Interview with the Peoria Poet, Mather Schneider


Mather Schneider was born in 1970 in Peoria, Illinois and now divides his time between Tucson, Arizona and Mexico. He has 5 books available on Amazon.

TGG: Your Twitter / X bio just says ‘small press burnout’. Can you expound?

MS: It means I’m burnt out on the small press. But not completely, I guess, since I still submit occasionally and have a new book out by a small press. So I’m a liar. Maybe I should change that bio. I know some people change theirs frequently. I should add some pronouns, some symbols, something a little more hip or clever. What’s yours say? Cheese head expatriate? Quesito? I have been submitting my work to small presses since the early 90’s. I used to take a hundred envelopes at a time in a box to the post office. I got mail every single day, without fail. Going to the mailbox was my favorite time of day, especially on a day off from work. I would savor it. I would drink a few beers and wait for the postman. I got a lot of acceptances. Hundreds, from mimeo zines all but forgotten. I used to keep all my contributor’s copies but eventually I threw most of them away. It was fun for a few years. But it got me nowhere, and then the small presses switched almost entirely online. The editors became social justice warriors and the whole thing started to stink. To stink of conformity and writers posturing on their moral high-grounds. It grossed me out, and made me sad. These days I can hardly tell the difference between the substance/attitudes of the small presses and the big presses. It’s not much fun anymore. I’m old and bitter. I’m burnt. I’m out of style. I’m like that old hat.

TGG: Tell us about your latest novel with Anxiety Press, The Bacanora Notebooks, a book I was happy to preview, that The Gorko will be featuring with several excerpts this fall.

MS: Thanks Gorko! The Bacanora Notebooks is a darkly humorous (I hope), picaresque love story about a loser cab driver and an illegal Mexican immigrant. They meet, fall in love and try to live as normal life as possible. But she starts to experience health issues and then gets deported, which leads to them moving down to Mexico to live with her parents in Hermosillo. It is a first-person narrative and much of it is taken from my own life, but not everything is true. No one in the book has sexual identity confusion, nor do they cut themselves or go on fucking sprees. No one is dyslexic or worries when a stranger mispronounces their name. No one has a college degree or goes to hipster bars. It’s pretty boring, actually. Working class hero shit.

TGG: Do you think that your writing sounds like any other author readers would recognize? Bukowski comes to mind but especially your poetry is more articulate / subversive than Buk’s.

MS: I don’t know what my writing sounds like. I suppose it probably sounds like Bukowski. He has always been an influence. He influences everybody, even people who’ve never read him. While I was writing the book I was reading Celine. I used a ton of exclamation points in the first draft, most of which I later took out. I’m not a stylist and am not sure what you mean by ‘subversive.’ I just want to write things that are simple, funny, emotionally charged and not boring. I want to scream a little, and be tender. The main things I strive for are clear sentences with natural rhythm that easily flow one to the next. That’s about it. I don’t like to talk about my writing. To me a good style is mainly just a lack of pretension.

TGG: It is hard not to notice that you are constantly getting into growling matches with other dudes on Twitter / X. Only dudes right? You troll dudes ruthlessly, are rude and grouchy to dudes, and have dozens of truly committed dude-emies who rarely miss a chance to lash out at you. How would you describe the Twitter / X persona you have forged? Is it you?

MS: I am not ‘constantly’ getting into growling matches. And I don’t troll people ruthlessly. Unless I’ve forgotten. You talking about G- – – – – I- – – – – – -? Give me an example. Often just a two or three word comment can set someone off for weeks, ha ha. As if they’ve never heard someone say, ‘Meh.’ Sometimes when I am drinking and I’m on social media I do get a little Turretsy. It’s true I’ve got up some hungover mornings and thought, ‘Oh, shit, what did I say last night?’ But, it is no newsflash that people are getting more sensitive to negative feedback all the time. You simply cannot say anything negative anymore, to anyone, ever. If you don’t believe Simon-Bite-Me-Bitch hasn’t written the most amazing book of poetry in 3 hundred years, then just shut your trap, you MAGA hater loser who doesn’t even know the meaning of ‘community.’ Like, dude, what’s the point if you can’t support ‘indie lit?’ Even if you’re trying to be funny. Nowadays, yes, if I say something negative it better be to a dude, and a heterosexual, white dude too. In the past I made the mistake of making negative comments to women too sometimes, or people of ‘color,’ but if you do that of course that means you hate all women and are racist and deserve to burn in the fires of hell. Obviously. What else could it possibly mean? Anyway I don’t do that much anymore. It’s no fun. People just block you and hate you. Nowadays when I want to say something to someone on their timeline, I catch myself just in time, and say it to you in a private message instead. You get me.

