A’s Visuality (BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo, NY, 2015), I-Formation (Book 2) (Shearsman Books, Bristol, UK, 2012), I-Formation (Book 1) (Shearsman, 2010), and Kyotologic (Shearsman, 2008). She has co-edited (with Sam Truitt) In|Filtration: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry from the Hudson River Valley (Station Hill Press, Barrytown, NY, 2015).
She has collaborated with artist Cynthia Winika to produce a limited edition artists’ book called “Swans, the ice,” she said with grants through the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has also collaborated on large textual and/or visual projects with John Bloomberg-Rissman and Scott Helmes.
She curated the reading series, Cadmium Text ( www.cadmiumtextseries.blogspot.com ) and co-curated (with Lynn Behrendt), the electronic journal Peep/Show at www.peepshowpoetry.blogspot.com
Her visual art can be seen at: www.theropedanceraccompaniesherself.blogspot.com
Anne Gorrick lives in West Park, New York.
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 taught me think in books. After Kyotologic came together with Shearsman in the UK, it got easier to think of my work as clustering, hivelike pieces. The real estate of a book, that possible space makes one less sensitive to limits. It also brought me out of almost total writing isolation.
The consecutive books so far aren’t exactly consecutively written. My second book has some of my earliest work in it, work that embraced a complex long form I keep playing with: to break numerous pieces apart and reattach them. It’s like Isis looking for parts of Osiris. That’s my poem-making.
My latest book, A’s Visuality, out from BlazeVOX, continues a formal and spacial poetic inquiry, and language might occasionally turn into paint. This book really attempts to sew together the textual and visual, and includes color plates of two of my artist’s books that ended up generating the first half of the book.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was a kid, not even really knowing what poetry was yet, but the scratch of the pen on paper was everything I ever wanted. Now it feels like poetry is my personal Hadron collider - I think up these extravagant ways to collect text, smash the particles together, and hope for some new thing I never knew before. There’s the sense that when I do this, that language is coming to tell me something, what it knows. Lately, my work is getting more sentence-y, so who’s to say it doesn’t at some point morph into fiction. Diana Vreeland, when asked if her stories were fact or fiction, said they were “faction.” Not sure where the line is between poetry and fiction. Now I’m thinking hard about the word “depiction.”
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’ve always had to work pretty fast, because I don’t have a huge luxury of time. Think: working full-time in educational administration; serving as President of Century House Historical Society and its Widow Jane Mine; being married to a lovely being; that on top of my art/writing life. Usually a writing project becomes apparent pretty quickly - an inquiry will turn vast. I’ll find a way of searching, noticing, manipulating text in such a way that I don’t want to stop until I’ve used it up. I’ll often have elaborate worksheets of source text that I create at the beginning, but then the poem jumps out of it pretty quickly to me. I liked frayed edges, deckles, so I don’t overwork things. It bugs me when things are too smooth.
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 can see a book now pretty early on (i.e. some technique I want to explore until I’m done). I’ve completed a manuscript of poems about perfumes that combine various poetic manipulations into one work, instead of keeping processes separate. This seems like a huge leap in my own poetic, generative process, due partly to a collaboration and friendship with poet John Bloomberg-Rissman. Anything goes with John, so this was a great teaching for me. “Scorn nothing,” John would say and attribute this to poet Robert Kelly.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I had to learn how to give readings, and now I enjoy them. I curated a reading series called Cadmium Text for seven years. I like readings as a forum to test drive new work, hear what my friends are doing, hopefully hear something that blows me away. I’m half-introvert, so I have to push myself sometimes out the door to engage.
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?
The cartoon idea of quantum physics, that particles can be many things at once, in many places at once, strikes me as something to strive for: a quantum poetics. That language can mean and dart multiply. The internet has primed us to be more associative, more able to make thought leaps easily. We live in a time more complex than our language is capable of holding. Can language be made more pliable, more plastic to better suit our world? It’s almost a moral quest: to mean in many directions, and to mean complexly.
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?
My practice is almost one of finding sites of ruin porn - to play with the shambles left to us, a parking garage made out of a theatrical palace. A reviewer in the UK said that my first book was more like graffiti on palace walls. I took this as such a compliment. I wrote a poem once that said “This is a poem for a small and skeptical audience / It’s about vajazzling AND Paul Celan“ I want the high and low world in my work. All of it. Vajazzling AND Paul Celan. To put the world in. Poetry is our Hadron collider - we can find the tiny particles that compose our culture, find new ways to mean multiply at once.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
It’s always been interesting. I don’t find that people want to change my work too often, but I’m usually curious and interested to see other ways forward. I might not adopt that direction, but it’s fascinating, and I appreciate being read deeply.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I’ve always cherished a letter that Ted Hughes sent to Anne Sexton in regard to listening to critics and reviews: “They tend to confirm one in one’s own conceit—unless they praise what you yourself don’t like. Also, they make you self-conscious about your virtues. Also, they create an underground opposition: applause is the beginning of abuse. Also, they deprive you of your own anarchic liberties—by electing you into the government. Also, they separate you from your devil, which hates being observed, and only works happily incognito.”
