Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pete Smith, Bindings with Discords




Evensong [Coventry Cathedral]

In this place, this slow mausoleum
space held by cold stone & glass
angles criss-cross
into shifting
open-occult wings.
Where sunlight strikes
air bleeds multi-coloured psalms
and when, in service, the choral voice
raises William Byrd, feathered
quavers trace the arcing roof,
fan
a rainbow of harmonic hope
then fall to ground, flame-tongued.
Profound expectations fibrillate
the hearts of the faithful. Some glimpse
doors in stone & burning air beyond; some
fixate on the eagle rooted
to the lectern’s edge, freedom tethered
in its held wing,
law nailed
in its
claw

Kamloops, British Columbia poet Pete Smith’s latest offering is Bindings with Discords (Bristol UK: Shearsman Books, 2015), a book uniquely influenced by British experimental poetry as well as a variety of Canadian writers, especially those around the Kootenay School of Writing. Born and raised in England, Smith emigrated to Kamloops in 1974, where he was able to slowly start interacting with a number of Canadian poets and their works. As he writes as part of an interview forthcoming at Touch the Donkey:

In Britain, no direct engagement beyond being a consumer of mags which provided different sets of outlook:  Stand – toward Europe largely; Agenda – Poundian modernisms; Grosseteste Review – openings toward USA, combo of projective & objective ‘schools’ filtered through a very English light.

Attended readings at the then Cariboo College where I heard but didn't ‘meet’ Birney, Newlove, Bowering et al.  (A long parenthesis, 10 to 15 years, takes me into a North American cult/church community where I become an elder & preach regularly – until finally reading my way out of that wilderness – picking up while there some useful self-discipline for essay writing & a preachiness in my poems that I have to guard against).

Real connections began on three fronts in the 1990s: firstly, through the Internet & an email I sent to Nate Dorward I connected up with British & Irish poets I felt at home with & led to the publication of the first Wild Honey Press chapbook; through Nate again I learned of a reading at the ksw whose venue I failed to find then but, thanks to Rob Manery, found it for the next time; the Kamloops Poets Factory where Warren Fulton’s energies created a local scene & we brought in some good writers to read & conduct workshops (my contributions were all through the ksw connection: Mike Barnholden, Aaron Vidaver, Ted Byrne on one occasion; Lissa Wolsak & Lisa Robertson on Easter Sunday, 2000 – Lisa read from The Men.  Not so many personal meetings really, lots of recruits I bring in from my reading, not in order to name-drop, but to share my experience in a particular text-world. Exploration & celebration.

Smith’s poems favour a kind of narrative and tonal discord, pounding sound against meaning and sound in a way reminiscent of some of Ottawa poet Roland Prevost’s recent writing. As Smith writes in the poem “From the Olfactory”: “Swamped by irritants / air-borne and scoped / he defended a weakened immune / system, set about mopping up / incontinent emotions, / secured HQ in the lachrymal ducts.” Composed over a period of some twenty-plus years, the collection is constructed into two groupings each made up of three sections: “Part One: Pointes & Fingerings,” that includes “One-Eye-Saw: ‘in the sure uncertain hope,’” “20/20 Vision” (an earlier version of which was produced as a chapbook through Wild Honey Press in 1998) and “Evacuation Procedures,” and “Part Two: Three Fancies in the Key of BC,” which includes “Strum of Unseen” (an earlier version of which was produced as a chapbook through above/ground press in 2008), “48 Out-Takes from the Deanna Ferguson Show” and “Mother Tongue: Father Silence.” Perhaps due to the extended composition of the collection, Smith’s variety of structures holds the book together incredibly, shifting his punctuated collage-works from short fragments to prose poems to poems that break structure down altogether. Interestingly enough, Smith’s writing comments on the visible absence his writing creates, as he publishes quietly, nearly invisibly. In “48 Out-Takes from the Deanna Ferguson Show” he writes: “Let me introduce you to my anthology. Your absence will guarantee you pride of place.”









one:       desire & music are a vortex
two:      the rhythm the rhythm the rhythm
the rhythm three: dithyrambic
celebration collapse
bottom fish sit this one out
on top of the news
four:   slow dance among the picnic debris
lives measured out in steps
portraits of soles on the move
            & at rest
waltzing through wilted lettuce
            crusts of cheese
            crumbed stones of bread
dancing away from stilled life (“Third Movement”)

