When I read ctch’s writing I don’t always see the poetry it’s so irl. It makes for great poetry. But since most of these poems are love poems, or wrecked by love poems, it hurts. Which makes for great poetry, too. I met ctch at a cathedral in Italy to talk about her new book GHOST GFS (Electric Cereal, 2015). We drank coca-colas and threw swans in front of the gondoliers.
Jon-Michael Frank: The dedication in your book reads to every human aching because of another. What rituals did you have to invent in order to write about that aching? Were you more intimate with your wounds, or is this book a product of distance, something like the ghost is?
Catch Business: Right now, I feel a distance from GHOST GFS. It was something I needed to expel from myself. Now that it’s found a home at Electric Cereal, I hope my words are able to help others out of or from getting into shitty situations like those in which I found myself while writing the majority of these poems. I guess I kind of look at each page as a warning – read these words so you don’t have to live them. I don’t know how seriously that comes off in the book, but I think most readers will feel the sense of regret I was working with when writing.
Regarding rituals, I’m constantly shifting from one to another, but writing has this way of spilling out of me regardless of where I am, physically or mentally. It’s like a cleansing. I feel some unnatural vibration in my body and I have to get it out, which I’ve only found possible by writing what I tend to call ‘hate poems’. Typically I’m not the kind of person to retaliate irl, but writing poems is that one way I do. Because it doesn’t really hurt anyone else, unless they pick up my book but that’s their decision, that’s their masochism. I guess that’s the difference between my sadism in this situation, it doesn’t feel like I have a choice. So yes, writing, despite how ugly and painful the inspiration, is inherently intimate. Only now am I able to separate myself from the poems and the events that influenced them.
JMF: What was the most regrettable thing you were doing at the time you were writing this? What humiliation were you running from into art?
CB: I was manipulated. I was abused. I was stolen from and lied to, over and over again. I still have to redact my own blame. It’s a constant challenge to let go of those thoughts – ‘why didn’t you leave sooner’, ‘why didn’t you say anything’, ‘why didn’t you, why didn’t you, why didn’t you.’ My only safe space at that point in my life was my art. It was the only place, no matter how hard he tried, that he couldn’t touch, that he couldn’t fuck up. I still feel embarrassment and shame but every time I do I remind myself that those are reasons I found myself in that situation in the first place and for so long. I cannot feel ashamed of my fear; I cannot be embarrassed of my empathy. I cannot lie to myself. And that’s what these poems are, attempts to tell the truth.
JMF: In the title poem GHOST GFS, you write “we talked on the phone / wasn’t only I was bored / I missed his sand stained voice”. How much of the love that we end up with do you think is influenced and/or malformed by boredom? Is that sad, idk, Lou reed did sing, “and no kinds of love are better than others”. What do you think?
CB: For a long time I had no clue what love was; I thought love meant, sweeping me off my feet and onto a boat decked out in glitter banner snakes and filled to the brim with shrimp cocktail, idk. It was this grandiose thing for me to dream of, never have, and as that kinda sunk in I probably at some point was just like ‘fuck it’ and suddenly any search for love was overwhelmed by the need for attention. This got me into a lot of trouble. I wasn’t looking for love at that point in my life. I was just bored, just lonely. Any adventures were founded on this notion and I got nowhere.
Now I think I know what it is, idk if boredom can influence or deform the energy of love. Love transcends boredom. I can be doing nothing and feel a surge of energy that causes me to dance, just because I glance at my partner while we’re watching tv. That energy is something uncontrollable and sometimes insatiable but not like I’m horny or something – just happy that we exist together and wanting to dive deeper. I guess all love is the same as this kind of source of inspiration, when it’s real, so ya I think Lou Reed was right.
JMF: Affection/crushing seems punitive throughout GHOST GFS. Towards the beginning you write the loveliest of it as, “with the goddess of / it’s time to love again / look up at her / sunset she said / we create this infinity”, and it doesn’t seem like the speaker wants it to end. Is it the repercussion, or the attempt to elude it that sustains us?
CB: I think a bit of both. What may not be all that apparent in this book is that there are multiple characters the narrator is lamenting. At the beginning of the book, following the piece you’ve quoted, this infinity is on hiatus. Can an infinite feeling be on hiatus? That’s the breaking point. Although I was being abused by an other, I was almost also gas-lighting myself – making myself question the infinity already and always inside me.
JMF: You kill me with “but you want me / to write about you / when all I remember are the references / to my past that keep breaking my heart” from No Thank Yous. Do you think this is true, that wanting part? Or do you think the speaker necessitates it in order to unearth a catharsis or deliverance from it? How much is it imperative to believe that for anything we do?
CB: This is a great question. I feel like it lends itself to the answer above, where I admit that I was hurting myself as much as others were hurting me. Considering the cathartic element to the statement, it does represent this kind of deliverance, this kind of ‘fuck you’ I didn’t know how to say out loud. I think, especially when you find yourself in an abusive relationship, the things you want to say or do are often compressed into nothing by the weight of your fear or guilt or confusion. Finding a way to say ‘fuck you’ so that it actually made an impact, a positive one on myself rather than a negative one on him, was imperative. Finding a way to stand my ground when I found myself laying there too many times to count was necessary for me to move forward with confidence so that no one else would bring me back down. Even if I didn’t have a place to say my part, now I did. And I wanted to take advantage of that, just as I think a lot of people who’ve been thru similar experiences want and need to do.
JMF: No One reads, “No One knows how to tell me how to live / but that’s all I want”. If not love, what else does this for us?
CB: Maybe not love, but connection? Maybe not love, but fear? Idk. It’s different for everyone. I live two lives that blend into each other sometimes – but in my head it’s like this: love and career. Career is influenced by the need to succeed, so yes: money. Love and money is what is comes down to, what else? What else tells us how to live, what else has any influence over how we live? Buy my book!
