Dana Ward | September 21, 2012
1. Where are you now?
Hi! Well, I’m in our backyard. 1628 Otte Avenue, Cincinnati Ohio. It’s shady & cool, & the trees are lush despite the rainless summer, although for me they’re just a wash of green beyond the book or phone I tend to have my nose in back here. It’s fucking lousy with mosquitoes. There’s a blue kitchen towel on the patio collecting dead leaves. I can’t remember how it got out here. Maybe I used it as a place mat one morning when the table was dewy. There’s also a copy of David Brazil’s To Romans, his metrical translation of Paul’s letter to the Romans, published by Compline in Oakland. It says—
For when do we fear sovran force?
When we do bad! Do good, get grace—
Bad, and swords may cut off your breath.
So be subjected by your heart.
It’s a wonderful book, & I see hummingbirds back here sometimes. They feed from these pale purple flowers I don’t know the names of. Remember that Gary Snyder poem that’s supposed to tell you all the things you need to know to be a poet? I don’t remember what it says exactly although I do recall being instructed there to learn all the names of the flowers & the trees. I neglected that task pretty badly, & while this ignorance only brings me crippling shame in a world of encyclopedic naturalists it does on the other hand allow me to relate to our daughter (age 20 mos.) in that our knowledge of these matters is level. A tree is a tree. A flower, a flower.
But the best thing about this back yard is how easily it morphs into paradise when friends come from out of town & we spend hours back here talking.
2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?
I’m working on this long poem called “Some Other Deaths of Bas Jan Ader,” although it’s only glancingly about BJA. It concerns itself mainly with occasions of happiness, luxury, & mutual aid, & interrogates those instances under the sign of ‘appearance,’ how appearance is regulated by a number of systemic disasters, how happiness is leveraged by violence, how the representational logic of hegemony makes gratitude & praise a difficult (but necessary) tradition to pursue in contemporary writing. Here’s a little bit—
“My Bas Jan Ader thoughts were like a nice boy ourosbouros that carousel’d away in my body. Either get god or full communization (for meaning) is what the circle plainly said, repeating, as when ‘my’ love is nothing then it’s nothing like the sky reflects the emptiness present in owning my life reflects blue of impossible gratitude sapphire made to be strung in a dream catcher hung in the window to plume with the ‘night of the world’”
Then I sort of re-write that super-famous Hegel bit about the night of the world but with some other stuff coming in from the side, things that get between all that emptiness & stuff from the computer that links up to other figural aspects of the poem returning in what is essentially ‘the third act.’ & yes it does have an un-ironized posture toward dream catchers. It is very much that kind of poem. Anyway, it also has a lot of moving parts. I’ve been despondent regarding my ability to coordinate them this summer. It all seems a bit clearer of late (thank god!) but I feel like this is last of these “Bohemian Rhapsody” type records I want to write for awhile. I always like to imagine what must have been a scene of rare hilarity & experimental exuberance in the studio when Queen worked on putting that together. They must have been breathless both from laughter at its monumental (deeply moving) silliness as well as overjoyed by the grandeur of it. I wish I could accomplish something so tonally complex. I wish Freddie Mercuy were still alive. & Whitney Houston. &, well, that list would need more volumes than the Zohar which I’ve been thinking of lately since it’s mentioned often in Jarnot’s Duncan biography. Apparently his edition of it was so enormous it required a room of its own at their place in San Francisco. The list I’m thinking of would have that scale.
As to coming out—the poem I mentioned above will be published as a book by Flowers & Cream, & Futurepoem is bringing out this book I wrote last year called the Crisis of Infinite Worlds. I think they’ll be copies of that come December.
3. Where do you write?
In this backyard through the warm months as well as at my desk in the room between our living room & kitchen. I have a great little window sill altar arrayed, & everything there makes its way into my writing. I think I’ve exhausted the lot of them & lately I’ve been thinking of clearing the sill & starting over. Yet one can’t force the receipt of a talisman, right? So I’ve been scared off by how anxious the barren sill would make me, how aware I’d be of each day that passed without something magical arriving in my life. That’s probably a fault of my attention. What are those great Tim Dlugos lines—
Which are the magic
moments in ordinary
time? All of them,
for those who can see.
That is what redemption
means, I decide
at the meeting.
“At the meeting.” That part kills me every time. But the question remains: can I (we, anyone) see?
On Mondays I write at this café in Newport, Kentucky just across the river. My mom hangs out with Viv for a few hours & I make my way down there to work. It’s a great café & I love the people that work there. Across the street there’s a parking lot where once a local developer had conspired to build the world’s tallest building, to be called the Millennium Tower. It was to open on the eve of the, uh, Millennium, New Year’s ‘99. The thing (unsurprisingly) never got built, but they did have the world’s largest free standing bell molded & cast to be placed at the top of the structure. Since that didn’t work out it now resides in an ugly pavilion across from a White Castle. Mysteriously, the awning of a nearby décor shop is still emblazoned with the words Millennium Tower Center, perplexing tourists with its reference to an invisible ziggurat.
