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August 2006
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every other day


22 AUG 06

Lost track of the weeks, 28 sentences:

Dear When-I-allow-myself-to-think-of-the-songs-I-see-the-roads,

Drove out to the 4 Corners, first time since we moved my parents from the farm to a house in town. Signs that said "No stopping any time," and indeed no time was stopped: everything had been replaced. A Lutheran church in the Ballfield. I sat awhile in its pleasant courtyard, somewhere between where the pump house and the big barn had stood.

"She's beginning to see colors around people. Do you see colors around people?" (Family reunion.) "How was your flight?" We seemed to be kids in our pajamas (businessman with his tiny pillow) watching TV together, staying up past our normal bedtime. "I've got to start understanding what states touch each other."

C and K talking toward evening's end, moved by the sound of it, strangers so soon sisterly. I meet somebody one day, and by the very next day we're dear friends. The hugging I call "California style." Not sure when (or where) I came to prefer the handshake. ("But aren't you from California?")

To know the shapes of trees. To know the longitude and latitude with certainty, amidst erasure of landmarks, the topography altered. Each tree I'd loved, felled/uprooted longsince; only one on what were once our acres seems older than I am, though I can't specifically recall it. Put a hand on its trunk, to say hello and to take a bit of comfort.

She and I put together two jigsaw puzzles on the floor. She's six and doesn't yet understand the meaning of edge pieces in the scheme of things. "Do you believe in Buddhist?" she asks, deeply deadpan, then shows me points of interest on the shrine. "I can touch this," she assures me as she carefully picks up a carved figure, tells me his name. He was a guy once, now an idea made of rock.

Walked to the top of the best hill I could see. Didn't make any photographs. Walked down with a leaf.

ps:
I like him, I like his poetry, and I admired his keenness and eloquence at the after-reading dinner--but it was the quality and delivery of his driving directions that impressed me most.

 

20 AUG 06

How has your first book changed your life?

25.  Jeannine Hall Gailey

cover of Becoming the Villianess


How did your manuscript happen to be chosen by Steel Toe Books?

I had been a semifinalist in 2004 for their book contest, so I figured I'd submit to their first official Open Submission period. And, I thought, it was very fair to buy a book in exchange for the reading--much better than writing a $25 "check to noplace" for most poetry book contests.

I had been submitting my book for about 18 months when I got the call from Tom C. Hunley, the publisher of Steel Toe Books. First, he told me he had pulled the book from the Open Submission reading group because I had reviewed one of his books, The Tongue, a little while back, and he wanted the Open Submissions reading to be scrupulously fair. (Which I applaud. But at this point in the conversation, I was feeling a little down.) He went on to say that his first couple of readers had loved the book, which they had read after he pulled it, and he had too, so he wanted to publish it as Steel Toe Books' first "solicited" book of poetry.

This call came at a very important time for me--I had just a few months before almost died during a minor surgery because of an undiagnosed hemophilia-like bleeding disorder, had a massive immune response to the product they used to stop the bleeding, and was told I would need medication the rest of my life and would not be able to have children. My self-view went from "normal" to "Freakish mutant" in 24 hours. Imagine being told at 32 that you could have died from a bad nosebleed at any time over the last thirty years. I even took a semester off school because of the health problems. I think being able to focus on something positive, the book, probably saved my sanity. So, it had more of a positive impact on me than it might have had five years before, or if the news had come now.

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

I remember thinking, "Sooo Shiny." I'm a little like a crow, attracted to bright colors and shiny things. The amazing artist who did the cover for us, Michaela Eaves, was really adamant about the quality of the red on the cover, and it came out perfectly.

The other thing I was really (strangely) concerned about was curling covers, and the book seemed to hold its shape really well, so I was happy about that. You know they don't really know what causes that curling cover syndrome in paperback books? Something about the weight and ingredients of the paper and the way it is coated.

