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December 2006
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eod archives
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first-book & other interviews:
here


blogs:

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.oar.


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audio/radio/video:

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every other day


30 DEC 06
Bird Dog #8
Some good things I've been part of lately:


In print, Bird Dog #8. I designed the cover. Work by Abraham Smith, Barbara Maloutas, Bruce Covey, Catherine Theis, Chad Horn, Chad Sweeney, Curtis Bonney, Deborah Wardlaw Pattillo, Elizabeth Treadwell, Jennifer Karmin, Joshua Beckman, Julie Choffel, Kevin Magee, Kristi Maxwell, Michelle Greenblatt, Nico Vassilakis, Nicole Burgund, Raymond Farr, Roberta Olson, Sandy Florian, Sheila E. Murphy, Shonni Enelow, Thomas Kane, Tomaz Salamun, & Tyrone Williams. Get a copy for $8, subscribe, or submit, by writing Bird Dog, c/o Sarah Mangold, 1535 32nd Ave, Apt C, Seattle WA 98122.


Track and Field #2. Edited by Drew Kunz. Poems by Lance Phillips, Colleen Lookingbill, & me. Art by Patrick Gulke:

art by Patrick Gulke

(Get a copy by emailing trackauthorities at gmail dot com.)


Online, Absent #1. Click and you're there. Poems, essays, art, music, philosophy. "Look at the stone. Describing it will not do us any good."

 


28 DEC 06

How has your first book changed your life?

45. Katie Peterson

This One Tree

How did your manuscript get picked up by New Issues--did you win a prize? Had you sent it out much before that?

My manuscript was chosen for the 2005 New Issues Poetry Prize by the poet William Olsen, who wrote me an introduction that makes me blush even to think of and who has treated me with such incredible kindness and respect. Bill called to tell me I was a finalist and then left a message on my phone to tell me I had won the prize. It was my second year sending out the manuscript; I had been a finalist for a few other prizes (Alice James, Contemporary Poetry Series) and I suppose I'd sent out the book less than 20 times total in those two years. I wasn't aware of the New Issues contest the first year. It's hard to keep track of so many contests. But I later learned that a number of poets I had admired--Malena Morling, Claire Bateman--were New Issues poets. I was worried that the book was Romantic and autobiographical in subject matter but experimental, obsessive, and blunt in tone--that more traditional contests and presses would be put off by some of the unfinished thinking in the book and that experimental contests and presses wouldn't find the work formally pyrotechnic enough. New Issues, their judges, editors, and poets, seems to have a truly democratic (and I mean eclectic) sensibility. Their books have deep unity as books but privilege the individual poem; I like to think my book fits in well with their list.

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

What I remember is the night before. I was having dinner with my wing-girl Chiyuma Elliott (a gifted poet herself), and a friend, a generous and wicked-witted poet from San Francisco, and that poet's mischievous wife who is the quintessence of fun. And some new friends too. What I remember is that at a certain point, after much carousing and my continued protestations of "this doesn't really matter to me that much" (what can I say? I come from Irish immigrant stock, the self-criticism is at the level of the marrow in the bone), that poet said to me that I needed to enjoy this, to appreciate the moment, to really think about it and reflect on it (though he didn't use the word reflect and I can only imagine what he'd say if I accused him of such Californification of psychology). I can't for the life of me remember what he did say, actually. But I remember feeling, at that moment, punched into the gang of Poetry. When I looked at my bleary eyes in the mirror the next morning I thought: you wrote a book. And I believed even less that "I" had done it, but even more that the damn thing existed and couldn't be destroyed, and that even if it could be destroyed, it would have been. This was all before I saw the book. Then Chi and I walked over to the Austin Convention Center and there it was. When it was in my hands for the first time, it felt out of my hands. It was a hell of a lot more like releasing a bird or taking out the trash than possessing something.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

