Tom Trudgeon with Lucas de Lima

Lucas de Lima
Lucas de Lima

Tom Trudgeon: I want to start by asking you about the title for your book. Rather than the compound word “Wetland”, which carries with it a kind of mythology and slew of cultural signifiers that often relay notions of “pure” nature, treacherous terrain, land that is manipulated and destroyed, depleted, etc, you chose to call the book “Wet Land.” This for me was significant in that the title you chose seems to literalize that space. It becomes “land that is wet,” which divests or diverts a more conventional way of thinking of those areas of land. So I was wondering what play you had in mind for the book between literalizing things, and having things be symbolic of a mythological epistemology. Where does Myth become something literal?

Lucas de Lima: The title comes from a line in the first poem: A POEM WE WRITE LIKE A WET LAND.” You’re right, I must’ve kept it for its literal, singular, and dislocated ring. Wet Land is an incarnation in which the wetness signals a conflation of blood and water, our violence against the earth as violence against ourselves. I think mythology has access to a primordial, cosmological language. As symbolic as myth may be, the fact that it’s foundational to a people and culture puts linguistic abstraction into relief. Myth enacts narrative integration in our lives, forbidding the separation of stories and images from whatever else we would cordon off as reality. And the book’s subject matter—the death of someone I love by alligator attack—was already unfathomable and beyond everyday language. The event violated all kinds of boundaries to begin with. Although I was never a big reader of mythology, it made sense when the mythification took over. It became a way of making sense.

WL was also shaped by a rejection of certain tendencies in US poetry. One would be the idea of language as always sabotaging itself because it aims to represent the world and is doomed by its failure to do so effectively. For me, poetry blows up consciousness. Its bullet is a baby; it rips into a new world. This capacity for world-making is the argument of WL. The book is a construction—what writers usually point to in a self-reflexive poetics—though I never saw my authorship as a limitation. Instead, my ethical imperative was to make selfhood the occasion for the book to embody a life of its own and cross boundarieslife/death, human/animal, different temporalities.

TT: You mention the idea of self-reflexive poetics, but also how you are interested in subverting traditional conventions of poetry…

LD: … even non-traditional…

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Stephanie Anderson with C. D. Wright

C.D. Wright, self-portrait
C.D. Wright, self-portrait

This is a series of ongoing interviews with women actively engaged with small-press publishing between the 1950s and 1980s. It comes from a desire not only to preserve their accounts but also to draw wider attention to the vital role of women editors and publishers in the mimeograph revolution and beyond. In these decades “poems were bouncing off the sidewalk” (Maureen Owen), and this series traces some of those madcap trajectories.

This interview took place via email between November 2013 and December 2014. It focuses on Wright’s role as the editor and publisher of Lost Roads Press, 1976-present in Fayetteville, Arkansas, San Francisco, and Providence. The press is currently edited by Susan Scarlata.

Stephanie Anderson: Was Room Rented by a Single Woman Lost Roads’s first book? As author, how much input did you have into the publication process?

C. D. Wright: Room Rented … did end up being LRP’s first book. Frank [Stanford] had printed a few titles and then scrapped them because he was dissatisfied with the printing job. He re-did them, and mine was included in that lot of six titles—he put the sequence together. In truth, they came out pretty simultaneously. Continue reading

Cosmo Spinosa with Kate Robinson: “A Willful Resistance to be Named”

Kate Robinson
Kate Robinson

For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. This interview concerns Kate Robinson’s work with the visual poetry of letterpress sigil design. It was first published by Open House in November 2014. 

Cosmo Spinosa: Let’s start with some preliminary questions to position your work with sigil design. What initially inspired these sigils? Who or what are your influences for this work? Some cursory research I’ve done on sigils and their history has shown that sigils are considered to have magic powers, being a sort of signature unique to a person or entity that is used in rituals, holding a special place in the practice of magic. Did you begin creating your sigil designs with magic in mind? Did you consider this a magical process?

