Harry Burke talks to Bunny Rogers


Manasquan (1999)


Collected poetry for the Shadow Usul, a character from Neopets

Why poetry?

My active years as a Neopets.com user (2000-2003) inspired a lot of creative writing and greatly influenced plotlines and characters. Elsa’s Journey was my first published piece, appearing in Issue 25 of The Neopian Times. I was ten years old. Getting published made me feel closer to finding happiness. Subsequent submissions were regularly accepted. I felt satisfied by the content I was working with—veiled autobiography—and comfortable with my audience, which was largely anonymous, and kind. It seemed I was making progress in my dream to become a children’s book author and illustrator.

I expanded into self-publishing in 2002 via LiveJournal, which many of the members in my arts-focused guild also participated in. We opened accounts for ourselves and for our Neopets, with the intention of building an inclusive platform for roleplaying and storytelling. Owner-designated journals frequently contained both in-character and [semi-protected] out-of-character entries. Observation of friends’ comfort with OOC posts encouraged me to write my own. This was appealing. My family had just made another major move, I was having the usual trouble adjusting, and I was lonely. I was excited by the prospect of a legitimate emotional outlet. Initial personal posts, which were relatively truthful recordings of my daily life (I continued to lie about my age, embellish, etc.) were well-received. However, this is when everything fell apart. The more I revealed of Bunny Rogers, the less stable my identity as Catnip4 became. Relationships with fellow Neopians grew quickly unmanageable; I was overwhelmed with embarrassment and shame. I deleted my LiveJournals, abandoned Neopets, and started life anew in Furcadia as Serineana the musteline. I stopped writing on my own almost completely.

Website for Sister Unn’s, rented storefront/abandoned flower shop

In January 2012 Gene McHugh asked me if I wanted to participate in a casual artists’ reading. I agreed not having written much of anything in ten years. What I presented here was a batch of eighteen short collages of previously-posted Facebook status updates, notes to myself, and collected or stolen text. The spring and summer following when I struggled to produce artwork, making more of these “poems” was the only creative thing I could get myself to do. Launching Cunny poem in June was humiliating in a way similar to my LiveJournal, but it had to be done. I had nothing else. The response has been pacifying and I have not had a shortage in material. I am grateful. For me, Cunny poem is a small step forward in finding the confidence to write again.

Who’s the audience in your poems? How present are they when you’re writing them, and how directly are they addressed?

I imagine my audience as perfect, comprised of one. Far away from me or dead.

Is honesty a virtue for you?

No, but accuracy is. I don’t think I am or can be honest.

What’s the presence of love in your work? Chris Kraus has said “every letter is a love letter”. Is the same true about poems?

I have liked to think of my poems as apologies.

Harry Burke is a writer based in London. Bunny Rogers is an artist based in New York.