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August 2006
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both both
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dbqp: visualizing poetics
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little red's recovery room
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the lovely arc
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lutheran surrealism
maryrose larkin
mindful ramblings
minimalist concrete poetry
minor american
modern americans
mr. tong bliss' journal
the neglectorino project
nervous unto thirst
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nice guy syndrome
nothing to say and saying it
now then
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paul hoover's poetry blog
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philly sound
poetry hut
poesy galore
poets' corner
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pshares blog
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qbdp: the mailartworks
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rocket kids
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stephen vincent
texfiles in bahrain
they shoot poets don't they
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the unquiet grave
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virgin formica
voices in utter dark
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the well-nourished moon
what an errand knave
wild horses of fire
wind meals
wood s lot
the word cage
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you are here
ysleta poeta
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journals/small press/reviews:

6 X 6
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absent magazine
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every other day

8 AUG 06

How has your first book changed your life?

23.  Stephanie Young

Telling The Future Off

What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?

I was at work when a box of 10 or 20 arrived from the printer. I'd been waiting anxiously, forever it seemed, and receiving the actual box felt terribly exciting and unexpectedly anti-climatic. In part because, due to the book's being delayed, I had seen many, many PDF versions of the cover and inside text. And made as many changes and edits to the manuscript, right up to the end, since my publisher, also a friend, accommodated the corrections as I accommodated the delay. Which was great, to have that freedom, but also nerve-wracking and a little crazy, to keep messing with it. In some cases I'd change a line, look at the corrected PDF and then revert back to the original version a week later.

The big change of course from PDF to book was its materiality, its folded and bound quality. Especially the folded part. Its compactness. I've had this same experience with my close friends' books as they get published--if you're used to carrying around someone's writing on 8/12 x 11 paper, held together with a binder clip, what a conceptual shift the book represents! What a leap forward in ease and portability! (This is true of chapbooks as well.) And the paper quality! I couldn't get over how great the paper felt. I wanted to give copies to friends right away.

The thing I remember even more than receiving the physical book, though, is first reading blurbs from Kasey Mohammad and Jennifer Moxley. I mean before the book was ever published. The blurbs served as evidence of first readership, outside of myself and my peers and the publisher, and from what readers! Also Kasey and Jennifer both quoted the same line in their respective blurbs, which caused me to pay undue amounts of self-conscious and curious attention to the poem they quoted from.

How involved were you in creating the cover design?

Like my endless editing, the publication delay allowed my publisher to make numerous adjustments and changes to the design, an inadvertently desirable outcome of the book's lateness. I know there was at least one other cover image before the current one, but now I can't remember what it looked like. I do know that I immediately liked what became the final image much better. I saw PDFs of every little change, which was great. Sometimes I'd give feedback on minute things like the shade of the font color on the spine, but I didn't really come in with any idea about what it might or should look like. Mostly I was curious about how the publisher would visually interpret the text, and trusted that. I love the final cover--especially its spectacular/fantastic/mysterious aspects and also the disjunct in classical dance forms represented. My favorite part is how the dancer is prostrate in front of whatever is happening to her, or above her, all of which she is possibly making happen. Yet still bowing to.

full cover

Before your book came out, did you imagine your life would change because of it?

Did I think I would take myself more seriously? Maybe. I know I thought someone would take me seriously but I didn't know who exactly. Other poets maybe. Perhaps my parents. Again these are all projections I think, of myself wanting to take myself more seriously. I always had the idea my poems needed to be presented along with all my other poems if they were ever going to accrete meaning or value or anti-meaning or ambience or narrative/emotive texture. I thought their being in the world like that might change how they were received. Getting back to my life: I don't think I had any idea. I thought my life would remain pretty much the same. I was happy doing secretarial work, executive assisting, for the long haul, creating reports in excel and writing at work when I could, participating in my local--whoa watch out it's a loaded term right now--community. I wanted to be part of that community in an engaged, full way. Which for me meant participating in the presentation of one's work, both to the local  (who I definitely see myself writing to, or for) and outside of it, to national or international communities. Reading, and being in public and private conversation with other writing and arts. Working to make opportunities for more presentation of more work by more people, more conversation. BUT THEN (perfect segue to next question)

How has your life been different since?

By the time the book came out, I had switched jobs, and been in my current academic administrative position for about a year. At the last minute, the department needed someone to teach an undergraduate poetry workshop, and then it all got really concrete, how a book might actually change one's life. Because suddenly I was able to get this teaching job, something I never thought I would want or be able to do. Which means I've also been really busy for the last year, adjuncting on top of my full time job. Plus I've traveled more than ever which has been mostly about giving readings.

