So there’s this writer named Charlie Chitty. He’s from that country where they write “color” with a “u.” We’ve been publishing his stories and poems since 2018. The kids would say that makes him an “oldhead.” We also published his first chapbook, Everything Fun is Illegal and Immoral, back in 2020 and man, that was cool. It even hit number one on Amazon in European and British Poetry! But then he sent in this—Throwing Dead Pigeons Into Oncoming Traffic—and I was about to book another flight back to Airstrip One to fire him in person.

But then I read it back to front and it turned out to be pretty good. So we’re publishing it. But I still got a few things to say, so I sent Charlie this interview. He better answer before deadline because flights from Guadalajara to Birmingham are only about $600 this time of year.


Matt Forney: You wrote a book. Now you wrote this book. And it’s got poems about institutional racism and nostalgia and NF-fucking-Ts. What inspired this book?

Charlie Chitty: A bit of everything if I’m honest. I was going through hell, frankly. Mum got throat cancer early this year although is thankfully in full remission apart from a nodule that’s being removed in January. During that time, the people I thought would be there for me…just weren’t. I didn’t really have support. I had to become it.

MF: I was gonna compare reading this book to being on one of those carnival centrifuge rides but not being strapped in so you get thrown all over the place, but that wouldn’t make sense because you don’t get strapped in on that ride since the centrifugal force pins you to the wall. But the point is that it took me to all kinds of weird places. You’ve got rhyming poems, non-rhyming poems, prose poems, and the title poem which is like some kind of Ezra Pound “In a Station of the Metro” type thing. What drove you to take this particular approach, as opposed to, I don’t know, a consistent style?

CC: Ezra was soucient. 14 words. That’s fucking efficiency.

I guess my style varies because you can never go back into the same lake or down the same road or look at the same sky again. One fundamental theme of the book is that some things are just over, but if it was never going to end then you wouldn’t have loved it.

Also I really get bored of rhyming. I get there’s no tennis without a net, so poems need to work. But you can change where you set up the net, even working it into the concept so the reader has to speculate exactly what the fuck you’re trying to do. Makes the payoff better.

MF: Next question: where the hell do you get these ideas? Liza Minnelli? Institutional racism? Don’t tell me you were one of those kids who watched too much Adult Swim (or whatever the equivalent is over there). Is this the “cyberwriting” that everyone was talking about on the Musk app for a hot minute? What writers inspired you?

CC: Benjamin Zephaniah, rest in peace. I first started taking poetry seriously after reading Roy McFarlane’s Beginning With Your Last Breath about the passing of his mother. My first book ended up being about the passing of my dad. Strange how that happens, isn’t it?

The best thing about poetry is you’ve got Thomas Hood’s “I Remember, I Remember” about growing up and becoming a cynic by virtue of natural education and longing for the magic of childhood ignorance and that, in some sense, he is cast off from Heaven and damned by his own humanism even though it allows him to understand the world around him. And then you’ve got Hugo William’s ‘Toilet’ in which Hugo wants an attractive women to piss all over him.

Both are present in The Nation’s Favourite Poems. (Not Favorite, you Yankee-Mexican.)

Apart from that, Harlan Ellison, Gaiman, Ursula K and Stephen King for fiction.

MF: You broke up the book with an essay? On making money from writing? Oh my God. Are you gonna start a Gumroad course next? “Charlie Chitty’s Ten-Step Guide to Turning Sick Rhymes Into Fat Stacks?” Okay fine, it’s useful advice. Nobody makes money from this, including me. Share your wisdom, good sir. (Not too much. People need to buy the book. And if you use the word “hustle” at any point in your answer, you’re fired.)

CC: HA! Yeah, and I think it’s good advice too. Although I quasi-regret crowing about some of the shit I do because I’ve had people in my Facebook DM’s asking me for money. Several.

Paid or not, I’m still only a writer. Go ask a fucking lawyer or investment banker for a handout.

If I did this for money I would have stopped before I even started.

MF: And now we come to the elephant in the room…

Fictionalizing me? How high were you? First off, I don’t say “bro.” I say “dude.” Sometimes “man.” I interviewed you on the podcast once and there are podcasts and videos of me speaking going back ten years now. You should know this. I’m not gonna make a fictional version of you wearing a monocle and saying “tally pip” or whatever they did on the BBC in the fifties.

Second, fictionalizing real-life people is some Expat Press shit. Okay, I laughed at it and thought it tied the book together nicely. It also means there are now at least two books out there that have me as a fictional character. But what were you thinking?

CC: What I’m usually thinking. I’m bored and this is funny.

