Smoking With Bunny Goodjohn

Read the Story March 15, 2004

I notice you’ve used birds before in your work; what draws you to them?

I was once in love with an alternative comedian called Zed the Famous S. Seriously, that was his real name—his stage name was Chicken Reggie. We had long conversations into the night about life after death, and he said if he went first, he’d make a point of looking me up. Sadly, he died in 2000 of Motor Neurone Disease—a bastard of a way to go for a funny man. But ever since, birds, especially chickens, keep invading my work. I honestly believe that Zed, in the guise of Chicken Reggie, is feeding me material. It’s a little disconcerting to discover that my muse is a 52-year-old comedian who’s dancing around a cloud to the strains of “I’m too sexy for my shirt” and wearing his mother’s corset. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.

You seem to know a great deal about chickens; is this from hands on experience?

Ah, life with chickens! Yes, I decided to get myself some birds in 2003. I’m a vegetarian who yearns to become a vegan. But I love my eggies. So I decided to get four hens who, in the absence of a rooster, could lay me unfertilized eggs (my version of veganism said that would be acceptible). I did rescue four ladies who were a little old and destined for a friend’s pot. I named them after my four best pals—Ella, Soozie, KayKay and Wilma. Problem is, Ella turned out to be an Eliot. Eliot still hasn’t learnt the intricacies of love-making, so they’re vegan eggs at the moment. It won’t be long though. I’ve caught him practicising with the water dispenser. It’s very sad.

Does writing flash come easily for you?

Yes and no. Bad flash is amazingly easy. I just sit down and it pours out of me like sweat. But good flash is another matter. My writing guru, a lovely man by the name of Jim Peterson, told me to get in touch with the subversive, and I think that advice works well for flash. Dig for the subversive and then boil it down. Keep the heat turned up until you’re left with the clean bones of a situation. If they’re good bones, it’s good flash.

Are there any pieces that you’ve been considering for a long time, but haven’t written yet?

Not really. I think that writing from lengthy consideration is more suited to, say, short stories or the novel. Flash feels more immediate to me. Bang! Bang! Bang!—that’s Flash—both from a writer’s and a reader’s point of view.

Some authors have favorite words that they love to use and can’t stay away from. What are some of your favorites, and do they pose a problem for you?

You mean like… Chicken?! It’s not so much words with me as themes. I keep getting caught up in this ‘sex with birds’ thing and as I said earlier, I think that’s down to Zed dicking with my brain! In poetry, I have a penchant for “tremble.” Such a beautiful word. Feels great on the tongue and the image of trembling is gorgeous. In prose, I get dark. Kids and wives crop up a lot, and life’s not nice to them. I suppose things like that sometimes make me worry that I’m becoming bogged down in my material. But you can only write what comes to you. Once you start trying to force your material, it gets pulled out of shape or rips down the middle. I think I’ll stick with sex and poultry for the moment.

About the Author:

B.A. Goodjohn, originally from the UK, now resides in Forest, Virginia. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in or are due to appear in The Texas Review, The Cortland Review, Wind Magazine, E2K, Insolent Rudder, SaucyVox.Com and other journals. Contact: bunny@lynchburg.net.