some poems online
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available at your local bookseller
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January 2007
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first-book & other interviews:


$650 apartment for $650
aaron mccollough
ada limon
al filreis
almost i rushed from home
adam clay
amanda earl
amy king's blog
annandale dream gazette
a peek of reach
a sad day for sad birds
asthma chronicles
attention without a me
a tonalist notes
a view from the potholes
a walk around the lake
bemsha swing
bewilderment inc.
big window
black and white
the blind chatelaine's keys
bob marcacci
both both
brandon brown
bread and jam for frances
the brother swimming beneath me
the burning chair
cahiers de corey
can of corn
catherine daly's blog
chicago postmodern poetry
chicana poetics
chicks dig poetry
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collin kelley
critical fiction
culture industry
dbqp: visualizing poetics
delirious hem
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do gummi bears dream
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fewer & further
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geneva convention
goodness gracious
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hg poetics
home-schooled by a cackling jackal
human's animal
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i am yer grammer
i'll show you mine
in place of chairs
intagliod up in blue
iron caisson
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isola di rifiuti
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jeannine blogs
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leftover flying
lemon hound
lime tree
little red's recovery room
love and coffee
the lovely arc
lovers' last go around
lutheran surrealism
maryrose larkin
mindful ramblings
minimalist concrete poetry
minor american
modern americans
mr. tong bliss' journal
the neglectorino project
nervous unto thirst
never mind the beasts

nice guy syndrome
nothing to say and saying it
now then
omnidawn blog
paul hoover's poetry blog
the pangrammaticon
peek thru the pines
philly sound
poetry hut
poesy galore
poets' corner
poet with a day job
pshares blog
pudgy pigeon enterprises
pugnacious pinoy
qbdp: the mailartworks
radish king
reader of depressing books
reli[e]able signs
reginald shepherd's blog
rob mclennan's blog
rocket kids
rue hazard
samizdat blog
sandra alland's blog-like entity
sandra simonds swims and swims
say something wonderful
serif of nottingham
shanna compton's blog
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slicker chumway's
slim windows
spoke to the world on the phone
spooks by me
stamped & metered flying fish
the steinach operation
stephen vincent
texfiles in bahrain
they shoot poets don't they
third factory
this is all your fault
this morning in poetry
tom raworth's notes
twenty thousand thousand
the unquiet grave
unreliable narrator
virgin formica
voices in utter dark
voix off
the well-nourished moon
what an errand knave
wild horses of fire
wind meals
wood s lot
the word cage
yes, starlings! yes!

you are here
ysleta poeta
zach barocas

journals/small press/reviews:

6 X 6
abraham lincoln
above/ground press
absent magazine
action yes
ahsahta press
alice blue
big game
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black lodge press
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the brooklyn rail
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faux press e chapbooks
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horse less press
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how2/barbara guest memory bank
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konundrum engine literary review
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new pages
no tell motel

omg press
the page
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poetry 365
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rain taxi
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sona books
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word for/word

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The Continental Review
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miPOradio POdcast
Naropa archives
Rabbit Light Movies
to the sound
a voice box




every other day

31 JAN 07

How has your first book changed your life?

48. Danielle Pafunda

Pretty Young Thing

How was your manuscript chosen by Soft Skull? Had you sent it out much previously?

Nepotism. I jest. But it was all pretty cozy. Shanna Compton and I were members of the same cohort in the New School MFA. Dan Nester published me early on, and passed me the La Petite Zine reins, er reigns. Then I met Richard. Soft Skull, Ugly Duckling, Autonomedia turned me on to small press and DIY publishing. Soft Skull sadly flagged a bit around the time I was moving to Georgia, but, when I next visited New York, it had revamped and opened the knock-out Shortwave bookstore. At a reading there, I was chatting with this red-haired sharp-dressed writerly-looking chap. Gushing about Soft Skull, about the new publisher Richard Nash. The chap turned out to be Richard, blush. Anyhow, we all seemed to fit well, and they called me six months later to offer the book deal. How lucky to do one's first book with friends! With people invested in one as both writer and human! I had been sending the manuscript out since I finished my MFA, and had a few nice responses, but this was the first publishing offer. At the time, Heidi Lynn Staples was still in Athens, and we heard from our presses within weeks of each other. Much champagne and chocolate cake was had. Many sparkly feather tiaras were worn.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

