Sunday, March 29, 2020

Jami Macarty, The Minuses



Through the Branches


Oranges as your kiss opens my mouth
forgetting where we are in a park full of mockingbirds.


When my eyes open I promise to tell the truth.
The truth changes.


A vulture eclipses. I become
the sun. A hanging swarm.


Seeing everywhere at once every thing
I cancel us to cross the desert. Solvitur ambulando.


Scent of sun on your forearm reverts to memory.
The casita’s roof absorbed into the mountain’s forged shadow.


From this angle the sky parts mesquite branches.
There’s an occurrence bright enough to notice.

The debut full-length poetry title by poet and editor Jami Macarty, who “lives between Tucson, Arizona and Vancouver, British Columbia,” is The Minuses (Louisville CO: The Center for Literary Publishing, 2020). The poems in The Minuses are composed as accumulations of declarations and description, that concurrently linearly build, and collage as lyric patchworks. Macarty writes on violence both domestic and ecological; writing the moments between the language and the lines, and out the other end of comprehension. Through The Minuses, she writes out a great deal of violence from a variety of perspectives, from the direct to the slant, even as she writes, to close the poem “Without Is Guide”: “I am repeating how I feel // My skin outward like intercepting leaves // In the throttle climate // The knife and fist climate // After lovemaking everyone is sad [.]” This is, as the back cover attests, a book of distress, of trauma, of witness: of, as she writes to open “Resuscitation,” “How we behave in drought and anticipation.”


Saturday, March 28, 2020

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Stephanie Anderson

Stephanie Anderson is the author of three books of poetry, most recently the If You Love Error So Love Zero (Trembling Pillow Press), as well as several chapbooks. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Guernica, LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory, nonsite.org, Posit, the tiny, and elsewhere. She co-edits the micropress Projective Industries and currently lives in Singapore.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first chapbook was In the Particular Particular, from DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press, in 2006. It had the double effect of both validating my sense of writing as my "vocation" and making me interested in becoming a publisher myself. My most recent work is a collection of poems written through the lenses of pregnancy, postpartum, the news cycle, and living in China; it's similar to that early work in that it remains committed to form and linguistic playfulness. But it's written by a speaker who has a very different sense of what the "personal" is, and what lyric's audiences might be.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Length! I'm joking but also not. I used to write in other genres--I still write in other genres!--but when I would write fiction I would walk around in that world, and it was hard to do anything else. With poetry I felt (and still feel) more in a constrained time of making: like maybe I prep class, or feed the baby, or write some email, or work on building the poem, and it's one accomplishment of the day. Admittedly, the items on this list aren't equal--the time of poetry-writing is intense.

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?

The process really varies from project to project, depending on constraints, form, and so on. That said, for me lately, I think the biggest moment of suspension (the waiting for things to gel, or for my sight to clear, or whatever form of sensory attention and distillation you want to put here) comes when I've generated enough content to begin to shape it and am working toward seeing that shape. This moment feels slow, that's why I call it a suspension, but in terms of real time I'm not sure it's especially quick or slow.

I'm fumbling here. Partly because the circumstances of my life have become such that writing occurs in smaller increments, more frequently, grasped and darting and fought for dearly, so it's hard for me to answer this question. I used to sit down and not get up until I'd really drafted something, or get up only to pace around my apartment, alone. Now I write some silly shit at 1am in a WeChat memo to myself in the space just after a small human has gone back to sleep, I write material for something (not even a draft yet) in a journal in a 10 minute break, I go about doing writing in ways that are more improvisatory and I am not sure I can clearly state what that process looks like. It pleases me: at this moment, writing and reading are tethering me to myself. But they are always, always on the fly right now.

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 varies. If You Love Error certainly began as pieces/series, whereas some of my other books have been "book projects" immediately. I do like setting myself constraints (Lands of Yield is entirely in syllabics) and making things more difficult, and I also like shifting those constraints/difficulties as I write myself into a project, so that I'm always challenging myself. I don't always mean formal constraints; lately "I" find myself trying to admit things or use sentences in a way I haven't previously.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Oh fuck no. I mean, I love having done readings, and talking to people after readings. And I don't dislike a moment during, the one when I realize I will actually live. But before the reading, on the day of, I cry and question all of my life choices. This is not exaggeration.

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 always having big feelings about time (where here feelings are theoretical concerns that haven't been robustly articulated yet?). My partner said something to me a few months ago: "I don't think people remember as much about their lives as you think they do." Writing is for me often the thing Socrates frets about in Phaedrus, a compensation machine for a bad memory. But re: questions: oof. My "creative" mode is not separable from my "scholarly" one but at the same time one of its pleasures is not having to put things in this frame. Who are we talking to? How can language let us imagine a world differently?

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?

Oh this one's a doozy. I mean, can it be to write? Is that glib? I think I'm being sort of serious -- the writer can have many different kinds of public roles, and can be imbued with various expectations/meanings in different cultural contexts -- that's all well and good. And it would be nice if writers were all good people, and some were ludic, and some were vatic, and some were solitary, and some were community-oriented, and some were empathic. But to me there's no obvious public role for the writer. Ideally, they aspire to produce texts that allow us to see the world differently, and to imagine other possibilities for the world.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I haven't done this much in my creative work, and would love to do more of it. In my scholarly work it has been essential; I have trouble seeing the middle register of an argument sometimes and identifying the stakes.

