Anna Moschovakis is the author, most recently, of They and We Will Get Into Trouble for This. She is also a translator, a writing teacher (here and here), and a longtime member of the Brooklyn-based publishing collective Ugly Duckling Presse. She lives and works in the Catskills and in New York City.
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 de-stigmatized self-publishing for me, which was important.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I'm lazy and I liked the low word count. But I actually came to playwriting first, so drama theory was my introduction to poetics and certainly to the European avant-garde. Poetry worked well as a place to work through confusions about other things I was reading and thinking about, so my early poems were more directly related to reading philosophy or theory than to reading or studying poems.
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 think most of the time, most of the work happens in the background of my thinking and in notes emailed to myself, voice-recorded, or scrawled in a notebook. Then, maybe months or years later, I'll suddenly start writing and something like a draft will come out quickly. Though this might change.
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?
Every time I have set out to write "a book," I have failed. Every time I have tried to write short poems and assemble them into a book, I've failed. It's more like I look up one day and realize I've been felting several pieces of wool simultaneously or in alternation over a long period of time, and it turns out they stick together.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I get terribly nervous leading up to a reading -- sometimes for weeks before -- but I often relax once I begin to read, especially if there is a microphone or stage lighting to help me detach from my self-consciousness. I think one reason I started writing longer poems was because of my terror of extemporaneous chatter between poems. My relationship to duration probably has something to do with the typical length of poetry readings (which is connected, I guess, to attention span). and I often use readings as a spur to complete a draft of whatever piece has been on my mind.
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?
I think my poems ask a lot of questions and certainly don't answer any.
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 don't know, which doesn't mean I don't think these are valid questions. I also want to substitute "individual" for "writer."
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I love being edited. When else -- except in translation -- will someone read you so closely and question every choice? I want my editors to be as tough as possible.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I don't tend to remember things like that. A crucial piece of early feedback I got was "stop trying to prove you're smart." That was also good life advice.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to translation)? What do you see as the appeal?
It's all writing.
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?
I used to be very committed to not having a regular writing practice. As time goes by and I feel the pressures of the present differently, I'm realizing that a good day is a day that begins with reading (preferably not on screen) and writing. So I try to make that happen more, but it's often not possible.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Other work (editing, designing, translation, teaching, organizing). But I don't actually experience a pause in writing as being stalled.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Onions cooking in olive oil.
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?
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
All of them. Any encounter with text can be transformative.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Learn all the languages.
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?
Being a writer isn't exactly my occupation. I can imagine being a mediator or organizer. I like sprints and high stakes, and I like being part of decision-making processes that have felt effects.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It's the closest thing to daydreaming.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I recently watched all of Robert Bresson's films because I have been translating a book of interviews with him. Together and separately, they are great. Yesterday I read Juliana Spahr and David Buuck's An Army of Lovers in one sitting. It was great. I just micro-reviewed Tonya Foster's A Swarm of Bees in High Court: also great. Tomorrow I'll have different answers.
20 - What are you currently working on?
A film, a fiction, a collaboration, a life plan.