Monday, June 24, 2024

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Cynthia Marie Hoffman

Cynthia Marie Hoffman is the author of four collections of poetry: Exploding Head, Call Me When You Want to Talk about the Tombstones, Paper Doll Fetus, and Sightseer, all from Persea Books. Essays in TIME, The Sun, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. Poems in Electric Literature, The Believer, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. Cynthia lives in Madison, WI. www.cynthiamariehoffman.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?

When Sightseer won Persea’s Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, it fulfilled my lifelong dream of publishing a book. In that sense, my life was changed. I joined a catalogue of truly wonderful authors, and publishing opened the door to meaningful connections with readers and poets.

But I had a one-year old at home and was fully settled in a non-academic job that had no expectations of me to publish. So my day-to-day remained unchanged. Isn’t that how it is for so many writers, especially poets? Yes, I felt different. This incredible thing I’d worked so hard for over so many years was finally happening! But to my coworkers, and to many of my friends and family, I was the same.

Exploding Head, my newest book, is a memoir in prose poems about my lifelong journey with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), though it doesn’t say “OCD” anywhere in the poems themselves. All four of my full-length collections form cohesive full-length “projects” (if people are still using that word). But Exploding Head is the first book that isn’t heavily based on research, spoken through persona poems, or influenced by historical figures, medicine, or architecture. It’s not only about me, but it’s about a part of me I never talked about before. It’s the most interior, vulnerable thing I’ve ever written.

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

I loved writing little poems with my mother when I was little. Sometimes we wrote down familiar nursery rhymes and drew pictures to accompany them on the page. Poetry has always been in my life.

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?

Forever. It takes, seemingly, forever. I think I’ve been relatively prolific (compared to what? I don’t know), but each poem I’ve finished has been hard-won. I often start with an idea of the structure of the argument I want to make (first this, then that) or a clear visual like a scene from a movie. Then I have the frustrating task of putting it into words. Words are the hardest (and last) part of the poem to appear. By the time I have a “draft” on the page in a form others can actually read, it’s already in a very late stage of development. All the strands have been combed through, and I’ve just finally braided them together.

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’m working on a book from the very beginning. For a while, poet Nick Lantz and I were curating an interview site on poetry project books called The Cloudy House. It’s still a great resource (with more than 60 interviews!) for anyone who’s thinking about crafting a book-length collection.

I’m more interested in books than I am single poems. I don’t know if that’s been good or bad for my poems that have to go out in the world on their own, but there is always an interdependency at play. I do often revise quite a bit as the final book is coming together. There’s no reason to keep re-establishing setting or identity if you’re building a memoir out of poems—so all those redundancies must be cut if the book is to be successful.

I spent a couple years researching and building a book of poems about tuberculosis, but in the end, I abandoned that project entirely. That’s a risk when you think “book first, poem second.” Those poems about my grandfather in the tuberculosis sanatorium in the early 1940s couldn’t have been easily shuffled into a memoir about OCD. 

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. I don’t know that they’re a part of my creative process. It’s rare that I’ll “test” a new poem on a crowd these days. But I used to. I learned how to read in 2-minute open mic slots during my time in London in the late 90s when I was living there on a work visa with another poet, Sarah Kain Gutowski. Then, we read at open mic series in northern Virginia, and I even hosted a reading series in Arlington and later in my MFA program. That early experience shaped my ability to present my work confidently and to use the public space as an arena of experimentation. I’ve learned where certain poems work better off the page: in a quiet library, in a noisy bar, in a big crowd or a small crowd.

The best thing about readings is the immediate connection with the listener. We so rarely have the opportunity to be in the room when our poems are experienced in real-time. I love attending readings, as well. I go to as many as I can (onscreen and off). Writing is such an isolating endeavor. Attending poetry reading is so important for community-building. I love to hear poets read.

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?

My first three collections explored my relationship to history: as a tourist confronting the history of other countries (Sightseer), as a pregnant woman benefitting from our current day understanding of medicine (Paper Doll Fetus), and as an inheritor of my family history during the genealogical research craze (Call Me When You Want to Talk About the Tombstones).

But Exploding Head is the first book to explore the history of own mind—growing up with undiagnosed OCD and anxiety and finding my way as an adult.

My current work continues this line of questioning about the self. If I’m not writing from research or about others, how can I position the self in my work? It’s a new thing for me to be writing about myself.

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?

To document the experience of being alive during our time, in whatever big or small ways suit the poet’s skill. Even if we write about past events or speculate about the future, we cannot escape filtering it through the lens of our time. So even if we don’t know it, we’re always doing this work. 

