Today we’re joined by Dominique Cyprès. Dominique is a phenomenal writer who has dabbled with various forms including fiction and nonfiction. Their first love is poetry and they have written plenty of different kinds of poetry. They have a story in Unburied Fables, an anthology from Creative Aces. It’s obvious they’re a passionate and dedicated writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about
I’ve dabbled in a lot of different sorts of writing – from
fiction to creative non-fiction, poetry in both verse and prose. As someone
with an overlapping interest in tech, I’ve also experimented a little with
interactive fiction. I’m really interested in what new ground can still be
broken with Infocom-style text adventures.
I’ve also forayed a little into video editing and
stereographic photography. I’m pretty much the prototypical “jack of all
trades” in that I keep trying new media and I don’t often stick with one and
try to master it. In the end, though, everything seems to come back to poetry.
I often find that when I’m working on fiction, or text adventures, or visual
media, I’m compelled to find a way to inject poetry into that medium.
What inspires you?
My primary motivation in making art is a sort of practical
mysticism; my goal is to give voice to the enormous wonder and bewilderment I
feel trying to make sense of both the natural world and interpersonal
interaction. As an autistic person, I often find myself in the sort of
situation that Temple Grandin refers to as being “an anthropologist on Mars.”
The world often seems an altogether foreign place to me, and my art (when I
have the time to make it) acts essentially as fields notes on this inscrutable
What got you
interested in your field? Have you
always wanted to be an artist?
The artistic role models who have most informed the
direction I take in poetry are probably Emily Dickinson, Miyazawa Kenji (whose
work I have read only in English translation), and Charles Simic. Dickinson and
Miyazawa together really pulled me toward poetry as a medium in the first
place, and their biographies and work share certain themes in common. Both were
disabled and regarded as odd by their communities. Both expressed in their work
an immense love of humanity and of nature, but wrote from a perspective of
looking upon these subjects from the outside, and both wrote largely for
themselves and did not manage to sell much of their work to professional publications
during their lifetimes.
Simic’s influence on me comes through his seminal
Pulitzer-prize winning volume The World
Doesn’t End, and largely has to do with his pioneering work on the form of
prose poetry, and his use of ambiguous and discordant sensory images to
cultivate what poets refer to as “negative capability,” the ability to draw art
out of questions that have no answers, out of confusion and non-rational
I tend to think of art as something I am inclined to do, and not as a feature of who I am, perhaps because I’ve long had it
drilled into my head that writing poetry alone is not a viable professional
path for someone who needs to support themself and their family financially.
I’ve heard this even from former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand, who derives
much of his personal income from his work as a college professor.
As a young person I wanted to devote my life to art in some
way professionally. As I neared the end of high school I told my parents I
wanted to study acting full-time in college and choose that as my field. They
asked where I would find the money to feed myself and I didn’t really have an
answer, so I studied psychology instead, and wound up dropping out of college
after three years when I reached a point where my undiagnosed learning
disabilities had started to make it impossible to complete my coursework.
At that point, in 2012, my self-esteem just bottomed out
entirely, and one thing to I did in an effort to pull it back up was to take a
bunch of poetry I had been working on while I was at school (where I was
pursuing a creative writing minor) and build on that work, flesh out its themes
a little bit, and compile it into a book I could have printed through a major
self-publishing-platform. That was Dogs
from your childhood & other unrealities. I had neither the money nor
the energy to engage in any serious promotion for it at the time, but being
able to share my work with some appreciative friends in that manner was the
kind of encouragement I needed.
Now I’m working on a new volume of poems. It’s necessarily
very different from my last book, because I’ve changed a lot since 2012. It’s
in verse, whereas my last book was entirely in prose. It’s much more concerned
with overtly political questions, with the relationships between the wage
worker and their work, with the struggles of a young and growing family. I
hardly find time to work on it, as a full-time retail worker, part-time
student, and parent, but I’m excited to share the personal growth I’ve
experienced in this form.
you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you
include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I often feel that I’m walking a metaphorical tightrope in my
work, attempting to balance impulses toward self-deprecation, disillusionment,
and cynicism on one hand and an irrepressible sense of naïve wonder on the
other. That’s a feature of my everyday life, too, but I expect it comes out a
lot in what I make.
What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?
My advice would be to try to hold on to your art, to what
you do that moves you on a deep level, even when it doesn’t pay the bills. And
if you have to step aside from making art because you’re depressed or just too
busy struggling to survive for a while, you need not be ashamed. Go back to
your art when you’re ready and let it accept you with open arms.
Where on the spectrum
do you identify?
I’m asexual, and I’ve identified myself as such since age 20
when I first heard about other asexual people. I’m quoiromantic. I’m married
now; I have two spouses and a child, and the fact that I’m asexual doesn’t come
up very often in my day-to-day life. But if I had never identified myself as
asexual in the first place, I probably wouldn’t be married now, because it was
identifying as asexual that allowed me first to accept myself for who I am, and
then to find people who understood and accepted me enough to start a family
Have you encountered
any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
There’s a strong push for writers of creative non-fiction
and poetry today to candidly confess intimate details of their personal lives,
and that very often includes one’s sex life and sexuality. That can be an
uncomfortable demand for an asexual writer and I encourage other writers to
share only what they can share confidently. As it happens, though, I have made very
few connections “in my field”, so I don’t yet have any direct
experience with ignorance around ace issues directed at me as a writer.
What’s the most
common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
As much as you can insist to people that asexuality is your
sexual orientation, some people will be determined to see it as a medical
symptom that you should somehow be treating, or as an ideological position.
There’s only so much myth-dispelling educational material you can provide to
someone before it becomes a waste of time.
What advice would you
give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their
The decision to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, and not
as a proper planet, was an arbitrary taxonomic exercise, motivated by mounting
discoveries of Pluto-sized objects in our solar system. Essentially, if we
continued to count Pluto as a planet, there would be so many newly-found
planets of similar size that we could never hope to make elementary school children
memorize all their names. But Pluto is still out there in the Kuiper belt, and
it’s still an important target for scientific research.
Similarly, your experiences as an asexual person are real
and an important part of your life even when other people find it inconvenient
to acknowledge them.
Finally, where can
people find out more about your work?
Dogs from your
childhood & other unrealities is still available in print and as a free
e-book via my blog. My next book, tentatively titled dead monochrome doggerel, is still in
the works and I’ll be sure to announce it on my blog when it’s ready.
Thank you, Dominique, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.
Fact: Pansexuals and asexuals have a long and rich history with each other, trading food, music and celebrations between the Pansexual Pantheon and the Asexual Armada. Happy Ace Day to our longtime friends!
Asexual fact of the day: it is common to hear poor jokes about plant-like reproduction when discussing the asexual community. These jokes are actually a diversion set in place by higher ranking asexuals- in truth, asexuals reproduce by releasing a cloud of spores, that lodge in the brain of any standing too close.*
Those infected will be the first of our willing minions when we move to conquer the world.
*note that bisexuals appear to be immune to the influence of the spores