your work?

KP: “Fold” is a complete piece. This poem is from my own memories of myself as a teenager wondering what romantic / sexual relationships feel like in adulthood. A lot of the moments written about are vivid images / imaginings I had when I was a young teenager. I would fantasize about the daring of teenagers sneaking out at night to run off with lovers. I would wonder what break ups felt like between adult partners. And I think I likened “breaking up” with “breaking in.” Like Romeo into Juliet’s turret. I am aware now that romantic partnerships are much less intriguing and much cozier, and remembering what I thought then versus what I think now has revealed to me that I thought intimacy was an exchange of private, personal (metaphysical?) items. And this got me thinking about how avoiding an ex-partner is a legitimate thing to ask of a friend when you’re parked to go into a restaurant, because that person had taken something from you and they might take it again but, this time, they aren’t allowed to. And you are not sure when or how you gave them permission to take things from you.

I didn’t answer the question.

PM: In most of your poetry you are liberal with the use of space and field on the page… what is your relationship to the visual aspects of poetry/to formatting and layout? 

KP: I talk fast and I use a lot of words.  It can become insufferable and I am grateful to the people who stick around 😉 And most of the time, when speaking, when I use words, I don’t realize what words I used until I’ve said them.  So, then, I backtrack and replace words hoping the new selection is more accurate to what I meant to say.

It’s not until this question was posed that I realized I use caesuras or strange-lookin’ indentations to note where I need more time to think about what words I actually wanted to use.
The spaces on the page aren’t necessarily where a performance pause should go, although that’s usually what happens. It’s absolutely to show where more or less pre/caution was taken.

PM: You’ve also illustrated a book for pitymilk, “All I Wanna Do” by Bethany Price. Tell us about that experience, how did you respond to the poems? What was your process with creating images in response another’s work? to Bethany’s work specifically? 

KP: I am so intimately acquainted with Bethany Price’s work to the point where I wish there was a Bethany Price poetry spelling bee but instead of spelling words, we compete in discussing her diction, style evolution, subject matter, excellence, what-have-you. With the same pleasure that one might win a Silver at the Bethany Bee, I was so delighted to be invited to respond to her work in another way than just enjoying it, as it deepened my experience with it as well.

Originally, I had thought using the sensuality of oil paint and the opportunity to play with different colors would work in harmony with her poetry. But, getting into “all i wanna do”, the book felt like a bit of a departure from her previous work. I wanted to take her lead there. Based off of hip hop and R+B songs, this collection was a little juicier, a little messier, a little more severe. So I adjusted to pen and ink, and I wasn’t afraid to let the ink splatter, scratch, or bleed out + about. I also chose both abstract and urban imagery to illustrate this collection, melding the two zones Bethany also seemed to be playing with.

This was my first and last time illustrating to another person’s words. I loved the challenge and gained so much more respect for others who illustrate / respond to other artists’ works.

PM: Do you feel like your work is responding to the work of others? Who are you taking cues and inspiration from? Who are you looking to for advice and ideas? 

KP: I am going to share a list of people/things/places that consistently inform and inspire my work.

  1. Gilmore Girls + Grey’s Anatomy, which is so good when it’s good. And has been instrumental in helping me verbalize my most complex thoughts and emotions.
  2. Kathy Taylor, whose verbal storytelling abilities are a marvel to behold.
  3. Lake Michigan.
  4. Pinterest searches starting with random words like “martyrdom”.
  5. Living poets + writers, all of whom have been caring and honest with my work: Annie Grizzle, Bethany Price, Chelsea Tadeyeske, Molly Veh, Martin Kaszubowski, Johnathon Olsen, Meredith Johnston, the Jackalope Playwrights Lab.
  6. Dead writers I never met: e. e. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, Lucille Clifton, Sappho, Edward Albee, Leonard Cohen, James Baldwin, Rumi, Frank O’Hara, Joan Didion.
  7. Writers I will never meet: PJ Harvey, Dave Eggers, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Ntzoke Shange, Haruki Murakami, Lauren Groff, Maggie Nelson.

Oh crap, I have to stop. I want to keep adding names and I can’t just keep adding names forever.

PM: What are you working on lately?! Films? Poems? Otherwise? How can people follow along with what you are up to? 

KP: There are four big personal projects I am working on: a new chapbook that I am not ready to talk about because I am still not sure why it chose me but it has to do with pilgrimages, a new feature script that has been chafing the sides of my brain for 4 years, a radio drama series that my favorite actors in Milwaukee will get “wanna?!” e-mails from me soon about, and a full length play that I am currently workshopping in the Jackalope Theatre’s Playwrights Lab.

But the big’un right now is my first feature film “Ringolevio” that might premiere in 2020 if a festival decides it likes it enough (please!) which is on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as Ringolevio Film.  Dozens of the smartest, loveliest people in the entire world worked on this movie and we cannot wait to put it in front of people.

And, of course, the two recent publications DUETDUET #3 (have you read Tessa Berring’s work yet?!!?) from pity milk press and “somnieeee” from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.  
And, lastly, my life and art partner Martin Kaszubowski and I have a production lab where we talk about our films, podcasts, plays, and otherwise projects.  Instagram: @twoscoopsy and Facebook:

If you like seeing pictures of a cute dog and flower arrangements, you can follow me at @kpkaszu on Instagram.

Oh! Also, I am curating a short film screening at Saint Kate’s Arts Hotel on December 8th at 1pm and 4:30pm, showcasing many of my filmmaking collaborators’ works. Wanna join us?

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