CM Burroughs | August 1st, 2014

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  1. Where are you now?
Stretched to my full length in a sky-blue lounger, ankles crossed, next to a massive planter of wild flowers and greenery, my mobile to my right, water carafe to my left. On the Japanese-influenced sun deck of my apartment building. Chicago. This is often my favorite place to be relaxing. Away from the thick swatches of tourists on Michigan Avenue, not having to cut my way through meanderers on the sidewalk… I have always known my destinations; of course, one does not seek obstructions. There is no one else on the sun deck; it’s a cool day with rain threatening, so the lifeguard even is not at her post over the pool. 
2) What are you working on and what have you got coming out?
After I finish my answers here, I am opening my document containing recent drafts of poems, to keep up the work of completing them, one by one. It’s no small task, but it’s the most romantic. Isn’t it what young writers (even old writers) dream? To be sitting down only to write, all deadlines behind her or far ahead? I have this luxury right now. So the document of new poems will slowly become a document of at least 30 finished pieces. I don’t reveal anything until the reveal that is publication. I’ve always been an introvert so that inside is everything until there is a deliberate choice forout. Anyway, all of these poems will be going to various journals that have knocked up my door and their editors who’ve waited beautifully, patiently, for me to ready my work. What will come out soonest will be work in Court Green and Equalizer 2.0. Sooner than that, however, I’ll be rehearsing for an appearance at The Poetry Foundation for the August 5th Rush Hour Concert Series, when I’ll take the stage with my graduate student (and very much his own presence as a poet and emerging voice) Andre Price and Quintet Attacca. I’ll also give a private workshop for Rhino in July where I’ll be presenting the notion of writing the body. 
3) Where do you write?
I write from my home, everything there being a surface for the body. My grandfather’s Victorian rocking chair (circa 1901) was my first station of the day. Then the couch, which is an off-white beauty that everyone is afraid of spilling red white onto, tends to be my second stop for the day until I get serious and leave the apartment to wake myself somewhat. A location shift can be good for the mind. 
4) What’s the last best thing you’ve read?
My latest reading material has included browsing the latest political mags for interesting language, Monica Youn’s Barter, and Myung Mi Kim’s Bounty. This is Monica Youn’s second book of poems and directly a favorite of mine. I have been renewing Kim and Youn’s books from the library since May, so there’s someone somewhere very aching for these and peeved with CM Burroughs. Delayed gratification, please! 
5)What journals, writers, presses have you discovered lately?
I’ve honestly been taken up working on my writing and my own journals that I co-edit, Court Green and Tupelo Quarterly, so much that I’ve had no time to discover what’s new. Any suggestions? Anyone? Let me know via FB. 
6) Care to share any distractions?
I enjoy shopping. Anywhere from REI (influenced by my father) to Nordstrom and Bloomingdales (influenced by my mother.) I enjoy the notice of beautiful things, and being among people without the requirement of interacting. At other times, I want to be active and take walks, or, better, grab my bike to go for a long ride on the lake shore path or make it a destination ride to the grocery, boutique, or cafe. I ride a single-speed Felt that rocks my world. Oh! I almost forgot the largest distraction of all— Television. My round of shows (are you ready?): Luther, Sherlock Holmes, South Park, American Dad, Family Guy, Law and Order SVU, 24, Louie, etc.  Distractions and diversions galore!
7)What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to my next visit to Atlanta to see my family. Outside of that, I also have Furious Flower on my docket of travels and conferences. The conference happens every ten years, and I’m going to be in the spot! Columbia College Chicago also has a fly poetry reading series for this coming school year. In the house will be (and it does not get better than this!)
Sept 17 - Douglas Kearney and Ruth Ellen Kocher
Oct 8 - Lee Ann Roripaugh
Nov 19 - Adrian Matejka & Matthew Shenoda
February 18 - Matthew Burgess & Jeffrey Conway
March 4 - Craig Santos Perez & Joshua Young 
March 19th - Gary Synder
April 23rd - Anthony McCann & Lisa Fishman
Forward I go!
0 notes

Tony Tost | July 1, 2014

1. Where are you now?

At home in Los Angeles, where I now work as a screenwriter.

Three years ago, I was finishing up writing a dissertation on new technologies and the modernist poetic imagination at Duke. I was also finishing up a book on Johnny Cash’s first American Recordings album for the 33 1/3 series. Then I went on the job market and realized that I was completely burnt out on both poetry and academia. Meanwhile, a friend of mine had broken into screenwriting, so I took a shot at writing some scripts.

He gave me tips and notes on a couple of drafts of an early project, then introduced me to his agents once I’d written something worthwhile. That got me up and running. After a couple of years of freelancing TV scripts from Seattle and then Ann Arbor, my family and I moved out to LA a year ago.

More specifically, right now I’m in the small guest house in our backyard that serves as my office. I’ve radically pared down my library to just four small bookshelves. I’ve got a handsome little Ikea desk and a laptop. Within arm’s length on my desk: the King James Bible, Norman O. Brown’s Love’s Body, Grant Morrison’s Supergods. A decent stack of books on the Great Depression. The scripts for Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective, as well as the screenplays for Mud (by Jeff Nichols) and All Is Lost (by JC Chandor).

Plus: dozens of 3x5 and 5x7 notecards with scene ideas and story beats and notes-to-self concerning the script I’m working on.

I listen to music pretty non-stop when I write. At this moment, I’m running through a ten hour Spotify playlist I’ve titled ‘Metamodern Hillbilly Soul Music.’ The last five songs were by Kacey Musgraves, George Strait, Fred Eaglesmith, Ashley Monroe and Justin Townes Earle.

Every once in awhile, I get up and go a couple of rounds on the heavy bag that’s out here too.

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?

I just finished up my third season of writing for a sneaky great cable drama called Longmire, which is a sort of hybrid of the Western and the murder mystery genres. It’s about a widowed sheriff in modern day Wyoming who has to deal with a whole heap of shit: his wife’s murder, the local Cheyenne reservation, the quickly accumulating pile of dead bodies in his county.

My first episode of the season just aired last week. I’ve got two more episodes coming out this season. Between the nine episodes of Longmire I’ve written and the various projects I’ve developed both on my own and with various television studios and producers, I’ve easily written over a thousand pages of new material in the last three years.

I’m also raising two young sons with my wife, who is a full-time professor at the University of Michigan. So this is probably why I always look fairly exhausted in photographs.

Now that my Longmire season is finished, I should take a vacation or something. Instead, I’m diving headlong into writing a few things I can’t really talk about yet.

3. Where do you write?

My preferred spot is in my office at home. But I’ll write anywhere.

I’ve never been too precious about writing routines, but switching over to screenwriting has really forced me to expand that flexibility.

When I’m needed on location down in New Mexico, where we film Longmire, I’ll sometimes find myself writing one episode on set between set-ups while they film a different episode. Or writing in the van that takes us from one location to the next. Or writing in the corner while the cast and crew break for lunch. Or, writing on the staged sets when the cast and crew are out filming somewhere on location.

An empty set is actually my favorite spot to write Longmire scenes: I can have the entire sheriff’s station or the local tavern (the Red Pony) to myself. Which means I can act out the scenes and go through all the blocking. Meanwhile, I can hunt around for props or little corners of the sets that we haven’t utilized on screen yet and then work those into the scene.

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?

The great big huge omnibus reissue of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run. I’m not a comics guy, so I’ve been pretty shocked to realize that Grant Morrison is one of my very favorite writers.

Another of my favorite writers is David Milch of Deadwood/NYPD Blue/Luck/Hill Street Blues fame. I’ve been re-reading his Deadwood scripts with a practical curiosity that I’m struggling to keep from curdling (once again) into useless awe.

And I’ve just started reading the plays of Sarah Ruhl, who is pretty magnificent.

5. What journals, writers, presses (or tv shows) have you discovered lately?

TV shows I’ve recently flipped out for: Rectify. True Detective. Masters of Sex. Les Revenants. Enlightened. The last season of Eastbound & Down.

6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?

Seattle Seahawks football. Red Zone football package during the NFL season. Vin Scully calling Dodger games. Old pro wrestling videos on youtube.

7. What are you looking forward to?

Finding out what my characters are going to say and do next.

5 notes

R. Erica Doyle | June 1, 2014

  1. Where are you now?

 

At the dining room table in Brooklyn, my workspace that overlooks my actual desk, near the window that overlooks the courtyard of the building. Birds sing in the trees along the neighbors fences and in their yards as the sun sets. The Christmas lights hanging above the window frame aren’t on, but the amaryllis bulb on the table is making a comeback for the third year in a row. It smells faintly of dirt and the pastelitos cubanos I got in the Miami airport this weekend. A pot of English breakfast tea keeps me awake.