No, not in the least. And do you know what? I felt it to be a relief. I don't know anything about design. I know what I know, but I don't know anything about that. I can see myself wanting to get involved in those things in the future but felt strangely grateful to have the burden lifted from me. I was completely flabbergasted when I saw the cover. I think the book has one foot in fall and one foot in spring for a reason: "now no matter child the name / sorrow's springs are the same," as Hopkins says. And there are two feet on the cover, actually. But I expected the designer to love the spring part of the book more than the fall. I love the contrast of the orange and the black and the drama of the interior title page with its tuft of earth. The designer, Jason Punches, clearly read and interpreted the book, and his deep reading is a great compliment to me. It is a reading, too, that registers the book's obsession with opening up the earth and getting inside it, restoring the body to its place in the seasons, and me trying to do that, as William Olsen says, "on behalf of" the reader, who is entreated to stand in the book. I like the made quality of New Issues' designs, and their lack of reliance on single photographic images.
 
Before your book came out, did you imagine your life would change because of it?

I imagined I would have an easier time getting a job. That has a lot to do with why I sent the manuscript out in the first place. A lot of me would have been at peace with holding onto my poems forever, or at least for a very long time, but I have a career as a teacher too and I have to make a living and I needed to get out there. On a different point, I imagined that the person I was in a relationship with when I wrote those poems would want, at some point, to talk to me about them or re-initiate our friendship.
 
How has your life been different since?

When people ask me what I do I can say I'm a poet and prove it because I have a book. It makes it simpler to explain myself. I spent half a decade writing poems while completing an academic doctorate at Harvard University; I have to say that I have wonderful colleagues and friends from that time who respected and admired the fact that I wrote poems. But it wasn't always easy to make art in an environment for making criticism. A book is a kind of currency of respect and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel that when This One Tree came out.

Probably more significantly there's been quite a change in the way I perceive myself in relation to my work. Before the book I guess I mostly hid under the silly title of "Graduate Student Who Writes Poems." Now, in December 2006, doctorate in hand and book on the shelf, I'm a poet with a PHD. Note the reversal of self-proclaimed priorities. 

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

I thought my parents might get mad about how they were portrayed in the book.

I thought my ex-boyfriend might get mad about how he was portrayed in the book.

I thought some other people in the book might also get mad.

I thought I would want to edit the poems after they were published.

My parents were hilarious about the whole thing and probably don't even understand how funny the statements they made about the poems they were in were. My ex-boyfriend came to a reading I gave in Cambridge and was very sweet to me about the book when I ran into him in a coffee shop. Some other people got mad; some other people never read it so don't know what I'm talking about. I don't want to edit anything. The book is finished.

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

I did my first reading as a job talk for a job in the Midwest I didn't get. It was thrilling and there was a Q&A where people asked me wonderful and weird questions. I did my second reading after the book came out in Cambridge at the Grolier series for Louisa Solano. I started teaching at Deep Springs last January and flew to Cambridge for 36 hours to get the signatures for my dissertation and to do this reading in April. Getting the signatures on my dissertation was an incredible feeling; after doing that I had dinner with some friends at a place I've been so many times I've lost count and then went over to Adams House where I'd seen Louise Gluck, Donald Hall, Franz Wright, and so many others read. When I looked out at my friends from the eight years I'd been in Cambridge it became clear to me how connected I was to my poems. I read the middle section, all the poems called "The Tree." In October I read at Prairie Lights in Iowa City to an intense, focused, wonderful crowd; I was staying with my friend Kevin Holden and had just met Brenda Hillman, with whom I had remotely co-authored a wonderfully experimental critical essay on Emily Dickinson. Reading in Iowa with her present and a group of committed young poets present was one of the highlights of my year, an unforgettable experience.

