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16 JULY 07

"David asked me if I miss gardening. I said no. But when I was clearing the weeds from what would've been the garden--where the garden has been each year for nearly 10--finding four tomato plants that'd planted themselves and grown to a pretty good height without any human assistance, I carefully weeded around them, gave them wire cages for support, and watered them. Since they'd come this far on their own, I don't know, I just felt I should lend them a hand. I guess I identified with the volunteers.

"One reason we didn't put in a garden this spring was that we'll be out on the road at the end of the season. Maybe these tomatoes will go all the way before we leave--if not, they'll be on their own again then. I don't miss gardening, but an answer nearer to the truth might've been: There are many things I'd be happy to be doing if I didn't have to choose between them--and if I hadn't already chosen."

 

14 JULY 07

How has your first book changed your life?

71. Dana Teen Lomax

Currency by Dana Teen Lomax

Yesterday, I went to a 4th of July parade in the Central Valley of California dressed as Yoda. The costume was unbearably hot (Yoda wears robes which I made out of bedsheets and it was 104 degrees in Mokelumne Hill); so my green make-up ran with drips of sweat. People thought I had confused holidays. Others didn't see the connection to "Independence Day." But I felt identifiably American with my light saber over my heart during the national anthem, having spent $26.00 on a costume (the bald head mask, cosmetics, and pointy ears) I might not wear again this year. Plus, I had brought the STAR WARS warfare theme into the occasion, and still cracked up some kids along the street with my alien voice and syntax (snowcone, I must--hmm?), all the while backing my daughter's current fascination with the movie series. I thought it was layered, thought-provoking, performance art. Some people thought it was just weird.

And this story isn't altogether different from my experience with Curren¢y. The work strives to be accessible, familiar. As a poet, I want the work to be understood and even see myself as one of the more available "innovative" writers. (So much so, that I've even had fears of being "kicked off the experimental island…"*) And yet, the work uses language and the constructs of communication and society to point to the messy and scary and violent problems inherent in them. In my poetry, I want people to recognize things they know or have seen before although maybe in a different context. Curren¢y acts to unpack many of the structures we often take for granted in words / cultural icons / society. And it all relates directly to or comes out of what's going on in the world, my home, my family.

(*  I first heard the "getting kicked off the experimental island" remark from Elizabeth Treadwell and I think she had said that she picked it up from another poet... Anyway, I like how it points to the kooky and sometimes pressurized assumptions about "innovation" that I have fallen trap to over the years.)

Curren¢y took a really long time to write, over five years. I watched friends of mine crank out a couple of or even several manuscripts in that timeframe. And I had dedicated myself to getting the book in print for about a year when a friend, David Buuck, told me about Palm Press. I had never met Jane Sprague, the editor at Palm, but I sent the manuscript on what happened to be the last day of the reading period. Two days later, while I was waiting for my mom to get out of a heart procedure in Scripp's Medical Center and pacing in the hospital parking lot, my partner called and told me there was a phone message about the book and it "sounded good."

Jane accepted the book so quickly; it was a sudden turn-around. All the years of writing and sending out and then --presto!-- a book. It's funny. I had moments of feeling like a hack, like maybe the book wasn't ready or _____??? And then Jane was so excited about the work. It pisses me off that I let "the market" detract from my confidence in the writing I was doing, but that's how it happened. It was a really valuable lesson.

I remember the book arriving at my house a day before I was scheduled to read at Small Press Traffic. I was so stoked & relieved that I would have the copies for the SPT event, to celebrate the book coming out and show off to my friends. The timing was "right" with Curren¢y in a lot of ways. I thought this work should be a book and felt glad that it was.

I remember thinking about the cover too. My daughter's legs there, the fake animals and flowers, my name in red. When I saw the cover on the book, it hit me just how much the photo has to do with my personal life and my family life in relation to writing. It's really nothing that a reader might take from the picture on a conscious level maybe, but balancing mothering and writing and all the time and identity shifts that come into play were somehow magnified when I saw the actual book for the first time.

Initially, because I do some work in photography and film, I had thought I would take the cover photo. But then I came across a piece by Yedda Morrison who had been visiting and taking some pics of my daughter. And I love the one that's on the cover. It's got a plastic bird, a part of a purse and a bizarre fur in the background--all kind of scattered around my daughter's feet that are shoed in Wizard of Oz ruby slippers. It combined the most real relationships in my life with a bunch of random fake crap. It was too perfect.

