Wednesday, August 26, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Kate Rogers

Kate Rogers’ new poetry collection, Foreign Skin, debuted in Toronto with Aeolus House Press in July 2015 and in Hong Kong in October this year. She lectures in Literature and Media Studies at the Community College of City University in Hong Kong.

Kate’s poetry about the Hong Kong protests has appeared in The Guardian and the Asia Literary Review. Other publication credits include the Kyoto Journal; ASIATIC: the Journal of English Language and Literature at the Islamic University of Malaysia; Contemporary Verse II; Orbis International; and Many Mountains Moving.

Kate’s previous books are City of Stairs (Haven 2012) and Painting the Borrowed House (Proverse 2008), both of which received publication grants from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Kate is co-editor of the OutLoud Too anthology (MCCM 2014) and co-editor of Not A Muse: the inner lives of women (Haven 2009).

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book, Painting the Borrowed House (Proverse 2008) changed my life by showing me I had an audience for my poetry. It was far more personal, or "confessional" than what I write now, but also borrowed some of the cultural rituals and artefacts of Hong Kong which I have admired for many years. I think by including those aspects of Hong Kong life in my first book I discovered my own myths. My most recent poetry collection, Foreign Skin (Aeolus House 2015), has a lot more persona poems. Some also feature Chinese cultural rituals and myths, but weave them together with my own myths, my questions about my cultural heritage (Ukrainian). At the same time, this latest book is less confessional. I also like to think I have continued to work on my craft and that this most recent book is the best crafted of the three collections I have written.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I like what Margaret Atwood said about poetry in a talk she gave at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2009. She described poetry as "condensed emotion". Poetry has always felt like the best way for me to look more deeply at a feeling, to pause with a moment. Fiction can do that - the short stories of Canadian Alice Munro pivot around moments. Hong Kong writer Xu Xi, whose work I teach in an Asian Writers in English course, has many stories which spotlight a moment: a revelation (To Body, to Chicken from Access: Thirteen Tales). Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain and Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters both follow the main characters movements and interactions with a camera eye, but poetry is different for me. Its brevity allows more room for intensity and for epiphany.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
My work seldom comes out almost ready to share. My poetry usually goes through many drafts. I try to look at drafts several times before sending them out to a literary journal. The nature of my job means I have enforced gaps between editing drafts and that can be good because | see my work more clearly. If I am working on a series of linked poems I may write a lot of notes before drafting the poem. That can be especially true while drafting a persona poem about a real person. I feel that I have to inhabit that person's life as much as possible so I can experience empathy for him or her.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I have done both. My first two books were assembled from poems which came together around themes organically, especially my second book, City of Stairs (Haven 2012). I got a grant from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council for that collection in part because I had forty per-cent Hong Kong content, so that affected how the book took shape too.

My latest book, Foreign Skin, doesn't have the same constraints. The poems in that book came together naturally, but there is a whole section, "Ah Ku" poems, in the voices of Asian women from backgrounds, communities and periods of history where they had little or no voice.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I do enjoy doing readings and like to share my work. I learn from doing that. Poetry was meant to be read aloud before it was written, so the spoken rhythm of poetry is important to feel its shape. I often go away from readings ready to tweak poems I've just read again. I read from Foreign Skin at Art Bar in Toronto on July 28th.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I do have a theoretical concern behind my writing: giving voice to those who could not express themselves, usually disenfranchised or isolated women from traditional cultures and a distant past.

This concern behind my writing has led me to ask which questions a writer must consider to avoid appropriation of voice. I will be participating in a panel on that topic at the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators conference in Manila, the Philippines, in October 2015. It has been very easy for white writers to take on the voice of any character they choose, of any race or culture for many generations, but writers of colour have not found it as easy to write about race - whether in their own voice or that of a persona - and find a white audience. (This is a big concern for writers of colour in MFA programs at American universities these days.) Writers from India, Malaysia and China, among other Asian countries,  are producing books in English at a rate they never have before. Yet they can still feel boxed into writing clichéd stories about immigrant struggle or isolation in the suburbs (Michelle Cahill, Australia).

