Quick Temper with Amanda Claire Buckley


Amanda Claire Buckley is a writer who was once a waitress who was once a philosophy student who was once a musical director for a sketch comedy troupe. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y, The Same, and Story Club Magazine. She’s currently an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College and is a contributing editor to the literary journal Pigeon Pages.

Here’s Quick Temper with Amanda-

Why do you write?

I say I write because I can’t do anything else, but the truth is there are a lot of things I could do. It’s just that I hate going places and seeing people and being told to shut up and not touch the artwork. Writing gives me an excuse to be a recluse and touch all the things.

Who do you hope reads your work?

Anybody who hasn’t seen me naked. If you’ve seen me naked, you’re not allowed in this clubhouse. Especially, if you have seen me naked because you are my parents and you changed my diapers way back in the day. I’m talking to you, Mom. I know you’re reading this. Go away. I’m doing my own thing right now. JK. I love you. Tell Dad I said, “Hi.” How are the dogs? I’ll call you later.

Where does the anger in your work come from? How does it manifest?

Do you know that feeling of someone stepping on your hair with a big rubber rainboot? It’s this quiet, intimate torture radiating against your scalp. Now add a rainboot on your capillaries, on your collar bone, your throat.

I’m looking at this book on my desk. It’s called “The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook.” I’m telling you this so you know where I’m coming from because I’m about to say something really fucking annoying:

I’m learning how to sit with my anger.

Anger gets a bad rap. It looks ugly. We think of red faces baubles in line at the DMV or on the TV screens or in the waiting rooms of America’s dentists’ offices. We think of mothers who kill their children. Maybe you don’t think of that but I guess I do. I think of the vulnerable attacked, broken ribs and tears.

Anger is a symptom: something you hold dear to you is being violated. Vandalized.

In order to sit with my anger, I first have to find what’s being threatened. I have to sit through the physical pain and live within that pink and raw space. In that space, underneath the rainboot, there will be a deeply held belief, something like children being shot in school is bad or I deserve to be loved. The belief has to be cracked open and examined. I have to bring it to light. That’s hard because some of the beliefs don’t hold up. For instance, I am the smartest and greatest human being alive and I know the all best words. That belief gets inflamed when someone tells me I am wrong. That is a broken belief. I throw out the broken beliefs. They come back. I have to throw them out a few more times before they leave for good. The anger eventually subsides. I’ve learned something. I am better for it.

Sometimes the belief will become clearer in the light, flourish under scrutiny. For example, one I keep coming back to, everybody has the right to shelter. In this case, I tuck the belief back in the pocket where beliefs go. The anger stays. Maybe the belief is broken, but whatever’s in me hasn’t seen how yet. Instead, I’m emboldened. Electrified in my righteousness.  

Anger is a confirmation that there is a pulse beneath your body, a bleeding compass. A soul, a spirit, an agent, an equation, a will. There is a sense of tenderness. It’s the same place where love comes from.

[Pushing glasses up the bridge of nose] This is why, students, angry sex is hot.

Anyway, anger is often where I start from with my writing. It’s a signal that I’ve tapped into an idea I’ve become physically entwined in. It’s the bodily impulse that gets me going the fastest: anger at myself, another person, or a system. My desk and my craft provide a safe space for me to navigate, reason through, why I, for instance, wanted to punch a guy in a class a few years ago after he mentioned how there’s a picture of Kate Winslet smiling and standing next to Harvey Weinstein. His argument was that this picture is proof Winslet was at least complicit in the rampant sexual harassment in Hollywood. I did not punch him in the face at the time. Instead, I went home and sat at my desk and worked through the anger. I examined my belief that it’s not up to victims to regulate their behavior, it’s up to the predators to regulate theirs. In this case, the belief was crystallized, but some other great questions emerged.

The manifestation of my anger. I hope I’m making cerebral, complex, and emotive pieces. If not, I hope I have at least one less thing to work through with my therapist.

Angry book recommendations for angry readers?

First of all, I love angry books. I think the only two emotions worth writing your way into and out of is anger and love and they are probably the same thing (see above). These books are angry in a lovely way.

Wild Milk by Sabrina Orah Mark — I haven’t been able to think of anything else since I started reading Sabrina Orah Mark’s work. I have a word crush on her. This book is just the most rambunctious collection of excruciatingly sublime prose poems that are just nearly narrative enough to be called stories. They are absurd and they are true. They are funny and they are murderous. They are sustaining and belligerent. I love them.

Idiophone by Amy Fusselman — I believe I read that every time Amy Fusselman sat down to work on this book-length essay she started from the beginning. You have to read this book in the same way: in one sitting. For your mind to keep up with Fusselman’s wild woven content, you have to associate along with her. You have to move between the abstractions and images as quickly as she does: from Nutcrackers to mice to mothers. Her works are magic tricks disguised as poems disguised as essays. I love them.

Meaty by Samantha Irby — Most people are familiar with Samantha Irby’s second essay collection, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, but I wanted to give a quick shoutout to her first child, Meaty, which made me sob-cry once in Provincetown’s Public Library. There is much to love about Irby’s seriocomic work, but my devotion centers around how her use of humor doesn’t obscure her authenticity or distance herself from the reader. Instead, the hyperbole she works with allows for a fluid and admitted subjectively-defined world that possesses an element of the fantastical. That’s a fancy way of saying her essays make art out of poop jokes. I love them.

Amanda Claire Buckley will be reading with An Angry Reading Series on February 9. Come through!

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