Christine Hume and Gregory Whitehead

Christine Hume and Gregory Whitehead
Christine Hume and Gregory Whitehead

For this April issue, with its focus on audio pieces, we happily begin with a conversation from two of our favorite sound performers, Christine Hume and Gregory Whitehead. Hume and Whitehead have work in the current issue of Evening Will Come.

Christine Hume: When walking you are doing and doing-nothing; you are making the road you walk while questioning it; you are seeking ironic distance from your fellow pedestrians (if you are a flâneur); you are avoiding human chatter (if you are a Romantic poet); you are engaging a mode of resistant agency, a tactic that could forge new somatic/neurological pathways; you are experiencing space, time and embodiment as interpenetrated; you are reconfiguring your relation to social or natural life; your body is susceptible, open; you are being carried by the carnality of rhythm. What can you say about your practice as a long-distance walker in relation to your practice as a radio artist?

Forrest Gander and Leonard Schwartz

Forrest Gander and Leonard Schwartz. Painting of Leonard Schwartz courtesy of Simon Carr.
Forrest Gander and Leonard Schwartz. Painting of Leonard Schwartz courtesy of Simon Carr.

This March, The Conversant asked some of its favorite interviewers to record conversations with poets that they admire—either at, or in the spirit of, AWP. Here Leonard Schwartz has invited Forrest Gander to participate in a mutual interview about both poets’ recent work.

Cristiana Baik with Farid Matuk

Farid Matuk
Farid Matuk

Along with Andy Fitch, Cristiana Baik is assembling the Letter Machine Editions Book of Interviews, which also includes interviews conducted by Noah Eli Gordon and Joshua Marie Wilkinson. This talk will be published in that collection, due for late 2014 release.

Cristiana Baik: When introducing your work, Noah Eli Gordon evoked Keats’s negative capability, the idea that “man is capable of being in uncertainties.” Would you describe your work and poetics as reflective of and shaped by negative capability?

Farid Matuk: I would, yes, to the extent that I try to court a space in the poem where contradictory impulses, perspectives, discourses and images can play together.

Rusty Morrison with Gillian Conoley

Gilian Conoley
Gilian Conoley

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 focuses on Conoley’s book Peace.

Rusty Morrison: The word “peace” has so many connotations and suggests so many interpretations. It risks so much. Can you speak about how the title came to the work, and why? In answering this you might also answer: how did this book begin? Which were the first poems you wrote? When did the project begin to cohere for you?

Jonathan Stalling with Joseph Harrington

Joseph Harrington
Joseph Harrington

In 2007, I founded the Mark Allen Everett Poetry Series. This series curates between 10 to 15 readings a year in Norman, Oklahoma and features poets spanning a broad spectrum of poetry communities and styles. Past poets who have read include Tom Raworth, Hank Lazer, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Arthur Sze, Natasha Tretheway, Myung Mi Kim, Charles Alexander, Joe Harrington, Afaa Weaver, Shin Yu Pai, Leonard Schwartz, Hugh Tribby, Gerald Stern, Sy Hoawhwah, Alexandra Teague, Kate Greenstreet, Dean Rader, Zhang Er, Julie Carr, Tim Roberts, Grant Jenkins, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Duo Duo, Wang Jiaxin, Glenn Mott, among many more.

Andy Fitch with Juliana Leslie

Along with Cristiana Baik, Andy Fitch is assembling the Letter Machine Editions Book of Interviews, which also includes interviews conducted by Noah Eli Gordon and Joshua Marie Wilkinson. This talk will be published in that collection, due for late 2014 release.

Juliana Leslie
Juliana Leslie

Andy Fitch: Since your first two books so consistently foreground a cluster of constellated motifs, could we start with some? For instance, More Radiant Signal opens by announcing “a study of the secret life of the stick figure / whence the inland evolution of my imagination took place.” It quickly offers “internal energy fluxes,” camouflage, an “anonymous woman’s untitled secret.” I kept thinking of the Pavement song in which the listener gets chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation to the sequel of your life. Could you describe what you value in gestures of poetic deferral, diminution, performative self-displacement—perhaps in relation to preceding writers you admire, and/or to gender, to the subtleties of sound play in your poetics?

Juliana Leslie: Poetry, as I experience it, or writing poetry, more accurately, offers these chances to lose the self, or the self as a figure entitled to be the center of a poem, particularly when that inherited figure carries a language that effaces a range of possibilities, experiences, perceptions, energies. So maybe I write from the point of view of the secret, or the corner, or the keyhole. Or from a point of view that may not be human or even sentient. This latter idea was suggested to me by a friend who read More Radiant Signal. She thought maybe some of the speakers and figures in these poems weren’t human, or perhaps they were undergoing metamorphosis. More accurately, the voices and figures, or the writing itself, is undergoing stylistic transformation—not committing to a particular mode or habit or behavior.

Insert Blanc’s The People

imgresThe 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 third Sunday at 3 p.m. 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 episodes 7-10.—Mathew Timmons and Ben White

Angela Buck on Leonard Schwartz with Cecilia Vicuña

Cecila Vicuña
Cecila Vicuña

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.