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I think I answered that question about the role of the writer in larger culture to some extent above. In addition to being a writer, I lecture in literature and creative writing at the Community College of City University in Hong Kong. I think it is my duty as a writer who teaches to keep reading and teaching the works of my peers in Asia  - writers from Malaysia, India, China, the Philippines - Ricky de Ungria; Sreedevi Iyer; Xinran, Amitav Ghosh, Luis Francia - and to promote the reading of their work to my students so their experience is mirrored for them.

I also think that as a Canadian poet I need to keep reading local poets and writers such as Alice Major and Bruce Meyer and Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier and Donna Langevin and John Wall Barger and Heather Roberts Cadsby and John B.Lee and Evelyn Lau and  rob mclennan and Anna Yin and Madeleine Thien, along with so many others, so I can keep learning from them and learning how to communicate with a Canadian audience while I am responding to life in Asia.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I have found working with my two editors very helpful. Both of them were kind and patient yet challenging. Thank you John Wall Barger for your help on Foreign Skin and Kate Marshall Flaherty for our work together on City of Stairs. I learned a lot from both of them. John in particular pushed me to push my writing further than I knew it could go and I really appreciate that.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Don't let self-doubt or rejections prevent you from writing. Those feelings may slow you down for a day, but get back to writing as soon as possible.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
If I am not teaching, a writing day begins with me reading poetry to get myself into the altered state of consciousness I need to be in to create my own poetry. It was Buddha's birthday today and I was at home writing, but first read some of Mary Oliver's Blue Horses and Sharon Olds' The Wellspring. They helped me find what I wanted to write about and access the part of myself from which to do that.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Reading the poets I admire can help me a lot. Or I swim for 45 minutes and let my mind go.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Sun-warmed pine needles.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I have ekphrastic poetry which responds to the art of Van Gogh, and the Japanese artist Hokusai, in which the artist’s daughter O-ei speaks. I also have a series in the voice of German war artist Otto Dix, an exhibition of whose work I saw in Montreal about four years ago. Science can also inspire me. I've recently been reading about heart strings - the literal part of the muscle behind the cliché.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I read widely because I also teach Asian literature in English. I have already mentioned some of those writers who are important to my work above. Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being made a big impact on me and I read a lot of Banana Yoshimoto and Haruki Murakami because I love their surreal view of the world and my students respond to their writing. I am reading more American poets such as Mark Strand, and short story writers like Junot Diaz and Thad Rutkowski, but being in a former British colony, I also still have access to the poetry of Stevie Smith and Seamus Heaney and Carol Ann Duffy. I am lucky that I can still access such a variety of books while living in Hong Kong. I fear that eventually that will change here.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I would like to write a collection of largely historical persona poems in the voices of a range of women in Asia - the local women and the travelling Victorian women  - and somehow weave their experiences - both separate and where they connect - together into a book.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I am doing that other occupation as a lecturer in literature, creative writing and media studies.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Writing is my vocation. I can't live without it - it's my life's blood. Teaching complements writing except when I have periods of heavy grading or administrative duties. It can be hard to balance the two at times, but I often feel very lucky I can do both because my vocation is fed by my profession, and vice versa.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
The last great book I read was The Orenda about the last days of the Hurons. I found the alternating points of view compelling. Joseph Boyden's writing keeps me connected to Canada and the troubled history of our country. I found The Orenda raw, deeply disturbing and moving. Another book I mentioned earlier - Junichro Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters, also made a strong impression on me. The story is set in pre-WWII Japan and tells a slow and meandering tale of four sisters and their struggles to find asuitable husbands for the younger two women as Japanese society becomes more westernised and women have more choices. The narrator reflects on the nuances of the younger sisters' behaviour and their implications at length. The book reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, but it isn't as amusing. I am also reading Susan Morgan's book Bombay Anna, on Anna of the King and Siam fame because of my interest in the real woman behind the icon. One of the last great films I saw was The Life of Pi based on the novel by Yann Martel. There have been others too, but that stands out.

