Monday, April 30, 2018

Chelene Knight, Dear Current Occupant: A Memoir

Dear Current Occupant—House we all shared on Forgotten Street

Ten people in a three-bedroom upper suite. Vancouver Special. The walls covered in tiny fingerprints. Bugs in the bed, crumbs on the stove, broken Transformers and Lego pieces, and Cheerios and dirty mismatched socks scattered on the beige carpet. I kept my small treasures under my pillow. We were visitors there. On a small couch with sixty dollars under my pillow, I slept. Never saw the shadow of a body get closer. Never saw her walk away when she had second thoughts at the last minute. Never felt the hand that reached underneath my head. Never felt the tingling of fingers accidentally grazing the small hairs behind my ear. Never heard the rustling of bills between sly fingers. Never woke up to see the sadness in the whites of eyes or the remorse as she placed the money in her pocket. Never saw her turn back and double-check that I was still asleep and maybe even feel sorry enough to offer me a short, warm kiss on my cheek or tuck the edge of the blue blanket into the crook of my sweaty neck. I didn’t wake up in time.

The latest in Book*hug’s essais series is Vancouver writer and editor Chelene Knight’s Dear Current Occupant: A Memoir (Toronto ON: Book*hug, 2018), a creative non-fiction lyric exploration of her years growing up through the twenty houses she eventually lived in with her mother and brother in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The short prose-sections of Dear Current Occupant work through poverty, dislocation and racism (as a mixed East Indian/Black child), attempting to capture the nebulous idea of home her experiences provided. Composed as a series of letters, predominantly written to the current occupants of the variety of buildings they lived in, from rentals to squats, Knight displays, with a deceptive ease through some remarkably difficult material, how it might be possible to acknowledge and explore one’s past without being overcome by it. As is already obvious, this is a book about survival, and Knight does so honestly, unflinchingly and gracefully, and yet, there remain elements that any survivor can’t help but carry, reminiscent of British writer Jeanette Winterson, when she wrote of her Pentecostal mother in her own, more straightforward memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Knopf, 2011) [see my review of such here]; Winterson’s mother would regularly lock the young Jeanette out of the house overnight, causing her adult self to still keep her own kitchen jar perpetually ajar. What does the idea of home mean to someone perpetually in motion? At the opening of the “Endnotes,” Knight writes:

home. A one-syllable word like walls, doors, and roof. A house. Something many of us take for granted. I was drawn to the concept of home and belonging for many years, and bits and pieces of both came to life in my first book, Braided Skin (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2015). After this dip-my-toes-in-the-water book, I saw an unfinished thread poking out from within the pages, a story, a missing piece that needed to be told in another form, another book. Dear Current Occupant has been in the works for many years, even before Braided Skin, but it took that first book to pave the way. It took reading and listening to many other voices speak of home and lack thereof for me to start piecing together the fragments of home I have so desperately been looking for.

Genres are crossing, bending, merging, melting, and morphing into new subgenres, and this is what happened with Dear Current Occupant. And just like genres, the same can be said when it comes to belonging—the bending. I can never let go of the bending. The squeezing to fit into a place, a home. How many doors have to slam shut? How many windows can I look out of, trusting that the view will remain the same?

The book exists in short bursts of prose, composed akin to a series of photographs; not composed in any particular order than that of memory, moving through and across time, experience and stories as they occur, from having to move suddenly, and with no more than what she could carry, to her mother’s continued drug use and an adult stranger’s hand upon her knee. As she responded as part of an interview with Amber Dawn for PRISM International:

Trauma affects memory. Memories are fragmented, distorted, unorganized, cracked, so that’s how I wrote the book. I thought about the ordering of the sections, which piece would lead into the next and why, but not in terms of chronological time. There were two sections I wanted to act as book ends, and I needed it to be clear that I was an adult in these. In the first piece, I am an adult going back to one of the old places and the young girl I am watching is me. I am in a non-verbal, observant conversation with myself. In the last piece, I am moving out of the last house I lived in with my mother. And I am writing to her, but I am writing to myself.