There’s an incredible density to Smith’s work, one that comes across as a narrative collage, excising unrequired words for something built as both incredibly precise and remarkably open to a variety of possibilities. In his review of the Wild Honey Press edition of 20/20 Vision for The Gig, Nate Dorward wrote:

The wit catches the ear: not the deadpan standup comedy sometimes the fate of the New Sentence, but a mode of inquiry into poetic style and into cultural authority.  There’s a wish to avoid “the poet shrunk to a witness”, reproducing the personal, religious and social nostalgias on offer: “technes create / instant nostalgia, break you and your dear ones / into timed fragments: zoom, smile, cut; / in your pram with soother, in your graduation / gown, in your senile frame with demented smile.”  High prophecy may be unavailable, but one can be “eloquent” in “disbelief” […].

There is much going on here, in a poetry that builds upon responses to writers, writing and artwork, including photographer Fred Douglas, poet Deanna Ferguson and the late poet, artist and musician Roy K. Kiyooka. Binding, as he tell us in the title, with discords: one can’t be any more direct than exactly that.

Bamboo-heart, water-heart teach us the meanings of friendship. Between heaven and earth, a journey to share – everyday home. Be with until public law – BC Security Commission, March 4 1942 – states you are decreed nisei, sundered by stained metal blade of fear-hatred-greed. “Relocatable persons” are asked to be rootless, artless, homeless &, best self, lifeless. Everyday home claps you into its pure bamboo, empty water jail. Be your own best friend – a shade yellow, simulacrum/b of white (boss) man – bereft of former chums.

                                                            claw metal clap (“Mother Tongue: Father Silence)



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with TC Tolbert

TC Tolbert often identifies as a trans and genderqueer feminist, collaborator, dancer, and poet but really s/he’s just a human in love with humans doing human things. The author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press 2014), Conditions/Conditioning (a collaborative chapbook with Jen Hofer, New Lights Press, 2014) I: Not He: Not I (Pity Milk chapbook 2014), Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (co-editor with Trace Peterson, Nightboat Books, 2013), spirare (Belladonna* chaplet, 2012), and territories of folding (Kore Press chapbook 2011), his favorite thing in the world is Compositional Improvisation (which is another way of saying being alive). S/he is Assistant Director of Casa Libre, faculty in the low residency MFA program at OSU-Cascades, and adjunct faculty at University of Arizona. S/he spends his summers leading wilderness trips for Outward Bound. Thanks to Movement Salon and the Architects, TC keeps showing up and paying attention. Gloria Anzaldúa said, Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks. John Cage said, it’s lighter than you think. www.tctolbert.com

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I grew up Pentecostal.

The Holy Spirit would sometimes send people running up and down the aisles (unclear if they were pursuing or being chased), it might make their bodies convulse. There was a kind of inspired and terrifying celebration that undulated between laughter, pleading, weeping, and cheers. But those most filled with God could be identified by how they were filled with language. To speak in tongues was to be spoken through – a language both intensely private and necessarily shared – glossolalia – a kind of benevolent wildfire on the tongue – to receive the most excruciating, exquisite untranslatable articulations as a gift.

I suppose I came to poetry first to speak my body out of and into existence. I write to speak in tongues and to prophecy. To know something I can’t know. To surrender. To be a good-bad body written into. To be read. To be a good-bad body gone bad-good.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?


5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
In Queer Space, Aaron Betsky says, we make and are made by our spaces. In this way, where I read a poem (and by where I mean the physical location - which includes the architecture and the bodies the poem interacts with and the spaces made by the poems around it) shapes how I read the poem. And since I also believe what Stein said (There is no such thing as repetition. Only insistence.), every reading is different. And so I don’t think of them as readings, so much, because I think that implies something stable about the text that I want to avoid. I get much more excited about what can happen when people gather in a room and trade noises. I absolutely love the collaborative process of showing up. Of creating installations.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
In the early 70’s, gay and bisexual men began using a hanky code to signal to other men what they were into (SM, fisting, oral, anal, etc), what they were looking for (tonight I want someone to hold me, or would anyone be willing to piss in my mouth?), and how they identify (bottom, top, or switch). This is known as flagging. Not only a way to clarify and communicate desire, but a public acknowledgment of a possibly dangerous combination of attraction and identity hidden in plain sight (queerness was, and often still is, met with social and individual violence). As a trans and queer writer, I say. And then: this is different, I think, than a writer who happens to be trans or queer. I am particularly interested in flagging and how this relates to language, audience, and accessibility. Can the subversive still be subversive if it passes into the realm of widely legible? How do we share the obscured, public confession? How are intimacy, desire, and connection wielded in common space? What passes as a body? What is the desire of form? What does it mean to be out?

