Sunday, June 30, 2019

today would have been my mother's seventy-ninth birthday,

A late 1970s photograph (most likely late summer/early autumn 1977), with my mother standing between her immediately-elder sister, Pat (left) and their mother (right). I am on the front step of our long-removed front porch with toddler sister, Kathy. What is it I am eating?

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Queen Mob's Teahouse: Melissa Eleftherion interviews Mariel Fechik

As my tenure as interviews editor at Queen Mob's Teahouse continues, the latest interview is now online, as Melissa Eleftherion interviews Mariel Fechik. Other interviews from my tenure include: an interview with poet, curator and art critic Gil McElroy, conducted by Ottawa poet Roland Prevostan interview with Toronto poet Jacqueline Valencia, conducted by Lyndsay Kirkhaman interview with Drew Shannon and Nathan Page, also conducted by Lyndsay Kirkhaman interview with Ann Tweedy conducted by Mary Kasimoran interview with Katherine Osborne, conducted by Niina Pollarian interview with Catch Business, conducted by Jon-Michael Franka conversation between Vanesa Pacheco and T.A. Noonan, "On Translation and Erasure," existing as an extension of Jessica Smith's The Women in Visual Poetry: The Bechdel Test, produced via Essay PressFive questions for Sara Uribe and John Pluecker about Antígona González by David Buuck (translated by John Pluecker),"overflow: poetry, performance, technology, ancestry": kaie kellough in correspondence with Eric SchmaltzMary Kasimor's interview with George FarrahBrad Casey interviewed byEmilie LafleurDavid Buuck interviews John Chávez about Angels of the Americlypse: An Anthology of New Latin@ WritingBen Fama interviews Abraham AdamsTender and Tough: Letters as Questions as Letters: Cheena Marie Lo, Tessa Micaela and Brittany Billmeyer-FinnKristjana Gunnars’ interview with Thistledown Press author Anne CampbellTimothy Dyke’s interview with Hawai’i poet Jaimie GusmanHailey Higdon's interview with Joanne KygerStephanie Kaylor's interview with Kenyatta JP GarciaJaimie Gusman’s interview with Timothy Dyke,Sarah Rockx interviews Gary BarwinMegan Arden Gallant's interview with Diane SchoemperlenAndrew Power interviews Lauren B. DavisChris Lawrence interviews Jonathan BallAdam Novak interviews Tom SternEli Willms interviews Gregory Betts and Jeremy Luke Hill interviews Kasia JaronczykKaren Smythe and Greg RhynoChris Muravez interviews Ithica, NY poet Marty CainRóise Nic an Bheath interviews Kathryn MacLeodHeather Sweeney interviews J'Lyn ChapmanLisa Birman interviews Portland, Oregon poet Claudia F. SavageJustin Eells interviews Eric BlixLuke Hill interviews Claire TaconJeremy Luke Hill interviews Adam Lindsay HonsingerJeremy Luke Hill interviews Marianne MicrosJennifer Zhou interviews emerging poet Kristin ChangRuby Nangia interviews Medha Singh and Vannessa Barnier interviews short story author Zalika Reid-Benta.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Cody-Rose Clevidence, Flung Throne

speak, rock. like a bad tongue, ugly in the mouth of the world.

speak, first nerve, first chord, now-cold sea
seed in lace blooms by the grey shore first sign.

hard rocks horde crystals under oceans, speak, nitrogen
    speak, carbon, reed genesis like the first breath.

    acidic ocean of forgetting, second sign
                is quartzite, pink like an eye
            upturned in the metaphoric face

                    who ate hir children as rocks
      speak, children of rocks
                            radiated, ultra-violet, sinuous Lethe

        who ate first rocks radiant in the night-sky,
                                    grew slowly. (“[AGATE/ALGAE]”)

I’m a little late to this, but finally spending some time with the precise and punctured exuberance of Cody-Rose Clevidence’s second collection, Flung Throne (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press, 2017), a follow-up to Beast Feast (Ahsahta Press, 2014) [see my review of such here]. Flung Throne is thick, massive in scope, and speaks in a skillfully-garbled speech, writing “speak again, bastard, garble it, first throat, choked first. how long a / hollow is anchored, breeds open, raptor, captor, larva, shell & home” [“ASTER[ISK] PULL// POOLED FORTH”]. Clevidence is clearly a poet of large projects, writing expansively and thoroughly against and through an idea, comparable, perhaps, to the work of Winnipeg poet Dennis Cooley in terms of scale. Flung Throne engages with consciousness, mythology, science and the natural world, and the progression of life on earth while writing out a language open to high and low speech, pop culture, slurred and guttural utterance amid and even essential threads of wisdom.


