Monday, July 16, 2018

my (small press) writing day : new essays + ongoing submission call,

I’ve been curious for some time about The Guardian’s occasional feature “My Writing Day,” and thought it might be interesting to do a blog of the same, “for those of us who might never make it into The Guardian.”

[note: this isn’t a dig at The Guardian; I just thought it might be fun to play with the format]

So, like a fool, I started a new blog: my (small press) writing day.

The list of published and forthcoming essays include pieces by Amish Trivedi, Colin Morton, rob mclennan, Sonia Saikaley, Amanda Earl, Jean Van Loon, Karl E. Jirgens, Lisa Pasold, Robert Martin Evans, Jennifer Pederson, Carla Hartsfield, Jason Christie, Eleni Zisimatos, Christian McPherson, Chris Johnson, Eileen R. Tabios, Joshua Corey, Claudia Radmore, Oscar Martens, Sacha Archer, Larkin Higgins, Kristina Drake, Kate Siklosi, Jared Schickling, Karen Smythe, Yanara Friedland, Paul Carlucci, Catherine Owen, j/j hastain, Gil McElroy, Adele Graf, Angela Lopes, Adam Thomlison, Brenda Schmidt, Michael Blouin, Jeanette Lynes, Keegan Lester, Jeremy Stewart, Zoë Landale, Jacqueline Valencia, Michael Dennis, Emily Sanford, Jennifer Baker, Aaron Tucker, Chris Galvin, K.I. Press, Nathaniel G. Moore, April Ford, Lily Gontard, Paola Ferrante, Alan Sondheim, Bänoo Zan, Emily Saso, Annick MacAskill, Ian LeTourneau, Jessica Hiemstra, Jessica Sequeira, Teri Vlassopoulos, Matt Jones, Sofia Mostaghimi, Joshua Weiner, Anita Dolman, Alex Manley, Joseph Cassidy-Skof, Ronna Bloom, Doris Fiszer, Maia Elgin, Cora Siré, Ken Sparling, Heather Sweeney, Sarah Crookall, Manahil Bandukwala, Dale Smith, Sara Renee Marshall, Sarah Burgoyne, Suzanna Derewicz, Jenna Jarvis, Missy Marston, Anna Maxymiw, Nicole McCarthy, Tim Mook Sang, Richard Harrison, Barbara Tomash, Nisa Malli, Steven Ross Smith, Frances Boyle, Sean Braune, Conyer Clayton, Ralph Kolewe, Noah Falck, Sharon McCartney, Dara Wier, Geof Huth, Brenda Brooks, David Bradford, Bola Opaleke, Robert Keith, Carl Watts, Shannon Quinn, Charmaine Cadeau, Micheline Maylor, Violetta Leigh, Torin Jensen, Isabella Wang, Erin Bedford, Ellie Sawatzky, Síle Englert, Donna Fleischer, Eva Gonzalez, Thomas L. Winters, Allison Armstrong, Jonathan Taylor, Bruce Geddes, Jónína Kirton, Jose Hernandez Diaz, Darren C. Demaree, Michael Sikkema, Kate Heartfield, JL Jacobs, Luke Bradford, Buck Downs, Brian Mihok, Jake Syersak, Genevieve Kaplan, Carrie Hunter, Erin Emily Ann Vance, Emma Bolden, Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt, Wren Hanks, Terry Doyle, Stephan Delbos, Lucy Dawkins, Winston Le, Amy LeBlanc, Catherine Graham, Christine Fischer Guy, Timothy Otte, Aja Moore, Dessa Bayrock, Basma Kavanagh, Joshua Young, Shriram Sivaramakrishnan, JC Bouchard, Lindsay Zier-Vogel, Kyle Flemmer, Tanis MacDonald, Julia Polyck-O'Neill, Anne-Marie Kinney and Colin Mylrea. And submissions are very welcome...



