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30 APRIL 06

ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French de, from Latin datum
"something given or played," neuter past participle of dare. A small cube thrown in games involving chance.



string of small machines
is coming. Here's what the editors Michael Slosek, Eric Unger, & Luke Daly have to say about it:

A new poetry magazine from House Press, operated out of Chicago, is seeking submissions. The deadline for work is July 1st. We hope to have the magazine put together for late summer or early fall. The format will be 8 1/2 by 11 inches, staple bound. Please send up to 10 pages of work. We would like to have a minimum of 3 pages of work for each poet. The magazine will also include a cd for sound work. Please include a short bio with your submission (if you'd like), and send as an ms word attachment to small_machines at yahoo dot com.



"One thing squares with another when there is exact agreement between the two." Never say die. "A decision has been made that can't be changed: The die is cast."


         
       


Last night (finally!) we sent off the back & front cover design of case sensitive to Janet Holmes, my incredibly understanding editor/publisher. Those of you who think it would be great to do a book with Janet, you're right. ("Extremely good or desirable: to die for.") The cover will acquire a new look when it's printed offset rather than inkjet, so there's still a little suspense, but we're relieved to have the design squared away.


ps: TYPO 8!


"In fact, the singular is increasingly uncommon." Find it here.

 

28 APRIL 06

How has your first book changed your life?

2. Andrea Baker

Like Wind Loves A Window


Before Like Wind Loves A Window came out, did you imagine that your life would change because of it?

How has your life been different since? Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?

First I'm so happy about it and proud of it. "My book. My book!! Oh my God, I wrote a book!!" And that's all very good and never changes, even through all my bleak thought.

But there is a lot of bleak thought. Primarily, my trouble is that the book has no real weight and/or the weight it does have is false and I cannot reconcile this with how important it is to me. One problem is that poetry has nothing to do with my real world, the place I really live. If a book meant that the next time I might get an advance that would pay for time to just write, that would mean something pragmatically. Or if I wanted a teaching job and a book meant I might be able to get one, then it would have an impact. But I don't want to teach.

Though these things are just true and always have been true, I feel more deeply in touch with the fact that hardly anyone cares about poetry and that it really does not matter. For some unaccountable reason it matters A LOT to me--and it also matters to me that I am read, but vanity is the only reason I come up with.

I have also come to understand that I had expected the book to transform me on some level... Make me smarter?? Bring me money?? Make writing easier??

Obviously, it's done none of these things. It is important to me as a security object, but I find that highly suspect. I didn't learn to read until very late (dyslexia)... then my highest degree is high school (perpetual college drop-out)... But the book means to me, "It's all OK. I turned out alright after all." Which is completely nuts. One can't judge one's self on outside approval. Oh, but I do! and in these senses it brings out parts of me that I don't want to see.

But then even this relentless questioning drives me crazy because it can quickly sound, even to myself, like ungratefulness. And my book makes me so happy. I feel a sense of awe when I think of the people whose commitment to poetry enabled its production.

What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing? How do you feel about the critical response and has that had any effect on your writing?

I suppose it's alright to admit that I hang on every word of every review and keep a little list of reviews I know are due out and reviews that have come out. The reviews are the first time I've gotten real your work is about x, y, z feedback about my writing. I'm an intuitive writer and probably a bit blind to whatever I find my way into, so having that sort of feedback is valuable. I want to be more accessible and knowing what I'm doing is important for that. Proceeding from that point is not without difficulty though. I plan to write reviews of other people's work because I know how much those have meant to me.

I read somewhere that second books are as challenging as first books, then it gets easier... I'm not sure if that was in reference to getting the books published or actually writing them. I'm not concerned about getting work published but I'm a little worried about managing to finish poems. I hope it won't be this excruciatingly difficult forever...

I feel accountable to whatever warm reception my book has had. It's very easy to slip into a self-defeating perfectionism.

What did you do to promote sales of the book, and what were those experiences like?

Just before the book came out, I did a very very small northeast "tour" that Slope arranged for me. After it came, I sent out many review copies and made sure the book was entered into a least a couple after-the-book-is-published contests. I have read around the city whenever I've been asked but turned down opportunities to read out of state, which would disrupt my daily life and not pay for themselves. I feel torn, again, about promoting. While I want my work to be read, the energy I have put into promoting has taken away from other aspects of life and can easily become frenzied and obsessive, but for what? And why? What on earth do I have to gain when poetry offers no real rewards? I have to question my own motives.