Darwin’s pond the lake
in me Orpheus

the opposite of Lethe

my hound
my sound
my skin
be bright
yr (my) flint-

I remember

split the arrow shaft in me
grown deep | take root

the crack thru me
may yet be a wound in the earth.

// (“APE|ANGEL”)

There is something quite compelling in the way Clevidence combines phrases and language, blending high and low language to propel through sound, thought and ideas. And who couldn’t love any poem, book length or otherwise, that included such as:

heliopteryx abysmal gonad
surround a man


Q: How does the work in “Poppycock & Assphodel” compare to, say, the work in BEAST FEAST?

A: Well.... it’s very different... but what happened was this.  After BF I wrote this long, v dense manuscript called FLUNG THROWN &... well I had just read John McPhee’s “Annals of a Former World” and was obsessed with the evolution of early life on earth, & flung. thrown... like I said super dense & well it felt v serious, something about the evolution of consciousness, to feel grief, my friend Amelia Jackie, The Molasses Gospel, has a line “All the pain is worth it/ all the pain is worth it/ just to have one minute/ alive”... & I was like... uhm really cuz... no.  & just something about the vastness of geologic time & to be conscious in whatever way we, as humans, are, in our human consciousness experiencing this tiny sliver of our experienceable world, for like, what, a blip in time, anyway, and also to be honest I got deep into prosody & was just rereading Hopkins, H.D. & Brathwaite, like, trying to learn, on some intimate level, their respective genius’ w regard to, like, how sonic & prosody & meaning can get wove together, anyway, like I said, it’s DENSE (I was also obsessed w this idea that like, if a book of poetry is 18$ dollars, it should... I dunno take more than 20 minutes to read, or like, I wanted, needed, to write something that felt heavy.  so Poppycock & Assphodel became sort of a minimalist jokey slough-off of shit that was too silly to get put in Flung/Thrown, sort of like a catch-all manuscript for one liner's & dick jokes, to like, shake the density out of me.  formally it’s very loose, but where BEAST FEAST isn’t as tight as I’d like it to be, in retrospect, in p&A the looseness was a foundational necessity, like, I had to walk it out or shake it off after the rigor I tried to put into F/Th. and then like I said it’s a totally narcissistic personal lyric, the scope is v close n small, somewhere between my eyeballs & th world, the lines are mostly short & turn v fast, the rhymes are goofy, & like it doesn’t have a bigger philosophical project that underlies it like both BF & F/Th (tried to) do.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Andrea Abi-Karam

Andrea Abi-Karam [photo credit: Lix Z] is an arab-american genderqueer punk poet-performer cyborg, writing on the art of killing bros, the intricacies of cyborg bodies, trauma & delayed healing. Their chapbook, THE AFTERMATH (Commune Editions, 2016), attempts to queer Fanon’s vision of how poetry fails to inspire revolution. Simone White selected their second assemblage, Villainy for forthcoming publication with Les Figues. They toured with Sister Spit March 2018 & are hype to live in New York. EXTRATRANSMISSION [Kelsey Street Press, 2019] is their first book.

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, “it is a tight little world that we live in and i am [trapped here]”, emerged out of a small chapbook publishing collective called Mess Editions, whose connectivities were formed out of solidarity in uprising. I had had no formal training or mentorship in poetry at the time and mostly wrote one page poems, a couple 2-3 page poems, and some nightmare series inspired by Diane Di Prima. This process connected my love of print (immediacy, untraceable, dispersion) & poetry.

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

I wrote poetry in highschool and then moved away from it to fiction during a heavy Faulkner reading period. My first girlfriend in undergrad reintroduced me to poetry through the works of Marianne Moore & Elizabeth Bishop. From there I geared my english towards 20thCE poets & postmodernist playwrights like Caryl Churchill & Sarah Kane.