Sunday, July 15, 2018

summer is happening, so everything moves slower,

but here's a photo of Lady Aoife in our local wading pool; the same wading pool my mother used to take her then-wee nieces to in the 1960s

Saturday, July 14, 2018

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Jay Besemer


Jay Besemer’s books and chapbooks include The Ways of the Monster (forthcoming, *KIN(D)/The Operating System 2018), Crybaby City (Spuyten Duyvil), Telephone, Chelate (both Brooklyn Arts Press), and Aster to Daylily (Damask Press). He was a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. He tweets frequently @divinetailor and sometimes does things on Tumblr http://jaybesemer.tumblr.com.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

This question makes me laugh, because my first book was such an anticlimax and at the same time a generator of such ambivalence, in myself and (weirdly) in others. Some of that has to do with my age: I was 43 when my first book was published, though I’d been in mags and journals for about 25 years by that time. I had shed a lot of my fantasy notions about what a book would do. That’s not to say it isn’t/wasn’t important to me. More than changing my life, I think TELEPHONE coincided with a period of intense change that began with its publication and is still hotly ongoing five years later.

There’s a chronological assumption that people make—mostly non-writers, but some writers too—that books are published consecutively in the order they were written. Because of the way I work, that would never be possible for me, but even people who work more traditionally don’t experience their publications in that order. For me, the order of the books’ publication has obscured their relationship in ways that are probably pretty fertile. Telephone is actually the first in a trilogy formed with Chelate (my third) and The Ways of the Monster (forthcoming in December 2018) and drafted more or less in sequence. But the intervening two—A New Territory Sought and Crybaby City—were erasure/cut up projects that were both begun somewhere in 2009-10. Crybaby took seven years to finalize and place, and in fact its final version was determined by some of the practicalities of the production process.

I once joked, with my editor/friend Joe Pan, that all my books are the same single huge book, done differently and published as a loose “serial.” I think I was adapting a quote from George Bataille. Anyway, all my work has certain throughlines that I will touch on in other answers. I use different methods and structural choices to make them happen, but they’re all obviously mine.

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

I didn’t come to poetry first. Or maybe I don’t understand the question. I stared writing fiction and non-fiction before poetry. Very little of my fiction has been or is likely to be published, and the non-fiction is moving into a different mode, which will not see publication for a while. If you mean, why did I emphasize poetry or why is poetry the main thing I do now, I’ll quote my convenient tweet: I'm a poet because poetry is the only vehicle that allows me to simultaneously occupy all possible dimensions.

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? & 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 don’t have a way to generalize about temporality with my work, for two reasons. The first is that each project is very different and works according to its own sequence, its own temporality. The second is that I myself operate on a temporality that’s quite different from other people’s. This, combined with my working process (having multiple projects in varying media/disciplines) makes it impossible to put a sequential start-stop chronology on projects. Some things are offshoots of other things that then become more fully formed as their own project, while the original also continues. I’m always-beginning, always-continuing, sometimes-finishing. (Not everything gets finished; not everything published is something I see as “finished”).

Also, some of my work is sourced (cut-up, collaged or erasure work) so that has its own temporality, its own duration, its own physical limits in terms of length, start-stop (an erasure work tends to be self-contained, not starting before the source text starts, not continuing after the end of the source text).

Regarding “bookness,” combined shorter texts, etc., it is safe to say that all of those fit! I’ve done it all those ways. It’s mostly determined by the projects themselves how it tends to go.

My last in-person reading was at Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee. I passed around the notebook in which I have been drafting the poems I read aloud (I’m still working on that project). I like de-mystifying my various working processes, but not all of them begin in a notebook. That green notebook containing what’s become The Horse shows how little revision a non-sourced project of mine tends to undergo. The ones that draw on source texts can have a lot more iterations and a lot more complexity in the revisions.

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

You’re asking this at a time when my relationship and approach to public readings is changing drastically to reflect changes in my capacities and needs. So my response is not fixed in space-time, exactly. Historically, I’ve always enjoyed reading/performing in public, and attending others’ readings/performances. Both things have been vital to my sense of connection with a community and in discovering my audience (or that I have one at all!). But I have never been able to “tour” and lately I am not able to even (physically) attend more than two or three local performances/readings a year, much less perform myself.

This has everything to do with my own needs as a disabled writer, both as an audience member and as a performer. These needs are complex and often mutually-contradictory, and no matter what I do I’m pretty much guaranteed to have to sacrifice some form of bodily safety in order to be physically present at an event. This isn’t acceptable, so I’m far less physically involved than I was.