And then I cried when I read the dedication of the book (it's dedicated to my mother.) She is the one who really encouraged me to read and write poetry as a kid, and it's her fault the book exists. I know, so cliche. And sentimental. 

Did you imagine that your life would change with the arrival of your book?

I was lucky that I had a few friends who had already had their first books come out who warned me A: My life would not change dramatically after the book and B: the euphoria/depression cycle that follows a book's being published is perfectly normal. Because I think we poets always imagine, my book's going to change the world! It's going to sell a million copies! And then we think, my book's terrible, no one's going to read it, and those who do read it will hate it and give me bad reviews on Amazon out of spite. The truth is probably something in between.

I also had some perspective because I spent time as an Acquisitions Editor at a technical press, Microsoft Press. For instance, a technical book was considered a failure if it "only" sold ten thousand copies, and the press might barely recoup the costs of making and printing the book. I've been told that a poet would have to be very lucky to hit that mark. It shows you how poetry book publishing is really a labor of love--no publisher is making a ton of money selling most books of poetry.

What changes did the book bring?

I've been invited to do readings for money for the first time. Even if it's only enough to cover the travel expenses to get there, it is a great feeling that someone values your work enough to pay you to read it.  I get people coming up to me, telling me about the book, which is pretty much always a thrill. I was really moved when a woman came up to me and told me a friend had been using poems from the book at a domestic violence shelter.

I've also gotten a few solicitations for work, which hadn't happened before. I seem to be writing more but sending out less. I've gotten a little lazy with my submissions, possibly because I'm in school and trying to balance the book stuff with homework and freelance work.

Also, I seem to get a lot of superhero-oriented poetry in the mail. And e-mails from strangers telling me about their superhero poetry. Which I'm all for, actually. The more superhero-oriented poetry in the future, the better.

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

Really, nothing much changed, and that's what I expected. Just doing the work to promote the book when it first came out took away from my writing energy more than I expected. So I had a bit of a no-writing gap in April and May.

I was very surprised that Garrison Keillor read two poems from the book on The Writer's Almanac. Honestly, I did not expect this, as my work doesn't seem to have much in common with the work he normally reads. And then, amazingly, you could Google the titles of the poems and like twenty people had posted them to blogs and things. It was a weird dissemination of my work--like some kind of poetry virus. Also, my Dad is a huge Garrison Keillor fan, so I was really happy about it for that reason.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

Yes--the artist, Michaela Eaves, was recommended to me by a really good friend, who said she would be perfect for the kind of work I wrote. He was right. I gave her some vague ideas and she came up with the cover, which includes a background of symbolic birds and plants (swallows, deadly nightshade.) I mean, she's a serious genius. I love her work. Tom Hunley (the publisher) was very flexible and open to ideas about the cover art, which I really appreciated--I found out not every publisher lets you in on that side of the book production. And most people when they see the book say they love the cover. It does attract more goth teenagers than you would think a book of poetry might attract. I'm not sure they buy the book, but they pick it up and touch it a lot.

The woman on the cover looks kind of like you, right? What's the story there?

Ha! I get a lot of questions about that! I'm very flattered--but actually, the artist used a model friend (who ended up standing in an evening gown in the rain for an evening in winter for the picture--what a trouper!). I think Michaela was trying to capture the idea of a contemporary girl in the process of "becoming the villainess"--or at least contemplating it.

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

Tom and I both sent out copies of the book for review, and to the usual places, Verse Daily and such. I have a healthy number of reviews, maybe a modest handful, coming out in the future that I am happy about. No New York Times Review of Books or Publisher's Weekly, but good literary magazines. I think I didn't expect anyone to even notice the book, so every time I heard about a review I was elated.