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?

My book proxy just came out last year, and I’m doing readings and interviews behind that. Upcoming is the Lambda Finalists in Poetry reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop, and I’m reading this July 4th weekend at the East Bay Poetry Festival. I’ve submitted some poems recently, but I’ve forgotten where just now.  I’m forgetful, generally, so anyone who knows me knows not to take offense.  That way, when my work gets published, it’s such a sweet surprise, “Why look, hello, my poem!”

I’m participating in a project  curated by Brenda Shaughnessy and Craig Morgan Teicher with the marvelous visual artist Jessica Rankin in response to her new show going up in November. Readings, broadsides, poems in response to the work, la la la!

I’ve got two poetry manuscripts that are sitting around waiting to be revamped.  They’ve only undergone three years of rejections;  my record shows that 8 is the magic number so perhaps someone will publish them in another five years or so.  I am working on two novels, an old one and a new one, one literary and one horror/fantasy. There’s a romance novel that I come back to and from everyone once in a while, depends on where I am in my own dating life.  I’m compiling my various and sundry essays into one project that someone’s interested in taking a look at. I’ve got a couple of children’s book manuscripts I want to do something with and an idea for a new one I’m exploring. I’m writing these pieces on my phone that seem to be memoirish; I’m thinking about piecing them together with some other earlier memoir pieces I’ve got stored somewhere…for some reason, I’m writing on the subway again like I did when I was a teenager, with that same hunger and abandon and I’m liking the results.

3. Where do you write?

I write both digital and analog, in several notebooks at a time, and I have to struggle not to buy more. I love a beautiful notebook, smooth paper, beautiful, lightweight pens with fine tips and ink, fountain even better. I write in my phone and in my notebooks, long prose goes directly on the computer or I dictate it; once, long ago, into a tape recorder, more recently, into my good old phone.

As to location, I write mostly at the dining room table, on the subway and while I’m walking. I don’t write in bed anymore, I’m just too agitated and full of energy when I write, and I am trying to set boundaries for myself so I can truly rest. While I’m walking and writing I’m fairly dancing, I’m so bursting with energy and excitement, even when it’s intense or sad.

I don’t write very well with other people around, I’m hypervigilant and can feel their thoughts. If I wear headphones that helps.

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?

I absolutely loved Americanah, and, in a sort of connected way, The Unaccustomed Earth. It goes without saying that Chimamanda Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri are magnificent writers, so both books are a pleasure to read, and take you along the journey without a hitch or stumble. However, I am obsessed with my own origin story, and how to render that into words.  Americanah captures the experience of being, as her character puts it, a “Non-American Black” so well, it gave me some insight into my own experience as a child of immigrants who was raised in that community and negotiating very similar confusions, assumptions and coming to consciousness. Lahiri’s poignancy was in the back story of the parents, the stories that we children may not know, and thus operate in this new American life in ignorance of that.  The pain as I read how the parents were misread was palpable.  I think I loved them because they helped me understand myself better and taught me how to grapple with those same issues in my own work. The best books do, I think.

5. What journals, writers, presses have you discovered lately?

I am loving Apogee Journal — tagline “Reclaiming the Margins” — started by a diverse group of Columbia grad students, whose mission is to “interrogate the margins.”  It’s beautiful, multigenre, visually interesting, nicely international and queer.  Nepantla is an e-journal for queer poets of color edited by Christopher Soto and supported by Lambda Literary Foundation that is currently seeking submissions for it’s first issue.  It sounds like an interesting project and I’m looking forward to seeing it when it comes out next year. And finally, I love the delicious Bone Bouquet, a journal published by one of my editors, Krystal Languell that publishes exciting, thoughtful experimental work by women.

There are some interesting presses that make me feel like we are having a resurgence similar to the heyday of lesbian feminist publishing.  Switchback Press is a feminist press publishing Morgan Parker’s new book and that also published Monica De La Torre and Jennifer Tamayo, so they are obviously FIRE. Topside Press, a press with a trans focus, published one of my favorite new books, Nevada, by Imogen Binnie and also put out My Awesome Place by the late, great, Cheryl Burke on Signature, their queer imprint. Sibling Rivalry Press, also quite, but not exclusively, queer, has published nearly too many goodies to name, and every time you turn around there is another:  Kevin Simmonds’ Collective Brightness, an anthology of LGBTQ poets on spirituality, the hysterical and touching Corona by Bushra Rehman, The Talking Day by Michael Klein and Burnings by Ocean Vuong. Do they have something to do with the overturning of the marriage ban in Arkansas, their home state?  Methinks so.

 

6.  Care to share any distractions / diversions?

Music from the 80’s, Afropunk, Nora Jemisin’s fantasy novels, Joan Slonczewski’s sci fi, my friend’s shows and performances, talking to my dog, horseback riding, gossip, and watching 30 Rock with my girlfriend. I’m a huge escapist. I also create research projects for myself that may or may not manifest in my creative work.

7. What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to breathing more work into the world until I die.

Bonus questions:

Do you think much about your audience?

When I am writing, I am my audience. Writing is both exquisite pleasure and the most rigorous thinking I do to understand myself and the world. 

After it’s done and I want to share it, I do think about the audience. I like people who like my work. I only pay attention to positive feedback. Whoever doesn’t like it can fuck themselves. I don’t care about them — blah!

 

What do you find yourself hoping for when things get quiet?

More quiet.

What are you afraid of?

Depression. It’s dangerous.

Whom do you wish would come visit you in the hospital?

My girlfriend, Laura.  I was really sick this winter with parvovirus and I had to go to the ER TWICE.  Each time she came with me and enveloped me with calm and positivity for HOURS, and I was freaked OUT.  I am so used to thinking of myself as indestructible that when I experience serious illness I lose my mind and think I must be dying. I just fall apart. I want everyone to come visit me as long as she’s there, because she really made everything all right.

What book would you like (if any) to be read aloud to you?

My mother read to me every night when I was a kid, which certainly led to my love of story.  However, I don’t remember or follow what I hear very well — everyone at work knows that if you tell me something verbally, I’ll forget it nearly immediately; all communication with me has to be written.  I can’t listen to radio shows or anything like that unless I am alone or really, really focused.  It’s annoying.  But I do like to be read to, because I like the sound of the words, the intimacy that is created. I love going to readings for that reason, but I don’t remember what I’ve heard very well at all. So basically, anything read to me is nice, as long as the expectations of me are low!

 

What is the effect of weather on your mood and on your ability to write?

I HATE hot weather.  It makes me grumpy and irritated. People say, Oh but you’re from Trinidad!  And I say, well I’m from Ireland, too. I love the spring and fall and those seasons fill me with incredible energy.  I also love the winter, believe it or not. The summer makes me grumpy and unless I’m in an air conditioned sanctuary, I don’t want to do anything, let alone write.  But in the fall and spring I feel most energetically charged and full ideas.  I especially love a good misty rain.

What do you miss?

I miss my mother desperately.  My aunt, who is now also deceased, told me when I visited her after my mom died, “I’m 70 years old and I still miss my mother every day. It never goes away.”  It’s true.  I’m not crying all day every day anymore, but I miss my mother so very much. She was my biggest fan. We lived together in Queens when I was in grad school doing my MFA, and she used to help me do submissions and stay organized, though I got my disorderly ways from her.  She’d write me notes and sign them, “Poet’s Assistant.”  How adorable is that? 

Where would you like to return to?

Trinidad and Tobago to hug everybody, swim and dance; and especially to Grand Riviere to see the great leatherbacks lay their eggs; Kaua’i, Paris, and Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. 

 

Is there any part of you that cannot manifest itself in your work?

I don’t mix my educator life with my writing.  People constantly ask me if I write about my students, but I am very protective of them. Unless I’m writing about something they said that is about or involves me directly, like saying “faggot” or telling me I look like a “work of art” (!), I have so much access to their private lives and confidences that it seems like a violation to exploit that relationship. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is the only person I’ve seen write about life with students in a way that doesn’t seem exploitative of that relationship.

Who are the writers you return to again and again and again?

Erica Hunt. Jeannette Winterson. Claudia Rankine. Joan Slonczewski. Toi Derricotte. Pablo Neruda. Jorge Luis Borges. Cornelius Eady. Julio Cortazar. Akilah Oliver. Lewis Carroll. Hilton Als. Maggie Nelson. When I want to know how to write something, I open a book and see how one of them does it — if you want to know how to do anything in prose, Toni Morrison — Beloved, Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon live close at hand — will tell you all you need to know.