Yep! I'm on the cover, in fact. My long-time friend, photographer Christa Parravani, was working on a fabular series. I came to Northampton for a visit, and it was one of those sunny days with fat, pristine clouds. She works in supersaturated digital colors, so such weather was a must-shoot. She had this scene in mind--it would be a vaguely Chinese fable about a farmer dragging a woman through his field. What's remarkable about Christa's work; she envisions a few elements, has a hint of narrative. She drags some costume pieces out of her closet (you should see her closet), stuffs you in the car, and says, "Let's look for a dirt field." Not just any dirt field, but the dirt field she's imagined. Ten minutes later, she finds the spot as though it materialized just that morning just for her, and positions you (and in this photo, her husband, the writer Jed Berry) firmly, kindly, perfectly. A day later, you've got this densely textured novel-in-image. And she was kind enough to let me switch up the fable's roles, so that on my book, I'm dragging Jed through the dirt (thanks, too, to Jed, patient!).

A poet should definitely be involved in the production of her book. Despite the popular dictum against fetishizing the product, these are discreet objects. They're permeable experiences from cover to blurb, and though it may put too many cooks 'round the soup pot, small presses ultimately benefit from this kind of involvement. Me, I love to make things. I'm starting a micro-press called Wunderbin Books, and I swear half the reason is so that I can sit around collaging skeletons and bugs and tutus and baroque textiles together and call it work.

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

My first reading from the book was at Bruce Covey's fine New Voices in Poetry series at Emory. Bruce, my partner-in-crime, my two-month-old babe, and I were having dinner at a Thai restaurant down the block (well, I was nervously twiddling noodles and breastfeeding the babe). Shanna Compton and Jen Knox, on their hardcore nonstop book tour, were about to join us. They arrived with no time to spare, and Shanna hand-delivered a box full of Pretty Young Thing. It was all ridiculously sweet; Shanna got to see me see the book for the first time, I got to introduce her to Hazel (said babe). I got to meet Jen Knox, who's my Soft Skull sister, yo. Bruce, the nicest guy in poetry, got to smile benevolently on all of this, and then Adam (said p-i-c) strapped Hazel into her Bjorn, and we all went and read like barnstormers to a great crowd. And we sold some books! Actual readers bought my actual book! Laura Carter and Kirsten Kaschock among them, bless 'em. Perfect.

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

Not so much with the book's arrival in my hands, but with its arrival in the hands of readers. The book was long in coming. Soft Skull took it in April 2003, and it came out in October 2005. There was a lot of time to reflect, switch poems in and out, restructure the sections. Ultimately, there's maybe too much evidence of my process over those years. It felt like readers would be getting one of my organs--an incredibly intimate tattle-tale beyond my control, a part of me?/my life? I can't put my hands directly on. I feel differently about the books I've worked on since--they're organs in masquerade attire.
How has your life been different since?

Well, I had a baby two months before the book came out, and I'm living in Chile this year, so it's hard to parse what's book and what's other major existential shift. Obviously the book changes my life in some material ways, but I also think about the book's life...it's really the book's life that changed.

Could you say a little more about how "the book's life" changed?

The book's life--

It's bound, literally and figuratively. My book fits in a purse, goes on the subway, hangs out on a breakfast table, gets picked up by a housemate, colored in by a toddler, and is in all these ways bound to its physical body. It's bordered by what Thomas Hummel or Shanna Compton or the reader's best friend says about it. At the same time, the book is suddenly so much less discreet. It becomes part of poetic discourse (which isn't to be grand, but just to say that every bit of poetry produced is an agent in the discourse), and part of its own more localized dialogue. 

