Wednesday, July 25, 2018

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Eric Schmaltz

Eric Schmaltz is an artist, writer, and educator living in Toronto. His writing has been published in Jacket2, The Capilano Review, Poetry is Dead, Lemon Hound, and Open Letter with work forthcoming in Arc Poetry and the Berkeley Poetry Review. His first book of poetry and text-art, entitled Surfaces, has been published by Invisible Publishing. More details at

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?

Since Surfaces––my first full-length book of poems––has been published, my thinking about bookmaking has been altered significantly. How do I make poems in the wake of my first full-length collection? This has prompted me to think more deeply about my practice and my trajectory as an artist.

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

I think my entire life has led me to poetry. I can trace my poetics back to my childhood: an early life spent assembling Lego bricks, exploring virtual worlds, writing, drawing, painting, crafting, and imagining. I see all of those aspects of my early life in my poems. Poetry was the obvious mode for me.

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 tend to move very quickly with many of my writing projects; however, this is not always the case with my “creative” writing. Going forward, I want to take more time to work on things, to give my poems more time to sit and breathe before they have to go out and do something in the world.

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?

So far, it seems that I am an author of short, related pieces that get combined into a book; however, I think it might be too early to say which method works best for me.

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

Right now, especially with the publication of Surfaces, public readings feel counter to my creative process. I created a book, but that book has very little language to be spoken. My performance work is usually based in working with sound in a live setting by manipulating samples and music. I think Surfaces can be put in dialogue with my sound practice, but I’ve not yet had the chance to do that.

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?

As I confessed in Surfaces, I am concerned with language at the intersection of writing, bodies, and digital culture. What gets effaced or altered in the process of writing for and with the digital environment? What new forms of sociality and communal-being emerge at this intersection?

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?

Just before Surfaces came out, I began to actually, really understand my own role as a writer. So much of the act of writing once felt like I was writing into a void, but I’ve learned that this is actually not the case. People are reading. Even if the effect of your writing isn’t known to you, the signal goes somewhere and we, as writers, need to be conscious of that. At times, I believe we should be writing as though everyone is watching and we should model the world we want to see.

I also feel deeply that writing extends beyond the act of writing itself in communal work. Writers need to lift each other up, even if that is only in small and quiet ways. We need to use our power, however little, to help one another.

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

Working with an editor is essential and one part of the bookmaking process that excites me. For Surfaces, I worked with Divya Victor (author of Kith), which was crucial to the development of the book. Divya helped me see the book in ways I would not have seen it on my own. She helped me develop some key strains, but also really helped me see where the book was coming from on a personal level.

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

Don’t you worry about a thing.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (text to sound to visuals to installation to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?

My work has always sat the intersection of genres and modes. I think it is very important for poets and writers––as creators of culture––to think and conceive of their work in dialogue with other disciplines. We live in a world that intuitively (read: obviously) blends text, sound, and image. I do not think it is necessary to reproduce the experience of that intersection, but I want to think critically and explore it.

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 have no routine when it comes to my creative work.

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

Nowhere specific.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

This is a tough question. I’m not sure where home really is.

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 –– much of the world influences my work. I often turn to conceptual art and electronic music; definitely not nature; however, I think its important to think of the non-art and writing things that influence my day-to-day.

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

So many writers and writings are important to my work. My close assemblage of friends, colleagues, and mentors have been essential to my writing. Over the recent years, this includes derek beaulieu, Gary Barwin, Gregory Betts, Lindsay Cahill, Stephen Cain, MLA Chernoff, Marc Couroux, Paul Dutton, Joseph Ianni, Aaron Kreuter, Mat Laporte, Phil Miletic, Leigh Nash, Julia Polyck-O’Neill, Alysha Puopolo, Kate Siklosi, Dani Spinosa, Divya Victor, and Andy Weaver.

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

I would love to work with a dance troupe to transpose Surfaces onto the stage.

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?

I intended to pursue studies in music first, but swerved from there for various reasons. Now I cannot imagine another life for myself. I am happy and grateful to have the opportunity to do the work that I do.

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

I try not to think of myself as a “writer.” I like to think of myself as someone whose writing is part of a larger creative practice; in other words, I am someone who is also always trying to do something else.

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

The last great book I read was Book of Annotations by Cameron Anstee. I don’t mean this to be a plug for my plug; however, It is actually the last book I read and I do think it is great.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m hoping to find a few more opportunities to bring Surfaces to new audiences by reading it for others elsewhere and find new ways of placing in the world. I’m also finishing up a major academic project before I start a new one.

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