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?
My work begins by trying to tackle & untangle large political problems running alongside personal obsessions & inspirations. I’m always writing in to a project, that sometimes becomes a book, a performance piece, a one off poem, or a party.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love giving readings, performing & curating. Facilitating social spaces for queer, trans, radical writers is very much where I began first identifying strongly as a poet. My friend Drea Marina & I co-hosted this series in Oakland, CA called Words of Resistance, an open floor radical poetry night that fundraised for political prisoners’ commissary money. Having upcoming readings is essential to keeping my writing practice momentous, it’s the truest deadline. When I was invited to tour with Sister Spit in 2018, I prepared a performance piece titled “ABSORPTION”; For the performance, I stapled each page of the text to my own body in front of a glitching projection. As the text was adhered to sheets of reflective mylar, or screens, they reflected the projection back at the audience. I did this every night for two weeks on tour, and although this particular element wasn’t necessarily visible to new audiences, the accumulation of the incisions & bruises from the stapler approached the limits of what I could withstand. It was on this tour that I pushed myself beyond bounds of the “poetry reading” into that of performance.

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?
My creative work is driven by intermingled experience & research catalyzed through a critical, theoretical lens. My first full-length book, EXTRATRANSMISSION (Kelsey Street Press, 2019), arose from intensive study of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times by Jasbir Puar, Significant Injury: War, Medicine, and Empire in Claudia's Case by Jennifer Terry, & experiences as a queer/trans arab punk. By applying queer fluidity to Frantz Fanon’s three steps of decolonization, my chapbook THE AFTERMATH (Commune Editions, 2016) attempts to queer Fanon’s vision of how poetry fails to inspire revolution. My second full-length book, Villainy (Les Figues, 2020), is a writing-through of post-Ghostship Fire & post-Muslim Ban grief via desire towards Tiqqun (“How Is It To Be Done”) & Fred Moten’s (Black and Blur) concept of the expansive singularity.

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 very much thrive through creative discipline, deadlines are great, readings are even better. I love the durational, time-stamped somatic rituals of CA Conrad, & I also love timed interval writing just for generating the raw material that may become poems later.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Queer dance parties.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Humid spring.

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?
Performance, Punk, collaboration.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Etel Adnan, Eileen Myles, Juliana Spahr, Solmaz Sharif, Jasbir Puar, &&&&&

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I’ve been deeply immersed in the work of Cecilia Vicuña. I read Spit Temple at the end of 2019 and have been living with her New & Selected Poems which came out on Kelsey Street Press just before EXTRATRANSMISSION.

It’s 2019! I’m constantly thinking about BLADE RUNNER.

19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on finishing my trashy punk romance novel.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

today is my father's seventy-eighth birthday,

And he's been stable for a while now, which is good. Spending this coming weekend there, and then, I think, two more in July.

The last two times I was there, we managed to get him into his gator, and we drove around, looking at things, including the far back of the property (where the new owners are clearing some of the bush and fixing some of the drainage), and down the road both ways, to see what was exactly, entirely, what.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Cate Peebles

Cate Peebles is the author of Thicket, winner of the 2017 Besmilr Brigham Award from Lost Roads Press. She is the author of several chapbooks, including The Woodlands (Sixth Finch Books, 2015), James (dancing girl press, 2014), and 9 Poems (eye for an iris press, 2014). She co-edits the occasional online magazine, Fou, and lives in New Haven, CT, where she is an archivist at the Yale Center for British Art.

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?

Waking up one morning to an acceptance email from Susan Scarlata (editor of Lost Roads Press) for my manuscript was a great moment. I’d been submitting various manuscripts for about a decade at that point and been dreaming of publishing a full-length book of poems since I was a kid; I was super excited, happy for myself, and happy for those poems I’d spent so much time with because they found a home at a press that I’ve long admired. But really, the book has changed my life because it’s introduced me to some amazing poets/humans and expanded my world in totally unexpected ways. And now that I’m a billionaire, I can have massages at least twice a week, so I’m way more relaxed.

Since the book formed over many years, some of the poems are older, some newer. The longer poem at the middle of the book, The Woodlands  was the most recent work in the book and is more like what I’m writing now. There’s less punctuation, more syntactical freedom in the way the language moves, but also perhaps more clarity. I read some of the poems in Thicket and feel very far from them, but when I was constructing the manuscript they still had a place within the world of the book.

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

I got into poetry kind of early. Books were a big deal at my house growing up, so reading of any kind was actively encouraged. I was drawn to the wildness of it and the ability to jump ship from linear syntax, though I didn’t think of it like that at the time. I remember writing a poem for a fourth grade literary magazine and I when I got stuck or couldn’t spell something, I made up words and kept going; some well-meaning teacher got their hands on it before publication and changed the words into something that actually made sense. Even then, I remember thinking “Well, that’s boring.” Poetry has always triggered an excitement in me for the possibilities of language, magic, spell-making. I love novels, too, and more traditional storytelling, and definitely grew up with books and stories, but somehow, I fell into the act of poem writing and the freedom from expected linguistic trajectories when I was first learning how to spell and write and it’s something I’ve never been bored by. 

