every other day


5 OCT 06

How has your first book changed your life?

36.  Christian Hawkey

The Book of Funnels

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Dear Kate,

Thanks for getting in touch. Intrigued by the question, and would be happy to chat with you. I am leaving on Saturday for a slew of readings/festivals in Slovenia, Austria, and Berlin. Back on the 28th. I'm sure we can squeeze in a chat before then, or (more likely) even while I'm bouncing around Europe.

Warm regards, Christian

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From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

Dear Christian,

Thanks for getting back to me. I've really been enjoying your book. Don't know if you've had a chance to take a look at the interviews--I ask everyone similar questions to start, then I often have an additional question or two after I read the responses.  

When I was looking for your email address online, I saw that you've just received one of those Creative Capital grants. Congratulations! Your project sounds fascinating. I wonder--you'll be doing homophonic translations, but are you also a German speaker?

I'll attach the basic questions in a Word doc. It might be interesting to answer while you're overseas, especially if this trip is evidence of how your life has changed. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

thanks again, 
Kate

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From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Kate,

It might be easier for me if we do this one at a time, and therefore let a conversation develop. I'd like that. Voila my first response:

How did your manuscript happen to be picked up by Verse? Did you win a prize?

No, I didn't win a prize. I had entered the book in the Verse Prize (now Wave Books) the year before, and although I was a finalist, I didn't win. The next year I decided not to bother again--and not to bother with prizes in general. I had just moved to Brooklyn. I was broke. I couldn't afford to write another $20 check. I put The Book of Funnels aside, and started working on another book. I was happy. It was snowing. A year went by. Then a miracle happened: I got an email from the editor of Verse, Matthew Zapruder, saying that he was going through the next Verse Prize manuscripts and noticed that mine wasn't there. He started thinking about it. The book. He missed it. He started thinking about why he missed it, why he remembered it. He said: if it's still available, I want to publish it. Strangely, his email arrived the night before I had a job interview for a full-time, tenure track position at the Pratt Institute. I got the job. It stopped snowing.

Christian

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From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

Christian--sorry for the delayed reply! I like your one-at-a-time idea (and your first response). So where did you move to Brooklyn from?

k

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From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

I moved from Western Massachusetts, from a town called Chesterfield which is located in the hills above Northampton. I was renting a huge, 3 story, 9 bedroom Victorian monstrosity, but only living, during the winter, in one heated, ground floor room. I burned a huge number of poems in that wood stove--& still froze.

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

And what made you decide to move from Chesterfield to Brooklyn? Did you grow up in Western Massachusetts?

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Work. One glance at the "Help Wanted" section of the local newspaper--home care attendant, delivering pizza--is all it took. Actually there is a company in Northampton that makes periscopes for submarines, and I tried to get a job there. I also tried to get a job working for a recreational ballooning company. I even offered to work for free, thinking that I could somehow work my way up onto the balloon, into the air, but no go. Submersion. Elevation. Brooklyn allowed me to touch ground--touch concrete. & this neighborhood, Ft. Greene, is a huge relief: Western Massachusetts is incredibly white, incredibly homogeneous, and Ft. Greene is one of the more diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Thu, 1 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

So you were able to get a tenure track position at Pratt right after you moved, but couldn't get any kind of teaching job in MA? Or did you not want to teach at that point?

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Kate,

My response is both a question & invitation: I need a little more flecks of gold from you in order to continue this conversation--want, instead of a play-by-play, a play of ideas. Otherwise my brain logs off (of itself) (the sense, last night, just before falling asleep, that the dream world, which was rising up, gathering clarity, or lowering itself upon me, gathering clarity, was the surface of a computer screen, and my first impulse, and not without excitement, was to look for the cursor). Question: as a blogger, and as one clearly passionate about poetry, what is your relationship to technology, and how do you see it altering--enhancing, filtering, unfiltering--poetry, if at all?

Christian

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From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

Christian, my relationship to technology is something like this:

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Hooray! I couldn't agree more. It's not simply the fact that we can converse in images, but rather your choice of images leaves nothing unsaid. Below, my own way of answering the same question:

:

From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

nice photo! i'm reading you.