 

4 notes

Elaine Bleakney | May 1, 2014

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1. Where are you now?

On the drive from Asheville to Penland, North Carolina. Seen from the road: cows in the rain, cows in the sun, logs piled and tied on the truck in front of me, mined gray landings in the mountain, brown mountains with island chains of dark green pine, frail bursts of blossom near the road, BRIDGE FREEZES FIRST, tracks, the Penland Post Office with Becky inside, Conley Ridge Road curving toward the school. This is where I work. On the drive I’m listening to Bark by Lorrie Moore so I feel hyper-verbal and devastated today. Lorrie Moore reads her book herself. She sounds like Meryl Streep. 

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?

I’m emailing with my friend Dan Brady about visual art and poetry. Dan writes these fantastic poetic sequences inspired by the process of painter Eugène Leroy. I’m writing a new prose thing that needs shelter and time—one of the stories from it is in the next issue of jubilat. I’m scheduling and doing readings for my first book, For Another Writing Back. I’m writing about Penland. I’m making photographs. 

3. Where do you write?

I write for an hour in the very early mornings in my office at Penland School of Crafts. The office is a house actually, “Bill’s Place.” Penland’s director in the sixties, Bill Brown, lived here. He was friends with Jonathan Williams, who brought the Jargon Society to Penland for awhile. Williams is quoted somewhere about the fluent connection he felt between Penland and Black Mountain College. Sometime, when I find out how to navigate Penland’s archives, I’m going to dive into thinking about this connection more deeply. Writers have spent time here: Eileen Myles, Lewis Hyde, Christopher Benfey, and a cast of snowflakes I don’t know about yet. 

4. What’s the last best thing you read?

Plath’s horrifying bee poems. This poem by Katie Peterson paired with this felt-pen drawing by Richard Deacon. Also, the last line in the first story in Lorrie Moore’s Bark

5. What journals, writers, presses have you discovered lately?

Last summer I did a sort-of residency at Little Brown Mushroom in Minneapolis and everything went rainbow for me about the possibilities of the book. If you can find LBM’s Iris Garden with stories by John Cage and images of Cage by William Gedney—do. Sidebrow Books, publisher of my first book, has a list that instantly drew me in. I like what Rescue Press rescues. Oh and Dorothy, A Publishing Project. I have almost all of their books. Right now I’m loving Amina Cain’s Creature.

6. Care to share any distractions/diversions?

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7. What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to Lydia Davis’s new book, my son running in green sandals, summer with my family, tacos, wandering. 

2 notes

Brian Howe | April 1, 2014

1. Where are you now? 

I’m in my little house on the rural outskirts of Chapel Hill. It is an unusual house. It’s basically a studio, with a high ceiling and few interior walls and a ladder that leads up to a bright loft, which makes for half a second story. It’s wrapped in a raised deck and cocooned in tall, slim pines, though it smells all of cedar, and it has tiny birdhouse windows above big half-moon ones. It sits on short stilts, like a beach house marooned in the woods.

It was built, I’m told, in the 1970s, by a set designer from Wilmington who used it as a workshop while he lived in the house next to it. One day his 18-year-old daughter, whom he had never heard of before, knocked on his door, and he made the studio into a home for her. It’s beautiful in the summer but very cold in the winter. I have pictures of ice stalagmites in my sink. It doesn’t quite feel like a real house, more like a place you’d rent on vacation. It’s a good place to write. It’s really the only reason I’m still living in Chapel Hill instead of Durham, where I conduct most of my work and social life.

That, and the fear of moving my decrepit piano again.

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?

I recently took a full-time job as culture editor at a weekly paper after freelance writing for a long time—which I’m still doing as well!—so mostly I’ve been working frantically on work-work, devising a new life equilibrium. I’m still getting used to a full-time job, rather than a musical project or something, being my most central obsession. Otherwise, I’m mainly concentrating on finishing a book called Wolf Intervals. Finishing—I think.

My deal is, I spent a lot of my twenties making these poems called F7, where I did crazy things with MS Word’s spellchecker, among other process-y, Internet-y games. By my late twenties I had worked that out, along with my appetite for postmodern fiction, and that’s when I started Wolf Intervals, which was something different. It’s a space where I retreated to try and learn to write poetry, which I previously thought could be anything but had come to realize was something. It took its name from dissonant intervals that disrupt the Western scale, which seemed analogous to the irregular, therefore revelatory, moments of consciousness I seek for in the poems.  

That probably sounds more deliberate and drastic than it actually was. There’s no renunciation. I’ve always liked strange music. It’s just that my focus sank below the surface of image and process, into the rhythm and tone of the line. I got absorbed by prosody. I stopped submitting very much, and read a lot of old poets with new ears. I kept writing modern-sounding things, but they got more personal and metrical. As my perspective evolved between my late 20s and now (I’m 34), the book slowly wrote over itself, and that became important to me for some reason—to let the manuscript be a place that grew with me, until it felt like a mature organism. And maybe, by extension, until I did.

There are a couple poems in it that were written seven years ago and quite a few that were written just recently. It has an arc but it might be too long to hold. I’ve only been reading the newest ones (and I should plug this reading I’m about to give at a cool place called The Carrack in Durham with kathryn l. pringle, Gina Myers et al.). That was a convoluted answer to a straightforward question. This poem in Coconut is the most recent one from the book currently out there. Otherwise, I’m waiting for the free time and the will to collate submissions instead of doing something fun.

3. Where do you write?

I write all day in my office and I write in my house at nights and on weekends. I write down lines of poetry in a small notebook and then I massage them around on a computer screen. I write on my smartphone’s memo pad and I write and rewrite bulleted lists on various scraps of paper. Sometimes it feels like all I do is write. I used to write in coffee shops but now find it too distracting. I could use some time to read soon.  

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?

See above. I’m reading short things because reading a novel or long book is currently an outrageous fantasy. And my focus tends to narrow in on certain poems or passages anyway. Right now, revolving in my head, are the third part of James Merrill’s “Variations: The Air Is Sweetest That a Thistle Guards” and the stanza of Derek Walcott’s “Oceano Nox” that begins, “Black is the beauty of the brightest day…” That kind of compressed, dynamic, choreographic, darkly tinged lyricism is what I crave. I have always liked poems that divulge small talismans or charms you can carry around, inscribed inside you like a rhythm and a tune.

Other memorable recent reads include Tad Friend’s beautifully constructed and deeply moving article about father and son fishing boat captains in The New Yorker and the first volume of Matt Kindt’s mind-bending psychic espionage thriller comic, Mind MGMT. Steven Millhauser and Lydia Davis’ collected stories are still endless founts a few years later. Whenever I have time to read a whole book again, it will probably be Red Doc>, or one of the most recent novels by Jeanette Winterson or Nicholson Baker or Brian Evenson.  

5. What journals, poets, presses, labels, music have you discovered lately?

In the last year I have greatly enjoyed poems by Oni Buchanan (“Has His Smell and Taste”), Joe Fletcher (“Antenna”), Bob Hicok (“Twins”) and many more—and I remain a big fan of Chris Tonelli’s So and So bookstore and reading series in Raleigh. But these aren’t so much new discoveries; my reading is temporally erratic. I’m a huge re-reader, which troubles me when so much still lays unread, but what can you do? I get on certain kicks, too busy still reckoning with old favorites to search for new ones all the time.

It’s easier to keep up with new music, which I do for work, and right now I would recommend new albums by Mas Ysa, Ben Frost, ODESZA, The Range, Tycho and Orcas. And go see Kronos Quartet play their current program, the one anchored by Philip Glass’ new-ish string quartet, if you can, because it’s amazing, and they might slip a song from a Warner Bros. cartoon in the encore.  

6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?

When I’m not going to theaters or nightclubs, or writing poems or making journalism, I like video games and comics, and I like to make strange music—particularly music involving poetry, like this album-length collaboration with Tim Van Dyke, The Lion’s Face. I also like to lay around on the beach, and do things like roller-skating and playing Oasis covers on the guitar and going to the planetarium; these are all worthy diversions I don’t get enough of.

7. What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to things getting quiet.

Bonus Question. What do you find yourself hoping for when things get quiet?

That things will not change for a little while. 

0 notes

Karena Youtz | March 1, 2014

1. Where are you now?  I am in my house under the 45 degree eaves of our upstairs.  [In Boise, Idaho where I have lived for centuries.]