These days, I’m emphasizing remote participation using adaptive tech like videochat services (Skype etc.), which often involves having to argue for this as a legit form of disability accommodation. This takes valuable energy, so I’m overall very choosy about what invitations I’ll accept—“acceptance” meaning “send my list of accommodations needs with an affirmative contingent on their meeting those needs.” I don’t try to secure gigs for myself any more, for the most part. I don’t have the energy.

Another change in my approach to performance involves moving away from more traditional readings. Because a traditional 15-20 minute in-person reading slot can be too much for me, I’ve been trying to find ways to either mix this with a video projection or have the video be the performance. This is actually great for developing stronger video works, and for getting more of the videos out there. But there’s a downside to that as well. Everything takes energy, everything takes time and not every space or curator can accommodate that kind of work. I’m also often unable to produce work that fulfills my own commitment to offer poetic experiences inclusive of those with other kinds of disabilities, so I have to live with the disappointment of falling short there.

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?

Many. I am deeply engaged with queer theory, affect theory, various “crip” theories, theories of failure and precarity. I’m deeply involved with language as a mode of shaping reality, from thoughts to policy to bodies and built environments. I’m queer, trans, disabled. All of those things inform my writing, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I write from/through those embodiments, and the theories arising from and around them, than to say that I write “about” anything.

Here’s a statement I recently provided to a curator who wanted me to describe my work. I think it’s relevant to the question: “Jay Besemer’s work inhabits and engages the tense spaces where body meets land, selves meet society, illness meets expectation and language meets its own failure. In this constantly shifting setting, the poem itself is variably-embodied, and serves both maker and audience as a mode of processing and experiencing an increasingly precarious existence.”

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 feel a writer’s purpose or role is to change, learn, grow, same as everyone else’s purpose. Maybe a writer has to do that more, though. Also, I believe that, like a doctor, the writer should do no harm. That’s not to say writers should not expose, criticize, take action, resist autocratic regimes, etc. We can and should. But I am anti-violence, and my commitment to nonviolence extends to language. I am unable to get behind any writer who harms others in their personal life, for any reason, or who behaves abusively (or even just badly) and calls it “political.”  I live my life from the awareness that we are accountable to one another, all over the world, and to the planet. I think other writers can and might commit to this too—but I honestly don’t have the right to choose for others what that looks like or how it should go.

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

I’ve had some truly wonderful experiences with editors, some just okay, some really bad. It’s like any other working collaboration/potential friendship; you show up to the process hoping to be as professional as you can as you try to meet what you hope are shared goals. I know any editor is going to be as goofy as I am; people are people. What helps us both is being clear about goals and expectations from the start. Also, because of the flowing and change-reliant nature of my working process, I’m generally very open to editorial input. Another person can give me deep insight into how something’s working that I wouldn’t get independently, so that is really important. There are very few things in any given project that are non-negotiable, but I do stand by those, and once or twice (in a writing/publishing career of nearly 30 years) they’ve been dealbreakers.

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

“Separate your hazards.” I learned that in driver ed.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to performance to video poems to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?

I can’t talk in terms of ease of movement or appeal in doing so, because it’s like asking my blood how easy it is to move through my body, or why it wants to do that. But I can speak to the moment of choice of medium. I experience it much like a food craving or a physical need. Sometimes it’s fairly general (“hmm. pizza.”) and sometimes very specific (“Bocce Club pizza with double cheese, sausage and pepperoni”). I guess the general is like a desire to have a certain type of experience (start a new video) and the specific is more a desire to have a more defined experience (go deep into this book and write a critical essay about it because there’s something I need that this deep engagement will give me).

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?

Take morning meds, feed cat, coffee, check twitter and email, plant care, probably some journaling. Mostly nothing gets worked on formally until after I’ve had enough coffee for whatever needs to get attention that day to present itself. I call it “listening” for the priority project, but it’s just paying attention to what my work needs most. If nothing presents itself I can choose not to work, or just to work on whatever. If I’m too symptomatic or in too much pain to work then I will read or watch stuff.

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

I don’t stall as much as recognize the need to rest, or the natural ebbs and flows of various projects. Everything I do needs phases of taking in, phases of processing material, and phases of making. They’re not linear or sequential, though! I’m comfortable with this and recognize where I am in these larger processes, as well as where each project tends to be.

