Caleb Beckwith with J. Gordon Faylor

J. Gordon Faylor (Photo Credit: Kate Robinson)

Caleb Beckwith: In your recent interview with Tan Lin over at Harriet, you give a really helpful account of Gauss PDF’s founding. Would you mind, in few sentences, recapping this for readers not familiar with that piece? And maybe also expanding a bit on the site’s editorial agenda—that is if gauss even has one? Also, how as any of this changed over GPDF’s now four-year history?

J. Gordon Faylor: GPDF was catalyzed by a desire common to many small publications/presses: wanting the work of friends and others made more readily available. I still find problematic the vetting processes and sometimes latent conservatism promulgated by publications/labels as a means of iterating a curatorially-determined set, and wanted to enable a more open platform for various cultural productions not limited to, but including poetics. Having spent a few years in New York and Philadelphia, I was fortunate to find overlapping groups and networks sufficient for getting a little Tumblr venture off the ground.
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Angela Buck on Leonard Schwartz with Nada Gordon

Nada Gordon
Nada Gordon

This monthly series features highlights from the Cross Cultural Poetics archive. Cross Cultural Poetics is one of the longest-running radio shows in America focused on contemporary poetry and poetics. Based at The Evergreen State College and hosted by Leonard Schwartz, the entire archive, running from 2003 to the present, can be accessed on PennSound.

This month from the Cross-Cultural Poetics archive, I’ve chosen an interview with poet Nada Gordon that originally aired in the fall of 2004. Gordon briefly discusses the eleven years that she lived in Tokyo, as well as the influence and subsequent reaction against the Haiku aesthetic in her work. She reads from the sonically rich and sprawling Are Not Our Lowing Heifers Sleeker Than Night-Swollen Mushrooms? (Spuyten Duyvil) and talks about the importance of cadence in this book, the desire to “beat out a pulse,” as well as to work against any set “rules of composition.” —Angela Buck Continue reading

The Poet “Ai” and I: Dramatic Monologues Unite—Celeste Guzmán Mendoza

Celeste Guzmán Mendoza
Celeste Guzmán Mendoza (photo credit: Mari Correa)

This piece is part of Intersecting Lineages, a series focusing on conversations with poets of color following a series of cross-solidarity readings and panels among poets involved with organizations such as Kundiman, Cave Canem, Canto Mundo, RAWI (Radius of Arab American Writers), Institute of American Indian Arts and VONA (Voices at Our Nations Arts Foundation). Celeste Guzmán Mendoza shared an earlier version of this talk at the Intersecting Lineages panel at the 2013 Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Boston.

I am not a drama queen but a drama connoisseur. I’ve always enjoyed a good monologue, a booming rant. Since I was child, I would act out monologues, or what I called back then my shows, personas I would create loosely based on a family member (or more) and characters I saw on TV. My favorite was Mae West with a dash of my grandmother, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime, no que no?”

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Rachel B. Glaser with Natalie Lyalin

Glaser Lyalin
Natalie Lyalin and Rachel Glaser

Natalie Lyalin’s second book of poetry, Blood Makes Me Faint, but I Go for It (2014 Ugly Duckling Press), constantly negotiates issues of scale.  The narrator has a “mild stigmata.” In another poem, “Bad things happened, but I harvested a giant pepper and ate it whole.”  The narrator is often humble and matter-of-fact, though not without danger or conflict—“terrible jokes leapt out of me,” “I was exhausted and very mean,” “something changes in my eyes and I am terrifying.”  This anxiety or unpleasantness isn’t separate from the world—it is one of the cornerstone qualities of living.  “My head in an ache from all the life I was in.”  The poems show how the experience of living is constantly changing and often horrifying. “The sun had many knives of light.” The poems find a cutting beauty within the terror and uncertainty.  This is how life has always been. “What happened in caves in still happening indoors.”  
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Asleep You Become a Continent: Philip F. Clark with Francisco Aragón

Francisco Aragón
Francisco Aragón

I came upon the work of Francisco Aragón the way the best loves happen: by accident. I was searching on a friend’s Facebook page for a review of a book he had read, and instead came across the cover image of Glow of Our Sweat. Miguel Angel Reyes’ “Glare”—that ecstatic face (a male St. Theresa!) stopped me in my tracks and I was mesmerized. I got off FB and searched Amazon for Francisco’s book. It came the next day, which I spent reading its quiet but emotionally loud poems. Few works make such an impression on me, but these resonated with me like old church bells that I remember as a child.

I never know where to begin to explain what certain poems do—how can we explain a silence that is answered for us, or that a poem so bare and honest and small as “In Secret” can light up immense sensations? I also loved that he wrote about places, films, personages that I know and have connection to—I don’t think anyone has written about the Townhouse bar! Louis Malle’s Au Voir Les Enfants had a deep impression on me. Rilke, Lorca, Madrid, Rome, Jack Spicer (a great love of mine), eroticism’s mysteries and wailings. He touched on these and other subjects, but I saw them as Aragón showed them: in the distinct mirror of his eyes. His work is immediate, true, and disarmingly familiar.

