Death To The Ego
Perhaps best known for her book of poetry How To Cure A Ghost, Róisín is currently preparing to publish her novel titled Like A Bird. Making the clear transition from writer to multidisciplinary artist, she intends to release a variety of medium-defying work in the near future. office sat down to talk with the artist on everything from writing and healing to Kendall Jenner.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I think for a very long time, I would have described myself as a writer. But recently, I started describing myself as a multidisciplinary artist. This year I’m merging and making more visual art, and I decided to make performance art. I’m working on two shows that I just have this vision for, and I’m doing it. I’d also call myself someone who is really invested in healing.
What is the transition from written work to physical?
Writing is a very interesting tool, I’m sure you know. There are many dimensions to writing, and I feel like I was exploring all of them. I’m screenwriting right now, and I’m releasing a novel this year. I just wrote a book of poetry, and I work as a journalist. So clearly, I’m navigating all of these facets, but it didn't feel as if it was the totality of my experiences as a person and artist—and maybe I kind of resent wanting to be distilled down to one thing.
Frankly, I’m so out of the microcosm of the writing world, although I exist in it. I don’t feel community there, and so I think the lack of community has really made me question where I do want to find community. All of the artists that I look up to are multidisciplinary to some degree, and that’s something that really excites me. So the transition has been cool, because I feel like I get to have this visual and more abstract component to this body of work that I’m writing. It’s really fun to be like, “Oh, this is the other facet to my being!” I’m not one thing, I’m many.
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Right - Dress by GANNI, hat by CLYDE, jewelry by LADY GREY, belt stylist's own
You touch on lack of community, and in my opinion, you are a community leader in the writing world. Do you recognize yourself as one of the leaders of a community that might just be growing, because you are speaking out?
I see that question in two parts. I absolutely feel and think it’s necessary to be apart of the community in a way where there is no division, because we are all in this together. I’m genuinely such a corny person. Yesterday I was talking to my landlord, and I was like, “We’re in the midst of a revolution.” We are evolving as a species, and the world is falling apart. It’s burning, and everything is happening, but I am so invested in our future.
We need to start shifting, and we need to keep changing. That means that ego needs to be worked on, and we need to start creating spaces where we are invested in care. There’s not a lot of care in general, so I think I see myself as a beacon for that. I don’t want to just talk my politics on Instagram—I’m actually going to become what I’m saying. I want people to look at me and be like, “Oh shit, that’s what it looks like to have integrity.” I’m opposed to the idea of leadership, but at the same time I know I’m a leader. I really do. Every tarrot reading, every workshop, I fucking get, “You are a leader; you are a healer.” It’s a push and pull.
For anyone in that position I imagine it comes with a lot of rewards, but also frustration. What do you think the connection is between intention and reception?
I think it’s tiresome to see so much dishonesty, and frankly there’s not a lot of dedication beyond an aesthetic or beyond being like, “I’m going to say this on Instagram and be a healer. Love and crystals.” I know I say that in a mocking tone, and I do believe that. But we can’t be doing that anymore. We are really facing an apocalypse. We need to ask how we can shift. There’s a difference between what people think and what they’re willing to do.
The best way that I’ve seen people act is through conflict. How to build a community is through conflict. That’s when you really see if they will stand up for you and say what they think. As a queer brown person, are they going to protect my body? That’s a really moving and interesting way to see how artists in particular really stand by their art. I think that art is a tool to create revolution. So for the people who aren’t doing the work... we can’t be doing that anymore. That’s where the tension lies for me. Why are we all fronting so much? We have to evolve. I think this will be the thing I keep beating over people’s heads.
Dress by NANUSHKA, jacket by NOMIA NYC, necklaces by PAMELA LOVE + LADY GREY, all other jewelry by LADY GREY
I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I feel like a lot of people can’t get to this point of themselves, because they don’t actively heal. You’ve been very open about confronting your past and healing. What’s one childhood memory that has always stood out to you as a defining moment of this awareness?
A lot of my childhood was like that. I have a very domineering mother. She’s extremely abusive. From a very young age, I realized that no one was looking out for me. And it’s not like I didn’t yearn for that—I really wanted that, and I’m still really emotional. But there’s also the Capricorn side that’s very focused and committed, and that was my whole life, I was really committed to survival.
Last year, I remembered my mother molesting me. So that was a huge shift in my life—beginning to work through that trauma. I started seeing a trauma therapist last summer, and I’m a deep practitioner now of Ayahuasca, and doing the work of "facing yourself" in that sense is so difficult. Both these practices prompt to you go to your inner child and go to this place—kind of what you’re saying—this memory and giving that memory love. That is a great way to begin healing and self-parenting. For me, I have this distinct memory of playing blocks, and I'm maybe about three. I’ve got my back to the adult me, and I’ve just been going up to her and saying, “I love you, and it’s going to be okay.” That, to me, is time travel. What is time travel? Maybe it’s this ability to know you're going to be okay, and that’s amazing. Time travelling is really interesting particularly in the spectrum of trauma, because I think surviving is believing in your future.
If you can go back, can you also go forward and manifest?
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Right - Dress by GANNI, jewelry by LADY GREY, hat by CLYDE, belt stylist's own
What have you manifested for yourself in 2020?