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?  Nothing is coming out.  I am working on trying to find something simple, too near to see.  I want to make a poetry completely non-disruptive, natural, human.

3. Where do you write?  I write sitting on my bed (mattress on the floor) mostly since my desk, meditation space, and bedroom have all been combined into one small room.  My room is downstairs.  This computer is upstairs.  I write generative parts for poems in a large unlined notebook.  I feel like the notebook is the actual location.

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?  I have become interested in people’s body language, facial expressions, and ability to project internal reality onto the surroundings and one another.  Everyone is such a mystery with clues; I read all this and find so many places-pieces where I have no idea or sense what another person’s language means.  It’s almost like giant, unconcluding play (both kinds, but 98% universe activity 2% theater).  I don’t know what’s happening; books seem the same way to me, these vital momentary gestures.  For all that, I have recently been reading the poetry of Don Mee Choi, Emily Kendall Frey, Melanie Noel, Brandon Shimoda, C.A. Conrad, Kate Greenstreet.  All provide a jump into mystery.  The more I read and understand, the more questions I have.  So much opens.  I limited this answer to contemporary poetry because I read so many different kinds of best things.   

5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?  Jane Lewty is a force of intellectual power.  Rauan Klassnik gave a compelling reading here in Boise this fall.  Deborah Woodard’s poems have been dancing around.

6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?  I spend an unproductive amount of time fantasizing about learning to sew.  I also have an imaginary gardening hobby.  I quit pretending to jog because too many neighbors mistook me for a real jogger (I wore running shoes that someone gave me as a visual excuse for wearing sweatpants in public.  I also ran short distances like twenty or thirty feet, but that has stopped.). 

7. What are you looking forward to?  Apart from the translations at the public library,I’m trying to decide which translation of The Cloud of Unknowing to read.  I have really wanted an ice cream sundae for about a week now and predict this will happen soon.

I am going to answer one bonus question:

Do you think much about your audience?  In a public sense, I don’t have an audience.  I write very very privately, but not for myself.  I write for the people who choose to read my work.  They are oxygen to me when I write.  I recently started to understand that I don’t have the social skills or energy reserves to develop some kind of world-navigating poet persona.  It is a hopeful wish in my heart that I could be seen and known by the people who wish to. 

     Why through art?  I experience aesthetics as a core.  Every construction occurs from an ideal of beauty or meaning.  With some poets, there exists aesthetic kinship.  When I read their poems I am already, instantly their related audience.  It seems I belong in their readership.  In my dreams I am always in the audience, filled with anticipation.  I am more audience than poet.

5 notes

Daniel Borzutzky | February 1, 2014

    1. Where are you now?

    I am in another land, having a transnational encounter in an office dedicated to the processing of immigrants. I have been here for several hours. There is no system to determine when I will be called next. I am on an outdoor patio. There are rows of seats in multiple directions. I am in line behind one man sitting in a chair facing forward who is behind another man sitting perpendicular to this man in a side facing row. I am here to give the office money. I am here to give the office money so that they will mark something in my passport that will allow me to sleep in a certain bed that does not belong to me. We sleep in beds that are much too small for our bodies, wrote Thomas Bernhard, in one of his plays (a line later transformed by the great Chicago-based performance group Goat Island) , and I think of this line whenever I see a certain very tall friend who I am sure cannot travel without sleeping in beds that are much too small for her body. I think of her feet dangling off the end of the bed. I think of Thomas Bernhard entering her body and complaining in the most beautiful way about how her feet cannot fit on the bed and how this inability to sleep in a bed that fits her body is an inability to fit into a world that is only out to devour those whose bodies are not able to fit in the beds that the rest of us must sleep in. These foolish beds. These institutional rejects. These foolish feet. These institutional rejects. I am waiting and waiting and finally I am called into a room and asked to sit on a chair The woman behind the desk is wearing beige. She wears a starched beige button down shirt and a matching starched skirt. I say: I need to give you this money so that you can mark something in my little book that will allow me to sleep in a certain bed. She asks: will others be sleeping in the bed with you? I hesitate.  Yes, others will be sleeping in the bed with me. Because I cannot mark certain words in your little book unless others are sleeping in the bed with you. Or unless others are watching you sleep. I say: but who will watch me sleep? She says, if you want me to mark certain words in your book then we must have guards who will watch you sleep. I say: there are guards who will watch me sleep. They will come from the East and they will carry poems and they will read their poems at my body as my body attempts to sleep. But then she looks in my little book and tells me that this is out of her hands. I have no authority to put anything in your little book, she explains. But sister, I say, if you don’t mark something in my book then I will not be able to participate in the culture activities that have officially been designated by the authoritative bodies who control my entrance and exit from the nation. She calls her boss. Her boss says, we must confiscate his identification. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. It happened to me recently. I put my identification card under the laser as I entered a building in downtown Chicago but because my identification card had the wrong numbers on it I was stopped before I could go into the elevator. The security officer said, Daniel, Daniel. I walked to his desk knowing that my card had the wrong numbers on it. He was sitting at the border between the inside of the building and the outside of the building. He said, I must confiscate your identification card. I said, you cannot confiscate my identity card. He said, I have no choice but to confiscate your identity card.  I am thinking about this confiscation of my identity as I am being told by the woman at the office for immigrants that she cannot mark anything in my little book. She sends me to see the cultural attaché. At the office of the cultural attaché they are playing video games. They are playing a video game where you pretend to play tennis, and later they play one where they dance and play the guitar. I ask them if they will accept my money and mark some words in my book so I can sleep in a bed that does not belong to me. They say: this is not our business. I say, whose business is it? They say, it is the business of those who carry special designations that cannot be known by the public. They say, if we mark these words in your book, we will have to privatize our body parts in order to pay next month’s rent. I say, I am trying to obey the law here. They say, we are trying to obey the law here. They say, why did you bring the child here? What good did you think would come from bringing the child here? I say, the child is an extension of my body; it’s presence in these quarters could not be controlled. I sit down on a bench and watch them play video games for hours.  This is where I am now.

     

     

     

    Where are you now?

    I’m with a poet in a café.  He is writing poems.  I am answering the question: where are you now? Years ago, the poet I am with used to hang out with other poets at this café.  One of them would read tarot cards for people in exchange for a bit of money. There’s a pianist in the front room, playing a soft medley that combines Guantanamera with Let it Be.  I think I hear Kokomo, by the Beach Boys, from the movie where Tom Cruise plays pool and makes cocktails.  Yesterday, a poet told me a joke about Tom Cruise that had something to do with an episode of South Park.  I don’t remember the joke.  It had to do with Tom Cruise and maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger was involved and Tom Cruise is hiding in a closet and Schwarzenegger asks him why he’s in the closet.  I think the implication is that Tom Cruise is gay. We are in the back room of the café.  The back room is empty, except for the two of us.  It’s a pretty room with high ceilings, yellow walls and untamed plants.  It takes me a few hours before I see a small white bird in a cage on the wall not far from me.  I don’t know the name of anything: types of birds, plants, flowers, trees.  Nothing.  I’m useless.  At any rate, I imagine the poets gathering here to sit and write poems or talk about poetry or to discuss polemicas.  I remember when I lived in Country X.  It’s the only time I was ever in a writing group. We would meet at a cafê once a week.  The ex-pat poets had been doing this for years, and there had been several poets like me, who passed through for a year or so, and temporarily participated. In many ways, the members of the group {lovingly} hated each other, the ex-pat poets of city Z in country X. There would be very big fights about poems, that were not at all about poems, but were about the impossibility of having friendships with other people in isolated environments that lasted over time when your options for participation in a (non-virtual) literary community were limited to three or four people you knew far too well and {lovingly} hated, and the one or two people temporarily strolling through.  The persistence on maintaining the weekly meetings, despite the fact that the poets didn’t really like each other, was quite beautiful really.  There are certain awkward environments that give awkwardness a good name.  The other night, my friend was telling me about potato chip night, a once-a-week gathering she used to host where poets sat quietly writing poetry and eating potato chips.  I am thinking about this in the back room of the cafê, secretly hoping she will recreate some alternate version of potato chip night in the city she now lives in, where I also live.  In the café, the poet is reading his poems and I am translating them.  There’s a nice line about excrement in one of the poems.  “In the clover, you inhale, still  fresh,” a new whiff of excrement.  How deep is it?” And then the shit gets harvested and stuck in some fingers and the scent reaches the beak of a bird.  I have questions for the poet about the shit in his poems: does the word “profundity” refer to the literal or symbolic depth of the shit?  Is the shit stuck to the man’s fingers?  Or to the bird?  I go to the bathroom at the cafê.  I try to wash my hands after pre-paying some coins for my sheet of toilet paper.  I try to wash my hands, but the water doesn’t go on.  I tell the woman sitting outside the bathroom that there is no running water. She goes to the adjacent lady’s room, turns a knob and the water comes on.  The 2nd time I go to the bathroom at the café the men’s room is occupied.  There is no lady at the table collecting coins for toilet paper.  I step in the lady’s room, where I intend to pee, but there is no handle to flush the toilet.  I go back out and wait for the men’s room to open up.  A few seconds later a bald man in a red and white striped polo shirt comes out of the men’s room, making loud declarations.  I step in the bathroom and realize that he is referring to the shit that is all over the bowl.  I step out quickly and pee in the debilitated lady’s room.  I don’t wash my hands.  I rub my hands with the hand sanitizer I am carrying.  I return to my table and read a line from Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood:  “Stop it! Stop it!…Stop screaming! Put your hands down! You were a ‘good woman,’ and so a bitch on a high plane, the only one able to kill yourself and Robin.  Robin was outside the ‘human type’ a wild thing caught in a woman’s skin, monstrously alone, monstrously vain; like the paralysed mann in Coney Island who had to lie on his back in a box, but the box was lined with velvet, his fingers jewelled with stones, and suspended over him where he could never take his eyes off, a sky-blue mounted mirror, for he wanted to enjoy his own ‘difference.’…She has made her escape again.”  I return to the literature of excrement, outside the human type, and in my head I am monstrously alone. 