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Rusty Morrison with Joshua Corey

joshua corey
Joshua Corey

Rusty Morrison: The Barons is an epic project! I can’t say it better than John Ashbery, in his endorsement of the book: “Joshua Corey has reinvented the good old-fashioned American avant-garde epic poem (Whitman, Stein, Crane, O’Hara) and thrust it, kicking if not screaming, into the early 21st Century.” Can you speak to the scope and diversity of the project? Its history and evolution?

Joshua Corey: The Barons is a ten-year effort: I began writing the poems that eventually joined together to make this collection in 2004, not long after completing the manuscript for my last book, Severance Songs. That was a very different book, working through the possibilities of a single form, the sonnet, including that form’s Petrarchan roots in an address to the beloved and to the spiritualized dimension of erotic love. The Barons, on the other hand, is all over the place formally: there are prose poems, odes, a small epic of New York (Compostition Marble), rants, brief lyrics, you name it. I wanted it to be more of a collection than my other books, which is not to say that it lacks themes or a center of gravity. So it accreted more slowly and eccentrically than my other books. Two of its sections, Compostition Marble and Hope & Anchor were first published as chapbooks by Pavement Saw Press and Noemi Press, respectively. Some of the shorter poems represent a kind of transition out of the sonnet (I’m thinking of the “Little Land Lyrics” sequence), while others were written right up to the brink of the book’s publication (the Beuys poem). More profoundly, I feel in writing this book I have shifted my fundamental stance toward poetry: whereas before I was concerned with constructing, or trying to construct, exquisite verbal objects, I now feel that poetry has become a practice, like meditation or medicine. It is the principal spiritual, intellectual, and ethical practice of my life, and the poems have become fields of imaginative action, “try-works” (a la Moby-Dick) rather than works.
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Female Aesthetic(s) Symposium (Part 2): Racquel Goodison, Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Tracy Chiles McGhee and Arisa White with Metta Sáma

(clockwise from the top-left) Patricia Spears Jones, Monica A. Hand, Tracy Chiles McGhee, Racquel Goodison, Arisa White
(clockwise from the top-left) Patricia Spears Jones, Monica A. Hand, Tracy Chiles McGhee, Racquel Goodison, Arisa White

In 2009, the poet Monica A. Hand asked for definitions of “female aesthetics.” While there are no actual definitions of female aesthetics or woman aesthetics, there are working definitions of feminist aesthetics. I was intrigued by this notion of the female (vs the woman, aka l’écriture féminine and Hélène Cixous’s writing from the body) and what an aesthetics of female would like and who could who would claim this aesthetics. A bit later, I put together a panel on Twitter to discuss this concept, and I invited some of the participants from that panel as well as some additional people I thought would have something interesting to say, to have an informal symposium discussion via email. What followed was a series of questions, speculations, ponderings, and anecdotes with Racquel Goodison, Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Tracy Chiles McGhee from August 13 to 20, 2009. The Conversant has agreed to publish that conversation in  two parts. – Metta Sáma
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Caleb Beckwith with William V. Spanos

William V Spanos
William V. Spanos

Conducted via email from August to October of this year, this interview with William V. Spanos discusses the long political and personal histories of the academic journal boundary 2, of which Spanos is a founding editor. It pays particular attention to the editorial shifts leading to Spanos’s ultimate dissociation from the journal as well as the evolving function of radical literary criticism within a contemporary political landscape. 

Caleb Beckwith: For readers who may not be fully familiar with boundary 2, would you mind speaking to its founding and early years to start? And also, how would you say this focus has shifted in recent years?
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The People: Mathew Timmons & Ben White with Janice Lee & Jared Woodland (Ep. 16)

The People with Insert Blanc Editor and Publisher Mathew Timmons and Insert Blanc Artist Ben White, features the voices and ideas of The People that make up the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, the west coast, and beyond on KCHUNG 1630AM every 3rd Sunday at 3pm and podcast on iTunes as The People Radio. The People is me, The People is you, The People is we, and You Can Too! … like a Broken Record magically repaired. In this issue of The Conversant, we feature The People episode 16 with Janice Lee and Jared Woodland.—Mathew Timmons and Ben White

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Rob McLennan with George Stanley

Now retired from teaching in the English department at Capilano University, George Stanley is the author of At Andy’s (New Star, 2000), Gentle Northern Summer (New Star, 1995), Opening Day (Oolichan Books, 1983), The Stick: Poems, 1969-73 (Talonbooks, 1974), You (Poems 1957 – 67) (New Star Books, 1974), A Tall, Serious Girl: Selected Poems 1957-2000 (Qua, 2003), Vancouver: A Poem (New Star, 2008) and After Desire (New Star, 2013). Vancouver: A Poem was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Prize. In 2006, Stanley received the Shelley Memorial Award from the American Poetry Society, and in 2011, The Capilano Review produced their “George Stanley Issue.” His newest collection is North of California St. (New Star Books, 2014). Continue reading

David Koehn with Jim Daniels

David Koehn: Birth Marks. New from BOA. We’ll focus mostly on this, your latest book of poetry, but you have a wide body of work. And Birth Marks makes book number what?