JMF: In Delete All History you say, “the memories of how I will never be / enough or anyone new”. I love how this line lends to the idea that memories create these impaired and deprived versions of ourselves, is it this deprivation that makes us never new? Or is it some sort of Greek proportion, where fate is this mirror and/or narrowing of self?
CB: My mouth is agape and I’m staring into my drink as I think about this one. I think that both of these situations can apply and maybe they circle around each other so that it’s like the stars and some days we are narrowing due to fate, some days due to ourselves. It’s definitely something I’ve learned a lot about in the past year, the ability to diminish and re-grow. Outside of the actual writing of the poems in this book, I was stifling myself during that period in my life. I was shoving thoughts into my deepest recesses and so of course I was also recessing. I really thought I was losing my mind. I was unraveling myself but not into a new form, into my old form. It was like my body saying, you have to start over. It was like my body saying, you’re on the wrong path. So maybe we each are closing in on ourselves, emphasis on our selves.
In reality, I do believe I am enough and can be someone new. Every day I die and come back with a new outlook on life and how to live it. Every day I look back at life and see it with a new set of eyes. And although I hate to admit it, I still feel sorry for who I was when I wrote these poems but I don’t let those feelings hold me to that place. It’s almost like picking up a book of poetry and feeling what happened but not knowing all the details. Whether it’s deprivation of the past or fate’s focus of the future, I always try to take in what’s happening now. I think this is the only way to constantly find new ways to live, the only way for me to feel alive.
JMF: The other threatens a lot of the intimacies in this book, but the speaker often postures an authority through a lack of self-restraint in internet-stalking. You write, “I compare my instagram feed to hers”, which raises a weird, somewhat tenuously related question for me of: is the easiest way to participate in the lives of others, or to claim our own, through envy? Maybe this is a stupid question, or just an internet problem, but everything that seems substantial to us these days often seems to mature that way (into internet problems). So yea, talk to me about envy.
CB: I love talking about envy and jealousy and female competition. I could write a thesis on it probably. Because it’s everywhere, and I think at least most of the people reading this interview would agree with me that it is so annoying and we want to get it out! Basically, I’m not afraid to bring it up in my work because I know most people reading those lines will be like ‘ya, damn, me too.’ I want to face my challenges and ask others to do the same with their own.
Why couldn’t I stop comparing myself? There were endless platforms to do so, so yes, I do think this is ‘an internet problem’. But I also don’t see envy thru the internet as the only problem having to do with female competition. I think some people will read this book as an attempt to move on from someone else, but for me, this book is an attempt to move closer to myself. This book, in many ways, was an attempt to get my life back after I had rejected it for another’s. I had to forgive myself for the hate I felt for others when I didn’t know self-love.
JMF: I love all this. I want to ask you a few abstract questions now. These questions are somewhat derived from Jung and Myers’ typology theory as well as various invocation exercises.
Inner or outer life
Imagine a time you’ve hurt someone in your life and tell it to me backwards
36 hours on a train to oregon
Two years of waiting for my phone to light and ignoring when it did
kisses then quiet
quiet then kisses
perfect can’t be real
What do you want your body to reveal/expose about the universe
artists need money to eat more
What do you love that haunts you
my own ghost gf, but i welcome the haunting
torn – natalie imbruglia
here comes the rain again – eurythmics
What color is red
red is the color of a broken heart
red is the color of my face when i see you
red is the color of seeing myself in the toilet
What in your art is not in your life
the ability to edit what i say
Say something you are
Create a planet
my planet would rule reflection and astral projection
At what age do you think you will die
i die daily
Give 3 diff flowers to 3 diff people
rose to every ex lover
What from childhood are you still afraid of
What’s something pleasurable for you that you wouldn’t simultaneously consider beautiful
You can’t see anything. What do you see.
What have you failed to love
Bird or snake
fill my sky with birds
Describe an image that frightens you
What empowers you
Are you heading more towards something or more away from something
i’m moving into myself
Does the dark or light concern you more
light because you have to make it last
What are you more aware of than your self
Something you fetishized as a teenager
Purification or consecration
i want to see clearly
Detail an early memory
swinging on the balance bars
under a grey seattle sky
in a pink puffy jacket challenging
the damp metal with my grip
What do you wish was a feeling
does a flower know it’s blooming?
Give me an image of new life
What’s next in ctch’s life, or in ctch’s next life?
CB: Everything is so exciting right now that I hope I can figure out how to celebrate and relax. I’m constantly looking for the next task to complete, whether that be finishing a new poem, editing a chapbook, or reading subs for Witch Craft Magazine, I don’t really know how to slow down. I would like to figure that out soon so I can start to really enjoy my new life with my new book! And once I’ve figured out how to do that, I’ll prepare to do it all again with my book of poems ABLE TO / ALWAYS WILL forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms next year.
Catch Business is the author of GHOST GFS (Electric Cereal, 2015) and ABLE TO / ALWAYS WILL (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) as well as the chapbook Bye, Product (Be About It, 2015). She is the Founding Poetry Editor of Witch Craft Magazine and Chapbook Coordinator at Sad Spell Press. Tumblr / Twitter / FB
Jon-MIchael Frank is the author of the forthcoming poetry chapbooks: Disintegration (
Birds, LLC) and Nostalgia Flower (Sad Spell Press). He has a book of poetry comics out called How's Everything Going? Not Good from Ohio Edit / Cuneiform Press. Currently, Jon-Michael is the acquisitions editor for the small press Birds, LLC and lives on the Puget Sound. More at www.jonmichaelfrank.com.