Have you ever written a poem about a chicken? Have you ever boiled a live lobster? Who is Maureen Seaton? Well, she’s nobody perfect. She is the author of six poetry collections, including “Cave of the Yellow Volkswagon,” “Venus Examines Her Breast,” and “Furious Cooking.” She is the recipient of the Lambda Award, the Audre Lorde Award, an NEA fellowship, and the Pushcart Prize. She is also a mom; daughter; caregiver; lover; poet; teacher; sexual being; human being.
In Seaton’s latest work, “Sex Talks To Girls,” the author chronicles her transformation from a “happy” suburban near-nun-like housewife to a bi-mom in charge of two children cum full-fledged sexual being. Seaton emerges from the darkness (Westchester County) and enters paradise, i.e. NYC’s West Village (or was it East?). “Sex Talks To Girls” is the antidote to silence, illuminating and hysterical, full-frontal yet maternal. Watch out for the flying buttresses and pink elephants. “I quit my job,” Seaton wrote. But she never gave up. Committed to seeing it through to the end Seaton gives us a slice of pizza from the Big Apple. And it’s hot!
You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened to the chicken.
Warning: This interview contains partial nudity, sex, and some furious cooking.
Neil de la Flor, Scene 360: So we begin this tête-à-tête with a culinary question: what’s cooking?
Maureen Seaton: Hello, Mr. de la Flor. You’re so pretty.
In your new memoir, “Sex Talks To Girls,” who is Sex and why does she only talk to Girls?
Sex is the protagonist of my mind’s libido. Or, Sex is mindfully libidinous and is often quite a character. Sex prattles non-stop and meta-verbally. Pretty much anyone who wants to can listen. (Conversely, those who don’t can’t.) Sex is not a she, by the way. She’s a we.
You write about Da Nile, that sidekick of an elephant in the basement of your parent’s home. Could you tell us about that elephant and how he came into your life?
It’s a genetic non-mystery. One minute he’s just there. He’s pink. You know, you’re dancing around to the Ronettes and then you’re crawling up the basement stairs on all fours (like a baby elephant!), laughing with your friend Kath, who is right behind you and about to barf on your butt.
The inside jacket cover of “Sex Talks To Girls” describes you as “in love with Jesus H. Christ and a butch named Mars; in charge of two children; writing stories that shrink painfully to poems without her permission and as a little saint, a Stepford wife, a bi-mom, and a femme with superpowers.” Wow, I said to myself: How did Maureen shrink all of that inside of her tiny little body? Are we bigger than who we are?
You’re thinking space, Neil. (You forgot how old I am!) Think time instead. In fact, I am now a peri-octo-hottie. (My neighbor Jimmy says I’m a hottie, not me.) I’m also a democratical-type Q-what-me-worry?-redheaded sylph. I recently related my new-found ability to “stay in the now” to a taut rubber band that I could tighten back to serenity whenever my brain strayed too far into past or future. Then I realized I was thinking about the elasticity benefits of the famous Jade Egg and how my friend Linda said no one should ever worry that the egg will get stuck in there because jumping jacks will take care of it pronto. (Get it?) (Do you want to?)
When you were straight, what did you love the most? Hate the most?
I loved mint chocolate chip, hated vanilla. I only appeared straight to those who would someday look for me in a mall during the Christmas holidays and be disappointed.
After Jesus H. Christ, did you think your world would end? Why or why not?
After I abandoned J. H. C. for French kissing I did think my world would end. This, as you know, is not an uncommon belief among people of certain religious convictions. I thought, as many still do, that Jesus and sex were mortally strange bedfellows, oxymorons. They aren’t at all, but I had only been alive for a few years. I was new! Even before I learned that the endocrine glands (or chakras, if you’re thinking energy) get flooded with light during orgasm, I realized I’d have to take a harder look at certain fundamental things people were feeding me. And in the meantime, I became a really good kisser.
What is your favorite curse word?
I love the musicality of words in general. I do have a list of words I don’t particularly like the sound of, however: panties would be one. I do not like that word! And it goes without saying that there are words I don’t like the meaning of. I have no problem with the meaning of the word panties, by the way, just the sound. And I love the sound of the word war but not its meaning. (Of course and etc.) Currently, however (October 19, 2008), my favorite curse word, both for its sound and meaning, would have to be the ubiquitous asshole.