Then there’s the café in our neighborhood here on the Cincinnati side of the river. It’s called Sidewinder, my stalwart. I’ve not been writing there as much these past six weeks owing perhaps to a search for a different type of feeling. I’ll be back there a bunch once the autumn settles in.
Oh, & sometimes I like to work at this sushi place, Kosho, over a bottle of sake. But I save that for emergencies & celebratory occasions like John Ashbery’s birthday a few weeks back. I wanted to write a great, improvisatory notebook poem honoring him & everything his writing has meant to me but I got drunk too quickly & completely fucked it up. I plan on trying that again soon.
4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?
Ok this’ll kinda take a minute, & it’s all summer stuff.
Sometime around Memorial Day weekend I read, in manuscript, Stephanie Young’s Ursula or University & that bracing book really keyed a lot for me going forward. Now it’s Labor Day weekend & just this morning I read Jasper Bernes amazing We Are Nothing and So Can You, which was posted by Anne Boyer, whose poems & prose works are here— have been some of the most essential things for me this summer, pursued & internalized with same happy obsessiveness with which one listens to all the summer jams. Ariel Goldberg’s The Estrangement Principle (self-published March of 2012) is a narrative essay that looks at queer aesthetics & the production of identity through art with extraordinary intelligence & roving inquiry. I’ve been reading it over & over. Rob Halpern’s long awaited Music For Porn (Nightboat Books 2012) arrived & I’ve been spending tons of time with that. I’ve been making my way through the two Gail Scott books I’ve never read (Heroine, The Obituary), & those have been great bedside reading, dollops each night. Before that I read Gil Scot Heron’s memoir The Last Holiday (Grove 2012) just before falling asleep. He has (unsurprisingly) a brilliant writerly voice & now I wish he’d written a million books. I’d been anxious to read Dodie Bellamy’s the Buddhist (Publication Studios 2012) all gathered into book form as I’d watched it evolve on her blog & returning to that material again has been revelatory. I’ve been reading Debbie Hu’s work on communist desire. I’m lucky enough to be publishing it this fall for our Perfect Lovers Press Xerox Series. I can’t WAIT for people to get to see it omg. Judah Rubin sent me some issues of his Death & Life of American Cities magazine & each one is stellar. One larger installment is an absolute blockbuster highlighted for me by this poem by Joe Luna called “Universal Credit.” Luna’s essay The World is For This (located here) has been huge for me. It concerns (among many things) the poetry of Jonty Tiplady, whose book Zam Bonk Dip (Salt 2010) I’ve been happily rolling around in. I’m lucky enough to have a PDF of Alli Warren’s manuscript, to be published by City Lights. However stoked you might be for that now will have nothing on how stoked you’ll be once you read it. Catherine Taylor’s Apart, from Ugly Duckling, has been important. The Brainard & the Dlugos Collecteds have been marvelous features of almost every day as has as Lisa Jarnot’s biography of Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus, which I mentioned earlier. Then of course I’m always reading Notely. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about her poem “The Locket” which can be found in Grave of Light. Agnes Fox brought out a split book by Lawrence Giffin & Lauren Spohrer called Just Kids that is terrifying & moving. I adore it. Also in manuscript I read The Chimneys by Ben Estes, which has the most swoon inducing voice. It’s incredibly fine in its romantic sensibility & has this luxuriance about it, not of wealth but of sensation & emotion. I wanted to live in that book.
The one book that’s assumed an extra special place in my heart this year is Eileen Myles’ Snowflake/Different Streets. Every time I’ve read it it’s been both inspiring (transporting) & grounding (refreshing my sanity). Everything of poetry feels accomplished in it, but without a lot of heaviness, & reading it you know you can go on somewhat broken but assured, never falsely affirmed, but aloft. Not only is the writing as such (obviously) excellent in everyway, but something about the book’s portability, convertibility, it’s Janus poise, I don’t know…it’s meant everything to me this year. It’s gone with me all over this river valley, & all over the country as well. I can see now it’ll go on the altar-to-come once I’m brave enough to zero out the sill.
Even with all of that said I’m still leaving out crucial things! Anyway, these are all the most recent, & the best. It’s been a great summer for reading! I can look at that list & feel so much despair just melt away.
5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?
6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?
As Stein said, “Kentucky is my country, Cincinnati my hometown.” With that in mind my passions run toward the Reds in baseball, & the University of Kentucky Wildcats where basketball’s concerned. In the winter I treat my seasonal affective disorder by bathing in the sunlamp created by these incandescent Calipari teams. They get me through the cold & the dark & by the time they’re making their charge at the national title the weather’s warming up & those, oh, what do you call them…those petaleld things with little green stems…flowers!…the flowers are blooming in the yard, & the Reds are heading east from Arizona to start their season. Happily for me the Reds are also great this year, & will, save some hideous collapse, be playing in October. I hope they can win a title for Dusty Baker, who, while often maligned for his unconventional (or perhaps overly-conventional) approach to certain aspects of the game is easily my favorite Reds manager ever. I’d love to see him win, for the sake of his joy as well as for the writhing of his haters, who are legion. Stacked vertically they would form the world’s tallest tower. I hope it comes tumbling down.
7. What are you looking forward to?
The Tiqqun episode of Thomas the Tank Engine.