Pema Chodron says, Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are. How passing, for me, can be both a protection from violence and can perpetuate violence. A necessity and necessarily enigmatic. I write to experiment with passing, with being a self I can know, with flagging, with turning on. I think of the textual body as a gendered body. My trans(gender) body is an unreliable text. The narrative is ruptured. Trust may be built or it may be broken. The veneer of coherence and safety completely gives way. Kathy Couch says there is a difference between props and objects. She says, prop is a shortened form of property and we never expect our property will teach us anything. A poem isn’t exactly a performance. I hope it’s not a prop, either. But there’s an audience. And I worry about showing off instead of showing up. A reckoning with the ambivalence of form. And people are objects, too. Surrender and struggle with constraint.

As a body in a person, as a poet, as these lines in this order – white skin and male passing privilege, breasts I used to bind but no longer want to, soft belly, hips that could easily carry children but never will, facial hair that refuses my jaw while absolutely flourishing on the underside of my chin – I’m continually interested in the architecture we find ourselves in. At what point does construction become didactic? What is the space between container and constraint? What happens when we try, and is it possible, to subtract formula from form?

Also, there is generosity. And this is different, I think, from being nice. I want my work to be inhabited by vulnerability, experiment, risk. I want to be visible. A kind of accessibility that has more to do with being encountered than being understood. I want collaboration. And failure. And delight.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

For me, the worst that could happen to poetry would be that any given poet’s work (whether it be poems, criticism, or some combination there of – I inherently consider poetry to be political and personal, even though I recognize the shortcoming in that) the worst that could happen would be for poetry to end at the page. How do we compose in the moment? If attention is action? If one wants to undermine systemic violence, racism, capitalism, and/or compulsory heterosexuality through syntax or some other poetic project, one shouldn’t be a dick in real life.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I’ve encountered challenges with everything I truly care about. It’s an incredible gift to be read closely, carefully. I’m blessed. I’ve experienced all of these things.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
“I know I’m in real trouble when I start to judge my insides against someone else’s outsides.” – said to a friend in Chattanooga at an Al Anon meeting.

Annie Dillard said: “How you live your days is how you live your life.”

John Cage said: “It’s lighter than you think.”

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (your own poetry to collaboration)? What do you see as the appeal?
Relatively easy, I suppose, in that I genuinely think of genre as gender. I’m not a theorist, or rather, critique is just my affection in drag. For a few years now I’ve been working on a series of lyric essays in which I am writing my body into existence though not necessarily through content. I’m looking for a textual body expansive (and constrictive) enough to inhabit. I want to live (t)here. For now, I find that space in hybrid forms. Utilizing elements of poetry, research, and personal narrative, I think of these essays as embodied meditative investigations on the trans body – my trans body – and its relationship to architecture, intimacy, and public space. They are, to me, genderqueer bodies, much like my physical genderqueer body – nonlinear, dynamic, a kind of textual bricolage, sometimes awkward or halting, passing as narrative at one turn, then full of ruptures in logic, vulnerable and visible and joyously so.

I not only think of the lyric essay as an assemblage in artistic terms (utilizing some found text and placing it in new contexts) but also as an extrapolation of Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of assemblage and “nomad thought” as open-ended - that parts of one body can be placed in a new body and still function. I’m especially curious about order and organization, when a piece of text is relevant, which component parts impact the entire body. When is the range of motion extended (or impacted) by relationship? What is a component part? What is a (w)hole?

I definitely think of these pieces as collaborative. I need you to help me make sense of them. This is similar, I think, to how we collaborate to create meaning from each of our gender expressions and identities, trans or not. But public space is often a dangerous place for trans and genderqueer bodies (most specifically and brutally, the bodies of trans women of color): what could be collaboration, or celebration, becomes violence, oppression, and control. My hope is that reading (and writing) these essays is a practice in shifting that dynamic. That we can play, be curious, wander among tangents, delight in the previously undefined, decorate, find connections where they are not obvious, unhinge our expectations, say yes to what we don’t yet know, investigate the relationship between proof and prose.