Why did you think you could never get a teaching job? no mfa?

No, I have an mfa. But I also have a lot of ambivalence about this huge class of professional poet-teachers being produced by the mfa industry. I know, I know, even though I have an mfa, and getting it was a great experience. Still. I also had this idea that the same energies feed teaching and writing, and so it was better to do work utilizing other parts of myself. And leave the writing parts free to write. Like I've enjoyed jobs with some degree of rote activity. Generating reports in excel is downright meditative.

I also thought I'd be terrible at it, or not like it. And have found the opposite instead, that I really enjoy it. Here this word comes again but the best part is watching a community form in the class. I wanted to do a class this fall where we'd work all semester on a single, long collaborative poem and while I'm not sure we'll pull that off, it's illustrative of the strong impulse towards collaboration I've seen in my two classes so far. Even when not formalized as such, there are all these conversations between poems, a lot of imitation and admiration and complications and interrelationship.

Do you see a relationship between your blogging and the publication of your book?

There's definitely a relationship between my blogging and the book's reception in the world. I'd been blogging for two (or maybe three?) years before it came out. I'd guess that being part of online poetry world created more interest outside of my immediate scene than there might have been otherwise. And I'd also guess that blogging has to do with most of the reading opportunities I've had outside of the bay area.

What have you been doing to promote the book, and what are those experiences like for you?

I've read a lot. Locally at SPT, Artifact, Modern Times. Then out of town at the University of Maine in Orono, SOU in Ashland, my publisher's reading series in San Diego, and in New York at Teachers & Writers, with Brandon Downing and David Larsen, a release for our three first books. I seem to be talking a lot here about local v. national scenes and at several of those out of state readings I felt dislocated. Local readings often have a context or subtext surrounding and supporting the work that I feel naked without. The local reading is an extension of ongoing and intimate conversation with other writers.

The weird but of course obvious thing I failed to understand is how the book paves the way for one to encounter an audience mostly unfamiliar with one's writing and person. I hadn't anticipated the shock of this effect, or reach. Reading to students at universities felt particularly...odd? Off-putting? Nervewracking. In Orono I clung to the faces I knew: Jennifer Moxley and Steve Evans, hosts extraordinaire, Kasey, my fellow reader and friend, and then Ben Friedlander and Kevin Davies who I was meeting for the first time but felt somehow familiar with, via this net of poets both online and off. Then New York was totally different, reading to poets who I share affinity and closeness with, thanks again to Ms. Internet, but others who I don't know at all or have admired and adored from afar. Also David Larsen and I read from each other's work instead of our own, which I recommend everyone try at least once, there was a way we were creating a vocal/performative context for one another. There was less pressure and more joy. Also the three of us, Brandon Downing, David and I, all presented video work of one kind or another. It was a good party. And totally different from a university.

But the weird part about reading at universities is also what makes it great: you get to encounter interested students. At SOU there was a fairly informal afternoon conversation, I guess this is called a colloquium, and the questions were smart, the dialogue went in unexpected directions. I learned a lot. The other great thing about reading at universities is you get to hang out with your friends who work there. Books make that possible.

How are you feeling about the way the book is selling so far? (Do you know how it's selling?)

The first 200 copies sold really quickly. Which was exciting. Then it was out of stock for a long time, five or six months. Now it is back in stock and I hope it hasn't lost momentum in the meantime. My sense is that poetry books sell the most in their first year and it's almost been a year now since it was released. We'll see. I'm just glad it's back in stock. Hey! Everybody! Did you hear that? It's back in stock! Oh boy, here I am, promoting my book. This is what it looks like.

What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out?

I wish someone had told me to put more energy into self-publishing instead of working early on to get a book-book together. And had assured me that it's OK to go slowly. Luckily, I wasted only a little time sending earlier work out to presses I knew very little about and had no personal connection to. I'm relieved that my earlier writing never got published, and even more relieved that it didn't get published by a university or other somewhat removed press, which is the biggest mistake I could have made with a first book. It would have been like publishing into a vacuum. I'd say to always go with your friends, or people you are friendly with. One more thing about slowness: I could have been told 20 times that it's a slow process but didn't really understand until I went through it. Also, things will go wrong. That's kind of the deal. As much as we complain about the professionalization of poetry, we're not like mainstream publishers. I use a particular communal 'we' here. We are under-resourced and doing our best.

What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?