MF: That poem about Parliament, dude. I trusted you, Charlie, and you fucked me. I’ve already gotten collared by border agents in the past for the “crime” of having too many books in my luggage. I can’t wait to explain this to the FBI or MI5. Explain yourself so I can print this out and hand it to them when I get hauled into a windowless room.

CC: So “How To Destroy Parliament with the Minimum Number of Civilian Casualties” is a poem that was me pinning my colours (with a U) to the mast. Put me on the watchlist. I don’t give a fuck. This is parody and I’ll do whatever I want to and say whatever I want to. Can we talk about how we’re having a COVID tribunal in this country where government officials are lying? No? That we’re sending munitions to Israel but claiming to be peacekeepers? No? That the Prime Minister of this country bankrolls special interest groups?

Fuck that man, that’s not how I was raised.

One thing that really got me recently was Kylie Jenner deleting her pro-Israel post. Like, what are you going to do? Explain the complex history of a hostile occupation to someone who we all know doesn’t really care?

As far as she’s concerned, she just picked the wrong emoji.

MF: There are a lotta poems in here about nostalgia, the 90s, old relationships, AI, either being wistful about the past or nervous/satirical/scornful about the future. You gotta problem with progress, Charlie? I’ll have you know that I am perfectly happy spending 8-10 hours a day editing GPT-4 content at 2017 pay rates oh my God this is what I’m doing for a living if only I hadn’t had to sell my CHAINLINK in 2020 I literally wouldn’t have to work for the next ten years.

CC A lot of it is me openly suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we’re having a massive and ongoing societal decline in living standards and the only reason people aren’t complaining is because we’ve onboarded a universal HR to remedy it. Ten years ago, you could get by quite easily. Now you can’t, but here’s an advert for mindfulness and here’s a column in The Telegraph about breathing techniques.

It’s certainly not over, but it will be if everyone keeps pretending politicians and corporations care about them.

MF: Real talk: that poem about “demo[ing] killing yourself” hit me in the feels. Maybe this is just my interpretation, but this seems the main thrust of the book: regret, anxiety about the future, discomfort with the online world, a longing for an imagined past. At least that’s what I got out of it. “There is No Comfortable Way to Leave the Server” merges many of those themes. Am I on the right track? And I’m not gonna pull some “death of the author” bullshit. Tell me if I’m wrong.

CC: Suicide is one of those things we were better talking about as a society when we were far more crass. You’re gonna kill yourself? Alright wiseguy, where are you gonna go? That was the thrust of “There is…to Leave the Server.”

I’ve never really felt suicidal ideation. I feel suicide is very cringe. Like, okay my brain’s telling me everything’s terrible and I should die, but I know that dude. He’s an idiot, trust me. It’s just a wrinkled meatball in some cerebral stew. Sounds like bullshit. Just ignore him. Drink more paint.

MF: We’ve been publishing your work for five years. Five years! And hopefully we’ll be publishing more of it. Terror House is back, baby. 2024 will be a killer year. 2025: the mansion. 2026: the ‘round-the-Americas yacht tour. 2027: the space base. But for now, Charlie, give some advice to the up-and-comers on how they can improve their craft and/or get noticed.

CC: Stay off my turf or get shanked.

No, wait.

Be true to yourself and your vision. Make spelling mistakes. Make garbage. Make shit. Piss content. Just do it. The worst people can do is ignore it. And the worst kinds of people will hold up your worst work, but why would I care about the opinions of people who always see the bad in everything. The best kinds of people will find what you were trying to say. Even when you weren’t trying to. Especially then.

MF: Okay, we’re bumping up against the smartphone attention span limit. But one last question: any other projects or books coming up?

CC: Yeah, I’m trying to be happier. Nobody thinks they deserve happiness, that’s bullshit, everyone’s miserable. But one thing that got me through some regrets this year was picking between happy and satisfied and choosing happy. I’ll never know why some people just took off. And that’s fine. You start not believing you deserve happiness but that it’s at least something you want. Then you bend over and promise it to your inner kid, like a toy or some ice cream, and they’ll stop crying. Even if you have no money or the ice cream truck is gone. It’s never easy. If hope is the thing with feathers, then those feathers are wet. Because shit’s heavy, yo.

But sometimes it’s all you have.

Oh also I do battle rap.

MF: Thanks for stopping by.


Breaking character: Throwing Dead Pigeons Into Oncoming Traffic will be out this Friday from Terror House Press. This joke will make more sense once you’ve read the book. For more information, read the excerpts here.

Cross-posted at Terror House Press.