TGG: You told me that according to certain indie lit personalities your award-winning poetry manuscript, A Bag of Hands, has a stupid title. I for one think it is a great title, and a great collection. Thematically it is The Bacanora Notebooks in verse. What was your response to that criticism, and how did the manuscript win the Rattle Chapbook Prize?

MS: Just that one person made fun of the title, as far as I know. Wait, you’ve read it? Gracias, guey! My response to that criticism was to make fun of the title of his book. That’s how these things are done. But then he blocked me. If you pay close attention, the people I troll deserve it. The manuscript A Bag of Hands won ‘second’ prize in the 2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize. Always a bride’s maid! Well, once a bride’s maid. I received 1,000 smackers and 500, yes 500, free copies of the chapbook. What the fuck Tim Green thought I was going to do with 500 copies I have no idea. Most of them are still in the boxes, which I use as a bedside table at our place in Puerto Peñasco. What do you mean, how did the manuscript win? The manuscript won because I submitted it and Tim Green liked it. I paid the required entry fee and didn’t include any personal information on the manuscript. But still, how could he have not known it was me? How many cab drivers are out there writing poems? A few, maybe. Tim Green has always liked my writing and has published me many times in Rattle. In fact I was published in Rattle before he even was the editor. He has also blocked me from Facebook and Twitter, ha ha. He hasn’t blocked me from Youtube yet, I don’t think. That chapbook prize will probably end up being the highlight of my writing life, stupid title and all.

TGG: In our short acquaintance I have been most impressed by your experience dating back to snail mail of the indie lit, outsider lit scene, a group of volatile people mostly doing fuck-you authorship on their own time between hours on jobs, which I only stumbled onto recently, in its latest incarnation. What is your perspective on the current state of the scene?

MS: The current state of the scene is a big fucking joke. There’s nothing volatile about it. It’s snoozeville. It’s sheep counting sheep. The sheer numbers of online publications is insane. The sheer numbers of ‘must-reads’ and ‘new voices’ and ‘brilliant storytellers’ is insane. Everybody is larping. 20-year-old writers get published in a zine and make a social media thread like they’ve won an Academy award. The hot girls get a few more numbers but nobody really cares. Maybe 10-20 people pretend to care, for a minute. Everything I read online that is lauded for being ‘new’ doesn’t seem new at all, as a matter of fact it seems pretty backwards and retarded. Social media has brought with it this ratio of 99 percent hype, 1 percent substance. This rarely happened in the pre-internet zine world because there was no hype, or very little. It was all substance. That’s not to say it was all great, but zines like Wormwood Review and the old New York Quarterly (not the one now) were better than anything I read today. Editors didn’t give a flying fuck what your pronouns or gender were, what political party you were aligned with, who you insulted last week or what MFA program you attended. I’m definitely one of those guys who thinks the internet watered everything down.

TGG: Same or similar question: what are some indie or outsider lit writers you like?

MS: I don’t have the budget to buy many books. There are hundreds of classic books which have stood the test of time that I would rather read. I’m sorry, but that is the situation. I like Hugh Blanton’s book reviews and there’s this guy named Jon Doughboy who isn’t half bad.

TGG: Are you always writing, or does it come in spurts? Do you plan projects, and if so what is your next project?

MS: I write, or revise, almost every morning before work. But that doesn’t mean I get a lot done. I am working on 2 poetry manuscripts and also 2 chapbook manuscripts for the only 2 contests I ever enter: Rattle and Slipstream. I have another novel in mind but have never been able to get beyond 30 pages. I also have a short story manuscript that I’ve never sent anywhere. I always get more done when I’m unemployed, like during the ‘pandemic.’ Unfortunately the pandemic is over, and I must work. I am an exterminator now, or ‘Pest Control Technician’ as it’s termed. Somebody’s got to kill those honeybees, and I get to drive around in my own truck and sit in the park sometimes, milking the clock, checking my inbox, which is usually empty. I read that in Paris the bedbugs are taking over so maybe I’ll move to Paris like Henry Miller.