I don't know what I'm doing right now. It's a little terrifying. And all the stuff around the book, the administrative work of being a poet, knocks out writing time or it did for me. Plus I was working on this big editing project, and now it feels sometimes like I won't ever be able to write again I mean anything not scrappy or a total mess. I feel outside of the vein and I want back in. I'm also trying to do something very different, a lot of it in prose, self-consciously investigating genre and autobiography and working with shorter units, less lyric, more exterior than interior, but I have a hunch it will wind up looking like more of the same. The book made me want to do something new, as in new to me, like I've been thinking a lot about research and procedural work and how outside information enters the poem. But again it will probably not look that different in the end. Like trying to escape one's tail, how can one? One can't, really.

How do you feel about the critical response and has it had any effect on your writing?

The critical response so far has been interesting and generous and just what I'd have wished for, had I known what to wish for: smart attention from younger female writers, namely Geraldine Kim and Sarah Trott.  I know this might sound disingenuous but it's true, I am always still surprised and grateful that people are reading it and paying attention. I don't think though that the critical reception has had any effect on my writing. In some ways it feels like Geraldine or Sarah are writing about these poems by 'Stephanie Young' which don't feel like my poems anymore, and they aren't, really. At this exact moment I am in restless anticipation of what Brian Kim Stefans has written about the book, which will appear I think in the Boston Review but I'm not sure when.

Do you want your life to change?

All the time, yes. But right now that has nothing to do with publishing. (or moving, or a different job, or whatever) I don't want the big facts of my life to change. Something else I can't describe.

Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?

I am reading things that I hope will change me. Right now working through the books in Juliana Spahr's fantasy course, Writing of the Last 10 Years that is Not About Poetry but that Poets Should be Reading Anyway Because It Might Change What They Are Writing About.

Spending more time alone than is usual for me. 

Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?

Coming mid-stream in your excellent series of interviews, this answer feels like an echo or re-re-articulation of other more eloquent others, but: I can only say with certainty that poetry changed/changes me. It changes the way I think, the way I experience ideas, my permeability to ideas and the way those get attached to emotive or bodily experience. The equation here: poetry can change people, we are the world, etc. But then, are people the world? We definitely wield control over the rest of the world, the objects and animals and plants and matter that make up the world. (Lately in the bay area we are thinking a lot about how poetry might matter or not to animals but now I'm really wandering away from the question.) Veering back: poetry also led me to greater knowledge of activism and alternative social/economic models that I have hope might change the world in necessary ways. Art and poetry and heightened attention to the way language constructs the world are part of those models or I think should be. This, though, is a very personal answer. The way poetry changed or is changing me isn't the way it will change another person. Poetry isn't leading. But it is opening. To use my friend Suzanne Stein's terminology, it does effect a maneuver of some kind on its reader. What that maneuver is and how it works is still mysterious to me.   


A poem from Telling The Future Off by Stephanie Young:

My Life Expresses a Spirit of Flexibility

There is a woman
whose luck has found her.
See it descend even now
she is putting things
in her mouth.
lit up with a desk lamp
she is nothing
if no decisive.
"that isn't me in the picture."

No invention here
to stand between my momentary turn
away from the turning subject. Some great
barrier name, Jane or Judy
comes in and out of the room
with the whole dress shop, saying
"air conditioning is very bad for the pipes"
or "when Ms. Fitzgerald was onstage
there was no smoking."

But this comes from my hands!
Palms face up
for a lemony beating
they want that problem
with the stinging nettles.

Singer opens his mouth and out comes an operatic "MEMBER!"


and we have no sense to distinguish between
laughing behind our fingers
or not laughing
behind somebody's actual fan.
There's the trouble. I attempted to open and close
each painted scene on the interior of my mouth.

I was denied
something important or somebody denied me
was taken away without my consult
and that is how I got to be miserable.

Watching his body become more and more "clear"
until I clamored for
anonymous sex. It didn't matter that tomorrow
this would have a new name:
no more 'Keith' or 'Mark' or 'Steve.'

You can walk your feet back now
for a nice stretch. Shift your weight
into the hips, place your hands
here, put your hands here
I was begging
and my breath was uneven.
Do you think I will be able to know
your name when it changes? Would you like
some sweet and sour chicken?

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .


6 AUG 06

How has your first book changed your life?

22.  Jen Tynes

The End Of Rude Handles

How did your manuscript come to be picked up by Red Morning Press? How often had you sent it out before that happened?

I started writing the poems that made The End Of Rude Handles during the summer of 2005, mostly finished messing around with it in spring 2006 and started sending it out that summer. I sent it to four or five contests and to Red Morning Press (which I'd heard about through one of Brown University's Lit Arts mailing lists). I received a couple contest rejections during the summer; Red Morning Press accepted the manuscript in October or so, and they planned to have it in print by spring 2006. By that point I had a revised draft of the manuscript to send them; it all seemed very fast.

What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?

