Tom Trudgeon:I want to start by asking you about the title for your book. Rather than the compound word “Wetland”, which carries with it a kind of mythology and slew of cultural signifiers that often relay notions of “pure” nature, treacherous terrain, land that is manipulated and destroyed, depleted, etc, you chose to call the book “Wet Land.” This for me was significant in that the title you chose seems to literalize that space. It becomes “land that is wet,” which divests or diverts a more conventional way of thinking of those areas of land. So I was wondering what play you had in mind for the book between literalizing things, and having things be symbolic of a mythological epistemology. Where does Myth become something literal?
Lucas de Lima:The title comes from a line in the first poem: “A POEM WE WRITE LIKE A WET LAND.” You’re right, I must’ve kept it forits literal, singular,and dislocated ring. Wet Land isanincarnation in which the wetnesssignals a conflation of blood and water, our violence against the earthas violence against ourselves. I think mythology has access to a primordial, cosmologicallanguage. As symbolic as myth may be, the fact that it’s foundational to a people and culture puts linguistic abstraction into relief. Myth enacts narrative integration in our lives, forbidding the separation ofstories and images from whatever else we would cordon off as “reality.”And the book’s subject matter—the death of someone I love by alligator attack—was already unfathomable and beyond everyday language. The event violated all kinds of boundaries to begin with. Although I was never a big reader of mythology, it made sense when themythificationtook over. It became a way of making sense.
WL was also shaped by a rejectionof certain tendencies inUS poetry. One would be the idea of language as always sabotaging itself because it aims to represent the world and is doomed by its failure to do so effectively. For me, poetry blows upconsciousness. Its bullet is a baby; itrips into a new world. This capacity for world-makingisthe argument of WL. The book is a construction—what writers usually point to in a self-reflexive poetics—though I never saw my authorship as a limitation. Instead,my ethical imperative was to make selfhood the occasion for the book to embody a life of its own and cross boundaries—life/death, human/animal, different temporalities.
TT:You mention the idea of self-reflexive poetics, but also how you are interested in subverting traditional conventions of poetry…
This is a series of ongoing interviews with women actively engaged with small-press publishing between the 1950s and 1980s. It comes from a desire not only to preserve their accounts but also to draw wider attention to the vital role of women editors and publishers in the mimeograph revolution and beyond. In these decades “poems were bouncing off the sidewalk” (Maureen Owen), and this series traces some of those madcap trajectories.
This interview took place via email between November 2013 and December 2014. It focuses on Wright’s role as the editor and publisher of Lost Roads Press, 1976-present in Fayetteville, Arkansas, San Francisco, and Providence. The press is currently edited by Susan Scarlata.
Stephanie Anderson: Was Room Rented by a Single Woman Lost Roads’s first book? As author, how much input did you have into the publication process?
C. D. Wright:Room Rented … did end up being LRP’s first book. Frank [Stanford] had printed a few titles and then scrapped them because he was dissatisfied with the printing job. He re-did them, and mine was included in that lot of six titles—he put the sequence together. In truth, they came out pretty simultaneously.
For 2015, The Conversant is partnering with Open House, a new online journal of poetry and poetics. This interview concerns Kate Robinson’s work with the visual poetry of letterpress sigil design. It was first published by Open House in November 2014.
Cosmo Spinosa: Let’s start with some preliminary questions to position your work with sigil design. What initially inspired these sigils? Who or what are your influences for this work? Some cursory research I’ve done on sigils and their history has shown that sigils are considered to have magic powers, being a sort of signature unique to a person or entity that is used in rituals, holding a special place in the practice of magic. Did you begin creating your sigil designs with magic in mind? Did you consider this a magical process?
