Poetic Just Us: The Enchanting World Of Knew York Rag
Knew York Rag is an NYC-based multimedia art book that its creators have dubbed “a strange magazine for strange people.” The creation of friends Mira Mariah and Brooklyn Bobbi, the book is a platform for the pair’s poetry, art, and more. Cell Vision correspondent Bridget Bakie spoke with Brooklyn Bobbi to find out more about their origins and creative process.
After a long time of Girl Knew York followers requesting a poetry book, the pair decided to pitch the idea to a publisher.
“We pitched poetry because that has always been a dream of [Mariah’s]. We were inspired by Florence Welch’s book [Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry] and Alexa Chung’s It.”
But after the publisher told them “poetry wouldn’t sell,” they decided to print their own.
The two say they wouldn’t really call it a poetry book, though. As written by them in the book, it’s “a surrealist fucked up dream version of a magazine.” It has art, poetry, and artful “ads.” It has advice, some humorous, such as “places you can cry in NYC,” and some extremely informative and helpful, like Mariah’s article, “How to Be a Tattoo Artist,” which is really a one-page master class on how to get the foundation for a career in all arts/crafts/trades.
There’s some interactive pages too, like finishing a poem, writing dreams, and sketching cigarettes in collaged hands. With red accents, layered text, vintage ‘60s playboy prints with tattoos drawn on them, and seemingly subliminal messages, the piece brings you to a weird dreamlike place, which is why it’s “a strange magazine for strange people.”
I spoke to Knew York Rag’s Brooklyn Bobbi to learn some details about the inspirations and intentions behind the book.
CELL VISION: Who/what are your poetry inspirations? What has inspired you most recently?
BROOKLYN BOBBI: My poetry is always inspired by love. I’m inspired by loss, real or imagined. I don’t read much poetry, and I didn’t even think I wrote it. I write down my thoughts to get them out of my head, and I have notebooks full of them. I thought they were beautiful and striking because I felt them so deeply, but I didn’t realize these little thoughts would resonate with people and be considered art to anyone else. Now I write a lot of it by hand with a quill dipped in ink, and I imagine I’m a poor romantic girl begging my pirate lover to come back to me.
"My poetry is always inspired by love. I’m inspired by loss, real or imagined. I don’t read much poetry, and I didn’t even think I wrote it ... I thought they were beautiful and striking because I felt them so deeply, but I didn’t realize these little thoughts would resonate with people and be considered art to anyone else."
CELL VISION: Reading this, I felt that your voice and Mariah’s combine in the way that your writing tone and personality are very similar and that none of the pieces are signed individually, which I feel creates a kind of hypnotic, double-voiced effect, if that makes sense. Was that intended? Why not sign the pieces?
BROOKLYN BOBBI: Yes and no. Our personalities were very similar from the start; that’s why we have always been so drawn to each other. I am her muse, as she is mine. But over the years, I am sure we have rubbed off on each other even more. Our girls, the girls who follow her religiously, know the difference between her drawings and my sketches, her long prose style poetry and my short chicken scratch. But yes, we consider the magazine our work, not two separate entities, rather one better combined. My voice cools hers off a bit, and hers gives mine a maturity and grace that I lack. Plus, both of us agree we would rather the magazine be beautiful than attribute each piece of art to each person. Every page is a collaboration.
"We consider the magazine our work, not two separate entities, rather one better combined. My voice cools hers off a bit, and hers gives mine a maturity and grace that I lack ... Every page is a collaboration."
CELL VISION: On the page for “Things U Should Actually Spend Money On,” one of the things is “designer items bought only in an emergency.” Is there a time you bought a designer item in an emergency?
BROOKLYN BOBBI: We actually wrote a story for volume two that includes a time we had to buy something designer in an emergency. We had worked all day going to meetings all over Manhattan. [Mariah] lives in Brooklyn, and I live in Jersey, so we didn’t have time to change before the Gucci NYFW afterparty at the Box. After dinner, we went to the Gucci Wooster store and bought two pairs of tights, put them on in the street, and went to the party. To this day, we both agree it was the best night of our lives. We wrote that into the magazine but in the Shel Silverstein ‘60s playboy kind of way.
CELL VISION: Is there anything you can tell us about volume two?
BROOKLYN BOBBI: The last volume was called “Welcome Home,” and home was the sort of theme. This time, it’s death.