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Interview with"Ponyboy" Author Eliot Duncan 🐎

Do we have the PTK takeover of all takeovers for you


Dear readers, do we have the PTK takeover of all takeovers for you. We are SO pleased to announce… our next PTK squatter: Eliot Duncan 🤩 🏠

Who is Eliot? Well, according to his “official” author bio, Eliot is "a US-born writer and artist. He is the cofounder of the international queer collective Slanted House and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop”.

And by “official” author bio we mean like, official official because ELIOT IS PUBLISHING A BOOK. PONYBOY is coming out June 13th, 2023. It’s “an evocative debut novel of trans-masculinity, addiction, and the pain and joy of becoming“.

Larissa and Kelly have already read it and oh man, are you in for a treat! Not to girlboss too close to the sun… but for the next month, there are going to be: book giveaways!! exclusive poems! visual content!! and journal entries from Eliot / PONYBOY! every Friday leading up to the book launch on topics such as:

  • the homoerotic clench of punk

  • it’s not that deep: polemic on first person ‘i’ in fiction, ontological cages, my scorpionic plea to be just some guy

  • raw dogging: a text on how being sober is hardcore, notes on recovery and writing

We cannot wait. In the meantime, let’s get to know Eliot with an excerpt from PONYBOY read by him in the video at the top of this post ⬆️ and an interview with him down below ⤵️


PTK: Hiii! Welcome to your PTK take over! Who are you?? HOW are you?

Eliot: hey! i’m eliot thanks for having me. it’s 3:33pm in chicago. it’s pretty sunny here and i just ate lunch. having a day totally void of gloom so it’s all vibes rn. i’m a transmasc, gay writer and neuroatypical freak but i promise it’s really not that deep. 

author photo of eliot duncan holding his book, "ponyboy"

PTK: You’ve written a whole ass book!! And it’s coming out in June!! Before we get into the book itself, what was the writing process like for you? 

Eliot: i wrote PONYBOY so that i could live. it was a really dire experience, i started around 2013, just writing letters to historical figures that i wanted to hangout with and piecing together fragments of moments and poems. i guess i was trying to write myself into the world because i couldn’t see myself anywhere, not even in my reflection. the writing process was mainly about collecting the moments i had documented and wedging them together to form a narrative, or letting the fragments show me the narrative–i still write this way. kind of like the feelings are first and then the story comes from them. a really smart writer once told me that experimental literature is like that, that the language is the event of the story. someone else told me once that the story can emerge from the language, like, the story doesn't proceed the language but that the story comes from the act of writing. i love this because it makes me feel wide open. i don’t have to know what’s going to happen when i write, i just get to do it and see what emerges. i’m not the kind of writer who maps out what’s gonna happen, i don’t really think about plot! it’s cool to see people do that, and i think there’s a lot of strength in it, a lot of conviction. for me though, i just sort of trust that the story will emerge if i just keep going. 

PTK: Ok, now tell us about your book! 

Eliot: PONYBOY is hot, i think. it’s speedy and contemplative and messy and hinged on the idea that everything has a cost. it’s about the monotonous dread of addiction and how that can dismantle all frames of reference. it’s about being a trans guy, it’s about sex and it’s about family. i hope too, that it’s about joy, recovery and language. 

PTK: As a raw portrayal of addiction, your book can be just as brutal as it is beautiful. Are there any trigger warnings readers should be wary of? And how do you feel about trigger warnings, as both writer and reader?

Eliot: I mean basically every trigger warning, probably. Definitely, addiction, dysphoria, sexual assault, disordered eating. I think they can be helpful but I haven’t used them in a while. Probably because the back of the book tells readers what’s ahead. 

PONYBOY (US Cover) by Eliot Duncan
PONYBOY (US cover), courtesy of Norton Books

PTK: PONYBOY is a work largely inspired by your own experiences, could you describe yourself at age 13?

Eliot: i feel like i have to text my mom because i don’t remember a lot from that time of my life. she just said i was really into tight polos, lip gloss and boys. she also said i was closed off, strong willed and laser focused. i think i was trying to get as many juicy couture outfits as possible and i remember straightening my hair and loving eyeliner. wait my dad just responded too, he said ‘frenetic, determined, chaos’. 

PTK: You also write poetry and have poems interspersed throughout the book, can you talk about that decision? And also, YOUR GRANDMA WROTE POETRY? That’s so cool! Tell us more.