Kate Robinson: I first became aware of sigilization through my former boyfriend, although it could have also been a mutual friend of ours, but I’m pretty sure it was Jed. He would draw sigils himself as a magic practice. It’s a way to focus one’s intention and manifest desires or protection. Initially this was just a personal practice, it wasn’t really intended as art, or, if I’m totally honest, fully magic. I’ve always been fascinated by letterforms at a sort of basic level. When I was a kid/teen I would doodle alphabets, it’s kind of surprising to me that I didn’t become a type designer…anyway, I think I sort of pretended that I was making them for magic purposes, these letterform symbol doodles, but really I think I just enjoyed manipulating the familiar forms into unfamiliar and pleasing symbols. So I guess my influences were my friends, who were using them for their more serious magic practices, and some sort of innate interest in letters. There are artists who have sort of secondarily influenced me, like Jen Bervin and Anni Albers. Albers, a weaver, often used a typewriter to make weaving patterns, and Bervin encountered these while doing a residency at The Albers Foundation and decided to make her own versions, some of which were in I’ll Drown My Book. “The Preliminary Pattern Study” (featured in 580 Split and the TIL anthology) is explicitly after them. Then there are some artists who aren’t really influences as much as sort of coincidences, people currently working in this mode. Letterpress printers Jack Stauffacher and Graham Moore are doing sort of similar things, layering letterforms, Stauffacher’s being more sigil-like than Moore’s. As well as some painters, I like Elijah Burgher, but some of those I don’t like at all, there’s one guy, Will Boone, who just seems to layer the letters on top of one another with no play of balance and form. I find those paintings to be really flat.
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 The People episode 17 with Joseph Mosconi and Feliz Lucia Molina. —Mathew Timmons and Ben White
The People: Joseph Mosconi & Feliz Lucia Molina Ep. 17
Originally broadcast on Sunday, July 20, 2014
Joseph Mosconi and Feliz Lucia Molina discuss each other’s work and the preloaded nostalgia of Full House. Plus Diana Arterian delivers William Blake action in the very first Notes From The People. Music from Richard Bott and The Fucked Up Beat and as always our insterstitial music is the song “Ocfif” by Lewis Keller.
Joseph Mosconi is the grandson of Italian orange growers and piano tuners from the dusty town of Bakersfield, CA. He is the author of Fright Catalog from Insert Blanc Press and Demon Miso / Fashion in Child from Make Now Press.
Feliz Lucia Molina is the daughter of Filipino immigrants. Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles and is the author of Undercastle from Magic Helicopter Press. She is also co-author of The Wes Letters with Ben Segal and Brett Zehner from Outpost 19.
Brian Bender: You begin All You Do Is Perceive beautifully with the poem “Which From That Time Infus’d Sweetness Into My Heart,” through which time, place, and motherhood play a critical part in introducing the book as a whole. Yet, I am particularly intrigued by the reoccurring phrase “a basket tossed weightlessly,” especially because it appears on the cover. As readers we might associate the image of the basket with the adoption of a child (or the need to give up a child) but there seems to be more to it. Can you comment on that?
Joy Katz: The basket is what the universe is about to deliver. It’s coming through the air at you: anything could be in there.
I think poems should try to make the most serious things — adopting a baby, or the last time I saw my mother alive — weightless. In the poem, I don’t want the baby, or my mother, to be too important. In life, a boy was handed to me through the air as someone with a clipboard called my name. But also, someone had handed me a glass of water just beforehand. If the baby is heavier than the drink of water, it will sink the poem, it will become sentimental. The poem tosses a lot of things at you, but, I hope, lightly.
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.
This month, I’d like to feature an interview from the fall of 2004 with poet and translator, Stacy Doris, who passed away in 2012. Doris discusses the political and poetic climate of the United States following the bombing of Afghanistan as well as the similarities between the work of poetry and the work of politics, describing both as an exchange between people. “If there’s one person who has been moved by it, you have been successful,” she says of the poetic exchange. She also reads from her book Conference (Potes & Poets, 2001), and discusses the Sufi texts that inspired the “complexity of devotion” in that work. She concludes by reading from the work of Christophe Tarkos, a major force in French poetry, whose work Doris translated (along with Chet Wiener) and appears in Christophe Tarkos: Ma Langue est Poetique–Selected Work (Roof, 2001). —Angela Buck
Stacy Doris was born in Connecticut in 1962 and died in San Francisco in January 2012. The great differences among her six books written in English and four books written in French voice intense immediacy while working through layers of traditions, forms and fields from many places and times. Books in English include Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit (Nightboat Books, 2013), The Cake Part (Publication Studio, 2011), Knot (University of Georgia Press, 2006), Cheerleader’s Guide to the World : Council Book (NY: Roof 2006), Conference (Potes & Poets, 2001), Paramour (Krupskaya, 2000) and Kildare (Roof, 1995). In French: Parlement (P.O.L 2000). La vie de Chester Steven Wiener écrite par sa femme (P.O.L, 1998), Une année à New York avec Chester (P.O.L 2000).
