H.L. Hix with Lisa Fishman

Lisa Fishman
Lisa Fishman

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Lisa Fishman’s Flower Cart (Ahsahta Press).

H. L. Hix: I keep returning to this sentence on the next-to-last page of the book: “This could continue only by being a letter because what is most real is the person in the alcove or the object on the table or the shimmering idea.” I think I’m drawn to it because it gives me a way to talk about why your book so resonates with me: I take it as—whatever else it’s also doing—undertaking an intense inquiry into what is most real, on the tacit premise that typically we don’t recognize the most real as the most real. I’m not coming up with a good way to end this “question” with a question mark, but I will be interested in any way you have of responding to it.

Lisa Fishman: I like your question-comment a lot. It appeals to me, the possibility that flowercart could be an inquiry into what is most real. Intuitively, I would like that to be the case, among whatever else the book is or is doing or undertaking.

H.L. Hix with Jacqueline Jones LaMon

Jones LaMon
Jacqueline Jones LaMon

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Jones LaMon’s book Last Seen (University of Wisconsin Press).

H. L. Hix: Near the end of “Preface” (11), you speak of the children’s “collective voice” as what you strain to hear. Yet the poems themselves seem especially attentive to individual voices. What for you is the relationship between individual voices and collective voices, in these poems and in relation to the children?

Jacqueline Jones LaMon: First of all, thank you so very much for taking the time to read the collection with such attention and care. And thank you for your question. Last Seen was inspired by the hundreds of long-term missing African American children who have historically been overlooked by our national media. It is a collection that evolved in focus and definition, from being a collection about those missing children to being a broader exploration of what it means to be missing or lost in our society and how that void is experienced by all those who remain present and connected to each other.

H.L. Hix with Kristi Maxwell

Kristi Maxwell
Kristi Maxwell

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Kristi Maxwell’s Re- (Ahsahta Press). 

H. L. Hix: At some point during my reading of your book, the phrase “stream-of-sonority,” came into my head, by contrast with “stream-of-consciousness.” It seemed to me that the poems listen to language, adapting consciousness to it instead of adapting language to consciousness. (Or something like that—surely I’m not saying this well.) So, with that in mind, when I get to the sentence on page 45, “Logic a device that keeps wonder at bay,” I wonder if for you that listening, letting sound determine the course of the poem, is a way of letting wonder overwhelm.

Kristi Maxwell: Harvey, first of all, let me say thank you for such an attentive reading of Re-. When I was writing these poems, I often thought about a poetics of listening. In many ways, these poems are an attempt to respond to language through listening and being faithful (and unfaithful) to listening while transcribing.

H.L. Hix with Juliana Spahr

Juliana Spahr
Juliana Spahr

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Juliana Spahr’s Well Then There Now (Black Sparrow Books).

H. L. Hix: Early in the book, these two lines appear: “Things should be said more largely than the personal way. / Things are larger than the personal way of telling” (23). For me, these lines resonated throughout the book. They echoed back over the first section by way of reminding me of Leslie Scalapino’s assertion that “individuals in writing or speaking may create a different syntax to articulate experience, as that is the only way experience occurs.” They made me see the “swirl of connection” (47) as centripetal rather than centrifugal, and the infusion of this work with fulfillment of the demand that “poets need to know the names of things” (70) as enlarging. My question has to with its relation to the last section, “The Incinerator,” which seems to me the most “personal” part of the book in the way “personal” is often used when describing poetry: How does the attempt to say things “more largely than the personal way” inflect or temper or inform that section?

Juliana Spahr: Yes. “The Incinerator” is more personal. And yes, it is also not.

H.L. Hix with Lily Brown

Lily Brown
Lily Brown

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Lily Brown’s Rust or Go Missing (Cleveland State  University Poetry Center).

H. L. Hix: Near the middle of your book, there is a poem called “Knower,” and near the middle of that poem is the sentence “Here, / my trick: accompaniment.” I don’t mean to make too much of one moment in the book, but I wonder about its importance—for you personally, for this poem, for your book, for the project of knowing, for our culture—of “accompaniment.” (Just as one for instance, do the quiet woman and loud man in the title poem accompany one another, or fail to accompany one another?) I think this is a question, but in any case I’ll be interested in any way you choose to respond.

Lily Brown: The issue of accompaniment is a loaded one for me, and I think you pick up on my ambivalence with your question about “the quiet woman and the loud man” in the title poem from my book. I observed those people in a coffee shop in Berkeley, and while I have no real way of knowing whether they did or did not accompany one another, the exchange got me thinking. I was actually touched by the conversation because the man seemed to want the woman to know she would still have her coffee to accompany her, even if he went to the restroom. Perhaps he was projecting his own worry about leaving her in his utterance. Or perhaps he himself was not a person who liked to be alone. Or maybe he liked to be alone but was concerned about what that meant with regard to his significant other. By transcribing that exchange and then giving it a sort of metaphorical equivalent in the poem (“He says, while you enjoy your coffee, / I’ll go to the bathroom. // He says, here’s the light. I place it in your glass. / Here’s how light stays when I’m gone.”), I wanted to raise questions about accompaniment and maybe highlight its complexity rather than provide answers. I see that as an issue with cultural significance, actually: to give space to questions, rather than answers and to complicate notions of identity and relationships.

H.L. Hix with Jena Osman

Jena Osman
Jena Osman

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Jena Osman’s The Network (Fence, 2010).