I'm really grateful to Yedda for that series of photos and the cover shot in particular. I'm also thankful to Kaia Sand and Jane Sprague for their treatment of the photo and my daughter's body. I felt really understood and well cared for in their design work. Also, I want to thank my daughter, Una, again. She was strong in her parameters of how much of the photo I could use. At 5-years-old she told me, "No. I don't want my business in everyone's living room." And she was right.

cover photo by Yedda Morrison

I had waited a long time for Curren¢y to come out. I had published a chapbook and won some awards and had many poems published discreetly, but there was a certain credibility that I thought having a book offered. It's maddening really that I so willingly played into the capitalistic / hierarchical model of the poetry world / our society. That "having" "the" "book" makes you a better or more real or more respected poet. I never deeply believed those things exactly, but I felt the pressure and jumped to.

And the truth is: after Curren¢y, I was offered more readings and recognition. Other opportunities are coming my way now that probably would have landed elsewhere if I didn't have a Palm Press book. I'm not sure that I would have a creative writing job at USF or be working at SPT if Curren¢y hadn't been picked up. I didn't expect these gigs, but I'm sure that the book helped me get them.

And I recognize how fucked up that is in a way. After all, we're talking about the arts--poetry even. And yet, I feel like I am in the business of poetry, that the book leverages me. That's not why I wrote it. But it has functioned economically that way. Even the process of requesting blurbs for the back of the book felt some like seeking endorsements. Yes, this process is also about community, but there's a strong marketplace edge to it all. Curren¢y is about money and value and what we hold dear and the publication of the book has made me think about these questions at an even deeper level.

Since the book came out, I've been a lot busier. I just realized the other day how strongly entrenched I am in the American way. My family over-spends. We work a lot. And then I spend my leisure writing about how problematic it all is, hoping people will read my poetry, so I can get a better paying job that will allow me more disposable income and then I'll incorporate the whole  of that into the writing as well. I guess in a fashion, the book coming out has helped me realize these ambitions more fully.

In terms of promoting the book, this is a weird world for me. It seems that if you have the luxury of people doing it for you or if you are somehow "in demand," you are lucky. If not and you "push too hard," you are graceless. It's a fine balance, and so I give readings and hope people will get to know me through SPT and publications. I put my work where it might get seen and I try to be smart about it. But I am not comfortable with, can't afford, and don't want to make a lot of time for the process of publicizing or advertising myself and my work. As Jane Cortez said in an anthology I am co-editing right now, "Real poetry sits outside of that kind of activity." I share this inclination.

Two pieces of worthy advice that I got right around the time Curren¢y came out are:

1. "Don't get too wrapped up in goings-on that lead you away from the writing. Stay focused on your work..."  --Beth Thielen

2. "Take cod liver oil." --Kush

Rather than being surprised by things that didn't happen as a result of the book coming out, I was surprised by the friendships the publication of Curren¢y has helped create. I've met a whole new group of poets and am very happy to have this wider sphere of camaraderie within the poetry community. Again, I feel indebted to Palm Press for this as well.

The critical reception of Curren¢y has been completely mixed. In poetry circles, it has been well-received and I've been proud of the attention it has found, but it's been troubling that many of my friends and family who have read Curren¢y say they don't "get it." One friend even let me know that she tried to read it backwards to see if it might make more sense...(Hi P!) I was surprised and a little freaked. I have never thought of writing just for other poets, and it bothers me that my book makes people I respect "feel dumb." Even when I talk with them directly and explain the experimentation in my work and its aims, I sense a disconnect from some readers outside of the literary world.

Since the publication of Curren¢y, my writing has become even more concerned with questions of readability. I don't intentionally sit down and say, "OK now I want to write something that will be easier for my mom to read," but the responses I received from Curren¢y have made me reexamine my poetics. But now what? I thought Curren¢y WAS/IS super-accessible. I have to write what is mine to write; I don't know other options just now. But I do know that just out of graduate school, I really wanted my writing to sound smart; I'm not so much worried about that now. I want to write what is real and difficult and challenging to me about being a mother and an artist and a person here now in this place full of possibilities and failures.   

A while back at the Robert Creeley memorial in San Francisco, a poet told a story about how Creeley had once yelled out, "I'm just trying to be in my life!" The story hit me hard. I would like to slow down and pay more attention. I have a difficult time balancing all I want to do in this far-out lifetime, and I would like to bring a different concentration to living. And this is what my poetry is about and helps me generate.

