every other day  



about

some poems online
scheduled readings

my book: case sensitive
available at your local bookseller
and online at Ahsahta Press,
SPD, & amazon.com


September 2007
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9 10 11


eod archives
kickingwind home


first-book & other interviews:
here


blogs:

$650 apartment for $650
aaron mccollough
ada limon
al filreis
almost i rushed from home
adam clay
amanda earl
amy king's blog
anachronizms
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
belladodie
bemsha swing
bewilderment inc.
big window
billknott
black and white
the blind chatelaine's keys
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both both
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bread and jam for frances
the brother swimming beneath me
the burning chair
caconrad
commutiny
cahiers de corey
can of corn
catherine daly's blog
chaxblog
chicago postmodern poetry
chicana poetics
chicks dig poetry
clay matthews

collin kelley
conchology
cosmopoetica
critical fiction
culture industry
dagzine
dbqp: visualizing poetics
delirious hem
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the dishwasher's tears
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do gummi bears dream
dumbfoundry
effing blog
elective annoyance
elephant seals negate
elsewhere
esther press
e-x-c-h-a-n-g-e-v-a-l-u-e-s
eyeball hatred 
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harlequin knights
harriet
here comes everybody
heuriskein
hg poetics
home-schooled by a cackling jackal
humanophone
human's animal
hyacinth losers
i am yer grammer
i'll show you mine
immoweth
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lovers' last go around
luna
lutheran surrealism
mappemunde
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micawberesque
mindful ramblings
minimalist concrete poetry
minor american
modern americans
mr. tong bliss' journal
narcissusworks
the neglectorino project
nervous unto thirst
never mind the beasts

the newer metaphysicals
nice guy syndrome
nomadics
nothing to say and saying it
now then
odalisqued
omnidawn blog
paul hoover's poetry blog
the pangrammaticon
pantaloons
peek thru the pines
phactory
philly sound
poetry hut
poesy galore
poets' corner
poet with a day job
pseudopodium
pshares blog
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qbdp: the mailartworks
radish king
reader of depressing books
reli[e]able signs
reginald shepherd's blog
riverfall
rob mclennan's blog
rocket kids
rue hazard
saintelizabethstreet
samizdat blog
sandra alland's blog-like entity
sandra simonds swims and swims
say something wonderful
sellekhana-glutton
serif of nottingham
shanna compton's blog
sharkforum
shikow
silliman's blog
slicker chumway's
slim windows
spoke to the world on the phone
spooks by me
stamped & metered flying fish
st*rnosedmole
the steinach operation
stephen vincent
swoonrocket
texfiles in bahrain
they shoot poets don't they
third factory
this is all your fault
this morning in poetry
tom raworth's notes
transsubmutation
twenty thousand thousand
ululations
understory
the unquiet grave
unreliable narrator
venepoetics
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
wordstrumpet
yes, starlings! yes!

you are here
ysleta poeta
zach barocas
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journals/small press/reviews:

1913
6 X 6
abraham lincoln
above/ground press
absent magazine
action yes
ahsahta press
alice blue
apocryphaltext
big game
bird dog
blackbird
black lodge press
black ocean press
bookslut
the brooklyn rail
calamari press
cannibal
carve
chax press
circumference
coconut
coldfront magazine
conduit
the constant critic
cue
the cultural society
cutbank
cy gist press
cy press
diagram
dusie
effing press
eoagh
fascicle
faux press e chapbooks
fewer & further press
flim forum press
free verse
galatea resurrects
g o n g press
gutcult
half empty/half full
the hat
hot whiskey press
handsome
h_ngm_n
hooke press
horse less press
house press
how2/barbara guest memory bank
jacket
katalanche press
kitchen press
konundrum engine literary review
la petite zine
lame house press
lit
little red leaves
milk
mipoesias
new pages
no
no tell motel
octopus
octopusbooks

omg press
omnidawn
onedit
the page
phylum press

poetry 365
the poker
portable press at yo-yo labs
rain taxi
realpoetik
rhino
rhubarb is susan
rose metal press
rust buckle
saltgrass
seconds
shampoo
skanky possum
sleepingfish
slope
sona books
spell
tool a magazine
three candles
transmission press
typo
ugly duckling presse
vanitas
wintered press
wire sandwich
womb
word for/word
xantippe
zafusy

selby's list


audio/radio/video:

AudibleWord.Org
The Continental Review
Frequency 
Kelly Writers House webcasts
Laurable
LINEbreak

miPOradio
miPOradio POdcast
Naropa archives
PENNsound
Rabbit Light Movies
to the sound
UbuWeb
a voice box


11 SEPT 07 - 11 NOV 07

After two years of posting mostly every other day, it's time for a break. Between now and mid-November, I'll be taking a rest from blogging. When I return, I might consider a new approach. Some other form? Maybe a different pace.