Kate Robinson: I first became aware of sigilization through my former boyfriend, although it could have also been a mutual friend of ours, but I’m pretty sure it was Jed. He would draw sigils himself as a magic practice. It’s a way to focus one’s intention and manifest desires or protection. Initially this was just a personal practice, it wasn’t really intended as art, or, if I’m totally honest, fully magic. I’ve always been fascinated by letterforms at a sort of basic level. When I was a kid/teen I would doodle alphabets, it’s kind of surprising to me that I didn’t become a type designer…anyway, I think I sort of pretended that I was making them for magic purposes, these letterform symbol doodles, but really I think I just enjoyed manipulating the familiar forms into unfamiliar and pleasing symbols. So I guess my influences were my friends, who were using them for their more serious magic practices, and some sort of innate interest in letters. There are artists who have sort of secondarily influenced me, like Jen Bervin and Anni Albers. Albers, a weaver, often used a typewriter to make weaving patterns, and Bervin encountered these while doing a residency at The Albers Foundation and decided to make her own versions, some of which were in I’ll Drown My Book. “The Preliminary Pattern Study” (featured in 580 Split and the TIL anthology) is explicitly after them. Then there are some artists who aren’t really influences as much as sort of coincidences, people currently working in this mode. Letterpress printers Jack Stauffacher and Graham Moore are doing sort of similar things, layering letterforms, Stauffacher’s being more sigil-like than Moore’s. As well as some painters, I like Elijah Burgher, but some of those I don’t like at all, there’s one guy, Will Boone, who just seems to layer the letters on top of one another with no play of balance and form. I find those paintings to be really flat. Continue reading

The People: Joseph Mosconi & Feliz Lucia Molina (Ep. 17)

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 17 with Joseph Mosconi and Feliz Lucia Molina. —Mathew Timmons and Ben White

The People: Joseph Mosconi & Feliz Lucia Molina Ep. 17

Originally broadcast on Sunday, July 20, 2014

Joseph Mosconi and Feliz Lucia Molina discuss each other’s work and the preloaded nostalgia of Full House. Plus Diana Arterian delivers William Blake action in the very first Notes From The People. Music from Richard Bott and The Fucked Up Beat and as always our insterstitial music is the song “Ocfif” by Lewis Keller.

Joseph Mosconi is the grandson of Italian orange growers and piano tuners from the dusty town of Bakersfield, CA. He is the author of Fright Catalog from Insert Blanc Press and Demon Miso / Fashion in Child from Make Now Press.

Feliz Lucia Molina is the daughter of Filipino immigrants. Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles and is the author of Undercastle from Magic Helicopter Press. She is also co-author of The Wes Letters with Ben Segal and Brett Zehner from Outpost 19.

Brian Bender with Joy Katz

Joy Katz
Joy Katz, Photo Credit: Star Black

Brian Bender: You begin All You Do Is Perceive beautifully with the poem “Which From That Time Infus’d Sweetness Into My Heart,” through which time, place, and motherhood play a critical part in introducing the book as a whole. Yet, I am particularly intrigued by the reoccurring phrase “a basket tossed weightlessly,” especially because it appears on the cover. As readers we might associate the image of the basket with the adoption of a child (or the need to give up a child) but there seems to be more to it. Can you comment on that?

Joy Katz: The basket is what the universe is about to deliver. It’s coming through the air at you: anything could be in there.

I think poems should try to make the most serious things — adopting a baby, or the last time I saw my mother alive — weightless. In the poem, I don’t want the baby, or my mother, to be too important. In life, a boy was handed to me through the air as someone with a clipboard called my name. But also, someone had handed me a glass of water just beforehand. If the baby is heavier than the drink of water, it will sink the poem, it will become sentimental. The poem tosses a lot of things at you, but, I hope, lightly. Continue reading

Angela Buck on Leonard Schwartz with Stacy Doris

Stacy Doris
Stacy Doris

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, I’d like to feature an interview from the fall of 2004 with poet and translator, Stacy Doris, who passed away in 2012. Doris discusses the political and poetic climate of the United States following the bombing of Afghanistan as well as the similarities between the work of poetry and the work of politics, describing both as an exchange between people. “If there’s one person who has been moved by it, you have been successful,” she says of the poetic exchange.  She also reads from her book Conference (Potes & Poets, 2001), and discusses the Sufi texts that inspired the “complexity of devotion” in that work. She concludes by reading from the work of Christophe Tarkos, a major force in French poetry, whose work Doris translated (along with Chet Wiener) and appears in Christophe Tarkos: Ma Langue est Poetique–Selected Work (Roof, 2001). —Angela Buck


