Artist Interview: Miser Magazine

A little more than a year ago, Nicole Hennessy, a poet and journalist, and Lauren Dulay, a self-taught artist, launched Miser Magazine, a now quarterly collective of offbeat, alternative arts and literature they’ve been distributing throughout Northeast Ohio.

“Finding D.A. Levy, that changed my life. I have the same thing in my heart. I know that he would approve of what I’m doing.” – Nicole Hennessy

Miser Magazine will be at Brite collecting winter hats, scarves, mittens, and other new and gently used items for the homeless. Please consider stopping by their table to make a donation and check out the latest issue.

Story originally published on Cellar Door Cleveland // Banner by Justin Markert // Interview by Nikki Delamotte

miser2My eyes scan the back pages of issue seven, over my options presented by The Horrible Quiz.

“Which band do you like best?” A.) Metallica B.) Metallica C.) Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem D.) Bobby Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers

“Your favorite magazine is:” A.) Miser

My eyes shift back to the twenty-something stacks of paper laid out on a table that would become Miser’s eighth issue, and on either side of the table, Nicole Hennessy and Lauren Dulay, who have spent the past sixteen months assembling each issue of the art and literature collective carefully by hand. Just outside the peripheral, the side room of Dulay’s new house is lined with doll houses, circus figurines, and other misfit toys, which replaced the cold garage of her brother that used to serve as their production line.

“The smallest room ever. Too much just staring at each other printing, printing Miser,” says Dulay. “We did come up with a lot of good ideas.”

“Because we were trapped,” adds Hennessy. “Anyone else would have killed each other.”

Miser wouldn’t be the first time Dulay and Hennessy scheme up ideas, trading stories like elaborate plans for fake bands with miniature instruments, a Merry Prankster-like duality across the table: Dulay, a menagerie of frenetic energy and vocal gymnastics and Hennessy, jazz-hungry, soft-spoken but sharp-tongued.

But Miser’s duality is more than the sum of its creators; it’s the duality of the role of the publisher and artist and the strange ways a community can become intertwined without ever meeting (Miser accepts submissions internationally but is primarily Northeast Ohio-based), it’s the disparity between artistic institutions that are funded and those just trying to stay afloat. Miser currently operates under $35-a-year subscriptions and various personal donations often from appearances at events.

“No one has ever seen or known what our printers really are. They’re mysteriously almost falling through the ceiling upstairs right now,” Hennessy says, her laugh hesitant. “And you see other people operating off grants, and it can be so frustrating, because you can shoot for those things. But generally, unless you know someone, it’s not a possibility. Our fiscal goal is to be able to pay for our printers before they explode.”

She hands the sixth issue across the table, open to the notations of a modern dance piece by choreographer Suzzanne Ponomarenko titled “Blame It On The Piano,” explaining that its movements were inspired by Tom Waits’ “The Piano Has Been Drinking.” It’s wedged between the pages of short stories detailing carnival sideshows and a hand drawn, terror-inducing distorted twist on the Tunnel of Love (“Closing for the Night” and “Tunnel of Love” by David M. Simon respectively), waxed poetics on the lifecycle of a tape deck from The Dead Milkmen to The Replacements to The Beastie Boys (“Tape Deck, A Playlist” by Matt Jablonski), and intergalactic space photography (Joe Dulay).

“We’re looking for the different pieces, not the perfect form structure, college essays,” Tattoos peek out of a sweatshirt as Dulay clamps a stapler against the binding of another copy of issue eight. “I feel like some people are too afraid to just write.”

I hand Hennessy a copy of issue four, flipping to a short, two-page spread that this time contains her own writing; a story of a friendship that dissolves over a slow decent into insanity.

“That’s about Chr—I mean Mary,” Hennessy catches herself. “I’ve never written fiction, everything I’ve written is non-fiction. The joke with non-fiction is half the work is done f–”

Dulay interjects. “I’m writing a novel. It’s definitely fiction. Don’t ever ask me about it though.”

It’s an inside repertoire that becomes a pattern throughout their conversations into the night, much like their secrecy about many of the contributors they’ve met and the mystery of those whose paths they may never cross. Publishers like Hennessy and Dulay remain the keepers of storytelling, the documentarians of countercultures, and those tasked with returning it to the streets. Those who look to the legacy of Cleveland patron saint of small-press self-publishing D.A. Levy as inspiration and uphold his mythos.

“Finding D.A. Levy, that changed my life. I do feel protective of it. I have the same thing in my heart,” says Hennessy. “I know that he would approve of what I’m doing. It’s just one of those things that come to you at the right time, when you’re ready for it.

“You’re a poet, you have emotions that other people don’t allow themselves to feel. It’s messy. And you put it out there, and it’s going to affect you.”

Find Miser Magazine on Facebook. Miser Magazine will be at Brite Winter Festival in Ohio City on February 15 collecting hats, scarves, gloves, and other winter items for those in need and will have issues available for purchase / donation. Subscriptions are available for $35 a year via misermag@gmail.com.