Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I think people were more present then. Then here being the time before the internet. As a special bonus, let’s throw in a “then” that was also before cell phones. People had to look for things, and wait for people.
I find myself, when typing content on a screen, using fragments of language, sort of like the George Saunders story, “The Semplica Girl Diaries”:
Am getting off track, due to tired, due to those fighting cats.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
This week, Abriana invited me to answer some questions on the topic: “MY WRITING PROCESS.” I think this is a kind of virtual-chain-letter-of-creative-thought, similar to “The Next Big Thing,” that spread like wildfire a while back.
I’m always game for exercises like this.
Let’s start by thanking Abriana Jetté for inviting me to partake. She’s a teacher, reviewer, anthologist and writer (we’re both Boston University MFA-ers). But the trait of Abriana’s that I am most familiar with is her ability to be both a keen listener and thoughtful learner of the work and process of what she calls “emerging” writers. For poets that have never had anyone really listen to their work (we’re not counting classroom workshops here), Abriana is crucial. She often carries poems around in her jacket pocket or her bag and lets them sink into the cadence of her life for a while before sitting down and reflecting on them. Her thoughts shed light on each person’s work with dignity. She is the poetry contributor and anthologist at Stay Thirsty Media and I’ve been really lucky to connect with her. Now to answer some scary questions!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?
Not much, to be honest. I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with poetry. As a result of this crammed schedule, my poems have changed. They’re being followed, they move quickly, and they obsess over the passing of time and the imperfections of language. You cannot ever say what you hope to say, no matter how long you have to try to say it. Pages in my poems take different shapes. They are scribbles on sandy beaches with an ominous tide coming in to wash everything away, or a cave in the brain with drawings and smeared, illegible writing (time is a very good eraser).
I have been interested in the way the word “mine” and “mind” sound so similar. Mine has two meanings, but the one I’ve been working with is the one in which you dig. My poems have been playing with the similarity of these two words, how you can toggle between the two with the slightest alteration of sound. What happens when you mistake a mind for a mine? A tunnel opens up.
HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHER WRITERS OF THIS GENRE?
Elizabeth Ayres just said “no” to this question. Obviously, she feels, every writer is different because they have different eyes and brains and backgrounds. But I suppose that I could say that my poems (at least right now) are interested in construction, not only of language, but of content. Poems, for me, are built objects. They hold emotions, but do not begin from an emotional landscape (as they once did). The structure comes first and the emotion sprouts from that scaffolding. The potential threat of anarchy in every poem is something I try to loosely harness; allowing it to occasionally take over.
But I’m sure all poets generally feel this way.
WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?
What does this question mean? Why do I write poetry instead of short fiction? Or why do I write about the horrendously inescapable passing of time? If it’s why do I write poetry, the answer is because I can’t do anything else. I don’t really have a choice in the matter. It is the architecture of my expression and it’s been this way from the very beginning. Black and white photography is wonderful to create, but it doesn’t thrill me in the same way as just having written a good poem.
HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?
I write poetry — more likely agonize over not writing poetry — whenever I can snatch a minute or two: Sunday mornings, 6 am on weekdays before work, a line or two before falling asleep. I scribble down images or thoughts that I hope to build on later and they make a pile of scraps on my desk.
When asked about his writing process, John Ashbery says he puts it off until the afternoon. Then he brews a strong cup of tea and begins. If only it were that easy for me. Here is a picture of Ashbery’s desk from “Created Space: A Case for John Ashbery’s Chelsea Apartment.” The caption is: Ashbery’s domestic environment is an organic, mutable living-quarters-cum-laboratory. Office. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.
For me, this desktop epitomizes the process of putting together a poem and the whole act of distilling sound and idea into one beastly organism.