My book came back from the printers just a few days before AWP, so the first time I saw it was actually at the book fair in Austin. I was nervous and felt for some reason like I shouldn't go search my book out first, so I actually walked along through the book fair, table by table, until I got to mine. Luckily for me, it was in the first aisle I walked down. So that was weird. I am very nervous about self-interest--ashamed to be caught looking in a mirror--and I was embarrassed to be seen drooling over my own book, so I checked it out briefly (commenting on things like how well everyone else did in designing it) but didn't get a good look and read til I went back to my hotel room. It was exciting. So "real"-looking. I love chapbooks and DIY projects, and I am a big fan of handmade things that look handmade, but the perfect-boundedness of it really got to me. I spent a lot of time looking at the margins, how the poems look perfectly placed on the page. I know margins aren't that hard, but I was thrilled by it.

Were you involved in the cover design?

 The RMP guys asked for my suggestions, and I made three. I asked that they use some photos by my husband, that the cover be black, and that some of the text on the cover be a readable blue. They ended up incorporating all my suggestions into a cover design that I really love.

Before your book came out, did you imagine your life would change because of it? How has your life been different since?

I assumed that if I was going to make writing a focus, and I was half-decent at it and I tried to be published, I'd eventually publish a book or two, but it was theoretical and I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. I knew that I wouldn't become rich or famous or anything like that, but I imagined that a book would provide "proof" that I am really a writer--to people who aren't writers, of course, because people who are writers know plenty of fabulous and real writers who don't have books. But I imagined--and it is true--that a book would be a thing my parents could brag about, that I could present as a concrete example of "what I do."

To me a book suggests some time spent, some sustainability. And I want to stop being an adjunct teacher and start being a full-time teacher; I hear that books are sometimes helpful with that, though I don't have any evidence of that yet (and will be teaching an overload of composition courses in the fall). Also, I tend to write in series, larger bodies of connecting works--The End Of Rude Handles is really a book-length poem--so publishing it meant that it finally gets a chance to be read the way I intend, in its entirety. Occasionally someone will ask me to contribute work or do a reading, or a stranger will know my name when I introduce myself, and sometimes that will be because of the book, but it's probably just as often because of other publications, or because everyone else they tried to get was busy.

Even though I'd been told otherwise, I imagined that having a published book would make the next book (writing it? publishing it? I'm not sure) easier. However, the second and third books I'm working on are just like starting over, absolutely no similarities in structure, no better sense of how to organize a thing or know if it's "right," and while my first book was being printed, whenever I tried to write I found myself comparing the two, imagining what they "meant" together, totally unproductive.

What have you been doing to promote the book, and what are those experiences like for you?

I have tried to do as many readings as I can, but the cost is prohibitive. We sent the book to dozens of places for review, but there's only been one full-length review so far that I know of. These poems are on one hand very vocal/aural, on the other hand a little dense and inaccessible in a read-aloud, so giving readings has been a mixed experience for me. I am socially awkward and ambivalent about public relations.

What influence has the book's publication and the critical response so far had on your subsequent writing?

Once I got through the nerves, having the book finished and published helped me move on to the next one. There are some quirks to The End Of Rude Handles that most people who read it, before or after it was published, have pointed out. At first these comments were mostly negative, and the quirks were very important to me, and I let the reactions worry me. But the more I wrote, the more people who read it seemed to trust that I knew what I was doing, and I started trusting myself more too. This book is proof, to me, that I can follow a thing through to what I believe is its true and accurate conclusion, and then I can start the next thing. I guess that's the thrill of completing a manuscript, but the publication--at least for me, I know plenty of people who feel otherwise--means that it is "done." I don't have the manuscript pages lying on my desk anymore. That is very influential.


The poem that begins and an excerpt from the prose that ends
The End Of Rude Handles
by Jen Tynes:

All May Be Merged

Green leaves appear to nod and define.

When I snap pictures tender soars apart at the roots,
a small hand gathers a handhold.

Each other's bodies described
in the base languages of children, saying what

we make do with using well.

Fine white hairs on short green leaves.

When I speak of you some object is
also formed in light of that.

I enfold the brimming object to you.

from Ways of Contrariness

Or, another way to talk about collage: I'm constantly having a conversation with the person across the field.

Leave things out and watch the neighbors.
To the person across the field: Everything isn't sound after all; I'll just talk to you through this bone handle. I'll just jump right from the sheep's back. I have made chairs from a pocketknife. I have also used a pocket knife to make another blade's edge. If I borrowed someone else's material it's because it was right there in front of me.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .


4 AUG 06

How has your first book changed your life?

21.  Lara Glenum

cover of The Hounds of No

How do you feel about the critical response to The Hounds of No, and has it had any effect on your writing?