There's an aura that develops in production--the field wherein author, subject, and material endeavor triangulate--but there's a wholly other aura pulsing between autonomous text and its readers. And I'm not actually privy to this second aura. I'll be over here in the author glow, and the reader glow appears at best a sort of foggy warmth on the horizon. Marianne Moore freaks me out in this regard. To go back to the book, to call the poems back and edit or rework them takes some serious guts. This is one of the ways in which the moderns seem to me somehow more postmodern than the postmodernists. Moore divests the category "book" of its culturally constructed authority in a pretty perverse fashion, and I do love her for it. She's ever the mad, yet mannered, scientist.

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

I'm thoroughly surprised by how many readers from outside the poetry world write to me about the book.

What did you do to promote the book and what were those experiences like for you? What are you planning to do next time?

Well, I've got the standard blog approach, and I read in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, and at AWP in Austin. I sent the book to a few fine minds I admire--pretty targeted promotion. I think more about the poetics I want to champion and taking up space Pound-style. Which is not to say that I'm a Pound fan, so much as I'm a fan of Pound's omnipresence. And his spontaneous public dancing. I've got a lot of projects running, and I cannot shut up about them.

Do you enjoy reading publicly?

Love it more all the time. I'm thinking about reading in costume from now on. If anyone would like to make me a sort of ravaged Victorian riding habit? Please? And then I'll paint my face a bluish-copper, and pink my cheeks, and build that kind of hell-bird bride hair you see in the avant-fashion pages. It's silly that it should take permission, but I seem to have finally begun to receive mine from... uh, myself? This sounds corny. Still, I suddenly feel I can make art and do art to the full extent of my curiosity and obsession. Glee!
What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? What was the best advice you got?

The best advice came from Johannes Goransson, who said to remove the titles from all the poems (which advice I followed partially and could finally see how all the poems made a book happen), and from Lara Glenum who insisted I include all the doctor poems I had. I wish someone had, or someone would give me advice on how not to feel tender about it all. I'm a preternaturally thin-skinned tough nut (so everything hurts my feelings, and I chug along just the same). Even the nicest things people say about my work cause me a raw shiver. A good raw shiver, but overwhelming nonetheless.
What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?

Not a tremendous amount, I suppose. By the time the book came out, I'd already finished my second manuscript, and was halfway through my third. It's hard to back up from that kind of momentum (if I wanted to, which I don't).
How do you feel about the critical response and has it had any effect on your writing?

The reviews of my book (casual and official) have been remarkably in line with my own assessment of the project, and so reinforce my enthusiasm for my current strategies and mutations. The few that have been off-base and negative have reassured me to some degree--i.e. if so-and-so dislikes it, I'm clearly doing something right. The comments that include what I'd consider positive misreadings (the reader likes it because he thinks the poem does X, and I surely don't think the poem does X) encourage me to work harder, stranger. Ultimately, though, my writing process is speedy, loose, unpredictable, and so it's never happened that I say I will or won't write in a certain fashion. I stew my poetics, my obsessions, my catalogue of creatures and sensations, and then poems tumble out. Reviews must be in the goop somewhere, but the individual poem's overdetermined.
Do you want your life to change?

Yes, in some ways.
Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?

I'm finishing what one kind and exquisitely talented writer has called my "goddamn PhD." I've got many feisty and practical reasons for pursuing this degree, but there ain't nothing easy about being a poet, an editor, a teacher, a student, a compassionate citizen, a parent, a partner all in the same day for less than $15K a year. Even my freaky-deaky well of energy can be cashed out. So, I work to finish, I look for that ever-elusive position as junior unicorn in the department of fucking up the looking glass, on the committee of resurrection and evisceration. I'm also on a mission to take up space (see above). Feminist poetics have been in action for nearly half a century now, and still the poetry world can be despicably old-boy old-school. In part, this is because we've got centuries worth of knowing how to read centuries-old subject matter and strategies. If I'm writing and editing from a subject position relatively underrepresented, in a strategy relatively unfamiliar, and doing these things for what I consider to be some admirable reasons, then I'd better make sure I share it far and wide as possible. I'd better make sure there's enough evidence out there for folks to school themselves on.

