How has your first book changed your life?
68. Shafer Hall
How did your manuscript happen to be picked up by No Tell Books?
I think Reb Livingston liked the fact that I referred to my wang as my "lightning." I think that's what got my foot in the door. But Reb and I have been fairly kindred spirits since we met (via the internet) several years ago. I like to think it was picked up by virtue of the fact that it's a really terrific book, but of course there was the usual amount of networking involved.
What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?
The first time I saw it was down in Atlanta, and I was in the throes of a radical flu-related fever. I grabbed my good friend and former Frequency intern Sam Amadon, and we made the rounds at the AWP book fair. I was pouring down sweat and shaking menacingly as I walked up to strangers and demanded that they review it. No reviews to date.
Before that day, did you imagine your life would change with its arrival?
I had some very run-of-the-mill pipe dreams involving sexually and racially diverse harems and a close personal friendship with Willie Nelson, but really I have such a close relationship with all of the poems that I didn't imagine much would change when we dressed them up in new clothes.
How has your life been different since?
I feel more relaxed.
Were you involved in designing the cover?
I definitely think Reb regrets giving me as much rope (i.e., enough to hang myself) as she did. But we're both happy with the outcome.
How did the book come to be illustrated and have its distinctive look?
Amanda Burnham has used poems by myself and by Jen Knox for artistic inspiration for a long time. When Reb told me she'd like to do the book, my first question was "can we have illustrations?"
I wanted the cover to combine elements of Texas and New York. Amanda drew the Brooklyn Waterfront, which is where her and I met one afternoon a few years ago, and then we cannibalized the cowboys from an illustration Amanda did for a poem Jen and I wrote together.
Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?
I realize how naive it sounds, but it was a lot more work than I thought it'd be. Duh.
What have you been doing to promote the book and what are those experiences like for you?
Being a bartender is the dream job for a small press poet. The bar is the most wonderful PR tool I could ever ask for.
What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? What was the best advice you got?
I'm kind of ornery, so I didn't solicit a whole lot of advice beforehand. I wish [that] Miss Duncan, my senior high school English teacher, had been able to proofread it. My grammar blows. I think I misused the word "that" about a hundred times in the book. I think I misused it in the second sentence of this paragraph. I'll leave it in cause it's funny.
What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?
I think my writing has been more relaxed and fun since.
How do you feel about the response so far and has it had any effect on your writing?
The response has been wonderful. And I think the cover has helped convince folks who aren't generally poetry fans to give it a chance. It is really exciting to get positive feedback from folks who pretty much gave up on poetry in high school.
Do you want your life to change?
I have an earache that I wish would go away, but other than that I am mostly content. I wish there was a way I could live in Texas and New York at the same time.
Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?
I suppose if I sold enough copies I could get a little bungalow in the Texas Hill Country. Meantime I will amuse myself by saying "bungalow." Bungalow. Bungalow.
Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?
I know it makes me happy and makes me feel better to write it. So it has some very positive effects on my world, which is enough for me. But if it helps anyone else out, then I think that's very wonderful and exciting too.
The sun from the late afternoon
Evelyn emerges apron-tied
She moves around with tasks I cannot premonish
What roiling ritual is this?
The king of the animal kingdom,
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next interview: Ryan Murphy
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