19 - What are you currently working on?
I have begun to work on the project I mentioned above: a collection of largely historical persona poems of women from and in Asia - the local women and the travelling Victorian women. I even have a few poems in the voice of the fictional character Fenella Crabbe, wife of the well-intentioned, but ineffectual British school master, Victor Crabbe, from the first book of the Anthony Burgess Malayan Trilogy - Time for a Tiger.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

new from above/ground press: Earl, Thomas + Best,

A BOOK OF SAINTS
Amanda Earl
$4

See link here for more information

Six Swedish Poets
Hugh Thomas
$4

See link here for more information

Now You Have Many Legs To Stand On
Ashley-Elizabeth Best
$4

See link here for more information

keep an eye on the above/ground press blog for author interviews, new writing, reviews, upcoming readings and tons of other material;


published in Ottawa by above/ground press
August 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy of each

and don’t forget about the above/ground press 22nd anniversary reading/launch/party, featuring all three of these authors, this coming Thursday!


To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal (above). Scroll down here to see various backlist titles (many, many things are still in print).

Review copies of any title (while supplies last) also available, upon request.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Anne Boyer

Anne Boyer's most recent book is Garments Against Women.

1 - How did your first book change your life?
It ruined it. 

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I like poetry best because it provides the possibility for the other two.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
It takes only as long as writing some words.  It’s often fast; sometimes I see whole poems, at least as their formal concepts, at once, and sometimes I hear poems like songs, and sometimes I assemble poems out of scrap materials.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
It’s different, just depends.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I haven’t given a reading in a long time because I got cancer, but when I used to give them, I’d begun the practice of making new pieces for each setting.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
This is a funny question.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I think the real enemy of a just arrangement of the world is not the class of people who stay up all night talking about ideas and waving their hands. We sometimes just think it is because we are the sorts of people who stay up all night talking about ideas and waving our hands.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Yes.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Turn your mourning dress and broomstick into a black flag.  “you only live once / a fog in our eyes.” Exercise. “I celebrate myself in poetry / like someone who celebrates their wedding with a knife.”

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
Very easy. I want to write everything, and then invent new things to write.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I wake up in the morning and I write. 

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
The library.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Cicadas in August.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
The world.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Literature’s misogynists, king-lickers, cop-apologists, crypto-racists, ideology-swallowers, vain-jerks, sons-of-the-rich, and pro-capitalists continue to inspire me. 

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Finish.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

Large cat.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Low overhead.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
The uncollected poems of Miyo Vestrini, which I’m translating with Cassandra Gillig for a Venezuelan small press, is just so good. Here’s a sample:
ONE DAY

you shall be

the girl with the slumped shoulders

Do not try

then,

nothing

out

of the ordinary.
As far as movies, Cassandra and I saw the Terminator movie in Cuenca, Ecuador, this summer, and people were laughing at jokes we couldn't get.

20 - What are you currently working on?
A nonfiction book about cancer and the politics of care.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jane Jordan poetry book give-away: a report,

Last Friday night we had a small gathering of poets in our wee house for the sake of a party/book give-away. Over the past few weeks, we'd been handed nine bins of material--books, literary journals, flyers and even manuscripts--belonging to the late Ottawa poet Jane Jordan [see my original post on receiving such here]. In keeping with the wishes of Jane Jordan's family, who had the hopes of getting her library in the hands of other poets, bins of books were sorted, organized and set out for an evening of conversation, gifting and drinks.

Some of those who came by included Michael Dennis, Alexander Monker, Cameron Anstee, Rachael Simpson, Vivian Vavassis, Jason Christie, Marilyn Irwin and Frances Boyle, with further works distributed to Monty Reid and Jeff Blackman (who were unable to attend). You wouldn't believe some of the items that were available; the photos only hint at the enormous wealth of poetry books, journals and chapbooks. A considerable percentage of the collection focused on works by Ottawa poets during the 1970s and 80s, highlighting her support for and engagement with a number of authors, most of whom had signed their collections to her, including: Irving Layton, Al Purdy, Leonard Cohen, Seymour Mayne, D.G. Jones, Margaret Atwood, Stephanie Bolster, William Hawkins, Marianne Bluger, bill bissett, Cyril Dabydeen, Patrick White, Raymond Souster, Miriam Waddington, Diana Brebner, Dennis Tourbin, Brian Fawcett, Daphne Marlatt, Gwendolyn MacEwan, Phyllis Webb, Milton Acorn, Ted Plantos, Christopher Levenson, Eli Mandel, bpnichol, Steven Heighton and so many, many others.