     

    Where are you now?

    I am at a car dealership.  Two weeks ago the 11-year old car was hit by a man in Skokie, Illinois; he was coming out of a parking lot and did not stop and smashed into our car, damaging both side doors and the frame (no one was injured).  His insurance sent us a check for  $2747 and some change.  After much consideration, we decided not to put the money into the 11-year old car.  I am in a critical phase in the car negotiation process.  It is Halloween, 8:22 p.m. There is a car salesman dressed as Superman sitting in front of me.  I have just test driven the car.  It was fine.  Earlier, I took my 6-year old son Lorenzo trick or treating in the rain. Twice.  He got sooooooooo much candy and he wants the Switch Witch to come and take some in exchange for a glow in the dark Nerf football.  I am in the car dealership after trick or treating because the sales manager convinced me that the sale price he was offering me would not exist tomorrow, the first day of the month (bullshit).  End of the month quota or dissolution of the best deal of a lonely autumn.  Ha! The sales manager at the dealership promised me “significant extra discounts”, in addition to the sale price, if I came in tonight, Halloween.  He is dressed as Superman, though it is cold and over his Superman outfit he is wearing a winter coat.   Around 3 this afternoon, after much back and forth with the sales manager, I sent him the following email (channeling Thomas Bernhard):

                Dear Sales Manager,

                I will come in tonight but only with the understanding that, as you have repeatedly stated, there will be       “significant, additional discounts.”  Please have these discounts detailed for me upon arrival.  I have a   credit score of XXX, if that’s helpful information.  

                So, here’s where we are right now: the price is at $XXXX and there will be “significant additional discounts” subtracted; I am bringing in a car to trade in and I don’t have the title, which you have      assured me is not a problem.  

                I may not be in until about 8 tonight.  

                I can tell you up front that I’m not interested in the following items, so please ask that they not be offered:  

    1. 1.     rust proofing
    2. 2.     Fabric proofing
    3. 2.     Paint protection
    4. 3.     Vin etching
    5. 4.     Extended warrant
    6. 5.     service plans
    7. 6.      wheel and tire protection
    8. 8.     theft protection
    9. 9.     car alarms

    I don’t want to get involved in the usual haggling, so make me a strong offer and we should be able to make this work.  And please know that I will walk out if I feel at any point like the original terms have changed, or if additional fees that we have not discussed already are included. And also, please do not neglect to include, the “significant, additional discounts.”   

    I am sitting in the salesman’s cubicle; his name is Craig.  Craig is trying to get me to mark my initials on a piece of paper to show that I am committing to purchasing a car tonight if the numbers work out right.  I laugh.  Let’s just work on the numbers, I say (tough guy!).  He is likable, this salesman.  He is jovial and not intimidating and he is dressed as Superman, which is a good ploy for a guy who wants to steal your bones.  He asks me what I want to pay.  I present an offer.  He has just gotten up to discuss my offer with his manager.  (I brought my laptop, incidentally, to the car dealership so that I could document this moment for the “Take Down the Clouds” section of The Volta).  Craig has been gone a long time.  There is classic rock playing in the show room.  I wish it were Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock-n-Roll”.  Instead, it is John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Little Pink Houses.”  I’m nervous.   And I really have trouble making decisions.   I can’t even pick out a hat for the winter.  This weekend I went to 5 stores and I could not find a winter hat that suits me: a soft 100% cotton hat in a brightish color.  No one makes 100% cotton hats anymore.  I am in a quandary about buying a hat for the winter (I lost my old 100% cotton one) and I don’t know what to do.  You can imagine how hard it is to buy a car. 

    Sitting in Craig’s cubicle, I send a text message complaining about being at the car dealership.  I am starting to get hungry and I wish I had a granola bar.  This would be a good time to discuss that little poem by Robert Creeley about buying a big car in order to fend off the darkness that surrounds us.  But  I have always resisted that poem because it doesn’t have enough words in it.  If you’re going to write a poem about the darkness that surrounds us, how can you be so contained?  I don’t understand containment.  Don’t much understand line breaks, really.  Don’t much understand the so-called value of using language ‘economically.’  One needs to make a mess to write about the darkness that surrounds us.  It’s dark out there, for Christ’s sake, look out where yr bloody going.

    Where are you now?

    I am in a sauna, jotting down notes on a desiccated newspaper, the Red Eye, a free newspaper that one gets in Chicago from people who stand outside of el stations.  I am jotting down notes above a caption that says “The Best Shot is a Flu Shot,” a snapshot of the literature of infection.  There is a clean cut looking soccer player named Gonzalo holding a white and green soccer ball.  He is the face of the flu shot.  I have just put the newspaper down.  I am now completely alone in the sauna.  A handsome man with a tattoo of a red bird on the small of his back has just left the sauna.  He did not shut the door.  I get up to shut the door.  I am alone in the sauna.  I stand above the coals, dump several scoops of water on them, and take many breaths in and out rapidly through my nose, which is always clogged.  I then put a towel over my face and take big breaths in through my nose and then I take a tissue and try to clear out my nose in an attempt at clearing my impossibly stuffed sinuses which perhaps have some connection to my dizzy spells.  With some regularity, I have dizzy spells, where I feel like I may fall over and faint.  A doctor I saw thought it might be because I have low blood pressure, because she discovered my blood pressure dramatically drops when I quickly go from sitting to standing (others tell me this is normal).  She wants me to have a tilt-table test.  This is when a cardiology crew straps you to a table and inverts you to see what happens to your blood pressure (mine will drop, dramatically).  I have not yet had a tilt table test but if I am ever on a tilt table I will answer the question where are you now by saying: I am on a tilt table, inverted, and my blood pressure is radically dropping.  When I step off the tilt table, I will drink Gatorade and eat salty crackers to get my blood pressure back up to “normal.”

    Where are you now?

    I am in my office, on the internet of course, reading a section of the Red Eye called “Tracking Homicides in Chicago.”  In red, underlined at the top of the screen, are the words:  No Chicago Homicides for 5 Days.  As of October 30, 2013, 29 homicides were logged in Chicago in October. By contrast, 41 homicides were logged in October 2012.  At the bottom of the page are the list of victims killed between October 26-October 29, 2013.   5 black males, 1 white male, 1 white female. Ages 17, 23, 30, 33, 39, 48, 54.  I click away from the Red Eye.  I have just written, and deleted, twenty two lines about this article in the Red Eye.  Now, I am being interrupted by the sound of incoming emails: a pleasant chime to alert me to a problem that needs my attention.  In fact, it’s not a problem.  It’s an invitation to a Webinar.  The topic of the Webinar is data: how to use data to better measure student success.  I am obsessed with data.  It reminds me of who I am, of who I should pretend to be. 

    Where are you now?