The first-book interview series is done. If you go to the interviews index, in the first-book section you'll find the names of 104 poets, 103 of which are links to their interviews. The 104th name, not yet linked, is mine. I'll be answering my own questions while I'm out on tour this fall and I'll post that interview here before winter. I just wanted to say that the party is now officially over. Thanks to everybody who answered my questions.

There are so many people I might've interviewed, and I'm sorry to have missed those exchanges. Also, apologies in advance to all the poets who'll have a first book now. And congratulations.

     

This morning, I'm eager (if not exactly ready) to get going. The current schedule is up here. Before the end of the year, I'll be reading in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Rhode Island, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York.

See you here in November if not sooner in your town.

 


10 SEPT 07


Well, it's taken me more than 3 months to get back to talking about our brief visit to Canada--but in the meantime I've had a chance to look at and read and listen to the work of some of the artists we met there.

Michael Maranda was at the soundboard for the reading that Sandra Alland and I did at Mercer Union in Toronto for Mark Truscott's Test Series. I came home with Michael's book Wittgenstein's Corrections, which he describes at his site as "a reproduction of all the notational marks and corrections in Wittgenstein's manuscript of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, absenting the text itself in order to underscore, pace Wittgenstein, that what is most important is often that which is not written."

2 pages of Wittenstein's Corrections


Michael's site has links to quite a few fascinating projects. Another book I especially recommend is Four Percent of Moby Dick. You can see a pdf of it here, but that's not nearly as satisfying as reading the book, a surprising and beautiful object.
 Four Percent of Moby Dck

Recordings of the Test Series readings are archived here, including mine, Sandra's, and our Q&A after the reading. Sandra is a dynamic reader and just a great person. Her new book Blissful Times is terrific. ("Do any of us really speak the same language? Blissful Times is a collection of poetry that tries to find out." It really does.) She's just moved to Scotland--you can find out more about Sandra and keep up with her at her blog-like entity.

The inimitable a.rawlings joined me to read the "translations" poems from case sensitive. That was fun. Her recordings from Wide slumber for lepidopterists (she says they are "rough drafts") are being hosted now at PENNsound. You can listen to them here.

I was hoping that our host Mark Truscott would do one of those first-book interviews--but he's been kind of busy lately. Stacy Szymaszek described his Said Like Reeds Or Things as "a cellular study of our English communication system where pronouns and prepositions become more mysterious and muscular than verbs and nouns." (Ron Silliman's thoughts on it are here.) It's a Coach House book, so you know it's beautiful, but photos of the cover don't do it justice. Purchasing it is your best bet.


I've fallen way behind on updating the blogroll, but I'm trying to catch up before I leave the blog alone for a few months. Kate Sutherland's book blog is one I've been checking in with since talking with her after the reading in Toronto. I haven't yet read her new book of short stories, All In Together Girls, but I'm taking it on the road with me this week. (It looks good.)

You can't take Pontiac Quarterly on the road or to the bathroom with you because this literary and arts journal happens live, quarterly, at Toronto's Drake Hotel. "Reading a magazine has never been so hands-free." Fiction, photography, feature interviews, poetry, spotlight articles, musical diversions--there's even an advice column! I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to experience PQ while I was in town but I had a good long talk with its founder, Damian Rogers, who impressed me with her energy and vision. Liz Clayton has been the editor for the last year or so, but she's moving to New York and Damian will be taking over again. (I don't know if Liz will be doing the advice column, "Liz, what the fuck?" from New York or not.)

I did add Amanda Earl's blog a while back--and that's one you definitely want to read to know what's happening (poetically & otherwise) in the capital city, Ottawa. Her photographer husband Charles' blog, through the broken viewfinder, also documents the poetry scene, as well as many other things he's seeing.

