TBT: Luka Sabbat Interviews Poet Curtis Eggleston
Last week, cultural influencer Luka Sabbat took over Milk for his #HOTMESS exhibit, which featured photography from friend Noah Dillon as well as poetry from Curtis Eggleston. The boys camped out at Milk Studios throughout the week to prepare for the show as well as create art (in a multitude of forms) all day and night. Hell, they even slept in the studios when their creative minds needed a rest. One afternoon, Milk’s Editorial Director Mathias Rosenzweig moderated an interview between Sabbat and Eggleston, touching on the poet’s travels to Brazil, our generation’s quick consumption of content, and why writing can be vastly different than working in fashion.
Luka Sabbat: How was Brazil? How long were you there for? Was it like nine months or something?
Curtis Eggleston: Yeah, yeah. So I got there in June. Lived with these firefighters, lived with indigenous people, and then in August, I moved to Sao Paulo to do creative writing. Brazil’s crazy. It’s uh…man, disparity of wealth is huge. It’s really intense to see helicopters flying around with crackheads in the streets, but it’s good for inspiration.
Sabbat: How did you find those firefighters? Were they firefighters or fire makers?
Eggleston: Well they do both; they fight fires with normal firefighting tactics but because they don’t have the same resources, they do something called “black-lining,” where they burn a strip of land where they know the fire is going to come, so when the fire actually gets to that strip it has nothing else to burn. So they’re basically cutting their losses and saying we have to burn this section so it’ll stop the fire. So yeah, they make fires to fight fires.
Sabbat: They’re fighting fire with fire.
Eggleston: Exactly, exactly.
Sabbat: So you were saying something about the wealth and crackheads and how there are some people who don’t even touch the Sao Paulo ground because they’re so rich, and so they just take helicopters everywhere but then there are like people in the streets like robbing…
Eggleston: I mean, the government is corrupt. It’s like trickle-down corruption. The government sucks. Dilma [Rousseff] got impeached, and the new president comes in and he’s just as corrupt, and the country’s crazy but it’s, I don’t know, it’s interesting man. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and really live in a world that’s really removed from your own to grow, and for writing it’s perfect.
Sabbat: Is there an art scene or a fashion scene? What are the scenes out there?
Egglseton: Yeah, I met a bunch of people down there, like the LGBT fashion-forward scene is pretty cool down there. The parties are insane. It’s very underground, like warehouses, and there’s even a train graveyard. It’s way different than here. I think it’s way cooler there, to be honest. Way more edgy, I guess. The style is like very, I don’t know, I guess punk.
Sabbat: Is there an art scene?
Eggleston: Yeah, there’s an art scene, but it’s a little less, I don’t know, like there’s a ton of museums with all sorts of photography and painting, but as far as like young artists, it didn’t seem like there were that many kids really pushing to break into it that I met. I mean, I’m sure there are. Like people make their own clothes; people make their own shit. It’s actually kind of cool because down there, social media is so, so heavy. Like everybody’s on Facebook and Instagram.
Eggleston: And Twitter. They use it so much, like everybody’s on it.
Sabbat: You wouldn’t expect it.
Mathias Rosenzweig: I was going to ask about that too; if even the people without a lot of money still find a way to be on social media.
Eggleston: Yeah and they’re obsessed with American culture and Japanese culture. Brazil sort of grabs different aspects of all these different cultures and then sort of mixes it with their own. So it’s pretty interesting.
Sabbat: Did you meet any writers out there, like any other writers that you vibed with?
Eggleston: Not really. I don’t really like to hang out with other writers, if you know what I mean.
Sabbat: You don’t want to hang out with your competition?
Eggleston: No, not even dude. I just think…actually, no, you know what? I did meet one screenplay writer named John Mark Davidson, an American. He’s got the most American name ever. John Mark Davidson.
Sabbat: Holy shit. He probably created America.
Eggleston: Yeah, so we’ve been trading some stuff but for the most part I don’t really like to send my work to other writers and don’t really like to read other aspiring writers’ work. I think once you actually get to a point of being serious about it, then you don’t need validation from someone else, you know? You’re doing exactly what you want to do. You don’t need to send it to your mom and be like, “Mom, what do you think about this?” Or whether that be another writer or another artist, like when you’re on your come-up or when you’re really first starting out on anything, I think you have a lot of… you’re self conscious about your art, about your work, and so you want to send all your work to friends or you want to send it to contacts that you have that are trying to do a similar thing and have those same emotions. But once you’re confident with it, you just get to a point where it’s like, you don’t need that validation, you don’t need affirmation about your work. You just do exactly what your vision is, exactly what you see is going to be the best for what you’re writing. So, I don’t really fuck with that many other writers.