    This is a funny question.  I wonder now why you want to know where I am.  The other day I had a a medical evaluation, and the doctor asked me if I ever thought people were conspiring against me.  I said that the only people who were conspiring against me were the ones who were out to get me.  It was an attempt at a joke and he didn’t laugh (wasn’t funny?).  He wanted me to explain who I thought was out to get me and why I thought they were out to get me.  I didn’t want to tell him about the people who were out to get me.  There really are people out to get me. I could have listed them for him, but frankly it’s none of his business, and just because there are people out to get me doesn’t mean I want to take drugs to correct this.  Sometimes, people really are out to get you, and it’s okay to admit this.  It’s okay to admit, sometimes, that actual human beings in the actual world are actually out to get you.

     

     

    Where are you now?

    I am on the corner of Sheffield and Wellington in Chicago, a crumbling city.  There is a Fish Bar next to a Burger Bar and I am standing outside of these places thinking with sincerity about how pleasant it will be to sit in my therapist’s office.  I am thinking about how my answer to this question, where are you now, should in some manner be connected to poetry.  I am thinking about a poem that I might anecdotally insert into my response.  I am thinking hard but all that comes to mind is “because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me.”  I do a sing-song rendition of this poem in my head (I have it memorized).  And then I think about this really embarrassing thing that happened when I lived in a dormitory in college, involving the recitation of poetry from a balcony overlooking a quad on a sunny afternoon.  Soon after this day I would drop out of college, flip a moving truck on the highway, and have panic attacks for the next several months.  “Time,” as they say, “keeps on ticking, into the future.  “They say that time assuages,” wrote Emily Dickinson, and in the rest of the poem she goes on to tell us that this idea, that time assuages, is a load of fucking shit.  Where are our conceptualist heroes when we truly and actually need them?

    Where are you now?

    I am in the waiting room of my therapist’s office.  This won’t take long.  My therapist is very punctual, but I have arrived it a bit early so as to be able to take down the clouds in another quotidian location.  On the table next to me: a stack of magazines and an enormous container of hand sanitizer.  Whenever I see hand sanitizer, I think of a question a man once posed to me in the bathroom at a place I once worked, where there was the option of cleansing your hands with either soap or hand sanitizer.  “Do you soap or sanitize,” he says, in my memory or mis-memory of this event.  It is uncomfortable when people talk to you in bathrooms.  It is uncomfortable when people in bathrooms refer to the mechanics of going to the bathroom. “I use both soap and hand sanitizer,” I said to my colleague; I immediately felt ashamed because I did not understand the truth content of the lies we were sharing.  And little did this man know that his inquiry, about whether or not I use soap or hand sanitizer, would become something I would obsess over for years.  It’s referred to in at least 5 poems I have written, and in my poems/dreams I am always wondering just how sanitized a body can become if it rubs sanitizer all over itself.  Really what I am wondering is just how infected a body will become if it rubs or refuses to rub sanitizer all over itself.  In one poem, I wrote:  “I often don’t know where to stop when I start to think about bodies.  On the street they are piling up and the little bombs are falling. It’s like this everywhere.  We sit in our cubicles and sanitize our hands.  Do you sanitize or do you use soap, said a man to me in the bathroom at the office the other day.  We were about to crunch the numbers in order to assess just how badly our bodies had been broken and we wanted to make sure we did not spread germs amongst ourselves. From the window we can see one of the tallest buildings in the world.  It’s filled with the potential to fall in so many innovative ways that I cannot help but make a confession:  I like to think about bodies and what they are like when they are in piles or sinking in the street.  I am obsessed with decomposition; it reminds me of who I am.  You know it’s like this everywhere.  You have this thing, this body, this appendage, and it’s attached to you and it grows and grows even though you don’t want it to.”  And the words went on and on.       

     

    Where are you now?

    I am on an airplane. I have just boarded.  I am about to leave for Xi, where I will spend the night in a hotel airport before flying to Zi.  In Zi I will meet poets and document poets and poetry.  It’s snowing wildly in Chicago.  Earlier I called a cab but the cab never came because of the snow.  With no winter coat on and summery shoes, I trudge out into the snow and after about ten minutes I find a cab.  Déjà vu of doing this same thing in February, 2011 after another great midwestern blizzard.  This was a few days after I returned from South Bend, Indiana, where I gave a reading with Raúl Zurita (I had to get to the airport, but I couldn’t get a cab because cabs couldn’t turn onto our street).   Zurita got stuck in South Bend.  I offered a sympathetic comment and he said:  “I’ve been stuck in places a lot worse than this.” In the blizzard I took a train back to Chicago with the poet Ryan Downey.  In South Bend, the train station is at the airport.  We said goodbye to Johannes and Zurita (who was there to catch a flight that would be cancelled) and we got on the train to Chicago.  It should have been a 2 hour train ride, but with the blizzard it took over four hours.  There was a Spanish couple on the train; they were a bit older than me and they had boxes of enormous electrical equipment, like amplifiers and speakers and things like this.  They were trying to get to O’Hare airport.  I think they had gone to Indiana to purchase these enormous boxes of electrical equipment to take back to Spain.  They didn’t really speak English and they approached us with questions and were relieved I spoke Spanish.  They had a flight scheduled at O’Hare, which had been cancelled.  They couldn’t figure out how to get a hotel at the airport.  We called a few hotels by the airport, and they were all booked up.  I knew of a hotel in downtown Chicago where a relative worked.  I made them a reservation.  And when we got off, hours later, in downtown Chicago, it was perhaps the coldest air I have ever experienced.  I had to walk a few blocks to get to the L-stop; they had to walk a few blocks with their insane amount of boxes of electrical equipment through the frigid blizzard  I directed them north on Michigan Avenue and told them to take a right on Wacker.  Did they make it?  I remember running backwards to shield my body from the wind.  I remember now that Ryan Downey wrote about this experience in his HTML Giant  review of Johannes Göransson’s entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate.  Ryan wrote:

     “Outside of Gary, Indiana, hometown of Michael Jackson and boarded up high-rises, fellow rider Daniel Borzutzky assisted two Spanish tourists in finding and booking a hotel. We were THE NATIVES, asking questions. I scrawled a rather rudimentary street map containing a cross-section of downtown Chicago. We were coming back from a multi-day reading and discussion surrounding (and involving) Chilean poet and activist, Raúl Zurita. Zurita was THE PASSENGER as he awaited his plane at the South Bend  Regional Airport. But Zurita was also THE PASSENGER in 1970′s Chile under the Pinochet regime. He was also a native if not expressly THE NATIVES. We leak between these categories. Pageantry of interrogation./Pageantry of mall culture./Pageantry of sex.Pageantry of cinema/Pageantry of politics./Pageantry of high school proms./Pageantry of theory./Pageantry of shimmer.

    Where are you now?

    American Airlines flight 1565, seat 19C.  I have put my cellphone in airplane mode.  It looked like we were were set to take off then everything suddenly went dark, and quiet, and the engine shut off. Spooky.  The woman across the aisle from me, in 19E (center seat) has a 3-seater to herself.  I’m on the aisle.  A father and a teenage daughter are next to me.  She is reading from a Kindle.  The woman in 19B is furiously fanning herself with the safety instructions card.  When the lights go off, she says, too loudly, “Oh Crap.”  Behind her, in 20D, a middle-aged man in a white and pink, thick striped dress shirt and blue jeans with his shoes off (beige socks) has his head back and is already snoring.  To be able to sleep so easily.  What a pleasure that must be. It’s a weird moment on the plane.  You know these moments.  It’s very quiet.  We should have taken off, but we are still sitting on the tarmac.  No one has gone on the intercom to update us.  I rehearse some clichéd thoughts in my head:  If I die on this airplane, what will my life have been?  Who will have loved me? What will I have left behind?  The silence is atrocious.  I’m not afraid of flying.  Sitting still, on the other hand, is horrible.  Earlier, in the taxi, I sat in the back seat, facing a sign with the various fees associated with cab travel.  The Vomit Clean-Up Fee is $50.  Wonder why there’s no barf bag in the taxi.  I don’t envy the cab driver who has try to wheedle (first time I ever wrote this word) $50 off the drunk who has just vomited all over the upholstery.  How will collection of the fee be enforced?  What are the practical implications for the cab driver?  How far must he go to try to get the $50 off the guy who just puked in his cab.  On the other hand, what if someone is genuinely sick?  What if I call a cab to take me to the hospital and I vomit on the way?  Will I still be charged $50?  For many years, a good portion of my poetry was devoted to vomit.  As a child, I was a puker.  As a poet, I am still a puker.  I continue to have a very weak stomach.  Do not invite me on a ship or a boat ride in a body of water with waves.  I will spew overboard. We discontinue this narrative about vomit and begin a new one about the woman in 20C sitting next to the sleeping man in 20D.  She is also asleep, thinking philosophical thoughts.  Her head is in front of her, down on her elbows. She makes a nice contrast to the man next to her, snoring with his head against the head rest which has surely not been wiped down with a bleach wipe.  The woman in 18C is filing her nails.  She is nervous.  The pilot has just made a confusing announcement.  Once we push back, he says, it will be another 20 minutes till take off.  But when will we push back?  When will we start to fly?