I've been totally stunned by all the positive press. I'm still convinced I'll be eviscerated. I've always wondered why people go to Quentin Tarantino and Lars von Trier movies in droves, devour everything Radiohead puts out, and then go home and read lame Wallace Stevens knock-offs. It makes no aesthetic sense (not to mention political sense). So I'm glad to find that people also like poetry books that act like a crash site.

Before your book came out, did you imagine your life would change because of it?

I was pretty worried about what it would do to my psyche as a writer, having to live in the shadow of this thing (even if nobody else ever noticed it). I was worried that the gestalt of Hounds would overdetermine my future work.

How has your life been different since?

A tough question to answer, since my daughter Sasha was born only a few months before the book came out. Between having a new baby and being on a whirlwind book tour and trying to finish my PhD, etc., I've had a blowout of a year. A thoroughly delightful blowout, but it's been totally over the top.

Were there things you thought would happen that didn't?

I thought I'd get slammed in the critical press right off the bat. I thought people might mistake the very stylized violence that surfaces in my work (or rather, comes leaping out of it) for actual advocacy of violence rather than a critique of it.

I also thought people might think that I level all this grotesque, over-the-top material at them just for shock value and miss the ethical and political stakes in my work. That hasn't been the case, though. I've been amazed at how well people have articulated what's at stake in my work.

Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?

More than anything, I believe in poetry's ability to change us by disrupting our habits of language and image-making. I believe in poetry that takes tremendous risks, poetry in which the stakes are extremely high, poetry that connects with the perpetual state of emergency we find ourselves in. And it's not just the current political climate I'm referring to. Being embodied in flesh that decomposes and that is inscribed with all manner of cultural values not of your choosing is also a state of emergency.

At the same time, I don't believe in teleology, in some utopian end toward which art is nudging us. I do, though, believe very strongly in art's ability to crystallize enormously complex questions, testimonies and visions that might not otherwise be articulated.

What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?

I strolled up to the Action Books table at a CLMP book fair, and this guy was leafing through a copy of my book, muttering "O my! O my!" and looking thoroughly scandalized. Johannes was laughing his head off and tossed me a copy. There it was, The Hounds of No, licking its fur, already a separate animal, living a life apart from me.

How involved were you in creating the cover design?

Very involved. I chose the art--or rather I commissioned the piece from Lisa Hargon-Smith, who does these gorgeous, trippy Max Ernst-like collages (only they're not sexist and because they have no background, they scrawl their excesses against a deep silence). Jesper Goransson, who does the graphic design work for Action Books, managed to whip out the exact font I'd been hoping for--very 19th C. saloon. I generally think his graphic work is brilliant.

What have you been doing to promote the book, and what have those experiences been like for you?

The book tour has been the main thing, and it's been raucous, good fun. I've met so many brilliant people in these last few months. I've mostly been touring with Arielle Greenberg, whose second book is also out from Action Books, and Johannes Goransson, who's been reading from his wickedly smart translations of the Swedish poet Aase Berg. Sometimes Aase herself has come all the way from Sweden to join us, which floors me, since she's one of my very favorite poets. Even after months of touring, I could still sit and listen to Arielle and Johannes read a million times over; their work (and Aase's) is so compelling and multi-valent, I never get bored. And Johannes is totally hilarious.

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

I really couldn't ask for a better pair of editors than Joyelle McSweeney and Johannes Goransson. They've done so much to make things go smoothly for me. And their vision for Action Books is really stunning--no one's publishing the outlandish, risky books that they do. They saw a vacuum in the publishing world and leapt into it with a war whoop. They've got a fantastic pair of editorial eyes (two fantastic pairs), and I feel extremely lucky to work with them. They've advised me all along the way.

What advice would you give to someone who is about to have a first book of poetry published?

Don't think about it too much. Don't let the novelty/anxiety/thrill of it take you away from your real work, which is writing more mind-boggling poetry.

What influence has the book's publication had on your writing?

I can't say. Or rather, I'd prefer not to think about it just yet. I'm trying hard to exist apart from Hounds now, at least in my writing.

Do you want your life to change?

I'd like the American empire to deflate without me and everyone else having to die to accomplish it. I assume this desire isn't unique to me.

Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?

Very hard to say. I'm trying. See above.


A poem from The Hounds of No by Lara Glenum:

The Name of the Ghoul

As the signified marched down to the harbor to embark, the
streets through which it passed were lined with corpse-like
effigies and exploding coffins, and the air was rent with the
noise of the machines wailing for their dead language.

The child first entered the Symbolic register upon learning
the name of the Ghoul.