Amanda's new chapbook E l e a n o r is just out from above/ground press. The mighty publisher of above/ground, rob mclennan, is the man to contact for a copy. While you're at it, pick up flow march n pwder blossom s by Max Middle. (Enjoy a taste of the Max Middle Sound Project on YouTube. There are lots of sound files at his site, vispo too.)

I had a wonderful time reading with Rhonda Douglas at the Ottawa Art Gallery in rob's Factory Series (Amanda Earl's report of the reading is here). Great to meet Rhonda and all the very welcoming gang gathered in Ottawa. Rhonda read from her potent chapbook Time, If It Exists (also published by above/ground). Here's a poem from that book:


Fifth Grade Essay

This is me and my house, my mom
and my dad and my forty-nine brothers.
My dad carries the weight of authority
and the inability to say no to women:
this will be our downfall, all of us,
these things that run in the family.

Once upon a time there was a city
and the people were happy. Or,
sometimes sad in daily ways,
small griefs given perspective.
In the city, a family; around the family, walls.
What happened next was like those fires
made when I was still learning--
many sparks, at first no hope and then
one catches and everything is ablaze,
uncontained.

That is all past tense now.
Future tense; my favourite
and the one we all fear.

Flashes of something normal: it's just your sister-in-law Helen
in a pretty dress, the gold on her neck like the warning rays
of the sun at noon in July--go inside, protect yourselves.

I tell this to my mother, she says "no, Cassandra,
today it's raining", takes me firmly to the roof
of our house, makes me hold my hand out
to feel the warm wetness ping
into the centre of my palm.
She holds me as if I'm blind
but I can see and this is the problem.
I know enough not to say
it feels like tears, the temperature of blood.


. . .

That night I read from my own above/ground chapbook, Rushes. Copies have been a little hard to come by, but I believe rob and I will both have some on hand soon. rob is a guy on the go and a prolific poet & publisher, as a visit to his blog will prove. Pick up a copy of his latest, The Ottawa City Project, at Chaudiere Books.

The Ottawa City Project


I was only in Canada for a couple of days--definitely a place I'll return to for further exploration. A country with beautiful land, an abundance of trees, water, space, cities with good energy and art in the air, and everywhere you go you run into Canadians. And poets! If you've never visited Canada or just haven't been there lately, autumn might be the perfect time for a trip. And if you're already living in Canada, thanks for the nice time.

Thousand Islands

 


9 SEPT 07

an interview with Clay Banes

Clay Banes

You come from Massachusetts--born & raised?

I was born and raised in western Massachusetts, yeah. We lived in the city when I was very, very young, which was glamorous, but then when I was five my brother was born and we moved across the river to the village where my mom had grown up, where her siblings still lived, her parents and grandparents.

How did you wind up in the East Bay? Did you leave to go to school?

I left to leave. Adventure. My dad's mom lived here, and I'd spent a couple summers with her as a boy. There was a phantom connection. Also, I'd come out a year or so before with a girlfriend, who was doing a transfer semester at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. We drove, which I'd never done--driven across the country. It is very dry. We drove to San Francisco and stayed for a few days with a Massachusetts friend who was then living there. One tastes, and one gets notions.

a poetry reading at Pegasus Books

Did you initiate the reading series at Pegasus or inherit it from someone else?

I began it, in fits and starts. It wasn't planned or organized or thrust, just the odd one-offs, but pretty quickly accidents happened and there were genuinely happy connections. I'd only known the books I'd liked. I didn't know any hustle. I got lucky, and the momentum at the beginning was the zap of delight meeting other people who read this stuff for pleasure.

All Month, All Poetry 10% Off

How do you feel about poets contacting you and asking if they can come read at Pegasus?

I am always happy to hear from poets who'd like to read at Pegasus.

packed in for a reading at Pegasus Books

What's the relationship between running the series and your own experience of writing poetry?

I'll have to get back to you on that. I'm very vain, so I stopped writing for production a while ago. I thought with the deep return to poetry, ordering books and hosting poets, I'd get back to it. Unfortunately, I'm still vain. I've read more widely, because of the readings, and I've had the top of my head taken off in scores of new ways. My own writing hasn't caught up to it yet. I've felt indebted to poetry, which sounds corny, but only because I like it. We're good. I hope we stay good.

Did you study writing in school? MFA?

