Category: Alter Nation: H.L. Hix Interviews

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. . . Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Camille Dungy with H.L. Hix

Camille Dungy. Photo courtesy of WideVision Photography/Marcia Wilson
Camille Dungy. Photo courtesy of WideVision Photography/Marcia Wilson.

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 Camille Dungy’s Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011). 

H. L. Hix: The “way we carry on” appears in the book at least twice (pages 6 and 19), and in both cases it sustains a double entendre: carry on as in act out and carry on as in continue.  Then there is a lot of other carrying: at 21, 23, 31, 37 and perhaps others I didn’t catch. Plus holding on (44) and going on (69).  Even if I didn’t have other grounds, I would know from your Black Nature anthology of your attunement to sustainability as an ecological issue. Am I way off base to read Smith Blue as drawing on, and drawing out, an analogy between ecological and emotional sustaining?

Camille Dungy: No. You are not off base. Continue reading

Paisley Rekdal with H.L. Hix

Paisley Redkal
Paisley Redkal

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 Paisley Redkal’s Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

H. L. Hix: Two things I notice about these poems seem related to one another. One is that they make important distinctions such as respecting a thing for itself and respecting it for our imagination of it (3) and the head versus the heart (17). Another is that betweenness seems regularly present (again, just a couple of examples out of several: between the real and the imagined [31], and “the brief air between us” [82]).  Are such contrasts and “betweennesses” important to the poems, and are they related to one another?

Paisley Rekdal: If I had to point to one theme that I think I return to, in one form or another, it’s our understanding of what comprises intimacy, whether it’s between people or between people and the natural world. I think our general imagination of intimacy is fairly limited: we tend to think of it as meaning the sexual or emotional connection between people in a defined relationship. The result of this is that we also tend to think of our attempts to become intimate with others in limited, physical ways, rather than in harder to define ways, such as artistic, philosophical or even legal representation. I think the particular problems of representation—of the self, of the “other”—really haunt most of my recent work. In particular, I’m interested in how the ways in which we get represented in the world often become the basis for how others around us become familiar or intimate with us. There’s always a gap between what we appear to be and what we are, a gap that—as a biracial woman—I think has been literalized for me in my life due to my shape-shifting appearance. Depending on who sees me, for instance, I am either Asian or white, something instantly “nameable” (thus made familiar) or further and further exoticized. I don’t think this is only or even primarily about race, however, but about the ways in which all humans have to choose to represent their identities and their ideas, in art and in language. This, to me, is the essential “betweenness” in which we all live: between a “real” self and a socially imagined self. This is why issues of art and artistic production are everywhere in the book. Also, obviously, images of animals, because I think that the ways in which we imagine and respond to animals really get at the heart of our problems of representation. I have three dogs, and I’m constantly amazed by how they have been bred to essentially fit into our human world, often with “human-like” attributes without ever being human. Reading the work of philosophers like Peter Singer, I’m struck again and again by how difficult it is for us to imagine how we might treat animals in a moral or “humane” way without having to make them human. Essentially, are we willing to give rights to creatures not based on our successful anthropomorphizing of them but based on the fact that they are their own beings? And how do we make that kind of argument without, at some level, anthropomorphizing them, making them more and more like us in our imagery? But if we see ourselves in animals (or try to see ourselves in animals), we also see animals in ourselves, which often gives rise to some of our worst and most racist language and imagery, something else I explore in one of the poems in this collection. But the “betweenness” we experience living and caring for animals is, I think, an intensely captured microcosm of the “betweenness” we experience living with each other, and I think it was one of the only analogies I could use to help me begin to explore the costs and consequences of our representations of ourselves.

 


Paisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee, a hybrid-genre photo-text memoir that combines poetry, fiction, nonfiction and photography entitled Intimate and four books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls Without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope and Animal Eye. Her work has received the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, an NEA Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, the University of Georgia Press’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, inclusion in the Best American Poetry series and various state arts council awards. Her poems and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New Republic, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House and on National Public Radio among others.

Jennifer Chang with H.L. Hix

Jennifer Chang
Jennifer Chang

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Jennifer Chang’s The History of Anonymity (Univ. of Georgia Press, 2008).

H. L. Hix: In the first few lines of the first poem, the word “unctuous” appears; the final section of the book is “A Move to Unction.” What about unction makes it important to these poems?

Jennifer Chang: I wrote the title poem, “The History of Anonymity” roughly three years after writing “A Move to Unction.” At first, I hadn’t intended to put the poems in the same manuscript, but as I revised “The History of Anonymity” I realized that both lyric sequences are preoccupied with the process of emotional and existential recovery and both express an almost spiritual fervor. I settled on the word “unction” because of its religious and sacred connotations, but I wanted a secularized “unction,” which I hope in my poems connotes a state of heightened attention that enables healing and restorative contemplation.

I also realized that to put two long lyric sequences in one book would be challenging, so when I was revising “The History of Anonymity” I decided that the language had to work harder for the poems to connect to each other. I used “unctuous” because it anticipates the “unction” of the book’s conclusion, but unlike “unction,” the word “unctuous,” as a descriptor is more tactile and sensual. If we think of the shift from the words “unctuous” to “unction” as a sort of miniscule drama or narrative arc within the book, it could suggest a shift from the bodied to the disembodied, the material to the spiritual. Continue reading

Yunte Huang with H.L. Hix

Yunte Huang
Yunte Huang

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy and other ideals and practices he values) and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Yunte Huang’s CRIBS (Tinfish Press, 2005).

