Ohio Interviews: Jim Behrle

Ohio Interviews


Photo by Ed


Jim Behrle is a poet, essayist, NFL-poem writer, Twitterer, Hairpin-er, Awl-er, feminist, bookseller, very funny man, and one of my favorite people in New York. I tried to catch up with him and what he’s doing now after his old gig writing puns for Victoria’s Secret and his new gig writing ads for a soup aimed at older men. I am pretty sure he’ll be tweeting the Superbowl while drinking ginger ale @behrle

Jim, I thought the Superbowl epic poem you just wrote was beautiful. http://www.theawl.com/2013/01/super-bowl-epic-poemBut you can’t close out the season with that, there has to be one — like the inauguration poem that Maya Angelou read. We need one of those about the Ravens after they win.

I would like to hear her read my poems. Something tells me that we won’t want to think about this Superbowl after it’s done. Nothing against the 49ers or the Ravens — they’re both terrific teams. Something tells me that after about Sunday night at 10:30, no one will ever want to speak about it again.

But it’s Harbaugh vs Harbaugh! I love that line you wrote. I have to read this out loud: [reading in best Maya Angelou voice]

“And this game pits two brother at odds
It’s like Sigmund Freud made a bet with God”

I had Jung in there, too, but it was too long.

You know there’s one angry brother? He’s already had a couple of strokes? It was like, “Oh yeah, he had a small heart attack after the game but he’s fine.” And he’s on the sidelines the next week, and you’re like “What?!” The life of a coach seems like the most unhealthy job. You have a day off after the Superbowl and then you’re back to work, your wife never sees you… you’re just out there having heart attacks all day.

It’s a lot of fathering.

I was just reading this article in The Wall Street Journal  on the way here–it’s not like that any more. It used to be you know, all these hard-to-win guys, hard-to-get praise, but now the players are all so rich and so famous, and so much more important, they’re thinking, “Hey, if it’s not working, they’ll get a new coach at half time.”

That whole Joe Torre, daddy, daddy, thing, you know, Sylvia Plath…

Is that what happened to Joe Torre?! Jesus, sorry to hear about that.

Do you think they’ll ever have a woman coach in the NFL?

I think that if they ever did that, especially in basketball and football, it would be amazing. Most of these guys have been brought up by their mothers and really couldn’t care less what some old white guy thinks.

Maya Angelou coaching the Ravens!

If Maya Angelou were coaching the Ravens can you imagine the halftime speech?! They’d come outta there, they’d rip the field off! They burn the place down!!

It’s like that movie with Whoopi Goldberg–you’re like, this isn’t a comedy, this is a documentary! This is what should happen! In the movie, she’s a great fan of the Knicks, and she’s the only person in Madison Square Garden in one game, and she wins some contest to coach, and she tells them, “Yeah, I don’t know, maybe play harder…”And then they embrace her and then I think they still lose in the playoffs.

But it’s a feel good movie.

It’s a feel good movie unless you’re a Knicks fan and you realize you’re never gonna win. But in general, if we could move towards a matriarchy in almost every regard…I mean, we should just turn the keys over. I mean, not just Hillary Clinton as the president, but the next 40 presidents should be women. To undo some of the nonsense that’s been going on for awhile.

I’m so psyched about Hillary.

Now here’s a question. If she divorced him do you think she’d be better off? If she divorced him in the next year? Because then he could be Secretary of State, she could give him sort of a job, just like “I don’t want to be married to you because you’re a complete jackass, but we’ll send you to places where you have to solve all the problems.”

Exactly. Syria. Work that charm.

So you’ve cornered the market on NFL poems. You had the incredible Victoria’s Secret copywriting job.  You have the new soup copywriting job, which is going to make you a millionaire. The next time we meet you’re going to be living at the Dakota.

I’m fired. I’m pretty sure I’m fired.  It’s like, ‘Do you like soup? Do you like sex with girls? Are you 50?”

Did you work meatballs into one of the ads?

I think one was something about, “You don’t want your ass to die.” They should just put some sort of Viagra in the soup, just put little blue pills in there, it’s fine: “I just eat it for the blue pills.”

You’re doing all this and you’re also working at the bookstore. What are you doing there?

Shelving books mostly. Getting yelled at because we don’t have books. Because at the very beginning of the semester, we have all these law students…

They’re serious.

Yeah, they’re gonna have a job some day that doesn’t involve wearing a name tag. So they don’t really get the whole “We don’t have your book anymore, we sold out of it,” thing. They’re on target to be at the Supreme Court. So mostly it’s about “Oh yeah, we don’t have that.” “When’s it come in?” “I don’t know.” It’s a toxic environment….Books are kind of a bad industry.

People don’t like books.

People hate books. Maybe if you could eat it, like a ham sandwich, like if it would just evaporate…maybe that would work. “I had ‘Gravity’s Rainbow.’ Now it’s gone!”

It’s tricky for the writer folks. What should we do? Just go on Twitter? Hey, you’re on Twitter AND you have a web site!

My shrink made me put up the web site, its part of being more assertive. There’s a pic of me surrounded by children. I’ve used that to soften the blow of the otherwise terrible image I’ve made of myself on the internet.