Christ signifies "the void in all things." The floating signifier,
by whatever name it was known, was often represented, year
by year, by human victims slain on the harvest field.

The men slew the god of language, grinding his bones in a
mill, while the women wept crocodile tears.

Then the dead were believed to rise from their graves and go
about the streets, vainly endeavoring to enter temples and
dwellings, which were barred against these disturbed spirits
with ropes, buckthorn, pitch and siren-like sequences of non-

When the Emperor Julian made his first entry into Antioch,
he found that even the gay, luxurious capital of the East was
plunged in mimic grief for the death of the signifier.

It is conjectured that the cross to which Christ was crucified
was actually language god's enormous wooden tongue.

. . .

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2 AUG 06

How has your first book changed your life?

20.  Rebecca Loudon

Tarantella by Rebecca Loudon

How did your manuscript happen to get picked up by Ravenna Press? Previously, had you sent it out much?

I only sent Tarantella to one first book competition. It wasn't chosen, and as I was unemployed, I didn't have the money to send it to any others. I really didn't think about the manuscript too much. I knew it was complete, but getting it published was not an urgent need for me. I knew it would be published eventually, because that is what I wanted. I realize how naive this is, but I have this stupid faith that the right things are going to happen for me as long as I keep doing the work. My urgencies were making enough money teaching violin lessons and scrubbing toilets and walking dogs and teaching poetry workshops to pay rent, and continuing to write. Continuing to do the work. I wrote to Ravenna Press on a whim because Kathryn Rantala had published several of my poems over the years, and I asked if they were reading manuscripts. She said no, but I sent her Tarantella anyway. She had it for what seemed like a very long time but it might have only been a few weeks, and finally said that she would love to publish it.

What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?

The book had been held up in printing for quite a while and I think I sort of gave up on it ever arriving. I rarely use my telephone for anything but connecting to the internet, and when Kathryn sent me an e-mail telling me to get offline so she could call me, I got a little worried. I figured giant dogs had eaten the books or they had been held at the post office for harboring filthy words, or she had changed her mind and the press had decided to drop it.

She called me and said they're here and I screamed. A very loud girlygirl scream. I drove to her house like a maniac. The first thing I did was pet the cover of the first book on the top of the box, then I opened the book and smelled it. Ink! My ink. Kathryn made me a celebration lunch of asparagus, tomato, egg and champagne. When I drove home with my copies, I kept petting them, touching them, looking at them. When I got home I took them all out of the box and signed a copy for my son, and forced him to admire it repeatedly, and then I called my musician friends to celebrate. We had a party that night at my composer's house and I gave them all copies and we made many silly toasts and I was asked to read poems which embarrassed me.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

Yes. I knew what the cover was going to look like from the start. My son had brought home a box of old photos from his grandmother's house and I found the photo of the two men (his great uncles) dancing and drinking beer. I knew it was perfect. I wanted red as the color, something hot, something that caught the eye and would compliment the black and white photo.

Before your book came out, did you imagine your life would change because of it?

In my sentimental poet heart I believed I would sell thousands of books and become famous and reclusive instead of just cranky and reclusive. Of course, it was a very small print run and what I really wanted was to sell enough books to get a haircut and maybe buy some fancy cheese. I knew I would have to work hard to sell the book, give lots of readings, and I did. It turns out that my life did change, but in ways I didn't expect.

How has your life been different since?

Shortly after the book was printed, I found a steady job and I didn't have to worry so much about money. Up to that point, I was teaching orchestra in a middle school to 5th and 6th graders. Unfortunately, it was not a full time job and I didn't work enough hours to buy medical insurance, or anything else including heat in my house and, often, food and basic essentials. I was sorry to leave the kids at the school, but the new job gave me time to breathe and consider and relax and look around a little bit. I realized that I had made it through an impossibly difficult time, that I had mostly kept my sense of humor, and that I never lost sight of my art. I went a little crazy, yes. I made some bad choices, yes, but I kept writing. I kept playing my violin. I stayed connected to those things that were important to my spirit. I realized I was a lot braver than I thought I was. I see Tarantella as a milepost in my life. I look at it and I think I did something remarkable--I kept going.

Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?

I was surprised that people read the book and thought they were reading a memoir. I was especially surprised when other writers thought this. This made me feel like I was standing around in my underpants. I felt exposed. I was also surprised at how many women fell in love with the book. I was delighted to find little hordes of young goth girls with white makeup and black lipstick and blue fingernails hanging around outside bookstores after I read, who wanted to talk to me about the poems. A lot of people found the poems to be dense and difficult and weird. (Wait until they read the next book, haha.) My mother said she carried the book around in a plastic bag so it wouldn't get soiled. She also said most of my friends don't know what the hell you're talking about.