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to visual art)? What do you see as the appeal?
I’m lucky to have a pretty broad creative continuum, mostly shuttling between writing, visual art, gardening and now perfume and its making. If I get sick of one thing, I can always go do something else. Even if it’s tedious. Digging holes for 20 Rose of Sharon bushes is pretty boring, but also an investment in future beauty. Or digging holes for 150 peonies.
Many years ago, I threw poetry out of the house like a bad boyfriend, yelling at it from upstairs windows and chucking its clothes on the lawn. I was tired of poetry’s limit to a 8 ½” x 11” page. So damn tired of it. I broke up with poetry and I started to learn traditional Japanese papermaking, printmaking, indigo dyeing and encaustic painting. It helped break through the ice dam of the traditional page and let me range over larger spaces. Of course poetry came crawling back, apologizing. And I took it back into my house.
My last visual art project was a series of 30+ encaustic monotypes, worked over in pastel based on deceptively simple photographs of Luis Barragán’s architecture. His work is so spare and lush at the same time. I’m a maximalist, so it’s fun to lay in the sun of his opposite light.
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?
From 2008 until 2014, I got a lot of work done. I could spend up to three days a week at my writing/visual practice, from a few hours to much more if I felt like it. It was good to write in the morning. My life is different now. Less time, new job, a recently herniated disc in my neck that makes sitting for long periods difficult. Finishing my latest book used up some bandwidth, as well as completing the editing with poet Sam Truitt for our new book In|Filtration: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry from the Hudson River Valley, due out this summer from Station Hill Press.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Since 2010, I’ve kept a notebook of poem ideas, fun things to search and make poems, notes, diagrams. Anytime I’m stuck, I can turn to it because the book grows faster than I can write. I also have some long term projects that I can turn to and pick up the thread when I’m stalled.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Great question because I’m crazy for perfumes! The smell of the ocean reminds me of lost home (At the Beach 1966 by CB I Hate Perfume). My house smells like the grassy paws of a dog (Grass by CB I Hate Perfume), woodstove smoke (Burning Barbershop by D.S. & Durga), flowers I drag in (Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle), wet dirt (Black March by CB I Hate Perfume), firewood (Cambodian oudh), snow that gets stuck in boots (yes, snow has a smell). My husband builds and restores old race cars, so he’s got this terrific motor oil, exhaust thing I love. That’s true 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?
Yes, everything we pour into ourselves becomes food for the work. That’s why I’m sort of careful about what I pour in. Not a lot of junk food anymore. I hike. I read a ton of non-fiction. I make visual art.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
To write, I need to move. Until recently I studied tennis and played it seriously, this beautiful physical chess. Now I hike and bike. Writing is very physical to me, and I need to be able to do it.
Sooooooo many writers have filled my head. A very partial list might include Nabokov early on. The Situationists. Dada (Tristan Tzara was my first poetic love). The Pillow Book of Sei Shonogon. Susan Howe. Robert Kelly. Carole Maso. Anchee Min. Leslie Scalapino. Laura Moriarty (both - the painter and the poet). Work by friends over the years like: Maryrose Larkin, Elizabeth Bryant, Geof Huth, Nancy Frye Huth, Lynn Behrendt, Teresa Genovese, Cynthia Winika, Scott Helmes, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Reb Livingston, Michael Ruby, Sam Truitt, Lori Anderson Moseman…
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
It’s fun to dream aloud, if aloud is a lit screen.
I’m undertraveled. I’d like to walk the Camino de Santiago. I’d like to visit Grasse. The burial mounds of Ohio. India!
Writing-wise, I’ve got several long projects that are somewhere on the continuum of complete: a long work on the American desert, a project working with an essay by John Burroughs (my dead neighbor), a project writing into an unpublished manuscript by Eileen Tabios.
There are some encaustic teachers I’d like to study with.
I’d like to make a film. It might have snow and people wrapped in saran wrap.
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?
Poetry isn’t an occupation for me. As far as I can tell, it isn’t really an occupation for anyone. Although I’d love to live in a world where I could afford to do it all the time.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It was inevitable. I never got to choose.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann and La Grande Bellezza.
20 - What are you currently working on?
I spent the summer finishing edits on a few of manuscripts that were 90% done. I will co-curate with poet Melanie Klein a new reading series in 2015-2016 called Process to Text, which will bring adventurous writing to beginning poets at the local college where I work. There’s a long manuscript I pick up and put down where I’m writing into work by Eileen Tabios. Trying to heal up my back issues, but I see now this will take a long time. Started studying qigong, which seems to be helping. There are some ashes right now. I’m injured and curious to see what happens next.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;