Saturday, August 31, 2019

queen mob's teahouse : Jeremy Stewart interviews Nikki Reimer

As my tenure as interviews editor at Queen Mob's Teahouse continues, the latest interview is now online, as Jeremy Stewart interviews Calgary poet Nikki Reimer. 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, Vannessa Barnier interviews short story author Zalika Reid-Benta, Melissa Eleftherion interviews Mariel Fechik, Michelle D'costa interviews Mehdi Kashani and then Sivakami Velliangiri.

Further interviews I've conducted myself over at Queen Mob's Teahouse includeCity of Ottawa Poet Laureate JustJamaal The PoetGeoffrey YoungClaire Freeman-Fawcett on Spread LetterStephanie Bolster on Three Bloody WordsClaire Farley on CanthiusDale Smith on Slow Poetry in AmericaAllison GreenMeredith QuartermainAndy WeaverN.W Lea and Rachel Loden.

Friday, August 30, 2019

mai c. doan, water/tongue

if i speak if i articulate this new American body into new American parts if i articulate if i name if i name myself using correct American words if i articulate this non-American this non-American pain give it a non-American origin traceable to a person or place or part of my non-American blood line or body if i name this non-American suffering make it up make it about my symptoms not American history about my symptoms in this non-American flesh but no deeper no darker but no bigger but no further back i become an American narrative ii become a treatable American narrative i become state-sponsored i become an American narrative (“Part 2: WATER/TONGUE”)

I’m impressed with the carefully-precise density of Los Angeles, California poet mai c. doan’s full-length debut, water/tongue (Oakland CA: Omnidawn, 2019), an exploration on loss, trauma, being, ritual, cultural identity and history, and the crushing impossibility of forced cultural assimilation, one that displays itself through, among other traumas, pure erasure: “women were on the frontlines of / rebellion against 247 years of the first Han Chinese occupation of / Viet Nam, fighting for their freedom and autonomy, in the end / when faced with defeat, drowned themselves in the river.” Prompted by “the shock of her grandmother’s suicide,” doan provides voice and weight, composing a powerful lyric on death, matralinearity and cultural acknowledgement. As the poem “4:00 am:” reads:

i sweep. and sweep. and sweep. and sweep.

until the dead is swept up
off the floor

i sweep and sweep and sweep.

until the dead is swept up
and the dead is not
dead anymore.

doan writes in simple, short fragments on death and her grandmother, and family and cultural histories that can’t help but thread together, and through her own body, sketching out her poems through such understated, weighted fragments in a way I haven’t seen outside of the work of Toronto poet Souvankham Thammavongsa [see my review of her latest here]. There is such care and heartfelt precision in doan’s water/tongue, a full-length book as much as it is a single, book-length suite on her grandmother, and the enduring resistance of generations of women to a variety of oppressors, from culture to language to patriarchal to the unknown and even unseen. As part of the second section reads: “BEFORE Chinese occupation brought Confucinism / BEFORE French colonialism brought cows / BEFORE U.S. empire brought capitalism [.]” In an interview with doan conducted by Phuong T. Vuong for Timber A Journal of New Writing (posted May 20, 2018), doan responds:

My exploration of family and history is grounded in fragmentation, loss, and imagination. Because of things like war, premature death, colonialism, assimilation, and language loss, there is no “whole” story to tell. There is a lot that doesn’t exist in the English language (yet) and there is a lot that has never been articulated. When I am writing, I am attempting to articulate with everything I have in me, in all of the languages I know and that come naturally. This includes silence and spaciousness.

In water/tongue and much of my writing, space is what allows me to tell a truer story; it’s what allows me to reflect the experiences I am trying to represent in a way that feels most honest for me. Space is as much text as the words that are written. And in some ways, there’s a lot more that is yet to be revealed or that has yet to be imagined in those spaces. Silence isn’t always empty or quiet. In fact, it usually can be quite loud and overflowing. I feel similarly about the space between text in my book.

Part of the power comes for how soft she treads, how lightly she manages to articulate such heavy material, as doan writes in her “Afterword”:

to write things that have never been verbalized, that have never existed as a verbal recollection, telling, or memory. only as silence. only as physical symptoms. truth is deeper and more multidimensional than what is just said aloud. full of rage and sharpened teeth. i’m not sure what it means to attempt to make a narrative out of pieces that have never been connected outside of my own body. to discipline an ever evolving constellation into something linear and legible. i tried my best to keep my stories free, and yet still to write. to write beyond and in spite of any norms to tell suffering as something weak and digestible.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Ongoing notes: late August, 2019

Where has it all gone? I feel like summer barely began.