I've been studying writing since I learnt to read. I like it. I don't have an MFA, but I have participated in a workshop. They seem as valid as so many arguments, but it also seems valid that it would not take any particular strain on the imagination to come up with something completely different.

How's the writing going this week?

I'm clearing my head.

New Poetry section at Pegasus

You have a great contemporary poetry section at Pegasus. Do many poets & publishers send books for your consideration? Would you suggest they do?

You're kind for saying. I must thank the handful of poets and publishers who send me books. Truthfully, few do, and I'm broke all the time. Frankly, I'm very generous with my money.

Would it be somehow inappropriate for you to divulge what you are reading at the moment, or mention the last book (or recent books) that you really liked?

I just finished What Began Us by Melissa Buzzeo (Leon Works) and Why I Am White by Mathias Svalina (Kitchen Press).

Pegasus from across Durant

Your store has been directly across the street from a Barnes & Noble. My understanding is that they moved in opposite Pegasus, lasted years, and have now closed--is that right? If so, do you have an idea why? We never hear any story other than the one about an independent bookseller being shut out by a big chain bookstore. What happened to business at Pegasus when Barnes & Noble moved in, and what happened after they left, and why do you think your store survived?

Barnes Ignoble lived directly across the street from us for 10 years and closed at 9:00PM on May 31. They had a fountain, but a fountain wasn't enough. Pegasus has grown in its decade, starting from nearly nothing. When I began working here, we had remainders and very unspectacular used books, the kind you'd find in a charity organization shop. We didn't buy used books. We started carrying magazines. We started buying used books. We started carrying new books, etc. The store has been getting better all the time for a long while now, and it's thoroughly grown up a part of its neighborhood. Barnes Ignoble of course is always the same and everywhere the same, and it is the tool or toolmaster of the big commercial houses' crassest instincts.

When Barnes Ignoble first moved in, it helped the store, because the downtown was dead: their appearing there brought more traffic. In the years since, Berkeley's downtown stopped dying and started reviving. It has turned itself around and there are many new restaurants and shops and it is very different. Having a local, not-stupid bookstore as an anchor on the corner probably didn't hurt. Anyway, times change. Now that Barnes Ignoble has closed, Pegasus Books has only gotten busier. We're haler. Huzzah.

Pegasus Books (open)

How long have you been managing Pegasus? Is "manager" your title? How did you come to be working in a bookstore? If you moved, would you stay in this line of work?

I'm manager emeritus. I stepped down from it, and I never could have done what I'm doing--ordering new poetry titles, hosting readings--if I still managed the store. Also, always, there's the rest of it. We buy and sell loads of used books. That's the biggest part of my day. I've been doing this for 11 years, and I guess I traveled 2,700 miles to be able to. I really can't get away from books. They're not much read, you know.

Clay Banes, bookbuyer of the year!

If I move and whether I'd like to stay in this particular line of work, retail, is hard to say. There are criteria. There aren't many places where books are still sold and where bookstores are still supported by readers. I care about books that aren't well-distributed and books that have fallen out of print. Is that a cause?

Jeff T. Johnson lays his money down

Do you sometimes consider moving east again or do you feel you belong in California? "Belong" might be too layered or weighty a term, but do you feel that the West has taken hold?

The Bay Area has taken hold. I really don't know anything about California, just what everybody knows: from TV. I am an exile and I have an exile's prerogatives and I miss New England and water and weather and plants and birds I can understand. I dream about New York City oftener than I think about Sacramento.

How long have you been blogging? Why did you start? Do you like it? What have been the benefits?

I've been blogging almost two years. I fell into it when I clicked to create a blog, to see what would happen. The only half-baked notion I had was to not promote myself, to give something back, however corny and dreadful that sounds. Poetry's been good to me. I've liked blogworld. I've learnt a lot, read work I'd have never found, met some truly lovely people.

Why do you call your blog Eyeball Hatred?

No reason. Those were the two words I'd put together that week, like "dim eggs," which I'm often doing. I dropped them in when I was commanded to name my blog, just to get to the next step.

What's your opinion of myspace?

It's rubbish.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Middle-aged.

Are your parents alive?

Yes. I talk to my dad now. And my mother.

How would you characterize your ambition?

To not be greedy. To not be secretive.

What happens when you wake up in the morning? Do you write down your dreams? Do you eat breakfast? Drink coffee?

