John Brnlv Rogers is a dauntingly prolific London-based writer who is currently burgeoning forth onto the poetry scene. John talks about his latest ebook ‘Keep Yr Heart in the Cloud’ with extracts and new poems.
What was your idea or your thinking behind Keep Yr Heart in The Cloud? What inspired you to write it, did you have a method behind each poem?
This piece came into being very spontaneously and easily. Image macros are really interesting to me as a form. I come from an art background and I’ve been making text/visual work for years, like printed cards mailed anonymously, with compliments on them or surreal statements – from “your hair looks nice today” to “freedom has been removed”, or objects painted with slogans. But image macros allow for quick production, distribution and sharing – they take full advantage of internet culture.
This series is an imagining of “the internet” as a utopian space – the images are drawn from google images of incredible, almost fantastical natural beauty. After making a collaborative piece called ‘oh, inverted universe
‘ with Ashley Obscura
I’d started imagining this kind of imagery as the dreamlike inner-space of the internet. The text is an adaption of love poetry – romantic sentiments, sometimes a play on words, sometimes a powerful cliché, or a phrase that anyone with Facebook Chat has probably typed to a loved one at some point. So this series is kind of a dreamy wander through the cloud, packing wryness, familiarity or reverie…
Is there a narrative to the piece?
They were initially a series of stand-alones, but there’s a narrative that emerged as I started to arrange them together. For example, the cave image ‘leads’ to an inner cave, then back out into a forest – this little image-journey is something I’m looking forward to developing further. I think the tone and subject matter of the slides allows a certain feeling to emerge, perhaps more so than the textual narrative.
Some of the text in Keep Yr Heart in the Cloud is reminiscent of IM conversations, did the text come from a real conversation or not? Do you think this matters? In what way does your ebook engage with the issue of New Sincerity, if at all?
I have always been quite an open person, and I’m into honesty in all things, the power of ‘being real’. I’m into the idea of decompartmentalising personality, and trying to reveal an honest impression of the self. So I’m completely down with heightened sincerity as a means to that end, to the point of a kind of cultivated naiveté. I’m interested in the power of this to nullify knee-jerk or ‘automatic’ cynicism – in life, and in art.
If you look up ‘sentimental’ in the dictionary, it’s something I’m fine with being: “expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia”. I think my 100 Things
piece is maybe the most open I’ve managed to get an ‘autobiography in objects’, each one with a story from my personal life or history attached. Several acquaintances (and a few total strangers) have said they feel like they know me very well because of that piece, which I think is really special as an outcome.
A couple of these slides are things people have said to me in chats or IRL. Most of them are made up, but based on real states or feelings and emotions.
Beach Sloth reviewed Keep Yr Heart in the Cloud as holding the banner for love as it exists on the internet, I think he’s right but how do you feel about this interpretation? If the ebook is a love story, what kind of love story is it?
I was really happy with the interpretation in the review. I think Beach Sloth read between the lines pretty well. If it’s a love story, it’s a love story played out in the internet, and therefore there’s an element of longing. Perhaps that physical distance between people in love makes them gravitate quite naturally towards expressing tenderness and familiarity online – internet love, of a sort. The internet has doubtlessly led to lot of improbable but strong bonds forming between people who are far apart, and there’s frustration, humour and beauty to be found in that equally. I think people who’ve been in a long-distance relationship, or an intense online friendship, can probably relate to aspects of this piece.
Beach Sloth also said ‘macros feel sweeter thanks to John’ do you think that your ebook has helped to develop the image macro? If so how?
I like that line, very generous. I take influence from others in making memes and macros a form for poetry, and I moved quite instinctively in the direction of trying to imbue the form with something of my own. I’m not sure if it’s new, but I feel that it is working well and seems to have struck a chord with people. This usage shows some exciting potential for more macro-based work to me, at least.
You recently read on the ‘Brit Lit spreecast’. How was the experience?
Terrifying, tbh – it was my first ever reading. But it was great and I came away with some new friends and a lot of positivity and inspiration. Michael Scarborough and Crispin Best really blew my mind – there was a lot of talented writers there across a broad spectrum of styles. It was great to read with my close friend Tegan Christmas, and also to get feedback from Spreecast contemporaries from America. I watch a lot of Illuminati Power Hour and Not Your Mom’s Poetry Reading, so it was good to get involved.
How does ‘Brit lit’ compare to American Alt Lit in your opinion? What do you think the future of Brit lit will be like?
I’m not sure if there’s a stylistic divide along geographical lines. Of alt-lit in general, I feel like there’s a pleasing breadth of work from both sides of the Atlantic. From the more cynical and knowingly modern realist stuff, to performance poetry bordering on stand-up comedy, to quite raw emotional work – I think it’s a scene that’s tied together perhaps more by a certain energy than a style, and by the community being located largely online. Lots of people operate in several of these styles and flick between them. I think it’s just thriving, it’s energised and exciting, and it’s only going to get better.
John also writes dream state poems like the two below: ‘I write in a “half asleep” state sometimes and wake up with a phone screen full of lines and images, sometimes without remembering writing it. And then I wrestle with the structure and rhythm for a few weeks, editing bits in and out so that it “phases” between fantastical or unreal imagery and recognisable “conscious” passages’.
Face down sprawled out
Up here, in summer clothes
In the attic, sweat beaded, dust gathering
Flapping leaves, half-sleep, mower roar
The heat settled on the house like a heavy weight
The rowing boat still, the ball unkicked
Adrift on damp sheets
We are sluggish beneath the afternoon.
Take what you need and leave
they’re making things down there
nesting under rolling rocks she smiles a grey smile
and beckons in the kitchen gloom
the food turns on the table
the light grows thin
We’re going down the stairs from here
I’m in the basement,
There is no basement.
Behind the curtain lies the world
The quiet roar of waterfall
Cars scything through puddles like everything is a foot deep but
I am asleep, and it hasn’t rained.
Yes, we had a lovely day, yes, thanks
The speeches were in German but we,
nodding along, smiled when the crowd laughed
And drained the open bar.
I held the gaze of a female Polizei
in the lobby I’m not sure why
We went for a drive A story about a father, shouting at his two year old
in the street to “grow up”
Street graffiti: “don’t drink and fuck”
As if there’s anything else to do in
This endless city, this sun-beaten sprawl,
this dirty kitchen of Deutschland.
John is still working on macros, below we have a brand new one with a promise of more to come