Tori Gesualdo is a Los Angeles based poet and bookseller. Her poems are an effort at catharsis and a recollection of her personal responsibility to her own healing and to the healing of the collective. She can be found at Stories in Echo Park, coaxing your friends to read anti-capitalist literatures.
Self-promotion in the literary world can be an elusive and detached practice from the making of art itself. At the same time, marketing one’s own work can also be an extension of one’s artistic project as a whole. What relationship does your artistic process have with engaging with the public? What does that look like for you?
Truthfully, I have avoided self-promotion entirely since finishing college. My poems appear as 24hr blurbs in my Instagram story (if even there) and then disappear. Although my innermost self feels that my poems are an integral part of my project on earth, I persist in sometimes doubting them as an offering to anyone but myself. Luckily, they are good offerings to myself so I just keep making them.
A relationship similarly and potentially fraught with conflict, the relationship between literary art and sales is at times a tricky thing for writers and consumers to completely understand. In some ways, money couldn’t be more separate from art. And yet, we need money, so in some ways it couldn’t be more connected. How do you see the relationship between your artistic production and your financial well being? How do you see this relationship changing for writers writ large as of late?
I feel the irony every time I sell someone a piece of literature regarding the evils of contemporary consumer capitalism… I’ve literally said I wish all literature could be free, but especially anti-capitalist literature’ as I hand over someone’s new copy of Mark Fischer or Slajov Zizek. When a person becomes a consumer, their ability to express what should be made and distributed in the world is expressed through where they spend their hard earned cash. Consumerism is an inadequate and utterly exploitative consolidation of our collective free will. For more details, read some actual literature on the subject, and buy it from your local independent bookstore. The facts are that we need community support to be community support. Don’t help Jeff Bezos go to space. Unless the revolution comes, we will always have rent to pay.
Sunflower Station has been primarily concerned with understanding and exploring the relationships people have with their environments. In what way has the physical terrain of Los Angeles inspired you as a writer?
I mean, growing up I lived in a small town in Rhode Island with like 8,000 people. My sight has been super expanded by the breadth and diversity of life that lives here in Los Angeles with me. I recollect myself as a child riding around on my bike towards graveyards, swimming holes, sports fields. Every household had a sort of outward facing homogeny. Now I ride my bike past multi million dollar estates, 70 different types of cuisines, an audience wrapped around the city block, vitriol blaring, music blaring, multiple virgin de Guadalupe murals, caution tape… I’ve come home to queer co-ops, to bad punk shows, to stoned boyfriends, to eviction notices, to thirsty houseplants. The world really showed me it’s ass in the dwellings, the parks and the venues of Los Angeles. Writing should be me showing you the world as it appeared to me when the world showed me it’s ass.
The communal potential of the literary world and literary production has been at the heart of what makes this all worth it to me. Working at Stories, how does the concept of community influence your artistic process? How has the pandemic affected that? How do you see this dynamic changing in the future?
I am constantly being expanded by the exceptional assembly of brilliant freaks and aberrations that find themselves at Stories. The pandemic privileged me with many hours just drinking wine on the back patio in the after hours, deep diving into the stories of their lives. Re-opening has scattered them to all different after hours around the city, back to the city’s soap boxes, the venues, the galleries, demonstrations, poker tables, what-have-you, but except that little has changed. Our loved ones cannot teach us to go where they have never been. My friends at Stories have made art of all different mediums that is anarchistic, subversive, and honest to the point of being truly revelatory. Stories is good soil. I only seeing myself growing as an artist in such good company.
Final question, can you give me a random book recommendation? Maybe something from a genre you don’t typically read?
I’ll recommend ‘A History of my Brief Body’, which is an essay collection by Canadian NDN Billy-Ray Belcourt. Should you take my suggestion, you will be lead to many other beautiful texts which helped to inform his (and my own) potent anti-colonial diatribes and self love.