 

Stacy Doris was born in Connecticut in 1962 and died in San Francisco in January 2012. The great differences among her six books written in English and four books written in French voice intense immediacy while working through layers of traditions, forms and fields from many places and times. Books in English include Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit (Nightboat Books, 2013), The Cake Part (Publication Studio, 2011), Knot (University of Georgia Press, 2006), Cheerleader’s Guide to the World : Council Book (NY: Roof 2006), Conference (Potes & Poets, 2001), Paramour (Krupskaya, 2000) and Kildare (Roof, 1995). In French: Parlement (P.O.L 2000). La vie de Chester Steven Wiener écrite par sa femme (P.O.L, 1998), Une année à New York avec Chester (P.O.L 2000).

Rusty Morrison with Bin Ramke

Bin Ramke
Bin Ramke

Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process which brought them to the moment of completion that we call a book. As Omnidawn’s co-publisher and senior poetry editor, I’ve had that great good fortune. It finally occurred to me that the readers and reviewers of these books might enjoy hearing some of this talk, too. Of course, a book of poetry needs no introduction or liner notes. But I’m always interested in any stories about how and where authors’ intentions and the actual creative work tangle together. So I started asking each of our authors a few questions in writing, and then enclosing these “interviews” with our advance/review copies. When the book is published, I post the interview on the book’s web page. The Conversant’s editors have asked if they might select some of those interviews to publish. It is my pleasure to say yes! –Rusty Morrison Continue reading

Tony Trigilio with Jerome Sala

Jerome Sala
Jerome Sala

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, Trigilio interviews Jerome Sala.

 


Jerome Sala’s newest book is the poetry collection The Cheapskates (Lunar Chandelier Press, 2014). His other books of poetry include cult classics such as Spaz Attack, I am Not a Juvenile Delinquent, The Trip, Raw Deal, Look Slimmer Instantly, and Prom Night, a collaboration with artist Tamara Gonzales. His poetry and criticism have appeared in The Best American Poetry series, The Nation, Evergreen Review, Pleiades, Conjunctions, Rolling Stone, The Brooklyn Rail, and many others.

Woodland Pattern Presents Meg Day and Nikki Wallschlaeger

Nikki Wallschlaeger and Meg Day
Nikki Wallschlaeger and Meg Day

Woodland Pattern Book Center is a non-profit cultural center which houses a bookstore with over 25,000 small press titles and an art gallery which hosts exhibitions, artist talks, poetry readings, experimental films, concerts and writing workshops in the Riverwest neighborhood in Milwaukee.

This Woodland Pattern interview series will document conversations between some of the writers, artists and performers who pass through Woodland Pattern and Milwaukee.

Meg Day and Nikki Wallschlaeger read at Woodland Pattern on October 15, 2014. Below are excerpts from their reading as well as a conversation conducted via e-mail after the reading.


 

Meg Day, “Aubade Today,” “There’s Snow in the West,” and “Hymn to a Landlocked God”
recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, October 15, 2014.

 

 

Nikki Wallschlaeger, “Sonnet 4,” “Sonnet 13,” and “Sonnet 15″
recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, October 15, 2014.

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Evelyn Reilly with James Sherry

James Sherry, Photo by Ben Sherry
James Sherry, Photo by Ben Sherry

A Conversation with James Sherry about Oops! Environmental Poetics, published by BlazeVOX, 2013.

Evelyn Reilly: You say somewhere early in the book “this entire work may be characterized as a figure of speech taken too far.” I know you might have meant this half-jokingly, but I also felt that the humor in this book was very serious. Can you talk about this a bit?