I set up a lot of readings locally, in Seattle and the surrounding areas--Open Books, by the way, a poetry-only bookstore in Seattle, has got to be one of the all-time best places to read--did two festivals (Skagit River Poetry Festival and Wordstock in Portland) and have a bunch of readings coming up that Tom and I organized in Kentucky and Ohio, where the press and my Alma Mater (University of Cincinnati) are located. I actually love reading, especially with an enthusiastic audience, but afterwards I am always wiped out physically. I think October (which has me doing readings in the Midwest for eight days, coming back and reading in Portland, OR, two days later, and then a week later going up to Bellingham, Washington) will probably kill me. I'd still like to set up some readings in the Bay Area and New York, but it probably won't be until next year that I can do that, logistically.

My blog has a lot more promotional stuff--announcements of readings and reviews, etc--than it used to. I don't love doing self-promotion--it's weirdly unnerving. I'm very jealous of people who have PR people to help them out.
 
What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? What was the best advice you got?

I really owe a debt to Erin Belieu, who taught at a summer conference a few years ago that I attended. She told me two things: one, that, since there are very few women critics out there, I had a responsibility to start writing reviews, and that two, I should take my work seriously and start putting together a book manuscript. I don't know that I would have even thought about "a book" without her encouragement. Writing reviews made me much more aware of what people my own age were doing in the poetry world--I had to read their work so closely, judge what I considered attributes or weaknesses, notice the way their words worked together. Also, in a world where very few people care about poetry, it feels like putting some positive energy out there--hey, notice this writer, this book, pay attention: this person is doing something good!

I also really appreciated having several good friends with recent first books who warned me about the hard work that comes with a first book--that you have to work to promote your poetry, to promote poetry in general, give back to the community of writers you live in, etc.

Advice I wish I'd gotten: Go over your book with a fine tooth comb and take out anything that bothers you. I did a lot of reorganizing and cutting before I gave Tom the final version manuscript, and I'm glad I did. I probably should have done even more.

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

I'm trying to mine different areas, because I think I could pretty much write forever about Western mythology and fairy tales and popular culture heroines, but that might get a little dull for readers. So I've immersed myself in Japanese poetry, mythology and popular culture, even trying to teach myself Japanese. The female archetypes are startlingly different, but some similarities--especially the woman as monster or animal/human hybrid--surprised me.

I'm trying to get more intense language, different kinds of language, into my new poems, and a more lyric feel, because I felt I needed to get away from so much narrative. So I'm trying things like prose poems and experiments with voice and sentence fragments. Also experiments with Japanese forms, the tanka, the haiku. I think also that my health problems have put a weird spin on what I write, issues of being physically "abnormal" and childlessness come up a lot now, but in indirect ways.

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

It is very interesting to me to read other people's responses to my work. Some readers got very different things, some things I intended and some things I did not intend. Once your work goes out into the universe, there's no more control over it. I don't think it's really affected my new work, since the stuff I'm writing is so different. 
 
Do you want your life to change?

I feel that the past few years, working as a freelance writer and going to school, have been something of a break--I worked for ten or eleven years straight as a technical manager before that. So, I've been thinking about a new type of working life--maybe teaching, editing, coaching, maybe doing something in publishing. Definitely jealously guarding my writing time--something I didn't do much before the last year or so--and being more conscious of my physical health. I'm kind of in a holding pattern right now, instead of planning, just waiting to see what the universe will bring. (Very New Age, I know.)

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

I'm going to finish up my MFA in January and my new manuscript, and then--we'll see. I've already started talking to publishers and have tentatively sent out CVs to a couple of schools. I'm also thinking of starting up my own literary magazine revolving around pop culture and even a small feminist press. I've volunteered for the last five or six years at several literary magazines in different capacities and feel like I might be able to pull it off.

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

When I'm feeling optimistic, I do. I think it's one of the reasons I continue to write poetry, rather than technical manuals. A lot of the poems in the book have to do with women and violence, women and power. I think Margaret Atwood, when asked if she was a feminist, responded that yes, she was a feminist, if that meant she would like women to be treated as human beings. I'd like it if poetry could affect the way that women are treated--women who are denied the right to property, voting, even reading or driving a car. I'd like it if fewer women were victims of rape or abuse. But I'm not sure if poetry can help. It feels like a little dust kicked into the Grand Canyon.

