$650 apartment for $650
Some weeks ago, Sarah Mangold emailed me to say that she and her friend Maryrose Larkin (FLASH+CARD) were going to be publishing chapbooks and might I be interested in doing one with them? (I'd just ordered Maryrose's Whimsy Daybook as a gift for my friend Ginny, whose 90th birthday was approaching, partly because G had recently told me, "When you're 90, you have to plan ahead.") I was (am) working on a chapbook for Lame House, but I wondered if I could do some other kind of project with FLASH+CARD. Postcards maybe?
Postcards sounded good to Maryrose & Sarah, but for various reasons we eventually settled on notecards, black & white, text & image. In the process of making the images and narrowing to 12, I came up with a set of 5 that didn't seem to belong (partly because they so belonged to each other)--those (called "Story") ended up in Fascicle 3.
[click below to see an enlarged image]
The set is called In Paradise there is no art.
My sentiments exactly.
(M to JB)
You said at Thanksgiving people would be dying now. Let's put it off, ourselves. If we can.
Thanks for letting us know.
(M to JB)
We keep coming back to Soxy, speaking of him through the day. How are you doing?
(JB to M)
I am okay. Dying seems to be a recurring issue (he not busy being born is busy dying). I have been slated for the eulogy on Monday. I am pretty tired and often wonder why I spend so much time working. I haven't figured out a wholesome substitute. I'm glad that things are moving briskly in the devil may care life of urban poetry. They say it's all in the delivery...
crow in snow,
(M to JB)
Good luck to you on Monday.
We fly out on Saturday for another round, the west coast tour full of social engagements as well as the readings. All this action could change a person. I was due for a change. Kate though, christ, she can't believe what she's doing, just keeps taking it further. (She's in the kitchen at the moment, Hendrix blaring from there, rooms away: "I don't need you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one and don't be late." Then K sings at full volume, "DON'T BE LATE!" Yeah, it's the old folks at home.)
What was the thing you used to say about Soxy? That he could "do his own time"? Have I got the line right? Kate wonders if you have Soxy's dates--do you know when he was born exactly? (His death date would be today, of course.) I think she felt she might say something about him on her blog--or who knows, something or other is going on in that interior of hers...
watch for the wholesome substitute,
"Here comes the art."
"The non-human reader."
"How surprising they are in their bodies."
"Seeing is forgetting the name of what you see."
"But y'know what? Ketchup."
"We both packed scissors. And he brought two kinds of tape."
"The truth leaves your voice."
"I think I vibrate his questions."
"I wondered if he'd been a Hendrix fan, and if he needed something, where he was headed."
"Blank pages could show up as plain black. With a number. A number and sound."
"I think I'll go for the Big Daddy Skillet then."
"With a click of the darkness."
"It's always unbuilding itself. Except possibly. This thing between us."
"This here's all the milk I got till the truck comes."
"Let's walk down there and see what it means."
"That third day. That last day. Or whatever day that was."
She had to leave early--for her other reading. Her cab arrived and on her way out she quickly whispered something into my deaf ear. I took her meaning without any words received, but when I guessed at what she might've actually said, I imagined her using a line from a story she'd told over dinner at the little rib joint: "I felt tender for them."
How has your first book changed your life?
50. Peter Davis
How did your manuscript happen to be published by Barnwood Press? Had you sent it out much previously?
It's the same sort of story as most people. Meaning, my book got published because of someone I know. Barnwood Press published a book I edited, Poet's Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets on Books that Shaped Their Art. These days Barnwood Press is primarily Tom Koontz, who I've known ever since I was an undergraduate when I had him for a number of poetry classes. Tom's always been very supportive of my work. I showed him a rough version of Hitler's Mustache and he immediately said he'd be interested in publishing it.
I sent it to a couple of contests. I revised it more. I wasn't quite sure about the manuscript because I was still writing it and trying to understand what it was I was doing. I kept showing revised versions to Tom and he kept sharing his thoughts, which helped me when re-revising the re-revised versions. To me, it just made sense that Barnwood would publish it. I'm very grateful to them.
Were you involved in designing the cover?
Yes, and I feel lucky for that. I had real ideas about the cover. I had an image in my head that was part of my head when I was writing the book. It was based on a poster of Hitler from a book I have on art in Nazi Germany. The poster is a disembodied Hitler head staring straight at the viewer and above it reads, "HiTLER." It was the fact that this was in capital letters, except for the "i," that interested me.
Also, the entire impetus for the book was based on a conversation I had with two friends about Hitler's mustache, which was first proposed as a great band name, and soon became a metaphor for Nazi Germany, and soon was imagined as a bar code. So that was the image for me: a disembodied Hitler head with a bar code for a mustache.
So when it came time to talk about cover I was already there. I drew a picture of Hitler from the poster mentioned above, substituted the mustache with a barcode from a Henri Micheaux book (simply because it fit), and surrounded the disembodied head in bubblegum pink. Using pink was my wife's idea. I'm recounting all of this as if it happened in a logical and straightforward way, which it didn't. The cover seemed important to me. Probably because I often judge books by their covers.