James Sherry: Well, it’s complicated in that it is funny, but a lot of readers don’t take into account the ambiguities that any writer notices in writing things down. Certainly you can go and read Jane Austin, and she has a lot of important things to say, but it’s also almost all tongue-in-cheek. I don’t think there’s very much interesting writing out there that doesn’t move between that serious tone and some humor, because everybody has to see themselves in the process of writing as being in somewhat of an absurd position.
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Ching-In Chen with Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera (photo credit: University of California, Riverside)
Juan Felipe Herrera (photo credit: University of California, Riverside)
This conversation is part of Intersecting Lineages, a series focusing on conversations with poets of color following a series of cross-community 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).

Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California as the only child of migrant farmers in 1948. These childhood experiences as well as his continued community activism, including a stint as a director of an arts space in Balboa Park converted from an occupied water tank, has shaped his writing. For the past four decades, Herrera has been a lightning bolt, a master at channeling the energy of the moment and documenting the world around him in his poetry. Known for writing on the edge of possibility and for his high-energy riffs and improvisations, Herrera has been celebrated by critics for his innovative style and constant re-inventions. This conversation was conducted shortly after Herrera won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems.

Ching-In Chen: Is it part of your writing process to write against what you’re comfortable with or known for? I’m thinking about your story about listening to John Ashbery invent a poem and feeling that you’re “condemned” to write political poetry.

Juan Felipe Herrera: When you’re a writer from the margins (or more than one margin, as Gloria Anzaldúa says), then it’s almost like a preliminary, required, or organic project to write and reclaim ourselves and our community. In the mid-80’s at the Bisbee Poetry Festival in southern Arizona, Ashbery read a piece from his new book Wave where he reconstructed a Nordic myth. I said to myself: well, he appears to be just choosing at random something he likes, reconstructing it and writing about it. I feel like I’ve been condemned to write in the manner that I write—to reclaim our history, our language, our various identities, to re-align what’s been said regarding our experience—since I started to write. Can I write like Ashbery—not in terms of style or craft, but metaphysically? Can I get out of myself that way? Can I reposition myself that way or will I be condemned to write as my own other?
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Tony Trigilio with Lee Ann Roripaugh

Lee Ann Roripaugh
Lee Ann Roripaugh

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, Trigilio interviews Lee Ann Roripaugh.

 


Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry, the most recent of which, , was released by Milkweed Editions in September 2014.  Her second volume, Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press), was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and her first book, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books), was a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series.  She serves as Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review and directs the Creative Writing program at the University of South Dakota.

Flying Object Presents: TRAUMA DOG

“Hotel California” plays at half speed as Cassandra Troyan and Rachel Ellison slow dance, one standing on the other’s feet. Classic Rock standard and childlike intimacy smash together, a song that emanates jukebox staleness slowed, almost unrecognizable, each guitar note seeping then dripping, as if from above, onto an embrace of feminine friendship. How would Don Henley interpret this? How do I?

Performance is an art of correspondences. Gesture with text. Image with song. Identity with conflicting identity, each new layer contorting the others, calling for reassessment. DADDY’S CAVE, the latest from performance duo TRAUMA DOG, attempts this non-hierarchical relationship between text, body, image, costume, sound. Honed while in residence this summer at Flying Object, Troyan and Ellison say the work starts with words, with each element then taking turns at center stage, overlapping contexts and superimposing signifiers. And as one moves through the chain of association, hopefully translation is lost, hopefully stereotypes seem nonsensical.

IMG_0699
Outline on Wall

At one point, Ellison traces Troyan’s body on the wall, once with hands extended, once with hands behind her head, once with hands on hips. They step away, leaving the outline, an empty figure in three poses, a bevy of possible interpretations. In the hands extended, I see echoes of Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man,” a five hundred year old sketch that somehow still remains in the contemporary image bank. In the hands on hips, I see the power pose, also known as “The Wonder Woman.” Hands behind the head could read as someone under arrest, or as a pin-up, turning and winking. Each association gendered, all forming a cacophony of signifiers, every role at once.

- Patrick Gaughan

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Megan Burns and Marthe Reed

Megan Burns and Marthe Reed
Megan Burns and Marthe Reed

This conversation focuses on Marthe Reed’s book, (em)bodied bliss, and Megan Burns’s book, Sound and Basin.

