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 Homemade Engines from a Dream came out in 2007. I don’t think it changed much about my life, other than my own personal excitement about having something like a chapbook that I could put in the mailbox of friends. My newer poems are more meditative and considerate. I hope they are pursuing more meaning, and working to understand time. Everything feels different from 2007. Everything is.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I want to say I came to poetry through the obsessive act of listening to music. A deep and continued listening that at some point transferred over to poetry. I’m still trying to listen.
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 typically don’t think in projects. Though it may appear that Exclusions is a project book, it wasn’t intentionally written to be one. I’m a very slow writer. At the same time, drafts come fairly quickly. But they need to be hidden away and returned to with fresh eyes, and often torn apart and rebuilt over and over again. I just sent a short poem of 12 lines to a friend for feedback. It’s a poem I’ve been returning to for over a year. I still scowl at it.
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?
When I keep returning to an image or an idea continues to show up in my notebooks, I know it’s going to be a poem. Though I’d like my poems to make it into a book, I typically am not thinking conceptually about a book. I’m just writing poems and trust that over time they will speak to each other in ways that will initiate a spark.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Readings are not part of my creative process, but I do enjoy them. Or at least the idea of them. Perhaps, I like the getting together portion, the collective attempt to listen to art. And then the hanging out afterwards. The conversations that take place after a reading are often quite fun and/or scary.
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?
Peter Gizzi stated that his poems “narrate his bewilderment.” This seems pretty spot on to how I feel. I’m not typically answering questions with my poems. I’m more interested in working to appreciate the strange and capture those moments that make me hungry to be alive.
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’ve always thought writers are those that pay attention in new ways. And then riot with language until people listen.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I think having other people read and offer feedback, whether it is an editor, a partner, a neighbor, is essential. Those people kind enough to give your work time, space, and thought can help you see if you are moving in the right direction or any direction at all.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
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 try to write every day, in the mornings when the house is still quiet. And if no writing actually happens during that time, I try to at least get to that state of mind. It may happen on the bus commute to work or a bicycle ride along the lake. I’d say almost every day begins with coffee.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Basketball, music, this truly golden age of television we are living in.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
A little league dugout where someone pissed a word across the walls the night before.
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 think everything influences my work. Landscape has a larger impact than I would have ever thought. It always shows up without my knowledge. Also, music in an indirect way. The same goes for paintings, collages, and graffiti. I walk around with all of it, and some of it works as a sort of motivation.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Here’s who’s in front of me right now:. Laura Kasischke, Mary Ruefle, Kevin Young, Tomas Tranströmer, Richie Hofmann, Andrew Grace, Rosmarie Waldrop, Graham Foust, Anne Carson, Zach Savich, Robert Creeley, Matthea Harvey, and Lucille Clifton.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
A train ride across the country — not necessarily this country.
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?
Is an architect the only correct answer?
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Writing was the only place where I was encouraged to use my imagination.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
19 - What are you currently working on?
Flower bed, sanity, poems, fatherhood.