As you can see by this narrative, I have been focused on the personal revelations of self-promotion, not the thing itself. I haven't sent my book to countless journals or been as assiduous about courting reading opportunities as I could be. The thing is, I've been living in the middle of nowhere, teaching at this school in a remote location and focused on my work, focused on writing new poems and teaching and being a part of this community. It may be the Sagittarius in me whose blind optimism thinks that the book will find its readers and reviewers. It found you. It may be the self-effacing Irish Catholic, the withdrawn Swede, the woman, the moralist, the coward in me that still shrinks from self-promotion. It may be the tired person who got her doctorate this year that has fallen short of her responsibilities to her work and her career. But I wrote my dissertation on Emily Dickinson, who was not much for publication but a great one for ambition. I like to think of myself the same way, but nowhere near as good of course.

When you say "teaching at Deep Springs," do you mean the all-male college in the desert? How is it to be teaching in an all-male school?

Yes, Deep Springs is in the desert, four hours north of Las Vegas. It is a fantastic adventure to be involved with such an improvisatory, unpredictable institution. Teaching at an all-male school--usually I don't think of it that way. In the sense that "teaching at Deep Springs" is how I think of it, which includes isolation, small class size, etc. etc. I figured out early on it's better not to be too self-reflective about my position as a woman teaching at an all-male institution. I think I prefer to just get in there and do the job. It is difficult to determine whether the fact that they're male and I'm female reinforces a separation between us or breaks down that separation more quickly. It is important to me that there are other women on the ranch (staff members, community members, though unfortunately no faculty) to create a small women's community.

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

The best advice was the "warning" I got from the person who is my most significant mentor and friend: that the book coming out was going to affect my ability to write for a while. I finished This One Tree a while ago--even four years, I think, maybe more--but its publication still shut me down a bit. I looked at my new work and wanted it to be like my old. I forgot this advice and then I remembered her saying it and felt relieved. It makes sense that publishing a book is like a little heart attack in your writing core. Coleridge talks about making the subjective objective, which is what you do when you go into language. When you see a book, that "objective" becomes a vivid thing, something irreducible, and language doesn't seem as plastic, as fluid, as it has to seem at least at times when you're working with it on the page.

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

I'm not sure but I love the feeling of reading new poems at readings, and I wouldn't be doing readings except for the book, so I feel this wonderful desire to keep creating work which is sometimes an anxiety and sometimes something deeply felt and true. Unlike, it seems, a lot of people, though, I still work at the level of the poem and of the next poem, not the next book. I'm having a lot of trouble forming my last few years of material into manuscripts I'm happy with, and I long for This One Tree's sequential clarities. So many of those poems were written as series--I would get onto something like a roller coaster or more like someone putting me in a shopping cart and pushing me around the parking lot and just hang on tight. Now, it's all being produced poem by poem. But the book's publication made it feel like a finished act of mind, and I'm more ready for something new than I've been in years. I like the end of the book because it feels like an ending. I like what I'm writing now because I can feel how bare these poems are in comparison to the poems in the book, how full of a certain emotional sense of the desert and isolation.
 
How do you feel about the critical response so far and has it had any effect on your writing?

Critical response? Am I missing something? A nice guy in England put a review on his blog. I was hoping that after I reviewed Legitimate Dangers for the Boston Review someone would review me but maybe I should have been meaner to that anthology. That appears to be what you have to do to get attention these days. Of course, not that much time has gone by, and since the book was just published in March perhaps I shouldn't expect anything. I wonder though, since so many reviews these days are just struggling to tell us how to read the poems how much effect it would have had. This is less to slam reviewers or poets than it is to point out that a lack of a culture of value-driven discernment when it comes to poems means that reviews serve a different purpose and often these days serve merely to introduce the reader to work or a way of building a poetics or even a subject matter; or they seem to err on the opposite side and be formulations of ego without personality. I love critical reviews when they're proven, argumentative, and eloquent; Maureen McLane's reviews are like that. If someone took the time to read the book and review it I would be overjoyed--that's how I felt when I found out this guy in England wrote about it. That's how I felt when I found out that the Harvard advocate staff had used the book for their spring Comp & the editor, Casey Cep, handed me a bunch of essays about the poems. I read those essays sometimes recognizing with joy the concerns of the poems and sometimes utterly baffled and sometimes humbled by the lesser moments pointed out to me by strong readers.