Sabbat: Yeah, I dig it. I guess it’s different for like, fashion people because I hang out with plenty of other fashion people but it’s different… because writing is way more personal.
Rosenzweig: I feel like writing is really kind of, in a good way, isolating. Like, you’re really by yourself and fashion is a lot more about community.
Sabbat: Yeah. Like, I’ve never really heard of a writing community. Like there is one that’s kind of weird but like, I’ve met other writers and they all tell me they don’t hang out with other writers.
Eggleston: Right. It’s because in order to become a writer, you have to spend the vast majority of your time alone. Like you can’t be an extroverted writer, really. Like you can be social because you have to be to get to know people and a make commentary on how life is, but then you have to go really sit down by yourself in a room, in quiet, and put down all your thoughts. Then you spend a shitload of time editing. Like, you’re spending most of your time alone if you really want to be a writer and I think a lot of people really want to be a writer but they don’t actually understand the process that goes behind it. Like, it’s not something… there’s no face, you know? Like you’re not putting your face in the book, you’re not standing in front of other people. Like, you’re putting your version… you’re letting someone in your mind for a little while, and so in order to do that, you have to explore your own mind for a really long time, and the only way you can do that is be alone. So I think it’s a very introverted community as opposed to the fashion community.
Sabbat: Yeah, yeah. That’s fire. Why did you start writing?
Eggleston: Man, I didn’t feel like I had a choice dude. Like, I would wake up in the middle of the night with just like, thoughts and words and eventually I just needed to tell somebody and the only way to do it if I had nobody around…like, I’d wake up at 3:00 AM frustrated about something, whether it be with myself or relationships or even like, conversations I had that day would just pop up in my head and I’d be like, I need to write them down and sort of explore them. And then that turned into more creative writing beyond just like, journaling and then… yeah, it just kind of evolved from there.
Rosenzweig: You were talking about how you just needed to write to get it out of your system, but when did you start feeling comfortable enough to share it with friends?
Eggleston: I remember two and a half years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and sort of wrote an essay about a need to stand out, because I’m from a small, wealthy mountain town with very little diversity and like, everyone is like a sick skier or like everyone has opportunities…like anybody can get into college, everybody has good education opportunities and it just felt easy. It felt like a path that I didn’t want to take, so I just wrote an essay saying: How can I stand out? How can I travel and really get out of my comfort zone and force myself to grow into a different person than like this very easy, comfortably structured mountain-town-white-boy?
Rosenzweig: Got it.
Eggleston: Then that evolved. I loved the shit I wrote so I showed my friend Taylor and he was like, “Yo, this is really sick.” And so then I just started doing essays because I got good feedback pretty quickly and that turned into… the more I read fiction, the more I got into crafting a story and doing something more creative and more of exploring another world.
Sabbat: All the feedback I got from the writing from this show was positive. People don’t know who you are but they know your writing because even kids who had no idea who you were, like they didn’t know you by name, they would just point and say whoever wrote it is great. Which is fire because, you still have the creative fulfillment of “people like this,” but it’s like, most artists, they want recognition or their name and their face, but…I don’t know if you feel like that, but I feel like you’re just getting love and people are appreciating your writing .But like, when people would tweet me like that your writing is amazing and like this shit touched them, it’s just like… you know what I’m saying?
Eggleston: Yeah, yeah absolutely. That’s definitely the dream.
Sabbat: Like of course you want your name to be attached to your writing because you want to get big off that but…
Eggleston: Dude, I mean look, the thing I want mostly, I just want to travel and I just want to write and if anybody can give me that opportunity, I don’t need to…I don’t need limelight. I don’t need to walk into a club and have a bunch of cameras on me. All I really want is exactly what you just said, to be able to create something that lets people sort of escape.
Sabbat: Yeah, yeah, and the people who need to know will know. The people in the industry will know and the people you want to work with will know, but the actual public doesn’t need to know as long as they are content with your writing.
Sabbat: And as long as you are content with your writing.
Rosenzweig: I feel like our generation consumes stuff way faster, and we’re a really visual generation, and when we see a picture we like it or don’t like it and then move on. I feel to get a kid’s attention to stop and read something for ten minutes is a lot harder than it used to be. So how have you dealt with that challenge?