I've never written down my dreams. I often wake up and try to remember whatever words I'd lain thinking about after I'd put the light out and before I'd slipped to sleep. They're chains, very short because I'd been writing them in the dark in my head, hearing them over and over, having to, trying not to lose them. Usually I do. If I don't and I remember, in the morning I write them down. Then I make coffee.

. . .

Clay's blog: Eyeball Hatred

Pegasus Books
2349 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA  94704

Clay Banes in Brooklyn

 

 

8 SEPT 07

We've reached the conclusion of the Seven Sentences series. Clicking on the link (the number of sentences) at the beginning of each post will take you back to the previous entry in the set, and eventually lead all the way around to where we started.

21 sentences:

Anything with a period I call "sentence." When I learn English there'll be more to say. I was standing in line, thinking, “Why do people travel?” Self Narration, Slap In The Face, Cottage, Lake, Loss. I look forward to clearing my name.

Right now, I’m looking for a long foreground: the horizon goes high and drops, at your feet. Sometimes I feel (or maybe hear) things knock together. Meaning, this far and no further.

The birds are busy. We ate the last oranges. I accidentally broke one of the small yellow plates that she bought when we first lived together. It tipped from the counter, where I'd set it, to the floor. The sound we call "shots rang out."

Able To See The Dead, Title Spoken By Character, Disbelieving Adult, Repetition. I took a picture. Scenery. The left hand is provided. Enjoy! Who knows where this shit comes from.

Road Movie, Stranger, Foreign Cities, Based On Book. Nobody likes me in my dreams, so I might as well get up.

 

7 SEPT 07

How has your first book changed your life?

103. Sarah Fox

Because Why by Sarah Fox

How did your manuscript happen to be picked up by Coffee House Press? How often had you sent it out before that?

Because Why is actually my second manuscript. My first, Assembly of the Shades, I submitted to maybe 10 contests, it was a finalist 3 times, and was eventually solicited and accepted for publication by Salmon Press in Ireland. I signed a contract and everything. As we were in the process of editing the book and designing the cover, Salmon lost funding from the Irish Arts Council, specifically for American authors, so that book never made it out of the gates.

In the meantime, I'd been writing poems that were strikingly different, aesthetically, from the more narrative poems in the first book, and had begun to envision a second manuscript. Chris Fischbach, Senior Editor at Coffee House, confronted me one day about this second manuscript and asked to see it. At the time, it was not much more than a pile of poems, which I gave him, sheepishly, not expecting too much. But he liked them, and challenged me to develop a manuscript, and when I had, to give him a chance to read it before sending it out elsewhere. This was inspiring, of course, and I spent the next 6 months or so exploring common themes and puzzling out the new poems, and eventually sent Chris a first draft of Because Why.

I remember attending a fabulous lecture at the Walker Art Center--David Shapiro speaking about Jasper Johns--and I ran into Allan Kornblum (Publisher and Founder of Coffee House) in the lobby afterwards. He said to me "Your manuscript is on my A-list of books to publish." I nearly passed out. A month or so later, Chris set up a formal meeting and asked permission to publish the book. So I didn't have to send it out to any contests at all; it was the luckiest thing, practically, that ever happened to me. When I look back to the first manuscript--which still has some sentimental value, especially to my parents who can't make heads or tails of Because Why--I have to say I'm relieved no trees were cut down on its behalf.

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

I remember vividly seeing the book for the first time. It was towards the end of January. Lauren Snyder, Coffee House's then-publicist, called to let me know the books were in. I drove over to Coffee House (less than 2 miles from where I live) and the book was there waiting for me on the front desk. My satisfaction was complete when I saw it and held it, I thought it was beautiful and perfect. I put a tiny star on the title page of the first book I touched (corny) and also slept with it under my pillow that night. (A long time ago, Jane Hirshfield told me she did that, for luck, with her first book.) I'm a somewhat superstitious person, I love ritual. Seeing the book for the first time was very meaningful.

The cover image comes from a larger painting that my goddaughter, Grace Armstrong, made when she was 4 or 5. I completely trusted that Linda Koutsky (Coffee House's designer) would make a gorgeous book because she always does--Coffee House is famously attentive to the integrity of the book as an object of aesthetic delight. Allan got his start with Toothpaste Press in Iowa City, all letter-pressed and hand-bound books made with exquisite papers and designs. In fact, he was the inspiration for my own short-lived publishing endeavor, Fuori Editions.