Thanks so much all who attended, and of course, John White, who was so generous with his mother's books.

Rose, of course, loved the attention. She danced and ran around, in between bouts of colouring.

And did I mention that many works are still available? Should we have a second party for those who might have missed the first?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Lesley Battler

Lesley Battler was born in Barrie, Ontario. Her work has been published in a wide range of journals including, Arc, filling Station, Prism International, West Coast Line. Her debut book of poetry, Endangered Hydrocarbons, came out in April 2015. She currently lives in Calgary and no longer works in the petrochemical industry.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book is out in the world now and affecting my life in interesting ways. First of all is the notion that a lot of secret labour has materialized, winkled out of the private into the public. This makes me feel very exposed, especially with social media added to the experience.

I’m also outside my comfort zone, dealing with issues of age, marketability, acceptance, breaking into a new field. I’m starting from the bottom as an “old newbie,” full of life experience but possessing less knowledge about poetry than people 20-30 years younger than I am. I find this an uneasy position, but also dynamic, full of flux.

Another thing that’s different is a sense of optimism and pride. Optimism because in a publishing situation that seems so dire, I sent my ms out and someone (BookThug) accepted it for publication. Pride because i’m a newbie without many connections. The ms was accepted entirely because someone thought it had some merit. That’s huge to me.

I also think publication has given me the confidence to continue pushing my boundaries, and I’m working on new poetry. The book had a tight, cohesive concept, based on the production language of the petrochemical industry. My most recent work is more sound-conscious, less determined in theme and aim.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Reading and writing were just things I always did. I came to everything at once. I wrote stories, poems, satirical pieces, letters, kept journals like Harriet the Spy, created a lot of comic books. Whenever I read something I loved, I would write stories to keep the characters and world of the book alive.

I’ve always love mysteries, detectives, spies, the secret identities of superheros, clues, cyphers, symbols, the underworld, the undersea world. The first book I ever mail-ordered was “The Face on Mars.” I’m thankful I was graced with the love of reading, writing and critical thinking. Otherwise, I might have become a conspiracy theorist.

I’ve also always been drawn to what is considered “difficult,” “experimental” or “unrelatable” literature. Possibly because I considered this kind of work a mystery, something to unravel and gather clues. Poetry became that site for me. It will never stop challenging, frustrating me, leading me to that world beneath the surface.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

I take a lot of notes. Eventually, lines, phrases, ideas start forming out of this accretion of seemingly random scribbling.  Time constraints make it necessary for me to beg, borrow, steal time. Poems tend to come when i’m focused on other things. When I do get the opportunity to write, it tends to explode on the page. I enjoy working with found texts and my first drafts are basically brainstorming exercises, finding the language, vocabulary I want to work with. My first drafts are long-winded and dense. I have to keep winnowing down until the words connect on a lingual level and a poem appears put of the substrate.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

My writing is always tied to some kind of inquiry: “What would happen if I placed these lines from this discourse with this seemingly opposing discourse?” I’m interested in language that questions, subverts, disrupts specific discourses. I don’t set out to write a book, it’s a more organic process. Usually I start by just wanting to sit down somewhere and play with a line I’ve heard or read, a random sign or image on the street. I’m always focused on the work at hand until I have several fragments that start talking to each other; that’s when the alchemy begins.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I had a speech impediment when I was young, and have never enjoyed public speaking. I’m trying to think of readings as being part of the job, no more out of the ordinary than a departmental presentation, but I haven’t reached the stage where performing in public feels the slightest bit creative.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Oh, just the usual. Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get here? Where are we going? How did we get like this? Are we really alone in the universe? Do we create the language of our oppression or has the language created our oppression?  How and why did we develop metaphors? And what’s up with memory and dream?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I’m not the slightest bit perturbed at the idea of poetry not having a wide audience. To me it’s pure research-and-development, Bletchley Park, the dark ops of language. I think the role of the writer is to be marginal to the culture at large. In marginality lies the ability to look at culture from the outside. As a poet I want to disrupt and subvert; reclaim “the wild” from 24 hour news cycles and the desperate shrieking of advertisements. Jam the algorithms, deflect language from its Q4 goals.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
So far, it’s been a lovely experience, a partnership of respect and courtesy. An editor, or a great reader can present different facets, question your thinking. While I’m in the thick of writing, it can be hard to distance myself and think of new ways to approach the work. Editors, and readers,can open up new possibilities after I feel I’ve come to the end. I have enjoyed the feeling of paring down and completion. My experience with good editors (and readers) also gives me the courage to keep to my true vision, instead of second-guessing myself.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
“You must set about it more slowly, almost stupidly. Force yourself to write down what is of no interest, what is most obvious, most common, most colourless. … Make an inventory of your pockets, of your bag. … Question your tea spoons.” - Georges Perec, from an essay called “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris.”

