Queer Author Profiles: Catherine B. Krause, Author of Treason Cantos
Catherine B. Krause is a queer, transgender, and neurodivergent poet and writer whose work has appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Gargoyle, The Opiate, and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems (NYQ Books 2015), among other places. Because none of these publishers demand permanent exclusive rights to the poems, Catherine eventually releases every one of her published poems into the public domain using the CC Zero dedication. She also sells them as reader-sets-price e-books on Smashwords.
How would you describe your writing style?
Completely without artistic merit. But what I’m trying to go for is to write in a way that is succinct, playful, honest, and to a large degree automatic. I’ve had a lot of influences over the years, so at one point I was really into minimalism, at another I was really into confessional poetry, and nowadays I’m into surrealism and do a lot of automatic writing, but the things I used to read and write still end up influencing it. People still tell me my poems are short, and my interest in confessional poetry definitely taught me things that carry over into automatic writing. I used to try as hard as I could to be profound in the smallest number of words; now I guess I just write whatever’s on my mind and don’t try to be profound, and even try to poke fun at that sort of thing.
What inspired you to write your latest book?
It’s honestly kind of silly and probably a bit egomaniacal, but I was thinking about how difficult it is to get the rights to translate a poem (I’m a huge dork who speaks Esperanto), and realized there’d be a day, sooner or later, when I’d be dead (probably sooner, I thought at the time, but I got better). And I didn’t want someone to stumble across one of my poems one day for whatever reason and have to deal with the hassle of getting ahold of other people to ask permission, etc., figuring lots of people have anxiety like I do.
So I had all these poems I was submitting to various places, whether they were Tumblrs or anthologies or print or online magazines, and I decided I would release them into the public domain. And then I realized that a declaration on my website that my work was public domain was only going to last as long as my website, and I would need to put it somewhere more permanent, so I compiled a book and put it up on the Internet Archive. And I revised it a number of times, kept adding poems, and got most of my poems from 2014–2017 on there, and then I decided to end it at 2017, make it into a Smashwords book and make it reader-sets-price in case anyone wants to support my efforts and is able to.
What’s something unusual about your book(s)?
My book contains a twenty-part cut-up poem; its original title was Bits of Bits of Years and at the last minute I decided to call it “Treason Cantos (Bits of Bits of Years)” after the book’s title which I had decided long before. Every sentence in this poem was written in my notebook while I was homeless; it was mostly journaling but I also tried writing a few poems, etc.. I lifted all these sentences out, put them on separate lines of a text file and randomized them and then arranged them into prose poem paragraphs.
Do gender/sexuality feature in your writing?
Of course. I couldn’t keep them out if I tried. I can’t separate my life into different discrete parts that are unrelated to each other. Being queer and trans is part of my lived experience and it’s the thing I am most qualified to write about, along with other parts of my lived experience.
What do you do when you feel insecure about your writing?
Congratulate myself on tricking a few editors into publishing my poems anyway, I guess? I always feel sort of insecure about my writing. Even doing this interview I’m thinking “who cares? And everyone’s going to read this and think you’re an asshole.” On good days I just plug along; on bad days I throw notebooks away, delete the contents of hard drives, or eat all copies of my first chapbook in the midst of a psychotic episode. Generally speaking.
What sparked your interest in becoming an author?
I was a queer kid growing up in a relatively conservative family: my dad would mock any gender-non-conforming person he’d see in a restaurant and regularly would go on rants about how pride parades shouldn’t exist. I was mocked when I started expressing that I had genital dysphoria, and this caused me a lot of problems. I had almost no outlet and I went deeply into the closet, but then suddenly I found Allen Ginsberg — I heard him read America. Then I found Howl and Kaddish, and I dunno… that was probably the biggest thing. Poetry made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
Are any of your hobbies in a symbiotic relationship with your writing?
My interest in languages, natural and constructed, influences my writing a lot. Many of my English poems began as Esperanto poems, or vice versa. Language also encourages me to rephrase things, which really comes in handy in poetry.
What’s the most interesting job you’ve had (other than writing)?
When I was homeless in DC I stood in line for rich people who wanted to get into congressional hearings, usually lobbyists. It’s honestly not funny; I’m a bit disgusted with myself for doing it, even if I needed the money. But it was eye-opening anyway; it kind of confirmed to me just how bad things were in this country and how the people who ruled this country were out for themselves and nobody else. It’s honestly something to have congressional staffers walk by in their nicely pressed suits and sneer at you and sometimes openly mock you in front of their colleagues just for kicks — people who will probably be running for political office some day and pretending to care about poverty and the like.
What’s the first story you remember creating?
It was called The Scary Scary Ghost In the Cave and I think I was in first grade or maybe even Kindergarten.
Fanfiction: love, hate, or neutral?
Neutral. I appreciate it because it was honestly some of the first literature I read. I was an early millennial but I also had the Internet at a young age and it sort of fascinated me to be reading all these unusual or fantastic takes on my favorite characters.
What’s your favorite fictional relationship?
Steven and Connie. They’re their own people and they’re a team, and sometimes they meld into one person, but then they separate. And they have a lot of mutual respect. I don’t know, also they’re both really cool. I loved a recent episode where (SPOILERS) the creepy guy who’s into Stevonnie was trying to show Steven how to win Connie back when they were having an argument, and towards the end of the show Steven says “she’s my best friend” and the creepy guy responds, “What? I thought she was your ex! Hm, how do people treat their friends?” It was so poignant and perfect and captured exactly the way love should be and exactly how it shouldn’t be.
Do you tend to prefer villains or heroes?
Heroes, to be honest, even if that makes me a dork. The actions of villains can sometimes have such an effect on me that I don’t want to consume any entertainment for a while. I end up hating them most of the time. I don’t like seeing anyone get treated unjustly, not even fictional characters.
A queer neurodivergent poet, Catherine B. Krause came out as transgender in 2014 and, rejected by family and many friends, found herself in Washington, DC working for food and rent. When this job failed to give her the stability and security she had hoped for, she found herself living in and out of homeless shelters in early 2015, often sleeping on the sidewalk, taking whatever work she could. As she was struggling to keep her head above water, she began to explore surrealist poetic techniques, which soon led her to the political ideology behind surrealism.
In mid-2015 Catherine got off the street and began to write seriously about what had happened, partly in an attempt to understand it herself, partly to affirm that what had happened was real. These poems largely reflect on the pain that has been Catherine’s life since 2014, though she has since made it to a supportive, affirming, and loving environment, and this reflects itself in some of the poems written in 2016/2017.