    1. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?

    In December 2013, Chicago’s Green Lantern Press published a chapbook called Data Bodies.

    In 2014, Insert Press will publish a chapbook called Memos for the Rotten Carcass Economy

    In 2014, Bloof Books will publish a chapbook called Bed Time Stories for the End of the World! 

    In early 2015, Nightboat Books will publish a full length collection called In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy

    I have just finished a full-length collection called Bed Time Stories for the End of the World!

    I am working on a translation of poems from Raúl Zurita’s anthology ZURITA, which was published in Chile in 2011.  This translation will be published in late 2014 by Action Books, and the book will be called The Country of Planks

    I am working on a Neo-Benshi performance to accompany an episode of Speedy Gonzales, the fastest mouse in all of Mexico.  

    1. Where do you write?

    See question 1 (Where are you now?). 

    Earlier, I wrote while sitting on the couch watching Ghost Busters with Lorenzo.  I was impressed by Harold Ramis’ performance but thought that Bill Murray was ridiculously bad.  I enjoyed Rick Moranis’ performance and liked seeing Sigourney Weaver levitate over a bed while possessed by ghosts from the ancient era.  I wrote some lines about the implications of Ghost Busters in the aftermath of 9/11 (what a pre 9-11 movie!).  As I sat on the couch watching Ghost Busters, I listened to Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” on Youtube (headphones).  I thought about ghosts and pulled up an article from the New York Times from May 20, 2013 whose headline reads:  “Arizona Desert Swallows Migrants on Riskier Paths.”  Beneath the headline is a photograph of “the skeletal remains of a migrant, found by hikers in April” and “stored at the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tuscon.” I then moved into the guest bedroom, in the basement, which is connected to the room where the television is.  I worked on a poem while lying on the bed.  I cut and pasted the following line from the article into a poem I was working on:  “In the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office here —- repository of the nation’s largest collection of missing-person reports for immigrants who have vanished while crossing the United States-Mexico border —- 774 sets of remains awaited identification in mid-May, stored in musty body bags coated in dust.” I returned to the couch to watch Ghost Busters and I continued to write.  Lorenzo keeps asking when the Muffin Man is going to appear.  He means the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the phantom that visits Dan Akroyd’s mind at an extremely inopportune moment. 

    I write in other places: the kitchen table; coffee shops; doctor’s offices; parks; the gym; bed; cemeteries; car dealerships; presentations on the new Data Democracy that will radically impact higher education; in a circle with my students; in the bathroom; whilst driving my new car; on the #80 bus; at the doctor’s office, etc…  I write at poetry readings.  In Faculty Council meetings.  I write while I read.  On airplanes.  Etc…

    1. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?

     

    Pedro Pietri’s play The Masses are Asses

    5.  What are you looking forward to?

    Not feeling so terrible all the time.

    The end of neoliberalism.

    1. Care to share any distractions / diversions?

     

    Distractions and Diversions for the Rotten Carcass Economy

    I look for dead things (diversion)

    I find dead things under bricks (diversion)

    There are always more dead things under bricks (diversion)

    But I don’t want to look for them out of fear of discovering them (distraction) 

    All the same I have to find them (diversion)

    But the owners of the dead things are gone and I need to get on with my life (diversion)

    There are living things that need me (distraction)

    I am distracted by my career, the deaths I need to document

    In the city I am distracted by the poems the poets write about orgasms

    I care about orgasms, but not the way I am supposed to (diversion)

    I fid tiny things under bricks (diversion) and in my free time I write poems to them (distraction)

    But the editors are always saying: we would prefer it if you wrote poems about orgasms (distraction)

    What kind of poems about orgasms? (distraction)

    Oblique ones in which the orgasm is a commodity whose value in the literary marketplace can only be       understood through the most subtle form of capitalist discourse (diversion) 

    Orgasm for orgasm’s sake, is a mantra repeated often these days (diversion)

    There are orgasm poems everywhere and the little things I keep finding under bricks are not, I am told,        appropriate subjects for the present moment (distraction)
    It’s not my fault I keep finding dead things under bricks (distraction)

    I too like orgasms, but it’s sometimes hard to access desire when death is just so near to your body (distraction)

    Hated that last phrase (distraction)

    Revised it over and over again so it didn’t sound like advertising copy (distraction)

    But the editors want poems that sound like advertising copy (distraction)

    Once while we were finding little things under the bricks, we made some calculations (diversion)

    I’ll give you fourteen orgasms in exchange for private information about how to craft the appropriate            language when writing an orgasmic poem about the destruction of our village (economics)

    Take away my entitlements, please, I don’t care much about my body anymore (distraction)

    Young men in our town fantasize about privatizing the bodies of older women with a vast array of    experience (diversion)

    Older women fantasize about privatizing the bodies of young men with no experience (diversion)

    I was looking for little creatures when I found used condoms buried under the rocks (distraction)

    Inoculation which also helps to prolong the sexual act due to issues of friction and lubrication (diversion)

    (Distraction) I am sexually attracted to the smell of injustice

    (Diversion) I would rather imitate my own body than imitate the body of someone whose body is more poetic           than my own

    (Distraction) poetry which uses the orgasm as a way of making sense of so many senseless tragedies

    Being alive is a senseless tragedy: this is the subject of at least 94,000 American poems (distraction)

    Too many men writing sexual poems in couplets these days (distraction)

    It’s like so Hiroshima Mon Amour of you to write poems about getting laid during the documentation of a foreign      tragedy that is not your own (diversion)

    But my poems only discuss sex as a means of critiquing war and capital (distraction)

    Googled myself again this morning (distraction)

    Nothing new

    I am terribly afraid of disconnection (diversion)

    I need to hold onto your body as I search for other bodies beneath the rocks (distraction)

    I should take a little break, eat a little lunch then come back and make this poem more intense (diversion)

    Peanut butter, banana, yogurt, dark chocolate (diversion)

    Now I’m ready to tell you something (distraction)

    Found some bones beneath the sand and I gave them to a man who claims to be able to identify to whom the        bones belong (diversion)

    I found a foot in the sand (distraction)

    It was still wearing a sock (distraction)

    I put the foot with the sock in a plastic bag and put it on my mantle and imagined it was my father’s foot and at       night I took the foot out of the bag and I caressed it (distraction)

    (Diversion)  Obsession with decomposition

    Summary: rhythm and cadence could use some work but the themes are suitable, easily relatable for a       sophisticated, contemporary audience

    (distraction, distraction, distraction)  

     

 

 

4 notes

Jennifer Tamayo | January 1 2014

1. Where are you now? 

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&

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2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?

Right now now, I am finishing a video-remix of a YOU DA ONE salon reading for an upcoming issue of Everyday Genius. Here is a still:

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& finishing edits on my second full length book by the same title, YOU DA ONE,  to be published this year (2014) by Bruce Covey and the lovely team at Coconut books. It’s a collection of writing and images I generated between July 7, 2012 and July 7, 2013 in preparation for a trip I took to my native country -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeland- Colombia, that very summer. I met my biological father- https://www.google.com/search?q=alfred+molina&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=f0GrUridNMbIsASE84KoBw&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1006&bih=635- on that trip— and I had questions about the positioning of a/the daughter figure and the ways that role (read: pose, gesture) could be interrupted and repurposed.

In the near future, I have art and writing coming out in Beyond the Field: New Latin@ Writing from Counterpath, and I am producing a limited edition print copy of I AM MEG RYAN; RUNNING FROM THE NAZIS, a project I collaborated on with poet Carina Finn.

Oh- yes-  and Futurepoem!  We have two new titles readying for spring and AWP: Wendy S. Walters’s Troy, Michigan and Samantha Giles’s deadfalls & snares.

3. Where do you write?

I have kept a strict writing ritual that I’m in the midst of breaking à  6:45-8:45AM Desk. Lamp. Window. I want something less tied to when and where and more tied to atmosphere. Regimen has turned into a safe space and I’m trying to find unsafe places for writing.

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?

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5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?

 Very lately: LESLEY DILL.

 & in October, I also had the pleasure of [FINALLY] seeing LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs perform from Twerk (Belladonna*, 2013) and my heart was like a thing in my chest again.

