New Recruits Episode 10: Brad Tollman Reads Kathryn Mockler

We have entered the double digits! Check out the description way back in Episode 1 for more information about how this series works.

Brad Tollman is my boyfriend’s good friend from high school whom I have claimed as my own friend. The first time we met was in 2011 when the three of us went out to see a terrible movie. Brad dropped me and Ariel off at my house afterward and then somehow thought we were lost and started mass panic. Weird times. Since then, Brad and I have had many thoughtful discussions about art and music and poetry. He’s been a big supporter of my work and an all around lovely dude. Brad and I both love Joni Mitchell’s music, which is why I chose Kathryn Mockler’s “You Look Like a Puppet” for him to read (also because it’s a cool poem). In the notes at the back of her book The Purpose Pitch, Mockler explains that the poem is “comprised of scrambled lines from Joni Mitchell’s  June 2013 Q interview.”

Brad also has ADHD and at no time has that been more apparent to me than in his answers to the questions below— which were delicious to read because of how he manages to allow certain afterthoughts to expand and contract within each response. Somehow it’s a really good example of non-linear writing and a perfect companion to the “scrambled lines” of Mockler’s poem.

Here’s Brad reading “You Look Like a Puppet” (twice— with several expressive interjections):


What was your first impression of the poem?

Poetry always really weirds me out? Not always. Not weirds me, per se. But I have a learning disability, so the information from text is always a little lost on me if it isn’t so very explicit. I don’t absorb any of it the first time. I laughed at the German bit though.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

The second read though.. I dunno it seemed profound in a way? In a slight way. I don’t recall the line, something to do with being born the week of death, yeah? And it seemed almost echoed in a way by the last line of the block, something about smokes. Seemed almost suicidal to me, but ironic because of the question of it all. Ironic? I think ironic. The part about pissing where you eat is gross.


It’s just a really gross thing to say. Maybe in a Frank Zappa kind of way it’s a little bit funny? There’s that word again, ironic. Zappa was good at that sort of thing, though. This just seems vulgar for vulgarity’s sake (but I shouldn’t think that’s quite so, or the intent).

What does this poem make you think of?

I forgot you told me the Joni Mitchell fact, that it was lifted from something to do with her? I thought maybe inspired by her music at the time when you mentioned it to me, but it turns out it was from a Q magazine interview. At any rate, it certainly didn’t remind me of her the first time I read it. It really didn’t make me think of anything. Again, that disconnect when I read and gleaning information. Especially when all the ideas here are so chalky and blocky.

The second time through I had Joni in mind, it made me think a bit of when she was coming up in Toronto in the 60s, but only when the women’s home thing was mentioned. Beyond that… I’m not really sure. There were some very good moments within the poem but I only thought of the interest of it’s ideas and juxtapositions and remarks and so on.

—- Just remembered, it did actually remind me of a few musings I’ve written to myself. I’ve gotten into the habit of having full conversations with myself, I find I can get to the root of something if I can talk it out loud, which I’ve always done, but more so now then before they have been philosophical debates and major life choices (but aren’t all choices a life choice? I wonder). Anyway, it reminded me at times… Rather it felt comfortable and/or fluid to read at times like it’s been fluid to talk with myself.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

None that popped out at the time, or any I can remember. I’m on my phone typing this and I’m afraid if I back out of this webpage I’ll lose everything I’ve typed, so let’s go with my gut on this one. No.

Would you like to understand them?

Yes, I would love to (genuinely meant and not sarcastic)

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I’ve read a few poems before. I dunno, this is a weird question, maybe. I never know what to expect from poetry because it’s all different to me, I’m not quite familiar enough to pick up on the nuances of style, but I’m familiar enough with art to recognize that there is certainly a style to be nuanced. So maybe it’s exactly different from what I would have expected? But then it’s kind of like what Syndrome from The Incredibles said, “once everyone is a Super..! No one will be.” I think maybe that works both ways, existentially. If nothing matters, then by that token everything matters. And if everything matters, so does nothing.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

Disney’s, “The Incredibles,” clearly, lol.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Why Joni Mitchell? Why specifically that interview? Why an interview at all? Why, why, why, I guess. Thanks 😉

Brad Tollman is a musician and an artist. He likes to think so, at least. He works at a Starbucks and kind of enjoys it. The people are cool. The morning shifts are stressful. He’s 25 in April and that scares him a little bit. He hasn’t been recognizing himself in the mirror lately. He needs a haircut and a shave.

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