I have different answers on different days for the question of poetry's agency in the political sphere.

Most often: yes, absolutely, poetry changes the world.

There are cynical days, though, when I think that we're entitled, we poets, pushing toward a social consciousness tipping point between massages.

I hold strongly to the idea that publicly voicing opposition to blinkered gender markers or racism or governmental impudence and publicly exploring love and motherhood and language's job in these processes is vital. And I write poetry in this effort.

:

Two poems from Curren¢y by Dana Teen Lomax:

 

L05716867
"The poem never says what lives in the barrel"
                                      Kevin Killian, Argento Series

canned laughter
gas receipts
almost any magazine
trazadone
puddles of antifreeze
a through line
brown reclining La-Z-Boy
sugar well refined
power washed heroes
________ ever after

 

 

OF THE UNITED STATES

rivaled by our own sensibilities

a dying friend says, I'm too sick to be clever

read garish American

intifada yada yada I have art to make

spider hides in the corner

global webbing

mistaken wedding for war

Anteing you can do, I can do better

I can do anteing better than you

what swims in our heels

slip of time

cylindrical policy sphere

agenda in plain sight

bankroll and enterprise

swore, "If you paint a chicken on it, it'll sell..."

all levels of wealth and terror

teabags filled the Atlantic

the buffalo gone missing

silhouettes burned into concrete

grind the daily the daily

mines near sacred sights

skywriting a new generation

conditions such as they are

superheroic solutions

violent in other words

 

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

12 JULY 07

How has your first book changed your life?

70. Angela Carr

Ropewalk by Angela Carr

How did your manuscript happen to be picked up by Snare Books?

Robert Allen and Jon Paul Fiorentino had started up this press just last year and through it they hoped to be able to print unconventional texts by first-time authors, to act as an alternative to a conservative publishing industry. To date Snare has printed, with the exception of one, I think, only first-time authors... Anyways, I like the coincidence of rope and snare, rope being a possible material for a snare. And a lot of that book is about knots.

Rob, who had read that manuscript in a very different version, suggested Ropewalk be one of Snare's first first-books. That was just in the winter of 2006, and so I found myself in a whirlwind of editing.

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

I don't remember--no, no, I do remember... It looked completely different than I'd imagined, unrecognizable. Lovely. I loved that book. I was ecstatic. I stuck my head in the box and inhaled.

What I remember clearly is the first time I read from that book, just a week before the launch, at the Atwater Library in Montreal. I signed my first book to Erin Moure and totally botched up her copy with my nervous scrawl. And then she came back to the table to get a second copy and that was a strange moment, imagining my book reaching someone I'd never met. That a reader would access my work without access to me! This is the obvious point of publication, but it surprised me.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

Jon and I decided together on just text, and he did the design. We discussed colours. He suggested a precious metal like gold or silver, but I think it's oxidized copper in the end. It's a roof. What is a cover? How does it function? Does it stabilize a reader?

I think the cover is supposed to represent the currency of the book, to show its value. It is supposed to be an indisputable denominator in the market place of books. That and the title. I don't know how the cover of my book functions in this market place sense. It's a word on a page.

Perhaps the cover is just the site of a leak?

I've got an idea for the cover of the manuscript I'm working on now. Which is different, because I had no plan for Ropewalk until I was suddenly spinning in the editorial process. 

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

I really didn't have any expectations. So anything that happened was surprising. One fun set of coincidences led to me interviewing Lisa Robertson in Montreal (a walking interview, to be published in Matrix 78). Another, to participating in the Translating Translating Montreal events in Calgary with Robert Majzels, Erin Moure and Oana Avasilichioaei. And now I am having fun working on sound pieces with Michele Anderson starting with one of the poems in Ropewalk and then translating it across media.

What surprised me is that I had a desire--fleeting--to continue the "Ropewalk" part of the book. I thought, I could have written a whole book about rope. I finally bought a copy of The Arcades Project, which led me to thinking about starting a new rope folder.

When I'd first finished editing Ropewalk for Snare in the summer, last summer, I started another project and forgot about that book. So I was surprised by the creative impulse to continue the work. It's a strange tension. One part of me resisted potential nostalgia, and urged pushing ahead with new projects, but another part of me resisted the closure of publication... maybe simply out of a preference for openness, an open text, a text in process.

I've discovered that readings are a wonderful venue for enacting these continuums.

