For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. In this piece, Open House co-editor Housten Donham interviews Fred Moten about his book The Feel Trio [Letter Machine Editions, 2014], which was nominated for a National Book Award.
Housten Donham: The visual appeal of The Feel Trio is one of the first things that struck me. Many of the poems stretch horizontally across the page, some in multiple columns. The visual field is utilized in a variety of ways. Did you work directly on the final arrangement of the poems on the page when they went to print? What was your practice for determining the right look to these poems?
This conversation began quite organically: at CantoMundo 2014, with J Michael’s Martinez’s sonic-powered laughter ringing through Opening Circle. Over the course of the next few days the six of us—Diego Báez, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, J. Michael Martinez, Juan Morales, Octavio Quintanilla, and yours truly ended up talking about hair metal, thrash metal, the marriage and funeral in “November Rain,” this funny take on “Sweet Child of Mine,” Keanu Reeves in that Paula Abdul video (more on that later), and the intergalactic strangeness of Gwar. (Remember Gwar? Remember the nightmares you had because of Gwar?) In one way or another, our poetry has been influenced by power ballads, and we decided to explore this relationship in more depth. We hope, by the end of this conversation, you’ll find your own inner power chord…—Rosebud “7TrainLove” Ben-Oni
After publishing my Sixty Morning Talks interview collection, I have begun work on a more focused, single-press interview series, offering a comprehensive oral history (a cinéma vérité, in prose) of Nightboat Books’ diverse and ambitious output over its first decade of publication. For this newer project, it particularly interests me to track interpersonal and intertextual constellations that have helped to shape the work done by Nightboat’s authors, publishers and designers. Nightboat will publish this interview collection late next year. This interview focuses on John Sakkis’ book, The Islands, and was recorded March 8, 2015 and transcribed by Nicole Monforton.– Andy Fitch
Andy Fitch: The Islands’ first lineated lines (“you can’t skip a rock through / the house without starting fires // you can’t set fire to the beach / in the afternoon without boats”) quickly invoke, maybe just for me, perhaps as pastiche, parody and/or sincere point of reference, a whole poetry or poetics of the island or the archipelago. I hear echoes of stone-skipping openings by Kamau Brathwaite or Derek Walcott, let’s say. On the most obvious, thematics-based level, does any real or imagined poetics of the island have significance for you?
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 episode 30 with TROLL THREAD.
Essay Press editor Randall James Tyrone interviews Dan Beachy-Quick on his new book, A Quiet Book.
Randall James Tyrone: Dan, I too am a student. And I do and don’t mean that in the “I’m constantly gathering information in the world” sense, but more so in the fact that I’m in an MFA program and I’m wondering about research through reading. This aspect of a writer’s process isn’t really taught in institutions, at least not in the way artists use it, but more so expected to almost be intuitive. It is very interesting to look at A Quiet Book and its many references and fields of study. Could you talk a bit about your research habits? How do you go about finding what applies to your work and what best supports what you’re going for? Also, what role did the internet play in the creation of your chapbook?
Elisa Gabbert and Chris Tonelli met in graduate school at Emerson College in 2002. This conversation took place over email between March and July of 2015. Topics discussed: The writing habit, notebooks, public transportation, clouds, Frank Gehry, being boring, the anxiety of influence, AWP, readings and performance, irony, failure, epiphany, and the “perfect poem.”
Chris Tonelli: I was recently thinking about what you said in your post a while back about our work since our first books: “We both used to be more verbose, more prolific, not just in language but in feeling. Now I think there’s evidence of writing as practice, versus writing as necessity. We’re older, more settled, more content … and the poetry now is more distilled, and more a form of philosophy than a series of bursts of emotion, masquerading as objective correlative.”
VERNACULAR VISIONS is a public monthly slideshow series of found 35mm photo slides, curated and presented by Justin Rhody since the spring of 2013. Each distinctive program is accompanied by a unique audio mix of related (and unrelated) sounds & musics. Every other month, half of the night’s program is dedicated to presenting the work of a guest photographer or filmmaker (who either incorporates found imagery into their work or is self-taught). This ongoing series is an exploration and celebration of the medium and its subjects, spoken and coded in the visual dialect of the amateur practitioner. Free to attend & open to the public, the show is presented in a relaxed tone which offers the opportunity for meditative contemplation, as well as casual and comfortable social interaction.
Brandon Freels: Where did you live before the Bay Area?
Justin Clifford Rhody: I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. I grew up there, but then after high school I’ve just kind of lived in a lot of different places: Indiana, North Carolina, Maine, Seattle for two months.