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

Poets have a very different relationship with editors than prose writers. I experienced this firsthand having worked with several editors on essays I published last year. The process made my writing better, and I’ve been thinking about what poets are potentially missing out on by holding our work so close and by editors largely treating it as finished.

I do, however, depend on the feedback from poetry groups assembled from my peers, and to whom I’m indebted for my development as a poet and for rescuing me from writer’s block with the looming force of communal deadlines without which, at some points, I might not have been writing at all.

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

Advice from my time in gymnastics transfers well to general life and poetry: don’t overthink it; just go for it; let go.

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?

Most of my day has nothing to do with writing. But I try to keep a burner warm. Having a project that extends beyond one-poem-at-a-time really helps me dip in and out. I have a hard time getting started if I have to come up with a new idea each time I sit down to write.

But the fact is, I’m always sitting. I sit to work, I sit to write, I sit to relax. I hope to get back into adult gymnastics again, or at least some more walking. As I’ve worked from home, the lines between work and writing have blurred. I write where I work. Sometimes I write on my work computer. Sometimes I check work emails during my writing time. But mostly, my writing time and work hours don’t conflict; my mind is clearest and most alive late at night, when everything is dark and quiet. That’s when I’m most creative.

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

I love reading poetry, but if I’m too immersed in the voices of other poets, I tend to lose my own voice. I find inspiration in history, research, interesting science facts. Sometimes, when I feel lost, re-reading my own manuscript helps me remember myself. 

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

In college, majoring in photography and taking a color printing lab course, I was alone in a small, single-unit darkroom. I opened the drawer of the wooden desk beneath the enlarger, and a familiar scent wafted up to me. It was the fragrance of my grandparents’ home in California, a place I’d visited only a handful of times in my childhood.

I’m not saying, necessarily, that my grandparents’ home smelled like a musty, dusty old wooden drawer in a room of photo paper and chemicals, but all of a sudden, so unexpectedly, there it was—the exact smell. Good thing I was alone in the dark, because the nostalgia came over me so powerfully, I stood there and sobbed.

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’m often inspired by the musicality of natural speech, though I have a tendency to get stuck on repeating certain phrases (as a symptom of OCD) that feels troublesome and not conducive to creativity. I’m always inspired by science, the animal world, our understanding of (and the mysteries of) the universe. Watching documentaries.    

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

The community of writers that form my poetry and essay groups are so important to me. The more recently beloved books on my shelves include Eugenia Leigh’s Bianca and James Davis May’s Unusually Grand Ideas for the way they explore mental health. Though I had finished writing Exploding Head before I discovered these gems, I feel my work has a kinship with these collections, and as I walked the vulnerable road toward publication, I felt their presence farther ahead, having laid the path.

I was heavily shaped by my early learning under Carolyn Forché, both by her own work and by her teaching. She opened her graduate courses to undergraduates, and I was lucky enough to be taking her classes as an undergrad and again, years later, as a graduate student at George Mason University. She introduced me to work in translation and poets I wouldn’t have stumbled upon by myself. And she is the reason I came to love history, a subject I had famously despised for all my schooling years as I was forced to simply memorize dates and names. But Carolyn made history come alive; she made it magical. And suddenly everything made sense—the very reason we view the world as we do today. I feel so, so lucky to have been able to sit in her classrooms.

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

See the aurora borealis in its fullest form directly overhead. Sleep overnight in a treehouse. Get my full-twisting back layout all the way around.

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?

Gymnastics coach. Or photographer. In the fourth grade, we each wrote a book of poems and bound them with tape and cardboard and fabric. I still have mine. The “About the Author” page says I wanted to be a photographer. (No mention of being a poet, but I think that was something I didn’t comprehend “being”—it’s just something I was.)

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

I became a writer in addition to doing something else (i.e., a paying career). But day-to-day, what makes me write instead of sitting back in the red chair in the corner of the living room with a movie on tv and a cat in my lap? Having a deadline to write something for poetry group, having a community of peers who check in on me (and I on them), and being in the midst of a project that feels obsessive and urgent. 

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

I’m working through a giant stack of books I brought home from AWP and posting about them on Instagram (@cynthiamariehoffman). I’m calling it the “Book Fair Book Haul Crawl” because, let’s be real, it takes time to read all those new books we get so excited about, and there’s no reason to rush through. A few standouts so far have been Lisa Fey Coutley’s Host, Jubi Arriola-Headley’s Bound, and Jenny Irish’s Hatch, but there are so many more, and more that I have yet to read that will certainly be the next great book.

