Over the summer, Andy Fitch has interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Baus’ book, Scared Text (Center for Literary Publishing). Recorded May 2nd. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.
Andy Fitch: Can we discuss Scared Text’s cover, as a means of approaching less concrete concerns? You’ve called this cover image by Morin “appropriately gross,” which it is, though not for reasons I expected. Each separate bug (a diverse array) gets highly individuated, picks up autonomous identity. Everybody looks better off on his/her own, yet yoked together to construct a digestible tableau—like a Balthus painting. Scale seems perfectly drafted for the isolated, individual being, but bizarrely distorted when placed side-by-side, with the beetle as big as a mouse it eats, or fucks? The overall composition feels self-contained, square, if also potentially part of a more expansive, cathartic scene. Then on the book’s back, a blue beetle gets cloned in reverse, restructured. Does this help to describe what makes the cover “appropriately” gross? And, can I just add, the palate remains warm and earthy and cheerful.
Eric Baus: Your description resembles how I think about serial poems—focusing on relationships between different parts. As you spoke I stared at the cover and imagined each bug as its own paragraph. That makes a lot of sense. And the image’s tone does seem important, since each book I’ve done contains a kind of world-building, like in science fiction or film. So the cover design lets you walk into the book’s world. This includes discrete, unrelated beings placed beside each other so that you register strangeness, you know something strayed out of place but not so much that it looks random, or deliberate like a collage. The poems share this sensibility. I worked at the level of the word and sentence, looking at undertones, looking at implicit doubles. Still I didn’t have much agency picking this cover. I suggested something I love and the publisher vetoed it and picked the perfect thing.