Jay Bernard is from London and works as a writer and film programmer at BFI Flare (London’s LGBT film festival). They are the author of three pamphlets, The Red and Yellow Nothing (2016), English Breakfast (2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (2008), and have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, including TEN: The New Wave, Voice Recognition, Out of Bounds: Black British Writers and Place and Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology. Recent projects include The Sound and the State (an ongoing poem/film/lecture premiered at the 2016 Document Human Rights Film Festival),100, a three-site poetry installation commissioned by Art on the Underground, the Breaking Ground U.S tour 2015/16, and a 2016 residency at the George Padmore Institute, celebrating its 50th anniversary. Jay can be found @brrnrrd and jaybernard.co.uk
What do you suggest people might listen to in advance of hearing you?
Me reading at the Purcell Rooms, Southbank: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IX14phLZT8&t=318s
Where can we find one critical (or other) response to your work that you have found provocative, interesting, insightful or generative?
Critical responses / reviews about The Red and Yellow Nothing: http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?page_id=12659
What readings or performances most shook you up, and why?
I read at a pub in Camden when I was fifteen, and I hadn’t really finished the poems, and I had no idea what I was writing about. My own parents couldn’t muster a consolatory word. Then I lost the envelope that contained my payment.
I did a reading last year at a big queer event, and it was very badly put together. Loud audience, performers going way over time, silly programming – for instance putting me after a musician. I cannot deal with that kind of thoughtlessness anymore. It cheapens what you do.
What writing (or whose writing) is exciting you now?
Yuri Herrera, Ali Smith, Vahni Capildeo, Erna Brodber, Beatriz Preciado, Maggie Nelson, Donna Haraway. These are not new voices, just what I am finding interesting.
What/who do you wish people read more of?
People can read whatever they like, but I wish more people were self-reflective, self-aware, more willing to read something that proved them wrong.
What do you wish you read more of yourself?
More contemporary literary theory. More gender/queer theory. Being outside of an academic context makes this very difficult.
What is your writing for? And what is it against?
Sound, lucidity, rhythm, history, juxtaposition, archives, play.
Ask yourself a question you’d like to answer. It could be one of these from the questionnaire in the last issue of the Little Review (below) or anything else at all you think might be good.
“Why do you go on living?”
One of my favourite quotations is by June Jordan: “I am not sure any longer that there is a difference between writing and living.” So I ask myself why I keep writing, why I keep living my life this way, when it’s actually very hard and there is very little reward. It’s such a cliche, but I am not really built to do anything else. I’ve tried, and those were the times I really did question why I was living. So you strike a balance, I think, between really wanting your life to end because you are doing something you hate, and wondering how this is ever going to end well because of the precarity that comes with doing what you love.