What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?
My sister-in-law was in town and staying with us when the books came. We got this box from the big truck. I was mad because I thought the pages were too white. My sister-in-law, who happens to be a good friend as well, didn't understand why I was upset. Also, my wife said, "I don't understand why you're upset--it looks great." Of course, I don't understand why I was upset either. I really like the book. I think it looks terrific and I like the white pages as it seems to make sense to me given the overall design of the book. Why I was upset can probably best be attributed to the fact that nothing makes sense. What I remember about that day is that I'm crazy.
Before that day, did you imagine your life would change with its arrival?
I guess I'm kinda always imagining my life will change. When I was kid, when I was playing basketball, or skateboarding, or playing hockey, or something, I was always imagining in my head that it was historic, that it was being noticed, that it meant something for the future. When I played music in bars I imagined that Willie Nelson would walk in and say "You're terrific!" I still do it. But now I know that what I can imagine is not a guiding rendition of reality. I imagine change because I can't stop it, but I'm happy with my life too.
Has your life been different since?
But were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?
Not really. Except, I thought more people might be seriously offended by the book. Maybe they have been offended and simply not told me. I still worry about it. I worried about what my parents would think. Whenever a person writes in any way about Hitler, I expect somebody to have a problem with it. Of course, the book has only been out since Dec 1 of 2006 and thus there is still plenty of time to hear from the offended. Most people have expressed something like humor in regards to the book, which is certainly a huge chunk of it, but I expected a little more horror.
What are you doing to promote the book?
I'm going to do some readings (which I enjoy) and mention the book when I'm having casual conversations with people who might be interested in contemporary poetry. I may even mention it to some people who have no interest in contemporary poetry. I may forget to mention it, but don't take that as a sign that I'm not interested in mentioning it. I am. And, like everyone, I have a blog, hitlersmustache.blogspot.com.
What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? What was the best advice you got?
My wife is always telling me really smart stuff. She's not really interested in poetry or literature. She understands some of it only because she understands me. She sorta checks out the journals that come in the mail. She's helped with submissions. She keeps my perception of life on a reasonably-lengthed leash. She says stuff like, "That doesn't make any sense," "Nothing you've said in the past twenty minutes makes sense," and "I'm trying to understand where you're coming from, but I don't get it cause it doesn't make any sense." She is, and has always been, a real help. She has good ideas.
What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing?
I'm not writing with the word "mustache" in every poem now or substituting otherwise important words with the word "mustache" or replacing all momentary lapses in thought with the word "mustache." I'm back to not being ruled by a single word (world).
How do you feel about the critical response and has it had any effect on your writing?
We'll see. I haven't had tons of critical response yet, at least publicly. I just got a review where the book was given 4 of 10 stars. Of course, I would have liked to have gotten 10 stars, but it didn't feel bad. It was a thoughtful response to the book. I can't ever seem to get a handle on what I'm writing. I don't know that I expect other people to. I don't know anything about anything.
I can honestly say that when I'm creating poems or any kind of art--when I'm doing it, when I'm right in the moment--I'm not thinking of critical responses or anything. I'm not even thinking. At least, that's the hope. Or maybe it's a hyper-sort of thinking, like thinking so hard you're not thinking anymore.
Are you at work on a second manuscript?
I'm always working on something. Sometimes it's writing and sometimes it's music, or whatever. Right now I'm finishing a new Short Hand CD [hear some songs here] and writing poems. Whatever it is, I don't consider it to be a second manuscript only because I don't consider Hitler's Mustache to be a first. Before it, I had the ms I worked on for my MFA thesis (Origin of the Baby God), the ms I worked on for my MA thesis (The Curve of Kate's Nose), the ms I worked on called Einstein Included, the ms called Rock-n-Roll, the ms called Paris Is in Your Mind, and the ms called A Star Behind a Star.
Do you want your life to change?
Sure. I think change is terrific.
Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?
I'm actively trying to change. I hope that will help.
Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?
Yes, but I don't know how or to what extent. I mean there's us, me, and whoever is reading this, and we're people in the world who are moving around and are objects to be considered like all objects, at least on certain occasions. And it happens too that we care about poetry (for whatever reason and with whatever capacity) and thus, there are people walking around in the world who care about poetry and are also part of, and affecting, the world. I don't want to demote or elevate the place of poetry in the world. I think that poets are no more capable or incapable than the rest of humanity when it comes to changing the world. We may have our moments, though we will probably never know when. Like everyone else, we are perpetually pushing against the wall, which according to string theory (as I understand it) could at some moment simply be nonexistent and then we will just seemingly magically walk through. Of course, we'll probably be so tired by the time it happens that we won't even notice.
A poem from Hitler's Mustache by Peter Davis:
It is 3:02 pm and I sit down to write
. . .
. . .