IFOA: What inspired Amphetamine Heart?
Liz Worth: Amphetamine Heart was written over a three-year period. I wasn’t setting out to write a poetry collection, necessarily; I was just writing poems throughout that time, and a lot of them tended to be autobiographical in some way.
The writing itself is a bit surreal, a bit opaque at times. Even though it’s a personal collection, I was also trying to push my own boundaries with my writing. But the experiences behind the poems were the driving inspiration. I was going through a lot at the time.
I was living in a really terrible apartment. I had developed a lot of anxiety and had trouble sleeping, so I started taking sleeping pills and chasing them with a bottle of wine every night. I was living on artificial rest and was really edgy a lot of the time.
I wasn’t feeling very hopeful for my future, either, and I was also realizing I had a lot of issues from my past that I still had to work through. Eventually I took steps to reconcile a lot of that and turned my whole life around. When I read Amphetamine Heart now I can still feel the heaviness of that time of my life.
IFOA: Talk to us a bit about the connection you make between punk music and poetry in this collection.
Worth: I’ve always been really interested in punk’s literary connections. People like Patti Smith and Lydia Lunch and Exene Cervenka, who are all really important figures in punk’s story, have been really successful in showing they are multitalented as musicians and as writers.
For me, that connection in Amphetamine Heart was really to draw inspiration from those mentioned above, as well as writers like Kathy Acker and Daniel Jones, who were really writing in this very in-your-face kind of way. I like how punk is about brutal honesty and authenticity. I like how it reinforces the importance of not worrying about what other people think: if it’s the truth, it should be out there.
So that was what I kept reminding myself of with Amphetamine Heart. Even though I put a lot of myself into this book, I wanted it to be honest and unsettling and true to what I had experienced, and was experiencing.
IFOA: Have you ever set your poetry to music?
Worth: I have had two different bands that were more like art projects, and we were setting poetry to music. The most recent project I had like this was called Salt Circle and we were pretty minimal: we had a drum, a keyboard, a theremin and a kalimba, and we tried to really focus on creating an atmosphere for each of our songs.
I’ve also used my theremin in some of my readings throughout the years, though these days I tend to just go up on stage without any instruments. I do have some plans to get back into more adventurous spoken word projects in the future, but I’m waiting to wrap up a couple of other projects first.
IFOA: Name one poet who has made a lasting impression on you.
Worth: Lynn Crosbie. The way she uses words is astounding. I would love to know how her mind works when she’s writing. But it’s not just her style. It’s the things she writes about, the experiences she captures. So often I find myself thinking of her work even if I haven’t read a poem of hers in a while. But I always come back to it eventually. Her books are often revisited.
IFOA: Finish this sentence: “I write best when…”
Worth: I’ve had a good night’s sleep, the coffee is ready and I don’t feel like I have to rush off anywhere any time soon.
Liz Worth is the author of four books, including PostApoc and Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond. Currently, she is working on an occult-inspired vampire novel and is rewriting Twin Peaks scripts as original poetry. Worth presents Amphetamine Heart, a collection of poems channeling punk and heavy metal influences to explore the dark undercurrents that often permeate party culture, as well as No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol, in which she appropriates the original text of Andy Warhol’s a, A Novel and turns each page into a unique poem.