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

How my feelings about reading have changed. I used to be nervous about reading because I thought of it as an exposure of me, the invert, but I'm feeling less and less precious and shy about the process. Oana Avasilichioaei read with me at our Boa launch and we improvised a bilingual reading just by juxtaposing some lines from Labe's sonnets beside the poems in Ropewalk. We read on the inside of lines, single words, or by line, creating hybrid loops with repetition of language that wasn't necessarily in the book. I have been conceiving of the public reading more and more as a venue to sound out work, as part of the writing process, instead of as this refined presentation of polished work, which is how I used to conceive of it. So what started out as promotional work, the reading, is amazingly helpful to my writing process.

When I read with Melissa Thompson at the Ottawa Art Gallery, the last piece I read was about an emergency exit in an art gallery. I hadn't written that piece for such a purpose, but it became a performative piece due to the circumstance of that reading.

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

I've been lucky to have heard wonderful advice from amazing writers, intelligent and unconventional women who write what they want, how they want. From Nicole Brossard I learned to quell concerns about audience, concerns about connecting with an audience. From her I learned to coast on the belief that my writing would necessarily connect with someone, somewhere, and not worry about it. When I was working on the Labe poems I was worried no one would connect with them, they were this bizarre hybrid of French from the 16th century intentionally only halfway translated and sometimes poking through threadbare English. A hybrid of critical writing and over-the-top lyric, which I feared would have no audience. But it is important to take risks when the writing requires them, and the writers I most admire take risks all the time. And when I talk about risks, I obviously don't mean the confessional risk of detailing one's vulnerabilities on paper, but the risk involved in approaching language as one desires.

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

There is so much more fluidity and flexibility in my process now. I've got four different projects going on, and that's ok. I'm thinking about all of them in terms of booklength works instead of short pieces. I can see that it's not such an awesome task to make a book, and I'm not scared of working towards that. I have to say that is a huge change in my writing, in my perception of writing.

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

Critical response was something I thought I should avoid, but actually it's been fine. I hope it helps to sell books? I am happy to read reviews where the reviewer gets that the work is playful and has a playful response.

Do you want your life to change?

I welcome change. Right now I want to learn to write in French. I read in French, I translate from French, I live in Montreal, I speak French, but I am so ridiculously nervous about writing in French, the main language. Everyone tells me how difficult it is. Talk to anyone about writing in French and they'll tell you. That is a change I desire now... I live in this multilingual city and I want to write in languages, more than one.

:


The first six pages of Ropewalk by Angela Carr:

from The Louise Labé Poems


Ropewalk: A long, covered walk or a low-level building where ropes are manufactured.

 

In long and narrow alleyways yarns are stretched out between revolving hooks 300 yards apart. These yarns are wound into ropes suitably long for use on tall ships. This method of rope-making, the rope-walk, was in use during the Renaissance; ropes were made from flax or hemp; the part of the plant used was the bast; the strength of the rope was measured in grams/denier (an old silk measure).

Of bow strings none remain.

 

:

Whenever I braid my hair, the mistaking of one smaller strand makes for an unbalanced plait, one that is impossible to complete, for the thinner strand slips from my finger, unwinding. It is easier to achieve two strands of equal strength; balance is given more easily to two than three; strolling groups diverge into couples; the Easter sun races through dusk, night and day forming the largest portion. So the braid undoes itself.

                                                                         This

 

:

This is the case with Louise Labe, myself, and the much conjectured third party who was the object of her sonnets, her lover. One of us is too thin; most often it is myself or the beloved (whom I have called H). One of us is too thin, the braid unwinds, the hair is wild, words flying left and right with no rational temper. I know too little about myself, and even less about the beloved, the ghost of a ghost.

                                                             The beloved I call

 

:

The beloved I call H after Henri, the French dauphin and then king in Louise's lifetime. According to myth, Louise single-handedly defeated an entire army at Perpignan when accompanying this future king to war. A second story places her, in the same year, participating in a fencing tournament for the dauphin during a carnival to celebrate his appearance in Lyons. Whether she fought, really, or figuratively, in the year 1542, with a sword in one hand, is a question. In this capacity, the swordswoman, she is known as le Capitaine Loys. That she loved Henri is a rumour.

 

:

capitaine loys facts infrequent
lettered and under testimony
roamed carnivals in drag
a secret merchant class fact: who
was class? fact? women
wearing letters on their chest
formed acrostics for the dauphin
but we are concerned with god's
not tentative testimony are we

 

:

The beloved I call H after history, for it is an historical act to give a name.