I should say that the three poets who wrote cover statements for the back of the book did lovely jobs, all of them, and that William Olsen wrote me a wonderful introduction. These critical responses came at a wonderful time. I know blurbs have a bad name in the poetry world, but I am grateful those people felt confident enough to stand behind my work. 

Do you want your life to change?

I want to continue to be changed by extraordinary people and significant experiences. I am lucky to be in a situation where that happens often.

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

This is a very spiritual question. It is like a fortune-teller question.

I am looking for a job. It is the Wheel of Fortune. I am reading deeply in the Romantic poets and remembering, reconstituting, re-experiencing their faith in experience, language and the soul, and the idea that poetry is a transaction of ideas that needs individuals. I am buying all of it, recklessly and enthusiastically, from beauty being truth and truth beauty to Thoreau thinking that in wilderness is the salvation of the world. I am reading not as someone who might write an article but as someone asking questions. Some people think the greatest enemy to beauty in this world is reality--that it's hard to make beauty or perceive it with all the ugliness going on. I think the greatest enemy to beauty is time, just as it ever was, though it's speeding up on us more quickly now and we see that in the calendar of the earth growing warmer and our skeletal calendars making us live longer, it is still true and indeed even more true that we, and this, and all of it, is perishable. I want to continue to read and write with intensity and I want to use my current isolation from the world as long as it lasts to purge myself of empty critical languages, re-ignite my commitment to poetry as a form of knowledge and memory, and look very closely at everything around me.

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

I once heard Helen Vendler say that poetry will not make you a better person but it will help you live your life. I like the way she said that and I think I believe that. If poetry makes change it does it soul by soul; it is more likely that it helps you survive.

:

2 poems from This One Tree by Katie Peterson:


At the Very Beginning


When I named you I was on the verge
of a discovery, I was accumulating

data, my condition was that of a person
sitting late at night in a yellowing kitchen

over steeping tea mumbling
as his wife remotely does the laundry.

My condition was that of a mathematician
who cannot put the names to colors,

who, confusing speaking and addition,
identifies with confidence the rain

soaked broad trunked redwood tree (whose
scent releases all of winter) saying as he passes one

 


Adam and Eve in the Evening


Our animal is so peaceful, he looks as if he were dead.
Tell me again how we met.

Tell me the story of your life.
I've caught something. Are you coming down with it?

The workmen outside work for no set time.
Close your eyes. What color are my eyes?

Tell me whether I should wake you early.
Asleep the animal looks less like a cat.

Tell me what to think.
Whether the weather will be fine tomorrow.

What color the thunder might render
the sky. Even if it won't be.

In summer your ribs show through your shirt
almost. Say

there has never been another,
that it is time for me to take your glasses

off, that I should never wake you.
How long have you been living in my breath?

Look at me like you want me to speak.
I do not know that there are things you think.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .


26 DEC 06

How has your first book changed your life?

44. Zach Barocas

Among Other Things by Zach Barocas

Your manuscript was published by your own press, The Cultural Society. Tell me a little about The Cultural Society: when did you start it and what are its aims? 

The Cultural Society started in Woodside, NY, in September, 2001. Originally the idea was simply to start a website that would feature work I liked, in hopes of creating a community whose energies could be networked through the site; that is, I hoped that it would be both a place to see work & a place to become familiar with other artists & writers, a hub. After 9/11, it was especially important to me to be positively involved with poets & other artists.

