Wednesday, October 23, 2013

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Peter Davis

Peter Davis writes, draws, and makes music in Muncie, Indiana, with his sweet kids and sweet wife. His first book of poetry is Hitler’s Mustache (2007), his second is Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! (Bloof Books, 2010), and his new book is TINA (2013). He edited Poet’s Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets on Books That Shaped Their Art (2005) and coedited Poet’s Bookshelf II (2008) with Tom Koontz, all from Barnwood Press. He teaches English at Ball State University. More, including his music project, Short Hand, at

Five poems from Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! were included in The Best American Poetry 2010, edited by Amy Gerstler, series edited by David Lehman.

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 changed my life by helping me to realize how a first book of poetry doesn’t change anyone’s life. I then knew the great secret of poetry: no one cares! No cares about almost all books. My new book, TINA, feels different from my other books (Hitler’s Mustache and Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!) because they are totally different books made by the same person at totally different points in his life. It’s a familiar, distant feeling.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I don’t know. But, when I look through, say, an anthology of literature, I always like seeing the pages with poems on them because it’s just so much fewer words. Prose pages look so full. Prose looks like an army whereas poetry looks like a single person.

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 usually comes quickly, or slowly. Sometimes it comes in its final shape, or it gets changed a lot.

4 - 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?


5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I like doing readings. The readings don’t influence my creative process (meaning the writing process) at all, as far as I know.

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?

Yes, I have theoretical concerns but they are hard to explain. Or, perhaps, they are just super specific to my own sense of identity and not worth trying to explain to others. At least, to me, it’s not worth trying to explain. I want each work to be substantially different from my previous work. I can only be marginally successful at this, but I try. 

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 guess I see us as pretty meaningless, but existing. A symptom of the human condition. We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!

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

I find that process super terrific. An editor is not essential but it a luxury that I’ve been lucky to enjoy. Finding people who really, really care about your work is not the easiest thing to do. To find someone who cares and is intelligent and artistic is a dream.  

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

I don’t know if I heard this or where it came from exactly, but for me it’s the revelation that, no matter what I write, no matter what I create, that work is not Me (as in capital M, me) but just something I made. It might be a part of me, but it’s not the whole me. Nothing to be ashamed of, to be afraid of. Nothing to worry about. Doesn’t even matter whether people (or myself) like it, or not. Make a work of something and then let it go.

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

It’s easy. I switch genres only because I feel like I have to, like I can’t get to the itch on my insides any other way. Switching genres is not a good thing or a bad thing, just something that happens more frequently for some people and not as often for others.

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?

Every night around 8:30 my kids head up to bed. My wife reads to them and tucks them in. From then till midnight, or so, I go down into the basement and write or play music or do whatever I want to do as an artist. Some nights I just get drunk.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
My delusions of grandeur, maybe? The idea of turning to something in hopes of being inspired doesn’t really occur to me.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

my mom, or my dad.

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?

My work is influenced by everything and nothing, you dig?

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Probably my students’ writings’. And then my contemporaries, the people I know in the writing world. My son’s and daughter’s school work is sort of important to me, and the notes they write me mean a whole bunch to me. My wife’s notes. Certain e-mails from friends. Stuff like that. 

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

Make tons of money, maybe? I don’t know. We all have dreams, but I’m pretty happy.

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?

Well, I’m already a bunch of things other than a writer. I’m a husband, parent, teacher, friend, son, brother, drawer, guitarist, songwriter, neighbor, mentor, mentee, bad golfer, etc. Writer is just one more of those things. On the other hand, I could have been a pretty good break dancer or blues singer.

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

I don’t know. 

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

I keep thinking about these questions and I don’t know. You know, I mean, hmm, what’s great? I mean, maybe, for a movie, Idiocracy? And as for a book, maybe the bible? But great doesn’t seem like a good word to describe the bible, so I don’t know. 

20 - What are you currently working on?
Music. Making good sounds.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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