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September 2006
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every other day


19 SEPT 06


14 sentences:

You seemed to need me but--when you put those big hooves onto my lap--I don't know. I don't know if poetry can create change in the world or would it even be a good idea--the right direction? We've been lost so many times now.

If, when we heard sirens, we stopped and joined in prayer--would that help? I thought of Kate, because of the time that Frank said she looked like a deer. And I wondered what happens at the moment of death, if there is a moment after. If she suddenly thought oh no I didn't mean it and it was too late to take it back. They're so pretty, deer. It's always a thrill to see one in the woods. But they're dangerous, reckless, they run into the road. We almost hit one that first winter.

And just when I think that I don't want to talk about my feelings, I wonder if I even have any. I mean I know I'm crying but who's crying, why. (Flags planted in the border.)

 

17 SEPT 06


I begin to hope for the character's happiness. "But I can't give it everything and know better at the same time."


 

15 SEPT 06

The day came. case sensitive is officially out. You can buy it at the Ahsahta site, here. And if you're about to rush right over and throw down your $16.00, you might consider their amazing subscription deal: for only $60 you can get case sensitive plus Aaron McCollough's new one, Little Ease, plus the next 4 titles coming from Ahsahta in 2007, plus a backlist title of your choice (that's a savings of more than $36, & with free shipping to boot).

Max & I on our way to New Haven, CT, where I'll be reading tonight with Adam Clay at the ALL Gallery (the Word of Mouth series). With a surprise guest!

And tomorrow, Adam & Matt Henricksen & I will read at Myopic Books in Providence, RI, hosted by Jen Tynes and horse less press. Matt and Adam both have beautiful chapbooks out from horse less. Adam's first full-length, The Wash, is due very soon from Parlor Press.

You can buy case sensitive at the readings--it'll be my first experience reading from the pages of the actual item. Thanks to Janet Holmes for making that possible. (Janet's much-anticipated new book, F2F, will be out in October from Notre Dame.)

"You're being taken on a tour of your most sensitive inner territory. If you're feeling like you're walking around the edges of a vast fenced-in area, with no clue what's deep inside, I suggest you cut the fence, go in, and see what's there. You will learn the meaning of why so much of your inner emotional world was made off-limits, and discover who was trying to hide their own secrets from you by hiding you from you. In truth, you are entitled to all information about yourself; you are entitled to read your own files, and will be stronger for doing so." (my horoscope!)

detail from the cover of case sensitive

 

13 SEPT 06

How has your first book changed your life?

33.  Karla Kelsey

cover of Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary


Before your manuscript won Ahsahta Press's Sawtooth Prize, had you sent it out much?

The year before winning the Sawtooth Prize, I had started to send out Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary in a version that had basically the same poems but was in an entirely different order. I was never very comfortable with this version because of its order--because this book works as a whole (it is full of repetition, accumulation, variation), the order matters so much. But I couldn't figure out how to rework it.

It is very much thanks to Eleni Sikelianos that I found its new order. She suggested reordering via form and pattern on the page (a section of prose poems, a section of open field poems, a section of more standard, left-justified poems). As the book is so visual and pattern-oriented, this seemed right. And after working on different orders within sections, the book really clicked and I realized that the book hadn't really been finished until it found its order.

Were you amazed to win? Or did you have a feeling you might?

I was really amazed. I remember well the night that Janet Holmes called. I was out and she left a message simply telling me to call her. Although I had no other reason for her to have called me, I would not allow myself to believe that she had called about publishing the book until I actually talked with her and she told me that Carolyn Forché had chosen it. I don't think I actually really believed that Knowledge, Forms was a book until I saw the galleys.

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

What I remember most vividly is when I received my bound galleys because this is the first time that I saw the book look like a book. I was walking home from teaching and my husband met me, holding the galleys, on the bridge that leads to the little isle that we live on (we live in a tiny town so it was easy for him to intercept me). I was so excited. The day I got the actual book is also vivid--it was a Saturday and I had a feeling that I would be getting the books in the mail and kept opening the door and looking on the doorstep. Probably on the fifth peek the box of books was there. I tore into it and was stunned by the beautiful books. I remember calling my mother and being fairly speechless, only to say how beautiful they were and that even if someone who bought the book hated my work they would have felt their $16.00 well spent because the book is so beautifully published.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

I was involved in the cover in so far as Jeff Clark came up with about 5 different designs and Janet asked me which one I preferred--it turns out that Janet and I both liked the same cover, so that was that. All of them were gorgeous and would have made excellent covers. I am so happy to have had Jeff create my cover. I have long admired his bookwork as well as his poetry. And Janet was wonderful about not only involving me in the cover design, but she actually made the book wider to accommodate some of the longer lines of the work. Since the book is so visual, I didn't want longer lines broken and indented, so I was going to rework some of them to fit the standard book width--rewriting was worth it to preserve the sense of the lines spanning edge-to-edge. Instead of having me do this, Janet suggested that she redesign the book to accommodate my lines--something I never would have expected!

