Tuesday, September 27, 2022

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Lee Suksi

Lee Suksi’s first book, The Nerves (Metatron), won a 2021 Lambda Literary Award. They've written for art magazines and exhibitions, conducted interviews, crisis counselling, drawing classes, bookselling, astrological consultation. They are at work on several projects, including daily address at https://psychiclectures.substack.com.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Probably the question I most frequently ask editors and other people is “does that make sense?” My central doubt. Hearing how people read The Nerves convinced me that I do.

Everything else will be a deepening of that reassurance. I’d like to let people know I understand what they mean too.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
No, I came to poetry first. I love what meaning is generated through beauty, silence, and contradiction. I love language at the level of the voice, then the sound, the pause, the word, the line. The scaffolds of genre at this point seem onerous, but I use them, for now, to convey sense. I don’t really think about storytelling unless I absolutely have to, which is less than you might think.

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 notes are non-stop and I try to sort them but they aren’t usually towards a particular project when they come down off my head. But everything comes from there. I guess writing is sorting them and making them make sense.

4 - Where does a work of prose 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?
A sound becomes a sentence when there’s a collision, and so on. I admit to being kind of precious about books (The Nerves was gorgeously designed by Sultana Bambino)  but when writing becomes commodity the writing part of that project is over.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love readings. The reading and listening parts. I love reading and being read to. I record myself while writing. I love the extra information conveyed by posture, dress, voice, atmosphere. And the audience’s stillness or noise. Reading is lovely and writing is simply not. Writing is bad posture and staring at the wall. It’s quarantine.

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?
Is Voice theoretical? It’s nice when my theoretical concerns feel cosmic, like the social and the personality are gone and the Voice is a chorus. I wrangle those socials and individuals with genre but it’s exciting when they recede. It would be amazing to write without power or grief but they are always major.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Well they have lots of different roles. Medium, teacher, adjudicator, observer, entertainer are a few. I find it hard to relate normally when compulsively writing. Ironically, I don’t think I’m alone in that. Maybe I can put some pressure on that.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I have to be ready, but at their best the editor is the first sense-maker! Amazing. I’m in awe of people who share their work at all stages.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I took a workshop with Leah Sophia Dworkin where she shared a technique for envisioning where you store your memories, and how to tuck them away when you’re done with them. Until that point I’d been going through a period where writing felt really overwhelming and even distressing, a boundless and vulnerable endeavour. That was great. The container doesn’t have to be a strict form.

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?
No, I’m not regular but I do it every day. If I do it well it usually happens when I have a free afternoon and the light is right. I write in bed with my cats if I feel evil. Or I go to the Hart House Library (hot tip). I’m newly obsessed with how unhealthy writing tends to be, how much ruminating, drinking coffee and alcohol, scrunching the body. No wonder it can get a bit morose and tortured. I want my writing to be embodied so I try to get into the body with meditation, stretching, music. Sex if I’m feeling committed. The only thing I don’t like about the library is I can’t do Wheel Pose without inhibition. My best advice to writers is to take care of your body. It moves your head. So, note to self, get out of bed.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
The world is too much with me and I’m chronically over- rather than understimulated, but I guess if I feel confused I read, let the notes come out of my head, return.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Boys. All my past and current homes. Even when I lived with my best girlfriend, but then it smelt like patchouli too.

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 love to draw and I find ease there, probably because it’s more in conversation with myself and less others so I have less responsibility. The freedom of association in that kind of mark making, the immediacy of emotion in a line, taught me a lot about what’s important to me in writing and in general. In art school I only wrote ekphrastically and I think the care of conveying the world while surrendering to its mystery (artists hate having their work explained but need it to be described) comes from there.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I’m reading very distractedly since I started working in a bookstore, but writers I carry around with me (quite materially) are Eileen Myles, Joshua Whitehead, Liz Howard, Dionne Brand, David Wojnarowicz, John WienersRenee Gladman, Tamara Faith Berger, Hannah Black, Aisha Sasha John, Prathna Lor, Lucy Ives, Lucy Ellmann, Shiv Kotecha. Kafka, Berlant, Sedgwick, Davis, Carson, Dickinson, Woolf, Weil. Notley, Mayer, Niedecker. Woof.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Reflecting on that list, read more work in translation, read more work from the ancient world.

