Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Q&A with Megan Volpert

Megan Volpert, photo by Rob Friedman
Megan Volpert is the author of the new book Boss Broad, which includes poems that rewrite some of Bruce Springsteen's lyrics. Her other books include Only Ride and This Assignment Is So Gay. She teaches high school English in Atlanta.

Q: In an interview with http://www.artsatl.org, you said, "I never considered any other musician for this project," referring to Bruce Springsteen. Can you say more about your decision to focus on Springsteen's lyrics in this book?

A: I have mixed feelings about Springsteen, and mixed feelings are usually worth interrogating. The book argues that it's possible for us to be both spiritual humans and political progressives at the same time. I believe American democracy is salvageable if we can show average churchgoers how to love Jesus and queers at the same time. There's simply no other musician who embodies leftist religiosity more than Springsteen--but he did need some queering up.

Q: You've also focused in your work on Tom Petty. How would you compare the impact of the two on popular culture?

A: I wouldn't compare the frontmen because I've done deep study of both, which makes you realize how a case could be made to give either of them the edge in any type of contest. E Street and the Heartbreakers are probably tied for the title of greatest backing band of all time.

In comparing their impact on me personally, Petty has been far more impactful. I've literally got a "What would Tom Petty do?" tattoo over my heart. My first guitar was named after him and the two books I've published about him aim to define and secure his legacy. Whereas I'm fine with knocking Springsteen down a peg sometimes.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: Well, it's about the Boss, but only very broadly. It's also about women and girls--broads--who are bosses, doing good work and holding it down in this often troubling life. Springsteen said that he thinks "soul man" is a fine thing to put on a tombstone. I agree about how nice it'd be to get it down to just two words, and the book title takes aim at my own tombstone.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

A: Whatever they need to keep going. As I say in the book, "feminism is a war of attrition and none of us can ever give up." For me, rock and roll is a church that keeps me going strong. A lot of folks are skittish about the word "church," yet all of us need faith in something to stay motivated to do our good work.

I'm not looking for blind obedience to my causes; I just want to lend a little fuel to whatever fires readers are trying to keep lit. If I could bottle my attitude and sell that directly, I might've done that instead. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Writing Boss Broad took quite a lot out of me, and I'm happy to stick to my editorial skills for a while with some projects that proudly serve my community well.

Currently finishing up edits on the RuPaul's Drag Race and Philosophy anthology (Open Court, winter 2019) and then starting in on acceptances for the Closet Cases: LGBTIQ Writers on What We Wear anthology (Et Alia, spring 2020). So I'm spending the next year or two thinking about style and fashion, putting music on the back burner for a little bit. That philosophical bent always lingers, however.
Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I'm a public high school English teacher, which is a kind of soldier. If you consider yourself any kind of soldier, any kind of ordinary person who keeps pushing the rock up the hill and keeps trying to laugh when it rolls back down again, everything I write is for you. Thank you for spending the time and maybe the money to hear me out. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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