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 guess I’m both slow and fast. I used to take FOREVER with poems—it was like chiseling and polishing a piece of marble over and over again for years. As I’ve gotten older, the process is faster and some projects are born within a period of months. My chapbooks James (dancing girl press) and The Woodlands (Sixth Finch Books) both came to be in a period of months. Rarely do I write something and feel like it’s born fully formed, so editing is an important part of the process for sure. But I’ve become less of a perfectionist, which has helped the poems, I think.

Lately I’ve been taking more notes by hand because I’m doing the poem-a-day thing this April and I find that it’s helping me see more than I usually do. The poems that are coming out of the notes, though, look nothing like what I’m jotting down, just the image remains. Usually, I’ll start and end a poem on the computer, whether it takes a day or five years from first to last draft, and all the in-between drafts are erased.

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?

Poems begin in all kinds of ways for me. A lot of the time, they come as a response to something I’m reading; I like to pull words from books I’m reading or phrases from magazines as a way to jump in. Sometimes it’s the sound of a phrase, other times it’s an image or thought. A lot of my poems being as the result of some kind of interaction with a piece of visual art, such as paintings, installations, or films; my book is full of ekphratic poems. I try not to restrict my modes of getting into a new poem. I’ve recently been trying out different kinds of prompts, which has reintroduced a sense of fun to my writing; prompts can take the pressure off. I hope what I’m writing now will find its way into a book, but I don’t have a fully formed concept for a book—chapbooks or series, yes.

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

I get nervous about doing readings but always end up enjoying them. Reading aloud is a different kind of interaction with the work, and often it can help the editing process with newer poems.

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 there are theoretical concerns behind my writing, absolutely, but I try not to impose them or say “this is what I’m doing here” because I think that can rob the reader of their own experience. In a general way, I’m always asking “Where can we go with language? What can language do today?” My concerns are lyrically and imaginatively motivated. I enjoy language as a medium. I am often resistant to explicit messages or “meaning as end-point” because that can stifle the possibilities of a poem.  I am more at ease when smarter people than I take on the challenge of parsing my work or delving into the theoretical concerns. Poetry, for me anyway, is all about choosing your own adventure.

What are the current questions? They are such big questions. Such as: WTF is going on here? That’s a common one…how do we do better, treat each other better, value kindness over fear and greed? My poems don’t try to answer specific questions—that sounds impossible to me. I think poetry, as an activity, is often engaging with these questions, and becomes more important the more we’re confronted by a power structure that favors materialism, violence, and numbing out as its favorite tactics---poetry, and the act of writing it, can resist these things. Perhaps it doesn’t solve the problems, but as a form one chooses, as an assembly of voices, it can certainly participate in resistance to our hyper-capitalistic moment, foster empathy, and open readers and writers’ awareness to the world around them. It’s also just a fun thing to do.

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?

Adding to what I said earlier, the writer’s role is to be awake to the world, to be aware, and to create an account based on observations. The variety of the accounts is what makes writing so endlessly interesting. We all have our own accounts, our own imaginings and interpretations, our own identities that can be expressed in in so many unexpected ways. As human beings, writers have a role in culture—writers create much of what we call culture. The TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the poems we read all respond to and enact culture. The role of the writer should be/ is to write from their own self to the other selves around them—that said, I don’t think there’s one, prescribed role other than the writer writes and uses language (in some way) as their medium.

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

My experiences working with outside editors has always been smooth sailing. My chapbooks and my book were all taken “as is”, with most of the editorial process having taken place in the shaping of the work before submission. I seek editorial advice from a select few trusted readers. I’m not opposed to having a very hands-on editorial experience in the future, though. It just hasn’t happened yet. The generous readers and teachers I’ve had over the years have helped shape my poems in so many ways; they are absolutely essential.

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

The piece of advice that has worked well for me, aside from “always be reading” is: “the only failure is quitting.” I don’t know. Pausing or shifting gears in life shouldn’t be mistaken for quitting, though.

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?