Also, because of the realities of my various illnesses and the unpredictable levels of pain and fatigue I deal with throughout each day, I recognize that bodily realities/needs have a greater priority for my work cycles than anything else does. There are sometimes lengths of time when I can’t work, but this isn’t stalling. It’s the way my body works.

Having multiple projects ongoing (“open”) also means that sometimes I have energy for one project or type of project when I can’t muster energy for other types.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

So many versions of “home,” so bear with me:

Buffalo: road tar, radiators & wool, cool concrete & books inside Brutalist college library buildings, snow.

My father’s old place(s): summer hay, peonies, wood smoke, pipe tobacco, tomato vines, dirt, pine pitch.

Where my mother lives, on the shore of Lake Erie: mildew, “that lake smell”, concord grapes, oak leaves, grass, dust.

My own home: finished wood, books, sawdust, coffee, brown-fried onions, chopped garlic-ginger-green chiles, turmeric, coriander, plaster, linseed oil, nag champa.

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, many. Architecture, film, several sciences, acting, experiences in built and not-built environments (i.e. “nature”), photography and the other visual arts I also practice, even stuff like cooking, gardening, landscape work, construction and farming.

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

This can only ever be a partial and woefully inadequate list, but here goes:


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

Skydiving. Not that it will happen!

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

I write because I need to write; it’s the sine qua non. I can’t not write. But if I could have continued to act (which I began to do in early childhood but could not continue) I would like to have done that. I know many (& of many more) actor-writers.

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

I’m a re-reader and re-watcher, so I’m going to limit my answers to recent one-time (pre-re) reads/viewings. Two recent great books: Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism and Anne Boyer’s A Handbook of Disappointed Fate. Film: Network.

20 - What are you currently working on?

Also just a partial list:
-finishing initial draft of a poetry collection called The Horse
-revising a memoir, The Winter Film
-several video pieces at varying stages of process
-a poem project on acting called Green Rooms
-a poem project dealing with family history & the legacy of lynching, called Spirit Knife/Appalachia
-various blips of mini-projects stemming from my mother’s ongoing end-of-life process & what I’m calling “caregiving while disabled.”



Friday, July 13, 2018

the above/ground press summer sale! and the press' twenty-fifth birthday!

IT WAS TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO THIS WEEK (July 9, 1993) that I launched the first two official above/ground press titles (after a year or two of a variety of titles and semi-random press names, if at all) at an event at the long-since disappeared Stone Angel Institute coffeehouse on Lisgar Street. Where does the time go, exactly?

While there are a number of other anniversary-specific schemes currently in production, I thought we should also celebrate A QUARTER CENTURY OF CONTINUOUS PRODUCTION (getting remarkably close to nine hundred publications) with a glorious summer sale!

$25 for any seven 2018 chapbook titles! (until August 15, 2018

including: Spell to Spell, Lea Graham; 1962 - 2018, Tim Atkins; Signs of Our Discontent, Arnold McBay and Gregory Betts; The Book of Mark, Amanda Earl; tattered sails (after un coup de des), Derek Beaulieu; Catalogue d’Oiseaux, Toronto — Mainz-Kastel, Aaron Tucker; Glosas for Tired Eyes Volume 2, Dani Spinosa; From Being Without Substance, Andrew Wessels; coastal geometries, Marthe Reed; po po poems, Kate Siklosi; americana, Edward Smallfield; The Cosmos, Sean Braune; What We Remembered Before the Fire, Amish Trivedi; The Landscapes Were in My Arms (figure 1), Sara Renee Marshall; The Peter F Yacht Club #26, VERSeFest 2018 special, edited by rob mclennan; CERTAIN WORDS, a septipartite structure investing the seven ideas of Hermogenes, Steve McCaffery; gravitynipplemilk anthroposcenesters, Gary Barwin and Tom Prime; PLEASURE BRISTLES, Gary Barwin and Alice Burdick; snow day, rob mclennan; Go Under The Surface, Stephanie Gray; Undo, Alice Notley; muscle memory, Stan Rogal; rib and instep: honey, Rachel Mindell; SEARCHING FOR A SPECIES, Eleni Zisimatos; Gestational Trail, Adrienne Gruber; Phantom Equator, Andrew Cantrell; faux foe, kevin martins mcpherson eckhoff; and MOTHER OF ALL, Anna Gurton-Wachter; as well as issues #16-18 of Touch the Donkey!