Did Slope pay your travel expenses on the tour?

They offered to rent a car that I would share with another poet I had never met and they would pay for gas and arrange sofas/floors for me to sleep on. I like things to be simple but I'm also a fairly private person and these arrangements would have been too uncomfortable for me so I went with my family in our own car and paid for hotels. When I look at the economics of promoting poetry it really seems like a wonder that any poetry gets promoted at all.

Can you know how well your book is doing? Does your publisher tell you anything?

Slope will tell me once a year--so far that means I have yet to hear. All I know are the Amazon sales rankings. Those were impacted by the Poets & Writers feature I was included in and also seem to be affected by on-line reviews (but not print reviews--perhaps because those reach a different purchasing culture...or maybe just have a smaller audience(??)--I'm clueless).

The real measure of how well it's doing seems to be in critical response and general "buzz." I know that bits of it have been taught at a number of colleges and that sure makes me the proud parent of my poems but I assume that has been Xeroxes and not book sales.

Did you find that you sold many books at a reading?

The most I've ever sold is four. This is completely depressing, but a lot of people who come to a reading already have a book. And the book wasn't printed in time for the initial readings (the "tour"). I'm a quiet seller so that may be a factor.

Do you enjoy reading?

I find it a bit painful if the audience is very small (I'm talking under 10 people). I've also read a couple times when the audience was very large (over 100)--these were for the Poetry Society and in nice, quiet auditoriums. I enjoy that a lot. But those are the extremes. Most readings have had maybe 15-30 people. They can go really well--one I did for Drunken Boat was an evening with so much energy. The more there are other arts involved, the more energy there tends to be. I read once with Charles Valle and that was also great because he had a visual component.

What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? Or what was the best advice you got?

I didn't get any advice and I'm afraid that all I have to offer is my own account of the experience.

Do you want your life to change?

No. I actually think everything is just right.

But I really wonder how all this makes you feel. Do you find it bleak? Do you want your book to change your life? Have the responses you've gotten so far altered your perceptions?

:

A poem from Like Wind Loves a Window by Andrea Baker:

Preface   

I remember this Yugoslavian cowboy painter who had slicked back hair and very formal Roman busts in all of his paintings. Matisse sat on his balcony turning things over in his mind: mat, fish, bowl.


An echo is a mountain.


At the park the children came running to sit in the laps of their mothers. The parking lot stood still, full of cars, the metal rising and expanding on that warm spring day.


Where a still fan is even some form of weeping. And everything arrested must be sad.


So I said, holding up the arm, so I said, the hand shielding a face, so I said, feeling up the arm, so I said, holding its hand, loosing straight down from the spine I said


I was watching a withered woman walk a withered dog down a street of meticulous garden houses. I was watching some people jump-start their cars. Then there were more than the known selves. A lady came by, she was the bearded lady and she knew how to escape from jackets. I believe the cars began to run and their people got in them.


As if a point of interest could be found where in place we are dilated with craving. I put a model of the drink in a model of the cupboard that represents the one in the real room. Try to understand behavior like our own.


If the child had not introduced himself properly he was scolded and sent to the end of the line. And so we moved him to the place that symbolized the end. In the real room the children kept moving. Someone was trying to find order by placing them in a line and if, after advancing to the front of the line and being instructed to introduce himself, if he did not provide an introduction, we put his model in the model of the cupboard so the room had no children.


I understood something normal; I had no plans for the future.


And so I paid $2.35 for the artichoke because I wanted that type of intimacy with my husband. Though we all agree we don't like having these feelings, I keep looking for something I can steal.


Though I think you're right. Watch the curious stand atop cars and watch the mischievous throw their rocks. Pray harder. But what is it to slip and what is it to yield?


The cowboy painter flicked his finger like there was a cigarette and said No good. He meant take off your shirt as I paint you. You were left to think he was offended by the tones of your shirt and how they blended with the tones of your skin. He experiences himself as a prayer.


The workingmen go to work to experience themselves as prayers. Against the deadened cars, their acetylene ravens breaking apart the cars. Their blackened throats shifting in the kill deeper.


