Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Next Big Thing

How about we soften that a bit to just something more like "The Next Thing" or something. So the tagging that's going around asking questions about what people are working on next finally ended up tagging me (Though I have to admit it was more like "Who wants to be tagged?" and I said "I guess I do.") Now I get to go tag five people!

Hit play!

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

In a Landscape. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

There was no idea, really, not at first.  I sat down one day after having written a lot of poems where I didn’t use the first person, and I thought it might be nice to try a direct address to the reader, a kind of pretend conversation or something.  Something about what was happening that day, full of the names and places and dates, and what I thought about, what my views were on all manner of subjects. 

That’s what I thought over time, but on day one, I just sat down to write in the first person, and I’d just finished re-reading John Cage’s SILENCE, so I put on an album of his compositions, titled In a Landscape.  I titled my poem that, out of convenience, and when I felt like that poem was over, I started another, and used the same title, just to keep things simple.  I was several poems/sections in before I realized what I was doing. 

In the final say, it’s a book-length poem in 71 discrete sections, each titled “In a Landscape,” and numbered and presented in compositional order (with a couple shufflings due to bad book-keeping), and each composed while listening to that album.  I wrote mostly in the mornings, and then added to and tinkered with them here and there over the last couple years.  When I add something, I usually go ahead and put in the new date. 

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry (though one could call it memoir, or diary or essay, if one felt like thinking of it that way)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

As it would be a documentary if it were filmed, I’d have us all play ourselves, but maybe with stunt doubles for the ify parts.  “Actor re-creations.”   Maybe Martin Freeman, the guy who plays Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit could play me, but they’d have to thin his hair out a lot.  He doesn't look anything like me, but he plays exasperated well. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A person at middle age is thinking about children, friends, family, music, books, films, love, embarrassment, the dead, God, and lunch, while trying not to make anything up. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? (if this applies - otherwise, make up another question to answer!)

It will come out through BOA in 2015

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

October 2009 through December 2009

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe Lowell’s Life Studies, because of the theme?  But that makes me sound like I’m puffing myself up, so I’ll kind fo take it back but leave it in anyway.  Other people are doing really interesting things right now with stories and parts of autobiography in poetry: Kate Greenstreet, Craig Morgan Teicher, just to name a couple.  But probably the book it has the most in common with is John Cage’s SILENCE, specifically his use of autobiographical anecdotes here and there in a cut-up, methodically random way. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It was, I think, a direct reaction to working with G.C. Waldrep on the book Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, which was collaborative, and written mostly in the second person.  After that, I wanted to do something completely different, as did he.  This is one of the things that ended up happening.  We both wrote book-length poems!

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Maybe some samples?  Here are several sections of the poem in one place, which maybe gives one a feeling for it:

And then, as context: In late 2009, spilling over into 2010 and onward to now, I’ve felt a bit splintered.  As I’ve worked on the autobiographical, essayistic, In a Landscape, I’ve also taken little detours, culminating in three additional manuscripts, and a collection of selected poems by Michael Benedikt that I’m editing with Laura Boss, that I worked on during a period of forced not-writing. 

One of my manuscripts is similar to the poems I wrote before Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, titled Radio Good Luck.  The other two are different, I think, than anything else I’ve published.  The first is titled At Last the Festival Will Pay for Itself, and a little series of those poems can be found here:

And another completed, but untitled, manuscript that I’m calling When We Squinted Our Eyes It Looked Just Like Morning.  A few of those poems can be found here:


At 2/13/2013 8:26 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

There was another question I missed that I just saw on Don Share's questions.

"Make up a question you think is pressing in poetry today."

So here goes:

What is realism?

At 2/13/2013 9:43 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

It seems your period of forced not-writing is a result of working very hard. Maybe often is the more precise qualifier. Anyway, I enjoy the poems in Octopus magazine quite a bit. Is there any plan to publish more, or the whole? I'd like to read them.

As to Realism, I will give an answer typical to what I normally post. Realism is the always unsuccessful attempt to present things "as they actually are." I put that in quotes for obvious reasons. If we cannot experience objectively, how can represent accurately? We filter the world through the imperfect instrument of our senses and the paint we use to represent it is always wet, always dry and cracking.

At least since Arthur Rimbaud, there has been a push to make the objects of the mind as real as dirt and toothaches and bills. Whether or not that looks like anything people would call realism is irrelevant; the poem is real and the language used to represent it is real, even when considering non-representational uses.

At 2/13/2013 11:27 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

We can't play "the veritable ding an sich":

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."

The story behind the "In a Landscape" pieces--which I rather like, incidentally--reminds me of some novel by Richard Hell. He played an album by The Who (My Generation?) over and over while writing the novel just because it threw out a lot of energy.

I've written to Cage a bit. I often write to rock 'n roll, but not to something I like so much that I feel I should stop writing and listen or dance to it. For example, I'd write to any Who album (except ones I don't like), but I wouldn't write to Let It Bleed or Sticky Fingers.


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