I mean [Laughs], oh my god, this year? Well, my book that comes out September 18, 2020 is called Like A Bird. It’s a novel that I started writing when I was 12 years old; I’ve been writing it for 18 years. I am really really hyper honest, because it’s a way of showing people that you can do that, and you can be yourself. There’s no distinction between who I am online and who I am in real life. It’s something that I’ve been very particular about, because I think that there’s a lot of dishonesty. But at the same time, all of us are just seeking truth. With my novel, I always had dreams of it being a bestseller and all of that corny shit. When I sold it, it was such a sad day. My agent was like, “It’s not a lot of money, but it’s such a good offer.” I was just like, “Okay, sure.” And it was, like, no money. I had dinner with my friend Kimberly Drew that night, and I was just crying to her. I felt like such a disappointment, and I was so embarrassed at the fact that I had made no money. And she was just like, “But you wrote a book, and you know it’s going to be good.” I looked at it again and was like, “Holy shit.” I wrote it for 18 years, but also I am really proud of it beyond the years. It’s about a girl who gets gang raped and survives. I have a lot of admiration for myself. Besides all of the things I’ve been through in my life and all of the intense barriers to my own survival, I just knew it would eventually pay off. The manifestation that I have is that it resonates beyond what I thought was possible. I really want my book to move people, and I think it has the potential to do that.
Also, just to make the art I want to make without the fear of money. I grew up poor, you know, and now I have a great apartment, but there’s always a fear of it all being taken away from me. So I’m doing my spiritual work to ensure and accept that I’m good, but then also to work and make foundations of where I am and building something greater and beyond me. So I’m thinking, what does a cultural institute look like? How can healing and educational tools come together for those who are inspired by the work that I do? Because this is not about me—this is about the work.
It’s amazing to have that vision, not only for yourself, but for others as well and knowing that the message only works if it has a ripple effect. I want to go back to you saying that you’re just as real online as you are in person, because I had a feeling. So I went through your Twitter, and I want to go through a topic you brought up, because it’s too fucking real. Kendall Jenner Instagrammed your book, and you retweeted it saying, “If the means of production is clout, working artists and writers do not own it, and they can rarely obtain it without help from the powerful. The myth that clout is available to anyone is the new American dream.” Can you explain?
That’s such a tricky bind. Do I care that Kendall Jenner is reading my book? No. Do I benefit off if it? Yes. And do I like that I benefit off of it? Yes. I’m not going to sit here and be like, “Fuck capitalism!” and pretend like I don’t benefit off of capitalism. I don’t have a safety net, so I need benefactors like Kendall Jenner to make Instagram stories.
The other difficult side of it is if she’s reading it and not understanding it. I remember when I first read Barth’s Death of the Author. I was like, “If I put my stuff out there, I can’t control how it’s taken?” I’ve seen that time and time again, because people read something and are like, “Fuck you.” It’s unnecessary, some of the hate that people have thrown, but at the same time, it’s their prerogative. I don’t know how to handle it.
I can’t pretend that I don’t want money, and I definitely struggled with that as a kid of a Marxist who was really insane about his beliefs, my father. I’ve seesawed between having a good life and what that looks like. I think that when you are an artist and making work during the time of capitalism, you need to ask yourself: How much money is too much money? At what point do you start giving the money back? A lot of really rich artists may justify their money, but I hope that’s where I can start paying it forward. I’m super invested in other artists. I buy their stuff all the time and make sure I support them. Those things are important to make sure that you’re creating this community. Knowing that the bigger you get, the more you give back is vital. I haven’t yet been able to give back immensely, but I look forward to the time when I can.
Left - Dress by GANNI, jewelry by LADY GREY, hat by CLYDE, belt stylist's own
Right - Dress by NANUSHKA, jacket by NOMIA NYC, necklaces by PAMELA LOVE + LADY GREY, all other jewelry by LADY GREY
How does it feel to have people who have lived vastly different lives than you connect with your work? Is it strange or upsetting?
No, I think it’s beautiful. When you bring it back to human connection, you can remove all of the ego. All of us have hurt. I just came out of a seven-day trauma retreat in the jungles of Mexico using Aya, and it was fucking insane. Maybe Kendall Jenner does fucking understand, I don’t know her life like that. I don’t think I have the right to say I’m better than anyone else. We’re all figuring it out. We don’t need hierarchy. I don’t need to feel better than anyone else. That’s not my jam.
You lead in a way that gives life advice, whether you’re aware of it or not. What’s one piece of advice that you’ve chosen to actively take?
I used to work at a magazine many years ago, and I wasn’t getting paid. Keep in mind, I’m really sensitive, and I’m genuinely shocked when someone hurts me. And my really good friend told me, “You have to remember that they don’t care about you.” I didn’t understand that people were like that. And still when people are bad and mean, I don’t get it. I really used to resent my innocence and naivety surrounding other people. I’ve gotten confirmation from my ex who's still a really good friend, and he told me, “I never really believed you were this innocent.” I think people are shocked when someone has truth, and that’s another thing I want to show.
I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t care about anybody. I want to be the person who cares about everybody. For so long, we’ve prioritized being mean, especially in the writing world. People would be mean to me, and then I would get insecure and be mean to them. It’s this cycle of people’s insecurities. My friend’s advice was helpful, because it made me see what other people were working with, but it also made me see that I never want to be this femme who is mean and industrious. That’s not impressive to me. I want to be kind and caring and full of life. That can be annoying and corny to people, and I know it’s triggering. People will try to belittle you and make fun of you. I just work on my ego and try not to take it personally, because not everyone can meet you there.