And so I said, hand rising higher, so I said, my hand shielding face, I said, crave throated. Dilated with crave.


Dancing with my eyes, the Hubbell's on the cover of National Geographic again. This is just reporting, but I read there's a star that looks like a human eye. Turning to myself, I say I don't like having these feelings but who can claim the right to choose.


Let me just say, I don't really look like this. Let me just say a rabid cat ran from a rabid dog, laughing.


In the story of the children there was a day when they were all outside playing and we were playing with them in the sun, thinking how long will we be able to live on the outside. Only we didn't know what we believed.


And let me tell you, there were hands clinging to themselves everywhere. As a body would be, one all together. Where the long night and the soul recur spontaneously, the landscape glows a vivid blue.

:

[Hear Andrea read "Preface" here.]

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

26 APRIL 06
My first book will be published in September and I wonder: what kind of difference will that make? I mean, will it change me? Or will it inspire me to change--to do things to help the book find its audience?

Curious about how others were finding their first-book experience, I made a list of questions to ask a few poets who have one full-length book out so far. I'll post responses (in Q&A form or in paragraphs) as they roll in. My basic question seems to be

How has your first book changed your life?


1. Shanna Compton:

I remember where I was when I got the news that Winnow wanted to publish the book. I was home, and Corrine Lee (the publisher) called, and as she was telling me they'd like to do it I immediately started to panic. I'd changed the entire book since I'd submitted it. It was about 30 pages longer, had a new title, and though there was a little bit of overlap between the book I'd sent her months before and the book I ended up with, it felt completely different to me. I explained everything, and was very relieved when she said revisions were fine, and that a new title was even fine, and that she was looking forward to reading the improved manuscript. After Winnow made the announcement, there was a little bit of a backlash about the contest--I don't really want to get into the specifics--but I had a couple of difficult decisions to make and had to really think about whether publishing the book with Winnow was going to be worth the potential trouble. At one point I withdrew the book, backed out of the contract, which I had signed but not yet mailed. But we kept talking, and in the end decided to go ahead.

And yes, I remember when I first saw the book. I was home and answered the door for the delivery, and opened the box. I immediately took a picture of the book in my hand and posted it to my blog.

 Down Spooky (from Shanna's blog)

It was a Saturday (last June) so my husband was home, which was fun. The book was even more beautiful than I expected. I felt (and still do) very grateful to Corinne and everybody at Winnow for taking such care with it.

So the book existed but wasn't officially "out" for several more months. The publication date wasn't until October. So nothing changed then, not really. It was exciting to show it to my friends and just to say "hey, this thing exists." But I think my take on the experience might be a little different from some first-time authors because I've been through the process with so many people as an editor and publicist. I think I had a better idea of what to expect, and what not to expect. Still, after the book was officially out, now, it's great to be able to answer that inevitable question "do you have a book?" with a yes. Of course that's great. I'd like to say I shrugged off the pressure to publish before Down Spooky was accepted, but I hadn't completely. I'd been a finalist in another contest already with another book, and the MS that became Down Spooky was really the third full-length collection I'd written. I took the others to the prom and they didn't dance. And I felt that disappointment, and that pressure. I dismissed it as well as I could. I was just about ready to publish the book myself through Half Empty/Half Full, because I'd had so much fun doing the chapbooks.

Jennifer Knox & I decided to go on a book tour together.
Our books were coming out at the same time, and since I was her editor at Soft Skull and would be working on setting up her events and promoting her book (A Gringo Like Me) anyway, and since we had become friends while working on her book together, we thought it would be fun--and less expensive/lonely--to team up. We had such a freaking fantastic time. I'm naturally pretty shy in person (which is why I like blogging so much, I guess--it's just easier for me) but Jen's not at all. Even though our performance styles and poems are quite different, we quickly fell into a rhythm and came up with sets that complemented each other.

In addition to the readings, she and I also gave workshops and visited all kinds of classes. We did one performance workshop, where I just sort of assisted Jen (she being the true Performer and having the slam background and all), and a couple on publishing/book design, which reversed our roles. But most of the time we answered questions about our books, which the students had read in advance of our visit, and "how to get published" questions, and "what's it like to live in New York" questions, and "hey do you wanna go get a beer" questions.