My friend Jon Curley (a poet & critic in NYC) joined me as co-editor almost immediately. When we decided to move into publishing (broadsides), Kimberley Yurkiewicz (I'm her husband now) joined up to help us coordinate production (she used to manage a letterpress shop here in Minneapolis before she moved to NYC). Though the website has evolved into being primarily my domain, Curley & Kimberley are still quite active in their roles. Peter O'Leary remains our sole credited advisory editor.

As for the goal of creating a scene, I think we've been reasonably successful. Some of the contributors have met each other through the CultSoc, some of us have been reacquainted. I suspect that most people who publish websites or journals report the same reward: it provides the opportunity to stay in touch with contributors, some of whom I count among my closest friends & favorite poets, photographers, etc.

What brought you to the decision to publish the book yourself? Did you design it also? 

There were, not surprisingly, several factors, the first of which was that I wanted to learn to design a book & it didn't seem like that was the kind of thing a publisher would allow. Another factor was that it's a short book, too short for most publishers. Mostly, though, it was a matter of wanting to keep the process close. The poems in Among Other Things were originally written over the course of 12 years (I tend to write slowly & in bursts). Only three of them had been published & I doubt the others had been read by more than a couple dozen people. Writing poems had always been a private undertaking for me & I was reluctant to fully surrender the manuscript. I had terrific, critical readers advising me on how to shape the book, its flow, & which poems to cut. I can't imagine that I would have gotten better help from other quarters. Of course, the final selections were mine & I have to accept any blame for coming up short.

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

I had seen the proofs already but the books were a whole different story. We lived on Henry Street in Cobble Hill at the time & the delivery truck didn't fit on our block. To avoid extortion, I had the guy leave the eight boxes on the corner (four buildings away) from which I carried them to our building & then up to the fourth floor. Once I caught my breath, I cut a box open, tore off the shrink wrap, started turning pages, & there they were: two typos. I almost threw up. Once I calmed down, however, I just looked at it, flipped through it (no further typos), & found myself pleased in the knowledge that I could get back to writing. These poems, for better or for worse, were done. I called Kimberley at work to tell her they'd arrived & then marched over to see my friend & mentor, the poet & artist Jason Ian Moriber, whose office was around the corner on Columbia Street. We had a cup of coffee. He gave me a kiss on the cheek. That night, Kimberley & I had a few friends over. It was a wonderful day.

Did you imagine your life would change with your book's arrival in the world?

I did, though not much. I thought it would give me a kind of entry point, an introduction to other poets & other scenes. My experiences in the music industry tempered any notions of fame & adoration. Besides, I don't think I write the kind of poems that yield that sort of attention.

How has your life been different since? 

A variety of things changed at that time, most or all of which are due to our move to Minneapolis. All obvious culture-shocks aside, this has been the first place I've lived where I know more than one or two local poets. In NYC, I knew mostly musicians & filmmakers, some designers, painters, actors, etc. but almost no poets, or at least almost no full-time poets. Here, on the other hand, I've begun doing readings, booking readings, & attending other poets' readings (in the entirety of my life preceding our move, I think I attended a total of 8 readings); I've gotten to know some local publishers (Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions, Coffee House Press, Rain Taxi); Kimberley & I have ties to the letterpress community. We've felt very welcome here & are thankful for the people who've reached out to us. Certainly from the standpoint of the CultSoc, it's been a great place to work. I have new contributors to the website, expanded interest in my own work, & our new friends even support our business (a stationery & gift shop called Letterbox). If only there were seven million more people knocking around, it would feel like home.

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

The only thing that didn't happen was sales. In NYC, I had a job at a video store that would have allowed me to sell 100-200 copies to customers I knew (I worked there on & off for eight years), which was basically how I anticipated making my money back. My father calls this type of financial lesson 'tuition.' I see his point.

The surprises have been myriad. I don't think I expected more than an "I-didn't-know-that-drummers-wrote-poems" response; maybe some kindness from friends & family but that was really about it. So to have it favorably mentioned or reviewed (or sort of favorably, like Ron Silliman's piece, which was accurate, in any case, & turned me on to William Bronk), to receive compliments from people I don't know, to be associated with the book--all of these things are surprising to me. And I'm grateful to have such a broad response. 