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

Of late, I consider writing to be a set of strategies by which one creates a discreet, but permeable experience (per above). Strategies whereby one might suss out partial connections and flashes of the real, should the real turn out to exist. Jasper Bernes, poet and all-'round smarty, and I were recently chatting about the tiresome assumption of subjectivity as bourgeois, of individuals as tapped-out, empty husks who heave whatever commodities they can lay claw on into the craw...I paraphrase a bit liberally, but Jasper got me thinking. I don't believe anyone's particularly empty. I think we're all overfull, symptomatically postmodern, and most folks are scrambling like mad to maintain some sort of coherence. Which struggle requires the editing out or the manipulation of the information that threatens this coherence (as the theorists bank on). It seems to me that all the gore and grotesque, all the slippage and incompatibility is seething there under the baseboards. Poetry is one way to saw (and thus see) through the floor. One way to rip the structure off the foundation, one way to help people gain their footing in an "imaginary" instability, so that they're less frightened when the "real" instability rears up. Well, I should say poetry is a set of ways. Or we might more generally look at art as a set of systems, and poetry one strategy therein.

But this is also a pet peeve of mine. In a more applied way, the whine persists, does (my) poetry make a difference? Or, I know poetry is self-indulgent, wah-wah, I wish I were an aid worker in a crisis zone, I donate to Amnesty International, etc. Firstly, if you'd prefer to be an aid worker, for the love of mud, please go do that. Secondly, why do we lob this attack at the arts in particular? Do we ask the folks who produce gumball machines or create new and improved salad spinners whether or not they're good citizens? Do those folks ask themselves? I don't know; I'm being rhetorical. My point is that we question the overall value of poetry primarily because it has such a low market value, and that is big-time lame. If my poems get one person to reconsider gender norms, for instance, that's some fine work. If my poems infect a reader or two with more subtle compassion, then that's huge. Undeniably, the world is rife with hideous violence and injustice. But just because my part in its correction is not the most glamorous does not make it unnecessary or wholly selfish. Now, if you're writing the kind of Pottery Barn lyric that grants readers permission to edit out inconsistencies and search out aesthetic bomb shelters, then you can go right ahead and feel ashamed. I would encourage you to become that doctor without borders or that human rights lawyer you always suspected you had in you. Should I have issued a rant warning a paragraph back? Maybe, but I can't stomach the bad faith poets, or the argument that the most material application could survive without the more abstract mechanisms.


from Pretty Young Thing by Danielle Pafunda:

The house was full of furniture I'd never been tied to. I saw
a lamp and called it a halo. A small deformity. A hook in the     frame
went off at an angle. My towel dropped away in the doorway.
I gave you a time capsule full of lead paint. To bury a babyhood.
I gave you the pelvic bone of a six-year-old girl. A dollar.

Where was the teapot the cat broke, the brooch, the figurine?
When your grandmother called you to her bed, you went, and I.
And I was on the patio. The lawn. The neighbor's lawn.

The phone showed its sick root to me last night. It wanted
to call you. A tremor, a wound worm in the pillowcase.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .


29 JAN 07

    it's only the 2nd time in my life I've cried at an art exhibit

        and later, Max performed a dance with an empty boot


27 JAN 07

What's up.