Eggleston: It is, and I guess sometimes in my writing, I definitely think of having…like using a lot of paragraphs, using a lot of dialogue, I guess. When I’m reading a book, I skip long ass descriptions of the setting all the time. Like, I don’t have time to go through every book and read it start to finish; like there are too many books and too much stuff to do. But if I’m studying a certain author’s prose, I’ll always read the dialogue, right? A new paragraph, I’ll always skip the first sentence. So I’ve changed the structure to make it a little easier, like more accessible, like a little easier to get into. I also think that instant, constantly-consuming culture that our generation is sort of into, I think that people are addicted to it but I think that at the end of the day, they don’t feel fulfilled by it. Like, you can’t just sit on the internet and go through shit all day and not actually…like, have nothing resonate with you. It’s still why people watch movies as opposed to short TV shows. Like yeah, sometimes you just want to watch a twenty-minute television show, but sometimes you’re down to watch a three and half-hour movie because at the end, you feel like you got something, and I feel that even stronger with reading a five-hundred page novel or whatever.
Sabbat: I feel like whatever show, no matter how good a show is, it’ll never be as good as a movie.
Sabbat: Is that weird?
Eggleston: I don’t know. I agree with that.
Sabbat: Like no matter how good the show is. Because it’s like a show you’re watching in increments and you kind of just try to crunch it in whenever you have time, you know?
Sabbat: Like a movie, you really take time out and actually try to take it all at once. You know what I’m saying?
Rosenzweig: It feels like an accomplishment to finish a movie, just like it feels when you finish a book.
Eggleston: Right, and what I think is so important about books too is that it does take longer.
Sabbat: To me, shows are like magazines and movies are like books.
Eggleston: Exactly, exactly. The thing that’s crazy about books to me is that you can spend a month reading a book that you’re really into. During a month of your life that might be really difficult or extremely full of ecstasy. I guess, a very memorable part of your life for better or for worse, and then you’re associating that book with that part of your life. Like more than a movie or a TV show, like you’re putting your time into someone else’s work and you’re exploring another author’s mind for a long period of time, whether that be a week or a month or six months. It depends how often someone reads, but then you can associate that piece of work with a period of your life and it becomes sort of a part of you. And that’s kind of different than like, going through Tumblr and just like seeing a photo that resonates for a minute and then you just move on to the next thing.
Rosenzweig: It’s like when you’ll hear a song that you listened to in high school and you’re like, “Oh my god, holy fuck.” It really brings you back, and it’s like this whole sensory thing.
Rosenzweig: You were saying before that in writing, you’re kind of letting someone else into your head. Do you ever feel nervous about how vulnerable you have to be? Like, you’re really opening yourself up emotionally in a public way.
Eggleston: Yeah, I don’t think so. Because everyone has those emotions and you know, once you start worrying about… like I’m not necessarily a relatable person on a very widespread scale, so there are going to be plenty of people who read the things I write and say, “Oh, I find that offensive,” or “I think that’s really dark,” or “I don’t get that,” or “that’s confusing,” or… yeah, just anything like that, right? But you just have to expect that, like everything you make, you’re just going to be…like Luka said, people are coming up to him and saying, “Yo, that really resonated with me.” I’m sure that for every single person that said, “I really loved your writing,” there were just as many that said they don’t really get it but they don’t feel the need to say that and criticize, and that’s totally fine with me. I don’t feel the need to hear it. I’m making my stuff because I need to for myself, and when people connect with it, that’s all I can get.
Sabbat: I was saying how 99% of the feedback I got from the show is positive or really fucking good; and then the other 1%, I’m not going to say is negative, because kids that said they didn’t like it, in that same sentence said they didn’t get it. And I think for you to like something you have to understand it first. So kids would be like, “I didn’t really like this show.” It was like, “Whatever, I don’t get it,” and then it’s like, then you don’t not like it.
Rosenzweig: You just don’t know it.
Sabbat: You don’t know it! So by default, your opinion is invalid off the fact that you don’t get it. If you like fully understand and are like, “I don’t like this,” then I respect it 100%.
Eggleston: Think about a song though. When you listen to a new type of artist or someone that’s really exploring a new genre of music and doing something super weird and you hear a crowd that really enjoys it and is really into it and then you listen to it and you’re like ‘I don’t really get this that much’ but then you hear it a few more times and then you start to see it in the context in which it’s meant to be enjoyed like maybe go to a live show or maybe you see the music video and that changes it all for you and then you get it and then you can enjoy it.
Stay tuned to Milk for even more on Luka Sabbat and friends.