Mark Wilson is an author and visual artist based in Chicago. His first poetry pamphlet, PowerPoint Eulogy, was published by Fly on the Wall Press in 2021. It is a darkly comic collection of narrative poems that follow the life and death of the enigmatic Bill Motluck, and the PowerPoint presentation that eulogises him in a three-hour meeting for his coworkers. A review for PowerPoint Eulogy can be found here.
Powerpoint Eulogy is very funny but also deeply unnerving, almost fever dream-like at points. I feel like I should start by asking you if you’re okay, if maybe quarantine broke you. But instead I’ll go for the serious version of that same question. Where did the idea for this narrative collection stem from?
I appreciate the concern! It’s really funny you mention that though because there was a certain manic creativity that was prompted by quarantine and the pandemic as a whole, where I sought refuge from paranoia and overall shitty feelings by burying myself in these worlds I was making. I think the sickening feverish state you mentioned is prompted by the immediate plunge into that world.
The idea itself manifested during one particularly painful strategy meeting I was in. Corporate platitudes were bleeding through my computer speakers in an orgy of ineptitude for an entire day and after it was over it kind of seemed like I had died. After that, I started thinking a lot about legacy and happiness and the prospect of actually dying doing something you can barely tolerate. What if it was all someone had? What if they didn’t know there was anything else? Why is there the expectation that we mindlessly participate in the brutal and perpetual transaction? Why are there no other options at all?
What was the process behind writing each “slide” like? Did it differ drastically from piece to piece, or did you have a consistent technique for the whole collection?
For the first few slides, it was definitely an exploration of where I was going with the collection as a whole, then by the end it was a continous escalation of peculiarity and sadness as I fully realized who Bill Motluck was. I wanted to create something that was relatable from both an office realism perspective and the emotions we all go through on any given mundane Wednesday in February, and then use surrealism to transform that existence into a suffocating nightmare…but also a heartwarming examination on what actually propels people through their forgettable lives.
Who inspires you, and who more directly inspired this specific collection?
Irvine Welsh has always been an inspiration, his ability to communicate filth and decay is unrivaled. Kafka as well! That story “The Cares of a Family Man,” is the singular reason I started writing in the first place. Direct inspiration for this collection was thousands of hours spent bleeding out under fluorescent light and the prospect of tens of thousands more without much to show for the slow death other than a few slide decks for meetings that would never happen or an excel analysis of earnings that would never come to fruition. So no one real person, but rather a distillation of a decade of insufferable office dregs who were all in varying states of physical or emotional decline.
Is this poetry? It feels like a simple question, but I wonder what your take on it is.
I love this question, because the easy answer is yes…but I don’t really think it is. I’ve heard people call it verse prose? I think that makes sense, or potentially just micro-fiction…the original idea was to have the entire eulogy posted on my Twitter timeline as kind of a performance art piece, but then as I kept writing, I started to think it would probably be more impactful as an actual book. So that’s in part why it’s written the way it is, also my grammar is horrific, so it helps to never punctuate.
Huge thank you to Fly on the Wall for trusting my vision on it!
What are you hoping to communicate through Powerpoint Eulogy?
That there is more to living than destroying yourself for nothing in particular. That there is comedy in our sadness. That sometimes the smallest possible interaction can be something that gives someone peace in their final moment here. That we’re not built for acquiring wealth until death. That we’re not meant for eternal production. That though death is inevitable, sometimes we live on for a bit in lips and memories and white noise machines. To revolt against your prescribed method of deterioration.
What’s something you enjoyed about the process, or are particularly pleased about in the outcome, that you haven’t gotten to talk about yet (aka: what’s the question you wish someone would ask you/that you practice answering in the mirror)?
I was completely unprepared for the reviews I’ve seen. I’ve been finding the consistent sentiment of the book being relatable really sad! I think I knew when I wrote it that some people would have had similar experiences, but I didn’t realize we were all collectively rotting away amongst the fake plants in our ergonomically correct chairs.
I can’t even put into words how grateful I am that people are even reading it, let alone having these intense reactions to it. It’s been so overwhelming in the best way.
PowerPoint Eulogy is published by Fly on the Wall Press, available now: https://www.flyonthewallpress.co.uk/product-page/powerpoint-eulogy-by-mark-wilson
About the Contributor
Zoë Wells (she/her) is a Swiss-British writer and poet based in the UK. She is currently studying towards an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, having previously received her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Warwick. She is working on a debut historical fiction novel, alongside a poetry pamphlet, and has had her short fiction and nonfiction published in a number of magazines. Find her on twitter at @zwells_writes or visit her website.