Jim Daniels: I think 14 poetry books, and then the fiction and the chapbooks and other stuff. I actually just got some news this week. My fifth book of stories will be coming out next fall, 8 Mile High. They’re stories about being on the border of Detroit. They’re linked with overlapping characters, but definitely not a novel.
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Tony Trigilio with Peter Davis

Peter Davis
Peter Davis

In his monthly poetry podcast, Radio Free Albion, Tony Trigilio interviews poets about their recently released or forthcoming books. Always informal, each interview is a conversation—two poets talking about the work and play of the creative process and showcasing some of the most innovative new work in contemporary poetry. In this interview transcribed by Evan Kleekamp, Trigilio interviews Peter Davis.
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Mary Cappello with Peter Covino

Peter Covino
Peter Covino

Literary nonfictionist Mary Cappello and poet Peter Covino interview each other on the matter of “beauty” in their work and the work they love to read; on anti-beauty, un-beauty, disruptive beauty, and uncontained beauty in poetry and the essay. On trauma and poetic practice; on writing violence and literary nonfiction; on letting the wild in; on queer Italian/Americana; on the contrapuntal and distillate forms; on lyrical space, confluent energies, writing light. And plaid. The conversation was recorded at the University of Rhode Island December 2012, by Justin H. Brierley for The Beauty Salon, a radio program that explores everyday aesthetics in and around Rhode Island.
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Sasha Steensen with Martin Corless-Smith

Martin Corless-Smith and Sasha Steensen
Martin Corless-Smith and Sasha Steensen
Sasha Steensen: I’ve just read your new book, Bitter Green, and it strikes me that it is a divergence from some (though certainly not all) of your earlier work. Much of this earlier work is multi-vocal, using persona (Thomas Swann), quotation (Swallows, for example), and overwriting and excising techniques to challenge the sovereignty of authorial intention and the primacy of the written text. In Bitter Green, the mother is a fundamental figure, but she is gone, and this absence has forced the speaker to re-adjust or re-position his own social compass. The book strikes me as both highly personal, and desperately concerned with one’s presence in the larger world. But the poems do not rest comfortably with the interior (private, familial) and exterior (public, social) binary any more than they accept a trajectory whereby the familial seamlessly turns into the social. Continue reading

Female Aesthetic(s) Symposium (Part 1): Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Tracy Chiles McGhee with Metta Sáma

(clockwise from the top-left ) Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Tracy Chiles McGhee
(clockwise from the top-left) Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Tracy Chiles McGhee

In 2009, the poet Monica A. Hand asked for definitions of “female aesthetics.” While there are no actual definitions of female aesthetics or woman aesthetics, there are working definitions of feminist aesthetics. I was intrigued by this notion of the female (vs the woman, aka l’écriture féminine and Hélène Cixous’s writing from the body) and what an aesthetics of female would like and who could who would claim this aesthetics. A bit later, I put together a panel on Twitter to discuss this concept, and I invited some of the participants from that panel as well as some additional people I thought would have something interesting to say, to have an informal symposium discussion via email. What followed was a series of questions, speculations, ponderings, and anecdotes with Racquel Goodison, Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Tracy Chiles McGhee from August 13 to 20, 2009. The Conversant has agreed to publish that conversation in  two parts. – Metta Sáma

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H.L. Hix with Naomi Ward

H.L. Hix and Naomi Ward
H.L. Hix and Naomi Ward

Concerns traditionally central to poetics (pity and fear; to delight and to teach; truth, beauty; etc.) also matter in other domains of inquiry. This is the first installment of a series of interviews that pursue such “poetic” concerns with practitioners of other domains of inquiry, such as science and philosophy. When they were paired in a recent collaborative project involving scientists and artists, hosted by the Ucross Foundation, H. L. Hix took the opportunity to interview microbiologist Naomi Ward about her recent work, with particular focus on her recent paper disclosing a discovery about the bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A.
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Rosebud Ben-Oni with Jason Koo

Jason Koo
Jason Koo

This interview, focusing on Jason Koo’s new book, America’s Favorite Poem, is part of Intersecting Lineages, a new Conversant series focusing on cross-community conversations with poets of color. Ben-Oni and Koo conducted this interview during the second round of the 2014 NBA playoffs in May, before the Heat lost to the Spurs in the Finals and LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland.

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