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

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
It's... not all that easy. I like the idea of working on all the projects at once, pivoting back and forth, and am always working toward that model, but it's probably a mistake. But on the today when I'm typing this sentence, I've done a little bit on several things and I feel very satisfied. Part of the appeal of moving between genres is having to express ideas or things vaguely intuited in different ways.

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?
Hahaha. I have a routine when I can; when I can't, I just try to get time to write. Right now, I wake up and care for children and do Duolingo and care for children and the moment I can I read or write, and then I do those things all over again in other orders. I have sometimes written in the morning, which I love. I have sometimes written in the evening, which I love. I have, on a few occasions, written in the middle of the night.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
To memory. To sensory experience. To dreams. To the minutiae of the everyday.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Sulfur and woodsmoke. That's one version of home, anyway. I'm constantly re-configuring my understanding of "home."

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 moment when I realized that I could use some of the skills I'd acquired as a child musician in my writing was a really important one for me.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Bernadette MayerTheresa Hak Kyung Cha, Joe BrainardMarilynne Robinson, Susan Howe, Gwendolyn Brooks, Larry Eigner, Gertrude Stein, so many others, and my friends.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Write a novel, learn to better identify trees, go skydiving.

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?
Lately I think about having been a book designer, but I probably would have kept doing non-profit work of one sort or another. I mean, I'm a teacher now, but I could well have become a different teacher.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Some combination of temperament and misplaced ambition and overactive imagination and sensitivity.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Stefania Heim's Hour Book, Lupe Gómez's Camouflage (trans. Erín Moure). Erm, films have been... rare, lately.

20 - What are you currently working on?
Spies in the Audience, a collection of interviews with women involved in small-press publishing between the '50s and the '80s. Ash for Snow, a novel-in-verse. All this Thinking Grammar (tentative title), the complete correspondence of Bernadette Mayer and Clark Coolidge (co-edited with Kristen Tapson). The Magpie Letters, a manuscript of poems that's just about finished. Dating the Poem, a scholarly monograph. A picture book about Cassie the Cicada who wants to sing. The caretaking of very young children. Reading, breathing, doing free zumba classes in Singapore's HDB courtyards in the evenings.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Friday, March 27, 2020

Four poems for Frank O’Hara’s birthday



1.

Cold, dishwater wind. The snow is not alive,
but sleeps. A blade of grass.

Happy birthday. You claimed to be
the least difficult of men. The shadows of culture, sex,

and the Museum of Modern Art.

How different might be the movie version of your life
against the video game. Or Frank O’Hara On Ice,

sweeping Toller Cranston loops of Lady, Lady.

There were years I thought “On Ice”
the logical endpoint

to Michael Turner’s Hard Core Logo: poetry book,
novel, film adaptation, graphic novel adaptation,

stage production, unwatched sequel,

a screenwriter’s diary of the original. Now I realize
that nothing ends, or dies: it all

returns.


2.

Beaudelaire’s casual observance. I did this,
and this

and that. One walks: I hardly ever think of March 27, 1926,
or most dates, really. A hierarchy

of moments, pinpoints, recollections. The question
of whether we are writing poems

as a sequence of promissory notes: to time, the living and
the endless dead; to echoes, reached out and dismantled, across

a wide variety of interactions.

I miss you, David W. McFadden. Ken Norris, retired,
has woken from a lengthy silence. Meredith Quartermain

walks the western rail and fault, line
after seacoast line.

There is a twitter account I follow, self-christened
Is Today Ted Danson’s

Birthday? Daily tweets, informing all

who wish to know. Most days are not,
but by December 29:

Cheers.


3.

In the absence of matter, a baseline

curvature. I can say anything. A heartvein, throbs
beneath the skin of every sidewalk,

lyric, casemate. You hear the sun. Francis Russell
“Frank” O’Hara: one hundred years,

give or take,

since you arrived. We calculate direction, skin,
soft tissue. The least difficult of men: a claim

I also make, but reaps

such skepticism. Scrutiny, I ask,
can any poem stand? Who said a work of art

is not a living thing? The triple axel,
spun in furor, sleek

and nigh impossible. Joe Dick throws the mic stand
down the ice, flips tavern tables. All I want, he wrote,

is a subway handy. All I want

is boundless love.


4.

If your eyes were vague blue, mine might be
a smoky grey. Dead poets walking. A germ theory

of contagion. It doesn’t matter

when your birthday was. Although I
track mine with an attention

bordering on fervor. The whole of your life,
unaware your parents displaced your delivery

three full months, reassigned to cover up
a pre-wedding conception: a stigma scandalous

to their Irish-Catholic fetters. And so,
they lied. Does this gift you neither birthday, faux-Cancer,

displaced Aries? Or two? As Artie Gold wrote, O’Hara
died like Christ, and baby Jesus, too, a birthday

fluid at the edge of orthodoxies. I step outside,
I make a shape inside the figure

of a word. Is this for real?