As much as this is a book of survival, part of the strength of this work is in knowing just how little the perspectives within have been explored, knowing that there are most likely numerous children who have been raised and perhaps still exist in poverty and uncertainty, whether in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, or anywhere else. What makes this book so engaging is in knowing that Knight writes from a perspective built from the inside, and not from the outside, peering in; and knowing that she managed to pull herself out, and not only survive, but thrive. And, throughout the events described in her memoir, this is a book that works, just as much, to honour the strength of her mother, writing:

Most people may read this book and think, wow, that’s really sad, or they may say they feel bad that a little girl experienced these things. But that’s not the purpose of this book. It took me twenty-five years to figure out that my mother saved my life. And even though it was most likely not her intention, she showed me what could happen if I didn’t have a dream. She showed me what could happen if I didn’t work hard. She showed me what could happen if I let the wrong people in, or left the door open for too long maybe, for me, she was the only one who could do that.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Broc Rossell and Jordan Scott on The Elephants

The Elephants are an independent, open-genre press publishing heterodox materials as acts of love and solidarity with the communities in which they’re created, especially those underrepresented in the literary arts. We’re with the underdogs

Broc Rossell is the author of Festival (Cleveland State 2015) and with W. Scott Howard co-editor of the forthcoming anthology 'After' Objectivism (University of Iowa Press). He teaches in the Critical and Cultural Studies Program at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, BC.

Jordan Scott is the author of Silt (2005), and from Coach House Books: blert (2008), Decomp (2013, a collaboration with Stephen Collis and the ecosphere of British Columbia) and Night & Ox (2016). Scott’s chapbooks include Clearance Process (SMALL CAPS 2016), and Lanterns at Guantánamo (Simon Fraser University), which treat his experience after being allowed access to Guantanamo Bay in April 2015. Scott was the 2015/16 Writer-in-Residence at Simon Fraser University .

1 – When did The Elephants first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?

Broc Rossell: We’re a little more than a year old. I was the senior poetry editor at Brooklyn Arts Press for about six years (I owe Joe at BAP a lot what I learned there, esp. about working with writers on their manuscripts; Caryl Pagel at Cleveland State is my editorial role model, she’s the best). I’ve long had the goal of starting my own press and when I got the chance to work with Jordan Scott I took it.

Jordan Scott: Broc first approached me with his idea for The Elephants on a drive to Mount Baker in late 2016. I learn so much from Broc about poetry, poetics and editing that I knew being a part of The Elephants would be a necessary education.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

BR: I’ve wanted to do something that isn’t about my work for a while, I like working on projects that aren’t my own, and I like the idea of building something over a long period of time. (I’m a new parent, too.) Writers sharing their work with each other is a pretty basic definition of the lyric, and so of literature. And without small presses (at least in North America) literature would be a shit.

JS: I like that idea too. I also like the idea of giving back some of the energy, love and support that I’ve benefited from as a poet over the years. 

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?

BR: We’re both poets, and deeply informed by it, but not limited to publishing it. We’re not a poetry press per se so much as a press that uses poetry or the idea of poetry as a way of seeing things, and we publish work that redefines what and how we see. Deviance and heterodoxy are what we want. 

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?

BR: Make them beautiful and hope for word of mouth…events…and flogging the internet.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?

BR: It’s always interesting to discover a writer’s expectations. Some writers want or require manuscript development, some have specific, pressing questions they want answered, some people give us work that doesn’t need a thing. Jordan tends to have a light touch, but it’s always on the money. On the rare occasion he offers a line edit, most people take it. 

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?

BR: SPD, and directly through our website ( Standard small press print runs, a few hundred copies. Depends on the title.
8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?

BR: Jordan Scott’s the consulting editor, he works with me on the books with me, and he’s (I think) one of the best readers + poets working today. He reads everything I write. Anybody that gets a chance to work with him is a winner. I’m a winner!