Speaking of profanity, I trust you agree “it’s important to say the hardest things first, but it’s also important to gain truth and then do it.” What was the hardest thing to say?
a. I’m a drunk.
b. I’m a lesbian.
c. I’m a poet.
Maureen: By the way, Neil? I believe the quote reads “to gain trust” not “truth.” My answer might look like this instead:
a. I’m a diva.
b. I’m a goddess.
c. I’m adorable.
In the chapter “The Wild Mouse” your superpowers are revealed, i.e. your ability to communicate and connect honestly and directly to your daughters, your students, and your readers. Tell us about that “Fuckingbird” and the power of 4-letter words.
Thanks! That’s really a nice thing to say. Many people chalk 4-letter words off as “bad” in much the same way they consider sex bad. I remember when I thought that too, I just don’t know why I thought it, except I was told it was the right thing to think. Sex: bad. Profanity: bad. (Have you ever had a mouth full of soap? Once was enough for me!) It really has to come down to the individual, don’t you think, no matter what society spouts? For me, aspiring to sainthood was “bad.” It was killing me. The occasional “dammit” was a way to be human and a way to express displeasure when someone was stepping on my toes and verbs. And sex is just good, there’s no other way to look at it, and, of course, this is simply my opinion. “Fuckingbird” was what my little daughter called it when she wanted me to play Carly Simon and James Taylor’s “Mockingbird” so the three of us could dance around the living room. I’d been practicing my profanity on the phone with my sponsor. “Mama,” Sophie said that day, “play ‘Fuckingbird!’” And I did.
Could you select for the reader a sliver of an excerpt from the book that speaks for all of us and for you alone?
Sure. I’d say pizza speaks for all of us, and please don’t get me started on Chicago pizza speaks for me alone.
In the chapter “Some Girls” you equate your coming out to having a V-8! Question: Was it a Bloody Mary or something more holy?
A Virgin Mary made with V-8, silly. And, no. Or, yes.
Left to right: Photo of Mars, Seaton’s girlfriend, and the author, Maureen Seaton.
Do you believe life exists and/or existed on Mars?
The planet or the butch?
Do you believe life can exist without Mars?
The name I made up for the memoir or the candy bar?
People always ask: Is it a true story? True-true? What are the costs and benefits of truth?
Maureen: You pick:
a. The benefits outweigh the costs by a sincere dollop.
b. There are no calculable costs or benefits. Moot and moot.
c. What is truth, Superman?
d. What is Chicago pizza crust made out of, anyway?
Is Superman the antidote for homophobia? (By the way, I have no idea what the question means but it relates to the chapter, “Parade Redux.”)
This question wins, hands down.
In our last interview, we discussed your book “Venus Examines Her Breast,” which chronicles the time you spent caring for your dying mother. What lives inside your latest book, “Sex Talks To Girls”?
Ah, the mother. The best thing my mother ever said to me was that sex was for love, not just babies. I believed her, and she was right, unlike other people I believed in those days, who were not only wrong, but, again, assholes.
What are the consequences of remembering and of not remembering?
I choose to remember everything in fall colors. Consequently, if I’m not remembering, there are no consequences, other than the soldiers, the ones with the orange feathers in their hats who dot the landscape and request soup. (Sorry, Neil, it’s hard to be serious about memory. I call my memory Wiki. Sometimes I call it craps. Either way, it’s a funny little wizard with wheels on the soles of her shoes.)
You’ve had furious encounters with chickens. How is your relationship to poultry these days?
I no longer punish poultry for my own foibles or the foibles of others. (Foibles: I don’t particularly like the sound of that word either, do you, Neil?)
Alter egos make us bigger than what or who we are but without a name we are invisible. Why are Molly & Mom Mom, Mars & Cal, Clio & Sophie so important?
Who’s Cal? Otherwise, keep in mind that an ego is only as big as the invisible cloak that conceals it.
What would you like to do next?
Eat these collards, play my bass, then sit down and create a story I love.
How is Jack?
Thank you for asking. He’s immortal.
Credits: Cover Art © Ulrike Ostermann