I learned a lot about reading and performing on the tour and from Jen--I'm still learning this part of being a poet, and until a few years ago wasn't able to read in public at all. Even now, I get nervous and bomb about 1 in 7 times, but that's lots better than 4 in 5. I like reading. It just takes practice. Readings are also a great way to sell books, and I'm obligated to my publisher to sell as many as I can. They put in a lot of money and effort, taking a chance on me. Gotta hold up my end.

Has my first book changed my life? I'm of two minds about it. Part of me, out of a long-growing understanding of the inner workings of the publishing world and more superficial workings of the literary arena, wants to say no, having a book hasn't changed my life, and to mean it. Because I think too much importance is placed on the first book, or "book" period (in the way most of us mean it when we say it). I lament (along with so many others) that for a poet without one it's so awfully hard to get one. This is why I'm an advocate of DIY and micropress publishing, and am thrilled to see poets continue those trends (which are part of what's really a very long tradition), and cheer for the new technologies and options available to all. Do I think having a book proves anything about me as a writer? No. Not anything that the poems outside of the context of a book wouldn't. Do I think the book is superior to my chapbooks for instance, no, not because it's "more official" or more widely accepted as the real deal. Does it change my life as a writer on a day-to-day basis, no. People are already starting to ask about the next one. The next one! There's always a next one.

On the other hand, yes. Yes in the ways I mentioned before, being able just to say I have one and have that pressure valve releasing steam. Has it been a boost to my confidence that somebody liked my work well enough to spend money on producing and distributing it in book form? Absolutely, and I'm very grateful for that. Have more people come to read my work in book form than in scattered magazines and websites alone? Yes, and that's great. Was I pleased to graduate from writer to author, that subtle but meaningful shift? You bet. Does the book as object and context mean anything special to me, as a kind of physical representation of my accomplishment? Yes, and I'm proud of it. So I guess more yes than no, but with those qualifications.

The best advice I got before the book came out was from two former teachers: "Ignore the assholes," and "Publication day is the worst day in a writer's life. The writing process itself is where you should get your satisfaction." Both of those things have really been helpful to keep in mind. Writing the poems is much more fun for me than anything else.

The reviews so far have been mostly great--in fact, I was really shocked at some of them. I just feel grateful that people have read the book and felt compelled to say they like it and why, and to criticize and challenge me, too. I expected the negative reviews--in fact, I'd steeled myself for more--and hope I can read them with an open mind (those that aren't just spittle). Working as a publicist for many years certainly helped my perspective on all that stuff. You can't influence or police public reaction to a book. A reader's honest reaction is never wrong. You might not agree with it, but you can't blame them for having it. You just write a book and put it out there, then write the next one, and I'm trying to do that now.

[Listen to Shanna talking with Laurel Snyder about publishing poetry here.]

:

A poem from Down Spooky by Shanna Compton:

Murmur

The day of prophecy has come and gone.
It seems our father never did possess
any ecclesiastical spacecraft.

Suppose he had, in his white suit and hat,
arrived? Would we have felt the same surprise,
and laughed beneath our hands as we do now?

It takes two years to dissipate the shock
of living in this city, even though
its builders tried to tame it with chill tile.

Its flickering cinema features two films:
The first one treats of progress and its force.
The second is all fiction, mystery.

The soundtracks mingle through the walls. Listen:
Hear the cold creeping spring,
these ardent, clicking leaves.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

24 APRIL 06

14 sentences, week ten:

Before the fever eased, waking often from short sleeps. Once returning from being tied up, blindfolded, with wide tape across my mouth--kidnapped--traveling in a car and after a while I really needed to piss. First I tried saying it inside the tape (useless), then tried repeating a physical gesture (but semi-crossing and uncrossing my legs was making me appear merely restless). Suddenly it struck me that I should use a song. What I thought of was "How Sweet it Is To Be Loved By You," which I began humming at the title in the chorus, and though I doubted my choice at the verse (hard to hum effectively), I just gave it all I had, and after "I want to stop and thank you baby, I just want to stop--" I stopped and stayed completely still. We rode in silence for a few seconds, then the car pulled over and one of the guys in the front seat said, "You need to stop?" I nodded yes and they laughed, sounding good-natured, not like real kidnappers at all. They'd understood, and were (I felt) pleased by our small triumph of communication.