Thursday, March 26, 2020

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Janick Belleau


Janick Belleau: born and raised in Montréal. Lived in Ottawa and in Winnipeg before returning to her beloved city... with the love of her life. To learn about her tanka (Canada-Japan Literary Award 2010 for her bilingual collection d’Ames et d’Ailes / of Souls and Wings) and haiku (1st prize in 2012 for Haiku Canada Jocelyne-Villeneuve Award; finalist in 2007 for a Belgian Award for L’Érotique poème court / haïku) collections and to read her presentations and literary reviews, please visit her bilingual site: https://janickbelleau.ca/

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 allowed me to experience my name on the front page of a book, a published work with two covers, an index and an Introduction. It was quite unlike seeing my name as the writer of a freelance article in a cultural magazine. What a difference.

In a sense, I’d long felt I had nothing to say for myself and as a journalist with a degree in Communications from the Ottawa University, I focused instead on interviewing people, listening to them and writing their thoughts on life and society.

My first book elaborated on this pattern by giving voice to 131 French Manitoban women via 40 questions designed to pay homage to writer Gabrielle Roy (I was living in Manitoba at the time). I created the questions based on her books. The Questionnaire Marcel Proust gave me the idea.

As its creator and author of the Questionnaire and the Introduction, my first book felt like I did, after all, have something to say, to write.

There is no comparison with my latest book published in 2019 (pour l’Amour de l’Autre - tankas & haïkus; Paris, Pippa). As a collection of 53 tanka and 36 haiku (short poems from Japanese origin), it summarizes my evolution as a human being through my memories of my parents, special moments with the loved one and my travels around the world, all of which allowed me to come closer to the Other.

So, in my first book I let others speak and share their world; in my latest collection, I share my views on the world in which we live.

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

I discovered poetry when I was 15 years old. I wrote German love poems to this young German neighbor, poems which I never sent him, of course. It is strange sometimes the way Life/Love evolves : the love of my life, whom I met 20 years later, is also of German origin.

I never wanted to be a French classic poet until I read modern poets Jacques Prévert, Paul Eluard, Paul Géraldy, and the novels of Marguerite Duras and Albert Camus.

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 don’t have projects. I just write haiku and tanka when I am inspired. There is a moment when one of my senses is on alert and at the same time an impression or a memory surfaces. When I feel there is enough material, the real work begins - that is, to structure the poems into an ensemble which would make sense and reflect who I am at this stage of my life.

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?

Please refer to my answer number 3.

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

I love doing public readings. I think they help people in the audience to know a poet better they have not heard before. One or two persons might even want to buy a book, they sense a resonance between themselves and the poet.

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 don’t know if I can answer my own questions but I certainly can expose them. I have concerns about the condition of women, the environment, that is the future of our planet and the welfare of the humanity.

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 don’t think the role of writers, including the one of poets, has changed through centuries. We should be the voice which writes out loud what one thinks or feels within herself.

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

I believe the role of an editor is to make sure that the writer is going as far as possible - that her writing conveys her thoughts, her feelings; that there isn’t a self-censured process. Integrity of both parties, however, is essential in this relationship.

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

A quote by Gabrielle Roy « Toute oeuvre littéraire est à mon sens une quête soi-même et une découverte de l’autre.» in «La Détresse etl’Enchantement», Boréal, Montréal, 1984.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between languages (English and French) as well as genres (lyric poems to haiku, renga and senryku)? What do you see as the appeal?

I have noticed, through the years, that I have a pattern: usually I write in French but if I happen to be in a country which the language is English, I will write mainly in English. This is also the beauty of living in a bilingual country. For me, language is a matter of culture.

I spent some time in Cuba lately and found myself writing haiku and tanka in Spanish. I would be unable to write my feature articles or presentations in proper English or Spanish but that is why translators exist. In more languages a writer writes or is translated into, the wider is the readership.

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 write only on impulsions. I don’t write what is called «desk poems». I might refine them but they have to come to me first - I don’t call them or summon them.

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

I read. I read a lot. And, I sleep with the absent inspiration in mind. A solution will show up sooner rather than later.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

The smell of wood burning in a fireplace.

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?

Nature, music and beings (human and animal) inspire me.

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

I never get tired of reading Japanese poets, writers and anthologies. Beside classic haiku and tanka poets, I love to read novelists Amélie Nothomb, Haruki Murakami, Aki Shimazaki.

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

I would love to get the Governor General’s Literary Award (poetry section). And to be invited by the Emperor and Empress of Japan to read at one of their annual celebrations. And to become the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. I would not know how to go about it for those three functions – I think I should need a literary agent to help with the process of it all.

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?

A defense lawyer for the abused or mistreated human beings.

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

I don’t know. I think writing is part of one’s DNA. One cannot escape it. I have tried, believe me, but to no avail.

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


20 - What are you currently working on?

I am currently directing a collective work of haiku and tanka in French on the theme of «Reading, Writing» to be published in Paris in September 2020... if the coronavirus has abated and borders have reopened.