How has your first book changed your life?
79. Hadara Bar-Nadav
How did you find out that your manuscript had won the 2005 MARGIE First Book Prize?
I received a call from MARGIE's editor, Robert Nazarene, right after my last MLA interview in DC. I was exhausted, checked my voicemail, and there was his message asking me to call him. And then the party began!
How often had you sent it out previously?
I had sent the manuscript in various incarnations to contests and publishers for about 2 years. I'd guess about 15-20 places.
What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?
That I was in love with the cover. Dancing to James Brown. And having sushi with my husband in a restaurant the size of a closet.
Were you involved in designing the cover?
Yes. MARGIE gave me total control of the cover. I enlisted the help of my brilliant friend Jesse Roff, a graphic designer/3-D designer/filmmaker. I also had my eye on a couple of images that I had found in art magazines that I felt really resonated with my book. I contacted the artist Julia Randall, sent her my ms, and she agreed to let me use her "Lovebird II" for the cover. I've gotten great response on the cover. I have Jesse and Julia to thank.
Before the day you first saw your book, did you imagine your life would change with its arrival?
Not really. I'd still have to get up and go to work, and there'd still be new poems to write.
I've done more readings than I may have otherwise. And I got to do this interview! But really, "it's all about the work," as my friend Denise Brady says. Now I'm trying to find a home for my next book, Architecture at the Mouth, and working on two new mss. Yes, the publication of A Glass of Milk was great--reassuring and even validating. Something tangible to hold in my hands and to give to others. But there is more work to do, new poems to write, etc. And it's hard work. As hard and wonderful and frustrating as it has ever been.
Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?
I obsessively check my mail so maybe a surprise is on its way. A giant cake? A Pulitzer?
What have you been doing to promote the book and how do you feel about those experiences?
I've been doing readings on the East coast, some in the Midwest. Over the next year or so I hope to read in the West and Southwest. I've felt great about the readings. People have been very supportive and kind. Some even buy books!
Not to get stuck, which came from the poet Hilda Raz. Keep writing, keep thinking up new ideas. Don't obsess over one book at the expense of new books, new poems, ideas, etc.
What advice would you give to someone about to have a first book published?
Enjoy it. Take some time to congratulate yourself. And then get writing!
In my own way, I'm always trying to push the envelope, the technique, the ideas, something. If I fall into patterns, I get frustrated or even bored. I'm rethinking what a poem is, what a book is, and the newer work is helping me to do this.
How do you feel about the critical response?
Still waiting for the critical response. Any day now. :-)
Do you want your life to change?
Well, I'd like Architecture at the Mouth to find a good home.
Writing, sweating, revising. Being persistent. Remembering on occasion to laugh.
Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?
I've just been re-reading some essays on the Black Arts Movement, and I'm immensely encouraged by this absolute faith in poetry as action, poetry as a tool to move the masses. I'm not a "political poet" in the way that term historically has been used, but poetry changes the world by helping people pay closer attention to language, to the way they think about and talk to themselves, their families, friends, etc. Poetry offers new perspectives and new insights. And I think these perspectives and insights are vital and necessary, even restorative. At the very least, it gives me hope that things can change.
from A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight by Hadara Bar-Nadav:
A driveway in Hallam with a boat and no water. No ocean, no river, no lake. Parched city in parts. Diebenkorn's colorblocks in yellows and greens. Beacons of corn on all sides. No sides, no walls standing. No bankers, bakers, lampposts, or cats. A boat with a broken window and a tornado passing through like a bullet train. When it rains, it rains.
I've seen a drowned boat. Picture a coastline. Tall, green blades cut the wind, the white, the water. Green smothers the boat while it bloats under the algae-blue surface. A green with secrets, a spring season with teeth.
I needed an ark to cross, to curve the broken miles. Miles of hands and knees. Miles of nails and no city. Where is the home we belong to? A driveway with a boat and no river. A cat and a woman with gold eyes. The pictures are scattered. Three blocks away, a washing machine and piano sink into a field.
My hand grew big as a house.
I staggered across the lawn
My wrung wrist turned blue.
I had given too much.
The hand grew
expanding until it was no longer
. . .