I do not have a therapist nor am I on medication. My father often used the expression: That book is closed. Personal matters take so much time and seem to have nothing to do with me. There was a bar across the street and late at night sometimes there were fights on the street. We were the ones who made sure that the right stuff got saved. A subtle manipulation of the cube... and the ramp goes nowhere.

 

22 APRIL 06
In the mail, contributor's copies of LIT and CutBank, both packed with terrific work; and two beautiful chapbooks, Adam Clay's Canoe (horseless press) and Maureen Thorson's The Spectacle of Meat (Big Game Books). Online, the new Coconut with printable chapbooks by Reb Livingston and Jenna Cardinale, I'm up at MiPOesias, and have you been following Joe Torra's "Up & Down at the Grolier" as it unfolds?

Also in the mailbox: the new journal Practice: New Art + Writing. You really have to look into this. If you send your address to info@practicejournal.com, the editors will mail you a free first issue. Practice publishes "poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, and photography, as well as work that defies these genres." See their site for the full list of contributors to Issue One (including poets Janet Holmes, Cole Swensen, Graham Foust, Dan Beachy-Quick, Aaron McCollough, Rod Smith, Susan Tichy, G.C. Waldrep, and visual artists Anne Wilson, Paula McCartney, Karen Barbour) and to read about the goals of Practice Press (one of which is to provide "significant financial assistance annually to writers and artists"). Practice is currently reading for issue Two. And get this: each contributor is paid $200, plus 5 copies, and "fine loose-leaf tea." Oh yeah, simultaneous submissions are okay, and did I mention that the magazine is gorgeous?

If you're in the NYC area, The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel release party is today, Saturday, 2 pm, at the Frequency Series at the Four Faced Liar. And one final evening of inappropriate exploration happens tonight at the Flarf Festival, 8 pm, details here. The launch for Magazine Cypress 4, with readings by Brenda Iijima, Drew Gardner, Karen Weiser, and Matvel Yankelevich, is tomorrow at the Bowery Poetry Club, 5:30 pm.
On Wednesday I'll begin posting some responses to the age-old question: How has your first book changed your life?

 

20 APRIL 06
[National Poetry Month observed]

Erín Moure, from the essay And Poetry/:


And method? If anything, a kind of accretion. Sounds attract feelings and aches, and vice versa. Sounds and words attract each other, and ideas, and worries. And dreams. And the thread of remembrance knitting the self over again, it's preposterous, it's hard to keep up with, do justice to, keep track of....

As well, to me there's a relationship between physical processes, presence, and voice that is articulated only in relation to, that is constituted only in relation to other beings. Those links we have to each other, so well buried by the social constraints built into our speaking and perception, I'm more interested in the links, the movement of those linkages, than in "objects" or "conclusions" at either end. If you damage or conceal the links (as we do in damaging the earth or in underfunding AIDS hospices and medication), what are the consequences for the individual? I believe they are grave.

The structure of the poem? To me, absolute structure is motion. Structure as motion. Being is always in excess of this structure. Remains while the motion is, already past this place. Shock of that. Here we are. The body requires motion for memory. To explain context. Memory being only a part of the construct of a present context: that is, "the plausible." The brain puts forward plausibilities by selecting neural paths we have previously traveled. At the same time, the paths themselves "murmur," sign to each other. The paths alter themselves....

I believe also "poetry is a limitless genre; its borders are only in ourselves and can be moved, in our lifetimes, if we dare to."


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18 APRIL 06
[National Poetry Month observed]

from obedience by kari edwards:


I watch
humanity approaches
I want to criticize
instead I criticize
the book on the table
on the size of the book on the table
on the operations in the book on the table
on the growing index in the book on the table
I call it a table
call it a position
timbre
discipline
theories
requirements in style
manner and procedure
call it gross plagiarism
call it lack of spiritual integrity
call it blows against life
so powerful
so furious
so blood thirsty
call it whatever
call it
tears in a clairvoyant downpour
a gasoline rainbow
a sophist who mistakes
touch for a dream
a dream for an infection
curvature of space for an optical
illusion


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16 APRIL 06
[National Poetry Month observed]

Emily Dickinson:  341


After great pain, a formal feeling comes—
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round—
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought—
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone—

This is the Hour of Lead—
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow—
First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—


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