Daniel Zomparelli with Jordan Abel and Renée Saklikar

Renée Saklikar, Lemon Hound, Jordan Abel
Renée Saklika (photo courtesy of A. Tsabir), Lemon Hound, Jordan Abel

The Conversant long has admired Lemon Hound’s lively, multifarious engagement with contemporary literature. In partnership with Lemon Hound, and in the hopes of encouraging further dialog between Canadian- and U.S.-based poetics, we have decided to re-publish a monthly excerpt from the Lemon Hound archive.

Daniel Zomparelli: I read your two books consecutively (The Place of Scraps by Jordan Abel and children of air india by Renée Saklikar), and in my opinion the books have similar themes. They both take a tragedy, differing in scale obviously, and the poet interjects into this tragedy to create a moment of questioning and thoughtfulness. It reminded me of how poetry can successfully bring about discussions on very serious real-world concerns. I was wondering if you could each speak to what you were hoping to achieve in writing these books?

Andrew Schelling with Joanne Kyger

Joanne Kyger. Photo courtesy of Donald Guravich.
Joanne Kyger. Photo courtesy of Donald Guravich.

The following interview took place in August and September, 2011, by email. Joanne Kyger was in Bolinas, California, and I was in Boulder, Colorado. The reference to Peter Berg (1937-2011) in the interview was occasioned by a series of memorials. One of the foundational activists and writers on bioregionalism and watershed awareness, Berg founded the Planet Drum Foundation. He died on July 28. The exchange late in the interview on Pai-chang and the fox is a reference to Case 2 in the Zen koan collection Mumonkan. Various translations are available.—Andrew Schelling

Andrew Schelling: In your poetry you allow entry to animals—or I could say, “the animal realm”—more than any other poet I know. Animals and birds are familiars, though they are generally not domestic animals, and you do not use them as symbols or emblems. Deer, skunk, jay, hummingbird, and dozens of others including mice in the house and offshore mammals show up, and you often address them as people. One of your books, Up My Coast, is a poetic and projectivist recounting of tales collected by the unusual ethnographer and doctor, C. Hart Merriam. Those tales depict a time before the present world got established, when people were animals or animals people:

First, there were the First People
And the First People changed
into trees, plants, rocks, stars, hail and
and then Animals made Our People.

Joanne Kyger: Up My Coast was an attempt to write the history of part of this coast—“pre-invasion.” I am fascinated by the First People, a way of speaking of ancient history. An animistic path. Where finally Animals create the people we are familiar with.

Jeffrey Williams with Marc Bousquet

Marc Bousquet
Marc Bousquet

Since the late 1990s, Marc Bousquet has been one of the most trenchant critics of labor practices in higher education. He disabused received wisdom about the job market, showing how its depressed state resulted not from a natural cycle, but from deliberate strategies, in his essay, “The Waste Product of Graduate Education: Toward a Dictatorship of the Flexible” (Social Text 70 [2002]). And he has exposed other dubious practices of the corporate university: the rise of the administrative class; the way that professors have become managers, overseeing a pool of cheap teaching labor across the curriculum; and the way that undergraduates have been conscripted into the discounted work force in the current university. These analyses culminated in his book How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (NYU Press, 2008). Beginning in 2008 he has taken his commentary on higher ed to the blogosphere, with a regular column for the Chronicle of Higher Education in conjunction with his website.

While he was in graduate school, Bousquet cofounded Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, which published its first issue in February 1998. He also co-edited, with Tony Scott and Leo Parascondola, Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), and edited The Politics of Information: The Electronic Mediation of Social Change (Alt-X Press, 2004). His pathbreaking work led to a special issue of Works and Days 41-42 (2003), guest edited by Teresa Derickson, that reprints five of his essays and fourteen responses.

Born in 1963, Bousquet grew up in Buffalo, New York, where his father was a manager for the Social Security Administration. He studied at Yale (BA, 1985), where he had courses with several of the Yale Critics well known at the time. Afterwards, he moved to the East Village in New York to write, working as an advertising copywriter and ghostwriter. In 1991 he decided to return to academe, entering the PhD program at CUNY (PhD, 1997). After a postdoc at Indiana University, he got a tenure-track job at the University of Louisville in 1998, moving in 2005 to Santa Clara University and in 2012 to Emory University.

This interview took place on November 15th, 2008 at Marc Bousquet’s house in Los Gatos, California. It was conducted by Jeffrey J. Williams and transcribed by Heather Steffen.

Jeffrey Williams: Your new book, How the University Works, diagnosing problems with higher education, notably the disposability of grad students, the managerializing of faculty and the exploitation of undergrads, just came out and has become something of a rallying cry, especially for younger academics. Maybe you could talk about how you came to be a critic of the university.

Philip Metres with Alex Cigale

Alexander Cigale
Alex Cigale

This interview series, “Conversations after the Fall: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Poets,” began as part of my Thomas J. Watson Fellowship year (1992-1993), and has been revived, 20 years later, compiling new interviews with Russian and Russian-American poets. The complete archive will be published in book-form in 2016.—Philip Metres

Philip Metres: Can you talk a bit about your poetic education, at home and in school? I’m interested in what you were reading, who you were talking to, etc. (the subtext of this question is that I’m wondering how much poetry was in your academic education, particularly how much recitation, but also how much it was valued in your home).