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

No, I didn't expect my life to change. I've known several poets with books (one and many) and their lives don't seem to be very different from having the books. I think they would still be writing, teaching, and sharing their work without the book.
 
Has your life been different since?

In a sense, my life has been different. Having Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary published has given me more confidence. In addition, before the book was taken I had accepted a job as a visiting assistant professor at Susquehanna University. They were to do a search for the tenure track non-visiting version of the job that year. I don't know how much having the book published influenced the outcome, but it made me feel more confident when I entered that search. It was also fun to have the book come out as I got used to living in a new community of writers and readers.

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

I didn't really have a set of expectations for what would happen with the book. I've known people to have books come out that get tons of attention and people to have books that come out to little attention and I realize that this doesn't necessarily correspond to the quality of work, so I try not to set up expectations in terms of reception. A nice surprise that happened was that when I went to AWP last year several people I had never met before told me that they had read my book and liked it. That was a great feeling. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising to have something like that happen at AWP, the largest gathering possible of people who could have read my book, but there is just so much at AWP, and so many great books floating around, it didn't occur to me to expect someone to look at my little plastic name badge, recognize my name, and connect me to my book.


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

I did a few readings last year and will do a couple more with my good friend Aaron McCollough this fall when his third book comes out from Ahsahta (we read at the University of Denver on October 26 and for the Clean Part reading series in Lincoln, NE, on the 28th). One of the great things about doing readings has been doing them with friends that I don't get to see very often. Susan Maxwell (whose first book Passenger came out just before mine) and I went to Iowa to read. We had been students there and it was great fun to go back and see my teachers and the town again. I did a reading at USC, which my first poetry teacher, David St John, set up for me. That was a wonderful feeling, to have my teacher, who I have known since I was about 18, introduce me and my book. There are difficulties in doing poetry readings because there is no budget for them and a small audience, but one of the great things is that you end up calling on your friends to have you read or to put you up on their couch and it is a rewarding excuse to see the people who really matter to you and to read for people you are connected to, and to meet their friends and communities.
 
What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? What was the best advice you got?

I wish that someone had given me some idea of reading series that like to have poets who have just published a first book to read (if there are any). Finding places to read has been hard; I feel awkward asking people if I don't know them personally because I have no idea if they would be interested in my work. One of the best pieces of advice that I have gotten about publishing is that it is a situation of chance--just send your work out and keep sending and don't get discouraged or wrapped up in who is publishing with what presses in a negative way.

What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing (or other artistic pursuits)?

I don't know that the book's publication has influenced my writing much. Before it was taken, I had already started on another manuscript which I've just finished. The new book, called Iteration Nets, is based on the sonnet and was very engrossing and obsessive. I suppose I am lucky in that I didn't have to wait too long between books to have something to work on. I think it would feel like a lot of pressure to have a book taken and not have anything in the works, so to speak.
 
How do you feel about the critical response and has it had any effect on your writing?

More than critical response, the book itself has impacted my writing because I was so deeply engaged with it, I could really feel its limitations. I think and hope these limitations were necessary to the project, but it felt very good to be working in a different way when I began work on the sonnets. Now that the sonnets are done, I am feeling out some new things, which is both liberating and a bit intimidating. However, it is in a way a chance to begin myself again, which is exciting.
 
Do you want your life to change?

I do want my life to change--I have a very nice life, but stasis is frightening even though it is a big myth--just try to keep your life static and see! What I really want, though, is to be able to craft the changes in my life, or at least my responses to these changes. This is a way that writing helps--not in a necessarily therapeutic sense, but as a way to see the world and myself in a fresh light. As a way to, at least when I am working on poems, show myself a careful, thoughtful, slow way of being that is so easily lost in the society we have built for ourselves to live in.

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

I have a certain faith that if I keep working hard every morning before I go to teach that I will learn this better way of being in the world that I describe above. I like to think that this hard work not only enriches my work and my sense of the world, but that it carries over to what other people are able to get out of knowing me.

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

To a large extent change in the world can only happen on an individual level, or at least has to begin there in order to manufacture the social situations in which everyone has the leisure to work on themselves. As an optimist, I think that if everyone spent at least 5 hours a week in front of a blank piece of paper, seriously considering the language that they write down upon it, that the world would be a different place. As a pessimist, it is nearly impossible for me to imagine a world in which this could happen, because it would mean that--for one--everyone was literate and literacy was a world priority instead of going to war or colonizing Mars or something. However, I maintain hope in the idea nevertheless because it is hopeful to believe that we wouldn't be able to, or want to, keep up the frantic, schizophrenic, plastic way of living that we have cultivated in the US if everyone had to practice thinking and crafting language instead of practicing to perpetuate the models of reality that we have been given. I think that we at least have that in us.


