B. Diehl Interviews Heather Bell

BD: Wanna do the most informal interview ever via Facebook Messenger?!


BD: Are you okay? What is happening?

HB: I’m
fine, just having an anxiety attack.

BD: :(

*8 hours pass.*

BD: Yo!


BD: Interview?

HB: Boi I’m drinkin

BD: Excellent. First official interview question: whatcha drinking? Is it moose urine?

HB: Plastic jug vodka

BD: I don’t even know what that is. Like, is that the brand name?

*1 hour passes.*

HB: No…it’s vodka in a plastic jug

HB: Sorry, I had people over


BD: Gimme 20 minutes!

*Exactly 20 minutes pass.*

BD: Okay, I’m back. Had to go to Wal-Mart because I wanted rainbow-colored licorice. I also bought some confetti because I’m hosting a poetry reading tomorrow and I want to throw confetti at my friend Charles Joseph during his set.

HB: Go

BD: HI, HEATHER! How did we become Facebook friends? I hope you remember...because I don’t.

HB: I was Google searching serial killers and came upon your page.


BD: I think the first time we communicated happened because you commented on one of my dumb-as-hell statuses…and then I looked at your profile and saw a Sam Pink quote — “If I ever find a dead horse, I am going to beat the fucking shit out of it” — and I got all excited because I’m obsessed with Sam Pink. I love him. Do you think Sam Pink is a complete psycho? Or just a good writer? Or both?

HB: I think he's a normal human being. Someone with more confidence in their writing than me, but still normal. I had a crush on him years ago, but a secret crush so don't tell anyone.

BD: Are you one of those writers who hate their own writing?

HB: No, I like a final piece. I'm just embarrassed about the whole thing. I don't really talk about it with anyone and I don't hang around artists or writers. I kinda want it to go away, but it never does.

BD: I know what you mean. Being a writer — especially a poet — is pretty awkward. If my coworkers at my shitty warehouse job ever find out I’m a poet, I’m killing myself.

HB: But are you really even a poet? Like, I sometimes write poems next to my grocery list. Milk, bread, existential suffering, etc. I feel like poems are me just whining about existence into a void that doesn't give a shit.

BD: Poetry is whatever we want it to be, right? I have this book called Witch Hunt by Juliet Escoria. There's a "poem" in there that's literally just a scanned receipt from a gas station. I sat there and read the receipt and thought, "Hm, good poem!"

BD: I think most poets have the problem of feeling like they are whining into a void. Maybe even any indie writer.

HB: Eh, we're all reading shit off screens all day.  If a receipt is a poem so is Facebook. I have a lot of feelings on "real poetry" and it goes along with critical thought and the ability to read poems.  I know that makes me the bad guy for anyone outside of academia but there's also a natural talent people have as well.  I dunno. I just drank that jug of vodka.  Not sure if I'm making sense.

BD: You are making sense. Your stuff definitely isn’t Tumblr poetry. You use a ton of clever imagery and wordplay. Like, I’d believe you if you told me you had an MFA in Poetry.

HB: I don't, but thanks. I have a bachelor's degree in writing though. I always wanted to go back for an MFA but...life makes things impossible. I like "poetry lite" as much as the next person, but in a lot of ways I don't think you can know poetry unless you study it. (Again, crucify me). We have all these political talking heads talking about human rights nowadays but what we need are people who truly understand human rights. Otherwise, you're working with "be nice to each other" rather than "be nice to each other BECAUSE...."

BD: I'm sort of "on the fence" here about the whole "knowledge of poetry" thing. Like, I won't really enjoy a poem if it's just random clichés slopped together with line breaks. But at the same time, I think poetry becomes really robotic if it's too structured. I like a lot of "MFA poets," but other "MFA poets" tend to bore me or give me a headache by being too pretentious. How much knowledge is enough? And is there such a thing as too much? (I agree about the human rights thing!)

HB: Well, I think a lot of writers forget about audience. I can study Greeks and write a bunch of vague stuff about it, but what about the reader? That's the most important person here. It's a bit of a dance, not writing TOO clearly (boring), but allowing the reader to use a poem as a puzzle they can figure out.

BD: I think you do a really good job finding a balance with your poems. You go really deep with symbolism (like the "MFA poets" do), BUT what's great is that I don't have to do 7 hours of research on mythological dragons to understand some metaphor about your husband's jawline. You write relatable content.