JS: I find myself reacting often very instinctually / viscerally to work and he’s usually able to ask me the right questions so I can better articulate whatever the fuck is going on. Broc has some serious editing chops (it’s incredible to witness, actually) and we work well together. We trust each other, and that matters a great deal.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?

BR: It’s more like the press reflects ways I want to grow as a writer? I guess one specific thing is that I don't write for Microsoft word anymore, I imagine book forms when I’m revising, how it’s going to look in the trim.

10– How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?

BR: I can see why someone would do it (I like Ben Estes’ book a lot, for instance), but I don’t think I could. I mean I’m always grateful when someone reads something I wrote, but I don’t feel comfortable with being the one who also shares it with people. It’s not like I’m emotionally invested in the means of production and distribution; more like I don’t want to be the particle and the wave. I don’t write a blog either.

11– How do you see The Elephants evolving?

BR & JS: Evolving is kind of the goal. We've published books of theory, fiction, poetry. We did an online magazine, we do books, we’re publishing digital chapbooks this year. We have no idea what comes next, other than the two books a year, which we're committed to.

12– What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?

BR: Too early to say, I reckon, but I really love our books. I don't think I could choose. The magazine and chapbooks were huge projects, no less than the printed stuff. No serious frustrations J

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?

BR &; JS: There’s so many presses we’ve stolen from / been inspired by. Omnidawn’s commitment to community, same goes for Talon Books, Krupskaya’s decades-long, almost libidinously swerve-y aesthetic, Song Cave’s instant credibility, Coach House’s decades as a center of publishing the transgressive, just to name contemporaries. I mean, if we were to try to answer this question historically we’d never stop talking. Small press history is practically a history of deviant thought unto itself.  

14– How does The Elephants work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see The Elephants in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?

BR & JS: We’re based in Vancouver, a border town. I’m American (now dual), Jordan is Canadian, we’ve published work from luminaries and first publications from new writers, work from folks in Ireland, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, China, Spain... Solidarity is the thing.

We read political and scientific as much or more than literary journals…we probably read the same journals you do! To answer the question directly, though there are some incredible ones out there, we don’t really publish to engage in dialogue with like-minded folks, so much as we use the press to find new directions for reading.

15 – Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?

BR & JS: Sure, we do local book fairs. And readings too, mostly west coast, we love seeing people. Our new authors, Johanna Drucker and Jocelyn Saidenberg, will be reading up and down the west coast in May and early June (details on our website, We did the Whale Prom at AWP this year, and it was lovely.

16 – How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?

BR & JS: It’s a big part of what we do. We do online pubs and digital-only pubs, we sell through the website, we IG at @the_elephants__ and we’re on FB.

17 – Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?

BR: We hold open reading periods every May. I’m happy to say we don't know what we’re looking for! But we aren’t looking for things that confirm what we already know—we want to be turned around and see the thing we were missing.

18 – Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.

BR: We published our first two books last year, Joanna Ruocco’s The Week and Helen Dimos’s No Realtor Was Compensated for This Sale. I think it’s Joanna’s eighth or ninth book and Helen’s first. Helen wrote hers in Athens, a center of neoliberal geopolitics, and Joanna’s book is unclassifiable prose. We just published Johanna Drucker’s daring and brilliant act of imaginative thinking, The General Theory of Social Relativity, which uses the case study of Trump and quantum physics to make an argument for radically reconfiguring the social sciences. And Jocelyn Saidenberg’s kith & kin, is a book-length durational elegy that floored Jordan and I when it came in. So smart and so deeply felt, what she can do with a line…quiet fireworks on every page.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

my (small press) writing day : new essays + a 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’ve started a new blog: my (small press) writing day.

The list of current 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 and Eva Gonzalez. And submissions are very welcome...