                            Dusie 5

   TYPO 9

                                                    Coconut 7


We take to the road again on Sunday, driving south to DC. Finally meeting Maureen Thorson. Finally meeting Reb Livingston and Carly Sachs, and hopefully Kaplan Harris. Looking forward to meeting & reading with Anne Gorrick and Betsy Wheeler, the 3 of us certain to leave the Burlesque Poetry Hour on Monday night lighter than when we arrived. Max and I plan to visit the Joseph Cornell exhibit at the Smithsonian while we're in town, too.


From DC we'll drive down to the UVA campus in Charlottesville where I'll read with Jason Labbe and Karen Garthe on Tuesday night. It's happening at Jason's house--something new for all concerned. I love the idea of poetry readings that take place in someone's apartment or backyard. Shouldn't we have something like a House Concert circuit, the way folk musicians do?

On to Richmond Wednesday, reading with Liz Canfield at Chop Suey Books (thanks to Susan Williams). Then we'll head back north, the future having become the past, maps become roads and buildings and sky, satellite views understood differently from the ground.


25 JAN 07

How has your first book changed your life?

47. PF Potvin

The Attention Lesson

How did your manuscript get picked up by No Tell Books?

I had just finished tweaking a new version of the manuscript when Reb Livingston visited Miami for a reading. She took a glance at my pieces and asked for the full manuscript. A few months later No Tell said they wanted to do the book. I shot Reb some cover ideas, which were passed on to Maureen Thorson who created ten radically different options for the cover. My favorite featured an elderly woman, half obscured by her front window frame, peering out with a wizened yet threatening eye. But that image didn't fit the content, so Reb and I decided on the two running dogs. Somewhere I became fixated about putting leashes on the dogs, and Maureen obliged again by offering several samples. Ultimately, the leashes were overkill and the chasing dog was simply rounded with a collar, a detail that demands attention.

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

It was totally surreal and almost numbing to have the book in my hands. As it was a sample, I felt like it was personal, some art I had created just for me. It didn't seem to have a life beyond. A few weeks later I finally grasped the public nature of the book when a box arrived with the swaddlers in white wraps. Thankfully, I didn't have to deal with diapers. 

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

As no river is ever the same, I knew the book would change me. I didn't know how other than giving me an immediate reason to schedule readings and generally get my ass in literary gear. That's how changes usually come, sneaking up and needling me in the ribs or giving a quick whack to the teeth. It's the same with my training for ultramarathon running. Until I actually sign up for a race, I can't seem to get my heart or legs into it. 

How has your life been different since?

Things are more hectic, yet focused. I'm working on finding a balance between my teaching gig, my writing, and book promo. I also hope to follow up on several new projects that may lead me into freelance writing.

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

Although it's available online through Lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powells, I never realized how many people would still rather purchase the book from a store, even if it means they have to wait and make a special order. I was also surprised at how difficult it can be dealing with bookstores. And I certainly understand their business perspective, but it makes guerrilla marketing for the writer a necessity on many levels. I mean I've even put a copy of my book on the reading shelves in a hair salon.

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

Well, I created a website (pfpotvin.com), a myspace account (myspace.com/parrotbarking), got business cards, did a handful of readings, and scheduled some more. [PF will be reading in the MiPo Reading Series at the Stain Bar in Brooklyn--this Friday night, 26 January 2007, at 8 p.m.] Reb Livingston also set up a Northeast No Tell Books reading tour in December where we took her Volvo into the poetic beyond. It came back muddy and blushing. Most days we'd drive several hours to our next spot, then stroll the town. I remember before our reading at the Anchor Bar in New Haven, Bruce Covey showed me around Yale, his alma mater, reminiscing. As he's a blackbelted judoing poet about twice my height who often sports a biker jacket, we got looks like he was my bodyguard or something. My favorite reading on the tour was in Albany (Behind the Egg), hosted by Dan Nester, at a young anarchist's shop that served as abode, library, studyhall, poetry pulpit and crashtest landing zone. A highlight of the eve was popping my melon through the 3-foot cardboard banana. Mostly it smacked of my several years living in a co-op in Ann Arbor and all the mad hattery that happens when you get 30 twenty-somethings living together. 