For me, Because Why is in part concerned with children, and the associative, imaginary lingo of childhood, and I wanted the cover to reflect that, to be not too orderly. I gave Linda a stack of Grace's artwork, and she came up with half a dozen lovely possibilities. She took details from the paintings, and really worked with color and texture. I suspect many publishers cringe when the poet arrives with very detailed instructions about their visions for book covers. Perhaps Linda cringed, but never in my presence! She asked a lot of questions way in advance about colors, textures, images, themes, and with the paintings I gave her she offered her own unique touch with a lot of insight into the basic elements of both the book and my aesthetic. It was very collaborative, and ultimately I trusted her to make it work.

I love it that Grace is the cover artist. I tell her that she gave my book its proper face--in some ways, we share ownership of Because Why. She accompanied me on a few book signings and has developed a special "artist's autograph." She was "star of the week" in her first grade class when the book arrived, and as such was thrilled to bring her curious accomplishment to school as evidence of her stardom. Upon reviewing a few of the poems, however, her teacher chose not to expose the 6 year olds to what lay beneath the cover. (As it happens, "fuck" appears more than once in the very first poem!)

Speaking of things best kept from children, the night I saw my book for the first time I served as alchemist and ground control for a few friends who decided to journey with a special medicinal plant brew--another important theme in Because Why. It was indeed a memorable day.

Before the day you first saw your book, did you imagine your life would change with its arrival?

I'm sure I imagined thrilling, incredible things that I no longer remember. What I anticipated most was a sense of terror: that I'd be expected to change in ways that were beyond my capacity. I, personally, began to feel utterly exposed, and assumed that soon the world would unveil me as the imposter I knew myself to be. I suddenly felt as if, at bottom, I knew absolutely nothing about poetry, and that hordes of people were going to expect me to display some vast intelligence about poetics, poetic tradition, and worse, what my book was "really" about. I remember feeling intimidated, and decidedly unqualified.

As it turns out, nobody expected much of anything, and when people asked me questions, they were friendly, genuine questions that I decided to answer honestly and affably. In due course I grew to love talking to even complete strangers about stuff like being a doula, jazz, plant medicines, Minneapolis, spirituality, visionary poetics, etc.

Do you see a connection between being a poet and being a doula?

I've just returned to Minneapolis after attending the birth of my sister's 4th child--Colette. I'm still kind of floating in that magical birth space, the ecstatic witness to a new being entering the world. I think most poet-parents would probably agree that the writing of poetry pales in comparison to the birthing of a baby. Birth is the most altering of experiences, so awesome and important, so utterly thrilling. But I do think poetry led me to my work as a doula, and that comparisons can be made. Essentially, both experiences require that one remove oneself from routine and the minutia of daily existence. Both experiences are acts of witness and creation. Both experiences can be ecstatic, literally a traveling outside of oneself. And both birth and poetry produce newness in the world.

As a doula, my job is to witness, and to soothe and empower the laboring mother (and father). I guess, in the best of times, when the imagination is fertile, poems become both extensions of self and living creatures that eventually one must separate from oneself. Do you think poems are creaturely? I really do, I think they breathe and move, they present themselves as utterly unique expressions. The poetic voice is like the laboring mother, and as its host I need to coax and empower it. I don't know, maybe this is too esoteric. Maybe there is not much comparison in the larger scope of things. Poetry is so much more abstract, while birth is the most concrete and physical of human acts.

If I had to choose, though, between being a poet and being a doula, I would certainly choose poetry. It's the more instinctual of the two vocations, for me, it's cellular (and being a doula is definitely different from being a mother, from giving birth oneself). In fact I can't choose not to write poetry because my daily life is predicated by it. Poetry is the lens through which I interpret the world and it comes from within me. I tend to gravitate towards extreme experiences, and attending a birth is to witness the most intense experiences a human will likely undergo. It brings me closer to the realm where poems live for me. Both poetry and doula-ing mean to contribute to the well-being of others, and really this is my primary wish.

Has your life been different since your book came out?

