Kirby’s [photo credit: Khashayar Mohammadi] earlier chapbooks include Simple Enough, Cock & Soul, Bob’s boy, The world is fucked and sometimes beautiful, and most recently, SHE'S HAVING A DORIS DAY (knife | fork | book, 2017). They also appear in Matrix Magazine, National Poetry Month.ca, Dusie, and The Rusty Toque (Pushcart Nominee). Their full-length debut, THIS IS WHERE I GET OFF is newly out from Permanent Sleep Press. Kirby is the owner/publisher of knife | fork | book
[Kirby reads in Ottawa on June 21, 2019 as part of the ottawa small press book fair pre-fair event]
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 Simple Enough put together by my bf at the time Don Pyle in 1985. That we both existed was remarkable enough. That, and being in love.
At 60, This Is Where I Get Off, is my full-length debut. Again, I had no idea either would exist. Still here. A sweet surprise.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Poetry was my intro to gay lit in the 70s, Cavafy, O’Hara, Ginsberg, Gunn, Dennis Cooper, Essex Hemphill, Rich, Lorde, Strand, Baldwin, Antler, Giorno. And John Rechy. Ed White. Samuel Delany.
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 work is continuous. Outside of my daily 30-40 minutes, it’s constantly a matter of jotting things down. Otherwise, it’s gone. I love the word copious. What it does to my mouth.
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 always have at least a year’s worth of dabblings I return, give shape to. I see pieces. My editor (Kathryn Mockler for This Is Where I Get Off) sees book.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
An essential part. I write in a ‘to be read’ voice. I have enormous regard for the reader, the listener.
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 questions themselves. My work is often an open inquiry. I’m fascinated most by people’s private logic, how they connect the dots. What moves people, reaches the surface (or not) and how.
The ‘current’ question for me is always from the Gospel of Luke, “How then shall we live?”
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’ve always said, “give me a porpoise not a purpose,” and “if it’s void of humour, make another choice.”
I write what is mine to write. Which in its own way becomes an imperative.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Essential. Working with The Mockler was such a gift. I love her work. We both have a robust sense of humour and wit. But, she was/is much kinder to my work than myself would ever be. She would say, “No, keep that in, I like that.” She saw book. I was only seeing pieces.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I haven’t always been this pretty. I used to be a tough nut, dead fucking serious. I’d always go for my jugular. Now I choose a feather duster over a machete.
“Learning must be pleasurable, and it must be easy. The two make breathing simple.” - Moshe Feldenkrais
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?
I’ve attended poet/friend Hoa Nguyen’s Sundays for a number of years now. A lovely engagement with poets reading poets which gives me just enough structure to keep pen to paper. I carry notebook and pens at all times. And, I’m a voracious reader.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Damn, if I stop noticing the beauty around me, particularly in male form, check my pulse.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
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 grew up in gallery spaces. The Toledo Museum of Art. DIA. MoMA. AGO. Upon graduating from University, I bought a Greyhound bus pass, made a Rothko pilgrimage, hitting every museum that housed his work from Toledo to the chapel in Houston (where I spent a week, every day at dusk). My friend Tom and I always bought season tickets for Opening Night at Premiere Dance Theatre to meet the beauties after. I was a band wife for seven years. Work is never unilateral.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Not entirely certain the ask here, but my circle of friends is essential. My touchstones. Accurate reflectors.
Writings I return to again and again are Beckett, Albee, Chekov, Barthes, Genet, Baldwin, Didion, Cavafy, Rilke, more contemporary I’d say Carl Phillips, David Wojnarowicz, Henri Cole, Thom Gunn. Mark Strand. I feel in kinship with Alex Dimitrov, Travis Sharp, Shiv Kotecha, Timothy Liu in that they move me by making me come full stop. I love Dale Smith’s work. Ralph Kolewe. Norma Cole. Hoa. And CAConrad. Currently reading Rene Ricard.
And, I read a lot of journals, notebooks Camus, Isherwood, Gide, especially Tennessee Williams. To read how they lived through things, what a gift.
Essential? Rilke’s reflections on Auguste Rodin. The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Go to the Tate Modern. Touch a redwood.
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?
Not what, but who! I wanted to be Anthony Kiedis (okay, for a night, in concert).
I might’ve entertained librarianship earlier than I did. I lean towards service. I dream of making a perfect fish sandwich people would line-up around the block for. Enjoy being useful/valued.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Writing is where I continue to find my body, my voice.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Hasan Namir’s War/Torn (book*hug) ripped me a new one. Jean-Luc Godard's Le livre d'image.
19 - What are you currently working on?
A new chapbook for Jim Johnstone at Anstruther Press, working title, She Ascended Into Heaven.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;