H. L. Hix: Found texts (or texts presented as found texts—I didn’t try to check) appear throughout the book as early as “Nearly Half of Crib Deaths. . . ” (8). They seem to me to help introduce thematic concerns and to create a dynamic tension with the “made-up” poems’ interest in language itself (by attending to the referents of language). Are those roles at all related to your own purposes in including such found texts?

Yunte Huang: “Words as they are” is certainly one of the central concerns of CRIBS. As such, they are subject to cribbing in the sense of borrowing, stealing, plagiarizing, (mis)translating and so on. I didn’t provide citations for the “found texts” because the book sets out to undermine the idea of originality. It would be poetically self-defeating to provide citation. The found texts, as you have keenly observed, are treated as my “made-up” poems. Continue reading

Abraham Smith with H.L. Hix

Abraham Smith
Abraham Smith

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy and other ideals and practices he values) and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Abraham Smith’s Whim Man Mammon (Action Books, 2007).

H. L. Hix: A reader from a certain educational background [read: a background like mine, may Miss Wilson rest in peace] would not be able to read a short poem called “Eagles” (24) without thinking of Tennyson’s much-anthologized short poem called “The Eagle.”  May I ask you to take that juxtaposition (which I take as more contrast than comparison) as an occasion for saying something about what you are trying to resist in your poetry?

Abraham Smith: Ah yups the tennyson eagle poem / i read it in a lawnchair whilst cousins batted a badminton birdie, perhaps 14 years ago / lilac bleeding into the mosquito whinnying wind / have no ms wilson to nod skyward to / thats a bit of a half bit brineless pickle / ways in which poetry is not there for us in the lions share of pub education / in one class we memorized one frost poem / snowy harness bells / some years later we “read” the iliad / this “reading” worked thusly: we were handed a xerox with 25 questions / read, then answer the questions / the answers to the xerox were stapled to the wall / and so, we loitered / donning the faux mask of faux earnestness / count 25 faux glances down at sundry clanking aegises / then sashay over to the wall, write down the answers / then sit back down / then wait to be handed 25 more questions / then loiter, then etc. / anon / talk about a yawning lion wortha education / i hope the whim book, the poetics stamped in there / i hope the whim jig does not resist / i hope it’s that abandoned barn there with vines going in at the windows / i hope bats and broken baseballs and bad breath coyotes and mice and foxes all do the buffalo shuffle in there / i s’pose the ink pot is not poetry so much as the ink black flambeau river and my early yearning haunting feeling thereabouts / the book is pretty much one adolescent pinch with screaming eyes pretty much / i guess it’s a roethke trampoline / i guess it’s roethke and dylan thomas hoboing across a frozen lake / call it rousseau with a musky fish for a walkin stick / if the book resists something it’s the unsurprised fellas who laugh back in the back of their throat and think of the wild as something to kill or to tamp back down or to tame / fence that in there / i hope i am tattling on them / i hope each word feels endangered / hope i am letting the birds in through the windows without the glassy neck / let me hobo on the peaked back of an emily d bird / let me go to heaven all along / mr. bobolink link up / how haunted i am by eagles / by rivers / i love that a young boy can bring the river home in his ears / that that can be painful / i love that a thick young man with a barrel chest and eight ten guns back home can be casually talking about this or that win or gun or winsome wind brought down the shot that woulda dropped the buck / i love that just then back deep in the woods where a little clearing opens / an eagle will swoop down and lift a fawn right off the ground and it’s adios humdrum barrel chest dude / i hope the book stands as preachment to my sundry hauntings / i love how hushed i was in that lawnchair / i love my totems: birds, wolves, and bears / i have spent most of my life trying to eye them / maybe even more than poetry they are my reading life / they the three who tear my mouth off and take it away / i hope whim works as my lost ramble, asking this: you seen my mouth? of every other pine birch and maple . . . Continue reading

Julie Carr with H.L. Hix

Julie Carr

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Julie Carr’s 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta Press, 2010).

H. L. Hix: Re. § 31: Why must? Why here? (I don’t mean this only/primarily as an interrogation of the particular words in this sentence, but as one way of enriching my sense of the whole book’s structure.) The contrast between what “we” were (truthfully?) told and what the boy was (deceptively) told also seems significant and “structural.”

Julie Carr: While writing this project I found myself avoiding (out of fear) certain stories that felt too close to home. The story of the Capitol Hill Rapist was one such story. I knew I had to confront it/him because my intention was precisely to confront fears and to examine the violence that was nearest to me. “Here,” had to be placed 1/3 of the way into the book because it was there that such avoidance became obvious. But it also has to be “here” in the sense that my challenge in this book was not to pretend that violence is always elsewhere but to see into the ways in which it is always right “here.”

Throughout the process of writing and then constructing the book I tried to balance the lyrical with more objective and descriptive moments. I did not only want to “tell it like it is,” I also wanted to explore the inner-states of the person who I attempted to see and to describe. And I wanted to write from the particular music of the states of mind or emotion that arose. Some sections demanded a narrative or more flatly descriptive mode while others needed to remain lyrical and open, even fragmentary.

The boy in this poem is a real boy and what his parents said was also real. Obviously, any child would know that “she had an ow-y and she fell down,” was not an accurate way of describing what he saw. The utter failure of the parents to explain what he saw speaks to me about one of the central and anguishing aspects of this project. We do not want our children to know what they know. We do not want to tell them what we cannot help but tell them. And thus, protection fails; innocence is false. Something else must be taught to them, which is to say, something else must be taught to us. And that something else, I think, is that we must live within the paradox of our awareness of suffering coupled with our experiences of pleasure, hope, even joy. This is not an easy or even stable realization. The parents lie to the child in order for him to go on living. He knows they are lying, but he knows also that they are lying out of love and that love is powerfully contrasting and coexisting with the woman’s death. Continue reading