Leon Baham’s Ponyboy, Sigh: A Word Problem is officially released today! Ponyboy, Sigh: A Word Problem is a hybrid story-essay by Leon Baham wherein Ponyboy, of “Outsiders” fame, is submerged in a queer (un)conciousness that swins through the murky waters of desire, fear, love, brotherhood, race, violence, mothers, tenderness and memory. A complication of faggotry with an inquisitive chorus and echo like a bloody cave. You can purchase the chapbook and read an excerpt here.
In honor of the release, here is an interview with Leon Baham conducted last week via email:
What was your relationship to The Outsiders prior to writing Ponyboy, Sigh and how did writing Ponyboy, Sigh shift or disrupt that relationship?
I read it in the seventh grade. I don’t think I thought much about it for a long time. I started having the name ponyboy repeated in my head like a spell or something so I started writing. I thought it was kind of gay back then and now I still think it’s kind of gay.
What are your latest and greatest obsessions, in writing/reading and otherwise?
The Vicious Red Relic, Love by Anna Joy Springer is probably my favorite book to come out this year. I’m also really into work by Tisa Bryant, CA Conrad, Christine V. Nguyen, and I’m totally looking forward to reading Kevin Killian’s new book Spreadeagle. I’m reading Virgina Woolf for the first time and I’m pretty into it. I’m also learning about hip hop right now. I’m listening to a lot of Mos Def.
What are your expectations of queer literature, as both a writer & reader?
I like queer literature that is open. The work that does not shield itself from the outside world. Instead it engages and makes brave choices. It may sometimes be wrong or not have the desired affect but it tries and is honest in this way. I’m really influenced by Jean Genet and he said something to the effect of wanting his work to be read by more people than just writers and artists. I like this idea. I think queer literature should not separate itself from the rest of culture. We’re as real as any other motherfuckers and so we should not be afraid to be read by those who may not understand just yet. I expect queer writing to be less afraid.
If you could time travel to any decade in history, which would it be & why?
I would travel back to the sixties and try and be one of the original Temptations.
Tell us about your current writing projects and writing process- do you work on one project at a time or several?
I have two large projects that I am working on as well as a side small project where I am trying to recreate my mother’s dream journal. The first large project is under the name The Book of Imaginary Boys in which Ponyboy, Sigh will be a chapter. The second project is a memoir piece called Supercool where I am writing about my grandfather murdering my step grandmother. The memoir piece will be mixed in between damaged writing and movie stills of a more complete history of black science fiction that I’ve created. The idea is kind of playing with the dead sea scrolls and lost sacred text.
What role do you see feminism playing on your own work?
It’s at the core of my work but I think it is shifting. I want my feminism to be hard to place in different situations. I was really close to my mom as a kid. She made me read and taught me science but also danced on tables and took off her top. I have a lot of dreams where I move from room to room and the rules change but are not explicit. I think feminism in my work moves like this.
Name five songs that you feel could serve as a soundtrack to Ponyboy, Sigh
1. He Needs Me- Shelley Duval
2. Four Women- Nina Simone
3. Music from ice cream trucks
4. Kill the Wabbit- Looney Tunes
5. Fastcar- Tracy Chapman
(Ed. note: I’ve made a mix of these songs for your listening pleasure! Read along to these sounds and weep. Download here.)
If Ponyboy, Sigh were being made into a film, who would you pick to play Ponyboy and Johnny?
I’d want Ponyboy to be played by a life size puppet or doll made by Kara Walker and I’d want Johnny to be played by a young Rock Hudson
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about Ponyboy, Sigh?
My grandmother ordered a copy.