The conversation below is the first in a series of interviews with the three members of the editorial collective information as material: Nick Thurston, Craig Dworkin, and Simon Morris. The series will explore the work of each of these three men both inside and outside of that particular collaborative framework. It is meant in part as a an exploration on the nature of collaboration itself, and as a meditation on the relationship between the individual artist and the artist acting collectively.
I first met Nick Thurston this February in Rochester, New York, where he was giving a talk to a classroom of undergraduate students at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The students had just finished reading Thurston’s recently release book Of the Subcontract.
Sofi Thanhauser: When I heard you present at RIT I was struck in particular by your intonation, by the way you seemed to be stringing a complex argument together using a logic that was partly sung. Later, when I read your piece Status_Anxieties (Some notes on Of the Subcontract) in TheJournal of Conceptual Criticism, the little arrows threaded through the first part of the text reminded me of that musicality. It seems to me as though there is a consistent gesture in your work towards extralinguistic content; a harmonic playing under or through the expository prose that acts as an argument against taking meaning to be something hermetically sealed within words or sentences. Am I making too much of the way you talk?
This conversation between 1913 Press authors Cynthia Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang began with their latest books. Unlikely Conditions (1913 Press) is Cynthia Arrieu-King’s collaboration with the late Hillary Gravendyk. Lily Hoang’s A Bestiary was published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center.
Cynthia Arrieu-King: Where did these essays begin for you? What does essay writing allow you to do that poetry might not? Or does it matter to you at all?
Lily Hoang: Form and genre are really important to me, actually. I am insistent when I call these essays—and it all goes back to etymology, right? To essai: to trial, to experiment—even though it’s already been classified as both poetry and fiction. The essay declares itself as a challenge, to self and to form, by definition. This isn’t fiction’s concern, at all, and I’m a fiction writer, first and foremost, and so the rhetorical qualities of the essay—its ethos, pathos, and logos—were also foreign concepts to me, things that I had to learn. I think the essay demands a self-rigor that isn’t necessary in fiction, which is not to say that fiction isn’t rigorous! (I’m not really qualified to talk about poetry in the least so I’ll leave that kind of thinking to the poets and scholars.) All of which is to say: the essays in A Bestiary are essays, intentionally so, I argue they adhere to form and follow the rules of the genre. But that wasn’t in question at all, sorry.
Best American Experimental Writing is an anthology series focused on dynamic literature from both emerging and established writers. The most recent edition, BAX 2015, was released in January of this year by Wesleyan University Press, and the digital edition includes work from Matthew Burnside and Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford that falls far outside the lines of what normally constitutes “the literary.” They (virtually) sat down with BAX managing editor Michael Martin Shea to discuss praxis maneuvers, God Mode, emergent gameplay, and what it means to be real.
Michael Martin Shea: Hey y’all! I’m really excited for this conversation. Before we get started, though, since both of your works might seem a bit unusual to your average reader, I was wondering: could you each describe the logic of the piece—where it came from and what the creative process was like?
In this conversation, we discuss New England frugality, ghosts, and how dance can inform poetics. Kate Colby’s Fruitlands won the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2007. Since then, she has written five books of poetry, including I Mean, her most recent, which was published in 2015 by Ugly Duckling Presse. Kate’s poems are taut, their movements agile. At display throughout her work is intelligence, wit, and formal inventiveness. Very little escapes Kate’s attention; she is a poet of wide-ranging curiosity and rigorous inquiry. We “spoke” over email and then in person, too.
Mary-Kim Arnold: Earlier this year, you hosted a “poet’s walk” through the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. How did the idea for this come about?
Kate Colby: It wasn’t an idea so much as the end of a trajectory. I had been reading and writing about Gardner for a long time and really wanted to engage with the physical museum.
A couple of years ago Brooklyn-based artist Todd Shalom, who is my best friend and foil, was invited to create an experiential artist walk at the deCordova Museum outside Boston, and he asked me to do it with him, since I grew up in and write so much about the region. The public programs director at the Gardner Museum attended one of the walks and she later asked me to do the same sort of thing at the Gardner.
This interview is part of a series, “Conversations after the Fall: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Poets,” which began as part of Philip Metres’s Thomas J. Watson Fellowship (1992-1993). It has been revived, some 20 years later, with new interviews of Russian and Russian-American poets. The complete archive will be published in book-form.