As far as films, I can’t name one. I love movies, and I have a bit of an addiction to movies and tv. I’ll devour almost any movie. But they all kind of meld into a blob in my mind. Probably the result of too much tv.

19 - What are you currently working on?

Essays! In 2023, I made a point of rekindling my first love for the personal essay. I’ve recently published essays on OCD; one in Time Magazine online called My OCD Can’t Keep Me Safe From America’s Gun Violence—But It Tries, and another in The Sun called The Beast in Your Head. And I’d like to keep up my exploration of this form.

I’m also writing poems, but, for the first time, they’re not part of a pre-defined “project.” This has left me feeling lost at sea. But still, I write, hoping one of these poems will become an oar.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Sunday, June 23, 2024

new from above/ground press: mclennan, Bartczak (trans. Mark Tardi), Norris, Pakdel, Anderson, Archer, Myers, Polyck-O'Neill, Houbolt + Tracy,

I wanted to say something, : an elegy, for Barry McKinnon (1944-2023), by rob mclennan $5 See link here for more information ; Unsovereign, by Kacper Bartczak, translated from the Polish by Mark Tardi $5 See link here for more information ; Broken River, by Ken Norris $5 See link here for more information ; Un-Composed, Poetry by Saba Pakdel $5 See link here for more information ; Family Chronicles from Muffin Land, by Hope Anderson $5 See link here for more information ; Perverse Density, by Sacha Archer $5 See link here for more information ; BRADE LANDS, by Peter Myers $5 See link here for more information ; Process, by Julia Polyck-O’Neill $5 See link here for more information ; DAWN’S FOOL, by Kyla Houbolt $5 See link here for more information ; Gnomics, by Dale Tracy $5 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
April-June 2024
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 here to see various backlist titles, or click on any of 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.

AND TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE SOON FOR THE 31ST ANNIVERSARY READING/LAUNCH/PARTY AT REDBIRD, SATURDAY AUGUST 10 ; see my report on last year's anniversary event here,

Forthcoming chapbooks by Carter Mckenzie, Maxwell Gontarek, Carlos A. Pittella, Conal Smiley, Ian FitzGerald, Nate Logan, Peter Jaeger, Noah Berlatsky, ryan fitzpatrick, russell carisse, JoAnna Novak, Chris Banks, Julia Cohen, Andrew Brenza, Mckenzie Strath, John Levy, alex benedict, Helen Hajnoczky, Ryan Skrabalak, MAC Farrant, Terri Witek, David Phillips and Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] #42! And there’s totally still time to subscribe for 2024, by the way (backdating to January 1st, obviously).


Saturday, June 22, 2024

Raisa Tolchinsky, Glass Jaw: Poems

 

Esther
[Some Things You Can’t Understand by Punching Harder]

I blushed like I had already been hit when she slipped that cotton baton
into my pocket between bells, though why was I ashamed our bodies emptied

without breaking? I rinsed blood from my hands and Coach parted the ropes.
Make him forget what you are. we never sparred the boys yet

he looked at me like the rib we had stolen was between my eyes.
Then hit so hard I heard a sound like fishing hooks in a drawstring bag

(no one really sees stars glittering above them, the dark begins at the ankles, then
zips up)—he waited to say I can’t hit a girl until I was already on the ground.

What ails you, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?

Most of the boys had seen a body bleed almost everywhere a body could
and never did I see them wince: not at the tooth wedged into the mat,

or the face shifted into a Picasso painting, or a pupil pummeled red.
Still, the fight stopped quick as the moment

God returned the Red Sea only to part it again.
What are the rules for that?

A former resident of Chicago, Bologna (Italy) and New York City, where she trained as an amateur boxer, poet and current Harvard Divinity School student Raisa Tolchinsky’s full-length debut is Glass Jaw: Poems (New York NY: Persea Books, 2024), winner of the 2023 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize. Through the form and language of boxing, Tolchinsky’s Glass Jaw takes a very different approach and exploration than, say, Toronto poet Michael Holmes’ exploration through the performative language of professional wrestling in his poetry collection Parts Unknown (Toronto ON: Insomniac Press, 2004) [see my review of such here]. Tolchinsky frames her collection around amateur boxing, but utilizing language and character studies as a way through and across a journey of deep faith, attempting to find both answers, as well as the proper questions. The book opens with a reference to prayer: “I’m not sure why I still pray,” she writes, to open the first section, “or how I do it anymore. it’s like knocking on the sky: can a girl come in? I knock with my whole body: which woman is made of engine grease and hot hands?”

