Friday, July 12, 2019
12 or 20 (second series) questions with Guy Birchard
Photo by Howard McCord in GB's Victoria apartment June 2010.
1 - How did your first book change your life?
First books are some consolidation.
How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Only Seemly (St. John's: Pedlar Press, 2019) is pendant to Hecatomb (Brooklyn: Pressed Wafer, 2017)—a "codicil"—alike in purpose, unlike in build.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I heard my first lines of poetry out of Danger Man reading Ernest Dowson in the double-agent's antiquarian bookshop, the speck of snaffled microfilm dotting the i of "wine and roses." You may laugh. Vitae summa brevis...
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?
A piece of poetry may germinate from impulse or notes. It then may develop by loblogic. It may want a long time, a very long time, to grow as it must. And, like the face in the mirror, once it fully emerges it might not much resemble its earliest self. "First thought, best thought," is giddy Ginsbergian nonsense: about how many things in this life in this world had you better think twice...
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?
Anything seems possible. Further than the Blood (Boston: Pressed Wafer, 2010) is a compendium of single-page pieces; Hecatomb and Only Seemly, each according to the same motive, in succession required a hundred segments. Aggregate: retrospective (Bristol, UK: Shearsman Books, 2018) collects five long poems in-series; Cigarette Cards (Green River, Vermont: Longhouse, 2009) the shortest. And sweetest.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
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?
Am a pragmatic guy just wondering how to get away with it.
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?
Not daring to speak for others, my objective is simply to provide something good to read.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
By and large, in my small-press life, I have taken my own counsel, but twice, with Baby Grand (Ilderton: Brick/Nairn, 1979) and now with Only Seemly from Beth Follett's Pedlar Press, forty years apart, Stan Dragland hefted a lot of weight and helped immeasurably.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
"Don't try to hold down a steady job."
"Don't rush to publish."
"Make no truce with the second-rate."
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?
You will excite neither love nor poetry by routine. Start early, stay watchful. Luxuriate.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Understand convention is the enemy of imagination. Resort to patience, a cold eye and a cocked ear.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
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?
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Forgive me forfending an endless, diverting, ultimately inadequate list... Reading is everything.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
"You have used up the years and they have used up you, / and still, and still, you have not written the poem." Think about it: "Has gastado los años y te han gastado, / Y todavía no has escrito el poema."
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?
To try art I threw over no successful career, trade, profession or prospect, abandoned no family; there was nothing else to do.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
A poem is a mystery to which it is pleasing never to come to a conclusion. Writing, I felt least hopeless.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Merrill Gilfillan's TALK ACROSS WATER, Stories Selected and New (Chicago: Flood Editions, 2019).
MORGAN: A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT, dir. Karel Reisz, 1966
19 - What are you currently working on?
Answering these thirty-two questions.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;