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

I've never been a good promoter of my own work. I've sent out review copies & sold a few at my website & the CultSoc. My old record label sells & distributes copies for me in & around DC; we sell it at Letterbox; I put it up at Amazon. As I mentioned above, I've started doing readings. Mostly, I've managed, almost entirely through Joseph Massey (one of my favorites & no stranger, I suspect, to anyone reading this), to hook up with a group of younger (by which I mean younger than me) poets & editors who have been very helpful in terms of getting the word out. Frankly, I've tried to keep this aspect as close to home as the production of the book. It's been an effective way to be in contact with poets & readers whom I would otherwise have missed.

I reserve a certain reserve, as well as contempt, for marketing & promotion. I think it's the only pitfall of self-publication: the desire to protect the art can hamper the availability of the art.

How do you think art is protected by contempt for marketing & promotion?

Marketing & promotion distort the scale of a work. Artists & audiences are drawn together by the mutually-held scale of the artistic experience they share. So if, for example, the pro-chapbook poets & readers out there are satisfied by the intimacy & immediacy they perceive in the format, why wreck it by promoting these collections to people who don't care? It would only betray the fundamental idea that defines & drives the community. I feel similarly about my book. When Kimberley, Curley, & I discussed publishing my poems, we had the resources to print & publish a smyth-sewn paperback book. But I'm not arrogant enough to think it makes the poems better or broader-based. It could have just as easily been saddle-stitched, hand-sewn, photocopied, or a PDF. As it happens, mine is a small book that people have found transparent, skillful, & at times, pleasurable & truthful. I don't know how I'd market those qualities & I'm not sure I'd trust someone who told me they did.

In short, exploiting something a handful of people take seriously in order to (hopefully) extract entertainment dollars from a larger group is dishonest. I have learned (initially from the music industry) that this notion is true in all cases & all media. So if contempt for this practice doesn't protect the art, it at least protects the artists & audiences.

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

All of the advice I received from friends & colleagues was sound. I think the most influential advisement, however, was an essay by Galway Kinnell called "Thoughts Occasioned by the Most Insignificant of All Human Events," which takes its title from Herman Melville, who turned the phrase to describe the publication of a poet's first book. Melville states that though such an event might be of the utmost importance to the volume's author, it matters little, if at all, to anyone else. There are exceptions, I guess, but Among Other Things is not among them.

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

There was a stretch through this past spring & summer when I felt I wasn't writing fast enough. There were solicitations for work coming in & I found that I was afraid to say no, afraid that if I didn't send anything I'd never get anything published anywhere again. Publication was a buzz, I guess, whose comedown was a source of anxiety for me. Like most anxieties, though, it was moot. I had nothing to send & that was that.

The whole experience put me back in my right mind & reminded me that I've never written quickly & relatively speaking, I've been very productive since the book came out. I'm back on an even keel now & looking forward to having new work appear in places & alongside people I admire.

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

When I was designing the book, picking the title, ordering the poems, etc., I was afraid that it wouldn't be coherent. Overall, the critical response to it has confirmed that I presented the work as best as I could, & further, has allowed me to free myself up to try other poetic modes & forms. It's been very helpful.

Do you want your life to change?

I always want my life to change. I want my life to always change. But not too much & not too fast.

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

I was asked earlier this year to write an essay on "poetry & the spirit" &, though I submitted a finished version of it, I've continued to think about the topic a great deal. Lately it strikes me like writing about "fish & the water," which is not the vantage from which the forthcoming piece was written.

There's also drumming, which has, in the last couple of years, reasserted itself in my life. It is not a separate matter from poetry, though it is a separate practice. I hope to learn to better integrate the lessons from each into the other.

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

Absolutely.