Eliot: well i actually really wanna be a poet and writing poems comes more naturally to me. i have continuously gotten the feedback that my prose are stronger though, so i keep doing both. and yeah, my grandma jean lives on a farm in nebraska and writes poems all the time. and having poems in the book just felt necessary, i don’t know. there are some ideas where i feel like, oh, babe, this can only be said in a poem. i like that, this idea that a short poem can contain the weight of an entire novel. poems are tough like that. they are so hardcore. a poet i dated once took lines from PONYBOY and made it into a poem–i wonder if i still have it. i loved that. 

PTK: PTK was started as a love letter to un-precious poetry”. What does “un-precious poetry” mean to you?

Eliot: omg, wait. i love that. i learned from an early writing mentor that it’s important not to be precious about your work. i think it’s easy to feel guarded and separate while you’re writing, and in some ways that’s important too but i think calling something un-precious is to relax a little. it’s like, hey, i made this thing and i like it and i wanna share it. it’s gracious actually. to be like, i like this thing i made and it’s not perfect but that’s okay too because it doesn’t define me. it’s an offering. in my heart, i’m just a punk kid, so off the cuff, ragged, raw and snarled feels like truth to me. being precious about my writing would mean no one would ever read it because, honestly, nothing is ever really ‘ready’. it’s just gone far enough where i feel like maybe something interesting is happening. maybe someone smarter than me will make some meaning or have some feeling from this. i also wanna hype the un-precious as a kind of creative ethos. makes me think of frank ohara–how he wrote these stunning poems about simple, grounded things. i think un-preciousness, also focuses on the tangible, day in day out of being alive and says, hey this is definitely art. i write and make art because i feel like i have to, i don’t know, it doesn’t feel like an option. it’s just something i do and i will always do and that doesn’t make me special or interesting, i just mean it’s a practice. i just show up and do the thing and what happens after isn’t actually my business. un-preciousness, to me, is like making the art and not being imprisoned by the outcome. 

PTK: We are so happy to have you here with us for the next few weeks! You’ve been following PTK since the start because you have know Larissa for quite a while, is that right?

Eliot: yes, larissa and i met in paris where we both were doing our undergrads. she was making art and i didn’t really know a lot of artists at the time. she was really intense and free and challenged me a lot. even though we fought a little when we first met, i had and still have the feeling that i’m encountering an entire creative force when we talk. i love her. (Larissa’s note: 🥹 ilyt )

PTK: How did you meet?

Eliot: the first night we hung out at my tiny chambre de bonne in the 1st. we did blow and drank till the sun came up and then ran around on the roof of the building. i think we kept hanging out that day but i don’t really remember. she wore this like dark blue chiffon robe thing with huge pink flowers and spoke with authority and laughed with abandon. (Larissa’s note: they were lips, not flowers. I still own it and it’s my favorite untitled garment, there are photos of it below. We also got yelled at because we were stomping around the roof at 7 am and I thought I was gonna die, cause I’m terrified of heights, and then I thought Eliot was going to die, because he wasn’t. On the way down the ladder we broke the window that we had pried open to get up there and glass rained down over our heads; it’s how I remember our years in Paris: careless, selfish, free). 

Eliot Duncan on a Parisian roof circa 2016
Eliot Duncan on a Parisian roof circa 2016; from Larissa’s archives

PTK: Do you have a favorite Eliot & Larissa anecdote you would like to share ?(Kelly really wants to know!)

Eliot: on valentines day she went with me and my partner at the time to a sex store and helped me choose a dick. then we all went for drinks in pigalle and i think larissa brought flowers. it was sweet. (Larissa’s note: the dick had red straps. The flowers were stargazer lilies that I proceeded to hand out to strangers at the bar after everyone left to be with their valentines).

Larissa Fantini holding flowers in Paris
Larissa and their stargazers; Valentine’s Day 2017
More images of Larissa and Eliot being young and true menaces in Paris between 2016-2017

PTK: And finally: Marry, fuck, kill - Paris, Berlin, Iowa?

Eliot: marry paris, fuck iowa, kill berlin

PTK: Thank you again for being here! Where can people find you online (other than taking over PTK for the next month)?

Eliot: my ig is @semantic_rush, twitter is @semantic_rush


Ponyboy (US cover), courtesy Norton Books


Ponyboy (UK cover), Courtesy of Footnote Press


❤️‍🔥 thank you for joining us! Keep your eyes peeled for more of Eliot’s work and a chance to win yourself a copy of PONYBOY! 👀

Poetry Trapper Keeper
Poetry Trapper Keeper
Poetry Trapper Keeper