& Ian Hatcher’s performance work. His readings have been some of the most memorable for me in the past year.

& I’ve been enjoying the recent Spork Press productions, so lovingly bookish.

6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?

Painting? Can I say painting? & dress making? 

I’m putting together a dress called “You-Will-Always-Be-a-Hologram-To-Me”; the base is made from pieces of a black silk organza dress that belong to my partner’s deceased grandmother and is adorned with small doll arms that extend outward. It has a little hook for its latch that scratches the skin when worn.

& here is an abstract from a new project on labor/something I’m putting together in my studio in Brooklyn:

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These are impressions made by trash/non trash materials— artificial flowers, tooth brushes, money, nail clippings, microchips, DVDs, dog fur, drool, etc.—  where the object/art tool in question becomes trash in the process of usage and then, at its most decrepit and pathetic moment, gets absorbed in the ‘final’ project, perverting its trashiness.

ALSO! the video game Papers, Please where you play a consular officer who inspects immigration documents and decides who is eligible to enter the country and who needs to be detained and questioned.

7. What are you looking forward to?

Tenderness.   Tenderness in 2014.

7 notes

Evie Shockley | December 1, 2013

1. Where are you now? 
In the room I sometimes call “my office,” sometimes call “my study,” and sometimes call “the eagle’s nest” (because it’s relatively high up from street level).

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?
I’m working on a long poem, which is quite a different challenge for me than the poems I have written before (and still write, when I can’t get my momentum going on the long piece).  I’ve written a lot (as a critic) about long poems in the last few years, but I am gaining a new perspective on and appreciation for them as a result of trying to write one myself.  If and when I finish it, I hope very much it will come out.

Meanwhile, I have a few critical pieces that were just published or forthcoming this year: a short essay on NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!in relation to conceptual poetry will appear in Jacket2 sometime this fall; another on the poetics of Russell Atkins is in the still-new-ish volume on his work in the Unsung Masters series, published by Pleiades Press; and an article on visuality in contemporary narratives of slavery (treating Thylias Moss’s Slave Moth and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World) is in the just-released collectionContemporary African American Literature: The Living Canon, out from Indiana UP.  And I have poems forthcoming in FENCE, Feminist Formations, and the premier issue of The Account: A Journal of Poetry, Prose, and Thought.

3. Where do you write?
Here, in the eagle’s nest; in the living room, in my comfy chair; on the subway and NJ Transit, during my commute; on planes; when I’m lucky, at residencies and writing retreats; in coffee shops, from time to time — anywhere that I can have quiet (or a steady hum of background noise) and not be (or have to worry about being) interrupted for a good 30 minutes or more.

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?
I just yesterday picked up Saeed Jones’s chapbook, When the Only Light is Fire, and have been blown away by the first ten pages.  Speaking of fire, I’m also in the middle of Brenda Hillman’s latest, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, the final book in her tetralogy on the elements, and feeling stunned by the breadth of her accomplishment across that series.  And I have to shout out Frank X Walker’s new collection, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evans, a book of persona poems in the voices of the people closest to the life and murder of an important Civil Rights activist.  He passed it along to me at the end of my visit to a wonderful NEH Summer Institute on African American poetry at KU, and I read it cover to cover on the plane ride home.

5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?
I encountered the work of Cynthia Arrieu-King for the first time this summer and am very glad to now have a couple of her books to savor.  I mentioned above the new journal The Account, which I “discovered” by way of being invited to send them some work (a lovely and flattering gesture).

6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?
Lately, I’m indulging my passion for theatre.  I’ve subscribed in the last 2-3 years to seasons at Signature (where I just saw a fascinating play about the relationship of books and technology: stop. reset., by Regina Taylor), Classic Stage Company, and The Public, but will try to make time for other things that look exciting, whether on Broadway or as far off-Broadway as Brooklyn.  I’ve met a lot of playwrights this year, thanks to a residency (MacDowell) and a retreat (AROHO) that were multidisciplinary, and I’ve already seen plays by some of these folks (Eliza Bent’s The Hotel Colors and Daniel Pearl’s A Kid Like Jake) and am on the ready for others (especially anything by Ellen McLaughlin).

7. What are you looking forward to?
Some forthcoming and just-released poetry books I am very excited for: Kamilah Aisha Moon’s She Has a Name; Harryette Mullen’sUrban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary; Lee Ann Brown’s A Crown for Charlotte; Reginald Harris’s Autogeography; and Randall Horton’s Pitch Dark Anarchy.  Looking forward to a great season of readings on my campus in the Writers at Rutgers series (free and open to the public, walking distance from the New Brunswick station on NJ Transit); Mark Doty has put together a very international line-up this year: Zadie Smith, Adam Zagajewski, Jeanette Winterson, Ghassan Zaqtan w/ Fady Joudah as translator, Salman Rushie, and Geoff Dyer (not in that order).  Looking forward to reading Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, as soon as I can find the time.  And, having recently moved, I’m looking forward to simply having all the boxes unpacked, at last.  I’m not there yet, but getting closer. 
2 notes

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs | November 1st, 2013

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LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

1. Where are you now? At Millay Colony then. Sitting in my living room now.

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out? A couple of things.  I’m writing with beads, making earrings out of dentalium shell, glossing over Akwapim Twi and Ga phrase books.  Reading notebooks from 2011. Mapping out some soundscapes. Chicken scratch.

3. Where do you write? I really don’t know anymore. 

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?

Passing for White, Passing for Black by Adrian Piper; Imagoes by Wanda Coleman; Jason Collins Is the Envy of Straight Men Everywhere by Sherman Alexie; a poem written by Yona Harvey sent to me via email by a fellow writer; the forward to Oreo by Harryette Mullen; Navaho flash cards.

5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?

Norman Pritchard, whom, I knew very little of in the past.  Bone Light, a little journal published by Krystal Languell. Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip.  Confirmations, an anthology of African American Women Writers published in 1982 edited by Amiri and Amina Baraka. Oreo, a novel by Fran Ross. In sum, I’m digging in the crates.

6. Care to share any distractions / diversions? But of course! Graphic novels by Jason Aaron. Game of Thrones. The third season just ended which now gives me a chance to actually write something. Or not. Scandal, Hannibal, River Monsters, Youtube, making jewelry.  Oh Breaking Bad just resumed. 

7. What are you looking forward to? I need to be in some body of water. My system is craving the ocean.  I am also craving some time back on the dance floor. Traveling overseas when the plane ticket money comes. 

Bonus questions:

How important is music to you? Without music, I’d have nothing to write about or be inspired to write about.  

Do you return to your books after they’re published? Let’s wait and see.  TwERK is my first full length.

What do you find yourself hoping for when things get quiet? Sex.

What are you afraid of?Menopause.

Whom do you wish would come visit you in the hospital? Too depressing to ponder on right now.  

What book would you like (if any) to be read aloud to you?

Benjamin Bratt or Hiroyuki Sanada reading The Origin of the Young God: Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava 

What is the effect of weather on your mood and on your ability to write?

I feel energized by warmer weather, and I think I write better/more. Cold and rain make me feel somewhat constricted. I write a lot when it snows, but can’t say that I enjoy it as much.  It’s location more so than weather.

What do you miss? Dancing in public. Having a dance partner. 

Where would you like to return to? Barbados. Taxco, Mexico. Brazil. Somewhere between Albuquerque and Santé Fe, New Mexico. A restaurant in Mira Flores, Peru. Bonito Crescent in Mandeville, Jamaica. North Carolina.

Where would you like never to visit (again)? Montego Bay, Jamaica during Sun Splash…don’t believe the hype.

To those who survive you, what instructions do you have on your death?Cremate me. Take my ashes to places I always wanted to go but never made it to or did. Have a really serious dance party.

Is there any part of you that cannot manifest itself in your work? Hum…good question.  My family history has been most difficult.  Someone once told me that my poems about my family were too easy and sentimental.  I thought about it and agreed.   So it appears I’m finding it hardest to write about the ugliness of blood kinship.  I am finding it hardest to write about my mom in a way I truly saw her when I was younger. Too much intellectualizing and not enough ugly.

Who are the writers you return to again and again and again? Edwin Torres, Cathy Park Hong, Harryette Mullen, Eduardo Galeano (love this man), Clarence Major, Lisa Linn Kanae, Ana Marie Shur, Tara Masih (Field Guide of Writing Flash Fiction), Malcolm X, Etheridge Knight, Clarice Lispector, Kamau Brathwaite. Jayne Cortez. Cherokee Language Book.

 

 

3 notes