A typical day must begin with coffee. I wish I could write in the morning, but because of my job, I don’t get to write at a scheduled time each day. I so wish I was good at early rising, but it takes me a little time to get on board with a new day. Sometimes I run early, and that habit has helped me become more of a morning person, and in an ideal world, I’d write between 9 and 1 pm. But given the constraints of my work-life, I have to be open to writing when the time is there—be it early, lunchtime, a break at work, or right before bed.

One new addition to my routine is getting together once a week with a couple other writers in New Haven. We meet at a beautiful library and just write together for an hour-and-a-half; just having that built in to my schedule has helped me find time on other days to write, and it’s great to have the moral support. There aren’t any requirements—just sit in a chair and write for that amount of time. Magic.

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

Usually I’ll turn to other books of poems. Also, I’ll turn to visual art, old issues of National Geographic that I cut up, or text books that become erasures, music, a long run. Doing these things helps me get out of my head, or away from the pressure of what I think I should be writing.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Humid, late-August air, grass, mud, tree bark. I grew up in Pittsburgh where the landscape is much more lush than you might expect from a former steel town; it’s actually still got a lot of wildness to it. Oh, and at-home hair dye also reminds me home, circa 1996.

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?

As mentioned before, I’ve long been very into ekphratic poetry and I’m also into listening to music while writing. Many of my poems begin with some kind of experience with a piece of visual or non-verbal art. Artists like Joseph Cornell, Andy Warhol, and Agnes Martin have influenced a lot of my poems.

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

I’d be nobody without Gertrude Stein and Emily Dickinson. Their work always gets me in the mood to put some words on the page. My other go-to poets are: Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, C.D. Wright, Lucie Brock-Broido, Wallace Stevens, Susan Howe, Mary Jo Bang, Mary Ruefle, and Anne Carson. There are others, but these are the poets who immediately come to mind when I think of my poetry parents.

Some newer books I’ve been surrounding myself with lately are: Cindy Arrieu-King’s Futureless Languages; Bridget Talone’s The Soft Life; Adam Clay’s Stranger; Jos Charles’ feeld; Jessica Baran’s Equivalents; Rachel Moritz’s Sweet Velocity; Sandra Simonds’ Orlando; and Simone White’s Dear Angel of Death. All of these books remind me of the vast possibilities poetry offers and keeps me excited about trying new things in my own work. 

I also find that my friendships with artists and writers are essential to my life both in and outside the work. Though we haven’t made an issue in a few years, I really enjoyed putting together the online magazine Fou with my friends David Sewell and Brad Soucy; it was a nice collaborative effort that was a different way of participating in the writing community and put me in touch with so many poets whose work I admire.

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

I’d like to write/ publish another book of poems. I’d also like to write a scary novel.

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?

Well, I’ve always had other occupations along with being a writer, so I’ve had the pleasure of testing this question out quite a bit, except the occupation has never been instead of. And while I’ve had periods of not writing much, I’ve never been able to shake the eventual desire to keep doing it no matter how many other things I attempt. I’ve been a barista, an editorial assistant, a cheesemonger, a copywriter, and now I’m an archivist at a museum. I think I’ve finally settled on the right occupation because it satisfies another part of my brain while feeding my writing life. I often wish I’d tried out teaching, and maybe I will one day, but that’s the road untaken that I fantasize about. Again, it wouldn’t be instead of being a poet, it would be in addition to. I can’t think of anything I would’ve done that didn’t include writing as part of the package.

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

A very stubborn, compulsive nature combined with an interest in magic spells/ witchcraft.

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

I’m reading C.D. Wright’s Casting Deep Shade and it’s blowing my mind. I hope it never ends. I haven’t been watching many films, but the last great one was maybe the one about all the cats in Istanbul.

19 - What are you currently working on?

This April, Adam Clay convinced me to try writing a poem-a-day, which I have never done, so I’m working on a series loosely inspired by the painter John Constable’s Cloud Studies; we’ll see how much I keep from it, but I’ve been enjoying the experience of adding to my growing document every day and allowing each poem to take its own shape. Constable’s studies were never intended to be exhibited, because they were his way of taking notes for larger “more serious” paintings, but they’re wonderfully impressionistic, though made before that was a thing, and thinking of my April poems as studies has freed me a little from the pressure of trying to “make a serious thing.” I’ve recently been experiencing a weirdly (for me) prolific phase, so I’m working on a lot of new things, which will hopefully lead to another collection, or chapbook, in the next couple of years.