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
In his monthly poetry podcast, Radio Free Albion, Tony Trigilio interviews poets about their recently released or forthcoming books. Always informal, each interview is a conversation—two poets talking about the work and play of the creative process and showcasing some of the most innovative new work in contemporary poetry. In this interview, Trigilio interviews Jerome Sala.
Jerome Sala’s newest book is the poetry collection The Cheapskates (Lunar Chandelier Press, 2014). His other books of poetry include cult classics such as Spaz Attack, I am Not a Juvenile Delinquent, The Trip, Raw Deal, Look Slimmer Instantly, and Prom Night, a collaboration with artist Tamara Gonzales. His poetry and criticism have appeared in The Best American Poetry series, The Nation, Evergreen Review, Pleiades, Conjunctions, Rolling Stone, The Brooklyn Rail, and many others.
Woodland Pattern Book Center is a non-profit cultural center which houses a bookstore with over 25,000 small press titles and an art gallery which hosts exhibitions, artist talks, poetry readings, experimental films, concerts and writing workshops in the Riverwest neighborhood in Milwaukee.
This Woodland Pattern interview series will document conversations between some of the writers, artists and performers who pass through Woodland Pattern and Milwaukee.
Meg Day and Nikki Wallschlaeger read at Woodland Pattern on October 15, 2014. Below are excerpts from their reading as well as a conversation conducted via e-mail after the reading.
Meg Day, “Aubade Today,” “There’s Snow in the West,” and “Hymn to a Landlocked God”
recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, October 15, 2014.
Nikki Wallschlaeger, “Sonnet 4,” “Sonnet 13,” and “Sonnet 15”
recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, October 15, 2014.
A Conversation with James Sherry about Oops! Environmental Poetics, published by BlazeVOX, 2013.
Evelyn Reilly: You say somewhere early in the book “this entire work may be characterized as a figure of speech taken too far.” I know you might have meant this half-jokingly, but I also felt that the humor in this book was very serious. Can you talk about this a bit?
James Sherry: Well, it’s complicated in that it is funny, but a lot of readers don’t take into account the ambiguities that any writer notices in writing things down. Certainly you can go and read Jane Austin, and she has a lot of important things to say, but it’s also almost all tongue-in-cheek. I don’t think there’s very much interesting writing out there that doesn’t move between that serious tone and some humor, because everybody has to see themselves in the process of writing as being in somewhat of an absurd position.
This conversation is part of Intersecting Lineages, a series focusing on conversations with poets of color following a series of cross-community solidarity readings and panels among poets involved with organizations such as Kundiman, Cave Canem, Canto Mundo, RAWI (Radius of Arab American Writers), Institute of American Indian Arts and VONA (Voices at Our Nations Arts Foundation).
Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California as the only child of migrant farmers in 1948. These childhood experiences as well as his continued community activism, including a stint as a director of an arts space in Balboa Park converted from an occupied water tank, has shaped his writing. For the past four decades, Herrera has been a lightning bolt, a master at channeling the energy of the moment and documenting the world around him in his poetry. Known for writing on the edge of possibility and for his high-energy riffs and improvisations, Herrera has been celebrated by critics for his innovative style and constant re-inventions. This conversation was conducted shortly after Herrera won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems.
Ching-In Chen: Is it part of your writing process to write against what you’re comfortable with or known for? I’m thinking about your story about listening to John Ashbery invent a poem and feeling that you’re “condemned” to write political poetry.
Juan Felipe Herrera: When you’re a writer from the margins (or more than one margin, as Gloria Anzaldúa says), then it’s almost like a preliminary, required, or organic project to write and reclaim ourselves and our community. In the mid-80’s at the Bisbee Poetry Festival in southern Arizona, Ashbery read a piece from his new book Wave where he reconstructed a Nordic myth. I said to myself: well, he appears to be just choosing at random something he likes, reconstructing it and writing about it. I feel like I’ve been condemned to write in the manner that I write—to reclaim our history, our language, our various identities, to re-align what’s been said regarding our experience—since I started to write. Can I write like Ashbery—not in terms of style or craft, but metaphysically? Can I get out of myself that way? Can I reposition myself that way or will I be condemned to write as my own other?