(This question reminds me of Anne Sexton's "need is not quite belief," a favorite line of mine from way back.)

Also: would the world change without poetry? Yes, I believe it would. But that doesn't get us off the hook.

:

3 poems from Among Other Things by Zach Barocas:


First Proposal

A body beneath
its clothing echoes

muscle under skin.
The muscle holds the

body, makes the bones
bearable--enclosed

support from within,
a body's faith, its

trust: structure is thus
the same as spirit.

 

Eleventh Proposal

It is not merely
the incandescence,

the radiance, one
barely, if at all,

contains; it is the
illuminated

witness, too, warmed &
facing the light's source

alone, basking with-
out fear, that matters.

 

From Here I Can See Everything

Look to a photograph of upstate
autumn, where all save skin

& leaves is gray;
or this one of my family:

the threat of my father's
aging

& my brother's
indifference.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

24 DEC 06
eye contact

28 sentences:

Maybe we'd go all the way. It is well known where this leads. I would alter little things in everybody’s story. They agreed, monthslong bipartisan. Curious about the attribute "hard to talk to." I still feel I should know why.

It might as well be the first week of December at my Christmas tree farm. The sound of sawing. People cutting down their tree, having their moment. I could cut it for them, but that's what they really love: doing it themselves. What they're really buying is the memory--made by hand, not improvised, not left to chance. I fall into bed exhausted from helping them tie it on their car roof, into the back of their truck, the one they brought down. The one I planted long ago. Exhausted from the sentiment, the scent of it filling the air.

"Experimental art is never tragic. It is a prelude." There was an original French version. Went to the supermarket and got sad there. Meanwhile, she furiously attempted to get out two submissions, didn't make it in time for the post, decided to believe in a later deadline.

Philosophical equivalent of "temporary crown." Can you talk about how it changes color and is chunks? Because, someday, I might want to know. Pining, the soul felt its worth. In sin and error. The slave is our brother. I seem to forget so soon what anything is about. Our weakness no stranger.

Lay thus.

 

22 DEC 06

arms

We found her near the churchyard, writing on herself. Your house of dreams and wishes, we lived in it so long. People say: You can't still have her ashes in the closet, it's wrong blahblahblah something about closure.


"Just come. I'll put a cup of tea in your hands."
"Do you believe in impure thoughts?"
"What we act on & what we really believe are 2 different things."


"Anyway, it's winter in the desert."
"Fear of rain or being rained on."
"I can change your roof."



20 DEC 06

You may have heard that Chax Press is facing evacuation from the warehouse in downtown Tuscon that's been its home for 17 years. (Read about the situation here.)

Right now, Chax is in the midst of a fund drive. Six books are coming out this month and two more in January, and the press needs support more than ever. Letters (sent to Chax Press, 101 W. Sixth St., Tucson, AZ 85701-1000) about the importance of arts districts, about what artists add to communities, about historic buildings and how it's important not just to love their history, but to keep using them in creative ways may help with the warehouse situation. Donations and book sales will certainly help with the ongoing costs of publishing beautiful books.

I need Linda Russo's Mirth and Tim Peterson's Since I Moved In.

        Mirth          Since I Moved In

Take a look at what's new at Chax and see what you need.

 

18 DEC 06

How many lifetimes inland? He was a bridge--I don't know what they call it. It has a name, there to touch, to condense. To fall from the air. A stream erupts into a wide and endless river. And is he still making the bagpipes? out in the garage? Let me sing it for you. I can't get close enough to say.

 

16 DEC 06

as if to say we're not dead yet.

 

14 DEC 06

How has your first book changed your life?

43.  Rachel Levitsky

Under the Sun

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

What I remember is the first time I saw Futurepoem's first book, Garrett Kalleberg's Some Mantic Daemons, and I was very excited to know that this amazing press would publish me--i.e. by a stroke of luck I ended up in good hands, beautiful covers.