:


excerpt from "Sound and Image Accordance Three" in
Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary by Karla Kelsey:


The mouth
having
fallen apart. Ragged
in sections, we have become
what we were meant
to become, internally. Not
that this is now loved
and honored less, but loved

and looked at, it burns.
All we cannot answer
is something about
the eternal, the many
thwarted of sun-beams.
Claiming this, my phrase
is so slow
in the making, a lazy eye. Here

 

in the middle
of the geometric flower
you scrape at it as
you scrape at us
down streets and.
And feeling
it, isn't it too bad,
though can you see
over the line of buildings
touching buildings, a space
the sun feeds into living

 

volume, loud and running
to the seam of it.
We are gone now
or going into the stream
of this and this
is not that. The way
of telling it red
and in quarters not satisfied

with the mixing
of elementals. I could
give you the floor-plan
but it wouldn't explain
the way these walls
were erected, and now
by some theory, falling
as in her scarf
flapping through air
to the rusted

 

sky-line, a refusal
to arrest into meaning
for you, not that I care not
for the blue in it
or the order. Your order

my planning arms
and the words float,
tilt through air. Something
about space and
safety, girders
while they still hug, not yet
disassembled to wait
in a warehouse. This is

 

the moment
of category, the image
red and palpitating
on wind and I
can say wind and
and. That
is about all though
supplied with mirrors
I breathe, and I assure you
something happens

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

11 SEPT 06

How has your first book changed your life?

32.  Aaron Kiely

cover of The Best of My Love


How did your manuscript happen to get picked up by Ugly Duckling Presse?

UDP editors Anna Moschovakis and Matvei Yankelevich approached me in 2004 with the idea to do a book. They knew my work mainly from readings I'd done in Boston and New York, and also work I'd given them personally.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

Yes, Anna Moschovakis and I designed it.

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

It was prettier and more professional than I ever imagined. UDP does amazing work.

I also remember feeling like I'd left something out of the reading I gave during the release party, something I almost always feel after readings.

Could you tell me more about that feeling?

I often don't have enough time on stage and leave out reading pieces that I had planned to read. I have often felt like I didn't deliver what I planned to. But I'm getting better at that. Now, before the reading, I try to identify the piece or pieces that I HAVE to read, and I try to make sure I do read them.

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

I think I did. I was thrilled to have my work distributed on a bigger scale than it had ever been.

How has your life been different since?

A lot of people I'd never met have contacted me, having read the book. People's responses to the work have inspired me and encouraged me to keep going.

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

UDP has handled most of the promotion, and wonderfully, bless their hard-working hearts. I have also been sending out more work to journals and magazines, poetic and otherwise, after having the book published. I like trying to get my work out there, I'm not discouraged by rejections or being ignored.

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

Kate, sorry, no answer for this. (didn't get advice)

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

The response has been very positive. I am thrilled that my work is touching people, many I'd never met. Different reviewers respond to different parts of the work, though all have been positive. I think I'd like a negative review too.

Do you want your life to change?

I am hopeful that the world, and particularly people in political power, can turn around from where they are and start believing that every person has the same humanity and deserves to live.

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

Yes. My writing and spiritual meditation/visualization hopefully can have an effect on the world.

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

Yes. 1000%. Look at the force and influence created by the words and energy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Also, the words of the Bush group are a big part of their effect on the globe: "endless war," "war on terror," "united we stand," "uranium enrichment," "Islamic fascists," "we will prevail," etc.

Do you want your own life to change--apart from the life of the world?  

Yes. I try to be clear and honest in my personal relationships. It's not always easy.


:


an excerpt from "Poem" in The Best of My Love by Aaron Kiely:


what's in people?

judgement is in the soul

things are the way they are
because they are that way in the soul

the soul is filled with judgement
the soul will not expand

jump quickly to anger
the soul won't expand

obsessed with its borders
the country because the soul
the country is obsessed with its borders
because the soul is obsessed with its borders
judgement is in the soul
the person won't expand

quick with anger
quickly jumping to self
the soul quickly with self
the soul quickly judging
things are the way they are
because they are that way in the soul
quick with self
obsessed with it borders
the soul quick with self
trying to "flourish"
to "know"
to "have it all"
to "finally have it all"

quick with self
obsessed with its borders
the soul pushing with the heart
trying "to have"

----

if this moment
sacred
getting into the cab--
if this moment
getting into the cab
is not going to be sacred
what is?

who will include everything?

who will be the one expanding?

who will be the one expanding
to include everything
with no one to blame?