H. L. Hix: In Lyric Philosophy, Jan Zwicky proposes that “Few words are capsized on the surface of language, subject to every redefining breeze. Most, though they have drifted, are nonetheless anchored, their meanings holding out for centuries against the sweep of rationalist desire.” Her focus there seems to be the contrast with history, the way words hold their own in spite of history. But as I read your etymological inquiries in The Network, your focus there is on a parallel relationship between etymology and history: words as historical archives, reference not only as designation of a present object but also of a historical continuum. How far off base am I in that reading?

Jena Osman: I don’t think I’m trying to argue that words are completely flexible, bending entirely to the historical moment. As Zwicky says, meanings drift but are still anchored. But I don’t believe those meanings exist out of context—there isn’t some kind of platonic ideal of words lurking out there outside of their use. Words are the product of their usage, and I’m interested in trying to map out those uses. As I say in the book, if I could follow the history of the words I’m looking at, maybe I could understand the history of the times. But I’m not a linguist, so this is more of a fantasy than a reality. The word maps I trace in The Network are thoroughly amateur, the product of my trying to “translate” the entries I found in a book by Eric Partridge called Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English.

Lia Purpura with H.L. Hix

Lia Purpura
Lia Purpura

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Lia Purpura’s Rough Likeness (Sarabande 2011). 

H. L. Hix: I am repeatedly drawn in these essays to the lists they contain. (As for example the lists on pages 29-30, 43, 67, 73-84 [the essay is structured as a list], 86-87, 147-48.) To what extent, or in what way, is the list a synecdoche (a microcosm? an analogy?) of the essay? In asking the question, I have in mind places at which you may already imply an answer, such as at the end of “Gray”: “And here I am, outside, giving thanks. I’m starting by noting every gray thing” (96).

Lia Purpura: A list is a savory thing. In a hearty list, objects mingle and bump up against: think winter soups, not consommé.

Brian Teare with H.L. Hix

Brian Teare
Brian Teare

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.”  To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Brian Teare’s Pleasure (Ahsahta, 2010).

H.L. Hix: As I was reading “To Other Light,” I stopped short at the lines, “not to suffer / more, but finally to suffer a clarity in language sufficient // to pain.” I wanted to steal that as a way of stating an ambition for my own work! Is it a way of stating an ambition of your work?

Brian Teare: The short answer: yes, absolutely.

Zach Savich with H.L. Hix

Zach Savich
Zach Savich

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Zach Savich’s The Firestorm (Cleveland State University Poetry Center).

H. L. Hix: The formulation “I suppose I do believe in nothing” is repeated several times in your book (for example, as part of the first line of three poems in a row on pages 26-28). For me, the word “do” stops me, and makes me think about the formulation, asking myself whether this is an affirmation or a negation. Consequently, I want to ask you, about the whole book: are these poems affirming or negating? (Obviously, this is a false dilemma, so feel free to reject the very form in which the question is asked.)

Zach Savich: False, perhaps, but fair to ask. I ask it of many books: what world do they posit, what do they leave out. Do they do what I, lover of TV and walks and coffee, believe only books can do and expand from that? And I ask it, foolishly, of my life, while knowing that, you know, the tomato sauce may negate the recipe but affirm the wine: the coin has two sides one spins among, so Washington appears to eat the eagle eating him. . . I hope my poems posit knowledge that is similarly spun, aglint, in motion, not of balance but of exchange; not of a position but of positioning. As, in one’s emotional life, contradictions do not necessarily conflict but gesture toward a self that’s odd, but not at odds. The self less a character than a setting. Today I felt at home in the afterlife. Today I felt suspiciously alive! Me: the setting where such weather blew; I hope my poems also are. . .

Miguel Gutierrez with Nature Theater of Oklahoma

Miguel Gutierrez
Miguel Gutierrez

Nature Theater of Oklahoma meets with choreographer, dancer and performance artist Miguel Gutierrez, who braves athsma and kittens, to explore with us the nature of stunt, risk, and personal necessity in the work.
 
 
 
 
 

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Matthew Cooperman with H.L. Hix

Matthew Cooperman
Matthew Cooperman

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Matthew Cooperman’s Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move (Counterpath, 2011).

H. L. Hix: Your book Still includes many lists; in a certain way, it is itself a list. Many lists in themselves have an oddity to them that makes me shift my perspective slightly (I’m thinking, to choose an example almost at random, of “Pain Reliever” on page 51, which starts as I’d expect, with Tylenol and Advil, but then begins to include items I wouldn’t normally classify as pain relievers, such as PlayStation and Oakley). In other cases, it is the juxtaposition of two or more lists that jolts me (here I’m thinking, for example, of “American Facts” on page 66 and “World Facts” on page 67, with their lists of facts about eating disorders in the U.S. and malnutrition globally). This is the “information age,” in which we have access to more facts and more lists than a person could possible digest; what, from your point of view, is the importance of the kind of gathering and arrangement you have undertaken—and offered your reader—in Still? 

Matthew Cooperman: The work of Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move is archival. Something of the present moment—or more accurately of the last decade, as it is a book of a decade—seemed to require an accounting. A list, to be sure, but also an index, a frame, a capture. The gathering you speak of is a belief in occasional poeticsIt’s really been a duration piece, a document project. The first poems were written in the late 90s, as far as I can tell 1998. The latest are from 2010, so the book’s had a long slow arc, if you’ll pardon the pun. I found the poems an effective place to dump all the “unpoetic” thoughts I had of the world. I mean, so much shit happened from, say, the late 90s, late Clinton, to now, mid (or late?) Obama. And so much of that information seemed more forceful than lyric utterance. I’ve always been attracted to the political poem, but I wanted some place where the information itself, the data, could reside. And equally, some place where the heroes and criminals of that period could actually speak.