On the other hand, I'm sure that reading poetry changed me. So, theoretically, it might change others. I remember discovering contemporary women writers (I had grown up with Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, like most girls my age) when I was 19 or 20, and thinking, wow, here are women speaking their minds, here are people saying things I can relate to. Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, Louise Gluck, Carol Ann Duffy, Denise Duhamel, Dorianne Laux--a string of poetry heroes that I think made it possible for me to write what I write.

:


A poem from Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey:


Playing Softball with Persephone

She throws that heavy globe
so that it sinks in the dirt
a gash in semisoft mud
around the shoe-crushed wildflowers
and the gnats ring her hair like a crown.

She looks right at me while she drinks Gatorade,
pulling her sweaty bangs up over her face
and her eyes like a whole field of forget-me-nots.

The ball rolls forward and she grabs it,
squeezes it like a ripe pomegranate, almost takes a bite,
then wipes her mouth on her dusty arm.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

18 AUG 06

I started this blog on the 23rd of August 2005. I've put up a post every other day since then, until this past Wednesday when I finally missed one.

nuts & bolts

It's been a rigorous and beautiful week for me, and I had the opportunity to talk with a surprising number of people. Several of them mentioned that my blog looked kind of interesting but they couldn't quite get what was going on. (As in: Is that you talking? Are those your pictures? What are all those names? I don't understand how to get around and find things.)

Well, not everyone who comes here is a regular reader of blogs. Also, this blog is maybe more like a scrapbook than a journal. If you arrive on a first-book interview day, it might be puzzling. (Find a brief explanation here of how that started; they'll continue to appear until my own first book comes out around the middle of September. The growing list of interviewees is in the right column. Everything red is a link.)

The basics: I post an entry of some kind every other day (hence the name of the blog). The address is kickingwind.com--I'll change the blog name if I decide to alter the posting pattern. For now, it's "eod" for short. It is essentially a poetry blog, that's the community I feel I've joined, but I don't have much talent or appetite for criticism. Sometimes I post the work of writers I'm reading; a red asterisk, when clicked, will take you to further information, possibly a place to buy the book.

Links to a selection of other poetry blogs are listed down the right side of this page, under the list of first-book interviews. Yes, if you click on those you will go someplace else.

There's a link to the archives index under the calendar for the current month. White numbers in the calendar link to the posts for those dates, as do the black dates at the top of each post. If you had the time and curiosity, you could view every post I've made, chronologically, by starting with the bottom link on the archives index page and reading each page from the bottom up. (My niece, a new blogger herself, actually did this recently, amazing me.)

I generally like each post to include some form of illustration, often photographic, usually shot by me, once in a while by Max (a "real" photographer, my husband, and occasional guest blogger). I've made a string of entries related to photography--some about my own relationship to taking pictures: here, here, here, and here (not complete, as I haven't spoken yet of digital cameras, which have changed everything for me and many bloggers I know).

I'll post notes of various kinds from things I'm reading, such as these 2 entries based on Photography Speaks. If I use photos from books, it tends to be obvious from the way the book has been scanned--in this example, if you keep clicking on the picture, you will move through a short series of images ending back on the original page. I do that sometimes to provide more information. (Here is another click-through, of my own photos.) I often scan or photograph details of paintings I'm working on and I've gotten into making drawings in the computer as well--so yes, most of the pictures are mine, unless I indicate in the alt text that they aren't.

Sometimes a series emerges: Seven Sentences, for instance (see explanation here). The most recent one is here. The words "14 sentences" or "28 sentences" at the beginning of these are links that will take you back to the previous one.

Entries from 6 Oct 05, 8 Oct 05, and 9 Nov 05 offer some early thoughts about blogging.

 

14 AUG 06
photo of Jaime Saenz from Immanent VisitorJaime Saenz


THE COACH OF THE DEAD

A long time ago, when I was a child, they tried to teach me things about certain things. But I never managed to grasp the norms of discipline.

