Friday, February 10, 2012

12 or 20 questions (second series) with Sarah Mangold

Sarah Mangold is the author of Household Mechanics (New Issues, selected by C. D. Wright) and the forthcoming Electrical Theories of Femininity (Pavement Saw, Transcontinental Poetry Award). Her most recent chapbooks include An Antenna Called the Body (Little Red Leaves, Textile Editions), I Meant To Be Transparent (forthcoming Little Red Leaves e/editions), and the newly-released Cupcake Royale (above/ground press). She has been awarded residencies at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, The MacDowell Colony, and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts as well as an Individual Artist Award from the Seattle Arts Commission. From 2000-2009 she edited Bird Dog, a print journal of innovative writing and art and currently co-edits, FLASH + CARD, a poetry chapbook and ephemera press. 

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, Household Mechanics, is a shortened version of my MFA thesis so it felt very validating to have the work accepted in the larger world. And, to have it selected by one of my favorite poets, C. D. Wright, was an even bigger ego boost. More about my first book experience at Every Other Day with Kate Greenstreet. My current work is perhaps more “themey” around a central topic (technology/transmission of messages) which relates to my current reading interests but also seems like a logical progression.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I was one of those kids who always wrote, stories, poems, plays, whatever. In college I studied fiction writing and poetry but eventually poetry won out after one too many discussions with fiction teachers about why “nothing happened” in my stories.

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’s a slow process. I usually write in response to something I’m reading. Write, write, write in a journal for a month or so and then go back through and pick out the interesting sounding things to type up. I wait a couple weeks and then go back with fresh eyes to the typed up version and do another reduction, then I start working on a shape. I usually sketch ideas for the physical shape of the poem in the margins. The process takes awhile, months, sometimes years.

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?
Short pieces which morph into a longer project—usually a sustained reading over a couple years around a particular idea. At least so far it has worked that way.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I am a very nervous reader, I probably stopped playing the cello (see below) because of the panic of performing but….I love listening to readings/talks I haven’t been able to attend. Addicted to Penn Sound and the Naropa Archives. I enjoy the social aspects of reading, meeting people interested in writing etc and I also appreciate the extra attention it requires of the work—the rethinking of timing and breath, how it will really work when saying it out loud to an audience.

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?
Questions for me are always: physical space of the page, utterance, women’s history, erasure

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?
Current role of the writer—to notice things, to record, to direct attention/remind, to ask what’s possible

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

I haven’t really worked with an outside editor outside of school but am currently working with David Baratier of Pavement Saw Press to edit my new book and it’s wonderful. He is a really good line editor and noticed many things I missed or sort of knew were off and we were able to make the poems tighter.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Wherever you go, there you are.

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 have an office job and carpool with my husband into work. His day starts earlier than mine so I spend about an hour every morning in a coffee shop near my office writing. On the weekends we both go to a local donut/coffee shop to read/write for a couple hours.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Barbara Guest, Beverly Dahlen, George Oppen, Lorine Neidecker, Joan Retallack, and for times of total despair, Michael Palmer’s Sun.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Clinique’s Aromatics, my mom’s perfume.

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?
All of the above. I always listen to music while writing, lots of song lyric fragments in my poems.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
People who make me say YES! Burning Deck, Little Red Leaves, Fact-Simile, Chax, Litmus, anyone with a small press, everyone involved in Portland’s Spare Room Collective reading series and the (now defunct) Seattle Subtext Collective, David Wolach’s PRESS activities at Evergreen College, the instructors and poets I worked with at San Francisco State.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’d like to be home enough to have a dog. Our cat might have a different opinion about that.

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?
Cellist—I did both equally into my mid-20s. I stopped playing the cello for a year and I was ok; I stopped writing for a year and it wasn’t ok—that’s how I decided.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I don’t think I had a choice—writing was always there and once I found out you could actually go to school to study creative writing I was hooked.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Greatness is tricky—I’m reading the new and old Joan Didion, pretty great. And I saw the new Muppet Movie, also great if great = happiness.

19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the final edits for my new book, Electrical Theories of Femininity, out next Fall from Pavement Saw. My newest work appears to be headed away from the technological cyborg and into the creation of monster.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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