:

(later)

Our power has been on and off a lot in the storm, causing me to notice more acutely than usual my reliance on technology. Coming from being a painter, a low-tech artist type, I bought my first computer 10 or 12 years ago, not knowing why (and it was a significant investment!)--I just felt it would be important to me somehow.

Now a computer is essential in the way I make a living and the internet has made it possible for me to continue to educate myself and to communicate with people I'd never know otherwise. It's a pretty sure bet that I wouldn't be about to have a book of poetry coming out if I hadn't bought that first computer, because I never would have known how to move thru available channels of opportunity. It wouldn't have occurred to me that I could.

I'm the designated tech person in my small household but it still feels a lot like running as fast as I can with a live sheep in my arms. (I am also the person who decides to go on a book tour instead of fixing the leaks, so practicality is still not my long suit. Or is it strong suit.)

But speaking of opportunity, how was your trip? Are you still thinking about it?

:

From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

Kate,

I partly ask about technology because I work on a typewriter. No real special reason. I just like it. It's a black IBM Selectric II & looks (to me) like something Spock, eyebrows raised, always turned to & started fiddling with on The Enterprise while the crew tried to act like it was being hit by Klingon missiles by fake-stumbling around. I brought it (the typer) with me during the swing through Europe & because of the 220 voltage, & because of the cheap converter I was using, the machine would, every few seconds, lightly shock me when I touched the keys. I started writing, for the first time, short poems.

The first telegraph was invented by some guy in Spain. He ran the wires--one for each letter of the alphabet--between two towns, & then asked human beings to hold the end of each wire. When an electrical current was sent down a given wire, the corresponding human would shout the corresponding letter. Wish I knew what the first message was. Bell, on the first telephone, said to his assistant, who was holding the phone in another room, "Watson! Come here! I want you!" Always found that kind of hot.

Christian

p.s. My semester is getting underway & I may not be able to keep this up any more--sadly. I hope you can post our picture conversation. & I very much look forward to reading your book. What's it called?

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From: Kate Greenstreet
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2006
To: Christian Hawkey

:

(later)

I believe that typewriter is still burning somewhere in Northern California. (Sculptor Leopoldo Maler's uncle was a well-known Argentine writer who was killed because of the inflammatory content of his political essays. The old Underwood is the same kind that the uncle used.)

I'd like to have asked you about the art on the cover of The Book of Funnels but, if we're out of time, I'll just ask this last question (usually my first): what do you remember about the day you first held a copy of your finished book in your hands?

Kate

ps: My book is called case sensitive. Out from Ahsahta next week.

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From: Christian Hawkey
Date: Sat, 9 Sep 2006
To: Kate Greenstreet

I felt--what's the word?--honored to be holding this object in my hands, this object we call a book. The name on the cover could have been anyone's name; I barely recognized my own, as my own, which made me think of our names as objects that, once copied & reproduced within a given cultural space (the cover of a book, a space commanding both authority & authenticity), dissolve into empty, weirdly meaningless signs. Fortunately I've always thought of myself in this way (the daguerreotype applies here; note what "the leg" is standing on) & therefore the poems, too, no longer seemed like my own, but someone else's--not that someone else wrote them, but that someone else, reading the poems, will write them (& in whatever order they read the poems, write a new book). Then I ate a haggis & got pished.

Nice chattin Kate. May The Duck be with you. christian

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a poem from The Book of Funnels by Christian Hawkey:


Green Solitude


No such thing as exit for the man lost
In the middle of a cornfield.
No such thing as field.

A disinterested wind wanders up,
Unravels the silk
And moves on.

It's late summer. The ears have burst.
He passes and suddenly the stalks
Are discussing his absence,

A conversation that follows him, barely overheard
That makes him stop
And turn around.

John Clare wrote of a green solitude
After the hustling world was broken
Off; no one followed

On his way home through the fields.
He laid his head down to the north
To show himself

The Steering point of the morning.
When he woke, it was winter,
The stalks

Cut down and covered in snow.
There were no dreams.
Only a voice

That he knew was near, not his own,
And he listened, for a minute,
To the cold wind

Before finding the road again, and the sound
Of his listening was the landscape
Advancing at his approach.

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