Megan Burns: As a starting point, I think of several things while sitting down with (em)bodied bliss this morning outside the coffee shop on what’s shaping up to be a hot New Orleans day: one, how we seem to have been at war or going to war all my children’s lives and, two, how over the weekend a one-year-old and an eleven-year-old died in shootings on the streets of New Orleans. I think a lot about how violence infects us, how its presence shapes our everyday even when we believe we escape it; and I wonder about our complicity and what it means. I think about how violence kills imagination.

The first poem in your book is titled “this doesn’t exist” and I think maybe we can start there. What is invisible? What do we know and not know or believe to know? And how does this reflect in our everyday lives and how is this part of our politics as a nation, as a society? “Resistance amid the rough chatter of definition.” How does the clear boundary of the poem shape our ability to define terror: “our tongues are tied”? And how do we reconcile two worlds, one where there is torture and unspeakable acts and one where we wake in the morning amid the blues and yellows of the day? “language translates into silence/babel (gate of god)/enters by means of/a language of flowers.” I see these motions in these poems. Can you talk a bit about how you got there? And how you feel these opening poems in the book begin to create a landscape for talking about these ideas?
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Rusty Morrison with Joseph Massey

Joseph Massey
Joseph Massey

Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process which brought them to the moment of completion that we call a book. As Omnidawn’s co-publisher and senior poetry editor, I’ve had that great good fortune. It finally occurred to me that the readers and reviewers of these books might enjoy hearing some of this talk, too. Of course, a book of poetry needs no introduction or liner notes. But I’m always interested in any stories about how and where authors’ intentions and the actual creative work tangle together. So I started asking each of our authors a few questions in writing, and then enclosing these “interviews” with our advance/review copies. When the book is published, I post the interview on the book’s web page. The Conversant’s editors have asked if they might select some of those interviews to publish. It is my pleasure to say yes! –Rusty Morrison 

This interview concerns Joseph Massey’s book, To Keep Time

Rusty Morrison: Can you speak to the title and how it resonates through the poems in this collection?

Joseph Massey: To Keep Time, to seize a moment or a series of moments in motion before they degrade into memory, is an impossible task for the poem — for any work of art. There is no such thing as time, anyway, in the linear sense of the word. Phenomenal experience has no margins; but the poem defies that condition by attempting to say anything at all. I like that tension, that reach — I think, I hope, it’s what holds the book together.
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Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar

Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar (photo credit: Nora Lewis)
Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar (photo credit: Nora Lewis)

2013 Pulitzer Prize Winning Dramatist, Ayad Akhtar, and 2011 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, Mary Cappello, discuss the formulation of turning points in the course of a life, the course of a career, and the course of a piece of writing; the spiritual (as distinct from religious) underpinnings of artistic practice; the place where a writing project begins and where it arrives; the literary traditions their work is in conversation with; the interplay of mastery and humility in the work of making art; and the pleasures and challenges involved in imagining audience. They also touch on teacher/student relationships: if, over twenty years ago, Akhtar was Cappello’s student, now she finds herself, his.

This conversation with Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar was recorded in the Hoffman Room at the University of Rhode Island’s 2014 Ocean State Summer Writing Conference (OSSWC).


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Patrick Norris with Todd Colby

Todd Colby
Todd Colby

Patrick Norris: A lot of your old band’s music carries a lot of poetic correlatives. The lyrical and melodic coloring of Drunken Boat’s Accidents and Balloon Song could fit perfectly into Splash State. Do you tend to look at all your work along these analogous lines?

Todd Colby: If you mean analogous to being lyrical and melodic, yes. That’s at the core of all good poetry. While I did write the lyrics to those songs a long time ago, and Splash State is current, there is a thread that runs through my work that could very well be traced to those songs, and before them the poems I wrote in my teens. An ex-girlfriend of mine gave me some old notebooks of mine from when I was 19, and while some of the poems were definitely written by a 19-year old, many of them had that DNA of my current poems, I just refined it over the years. That’s the pleasure of writing over a number of years and leaving a paper trail: you can see your progress, or things you were trying to work out as a younger writer. I feel very affectionate towards my 19-year old self. He was a good guy at heart, even when he was fucking shit up.
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