In this way, I want to celebrate trans and genderqueer bodies – how we pass and sometimes don’t, how we spill over, slip, call out, miss the point. Much like J. Halberstam, I believe failure on one level creates a grammar of possibility on another. But this failure is different, I think (I hope), from being sloppy. Or careless. Or lazy. Lisa Kraus, a dance critic and former dancer with Trisha Brown, says that rigor is no longer about the pointed foot but about the precisely timed collision, the exact harnessing of weight falling through space. These essays, I’m afraid, won’t defend anything or even prove a good point. They bump into things. They might make illegible what was just starting to come into focus. The appeal is that they are rigorous in their failure – I hope.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
Right now my days aren’t nearly as regularized as they have been at other times in my life. (That’s both true and not true.) My days begin with a banana and peanut butter. And that’s how they’ve begun since 2002.

For 5 years I would get up every morning and do my “morning pages” based on The Artist’s Way. Like so many constraints, this practice taught me the kinds of boundaries I need to feel safe enough to let go.

(I might be in a period of letting go.)

(I might always be in a period of letting go.)

(To always be anything may be a way of not letting go.)

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I get out of my own way and get out in the world. I get off the internet. I go for a hike.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Icy hot. Salmon patties. Mentholatum rub.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Modern dance. The body. The body in relationship. The body in nature. Architecture.

The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Button says: The significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are different people in different places and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be. I look at my house, my relationships, the things I’m writing, my body. These are synonyms. And I wonder how non-trans people (and other trans people) experience these things. Is your body an architecture? Is your name? What are you constructing now? Can you visit it, and therefore, can you leave?

Also: Compositional Improvisation (which is different from, although related to, Contact Improvisation). (Although neither of these are comedic improv, all three are grounded in the practice of paying attention to exactly what is happening right now and figuring out how to say yes.) 

Compositional Improvisation (a phrase coined by Katherine Ferrier and the Architects) explores intersections of text, body, architecture, space, collaboration, and attention in order to expand the range of what is possible for composition – specifically composition with the body. I think of all of this as just another way of saying “being alive.” It is built on the chance, (Soma)tic, conceptual, and collaborative techniques of poets, dancers, and musicians from the last 60 years and emphasizes composing (individually and collaboratively) in the moment to create dynamic, rigorous, complex, and fully realized pieces without rehearsal or planning.

For me, it’s a practice in embodied consciousness that is experimental, risky, playful, vulnerable, and radically open - an opportunity to experience Jack Halberstam’s “queer art of failure” (as if I somehow don’t have enough of that in my life!). 

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
All of them. I mean that.

The fact that people write, and dance, and put paint on things, and grow gardens, and create exquisite compositions out of a few vegetables and grains (I know absolutely nothing about food). That fabrics are dyed. Stones are laid side by side and rooms are arranged. Re-arranged. That there is singing.

I’m housesitting for a friend right now and all I can see when I look over my computer screen is 5 pieces of telephone pole stood upright – no longer useful for keeping words off the ground but somehow this little pile of desert sand is now a yard.

Malebranche said that Attention is the natural prayer of the soul and as long as something singular can become multiple, I feel ok about the world. CA Conrad is right: It’s all collaboration. I need all of these others to collaborate.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Honestly, I’m both audacious and naïve enough to attempt just about everything I’ve wanted to do. That doesn’t mean I always get it right, just that I’m fool enough to try. I’m happy to sleep in my car and/or camp all summer if it means I can go wherever I want to go. And so I do. Most of my “to do list” is more interpersonal right now – practice more intimacy, ask for help when I’m scared, be more vulnerable with my mom and dad, stop trying to prove my self worth all the time, let myself be seen...

I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2001 (yep, all of it, with my dog, Isabella) and I’d like to do another long trail. I’d like to run a marathon. I’d also like to travel internationally but I’m not that interested in being a tourist so I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate that desire. I like doing things that scare me. I recently fell in love again and it had been almost 4 years since I dated anyone so this feels scary and exciting. (and may be small.) (but also may be huge.)

One time, when I was on staff training for Outward Bound, we did this reflective activity where we had to identify our gender, race, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, name, and one life goal. Then we had to give up one of those identities. Then another. Then another until we were left with just one identity. In my life goal section I had written, “publish 3-5 books.” I got rid of that rather quickly. The thing I couldn’t part with was my name. But that wasn’t true for anyone else. For them it was “to be happy” which, as it turned out, was a completely allowable life goal.

I want my life to be meaningful. I want to contribute to more tangible and intangible goodness in the world.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
My first answer would be a dancer. I also always wanted to be on Broadway. But I think I’m cheating. When you say, “what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?” I think you are asking me to consider what would I do if my art were more objectively measurable.