Friday, April 27, 2018

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Joe Milazzo

Joe Milazzo is a writer, editor, educator, and designer. He is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and two collections of poetry: The Habiliments (Apostrophe Books) and Of All Places In This Place OfAll Places (Spuyten Duyvil). His writings have appeared in Black Clock, Black Warrior Review, BOMB, The Collagist, Prelude, Tammy, Texas Review, and elsewhere. He co-edits the online interdisciplinary arts journal [out of nothing], is a Contributing Editor at Entropy, and is also the proprietor of Imipolex Press. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, where he was born and raised.

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

Publishing Crepuscule W/ Nellie got me over that hump that casts a long shadow over many a writer. I dare say it was validating, but mostly in the sense that publishing that first book provided the strongest conviction that, yes, I could finish a project of that scope. Beyond that, my life has not been greatly — materially — altered because of my authorship. My writing since then has been more likely to turn toward poetics. The novel is a big thing that can hold a lot, and there's a distinct pleasure to be found in saving things up for the sake of finding them a permanent home in a capacious narrative structure. Although I now tend to write poem to poem, and to take satisfaction in smaller bites, every poem I write seems to want to connect with likeminded language to collaborate in a larger project. That is, I find that poetry is, for me, much more sequential; it thrills with more cliffhangers, so to speak. (I'm positing novel-writing here as a mode more lyric and reflective, I suppose.)

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

I actually started my career as a fiction writer. A novelist specifically, as I am a terrible short story writer and have a stunted appreciation for that form. (With exceptions made for writers like Felisberto Hernandez, Mary Robison, William Goyen, Stuart Dybek, Nikolai Leskov and a few others). I don't believe I really had a mind or heart that was prepared to encounter poetry in an authentic way until I hit my early 30s. I recall just saying to myself one day, "I need to read more poetry." And to be both a better writer and a better person. (My other had just passed away, and my grief took many forms, one of which was a desire not to waste myself.) And so I started reading poetry. I think the first book I picked up as part of this endeavor was Charles Simic's Selected. I don't recall why.. Maybe because I knew he'd written about Joseph Cornell's work? In other words, my reasoning was trivial. Its outcomes less so, I hope.

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?

Years. I am a slow writer, in part because I am naturally peripatetic and in part because I make myself too busy with other things (like jobs). That said, often premises arrive rather quickly and lead to an initial burst of writing, which is followed by a long period of evaluation. I write in order to figure out what it is I'm writing about. Getting there takes a great deal of generative work. To accomplish that, I tend to rely on constraints which, in turn, inevitably transcend the category of "inspiration" and become constitutive of meaning within the work. E.g., in Crepuscule W/ Nellie, I established from the start that the narration would never gain direct access to Thelonious Monk's point of view; in The Habiliments, the anaphoric titles. I rarely take notes, then. I revise and revise, tracking consequences all along the way.

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?

My training as a novelist means I can't help but think in terms of books and book-like experiences. I'm actually trying to break myself go this pattern and become more OK with short, standalone pieces. To limit my possibilities — better, to not exhaust them with elaboration. But this is a struggle for me. I want to send the end before the beginning has been established. That's not always a healthy desire.

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

Yes and no. I find attending readings to be inspiring, but I am less interested in holding open such spaces for my work, unless that work has been conceptualized specifically with oral presentation in mind. I do like organizing events, and one of the things I'm most happy to have been a part of recently was Other People's Poetry. This was a "repertory poetry reading series" I organized. Each reading concentrated on one classic book of poems and featured about 20 readers from the Dallas-Fort Worth literary community reading that book in its entirety. Together, we read Rilke, Adrienne Rich, Bob Kaufman, Sylvia Plath and Frank O'Hara. The kind of deep poetic saturation each of those readings provided definitely helped sustain my own writing for weeks afterwards. I learned so much — about form and rhythm and stress and connecting with an audience — from hearing my colleagues voice these poems aloud.