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

The best advice I got was the same that I teach my writing students:  Do the work, let it rest, and later check the pulse for resonance. Nobody said the process would take 6 years though. Maybe my Sagittarian sign is to blame. It keeps me juiced with wanderlust and I can rarely abide in a locale for more than a couple years. Even during those times, I find myself continually traveling. I'm also constantly starting new projects, but it takes external influences prodding, cattletype, for me to get goods to the market. Right now I'm editing a short film that I shot 3 years ago about being a hut warden in New Zealand's Siberia Valley. I'm also writing non-fiction bits about hitchhiking, working on a novel based in Argentina (where I'll be next winter), and writing more paragraph pieces that will be in another collection like The Attention Lesson.

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

The book has pushed me into devoting at least a year to constant writing. As a teacher I'm fortunate enough to have that kind of flexibility. This summer I also plan on working with an artist to create multimedia "experiences" inspired by The Attention Lesson.  

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

When I was in graduate school I did an interview with the writer Jim Harrison. He's a Michigan native who grew up in a small rural town about 20 miles from my small rural town. He said he makes a point to not read responses to his writing until years after publication. And although I strive for such a distance, I know it's unrealistic for me. Instead I'm more emotionally detached from the work, and I accept that my writing isn't everyone's bag. As long as the work gets published and stays out there, I have little to complain about.      

Do you want your life to change?

I suppose we'd all like to run faster and jump higher like a PF Flyer. And I'm no exception. Thankfully, I've known I want to write and create in various mediums, so it's a matter of finding a scheme to make the green that still leaves time and room for travel and inspiration.

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

I'm sporting sunglass to reduce wrinkles. I'm coaxing the lucky foot. I'm not taking yes or no for an answer.   

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

It has. It does. It will. And even as technology changes the way we do everything, so too will poetry continue to inspire, entertain, cajole, expose, illuminate, accuse, and transform our lives. And what's that on the horizon? All hands on deck. It must be words ahoy!


from The Attention Lesson by PF Potvin:

The Scar

I have a hole in my left hand. Not the kind of pit you might expect from punching a well. More like a planting trough the size of an iris inside the eye--shallow, round-poked with sides slanting up and away from the epicenter. It was easy the first time when my hand melted down the hotwater pipe. Don't recall a thing. But the hand remembers, shows constant movies of miniature storms, electric flooding, magma across the palm and I'm there, two-years old, falling from the basement stairs, reaching out. The surgeon pulled me in and needled me under. Grafted skin from my thigh and made the hole so the hand could stretch. The scar was still too young to move on its own.

Mapuche Ranger

When I asked to click a picture of him with the Patagonias in the background he refused. From that perspective he was invisible.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

23 JAN 07

14 sentences:

"Foreign" also means inside the body. Our interior unfamiliar, not one's own. Since she is gone, I see more of her.

"Photographs can survive water--that's one thing I found out." (If you were to submerge a box.) And pianos...are always sad. Think about it.

Please don't say "litmus test." Don't ever say it, it's like "gossamer" to me. Who danced the male? (The white dress rotting in safekeeping.)

"When things are fabulous? There aren't usually layers." More than I wish he'd known how much I loved him, I wish I'd known.


21 JAN 07

How has your first book changed your life?

46. Jean-Paul Pecqueur

The Case Against Happiness

How did your manuscript happen to get picked up by Alice James Books? Did you win a prize?

Just before I graduated from the University of Washington's MFA program, an acquaintance asked me if I had sent out my manuscript yet. He seemed pretty serious about this. When I told him I hadn't, he threw a fit, assuring me that everyone sent out their manuscripts all the time. Did I want to be a failure? Why was I at school anyway? He knew someone who edited a fairly important magazine, and this someone had informed my acquaintance that constant submission was just what poets did. I believed him, so I began to send out the manuscript to whoever would read it. This went on for five years--15-20 submissions per year. Most often these submissions were to "first-book competitions," but sometimes I would send to small presses with open reading periods. After about three years of doing this, I began to receive "your manuscript was a finalist" notices. These notices buoyed me somewhat. Not that I was going to quit without them; what else was there for me to do?

