Last spring, I met Brian Alan Ellis in a tiki bar. I bought him a tequila with a flower in it. I bought one of his books and learned things about suicidal tendencies. Ellis’s latest book, Road Warrior Hawk, is out now on House of Vlad. The book skirts easy classification, combining poems, tweets, and microfictions, all with interlocking themes of anxiety and depression.
Cynical and self-effacing, Ellis talks openly about his depression. Self-sabotage. Feeling defective. You wonder, Should I be worried for this guy? At the same time, Ellis’s despair can feel like a performance. He seems to recognize that public persona is a sort of theater, but one with no lobby, no exits. So when viewing Ellis’s works, it’s worth asking, “Is that real blood?”
I reached out to Ellis to do a welfare check. I’ve been in psychotherapy for six months, so I feel qualified to be concerned about his winks at self-harm.
I found a depression test on the internet. Ellis agreed to let me administer the test. Of course, the results are confidential, but you can read the transcript here.
The Rumpus: When you wake up in the morning, what do you look forward to?
Brian Alan Ellis: I don’t look forward to it but sometimes I’ll awake in a panic over something I’d drunkenly tweeted or texted to someone the night before and have to quickly delete and/or make good on whatever that something was.
Rumpus: How are you feeling right now?
Ellis: Coming apart emotionally, depressed and watching online Tarot card readings, but taking a short break from that to order too much Chinese food and watch the latest season of GLOW on Netflix dot com with my cat.
Rumpus: How often do you think about death?
Ellis: Death is my most pervasive thought. I think about death at least three or four times a day, mostly suicidal thoughts. I have trouble relating to people who don’t think about death constantly. *turns up depressing-ass Cure song currently being played on Spotify dot com*
Rumpus: How do you feel about your new book, Road Warrior Hawk?
Ellis: I think I managed a lot with very little. And by that I mean a lot of hubris with very little talent. *winks*
Rumpus: Why Hawk and not Animal?
Ellis: When Elizabeth Ellen published her poetry collection, Bridget Fonda (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2015), I joked with her about calling my poetry collection, which did not exist at that point, Road Warrior Hawk. For those who don’t know, Hawk is a dead pro wrestling legend, as opposed to Bridget Fonda, who is a living American actress. Hawk just popped into my head. I thought it was a cheeky move. The title eventually grew on me. Hawk was also, in my opinion, a bigger personality than Animal (his tag-team partner in the Road Warriors/Legion of Doom). Despite having serious substance abuse problems, Hawk was just a better performer, both on the mic and in the ring (when he wasn’t wrestling while intoxicated, which happened from time to time). Also, Animal briefly (and unsuccessfully) reformed the Legion of Doom in the mid-2000s, following Hawk’s untimely passing, with some jabroni named Heidenreich, which many fans, including myself, have never forgiven him for. So that’s why “not Animal.”
Rumpus: When was the last time you cried?
Ellis: I’m crying right now, Jon. Bear with me.
Rumpus: Which KISS album would you be?
Ellis: I’d most likely be one of the forgotten KISS albums from the 1980s that nobody seemed to appreciate very much, like Unmasked or Asylum. I’d be the black sheep KISS record, the underdog.
Rumpus: When romantic relationships have ended in the past, do you feel like you will never meet another person?
Ellis: Definitely. I bust all the Dashboard Confessional out and wait to die.
Rumpus: Do you still get pleasure out of things you used to enjoy (fast food, tearing off your pajama pants like Hulk Hogan, ALF, etc.)?
Ellis: Not really. There’s just kind of a listless enjoyment there. A going-through-the motions feeling with that stuff because I never really grew up, so it’s just remained the sad, frayed fabric of my being. And Hulkamania, as we now know, is dead 666.
Rumpus: Do you feel like you deserve to be loved?
Ellis: Not really. I should avoid love because it really fucks me up.
Rumpus: If you find yourself having to climb out of the backseat of a two-door vehicle, do you blame yourself or the person in the front seat?
Ellis: I always blame myself for everything, especially when putting myself in the unenviable position of having to climb out of the backseat of a two-door vehicle, so….
Rumpus: Have you experienced a drop in libido?
Ellis: Not really. Though I have experienced a drop in wanting to answer questions involving libido.
Rumpus: What makes you happy to be alive?
Ellis: That’s a tough question. I’m not really happy to be alive. Being alive is pretty annoying. Though I guess keeping my cat fed and alive makes me happy. And the music of Carly Rae Jepsen makes me happy. It’s not a very long list.
Rumpus: Do you feel you are a valuable member of society?
Ellis: Absolutely not, and I don’t wish to go into the myriad of reasons as to why I feel I am a useless member of society. I mean, I assume it’s pretty obvious to anyone who actually knows me, but….
Rumpus: Is existing as a functional human being capable of love really as fake as pro wrestling?
Ellis: Yes. It’s all scripted, all illusion. That’s showbiz, babe!
Rumpus: When you feel lonely, do you tend to view it as a temporary situation or a long-term issue?
Ellis: Loneliness is a way of life, man… like punk! *holds up backwards peace sign à la Sid Vicious, then spits*
Rumpus: Do you get into moods where you think you can do anything, where you believe you have special powers, or think that you are someone of great importance?
Ellis: Yeah, having those moods are the only reason I get anything done. Ten books in five years? That is the direct result of someone who thinks their art is of great importance. It’s a constant battle between my high-energy/get-shit-done ego mood and the self-hating/wanting-to-give-up-and-disappear-forever mood, which means I’m a very pleasant person to be around almost none of the time.
Rumpus: Have you noticed that your appetite for McDonald’s has changed (increased or decreased) without meaning to modify it?
Ellis: I have a very toxic relationship with McDonald’s and it’s nobody’s damn business but my own. Just kidding. One of the remaining pleasures I have in life = being able to eat at McDonald’s by myself… to sit in the very back… to enjoy a strawberry milkshake while I think about life, love and death.
Rumpus: How many hours a night do you sleep?
Ellis: Usually no more than five. My sleep schedule is pretty fucked.
Rumpus: How many hours a day do you nap with your cat?
Ellis: There are never enough hours. And it also depends how depressed we are. Major depression equals a lot more naps with my cat.
Rumpus: Do you have any recurring dreams?
Ellis: I have a recurring dream that I call the “Billy Madison,” where I keep getting held back my senior year of high school and I’m like this thirty-something year-old man who is still in high school and it’s always very stressful.
Rumpus: If we looked past your defeatist humor what would we find?
Ellis: A defeated person.
Photograph of Brian Alan Ellis by Brian Alan Ellis.