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?
A helping profession for sure. I used to have a lot of guilt about the arts, now I feel like they’re one side of a call and response. I still feel like my most instructive experiences are listening to or caring for people. Reading is like the desultory, or preparatory way of doing that. Writing at its best distills something from all different kinds of experiences, alchemizes, offers something weird and ripe. I’m not sure about that mirror-to-the-world metaphor, if it offers a clear picture. It’s more like cultural production is a twisted, distinctive little farm grown in the soil of experience, the compost of living. I believe in it a bit more now, I believe that my connected experiences came from reading as much as anything else.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I love to draw but I’m in my thirties now and I think I’ll have a lifelong struggle with the substance of the world, with caring about lasting materiality, with the value of objects and the realities of bureaucracy and money. That eliminates a lot of professions and visual artist is one of them. Writing has cheap overhead and needs no storefront. And it can be joyful.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Darryl by Jackie Ess. I’m loving the new season of Couples Therapy. That show is nuts.

19 - What are you currently working on?
Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, poetry about everything, and my daily Psychic Lectures: https://psychiclectures.substack.com

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Monday, September 26, 2022

new from above/ground press: twenty-two new/recent (April-September 2022) titles,

Happy September! What! How did we get here? And we'll see you at the ottawa small press book fair on Novmeber 12th, yes?

TWENTY-TWO NEW TITLES: Light Makes a Ruin, by Geoffrey Nilson $5 ; Felines, which sounds like feelings, by Genevieve Kaplan $5 ; Motion & Force, by Melissa Spohr Weiss $5 ; too many words, by Lori Anderson Moseman $5 ; GLITCH APPLE, by Christopher Patton $5 ; Dating Pete Davidson, by Leigh Chadwick $5 ; Report from the (Sarah) Mangold Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; Report from the (Gregory) Betts Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; Report from the (Phil) Hall Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; FALSE NARRATIVES, by Ken Norris $5 ; Report from the (Cameron) Anstee Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; Reading The Great Classics Of Canlit through Book 5 of bpNichol’s The Martyrology, by Grant Wilkins $5 ; Natural Man, by N.W. Lea $5 ; Silts, by Jed Munson $5 ; AN ENVELOPE OF SILENCE, Some Short Fiction 1977-1989, by David Miller $5 ; looping climate, by Matthew Gwathmey $5 ; Report from the (Monty) Reid Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; in the shadows, by Michael Boughn $5 ; west coast shorts, by Laura Kelsey $5 ; English Garden Bondage, by Russell Carisse $5 ; In-Between, by Saba Pakdel $5 ; Tomorrow's Going to be Bright, by Jérôme Melançon $5 ; (see the prior list of 2022 titles here

keep an eye on the above/ground press blog for author interviews, new writing, reviews, upcoming readings and tons of other material; and 2023 subscriptions (THE PRESS' THIRTIETH YEAR) announce at the end of the week! (although at the same rates as last year, if you want to get in on the action early,

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
April - September 2022
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy of each

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com or the PayPal button (above). Scroll down the extensive list of names on the sidebar (many, many things are still in print).

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

Forthcoming chapbooks by: George Bowering, Joseph Donato, Chris Johnson, Ben Jahn, Leesa Dean, Lindsey Webb, Jason Heroux, Nick Chhoeun, Grant Wilkins, Isabel Sobral Campos, Mark Scroggins, Laura Walker, Adrienne Adams, Jordan Davis, Jason Christie, Andrew Gorin, Marita Dachsel, Stuart Ross, Angela Caporaso and Isabella Wang, an issue of G U E S T [a journal of guest editors] edited by Sara Lefsyk and issue thirty-five of Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal]! (and probably a bunch of other things, honestly).


and can you believe the press turns THIRTY YEARS OLD next year? gadzooks!

stay healthy! be safe! be nice to each other,

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sophie Crocker, Brat

 

 

self-portrait in aries

i have been so alive. 

in an open shirt i set mint sprigs on fire.

we brush each other’s teeth in the speckled mirror.

my limbs made yours in watercolor.

you can bow a cherry stem with your tongue;

i can keep a chick alive in the slickness of my cheek.

yes, i am a pet for care.

little body all skeletal with rain.

it’s so easy not to break me once you know that i am breakable.

you were hungry.

i was hungry.

& the thing to eat was me.

The full-length poetry debut by Sophie Crocker, “a writer and performance artist based on stolen Songhees, Esquimalt and WSANEC land,” is Brat (Guelph ON: Gordon Hill Press, 2022), a scattering of poems that work to explore and feel out a variety of self-definitions and self-determinations, through which to see which one or ones best fit. “i don’t want to miss anything before i have to.” they write, as part of the opening poem, “venus in cancer.” “i / can’t even finish a podcast, can’t even keep a middle name.” There is such delightful and open uncertainty infused in Crocker’s narratives, and their expositions flick at a moment’s notice between meditation and flailing, wild exuberance and cool wisdoms, so many of which seem hard-won. The same poem, after weaving and bobbing a meandering pace, ends with the clarity of such a wonderfully-paced and slightly-open conclusion: “actually, my last meal will be breakfast. / after breakfast i will take a long, / long walk.”