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I don’t have a writing routine but the writer in me never really shuts off. I tend to write fast in unexpected corners of the day. I beg, borrow, steal time to write, and this means the poetry steeps for a long time before I can get to it. Meanwhile i’m collecting fragments, headlines, signs, snatches of conversations, meeting notes, Internet memes etc. etc.  in a notebook. I write longhand on paper, in food courts, lobbies, cafes, public transit etc. Writing just happens.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I’ve learned this is the time of greatest discovery for me. My writing usually stalls when I read something so great I fall into a kind of despair of ever being able to do something like that. Maybe in my case time constraints are helpful as I can’t afford to waste my “poetry time.” Then I just pick up anything at hand, a Metro newspaper, one of zillions of real estate or new age tourist magazines or just go to Google and do exercises. I just write out words and phrases that sound absurd, odd, unintentionally profound and sonically mash them up. It doesn’t matter where any of these words might lead, something always takes over.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Earthworms, berries, mushrooms, rain in the air before a storm. A musty smell may be unromantic but it teleports me home.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Music, conceptual art, philosophy, science, science fiction, technology. Then there are the sites I follow on social media: posts from NASA, Imaginary Cities, Twitter pile-ons. I’m a free-range poet, avidly interested in incorporating and repurposing other fields, disciplines in my writing.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I’m a reading omnivore; everything from Edgar Allan Poe to Nancy Drew to Mad Magazine. Some of the writers that have long inspired me are Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Douglas Adams, Jorge Luis Borges, W.G. Sebald, Georges Perec, Raymond Queneau, Rimbaud. Over the last couple of years i’ve re-read some of my favourite critical theorists, Ambigen, Butler, Cixous, Kristeva, Deleuze, Gattari, Foucault, Blanchot. I’ve also re-read Stein and Beckett. Some influences are China Miéville (especially Embassytown), Dennis Lee’s Testament, and a wonderful bilingual book by Gisèle Villeneuve, Visiting Elizabeth.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Time travel. I’d be the most awesome Doctor ever. Maybe I am the Doctor as I’m bigger on the inside than I am on the outside. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to go to Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands. I wish I could become fluently multilingual, or compose ambient music based on the sounds I hear around me, unravel the mysteries of consciousness, answer at least one of my own questions.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
DJ, sound engineer, voice actor, composer of genius computer code, detective, spy. I’ve done all sorts of things occuptation-wise and don’t really consider myself a “writer.” I’m a reader, an information magpie, committed to life-long exploration of ideas. Writing comes as a response to these other elements.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
To me, writing is just something i’ve always done. It’s also cheap, convenient and portable;  something I can do at lunch, on weekends, in parks, food courts, hotel lounges, airports, etc. I work in longhand. Have pen and paper will travel. I love things of the mind and the imagination, and writing tethers me to earth as I drift into deep-sea outer space. It’s a way of channeling an overabundance of intuition, and allows me to return from my travels.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I finally read Finnegan’s Wake and wondered what took me so long. Although technically it’s not poetry, I absolutely loved it for the humour, the puns, the Steinisms (she was a huge influence on Joyce), the synthesis of sensations, science, pop culture, business of the time. And it’s a self-generating organism. Any passage, line, stanza or portmanteau word can reform into a completely different creation. James didn’t write a book; he built an infinity-engine.

