Jed Munson is the author of the essay collection Commentary on the Birds (Rescue Press, 2023), as well as the poetry chapbooks Portrait with Parkinson's (Oxeye Press, 2023), Minesweeper (New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM, 2023), Silts (above/ground press, 2022), and Newsflash Under Fire, Over the Shoulder (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021). He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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?
UDP published my first chapbook Newsflash Under Fire, Over the Shoulder, in 2021. More than anything, it was my editor, Lee Norton, who changed my life by believing in the work and the play. My recent writing feels lower to the ground, slower, maybe also louder.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Attempting fiction and nonfiction writing in college was how poem writing first happened to me--I'd jot down ideas for essays or stories I couldn't actualize offhand, stuff to unpack later, and littered a bunch of notebooks like that. When I of course never unpacked anything I realized I was enjoying more than anything the poetic potentiality of that shorthand. Then weirdly poems taught me how to reapproach prose with a more poetic posture, which has helped prose feel lively again.
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?
Takes forever, then suddenly it's over. The gathering and positioning of the body and mind is the mysterious and laborious part for me. Once I'm in compositional time, I'm just occurring with the thing and adjusting to it. More and more those stretches/pockets feel like a gift.
4 - Where does a poem or 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?
Poems tend to start as sound for me, in the air, usually when I'm walking or in a space in the day where it feels possible to ask a question, even a basic one, like what now? Then I work something out by hand in a notebook, pen and paper, sometimes many times, then transfer it into a document when the pages start to get so cluttered I can't see the sound/thing anymore. So I go from trying to hear the thing to trying to see it. It's in the document phase, when I'm working with something as standardized text, that it starts to harden into something that feels like a poetic object, as if the ease of pushing something around in a text doc is concurrent with the imminent sense of its hardening. That's when I think I try to feel the poem, fix it until I think I feel it as an organism. Essays actually work similarly, or I've been applying my process with poems to prose writing. Books are still mysterious to me. I have no idea what a book is but I would like to write a good one.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I like readings that are small enough for the mic to feel optional and the reading poems part to feel optional. BYOB!
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?
Lately I'm interested in the aroma of math in poetry.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Good question. Maybe the writer should write. Despite the world and because the world.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I enjoy editorial relationships because they're basically just collaborations to my mind, an extension of the writing process where writing exits the fiction of your control. Which can be frustrating of course, or miraculous.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
If you don't want your porch pumpkin to rot so quickly, turn it upside down on its stem so that it thinks it's still in the ground. (--My grandma)
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to essays)? What do you see as the appeal?
Essays felt possible to me once I'd been reading and writing poems for a while and wanted to try applying poetic patterning to prose. I do think essays are a powerful field/form for showcasing thinking. I admire clear thinking but am not great at it. Essays help me discover moments of clarity though. They let me manage content and information more than poetry, but they can behave like poems. It's the saying power of essays that I appreciate, how they feel directed at a cry for truth. Sometimes you want to say something about something, and you want it to be understood that it's real.
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 write what I can when I can and rejoice when it happens. I'm constantly dreaming of a life where it happens more often and I'm not overwhelmed by the sense of guilt for stealing the time from something else I should be doing.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I usually read good poems or talk to my sister.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Muted kimchi and garlic, mowed lawn smell, tinge of mildew and moth balls.
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?
All of the above!
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Trilce by Vallejo.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Write actually accomplished poems in Korean.
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?
This is all I've got.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
This is all I've got.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Pink Noise by Kevin Holden--a great book by a great poet. I watched Totoro for the millionth time with some kids and my sister the other week and it's the greatest. Perfectly compact, digressive, stirring, fortifying. The kids had a gleeful scream in that scene where Totoro yawns. I can't stop thinking about it. Totoro's mouth is so tiny, like a pinhole, and then suddenly it's so big!
20 - What are you currently working on?
12 or 20 (second series) questions;