Here's what the young ladies looked like a week-plus ago, with Clare Latremouille's horses.

Northampton MA: Zoe Tuck was good enough to send along a copy of her recent chapbook Soft Investigations (Daily Mayhem Books, 2019), a small collection made up of the prose/essay-poem “[Typical Trans Kenkyusha Sortes]” (a piece that won the Stacy Doris Prize and first appeared in Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review), the extended/fragmented lyric “Fly into a page,” and the lyric accumulation “Friday 19 April 2019.” The first piece really struck my attention for how she manages to weave together references to Community, Robert Duncan, Berkeley Breathed, Roland Barthes and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, among others, in a way that plays with multiple directions, odd connections and the direct line of thought. As she writes:

I don’t want to be lonely, even in my poems—especially in my poems, so I started to fill them with quotes from other artists. Didn’t you know that was coming next? Like when Troy in “Community” says that he gets lonely in the shower. That’s when I listen to podcasts about the death of the author or dance in translation and I struggle to make out the tinny sound of my phones speaker over the whirr of the ventilation fan while I lather my armpits with peppermint soap.

The other day I decided that I would hold up Roland Barthes as my model because he’s smart and he writes purdy. And who hates Roland Barthes? Aside from that New Yorker reviewer with the bee in his bonnet (you have read 1 of 4 free articles for this month).

2 and a half years of grad school and I still don’t want to be a man and something vague about phenomenology.

San Francisco CA: I only discovered recently that Canadian poet Lisa Robertson had a chapbook out with American publisher Krupskaya, her Starlings (2017). Starlings is a suite of poems that is “one part of wide rime,” a project that, as her author biography writes, “is her ongoing lyric study of troubadour poetics.” Did I mention that the thirty-page chapbook is also available online through their website as a free pdf download?

Yesterday I cried. It was artless and good.

Spring has its own agony, truly

It involves convolution

For the nudity of one kiss

Joy suffers measure

How tiring it is to disagree with everything!

Then we go visiting, throw our tender runners

Over forest-rim

Starlings. We are breaking into a vast derelict space.

We are the Starling scene in Sterne’s Sentimental Journey.

A caged Starling is repeating in the voice of a Child “I cannot get out.”

I’m fascinated by Roberston’s exploration into some of the origins of contemporary lyric through the tradition of the troubadour, something that easily links to her earlier work on the pastoral, but one that isn’t always explored by those engaged with more experimental types of writing.

some were at the edge of language to

couldn’t live. Some were at the core of

language so couldn’t live either. What if

we forget about language, move into

the natural history of the idea

of guts? Guts or rosewater, very

similar. Rosewater or rime. Uncountrying

by means of rosewater. To make a natural history

of rosewater, penetrate


San Francisco/Santa Barbara CA: The first I’ve seen by Santa Barbara poet, editor and country singer Julian Talamantez Brolaski is the chapbook JULIAN (Krupskaya, 2017), clearly missing out on numerous full-length titles, including gowanus atropolis (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011), Advice for Lovers (2012) and Of Mongrelitude (Wave Books, 2017). There is some thoughtful play in the language of Brolanski’s poems, composing direct statements that shift, switch, bait and twist, including the poem “butterflies are stupid,” the title of which caught my attention immediately:

a butterfly is an example of an idiotic image
not one to idolatrize
they are former worms I guess, not-worms
I was telling nick yesterday about the dangers of idolatry
I gave the example of a butterly like
oh I saw a butterfly you saw a butterfly isnt it magical like
making fun of myself
then I gave another example to holi over coffee at the good earth
he “often” talks about tattoos people shouldn’t get
especially if they don’t have any tattoos yet
I said yeah like a butterfly on your neck
he said oh weird you say so the lyft driver I had yesterday had a butterfly
tattooed on his neck, here, he indicated the throte
and no other tattoos at all at all
then for some reason I was moved to tell you my own
story about the butterfly landing on me
again and again while I was in a patch of sun and outlifted my limbs
I compared it to the rat-dove and its wing
that literally swept over me touched my head touched my hair
like beaudelaire’s wind of the wing of madness
the word he uses is ‘I’imbécilité’  it turns out
the wind of the wing of imbecility or idiocy
but a butterfly is an example of a thing not to idolatrize