As for films, I’ve mostly been binge-watching TV shows; Breaking Bad, Carnivale, The Prisoner, The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Twin Peaks, etc.

19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a group of poems that seem to be forming into a new manuscript, which now even has a working title: “Tomorrowland.”  I seem to be addressing the loss of nature, private places, the incursion of technology and velocity. I say “seem” because the work is very much still in experimental phase.

This new work is an attempt to capture through language a sense of loss;  the loss of the woods to subdivisions, birdsong to construction zone, memory to commodities on the assembly lines of social media. What did the promise of the future really bring? I’m exploring this sense of alienation using found texts and hewing as close to language as possible. For me, this kind of work is far more powerful than anything I could write based on personal experience.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Marie Buck, Portrait of Doom




COLLAPSE OF DEATH

I crawled out of a spider hole into a fucked up kind of youth.

My parents were fucked up

and my school was kind of fucked up

and my left eye ticked and my ankle hurt.

I felt my soul withering into a tiny shrunken system

but I wore a pin that said fuck the system

and I drilled the bone out

till I deadlifted unimaginable weight.

I’ve been fascinated by the dark, lyric tautness of Marie Buck’s second poetry collection, Portrait of Doom (San Francisco, CA: Krupskaya, 2015), constructed as a book of short, fierce and fiery poems around, among other subjects, disappointment. Consider the end of the poem “LAY DOWN AMONG THE BODIES,” that writes: “This is the most moving thing / I’ve seen in a while: / this glimmer of hope / embodied in a thrashing stallion. // Err, fuck that, I feel all the chains upon me.” In her recent “12 or 20 questions” interview, she spoke on how hers is a poetry constructed via collage, something that comes out occasionally through the poems themselves (“in my own dark vision / alphabetizing in Word,” as she writes, in the poem “SCOPE OF EMOTIONS”).

Krupskaya put out my new book, Portrait of Doom, this past spring. The projects are pretty different. One key difference, I think, is that, while both projects are partially collaged, I’m not really interested in the Internet with this new one. With the first, I was interested in publicity and privacy, especially in relation to gender. I grabbed a lot of language from MySpace accounts; the Internet at that moment was a really good thing to use in thinking about the things I wanted to think about. Now, though, I feel pretty uninterested in the Internet and also like we’re in a very different cultural moment in the wake of Occupy and with the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, Greek resistance to austerity, the general uptick in resistance across the globe.

So I guess I want/expect my work to reflect this larger cultural shift. I’m really interested in political affect, the transmission of political affect, and moments of collective hope and disappointment. I’m drawing on broader range of sources that I collage from (in addition to writing from scratch).

That said, all of my work seems to wind up circling around a few things: power, the grotesque, quotidian expressions of power relations, political and personal angst as one and the same, bodies, over the top self-reflexivity on the part of the speaker.

The construction of lyric collage allows Buck’s poems the possibility of being far more open than the limitations of the lyric “I,” stretching out into territory and contradictions and even a particular array of unexpected narrative directions. And yet, the collage of her poems manage to go far deeper than what the “I” would normally suggest, allowing her to thrust far and deep, cutting away all the bullshit, and striking straight at the heart of the matter. Her poems explore the failure of human possibility, including social, political and personal, and yet, contain a vigorous, vocal and insistent optimism, pushing a continual “fuck you” through the text, forcing its way up and out of some very pessimistic observations. We are not yet there, her poems insist, and we might never be, pushing her combination of resigned indignation and vigorous calls to action. These poems want you to try, and try ever harder. How dare you not.

SURVIVING

And a businessman has lost it
Underneath the water

Like I lost him, like I fucking lost him
As he toppled from my fireman’s carry

Looking for the girl who’ll treat you right
The Dixie paper products

I have to be in one of these caverns
I have to be hiding

I tear up
As a businessman looks at my chamber pot

I seep into you
Up up and away in a doom balloon

I am thinking about getting paid
My jet lag, my critters, my girl

I am touching a businessman’s
Sweet and supple mouth

With my little razor
And my furtive taser

I put its money in its pocket
And I remember the great destroyer