Anyway, one day during the fifth year of submitting my manuscript the phone rang and Kazim Ali was on the other end telling me that my manuscript had won Alice James Books' New York/New England Prize (now the Kinereth Gensler Award). I was literally shocked. All I could say was "Are you serious? are you serious?" Looks like he was.

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

I had waited all day for the mail. Just as I was leaving to teach a couple of classes, I was already running about 30 minutes late, I saw the mail-carrier turn the corner onto our block. I retreated into the apartment to await my delivery. But alas, the doorbell was not rung--there was no box of books. What I received instead was one of those yellow slips, ingenuously dated the previous day, instructing me to come to the post office to pick up my package. Not thinking, I rushed over to the post office, yellow slip in hand, and was not-so-promptly informed that my box was still with the carrier.

The following day I had classes from 10-2. I also had my yellow slip in my pocket. I couldn't wait. After work, I headed straight to the post office. I was sure that they had somehow misplaced my box, that I would never get to see my book. I was wrong. The clerk returned 30 seconds later with a small priority-post box from Alice James Books addressed to Jean-Paul Pecqueur. Hurray!!

Though I wanted to, I didn't open the box in the post office. Instead, I treated myself to lunch at a new hybrid Japanese-Mediterranean luncheonette just down the block. I opened the box there, seeing my book for the first time while enjoying a very delicious seaweed salad and a mango-ginger-lime juice.

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

What I thought would happen is pretty much what has happened. When I go to poetry readings now, a few more people act interested to meet me. A couple of people have solicited poems and/or opinions from me. In general, my circle of acquaintances is expanding. I had hoped that this would happen, that I would be introduced to more people because of my book. Other than this, I didn't really expect much, other than a brief period when I wouldn't need to spend money I don't have to submit my manuscript.

You see, I had already discovered some years earlier how poetry could change my life. My poems gave me access to individuals and institutions that were once literally unimaginable. Let's stick with food for a minute: I didn't eat my first bagel until I was 23; before the age of 25, I did not know that people actually ate seaweed. For the first few decades of my life, polite, cultured society was inaccessible to me. I had no idea what those folks were up to. I feared them. Poetry, the practice of reading and writing, the broadening and fine-tuning of emotional and sensory attention, has helped me access the larger world. It has put me in contact with the most intriguing people and places. I have a serious project now. I imagine and trust that poetry will continue to open the world for me so long as I continue to treat it with the light-hearted respect it deserves.

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

Actually, I am very fortunate. Alice James Books promotes its titles superbly. They advertise everywhere. Lacy Simons, Cindy Ravinski, and Shelli-Jo Pelletier, our managing editor and editorial assistants, are tireless in their efforts. They not only send out review copies, they push to get the books read. They also submit all of our books to all applicable local and/or national contests. In addition, April Ossmann, our fearless Editor, continually reminds us "Alices" that we need to be out there supporting our books. This support is priceless. Alice James is truly a cooperative--success for one of our books is success for all. We collectively choose the titles to be published. If one author does well, that gets the name of the press out there. The more people know about the press, the more interest in the individual authors. Though it may surprise some more cynical readers, everyone in the press comes to think this way. Such collective support is highly contagious.

For my part, I have continued to go to readings and chat up whoever is in the mood. I've sent out emails requesting readings. I've answered questionnaires; and I've contacted all the people I know who may be in position to place The Case Against Happiness in the hands of its audience. This proactive stance has, I must confess, been quite difficult for me; while anonymous rejections are easy to deal with by now, more personal rejections still sting quite a bit. I can lose days recovering from the slightest slight. I persevere, however. I am fully aware of how many books are out there, and I really would like for people to read mine.