while supplies last (like, obviously,

To order, send cheques (US orders, add $2 for postage; outside Canada/US, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

with numerous rarities/backlist titles still available as well!

with forthcoming titles by Beth Ayer, Lisa Rawn, Ian Dreiblatt, Jenna Jarvis, Jamie Townsend, Cole Swensen, Jason Christie, Allison Cardon, Melissa Eleftherion, Uxío Novoneyra (trans. Erín Moure), Travis Sharp, Stuart Kinmond / Phil Hall, Natalee Caple, Jon Boisvert, Lise Downe, Dennis Cooley, Michael Martin Shea, Jennifer Stella and Miguel E. Ortiz Rodríguez! (and more, most likely,

and you've seen the anniversary essays that have been appearing over the past few months? celebratory essays by authors and friends of the press including John Barton, Eric Schmaltz, David McKnight, Susanne Dyckman, Kristina Drake, Michael Dennis, Sean Braune, Carrie Olivia Adams, Gregory Betts, Marthe Reed, Gil McElroy, Ken Norris, Colin Morton, Aaron Tucker, Phil Hall, Gary Barwin, Erín Moure, Jason Christie, Amanda Earl, Stan Rogal, Eleni Zisimatos, Derek Beaulieu and Jessica Smith; more of those to come as well,

and keep an eye out on the annual above/ground press anniversary reading/launch/party at Ottawa's Vimy Brewing Company on Saturday, August 25th! readings and new titles already confirmed by Jason Christie, Natalee Caple, Julia Polyck-O'Neill, as well as plenty of others!

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS! BE AWARE THAT I AM EXPECTING THE TRADITIONAL GIFTS OF SILVER!

there is so much to come I can't even,

Thursday, July 12, 2018

pssst : I am secretly doing a fiction reading as part of an anthology launch on Monday,

Because I've my poetry workshop on Monday night, I'll be arriving late to the launch of the anthology release any words stuck inside of you: an untethered Collection of Shorts (Applebeard Editions, 2018), reading from my previously-unpublished short story included within (I am very much looking forward to seeing the final book!). Due to my lateness, I'm apparently being promoted by the publisher as "possibly a special guest!," so don't tell anyone, okay?

To see further short stories from my manuscript-in-progress, see my author page, here.

See their notice for the event here.

When: Monday, July 16 at 8 pm

Where: Pour Boy (495 Somerset St W), Ottawa

Readers: Amanda Earl, a.m. kozak, Leah MacLean-Evans, Jordan Moffatt, and possibly a special guest!


 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Shannon Quinn

Shannon Quinn [photo credit: H. Romero] was born in Kanata. Her formative years were spent in the Hazeldean Mall. She has lived in Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Thunder Bay and Iqaluit. She now calls Toronto home. She works in mental health and previously worked for CBC Radio. Her first book, Questions for Wolf, was published by Thistledown Press. Her work has most recently appeared in CV2, ARC, Grain, Prairie Fire and Geez. Nightlight for Children of Insomniacs (Mansfield Press) is her second full length collection.

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 gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was something I could look at...it was tangible. I hope my recent work is a step forward in craft and vision...that's my goal.

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


I started with both short fiction and non fiction, poetry was always a private side thing...until it wasn't. I don't know exactly why, but poetry came to be the closest way I could get to communicating in a way I wanted to be heard. There is so much room in poetry...the expansiveness and the specificity is a combination that is an incredible place to inhabit.

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?

Writing is a slow burn for me and I like it that way. It is always in process. I take a lot of notes and do a ton of rewrites. The pieces tell me when they are done.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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'm not working on a book from the beginning...I'd never actually write if I was. I'm a big believer in showing up to the paper and patience.

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


I'm a really shy person but I love public readings. Stand and deliver. There is something really important for me in that. I definitely learn a lot from public readings.

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?