One day I was walking through the city and I saw a coach. It caused me great distress. I don't know, now, if it was green or blue or red, but over the course of my life I came to believe it was colorless, that it was simply a coach.

On that day when, as a child, I saw the coach, I was infected with who knows what strange force, what strange presentiments.

It was the coach of the dead, according to the revelation of the epileptic child I encountered years later on a sunny afternoon...

This incident, of course, means little at all, given that the child refers to any passing coach as the "coach of the dead."

The dead, just like the living, can die again.

So the revelation of the epileptic child, on a sunny afternoon.

The dead have the power to die.

The fact of dying deprives no one of the right to die again. Here lies the secret of existence.

This is why the dead have died.

This is also why the dead are, in a sense, precocious.


--from Immanent Visitor Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz
tr. Kent Johnson and Forrest Gander

 

12 AUG 06

How has your first book changed your life?

24.  Allyssa Wolf

Vaudeville by Allyssa Wolf

How did your manuscript happen to be published by Otis Books/Seismicity Editions? Had you sent it out before that?

I sent my book ms to a handful of presses before Paul Vangelisti suggested I send it to Seismicity. Paul had previously published my work in Ribot, in 1999--I sent out my first ever submissions 'with love, from Ohio' to literary journals, and Fence and Ribot both accepted my work right away. I think that was even more exhilarating than my first book; it was the first first. I wept. Because I had been writing, peerless, a high school dropout and doing every shade of destruction in the underground, for years. So I felt out of nowhere, working on these things that were very foreign to my life in a way, and to have them accepted in what I thought were the most forward journals at the time, it was quite something.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

No. Absolutely not. Paul and Guy [Bennett] have a vision, a minimalist vision, a flat-rat-black vision, a noli me tangere vision (that was very close to my own vision in Vaudeville). I love the cover; I call it my 'little black virgin.' No blurbs, no hideous 'poetry art,' no hand on chin author photo--flowers and horses and tables or what-all. No things but in ideas. But my next book is going to have me nude on the cover, with a blurb written in lipstick across my belly.

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

I was living in San Francisco, it was February. I got two copies in the mail in the morning before going off to work. So I was opening the envelope as I was walking and looking at it while I was walking in the street. The first thing I did was scan for typos, since I had developed a neurotic fear that my book would have them. I am proud to say there is not one typo in the book. That was the first thing I said when I spoke with everyone about it--no typos!

I brought the book to work and took a few long cigarette breaks to read it. I was shocked at how total it was. I showed it to the 65 year old gay men I worked with at the suit shop. They politely feigned interest.

Before that day, did you imagine your life would change with its arrival?

I had already been schooled by the poets I knew in Los Angeles in what to expect. I braced for silence. When people like Dennis Phillips and Paul Vangelisti, master poets, are virtually ignored, it's obscene to pity yourself if everyone doesn't immediately bow down. What is bowed to often troubles me anyway. On the other hand, my life has changed dramatically in general since entering the Land of Poetry, and I am grateful for that.
 
How has your life been different since?

I feel a sense as having been pronounced 'not guilty' at a trial.

Were there...surprises?

The first poem in the book, which still hurts me, received a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing. That was very exciting.

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

Seismicity sent copies to 300 poets/magazines in America, which is wonderful. I have done next to nothing to promote it. I gave one reading in Los Angeles. I may give more, but I'm not so sure about poetry readings. It is important to go to them--like church socials--but they don't seem to have much to do with poetry. They often seem like a bad re-enactment of poetry. Also, in places where poetry readings are very important the 'funny poets' proliferate. They must become funny to entertain a crowd, I suppose, because poetry is going to hide in those environments anyway. It takes a great deal of effort to bring poetry to a reading, which I have seen only a few times. I think poetry's music for eyes on paper and has much more sound possibility in a reader's mind, rather than trapped in some particular voice.

As for my own readings, I would like to create some sort of machine that I could work to perform the reading for me.