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 like to think of my writing practice as expansive yet particular. Even though I write across multiple genres (fiction, largely long-form; poetry; hybrid forms that incorporate elements of personal essay, philosophical inquiry, and satire), and even though I do rely upon my chosen medium to help me crack the problem of about-ness, certain concerns seem never to slip outside my writing's scope. I.e., maximalism and notions of the excessive; the manic porousness of consciousness; the function of the imaginative faculties, and the consequences of their exercise; frames, boundaries and "set-ups"; language as that both private refuge and public domain. With whatever writing endeavor to which I commit, I task myself with identifying and nurturing the unique voice through which that endeavor would speak. That is, my writing practice is one in which I work to disencumber myself of that voice I may be said to have found for myself, and to explore that vast and coterminous, if not precisely contiguous, territory of "other" vocabularies, grammars, and, I hope, realms of experience. In other words, theories of consciousness are vital to my writing.

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 think I side with Ursula K LeGuin here: writers should be advocates of possibility. Our world suffers from a paucity of imagination. The problems we face as a species cannot be addressed without the imagination making a contribution to the solutions to those problems, not least because those solutions will always be contingent. Literature is social practice. Even the alt-right understands as much, c.f. Timothy McVeigh and The Turner Diaries and the Brietbart constituency's fondness for The Camp of the Saints.

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

I welcome all forms of collaboration, and have been fortunate enough to have very creatively rewarding relationships with my editors. Only with their creative input have I been able to translate some of my more hare-brained ideas into legible texts. For example, the "layouts" that determine the appearance of the poems in The Habiliments. The manuscript had been completed within an 8.5 X 11 frame that simple was not workable in book form. Yet the coordination — and I mean quite the literally the X/Y plotting of each poem — is constitutive of the book's overall meaning. Better: vital to its its attempts to make meaningfully. Mark Tursi and Richard Greenfield of Apostrophe Books, however, saw something I'd missed in my obsessive returning, tabbing and margin-fiddling, which was the inevitable palimpsest effect that had resulted from my efforts. Having them show me what I'd done, and what my own intentions could never have prompted me to accomplish, allowed me to do even more with notions of position within (and around) the text.

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

"The victories are in the revisions." (I first heard — and subsequently stole — this from Joseph McElroy.)

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

Honestly, I feel very uncomfortable calling myself a poet. I prefer to think of myself as a kind of karaoke singer, one who has imitated his way into making convincing gestures at poetry but probably couldn't really carry a tune (or remember the lyrics) if he were fronting a real band. Yet I find writing fiction such a lugubrious thing these days. Poetry provides me relief from the burdens of fiction's continuities. My hope is that each practice — inasmuch as each is separate — sustains the other. My education in the interdisciplinary incubator that is CalArts has a great deal to do with that hope. We were not "tracked" in our MFA program, and were given the freedom to explore generic conventions so that we'd know exactly what we were ignoring when it was time to pay them no mind. So maybe I really work in an unnamed, even anonymous, third space. Or may that space is just called "writing" or "language-based practice." I'm not sure. I like that genre constrains (see above) and provides both a medium and raw material. That genres are discourses. And I am always looking for new discourses to mine for interesting expressions and conceptualizations.

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?

Since March of last year, I've been working in a fairly demoing profession that has me in the office at 8 a.m. editing other people's content (yep, I'll go there). So my writing routine has recently had to make some adaptations. It's actually become more routine in the sense that I'm now more attuned to the preciousness of time available to me. I don't necessarily write every day, but I do make something every day. Maybe I add another pitch to my year-long serial composition, or take a photo on my terribly outdated iPhone 4 while looking up, or post a pseudo-image macro to Instagram. I also have a notebook at my desk which is reserved only for my personal notes. My waste book, if you will. There, I write things and forget about them for a time, periodically flipping back through it and reviewing what I've squirreled away there for the purposes of starting something new and "serious" — but only in the sense of being something I know I am going to spend some real time playing with. Analogy! Each wastebook entry is, at the the moment of its recording, a fidget spinner; later, upon rereading, each one becomes a Lego brick.