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

To date, there has been very little critical response, a couple of brief reviews and a blog notice or two. While both of the reviews I've read have been positive, one rather innocuous phrase has stuck with me. I was accused in one review of something called "small-time philosophizing." I didn't think that I'd be so sensitive to what anonymous readers had to say about my poems, but I must confess that this phrase has encouraged me to reach for ever greater heights of comic digression. The title for my next book will be, appropriately, Big Thinker.

What I would really enjoy would be to have one or two hyper-intelligent readers look over the manuscript closely so that I might learn what I have done. I know that I was trying out all kinds of things while composing the poems in The Case Against Happiness. I was answering questions and solving problems and having conversations and telling jokes. I just don't remember what I meant by it all. If someone could assist with this, I would be most grateful.

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

Yes I do, but I must also acknowledge that the majority of my students "do not like to read." They follow the 43rd president of the United States in this. I, on the other hand, am somewhat anachronistic in still considering the book to be the most profound technology in our history. One of the narratives I like to tell myself places the mythical book near the origin of that oceanic feeling, that feeling of mysterious inwardness that most of us claim to be central to our being. Books of lyric poetry are, for me, the most interesting and compelling kinds of books. They provide models of a specialized concentration and expressiveness that challenge readers to try out new ways to spend their days. Look here, lyric poems say, try to see this. Wait, they say, what does it feel like? If readers can train themselves to be attentive to such questions, the world will change. How the world will change, I don't know; I only know that it will change.


from The Case Against Happiness by Jean-Paul Pecqueur:

Let's Go

Patty wants me to write a poem titled
"Poem in Homage to this Poem" mostly
because it has always been about love with her,

about needing to explain away the obvious with her
by reference to the slightly more obvious--
hunger and its descending call notes,
fire's recourse to flame.

With her it's all let's go to the store let's go to the movies all the     time.
It's all round and round in some Rorschach's pond
of spontaneous intent
like free-falling in an empathic elevator.

If she wasn't at work right now I would need to invent her.
If the stores ran out of sugar,
if the bees abandoned their hives,
if I wasn't teaching right now I'd surely call her.

The classroom's been set on fire, I'd say.
Someone spilt sun all over the desert.
I've this pain in my neck that aches like seltzer.
Let's go see about those shoes.

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .


19 JAN 07

They have certain things on record. Money stuff, transactions, the baptism. "When and only when the women are granted their hours." It's come over him. Not just from afar--look inside. Something that hadn't ever happened before, at that moment happened.


17 JAN 07

But first, a word from our sponsor. Janet Holmes is being interesting over at the Poetry Foundation site this week.

If you're sending out a manuscript to contests, you'll want to read what she has to say today about how the winner of Ahsahta's Sawtooth Poetry Prize is selected.

. . .

"Hey, what's on TV?"

[notes from what we said & heard, what we watched]

Brought home, but no one can remember back that far.

She's a photographer. It's out there.

"Remember how we talked about how we go back into the earth-- into the world--?" --A.L.

get the fan going (they're always in a wind)

this is the movie where the guy is living possibly alone, it's all revealed very gradually

her commitment to doing it, and whoever she is

The world of...

it's just a life, what's around you

"I like the family pictures"

"I hate families"

more than most people, she knows

"I don't know what it is to be a great photographer"

"I bought a camera--it had a little needle inside. I started to use
the base darkroom. This is how I learned to take pictures."-A.L.

He has a camera too (I don't say that lightly)


"achieve a level" (an expression)

"it made you think that you were thinking"

Imagine all the things that didn't change or got worse.

"A lot can be told from what happens in between."--A.L.

but now it's being summed up as it happens

"Oh, that one I don't remember."--K. Richards

Imagine if our parents...

You have the memory. But you might as well be one of those robots they give the memory to.

. . .

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