HB: Yes. I find that kind of a curious aspect about poetry. In fiction, you wouldn't be able to vaguebook your way through an entire book because everyone knows no one would read it. But with poetry, we've allowed "intellectual" hipsters kind of get away with it.

BD: Wait, are the intellectual hipsters the MFA poets? NOW I’M CONFUSED!

*7 hours pass.*

HB: Okay, I fell asleep. I have no idea what I was talking about but it looks like I'm a jerk when I'm drunk.

BD: I think you’re fine. But I’m still wondering who the intellectual hipsters are!

HB: Like, just 20-something poets. Like yourself. Just kidding. I mean hipsters who write but don't read. I dunno. I'm old. I just remember sitting in poetry circles and having these discussions where people told me they "didn't have to read poetry" because they "didn't want it to influence" their work.


BD: That’s the dumbest thing in the world. So you dropkicked them all in the face for saying that, right?

HB: Nah, it seemed pretty prevalent though back then.

BD: You mailed me 3 of your books — Expletive Deleted, A Horse Made of Fire, and Kill the Dogs — for free after I told you I’m poor. Do you give a shit about making money from your writing?

HB: I don't really think it's possible. I have made the most money self-publishing, but I am more interested in writing friends at this point. So I send out a lot of free stuff. I guess I should do readings and sell what I have but anxiety so...

BD: I'm thinking of self-publishing my next book. I don't understand people who talk shit about self-publishing. It's usually the most logical decision from a financial standpoint...unless some huge-ass publisher wants your book. Plus I like the idea of having complete creative control. Which book(s) of yours did you self-publish again?


HB: Expletive Deleted and How to Make People Love You. You can really only make money if you pay for all your own books yourself. Then sell directly. So I would buy 100-something and just tell people about it. I had better luck with HTMPLY because I had a great online presence back then. I still have about 10 left of ED, but I've done zero marketing. Doing the math, you really can't make much by allowing companies to take a portion. Like, you make a couple bucks I guess but nothing significant. HTMPLY will forever be my favorite of mine.

BD:  I just Googled “HTMPLY” because I have no idea what that is, and a picture of this guy came up.












HB: LOL, How to Make People Love You. It’s out of print. I've thought about redoing it but I actually lost the manuscript on an old computer. That guy probably read it and now he's super happy.

BD: Wow. Apparently I need more coffee this morning. Okay. So. A Horse Made of Fire is my favorite book of yours that I’ve read. Tell me about how it came together?

*30 minutes pass.*

HB: I was writing a lot about motherhood and mental illness. It was over about a 2 year span. I never write with the intention of a book, but if I notice a way the poems connect, I'll try different ways of putting them together. I had successive miscarriages. It was hard. It’s not a book I reread often as it's difficult for me.

BD: Shit.

BD:  I also really like your chapbook Kill the Dogs. How’d you end up getting a chapbook published by Rattle? Did social justice advocates yell at you for associating with Rattle? I see Rattle getting yelled at on Twitter a lot because of some of the super edgy writers they publish. It all gives me anxiety, so I close my Twitter app and start playing Clash Royale instead.

HB: No one has ever said anything to me. I was a runner up in their chapbook contest. It’s sort of funny, because feminism is so important to me but I prefer the company of a lot of writers that “they” have deemed offensive. I think about that a lot and I think they’re misguided. I have written poems from the point of view of rapists. That doesn’t mean I condone rape. It means as writers we have to push the envelope. A couple of your poems pissed me off too, Brandon. But I enjoy that feeling. It means your writing got inside someone like a parasite and made them react.

BD: I follow you on Instagram. You post a lot of selfies and photos of your dog. Are selfies poems? And was that the dumbest question ever?

*20 minutes pass.*

HB: Yes it was. I really like makeup so it's more of showing my makeup of the day. I find makeup to be art. And I got into it because I don't have time for any other sort of art anymore. Plus, bitches love my face. And my dog is cute as hell so never question me again.

BD: Gotcha. Your dog seems cool. I like border collies. But what about cats? Do you like cats?

HB: No, I hate cats.

BD: Going to pretend I didn’t just read that.

HB: Cats are demons.

BD: *throws all of your books in the trash*

BD: I just have 2 more questions.

*1 hour passes.*

HB: Okay!

BD: Are you working on a new book, or nah?

HB: Nah

BD: Last question: do you like Blink-182?

HB: I guess they’re okay?

BD: I think we’re done here.