I thought I would get more support from the press in getting my book into local bookstores. I discovered quickly that bookstores don't want to talk to writers. It took almost six months for my book to appear in even one local bookstore. I didn't know that many bookstores want you to read at their store before they'll sell your book.

One of the most interesting things that happened with the book is that my musician friends bought it, and my two worlds, music and poetry, began to overlap. Musicians began coming to poetry readings. Poets began coming to concerts. I'm not sure the two worlds will ever mix well socially. When I had my book release party, I invited all the musicians and all the poets I knew. There were a lot of people there, but the musicians stood on one side of the room (near the alcohol) and the poets stood on the other side of the room (near the food) and there was little interaction. In my mind, music and poetry are the same thing, they are one art. I know there are some poetry purists, ahh, the academics, who disagree, who think poetry is POETRY and sits on its golden ass in an ivory tower twiddling its thumbs. There are musicians who feel the same way. I have argued this misconception my entire life beginning in grade school when I was playing violin and seriously competing, and was also writing, and was told quite clearly that a musician eats, breathes and drinks music and nothing else.

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

I promoted the book on my blog and pre-sold half of the first printing. I gave local readings constantly, but could not afford to travel. I sold books to friends and family and musicians and students. I sold books to my dermatologist and to my landlord and to people at my new job. I read at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. I got burned out. I went to open mikes, the most dreaded of mikes. I became sick of the poems in the book. I started reading new poems instead of poems from Tarantella. I could have sold more books if I was better at schmoozing. I totally suck at schmoozing. I love to read, but when the reading is over, I'm out of there as quickly as possible. I should have stuck around, talked to people, found out who they were and why they were there. A year ago last May, I gave my last reading for Tarantella. Then I took a year off completely from reading, a year to concentrate on writing. And hiding.

You pre-sold HALF of the print run?! How big was that run?

I think it was 125 books. My editor offered me an extremely generous deal, which was that I could keep the profits from whatever I pre-sold. I don't think she expected me to sell so many, but I was hungry and I am, after all, the daughter of a used car salesman. Plus I was able to sell lots to unsuspecting musicians who, once they read the book, mostly said Oh. Mm.

Radish King must have a lot of readers. How long have you been blogging and how did you get into it?

I started my first blog in 2002, I think, somewhere around there. A friend of mine owned some server space and he gave a group of us our own little parcels of serverland that were basically a blog. Mine was named Vitadrome and I used it the same way I use Radish King. Part diary, a place to post and unpost poems, a place to vent, a place to play, but mostly a place to practice writing.

I started the Radish King blog in September 2004. It was a hard time for me. I was poor, it was getting cold, I had yet to land the teaching gig, and I was waiting anxiously for Tarantella to arrive. It was a difficult time for me emotionally as well. I needed a place to play and I never expected anyone to read my blog since I wasn't (and I'm still not, thank god) part of POETRYWORLD, or, if they stumbled on it, I never expected anyone to come back.

I get anywhere from 90 to 130 hits a day at Radish King, not very many if you look at the numbers, but I get very little spam traffic and my readers are loyal. They come back. I'm not sure exactly why. I think it's because when I post on my blog, I don't think about having readers. I put poem drafts there and three a.m. rants and recipes real and imagined and stupid dreamy posts about my garden and my paintings and the art of others and photographs and movie reviews and just about anything that flaps its wings inside my brain. I rarely censor what I write there though I frequently delete my own posts. I have been asked to remove a post once, and I did, and I'm still pissed off at myself for caving in. I say what's on my mind (as I do in the meat world) and I think that writers are, at heart, voyeurs, and they like to peek in the window. Especially when it's dark and the little glow of the computer monitor illuminates the circumference of another person's darkness. I think that's why they come back.

I also use blogs as a means of document control, something I tend to be careless with. I recently wrote my chapbook Navigate entirely on a private blog. I found the blog was the easiest way to keep track of my writing. I just revised on the blog itself. When I sent the manuscript to No Tell Books I also included the blog URL. I'm writing my new book, Cadaver Dogs, the same way.

How could you give so many local readings? Are there many places to read near where you live? (Are you in Seattle?) One cranky recluse to another, do you enjoy getting out and reading?

Yes, I live in Seattle, and I think Seattle may be the best place in the world to find or give a poetry reading. We are quite the little hotbed of spoken word, slams, open mikes where middle-aged college-educated women pretending to be Native Americans can read to their heart's content, bookstore reading series, library reading series, famous poet readings and good old fashioned male-encrusted presses. (Like Copper Canyon.) Richard Hugo House is a great place to read, and the Jack Straw Foundation has given voice to many local poets. We have coffee houses and taverns and bookstores and even museums that feature poetry readings twice a month or even once a week. You can't swing a contrabassoon in this city without hitting a poetry reading.