Crocker engages with numerous poems around situating, composing multiple portraits-within-moments across an immediate self, including “self-portrait as angel baby,” “self-portrait in leo,” “self-portrait in virgo,” “neptune in capricorn,” “self-portrait in aquarius” and “the best thing about me.” They offer moments and morsels of and around perspective, and portraits around all twelve astrological signs. “i should like to be dismantled.” they write, to open “self-portrait of the obsessive compulsive / in isolation,” “a white onion. / my skull still soft. the apartment half-moved-out.” The ways through which Crocker constructs a book-length in-process portrait, working line by line, poem by poem, is fascinating; and Crocker’s staccato-accumulations are, at times, combative, meditative, lyric, self-depreciating, self-aware, sly, hilarious and deeply curious, seeking answers to impossible questions that are still, in themselves, to find their final form. “there were too many corners / in too many rooms.” they write, near the end of “that summer i thought i was gautama buddha,” “my rage monsooned / into every flesh i had.”

Saturday, September 24, 2022

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Brendan McLeod

Brendan McLeod is the author of a novel, a poetry collection, five theatre shows, and is the founder of the Juno-nominated folk group The Fugitives. His latest book is the poetry debut Friends Without Bodies.

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 novel was published in 2007. Since then I’ve focussed on music and theatre, so I don’t know how my new book compares because I haven’t gone back and read my old one. Should I? To be honest, I’m too scared. 15 years is a long time.

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

I came to fiction first, but I did this project as poetry because the world was changing so rapidly every day (even though we were just sitting alone in our houses) that I needed a form that was good for wrestling with different subjects one by one by one. I couldn’t have written a novel in the state I was in – it was too chaotic. I needed to be able to jump between emotions quickly, so it was either poetry or songwriting. I don’t know why poetry won out, but I’m glad I didn’t overthink it.

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 first drafts are all garbage. I’m a spewer. Just get it out. Then try to make something coherent out of it, or give up, or, eventually, both.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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?

In this case, I wasn’t working on a book. One of the last poems is titled Day 533. If I’d known I was going to write that long about the pandemic I wouldn’t have started, so thank God for ignorance.

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

I come from a spoken word background so I’ve always thought it was helpful to the editing process to see the looks on people’s faces and gauge their reactions to the words. It definitely helps for humour, at least.

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’m interested in how to discuss mental illness openly and in a nuanced fashion that lessens stigmas around it in a manner that broader things like the Twitter “Let’s Talk” campaign cannot. I’m interested in how and why we grieve what we do and how power structures inform that. Currently, I’m interested in how to do art about climate change that is realistic without being nihilistic.   

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 about that a lot, but I don’t know.

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

My editor was Alessandra Naccarato and I can’t imagine this book without her. Actually, I can, and it would have sucked. I think the writer’s brain is important, but of equal importance is to have a different brain interrogate the writer’s intention/motivation/expertise/purpose. Since the writer is in their own brain they often take these things for granted, and they’re some of the most important questions.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Work without hope or despair.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction to theatre to music)? What do you see as the appeal?

Mainly it’s a monetary appeal. I’ve diversified so that I can live full-time as an artist. I wish my aesthetic forms overlapped more because it would be less work, but they rarely do. Each form is a whole thing onto itself and I think when I’ve made assumptions about things in one form and tried to cut and paste that assumption onto the next form it hasn’t worked out for me.

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 used to work like a banker from 9-5. I wrote a lot, but it wasn’t very good, so I tried to switch it up in the last 5 years and become more of a hippie and just do what needs doing when it feels right to do it. As you can tell from that sentence, that might not be working either.

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

Music, walking, having a drink with a friend, researching cool UFO stuff.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

I suck at stuff like that. Nothing comes to mind. For some reason I thought of a banana, but that’s not right.

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?

I’m big into history and science, but I think only in the way that someone with limited capacity in those subjects can be. I love quantum mechanics and consciousness and the nature of reality and space, but I’d be hard-pressed to explain how a vacuum works, unless I had a few drinks, and then I would try. I think I’m good at learning, getting inspired, synthesizing information, and then forgetting what I just learned. 

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

It’s close, but I think Mary Karr is the best writer to re-read. So I go back to her often because there’s always something new in her work no matter how many times I’ve read it.

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

Go to Greece.

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?

I think it would be fun to be a lawyer, but only because I like courtroom dramas. I don’t really know what their work entails on a day-to-day basis.

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

I’m not sure!

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

Film: I really enjoyed The Father. Book: Don’t Call Us Dead. 

20 - What are you currently working on?

A new album with The Fugitives and a theatre show about capitalism and a middle grade heist novel!

12 or 20 (second series) questions;