(wrong [upward arrow emoji]
but you can tell i kind of know it
hypocrite   like vernon telling of his vision
flying above all the other little christians at the campfire
just dying in retrospect in his own way to be proved wrong)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Stuart M. Ross

Stuart Ross is the author of Jenny in Corona, available for pre-order from Tortoise Books. His work has appeared in Diagram, Eclectica, HTML Giant, pioneertown., The Awl, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and other places. Follow him on Twitter and

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

Jenny in Corona is my first book. Publishing a book is scary. A lot of mixed feelings. You’re throwing this big party and you hope people crash it.

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

Fiction is hopeful. There’s a line in Jenny in Corona about a man who dreams of a human creature unable to shed blood. That’s the power of fiction.

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?

Writing is the only disease that makes the patient pray for outbreaks.

4 - Where does a 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?

Jenny in Corona began with the scene when Jenny strikes Tyrone out and she tells him “one day you’re going to meet another me, but it’s not going to be me, and that’s going to suck for me.”

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

I am the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings. I grew up with slam poetry suicide in the schoolyard and screaming Italians at home. My Harvard and Yale.

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’m not an astrophysicist, so no theoretical concerns. But I think a lot about that line in Dylan’s Nobel speech: “The Pequod is the name of an Indian tribe.” It sounds like a line of poetry by Eileen Myles.

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?

Jenny in Corona is not only about a man’s education, but about a man who wants to be educated. Tyrone says, “I learn too many things I don’t want to learn because knowledge isn’t a separatist.” I agree with his theory of knowledge. Most adults stop learning. Most adults are very good at this, even though they’ve stitched thousands of couch pillows to the contrary. I mistrust people whose stories hold together. Maybe the role of the writer is to pull apart stories.

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

A great editor is every good book’s mistress. Jerry Brennan, who edited Jenny in Corona,  brought new ideas to the manuscript and made it better than it was before.

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

The writer John Weir once told me directly: Stuart, you’re a writer. Sorry. Write or don’t write. Either way you’re going to be miserable. I was eating a burrito at the time.

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 usually write in the morning. Writing is easy. The hard work happens during the day, trying not to overwrite the morning.

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

Inspiration is a good word. The stalled-ness is part of the work. I turn toward the stalled-ness. And poetry with a lot of white space. Listen to Kendrick or Conor.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

The detergent aisle in a red state supermarket.

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?

I agree with Mr. McFadden. Books come from books. But copper comes from Arizona, peaches come from Georgia, and lobsters come from Maine.

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

All writing is important to me. I’m American, there is no life outside of work. Recent books include Adrian Nathan West’s The Aesthetics of Degradation, about rape culture het porn; Eugene Thacker’s Infinite Resignation, a nature writing barn burner disguised as a rousing history of philosophical pessimism; Chris Kraus’ After Kathy Acker, which made me look up ‘magisterial’ in the dictionary; and I feel the urgent need to re-read Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis at least once a year. Recent novels I’ve loved include Laurie Weeks’ Zipper Mouth, Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot and Gerard Reve’s The Evenings.

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

Own a fall wardrobe.

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?


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

I asked my friend Billy how the hell you answer this question, and he said people love it when you say, “I suck at everything else.” Imagine if you could test that. Like you found out Michael Chabon is not only a great writer but also invented the E-ZPass.

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

John Michael Vlach’s Barns. Barns were the first highway billboards. The site of production and advertising. A combination of two Saxon words: bere (barley) and aern (place). Early on, the barn became a standard point of reference for measurement. Anything huge was said to be “as big as a barn”, anyone who made an errant throw was criticized as “not being able to hit a barn.” In 1848 a group of northern politicians earned the nickname of “barn burners” for their opposition to slavery expansion. It originated from a farmer who tried to solve his rat infestation by burning down his blameless barn. A cartoon of the day showed Martin Van Buren, who quit the Democratic party to run on his own ticket, putting a torch to his barn while the extant Democratic presidential candidate jumps off the roof along with the other party rats.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco was the last great film I saw. I go to film for slow drama, for representations of male friendship, for depictions of how men are betrayed by other men. For me, film is a spectrum of men keeping their cool.

19 - What are you currently working on?

I am in that fevered state between books. If roads permitted, I’d drive a Buick to Antarctica.