----

believe you are not alone
believe it is in everyone
believe that it can dawn in them
believe that other people can want the same things

that it is dawning in them
that it is dawning
that you are not alone

that it is dawning
that it can dawn
that it can be in everyone

----

who doesn't deserve your honesty?
who won't you try to build the world you want to live in with?
who won't you show yourself to?
who won't you try to become yourself with?
who won't you love?

who won't you try to build the world you want to live in with?

who won't you even try with?
who deserves for you to try with?
who is included?

who deserves for you to try to build the world you want to live in with?
who won't you love with yourself?
who won't you try to become yourself with?
who won't you include?


. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .



9 SEPT 06

CHAIR  (a drive)

I met Karen Garthe (rhymes with McCarthy, not hearth) a few years ago in an Ann Lauterbach workshop, 4 Sunday afternoons at the 92nd Street Y. Karen's life lately has seen some big changes: she's single again, has moved to a different Manhattan neighborhood, and her first book, Frayed escort, won the 2005 Colorado Prize for Poetry, judged by Cal Bedient.

I visited Karen's new place before she'd officially moved in (before the bookshelves were built)--Max and I met her there before accompanying her to a reading she did with Forrest Gander and Thom Donovan at the 11th Street Bar (the Reading between A & B) last March. Pretty much the only furniture she'd brought over was a large chair in one corner, which she invited me to try. "This is a great chair!" I said as I settled in, my feet up on the ottoman and my arms flopped on the ample armrests. "You can have it!" she said cheerfully, "I'm getting a new one."

I haven't had a comfortable chair since before we came east from Oregon and I sold all the furniture, half of the books, and chotzkes large and small to help finance the move. (Recalling those weeks of selling stuff, I can't remember who in town wound up with my old reading chair. The blue sofa bed I inherited from my mother, not bad for reading, went to a cousin of Bob Dylan's.)

I do have a small cardboard armchair in the studio, bought from the Guggenheim store when they had their Soho branch. We carried it home on the train, flat--then unfolded and assembled it in the tiny apartment where we lived then, behind the Chevrolet dealership. Holds a thousand pounds (they say), no problem there, but it squeaks with any slight shift (how cardboard meets cardboard).

                                 

In the house, we have two hard wooden chairs at the table (we did have a third but Max smashed it a while back, in a rare fury), and office-style chairs at our computers. Our bed, a futon, lacks a headboard to prop oneself up against while reading. Mostly I end up sitting on the floor to read--in winter I go for that spot in front of the low heater vent--but I've missed the pleasure of taking to a welcoming chair with a good book.

         

Speaking of good books, Cal Bedient's blurb on the cover of Frayed escort contains these lines I find apt: "Evading every opportunity to be obvious and tedious, the poetry somehow skips beyond even the need to be subtle: it is simply unimaginably imaginative at every point. The writing is at once lean and fantastic, crisp and mobile." In the most recent issue of Chicago Review (Spring 2006), Bedient also refers admiringly to Karen's writing in his essay "The Predicament of Modern Poetry."

Of course I asked Karen if she'd like to do one of my first-book interviews. She considered and declined, but when Max and I drove in to pick up the chair, the topic came up one last time.

She said maybe she just hated writing prose. Or maybe her changes were still unfolding. She was sitting in the chair we were about to take away (soon to be replaced by a remarkable chaise). I sat in another nice armchair, feet on an ornate metal footstool. Max roamed, looking at books and objects on the walls, now & then sitting on the rug (an Aubusson, for which he has developed a fondness). Eventually, he wrapped up the ottoman and chair in dropcloths and rolled them down to the truck.

Waving goodbye to Karen, we set off again, toward New Jersey.


We put the ottoman and chair into the studio, until we can make space for them in the house. They're so big, and I'm not painting at the moment. Now the room doesn't feel exactly like itself.

I don't feel like myself either--my life is changing. Though I'm not in a position yet to answer the question, I feel like a person who keeps asking other people: "How has your first book changed your life?"


A poem from Frayed escort by Karen Garthe:

The Azalea Bowmen

deer and the aucuba voice of the deer
the Azalea Bowmen
and the falling, thinning deer
spruce aside, needles falling

in the pool with the Girl with the Unwashed hair
off-center because the center's for God
red-faced "to break his bones"
's' a wacko now...
who should maybe been more of a wacko before
to Crash
in the Rockies
Crash who lost everybody, easily
talks with strangers
plays in the hills off-center since the center's for God
his bandolier flashing shoulder to hip
grows old conservatively, professionally
his luggage strolls on wheels

Soothing Crash
The sun
Tangled in a tree at sunrise
A man tangled in the sun in a tree at sunrise

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