There is such a liveliness to the language in this collection, and the book is organized in two sections of lyrics—“DIATRIBE ON WOMEN GLADIATORS” and “HERE THIS HOLLOW SPACE”—the first of which offers a suite of poem-scenes and asides, and the second of which is structured across thirty-nine “CANTOS,” numbering down from thirty-four (with repetitions) as a way not to expand, but to return to foundations. There are echoes of Old Testament across the pieces throughout the collection, and the first section focuses on individual boxers, an array of short scenes named for and about specific women gladiators. As the poem “Delia” ends: “comparing mascaras // all clump from the sweat / and would we still do this, / if we were millionaires?” Around sly conversations around faith, these poems seek a proper foundation, perhaps, or a footing. “I hit her hard / because he said that’s how you win,” she writes, to close out “Canto 14,” a poem subtitled “I Traveled in a Spiral, I Never / Finished the Whole Permieter,” “and I hit her until I remembered / it was him who was afraid—[.]”

Tolchinsky composes short scenes that circle themselves around a central question of purpose and belief, outcome and possibly penance, writing on power structures within the self, through and between women. “Before the ring I made a life out of language,” she writes, to open “Canto 26,” a poem subtitled “Within Those Fires, There Are Souls,” “but there were places it would not reach— [.]” There is something curious about the way that these poems do write themselves around a central question that is never asked aloud, but perpetually present, as a kind of ongoingness; pushing the body to a physical limit to seek out, not a single, end-goal, but a deeper sense of being and connection. This is an utterly fascinating collection, and one that requires further study.

Purgatory

We’re trying to say
we’ve watched our
bodies without us
in them. Called ourselves
orphan, coiling
through the world.
In the field we played
with pebbles like
children and made
bargains with a bold
God. We thought if
we built what haunted us
a cage we could touch it
and survive

 

Friday, June 21, 2024

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Dawn Macdonald

Dawn Macdonald lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, where she was raised off the grid. Her poetry appears in literary journals like Grain and Nat. Brut, and also in speculative publications like Asimov’s Science Fiction and Wizards in Space. She is the author of Northerny (2024, University of Alberta Press).

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 book came out in the midst of chaos. While I was in edits, our landlords decided to sell, and we decided to not get evicted, so we scrambled to buy our house at the highest possible interest rates; then a tree fell on it. Sewage lines were being redone, so we had water outages and boil water advisories, and our backyard was excavated into a giant pit (now a giant mud field). My father received a cancer diagnosis just before Christmas, and while the prognosis was initially positive, he died unexpectedly in the week after my first book signing. I cancelled my planned readings and went into grief. It’s been a couple of months and I’m still in grief. I don’t yet know how these paired events will have changed me.

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

1.     Short attention span.

2.     Obsessed with language itself: what it does, what it doesn’t.

3.     Really bad at thinking up plots.

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’m always or never starting projects – always writing, never sure what is the start of something. Some poems have been pieced together out of fragments of other poems written over a span of years. Some were pretty much one and done. I feel affinity for the Beats with their “first thought, best thought” – but this is manifestly not always the case – so, it’s all over the place.

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’m not generally trying to write on any predetermined topic. Writing happens, themes can then be deduced. Recurring obsessions over time may create the illusion of intention? There’s a convention at the moment that poetry collections have to be “about” something and I’m still getting my head around that – if I’ve got to write 40 poems about the same thing, isn’t that an admission of failure? Shouldn’t one good poem do the trick? It doesn’t, of course, so there’s value in coming at something from many angles, but this is a point of tension for me.

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

All my readings to date have been online. Covid created some opportunities that way, as I’d never be able to attend magazine launches held in Montréal or Calgary or Vancouver, but I can show up on Zoom. I also enjoy when an online journal asks you to record a reading for them to post as an MP3. But the kind where you go to some sort of party and get up at a microphone? Don’t know – maybe we’ll find out!

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?

How the heck do words work? Can they work other ways than they usually do? Why would we tend to believe something just because it’s framed as a sentence? What’s the connection with physical stuff? What’s stuff? Do stories just trick us into thinking things make sense? ... Not sure these are “current questions” as they’ve been around for a while, but also not sure they’ve been answered.

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?

Having a way with words doesn’t make you extra-good at life. Rhetorical flourish does not equate to any special insight, to wisdom. We shouldn’t take beauty for truth. I see writers and artists as shit-disturbers – throwing ideas out there, for good or for ill. My friend posted one of those lists of “25 Books That Will Change Your Life” and I was like, “I have read most of these and it has been a real rollercoaster.”