 

. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

10 JULY 07

torment!

 

8 JULY 07

How has your first book changed your life?

69. Ryan Murphy

Down With The Ship

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

I had been sending the manuscript out for about two years before it ended up at Seismicity. A poet in California who was familiar with the books that Seismicity was publishing suggested that I try sending to them. I did and they ended up accepting it.

Do you remember the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?

Vaguely. There was a lot of run-up. You know, the book was accepted and there was a huge thrill, and then I saw the proofs, and then the cover. By the time the book actually arrived I think I was a little frazzled. I was probably nervous and filled with a little bit of dread, since I could no longer go back and change it...

I do remember the first time I saw it in a bookstore--at McNally Robinson in New York--I felt a little nervous for it there on the shelf.

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

I did imagine that my life would be different. I thought I would wake up the next morning a different person. That the existence of this thing outside of me would somehow strip my personality of certain conflicts, anxieties, etc. I'm not sure how to say it, but I did think in some ways that I would take on the characteristics of this neutral thing (the book) as opposed to the self I knew.

How has your life been different since?

Of course none of what I just described happened, so my life isn't recognizably different. A lot has changed in my life since the book was accepted and published but it's hard to separate those changes into various strands...

Though I will say that the book does make it somehow less embarrassing to tell family members (extended and otherwise) and strangers that I'm a writer, because the second question is always "do you have a book?"

Were you involved in designing the cover?

No. Seismicity has a pretty specific design sense (Guy Bennet being the amazing designer that he is) and I was fit into the series. I think it was certainly for the best that I wasn't involved as I probably would have just gotten in the way, been fussy and difficult, etc. And they did a wonderful job.

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

Sure, I thought the world would stop and I would be universally feted. I thought children would point and laugh at me on the street. I thought I would look somehow different, that my posture might improve. I mean not really, but a little. I had just written a book!

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

Well, I have read a few times here in New York, and I got to go to Los Angeles and read at Otis which was quite a thrill--to get put up in a great hotel in Little Tokyo, get taken out to dinner, etc. all very exciting. And my family came out as well which made it pretty special.

The most successful things that I did for the book were to read at my hometown library--since my family is pretty entrenched in a small town a lot of people came out--and at the urging of my mother made a postcard that we sent wedding-invitation-style to friends and family outside of poetry. And they all bought the book so that was nice.

Those are things that I can measure, and was a part of. Otis sent the book out to a lot of people, which was incredibly generous of them, and probably did some other things that I'm not aware of, as the book is now in a second printing.

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

I doubt very much that I would have would have listened to any advice if any had been given to me, and I would guess that some wise people preached patience which is probably why I don't remember.

What advice would you give now to someone about to have a first book published?

I personally found it hard--I was in such a hurry at the time--the ups and downs, the wait, the expectations, what feels like a very strange silence after the book comes out (I mean it felt so momentous to me, the publication, is it really possible that no one else felt it?). I found the entire process rather difficult to enjoy. I don't know if one can really be prepared for it, but hopefully some can enjoy it more than I did.

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

It's relaxed me some I guess. And I think that I can see a bit more clearly how to structure a book. I'm probably a little bit more confident as a writer as well.

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

Well, if someone likes the book it makes me feel pretty good, and if they hate it I feel pretty bad, but it has absolutely no effect on the way that I write or try to write.

Do you want your life to change?

In some ways yes a great deal, and in many many other ways not at all.

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

I hope so.

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

I think that poetry changed me and I am in the world, and I would guess that it has changed many people in an unimaginable variety of ways, so in that sense of course. But I doubt very much it's going to save any endangered species or stop any wars or bring down the levels of carbon emissions or prevent starvation or diseases (which I always suspect is the thrust of these types of questions...)

:

A poem from Down with the Ship by Ryan Murphy:


The Matchbook Diaries


On a train, near winter.
Sickening in the glow.

So-and-so was here.
The both of us.


            *


To step, each step—
to wile away.

           
            *


Bright pavilions of gas stations.
Crocuses and touch-me-nots.

If locusts bend to their reflections.
If indigo.


            *


Across the pivotal,
stilled a we—

And, out of nothing, a breathing.
The poor only words I know.

           
            *


Hammerfull,
the sea thus.

The border from which
a heavier light depends.

 

            *


The sidewalks flash silver with mica.
Skyline smeared with geese.

By way of recognition
I lost the sound of your voice.

