Sam Herschel Wein’s poems “Today, the Begonias” and “Wearing a jockstrap to see Rent on the last night of my lover’s stay in Chicago” appeared in Issue 16 of Sundog Lit. Sam lives in Chicago and specializes in perpetual frolicking. Their second chapbook, Gesundheit!, a collaboration with Chen Chen, is part of the 2019-2020 Glass Poetry Chapbook series. He co-founded and runs Underblong Journal. Recent work can be found in The Indianapolis Review, Bat City Review, and Connotation Press, among others.
Tell us a little about your writing process (from the first word to the last edit).
I can’t write on screens anymore – I get too distracted! So I have to do all of my generative writing in notebooks to complete a thought, or a poem, or a short essay (or even, lately, chapters of a novel lolol). Unfortunately, these days, the words sit in notebooks for many many months before I finally return to them and type them up. But the typing up! A magical experience. I try to return to the headspace I was in while writing the piece, coaxing out the message I was attempting to get across. I usually decide the form of the piece in that process and do some pretty major revisions. From it’s first file on the computer, I do small tiny edits over many many many saved drafts, until it feels tweaked!!!! To the point where I am happy with it :) And then sometimes I send it to a friend, they rip it in half, and then I have to start over lol yaaay the process!
What is something you’re fascinated with at the moment?
I mean, when am I NOT thinking about families. I’ve been specifically thinking about that small little moment, in childhood, when members of a family recognize queer behaviors in a child and try to stomp it out. And the child, for the first time, recognizes that something about them is different or wrong. I’ve been trying to read a lot about that tiny little moment. A big moment!!!! A fast moment. A forever moment.
Describe the last thing you read in five words.
Underwater, I waged wars, healed (The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch)
Is there a place that has inspired your writing? If so, where is it and what about it made for good material?
Omg, YES I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED, so it’s this cafe called “First Sip” and it is in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago on the street full of Vietnamese shops and restaurants (Argyle St) and you walk in and there are beautiful cascading mugs held by string from the ceiling and hundreds of luscious plants and the most delicious drinks of your entire imagination and it’s owned by two sisters, Gigi and Erin, who grew up in the neighborhood and noticed there were no coffee shops and opened one and just wow the pure ~magique~ of that place!! They have a drink called the “Mint To Be” that just… tastes like summer!!! I ordered it so many times it became a running joke, and they eventually put my name on it!!! And now it’s called the “Mint To Be Sam” and there are tote bags and stickers based off that drink that have the Fruit Mansion (my first chapbook) on it, just, gosh. Je live. They are mostly known for their infamous Ube lattes. Everyone I love always shows up there at one time or another. It is a community space!!! Before the pandemic, I would spend entire days, entire evenings, just sitting, or standing at the counter, chatting, sipping beverages, jotting down ideas, seeing so many friends, catching up, writing poems, taking shots with the owners, ordering food down the street and eating it in the back, making plans, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming.
Coffee, tea, or neither?
Always tea. I want to be a coffee person. Like, I love coffee!!!! But caffeine and my anxiety are NOT friends these days. They need a lot of space from each other, and I am trying to respect that space lol. But I feel ok about it, because, goodness!! I love tea.
Physical books or e-books?
Oh yeah, physical books forever. I want to be able to read e-books, but, every time, after literally 1 minute and 47 seconds, I click away from the book to any possible notification that pops up. Books, for me, are about taking breaks from screen time, which is really necessary right now because, according to my WEEKLY “screen time” updates, I am severely over the healthy amount.
What are you working on now?
I’m in the process of sending out my first full-length collection of poems, which is a slow process! It’s been more than a year and I’m feeling antsy. I started to put together another full-length collection, which feels like a lot to manage, but they are not similar projects at all. I started on a novel, which is an entirely new type of writing for me, though I keep writing little essays instead of full chapters, so I’ll have to see if it will really become a novel or not lol. Right now it’s all in this one notebook. I call it the ~novel notebook~ and it’s very very very very gray. I’m trying to start typing up a lot of my old nonfiction essays I used to write, which are a lot stronger than I remember them being. Feeling a little bit more free of genre constrictions during the quarantine. Finally, I’ve been plotting some performance art pieces, mixing poetry and dance, one of which I was supposed to perform in early April. I’m returning to it and expanding it, which is new for me, and a lot of fun!
Any recommendations for readers, i.e. books, movies, television, art, anything under the sun?
Oh gosh, books! I just read We the Animals by Justin Torres and can’t get it out of my head. I’m reading Solmaz Sharif’s Look. Have you read the novel Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai??? Wow plz go read Funny Boy. The first movie I watched during the pandemic was a Japanese Western called Tampopo and nothing I’ve watched since has even come close. I rewatched Avatar: the Last Airbender because I’ve been needing to reconnect with my childhood. I’ve been finding all this smutty Instagram art. I highly recommend making a gay porn twitter account. The internet is a trashfire but sometimes the fires can be blooming flowers, too.
Anything else that you’d like to plug or let our readers know about?
I’m a good long distance communicator and have made a lot of friends during the pandemic~ so like, find me on social media!!! say hi! If you want. Or if you’re lonely, or bored, or thinking about breakfast foods. The DM’s stay ~open~
Keep up with Sam by checking out their website, www.samherschelwein.com. You can also read the latest issue of Sundog Lit by clicking here. Until next time!