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

I worked with the wonderful Jannie Edwards on my book, Northerny. She was marvellously accommodating about my distaste for “Track Changes” – we worked over Zoom with verbal notes. My manuscript was rough. I hadn’t had a clear sense of how a poetry collection is typically structured. By no means did I agree with or implement all of her suggestions, but we found a productive dialogue, and the book is far more readable thanks to her eye. That said, at the end of that process, with all its hyperfixation on commas and consistency, I found myself badly blocked in any new writing. I had to set myself exercises in inconsistency and non-sense-making, to regain freedom, potentiality and flow.

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

“Whatever it is about your work that keeps getting negative feedback, you should try to do that more, because it’s your one hope of originality.” I mean, with some caveats, obviously, keeping in mind it isn’t especially original to be using too many adverbs, for example – but then, maybe you could construct a poem entirely out of adverbs and see what happens? Worth a shot.

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?

Poetry is wonderfully interstitial, fits into those little gaps in the day. I’ve always got a notebook and a pen somewhere nearby, can jot things down over breakfast, fiddle with a few words at the bus stop. I’ve tried “the morning pages” and “the afternoon pages” and “the evening pages” but never found a consistent time that worked for me. So long as it’s happening, I don’t think it matters when or where.

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

Periods of stasis are okay. Some weeks (months, years) are more about taking in. Eventually it will turn and start to flow out again, quite naturally, or if not, okay – if you don’t need to, you don’t. Not sure it’s necessary to be taking an aphrodisiac to reignite poetic desire. But, in practice, poems often pop out of snippets of conversation, or the big and small events of daily life, so I think just staying alive to the world and its inhabitants.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Woodsmoke and beer.

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?

Basically everything is an influence. Because my educational background is in science, that’s a thread, and because I live in the North, the wilderness is part of daily life. On a syntactical and metrical level, hip hop is an influence – the wordplay, intertextuality, the layering of rhythms. Conversation – and sometimes mishearing someone in conversation, “wouldn’t it be a neat phrasing if they had actually said this ....” Weird phrasings on signage or on products – Nivea sells a body wash with the line, “naturally caring me moments for touchably smooth skin,” which just has so much to unpack – time as an entity offering care, care as natural yet purchasable, the purpose of “me moments” being to induce the touch of another. Could I write something as smooth, evocative, dense, and defying of literal sense?

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

All of them? Haha I am on a bit of a mission to read all the books. Accordingly, have been obsessed with anthologies. I was very fortunate as a teenager to stumble across a second-hand copy of The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (edited by Donald Allen) which absolutely blew my mind – poetry can do this? The Beats, the New York School – I’d had no idea. Those guys (mostly guys) are still a big influence. Frank O’Hara’s “I do this I do that” poems, Kenneth Koch’s humour and play, Ginsberg’s long-line chattiness. Also a big fan of A.R. Ammons, who has a sciencey sort of eye and who wrote a book-length poem about garbage, which speaks to me as an inveterate scrounger and lover of organic messiness. Alice Notley, who goes big on the page and claims never to revise. In prose, I have so much respect for Percival Everett, whose most recent novel James is very clever about dialect. I could go on and on.

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

To (mis?)-quote P.G. Wodehouse, “It is my fervent hope that the remainder of my days shall be one round of unending monotony.”

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?

My day job is in Institutional Research, which is a bit like market research and/or data analysis. I do a fair bit of survey design, which trains you to write clear and concise questions that are not too susceptible to divergent interpretations. I’ve done manual transcription of focus group recordings, which is a revelation in terms of learning how people really speak (tip: not in sentences). I do a bit of coding in R and SQL, another kind of pithy and precise communication style. But my original career goal was physicist. I wanted to find the Grand Unified Theory. I did my undergraduate in applied mathematics with a theoretical physics concentration, but I’m a physics grad-school dropout, so that’s the road not taken.

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

Not sure I ever thought of it as being opposed to doing anything else! I have to have a day-job, and I definitely have hobbies (mostly knitting and running around in the woods, not at the same time because you should never run with knitting needles). A notebook is easy to carry around and writing fits in. Maybe that’s the answer – because writing is completely portable and fits into very small spaces and bits of time.

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

Book: Nature Poem by Tommy Pico.

Film: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is my favorite film to say is my favorite film, but, I will probably never watch it again – it’s a one-time experience. Still, pretty great.

19 - What are you currently working on?

Ugh. I am very much in a state of grief. I am writing around that but wouldn’t be able to say I’m working on anything there. It’s rough and raw and it’s dominating me in a way that’s outside of artistry. We’ll see.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;