           
            *


Splint of blossoms and Blue
Heron. Sunlight rapid

on the rocks of a shallow stream.
Undoing and

           
            *


Dear K,
I cannot write a sonnet.

The smell of tulips
doesn't remind me of anyone.

           
            *


Blot of moon through the rush-grass.
The humid air a gray bride. 

           
            *


Consider how the shadows lean,
and despite insomnia

how the room outlasts you.
No single light.


. . .

read more first-book interviews

. . .

 

6 JULY 07

The beauty parlor is filled with sailors.

Jeannine Hall Gailey interviews me in the new issue of Eclectica.

 

4 JULY 07

 

2 JULY 07

How has your first book changed your life?

68. Shafer Hall

Never Cry Woof

How did your manuscript happen to be picked up by No Tell Books?

I think Reb Livingston liked the fact that I referred to my wang as my "lightning." I think that's what got my foot in the door. But Reb and I have been fairly kindred spirits since we met (via the internet) several years ago. I like to think it was picked up by virtue of the fact that it's a really terrific book, but of course there was the usual amount of networking involved.

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

The first time I saw it was down in Atlanta, and I was in the throes of a radical flu-related fever. I grabbed my good friend and former Frequency intern Sam Amadon, and we made the rounds at the AWP book fair. I was pouring down sweat and shaking menacingly as I walked up to strangers and demanded that they review it. No reviews to date.

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

I had some very run-of-the-mill pipe dreams involving sexually and racially diverse harems and a close personal friendship with Willie Nelson, but really I have such a close relationship with all of the poems that I didn't imagine much would change when we dressed them up in new clothes.

How has your life been different since?

I feel more relaxed.

Were you involved in designing the cover?

I definitely think Reb regrets giving me as much rope (i.e., enough to hang myself) as she did. But we're both happy with the outcome.

How did the book come to be illustrated and have its distinctive look?

Amanda Burnham has used poems by myself and by Jen Knox for artistic inspiration for a long time. When Reb told me she'd like to do the book, my first question was "can we have illustrations?"

pages from Never Cry Woof

pages from Never Cry Woof

I wanted the cover to combine elements of Texas and New York. Amanda drew the Brooklyn Waterfront, which is where her and I met one afternoon a few years ago, and then we cannibalized the cowboys from an illustration Amanda did for a poem Jen and I wrote together.

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

I realize how naive it sounds, but it was a lot more work than I thought it'd be. Duh.

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

Being a bartender is the dream job for a small press poet. The bar is the most wonderful PR tool I could ever ask for.

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

I'm kind of ornery, so I didn't solicit a whole lot of advice beforehand. I wish [that] Miss Duncan, my senior high school English teacher, had been able to proofread it. My grammar blows. I think I misused the word "that" about a hundred times in the book. I think I misused it in the second sentence of this paragraph. I'll leave it in cause it's funny.

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

I think my writing has been more relaxed and fun since.

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

The response has been wonderful. And I think the cover has helped convince folks who aren't generally poetry fans to give it a chance. It is really exciting to get positive feedback from folks who pretty much gave up on poetry in high school.

Do you want your life to change?

I have an earache that I wish would go away, but other than that I am mostly content. I wish there was a way I could live in Texas and New York at the same time.

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

I suppose if I sold enough copies I could get a little bungalow in the Texas Hill Country. Meantime I will amuse myself by saying "bungalow." Bungalow. Bungalow.

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

I know it makes me happy and makes me feel better to write it. So it has some very positive effects on my world, which is enough for me. But if it helps anyone else out, then I think that's very wonderful and exciting too.

:


2 poems from Never Cry Woof by Shafer Hall:


Evelyn's Ktchen

The sun from the late afternoon
staples the tiles to the counter
in Evelyn's kitchen. It staples me
to this moment in her chair.

Evelyn emerges apron-tied
from the back of her house;
she can move freely despite the chilly light.

She moves around with tasks I cannot premonish
until they are performed. They involve
vegetables and blades and other devices.

What roiling ritual is this?
What does this dance mean?
Where are the shapes that I know?

 

Brooklyn Aubade

The king of the animal kingdom,
tongue pressed against his teeth,
released the low whistle that signaled
the beginning of the day.
                                       Dawn
and water meet for the aloof
and curious alike; egg creams
and jellybeans are sustenance
too.     
       Armed with the thick skin
that covers the knuckles, and
armored with the hubris that
hardens in the fingernails,
the milk that dribbled
down his chin made him
paradoxically more of man.    

. . .

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. . .

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