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

I
became a poet at age 30 and thought I would like to have a book by the time I was 40, so there was a feeling of satisfaction there. Ironically I have a hard time sending out subsequent manuscripts to publishers, though I have two that I've had for years.
 
How has your life been different since?

I'm not sure, my life is always different. It was great to complete a longer manuscript, it seems to have invited me to complete more since, not that I'm any good at completely completing. It's hard for me to let things out into the world as finished products. I find 'in progress' an easier moniker.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

Yes--in the sense that I was given some choices of image and color.

Were there surprises?

A review by Standard Schaeffer in The New Review of Literature, in which he actually addresses the issues of the book (eros, humor, politics) and places me into an American cannon by discussing the work alongside Melville's Bartleby via Agamben. Nice.

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

A lot of readings mainly. I discovered how harrowing an experience reading in public is. Somehow I'd missed that fact before and innocently went about. But the other thing was my publisher Dan Machlin and I sent out over a hundred copies to reviewers that we thought might actually take a look...

What did you find harrowing? Had you not read very much before that, or was something different about reading to promote the book?

I had read a lot but, I have always found it excruciating to be focused upon and had gotten through it via activism, talking at meetings and all. In order to read, I needed to shove away that one in me who is horrified by attention and just do it. I found that I liked the mike, though at any moment, my horror could return. Somehow since the book the horror has settled into a general shyness. Less extreme but less overcomable by sheer will.

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

Hmmm. I would say get the book in as many bookstores as possible. I'm lousy at that. It takes work and gumption.
 
What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?
 
The one pushes the other. On one hand, the formality of that book has encouraged informality in the subsequent. On the other, the length and reach has permitted me to reach even longer, maintain an even more sustained and bigger idea.

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

This is a complicated question. I feel that response feeds the work--gives it additional dimension, yet there is also a need to retreat from too much contact. Just as we can't trust our own judgment on our own work, it's not great to rely upon audience response--because, too, the loudest voice is often the one taken up, so that a more nascent movement in the work can be missed and abandoned before it reaches itself.
 
Do you want your life to change?
 
Yes, I want a job.

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

I'm looking for a job.

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

Yes. But it first has to create a change in the writer, and it has to be heard by more than only poets, and it has to be about big things even as they appear small.

Also it is one kind of movement for change, one kind of catalyst and should not be confused with other types of direct action--like living in an old growth tree, laying down on a highway, tax resistance, even running for office as a communist. Poetry is a distinct force, irreplicable, but the other speaks to a kind of direct engagement that so much, in our particular time, works against. More and more I consider the importance of old fashioned bodily involvement in resistance. I have some concern about electronic life.

Where does Belladonna* fit in?

As for Belladonna*--it's a long story but the short answer is that I wanted to marry my poetics to my politics somehow...

:

2 poems from Under the Sun by Rachel Levitsky:

Sun Salutation

On your hands and your knees
Head against the wall

My people, she says
There are things for which

Even we
Lose words.

Forever and ever
No joke and no wisdom

No relish in repetition
Or risk

Where is the food, the chair, the table
Where is my head, your hand, gravity

Where is there room
In this room,

Under the table
Besides the white

Bedspread

 

VI. The Map [The Words]

They are walking.

Lady sees the map under their feet.
She cannot believe its colors.

Fluorescent . . .

It is a sign.

She has been forgetting to notice signs or to believe in fortune. She is willfully disobeying her rules. It doesn’t matter, the path has been sown, either before or after.

It brings joy and tumult.

Urt smells her pits. They are stale diner. Fish. She doesn’t yet eat fish.

Lady on the coast, her feet in the water.

Vanity as Turning Away
Lady bends Embrace

Turtle and Lady make a new contract. An occupation of looks and resistance. To anything meaningful in speech. Once upon a time they were stories. This one already written.

Civilizing repetitions
Competing repetitions

Turtle Believes
             in
Something New.

. . .

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. . .

 

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