Yes, my life has been different, but perhaps not entirely due to the publication of the book. I cut my hair, for one thing. I've managed to perfect my recipe for peach pie. I finally finished my B.A. in English (the Math requirement was my only obstacle for 12 years!). I have thought more seriously about making my life different: putting forth effort to live more simply, to be more politically active, more generous to my community, to be a better teacher. I feel as if I have more responsibility now, more possible influence, and I want to take that seriously.  

But in terms of the book, it has provided me greater access to marvelous poets around the country who perhaps wouldn't have crossed my path otherwise. I traveled to cities to give readings, and was treated with such hospitality by my poet-hosts. I've been invited to contribute articles and poems to magazines, and to participate in discussions and conferences (and interviews, like this one!), which happened to a lesser degree in the past. I feel more comfortable getting in touch with poets and artists I admire, I consider myself less suspect in that regard, which really is kind of silly, but I have been treated more as a "member of the club." I tend to be suspicious of clubs, however; I don't think there's reason for exclusivity or fragmentation, or even competition, among poets. After all, we're only a very slim fraction of the population as it is, and one would hope that community-building is part of the project of poetry.

It is comforting to have found poets on the whole so generous, and to count on a kind of recognition where the initial formalities of meeting people for the first time are eliminated. You're a poet, I'm a poet, we are part of a community, and camaraderie is assumed from the start. One of my favorite things that happened was that I got to lunch and read with Fanny Howe in Boston, which on its own is worth book publication!

So, my life has been different, but subtly so, and fundamentally it is the same life I have always had.

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

I didn't expect a lot and I haven't felt terribly disappointed by anything that didn't happen. Some surprises: After reading in Fargo with Paula Cisewski (Upon Arrival) and Juliet Patterson (The Truant Lover), I received a letter from a gentleman whose niece had attended the reading. He had worked with Eric Dolphy and was impressed that I had written a poem mentioning Eric Dolphy. His letter was long, and so interesting, about his life in music and various musicians he had felt lucky to have worked with. I also got emails out of the blue from former high school classmates and long-lost friends. I got an email from a young woman, also named Sarah Fox, who was making a documentary film for her college thesis about Sarah Foxes, and their accomplishments, and wanted me to participate (there are fascinating, and abundant, Sarah Foxes out there--a photographer, a soprano, a hockey star…). Those were the best surprises--making unexpected connections and reviving conversations with people I never expected to talk to again.

Another surprise was the general response that the book was "difficult" and "experimental." That it even verged on Language poetry. This was not my understanding of the book--I hoped it was inventive, but I didn't intend for the poems to be tricky or complicated.

What have you been doing to promote the book and how do you feel about it?

The serious promotion of the book has ebbed now as it's been more than a year since the book came out. I won a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to do a Midwest and East Coast tour, and did several out-of-town readings with two poets I love and admire, Juliet and Paula. I did interviews and created a huge mailing list. I feel a deep responsibility to Coffee House for putting forth the time and money to make this book, and continue to seek means to bring the book to a wider audience. I hope to make it to the West Coast one of these days. I would say that key to successful promotion is funding, especially for the smaller non-profit presses who struggle to make ends meet and can't afford sending authors on elaborate tours. Juliet has been a role model for this--she's been incredibly diligent and bold about promoting her book. I'm rather shy, it's a challenge for me to pick up the phone and invite myself somewhere. This is something I'm trying to overcome.

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

Publishing a book is, in some ways, like having a child--nobody gives you an instruction manual. You have to create your own style in tending to the book's needs. I wish someone had told me there are many ways to react to a book's publication, all of them possibly useful ways. I also wish someone had told me well in advance that my meager knowledge was sufficient--that people in general are more interested in each other as human beings than they are in erudition and expertise.

Good advice came primarily from my husband, John Colburn, who is also a poet (a wildly talented poet, in fact my favorite poet). He told me, among other things, to honor the book and accept my luck. Steve Healey (Earthling, another Coffee House title), whose book came out about a year before mine, told me not to expect too much, not to be disappointed by the inevitable anti-climax. Chris Fiscbach gave me of course such smart and individualized editorial advice, but he also said to me, "I love 90% of this book, and the other 10% I really like." I trust him unreservedly, and since he had committed himself to this book, and didn't love it entirely, his rather indirect advice was that I could be okay with a level of discontent from my readers.

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

I would advise the initiate to trust herself, and not to feel obliged to explain or decode her poetics. Poetry is intuitive, one's poetics I think more instinctive and uniquely inventive. Allow the poems to speak for themselves.