Sometimes I struggle when people ask about who the writer is with my poetry...I have experienced some pretty intense identities....so sometimes I wonder, do I have to tell you I'm a trauma survivor? That I was sex worker when I was quite young? That I'm a recovering addict? That I live with a significant mental illness? Those are some places I've been but do I need to declare them as personal experience in order to write about them? I don't have an answer to that...or a judgment about people who ask who the speaker is...it's just something i think about...

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?

As writers I want us to work together to have more voices heard.

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

I love working with an outside editor, it is essential for me. I need those questions and the feedback. I have a theatre background so working collaboratively is in my bones.

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

"There is no such thing as a life with no pain but you no longer need to harm yourself in response to it"

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to essays to creative non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?

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?

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

Vast amounts of carbohydrates....it's not very effective.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Roast beef. I'm a vegetarian.

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?

Science! And the science in music and nature makes me want to write. I love visual art for its quiet moments of awe and for its silence.

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

Don Domanski as a poet, a mentor and a friend is incredibly important to me. I'm an obsessive reader, there are too many authors for me to possibly list. The work of other poets, regardless of style, always has important information for me. Also, various Buddhist texts teach me how to be a human being (believe me, I need instructions).

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

Circus Arts. I just started my first aerial silks class.

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?

Can I pick something non-human? I aspire to catness and dogness...with no preference.

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

I write so I don't lose my mind. I have literally lost my mind in the past. It really sucked.

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

Book: Kay Larson's biography of John Cage, Where The Heart BeatsCatherine Barnett's poetry collection, Game of Boxes

20 - What are you currently working on?

I'm working on my third collection of poetry, I'm telling myself it's an exploration of equanimity...which is incredibly vague.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Jacqueline Waters, Commodore



A Child to the State

The way to do history
Is not to care about it
Whatever you care for you diminish
Facts remain the same, changing with the day
While what is true of one repeats
By turning true of another
Everywhere the sound of crying
Neither immediate nor interesting
Unlike you, with those low goals
You’re not just going to overflow toward
You’ve got to list the ambitious pains
Persevere through the doubt you watch
Take inventive forms like clouds
Owing the world a form

Brooklyn poet Jacqueline Waters’ third full-length poetry title—following A Minute without Danger (Adventures in Poetry) and One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t (Brooklyn NY: Ugly Duckling Presse)—is Commodore (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017). Commodore is a masterfully-stitched together collection of lyrics, fragments, accumulations and prose-poems focused very much on the immediacy of her America, and what it means to be a citizen (a subject that has expanded and even exploded over recent months), including the rights, responsibilities and possibilities of citizenship. As she writes to open the poem “Don’t Be Upset If You Don’t Hear from Me”: “Ranchers lease land from the government / At very low rates / That do not make up for the money spent by the government / To manage the land for the ranchers [.]” Or, further on, as the opening of the extended poem “The Pentagon” reads:

A person has to live with the facts.
Say something critical—
tell everyone, for instance,
that you find your boss eerie
or a hypocrite, and it’s you
who’ll be associated
in your listener’s mind
(more or less forever)
with eeriness, and with
hypocrisy.

The poems in Commodore move quickly through a contemporary landscape of western ideas and ideals broken down, mangled and set aside in favour of something entirely other, something that sets culture and community down an entirely wrong path. Waters’ poems unpack and critique both government and social action as well as inaction, and questioning the possibilities of personal responsibility in society generally, as well as specifically, against such dark forces. There is something reminiscent in Waters’ work of Erín Moure’s similar workings on the idea of the citizen (think of her 2002 title O Cidadán, for example), and Waters has accomplished something quite remarkable here, composing poems that interrogate, question and reveal without forcing any shortsighted or easy answers. Her poems champion the absolute necessity of asking the right questions for the sake of saving everyone. Near the end of “The Pentagon,” she writes:

She told him she would have to think about it. Meanwhile she was counting on him to keep her posted. He left her office with the sense of a decision having been made. He cleared some papers that had been left on his chair. It was supposed to be a paperless office, but occasionally it was there: paper.

If a teacher can lead a student to contradict herself, then the teacher’s point is strengthened. Classic Socratic method.

It seems to be about asking questions, but its real purpose is to create confusion, to reveal internal contradiction and elicit self-doubt in the student.

But the student must interpret the feeling of losing an argument as self-doubt.

The presence of self-doubt as wherewithal to grow.