I’d be a doctor for Doctors Without Borders. Or I’d help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. My life isn’t over so I still may do one. Or both.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

Well, I tried to do something else. I mean, I was in my last year of undergrad getting a degree in English Education – I was just about to start student teaching and was well on my way to becoming a high school English teacher. It was 1998 and I was a 23-year-old white, Pentecostal woman. I was married to a pretty great guy and I was about to become the first person in my family to earn a college degree. Still living in my hometown - Chattanooga, Tennessee - I had never really spent time outside of the south.

That spring I took a feminist theory class. Even though it wasn’t a required text, my professor gave me her copy of This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.  In my first poetry class, we read the poem “Fiddleheads” by Maureen Seaton. Both This Bridge and “Fiddleheads” did something with language that I needed. They exhilarated me. Made me feel less alone. These were women’s voices, queer voices – marginalized and fierce. They held me accountable. Showed me how silent I was becoming (had become, had been forced to become, had been expected to become).

Both of these said: OPEN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Citizen by Claudia Rankine and New Organism: Essais by Andrea Rexilius.

I wish I watched more films than I do. I don’t know if this is a great film but it’s a film I can’t stop thinking about – particularly the opening sequence – Melancholia, directed by Lars von Trier.

20 - What are you currently working on?
Becoming better friends with god.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Monday, May 18, 2015

Julie Carr, Think Tank




*

Kettle boils, boils now
      Maligned and languishing in an upstairs room: a lacrimal dimple
      trips the obscene
Honk geese: soprano duck, duck
hobbles, belly first, a girl-falcon spins
      rebuffs the rough draft
Too long, my husband’s sweater
      Sleeve. My patience no: threads of what
warms a baby’s unrivalled calamitous
hour. Full sob

      transpires to rust the pendulous rug
      long in arms, short on time
Old devotions
now gone to
      sorrow: cap’s cracked and leaking
      door doesn’t open: exit through mirror, o
      the plumbing
      fails

Denver, Colorado poet Julie Carr’s most recent poetry book, Think Tank (New York NY: Solid Objects, 2015), is constructed out of an accumulation of stand-alone fragments that articulate how one navigates through the chaos, grief and beauty of living. Composed as a series of short sketches, the poems of Think Tank also include some three-dozen lines incorporated into her text, and a list of those lines and their source authors exists at the end of the collection: César Vallejo, John Ashbery, Inger Christensen, Erin Mouré, Lisa Robertson, Alice Notley, Eileen Myles and Stephen Ratcliffe, among others.

There is a darkness in Carr’s work I’ve seen throughout her published work, one that exists not in isolation, but as part of a much larger canvas. Carr doesn’t shy away from violence, death or other subject matter, but an element that requires acknowledgment and examination.

















Tim was in the pool when another boy drowned. A very quiet
      disappearance
All the adults thought the others were watching. This sense they would
      not easily give away

Biting the nail that secures the hand, staring into dead time
I’m afraid to speak so full of blood, but there’s no way I’m anything

                                      sweeter or other or bland

Babies sleep hugging animals. At the doorway: endlessness

I like very much that Carr works on books as projects, as units of composition, each one existing for and as an entirely different purpose, something that doesn’t become clear until one begins to experience more than a couple of her poetry titles. Recently, Essay Press produced The Silence That Fills The Future, an online pdf publication that explores some of her current works-in-progress, including “The War Reporter: On Confession,” “By Beauty and by Fear: On Narrative Time,” “Spirit Ditties of No Tone: On Listening” and “Eight 14-Line Poems from Real Life,” each selected from a different project-in-progress. The diversity of her projects is quite striking, and the chapbook-as-‘sampler’ allows a compact glimpse into the range of her range of current projects, even before the consideration of her overall published works-to-date: a list that includes two critical studies and five poetry collections prior to Think Tank. As she says of her book-length process in a recent interview posted at Touch the Donkey: “One day perhaps I’ll write a book of discrete poems – what Spicer called one night stands. But for now, this is how my mind works.”

One to two to one to two to one to two to one

      runs regeneration’s

                                          math.