I would also encourage the poet to honor her achievement and allow herself to feel a personal affection for her book. Believe in the book and respect it, and don't be bashful about promoting it. Also, ask someone else to read the reviews, just in case.

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

The book's publication has had a somewhat negative influence on my productivity as a writer. I don't exactly know why, but I've discovered through conversations with other poets that this is not unusual. I suppose it takes a lot of creative energy to attend to the book's presence in the world. I'd been working on a manuscript before Because Why was published, called The Brain Letters, and the work is stalled--I think that sense of feeling exposed, intimidated, has made me feel as though the project I set out for myself is maybe smarter than I am! At the same time, I was affected by the reaction from people I care about (my family, individuals I work with, students) that Because Why was in some ways impenetrable. I know I'm undergoing a drastic aesthetic change, and that my new poems want to be comprehensible while sustaining aesthetic invention. Seriously, I seem to have forgotten how to write poems. I'm actually thinking about going to grad school next year to pursue an MFA just so that I can re-invent the structure and focus of writing, as I feel so adrift. I expect my poems to avoid complacency, to chase after what can make them new.

I think perhaps the work of reacclimating oneself to the solitude, and trust, and private focus, one requires to approach the page, after the intense exposure of being a more public poet, can be a complex process. I suppose another bit of advice I'd offer to a soon-to-be-published poet is to be thoroughly engaged in a new project, in the creative process, even amidst all the excitement and trepidation of the book's arrival that tends to be consuming.

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

I have been extremely lucky in that the critical response to my book has been wholly positive, even instructive--in terms of introducing me to new interpretations of my book. I wouldn't say, though, that it has had any effect on my writing practice. I think it's important to separate one's writing from others' expectations for it, and from the theoretical interpretation that reviews, necessarily, employ. Allowing reviews or critical response to intervene in the intuitive process is dangerous, I think. Outside criticism can pollute natural utterance and the receptivity to accident that art demands. Criticism is a separate business, and while it has its place, I think it's an unreliable muse.

Do you want your life to change?

Of course. Change is imperative, transformation always the goal. Poetry will inevitably come along for the ride, and will change alongside of me, and may often provoke change within me and outside of me. But I would say that I don't expect my life to change merely because I had a book published; I'm not seeking particular status or renovation of my position in the world. I think of the book as a lucky achievement in the continuing process of my life as a poet and person. I try not to consider it a means to transformation though, or a conquest, but more the result of change within myself. 

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

Constantly, obsessively. The continual process of letting go. For me, it is a matter of expansion, and ideally change happens at the level of consciousness.

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

Yes, I believe poetry can and does create change in the world. Perhaps the change is minimal, but it can't be underestimated. And again, I think the change that poetry can facilitate is at the level of consciousness. Its dialogue is, in so many ways, mysterious and interior. Even invisible. Poetry need not seek credit for change; when it does that, I think it limits itself. But it can attempt to shift consciousness, and, even if just for a moment, it can inspire deeper awareness, which in turn can lead to healing, to communion, and maybe even to a reaching out for peace and goodness.

:

a poem from Because Why by Sarah Fox:


Baby Shamanics for the New Millennium

Everybody's pregnant. I myself seem
not to be pregnant most of the time. When
I am, I dream the baby's in a shoe box.
We're all on a plane. The baby is blue.
In the morning the mint rises up from me, a fleeing vapor
it flees, has fled. Mint. Blue mintine babies
abandoning my lungs like tiny forest people
with tails and spears. I don't know where
they're going, they won't tell me.
They run themselves into a vortex
that tumbles off down the mouth
of an enormous fish.
Do they even know my name?
Can you see what I'm talking about?
I feel like a million luckless heaps of laundry,
all the mint blown out of me.
The basement is musty and mintless,
covered with coughs. Everybody
who's pregnant smokes too much
and must learn to take care of
the babies. Those babies are
blossoming like swirly lupine, their bright
bobbing crowns appearing on Earth
out of nowhere. First there is just us
in the room, then there's a baby.
Sucking and sucking.
So much wetness: the becoming
of things, the letting go, the fleeing pagan babies,
our love our eating our grief.
I am not yet ready to die.
All the onesies in the dryer
I've been saving for our beautiful blue somewhere.


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