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

Life is neither absurd nor meaningful, it is.
 
What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?

I barely wrote for six months, because even doing next to nothing there always seems to be some poetry business to attend to. I've received several offers. I'm working on two mss now: Prisoner's Cinema (or Film of Dust) is the extension of Vaudeville with more phenomenology--the stage is gone, and in Pure Waste the stage reappears--this time housing a sex show with the idea of the inhuman galloping about.

I've also been spending a lot of time editing, doing a guest stint at Effing Magazine. The issue should be out early Fall, it really turned out well.
 
How do you feel about the critical response and has it had any effect on your writing?

So far there has been little critical response. I think the lack of blurbs/big names buttressing the book, added to my uneasiness about 'promoting' myself, is going to slow down the process considerably, which is fine by me. I'm not going anywhere. Jon Leon wrote a great review in Jacket (Jon Leon wrote this review before we met or had talked much and now he is my lover, so I lied when I said my life didn't change somehow because of this book), buried in 'the flarf issue.' (And aren't we all these days, buried, in the flarf issue?) A mystery review is coming out soon in Verse Magazine. I'll be curious to see. I'll be looking forward to many more.

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

I feel like Miss America.

I'm for a poetry that is actually a way to live, in that respect I think close to the aims of philosophy. But I'm not sure what to think when I look at the poets who did cause political change: Ginsberg? the Futurists? Pound? Not exactly ethical all-stars in my eyes. Poets seem to do goofy things politically when they are active. Why is that? And they're really not much better as sedentary upper middle class generic lefties--only slightly better as upper middle class armchair Marxists. If the international class wars come down they're going to be toast, but nevermind. You have to be willing to fight in the street for what you believe, as a citizen first. I'm ready. I will take up arms. 

:


A poem from Vaudeville by Allyssa Wolf:


First Doll

Rather this or that, says one
As another sings low

I would have grown sound even
In the rich sick
Of the earth
I would have grown

Within a crowd crying
What won't exist?
A rose on the rod
With this I look on you now

A spike of light?

Is it an anger which turns
My face to yours?

(scrubbed hand in red fogged sun
shock of grey hair gently
placed on dry earth


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10 AUG 06
page from Die Himmel by Anselm Kiefer

Tagged by Anne and Matt, I don't resist:


A book that changed my life?

I find myself wondering: has a book changed my life lately? I mean the way The Brothers Karamazov or The Waves or Kafka's diaries or Salinger's Glass family stories changed my life before?

Newer finds are more crucial to me at the moment, but I don't think I could say that any one of them has changed my life. I may have reached a point (temporarily, I hope!) where the only books that can really change my life are the ones I'll manage to write.


A book I've read more than once?

If a book is important to me, I read it more than once. More than twice, most likely. The book I'm re-reading right now: Immanent Visitor, selected poems of Jaime Saenz.


A book I'd want with me on a desert island?

A big blank book with nice heavy pages, in case I have to write and draw with berries. (There will be berries, right?)


A book that made me giddy?

I was giddy at first, then flipped and pulled inside out by Brenda Coultas's Early Films. It's amazing. (I only learned of its existence in the interview we did last month.)


A book that made me sad?

When writing reaches me, whatever else is included, there's usually an aspect of sorrow.

I guess the book that made me feel sad most recently is the one I finished writing a few days ago, The Last 4 Things. At least I think I finished.

I cried yesterday reading a poem from Rebecca Loudon's forthcoming book Radish King.


A book I wish had been written?

The comprehensive, surprising, and insightful biography (in English) of Paula Modersohn-Becker. The one with all the gorgeous color plates.


A book I am currently reading?

A book on the work of Anselm Kiefer called Heaven and Earth, by Michael Auping. (The picture at the top of this post is from that book.) Also Beverly Dahlen's A Reading 18-20, just out from Instance Press. Both engrossing.


One book I've been meaning to read?

The Fast by Hannah Weiner.

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