Monday, July 13, 2009

12 or 20 questions: with Lisa Robertson

Lisa Robertson was born in Toronto and lived for many years in Vancouver, before moving to France, and then California. Her first book, XEclogue, was published in 1993 by Tsunami Editions; Debbie: An Epic, and The Weather followed, from New Star (co-published by Reality Street in the UK); then The Men (Bookthug, 2006) and Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip (Coach House 2009). A book of essays, Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, was published by Clearcut (USA, 2003) and Coach House. R’s Boat will be out with University of California Press in 2010. She has been the recipient of the Relit Award and the bp Nichol Chapbook Award, and has taught and held residencies at the Kootenay School of Writing, California College of the Arts, University of Cambridge, Capilano College, University of California Berkeley, University of California San Diego, American University of Paris and the Naropa Institute. She is currently working collaboratively on sound and video-based projects.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life?

I began to travel by airplane more often than once a decade.

How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My most recent work is my previous work. One can and often does occupy multiple and simultaneous points in time.

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

Through rhyme.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project?

I’m starting a project all the way through. There’s only starting and stopping; no middle. So it has taken up to 15 years to start a project.

Does your writing intitially 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?

No norm. Either can be true.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you?

In an archive.

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?

Both of these together and separately.

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

This depends very much on the sort of room I’m in and with whom.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing?

No. My theoretical concerns are in front of my writing.

What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work?

I don’t answer questions—I seek them out, then I describe and embellish them.

What do you even think the current questions are?

The current questions, as I read them here, are narrowly binaristic. Yes/No, either/or. I would like to gently inflate each binary so there’s more space, more pleasure, more infinity inside the 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?

The role of the writer being is to write. This should happen while listening. To the extent that writing and listening are happening simultaneously, there will be critique, difficult and pleasurable and getting larger.

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

Essential, difficult, euphoric.

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

Eat your vegetables.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry critical prose)?

I write sentences. They comport themselves in any genre.

What do you see as the appeal?

They’re shapely. They often make different rhythmic propositions, which keeps one alert and precise.

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?

Letting the dog out while the kettle boils, tea, armchair, book, notebook, looking at a tree.

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

Libraries. Botanicals. Music. Hot baths are good too.

13 - If there was a fire, what's the first thing you'd grab?

Not a thing, but Rosa, my dog.

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?

Rhythm and subjectivity inform my work. In terms of disciplines, I don’t experience borders.

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

Christine Stewart, Denise Riley, Stacy Doris, Matthew Stadler, Erin Moure.

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

An orchard.

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?

Before I was a writer I was a cook, then a bookseller. Either of those would have made a good continuing life.

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

Shyness and friendship.

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

Apart from teaching books—The Order of Things, and The Archaeology of Knowledge-- right now, Bouvard and Pecuchet, and the Dictionary of Received Ideas. Henri Meschonnic, La Rime et la Vie. Marcel Jousse. Emile Benveniste. Duras, Ecrire. Last winter, all of Bresson, and then Pedro Costa.

20 - What are you currently working on?

The Nature of Things.

12 or 20 questions archive (second series);

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