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

I walk. If I am not walking, I am probably not writing.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Wild onions, as cut by a runaway lawnmower.

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?

Music is incredibly important to my writing. I don't think I could have ever attained an understanding of how narratives manipulate time without the more abstract examples provided by music. Moreover,  I'm fascinated by the subject of improvisation and committed to exploring the role of improvisation in literary practice. Also, I've written critically about music, fiction about musicians, and my poetic practice is very much concerned with sonority, prosody, all that jazz. I also maintain my own experimental sound practice. I've not yet figured out how my tinkering around with modular synthesis fits in (connects) with my writing, but I am working on getting there.

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

So, so many, some of whom I've already mentioned. Nathanael West, Joseph McElroy, Clarice Lispector, Gertrude Stein, George Oppen, Aaron Kunin, Bob Kaufman, Michel Butor, Italo Calvino, Sesshu Foster, Eugenio Montale, Diane Wakoski, Susan Straight (a very underrated world-builder), Christian Hawkey, Renee Gladman, Cesar Aira, Dara Wier, Rosmarie Waldrop, Clark Coolidge — to name but a few — all routinely restore my faith in what both writing and reading can accomplish 

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

Visit every Anasazi site in North America.

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?

My grandfather was a surveyor. I worked for him one summer in high school, walking since-doomed suburban developments and the muddy banks of the Red River for the purposes of taking elevations. My grandfather continued doing this work until he passed away at the age of 95. As I get older, many are the days when I wonder if his might not have been a calling I missed.

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

I didn't think I was good at anything else. I feel like the first fifteen years of my life were all about trying to find a creative outlet, only to be frustrated by my lack of talent and.or the intractability of the media in which I thought I wanted to work. Once I discovered doodling with words due to chronic high school boredom, it all seemed to come together — that is, I realized that language could be an artistic medium, too. In fact, that I'd been treating as such all along, even — or especially — when cracking bad jokes or making up fictional band names (it was the 80s).

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

Ark by Ronald Johnson, a symphonic work of experimental science-fiction whose (relative) optimism re: the future of the human imagination feels incredibly poignant given our species' present circumstances. I mean, Johnson wrote a poem that's also a blueprint from a spaceship. Also: I'll never look at poetic meter or scansion the same way again.

The last great film I watched was probably Billy Wilder's The Apartment. My wife and I watch it nearly every holiday season, and it still hold up. The script balances cynicism and sentimentality, decency and smuttiness, in ways I find endlessly fascinating. And corporate culture, while it may be slightly less every in its misogyny, hasn't really changed all that much.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I am currently at work on three discrete poetic sequences and a novel. The novel (title still TBD) is set in Dallas in the 1970s and is something of a coming of age story. But it is also very much concerned with the history of the region, a history which many outside of Texas know nothing about and yet which is quintessentially American. If Crepuscule W/ Nellie is a "jazz novel," this new one is a "prog rock novel."

Field Recordings is the first of these three evolving poetic sequences. The field in question is contemporary and largely rhetorical. If these poems offer resistance — as I hope they might — they do so by way of appropriating, repurposing and recontextualizing (via various discursive strategies; that is, I have endeavored here to preserve a thematic unity without relying on a univocality) small portions of what is most awful about the current political regime's discourse.

My concern in the so called “name poems” of Acrostic Aspic is with the conditions of celebrity as they are lived by non-celebrities, i.e., “you” and “me.” Or: I suppose these poems are all about minor celebrity, as these titles borrowed from the outer limits of fame suggest. Our subjectivities so often cohere in the back and forth between narratives intensely our own and those widespread narratives with which we cannot help but make contact, or which are in constant contact with us. But the latter narratives are so much more easily represented, not to mention “relatable,” while the former remain largely untranslatable. So this self-exchange can never be equal. Still, people live as they live, and their names mean something to them.

Finally, the numbered poems that constitute homeopathy for the singularity represent my attempts to undertake a slow study of online existence as it stands in 2017/2018.