Philip Metres: If it’s not too boring, let’s begin at the beginning—when did you begin to write poems? Who was influential to you?
Polina Barskova: The question of when and how I started to write poetry still haunts me—like an improper mystery, and it is not clear if it has an answer, or even if it’s necessary. Even now, my publications biography reports that I am a child prodigy; on the eve of my fourth decade, it now sounds like an embarrassing joke. Here the special effect, I believe, is not that I began writing at age eight (since many children write poems, just as many children draw, and often the results of their activities are excellent), but the fact that my poems were published, that they continue to be published, and that I continue to write them.
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! This conversation focuses on Erín Moure’s translation of Chus Pato’s Flesh of Leviathan. –Rusty Morrison
Rusty Morrison: I could not believe our luck, and your faith in us, when you offered Omnidawn your translation of Chus Pato’s Flesh of Leviathan. I imagine that many readers will be very familiar with Chus Pato’s history and writings, but some may not be. I think it would be wonderful if you’d share what will be most engaging, most relevant to a new reader regarding this text, its importance, its position in Chus Pato’s trajectory.
Trey Moody: I know you’ve framed your recent collections, Unwanted Invention / Vargtimmen, as a tête-bêche artifact, but I’m curious: you must have a preference, however slight, for where you’d like your ideal reader to begin, right? On the spine, for instance, you had to make some layout decisions. Plus, knowing this work personally, there’s a clear chronological gap between these two collections (i.e. they weren’t written simultaneously).
Francisco Bitar was born in 1981 in Santa Fe, the city where he currently lives. He’s published the poetry books Negativos [Negatives] (2007), El olimpo [The Olympus] (2009 and 2010), Ropa vieja: la muerte de una estrella [Old Clothes: The Death of a Star] (2011) and The Volturno Poems (2015). These works, along with some unpublished pieces, will appear in a collected volume in 2017. Bitar has also published the novel Tambor de arranque [Starting Drum] (2012), which won a literary prize from the city of Rosario. His collection of stories Luces de Navidad [Christmas Lights] (2014) will be reprinted this year by the publisher Nudista. Other books by Bitar include Acá había un río [Here There Was a River] (2015) and Historia oral de la cerveza [Oral History of Beer] (2015), which was published with the help of the Fondo Nacional de las Artes. Bitar has translated, among others, Jack Spicer (Quince proposiciones falsas contra Dios, 2009) and helped edit a volume of poems by Juan Manuel Inchauspe, called Trabajo nocturno [Night work] (2010). He is included in the anthology 30.30. Poesía argentina del siglo XXI (2013). He studied literature and coordinates a writing workshop at the bookstore Del Otro Lado Libros.
Jessica Sequeira has translated Bitar’s poems for Ventana Latina, where she is an editor, as well as for a 2014 issue of the UK-based publication Modern Poetry in Translation. As Bitar was in Santa Fe and Sequeira was in California at the time of the interview, they carried out the conversation over email. Originally in Spanish, it has been translated.
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.
Margaret Wappler lives in Los Angeles and has written about the arts and pop culture for the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Elle, The Believer, The Village Voice and several other publications. Her work has appeared in Black Clock, Public Fiction and The Anthology Joyland Retro. Her first novel, Neon Green, is coming out from Unnamed Press in July 2016.
David P. Earle is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He also is a co-director of Elephant Art Space here in Glassell Park, Los Angeles. www.davidpearle.com
To close out the show, we have music from Chris Cohen, the title track from his new album As If Apart, released May 6, 2016 on the Captured Tracks label.
“I think collaborations are an especially important reminder that all authors are really co-authors, co-conspirators in an ongoing series of thefts.” —Kristina Marie Darling
Ghost/Landscape, a poetry collection co-authored by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher, was published in 2016 by BlazeVox. We took this opportunity to discuss the book and its inception/creation, hauntings, exorcisms, hybrid forms, lyric trespassing, the multiverse, and the ghost line.
Virginia Konchan: How did you conceive of the idea for this collection? Can you speak a little bit about the compositional process, and how it unfolded over time? I’m particularly curious about the titling, and the arrangement of the poems.