Now, I would like to invite Calvin Olsen to answer these questions. I’m excited to hear what he has to say! Calvin is a guy from UTAH (ahem, IDAHO) who currently resides and works in Boston. He was my colleague at Boston University and his poetry is minimal and playful, and yet he’s a prolific writer. You can get an impression of his work at Calvin VS. World where he participated in the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project or by visiting his website devoted entirely to his Haiku. He teaches, writes, and hosts TEDX talks, too! He makes poetry accessible to all without minimizing the mystery and energy that goes into the process of creating. We’re pen pals!
Friday, September 26, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Sunday, March 16, 2014
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Are you also a little sad that this sleeping shadow did not make it into my little book of poems? I know, right? Me too. All of the pictures in my little chapbook were drawn by Stephanie Kwak who is a true fellow friend, and who just recently went to Beijing and met Ai Weiwei. This drawing of the sleeper is her interpretation of my poem “Travel Accommodations.” She is a pure talent, isn’t she? Don’t be too sad because the book is lovely.
It was made by the nimble hands of Liana at Damask Press (with much help from her grandmother), and just last week I had a little celebratory reading. It was like when Dorothy wakes up from her knock on the head and her trip to Oz and she says “and you were there…and you and you and you were there!” That’s how I felt at the reading. My boss, the very boss Amanda (boss meaning cool!) of Chicago Detours fame was there. My beaming parents, Wanyu and the Cho crew, and even little miss Lisa Hiton appeared all tan and from completely out of the blue! Well, sort of from out of the blue. More like from off a plane that came from Greece where she had been writing poetry and concussing her head on trees. What a happy day. The reading, not the concussing. Also, I got to take home the boxed wine that Nancy brought and I am drinking it right now. Here is another image from City Structures. This one is from “Light Structures in the Library of Babel.” Isn’t is just wonderful?
I just returned from a brief stint at the Grimes Farm where my family encouraged everyone to enjoy nature by giving away trees and hosting the 13th annual Grimes Farm Run! We had a whopping 170 people register. You should join us next year! While I was in Iowa with my family, I found:
2. A tiny book of poems by Persian poet Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Since I am drinking wine, I will quote his wise words: “Better be jocund with the fruitful grape than saddened after none, or bitter, fruit.” So there you go.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
You missed it! This reading happened Sunday night (June 16th) at Logan Square’s Uncharted Books. Have you ever been? There is a lovely blue-eyed, white haired dog that lies around in the middle of everything and there are stacks of used books everywhere and even a section of “Vintage Communist Propaganda.” The readers, in this order, were:
1. Me (I went first)
2. Caroline Picard Who is many things. She is a comic maker, a writer, and an artist. She is also involved in film and does a bunch of interviews (check out her “writing section on her website so see some of her published interviews.) She read a piece about Helen and Penelope but sort of set in modern times Odysseus had a “Conference” of all the warriors. I believe it is a story from her book, Psycho Dream Factory. A haunting piece that ends in a way that must be as abrupt on the page as it is when Caroline reads it. Hiccuped and broken.
3. Peter Jurmu, the editor in chief at Artifice Books. As my friend said during the break, “that was one angry dude.” His poetry was graphic, vivid, powerful and sharp.
4. Sean Lovelace picked up the energy level after the break reading his on point flash fiction. It was good. My friend lay down and spread out on the ground to get a better grip on the stories. Sean is a wonderful writer. He also has, as he told me at the reading, “sort of a thing for nachos.” And Velveeta, which became clear when he concluded by reading a numbered piece about Velveeta. It is a very versatile food.
5. Then there was Jac Jemc who read poems that were completely different than Sean’s flash. I don’t remember what they were about, but I remember the texture of them, the crisp alliteration and soft rhymes. We’re facebook friends now.
6. Carrie Lorig ended the night with a bang. Swaying back and forth and her poetry just bubbling up with a smart country grit to it somehow. The tang of the midwest was there, but also something inside it was taking flight to much further internal places. Russ Woods and Carrie read the last poem together, which you can read here. Stunning.
That was my Sunday. It was so exciting to be a part of that.