I do enjoy reading. I'm good at it and I love it, love the audience response to my poems. What I'm not good at is dealing with my anxiety about leaving the house for the reading, or hanging around after talking to other poets. I'm an absolute failure at networking.

What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out?

I wish someone had told me to get a contract for the book. My publisher has been more than fair and square with me but I didn't know until a month ago how much an author's copy would cost me. I don't know how many books I've sold. I really don't know anything. I'd like to be more aware of the business aspect of selling books.

I wish someone had told me to be more strident in removing poems that I didn't feel absolutely crazy about. I don't believe collections of poetry should have filler poems, or ladder poems. Each poem must be as strong as the next, and there are a few poems in Tarantella that I would cut now if I had the chance. I basically didn't get any advice, because at the time I was writing the poems, I was not directly involved with poets or a poetry program. I was just writing away and playing music and following my intuition. In a way I'm glad. Advice can be damaging to both the giver and the givee, and is almost always wrong.

What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?

I realized right away that it was important for me to continue writing while waiting for Tarantella to be published. Part of me wanted to shut down and wait but instead I threw myself into the next book. I am now more conscious of how my poems inform each other. With the first book, there was much ordering and arranging and fretting and removing poems and putting them back. Now my poems order themselves for the most part. I believe that each poem brings the seeds of the next poem in its mouth. I'm more willing to write crap and recognize it as crap and move on. My writing is becoming less personal, a bit wilder, more experimental. I'm allowing myself to invoke the moon and the stars and love and all the things I was taught didn't belong in poems. I'm breaking all the rules I learned but so what? That's what happens when you keep going forward. Fuck the rules. Good writing is good writing, no matter what you want to invoke. This comes from practice. Practice and deep play and falling in love with your own work.

How do you feel about the critical response and has it had any effect on your writing?

Tarantella didn't get much critical response. My book didn't win any contests or cash prizes or any of that folderol. I worried at first that it would get bad reviews, then after a while I worried that it wouldn't get reviewed at all. It did though, and all but one of the reviews were positive but didn't really give me any insight into the book, which I wanted--perhaps a selfish desire, but a true one. I had one review that was two thirds positive and one third negative, and at first I fumed a tiny bit, stamped my foot, etc. but in the end, it is the review I learned the most from, the review to which I return. The reviewer was honest and funny and forthright, made a comment about the women characters in my book being passive, and I took it personally but eventually realized what she was seeing and why she saw it, and how my interpersonal relationships at the time I wrote the poems had shaped those women. She was right, but the poems weren't wrong. It was just the women I chose to write.

Do you want your life to change?

Yes, absolutely and constantly. Someday I would like to start an art school for children named The Renaissance School. The curriculum would be music and painting and poetry and dance and sculpture and voice and architecture and literature and a study of all that art encompasses and there will be no separation of the arts, but one art stemming from the same place in the brain, in the human psyche.

Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?

I am working more and more with my composer. I have written the libretti for two choral pieces for him, and a five part song cycle titled Bone Island Suite for orchestra and soprano that had its world premier last April. I am currently writing a children's symphony for him that will be performed in January, 2007. This is not a choral piece, but a children's story titled Ursula that will be read by a narrator accompanied by orchestra. We are also writing an opera together, Red Queen, based on the relationship between Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson. The more we work as a team, the more both of us are inspired in our respective arts, and the more poetry and music slip back and forth in my head until they are one art. I don't know what change this will bring for me, but I feel it coming.

Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?

Poetry has saved my life. And change in one person changes the world. If someone reads a poem and it causes them to view even a miniscule part of their world differently, then the world has been changed.


A poem from Tarantella by Rebecca Loudon:

Instructions for Recalcitrant Patients

Are you having a seizure?

I'm recovering from a spider bite
by embracing the tarantella; a low dance
in which I turn on my heels, snap my fingers and shuffle.

Do you know where you are?
During earthquakes, I cradle my violin
and regard the migration of seabirds.

What is your name?
When Saint Dymphna was fifteen,
her father drew his sword and cut off her head.
Let us be inspired by her example
and comforted by her merciful help.

What am I holding? (Hold up a common object such as a comb or watch.)
The ocean squalls down my chimney.
The power is out, my house cresting on its timbre.
I eat a jellyfish; swallow brine and chew,
a stinging sensation on my tongue.

Hold your arms straight out in front of you.
Will you rememeber, Rebecca, the way you rocked
in your chair when you played Schumann, the Rhein
covered in oil, burning?

. . .

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