There, the door opens for: sun, road, behold
      five—a raw ladder of kids

Apples, potatoes, pigs, and birds. Bread, milk, sugar, and eggs:
Feed my kids. The cow feeds my kids. The truck. The flame feeds
my kids. The bag feeds my kids. Plum and butter and nut and hen:
nothing so kind as a warehouse

There is something of the critical study to her poetry books, working through a series of observations and ideas using the machinery of language to articulate a series of unspoken theses, anywhere from “how does one survive this” to “what can be done differently,” among so many others. Hers is a poetry composed as a search for meaning, through all the mess and beauty of everything and everything else. As she writes toward the end of the collection:

I want your voice in my poem, which is like I want your body in my own,
        but no milk
    All readers and non-readers desire that pouring
These experiences are absolutely unwriteable which is why I am putting
        them here
    Fruit’s nothing, the side lamp slumps
    This was not a life time spent reading clouds

Books said something, said, “God too must with me wash his body”

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Lance Phillips

Lance Phillips has published four books of poetry (Mimer, Corpus Socius, Cur Aliquid Vidi, and These Indicium Tales) with Ahsahta Press, and a book of experimental autobiography (Imposture Notebook) with Blazevox Books. His poetry has appeared in New American Writing, Fence, Verse, TYPO, Colorado Review, and has been anthologized in Far from the Centers of Ambition: A Celebration of Black Mountain College and A Best of Fence, The First Nine Years, Volume I. His work has received an &Now award and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Huntersville, NC with his wife of 20 years and their two children, and works as a freelance writer for the health and wellness industry and will soon be teaching writing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
The publication of my first book made me feel lucky and connected, however tenuously, to a world I’d been away from for a long time but I don’t think it changed my life in any real way.

My recent work is a continuation of my previous work. The fact is the work is my life, by which I do not mean that it consumes my life but that it constitutes it. I feel lucky each time I publish a book.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I’m not sure that I did come to poetry first. When I started writing I was 19 or so and I wrote fiction and poems. I felt, and still feel, a huge urge to write fiction but the words keep getting in the way; which is where poetry comes in. I guess I liked that poetry is fast and densely made. It helped that I could write it on little cards and present them to my girlfriend, who, I’m happy to say, has been my wife for the last 20 years.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
My writing accumulates, on that I can count. From there I do sometimes set certain parameters for it, working on a piece of writing for 100 days or for a full year or writing 100 small poems in a month. Once I’ve finished the project I let it sit for 9 months to a year. Then I cut what doesn’t work. I maintain the original sequence of the writing and just remove the parts that get in the way, often these are my favorite parts. 

4 - Where does a poem or work of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I tend to think of my writing as a continuous process. Given that I let accretion do its work. For me the construct “book” is rather arbitrary, usually it’s just a kind of shorthand for referring to a specific period of time.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I think public readings, usually, are an entirely different endeavor than writing. For me poetry will always happen on the page, hearing a poem read aloud is hearing a personality first and foremost.

I’ve been out of the habit of giving readings for a long time but have recently decided to try my hand at them again. We’ll see how that goes.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I like to think of my writing as praxis in the Aristotelian sense, but I do think about the notions of time and memory a lot. What constitutes our notions of the body is pretty important to my writing, and the mythologies we construct around those notions.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
The role of the writer is the same as it ever was to be honest.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I don’t find it difficult or essential. It has been helpful on occasion.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Something said to a teacher of mine, Jorie Graham, by a teacher of hers, Donald Justice, which she then conveyed to me in a conference when I was 22 or 23. “You must learn to give into the destructiveness of the poem.” I tend to frame it terms of trust though. The writing will always be smarter than you, if you doubt that then you’re a fool and should leave off completely, if you accepted it then you learn to trust that the poem is right, plain and simple. 

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I’m up at 4:30 five days a week. I make coffee, pack my wife’s lunch and then sit at my desk, in the dark, and start typing.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
My writing has never stalled. I don’t really believe in inspiration; I believe in work.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
The lilac securing the air outside my screen door at this very moment.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Visual art has always had a large influence on my work. Also, whatever I’m interested in at the moment, whether that be a book on investment strategies or a history of the mirror (just now it’s a biography of Balthus), comes to bear on my writing in some way.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
R.D. Laing, John Dominic Crossan, Flannery O'Connor, Beckett, Susan Howe; too many others to list.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Finish the memoir of my father I’ve been working on in fits and starts for the last 6 years or so.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a painter.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
For me writing has always been a way to get obsessive thoughts out of my head, a way to release them into the world, a way to exorcise them. 

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I just re-read Bolano’s 2666, and am in the midst of Dogen’s Extensive Record and Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the Minotaur all of which are pretty great. I don’t remember the last film I watched.

19 - What are you currently working on?
A project about mutually agreed upon falsehoods.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;