Thomas Fink is a frequent contributor to The Conversant. The subject of this interview is Jill Magi’s SLOT (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011). You can read part I of this interview here.
Thomas Fink: Please tell me about your development of a relation between some of the photos in SLOT—especially those of the expressive hands—and the poetic text.
Jill Magi: You ask about the photographs. I recently wrote an essay on poetry and photography for Poetry Northwest. Here is a snippet:
As I worked on SLOT, I intuited that page after page of text only was not ideal, even if that text contained the visual via description and self-reflexive language on the act of looking. SLOT is about resisting landscaped memory in the post-disaster experience. Looking, including looking away and not picturing, is key in this work that asserts the importance of the personal gesture (incorporated memory) amid official versions of an experience (inscribed memory). The photos in SLOT attempt a turn away from received images of the World Trade Center disaster while refusing erasure.
I note the presence of my hands in the photos: untangling string and uncovering veiled museum brochures. I think of the common Estonian greeting my father taught me: “how does your hand go?” where “how are you doing?” is indicated by how well you are making, working.
Last summer, Andy Fitch interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Shaw’s book, Fieldworks: From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics (University of Alabama Press). Recorded June 11th. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.
Andy Fitch: Could you give a quick genealogical account of prominent concepts and practices at play in postwar site-specific art—as these relate to the history of late-20th-century poetic experiment? Perhaps we first can consider “field,” for example, as physical terrain, as social space, as point of interdisciplinary contact.
Lytle Shaw: The most obvious terms appear in this book’s title, which foregrounds a poetics of place in certain postwar literary projects and a turn toward site specificity in art. After publishing my 1999 book Cable Factory 20, which emulated site-specific work, I wanted to tell myself a history of site-specific art’s relation to the poetics of place. But most work coming out of a poetics-of-place tradition embarrassed me—whereas Smithson, particularly his version of site specificity, fascinated me. Of course Williams and Olson didn’t embarrass me, so much as how this poetic impulse got domesticated into a workshop mode by the late ’70s. You no longer had to proceed reflexively. You could just represent yet another place through lyric form.
Over the summer, Andy Fitch interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Brown’s book Flowering Mall (Roof). Recorded June 21st. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.
Andy Fitch: I’ll want to discuss why the Baudelairean emphasis works so well, but could we start more broadly, perhaps with New Narrative? What about past or current New Narrative projects most informs this book? Does Kathy Acker provide an important point of historical reference? Do you consider Flowering Mall to be in conversation with recent poetry/prose, memoir-/research-based, lyric/anti-lyric projects by Rob Halpern, Dana Ward, Thom Donovan?
Brandon Brown: Absolutely. I’ll start with Kathy Acker, who is extremely important for me, especially for the book’s vampire piece. That piece, which I wrote first for this book, came out of a sustained reading through Acker’s writing. I crib some forms of horror and violence and abjection from Acker. But then more broadly: I moved to the Bay Area at 19, in 1998, and have lived here since. And the work of New Narrative writers from this immediate milieu: Kevin Killian, Dodie Bellamy, Bob Glück, Bruce Boone, Camille Roy . . . nobody seems to me more relevant for a sense of politics, for a sense of the social as it intersects with politics, for a sense of experimental care. All of that shapes this book and the Catullus book I wrote just before it. As for Rob and Dana and Thom, besides being close friends, their work and influence and dozens of hours of conversation have meant more than I possibly could say.
Andy Fitch: From this project’s first line onward, we find prose formatting, often a prose pace, but also careful lineation accenting rhyme and sound play. Some sections contain blank spaces or slashes instead of punctuation. By page 20 in my manuscript copy, an “I” confesses “I lineated my prose to see if I could pass.” What draws you, as a poet, toward apparently non-poetic forms?
Jenny Zhang: Probably two things. I feel more intellectually secure with fiction. With poetry, I’m more the chubby kid making jokes about his chubbiness, or the clumsy person clowning around—preemptively pointing toward his own flaws and shortcomings and fears. And here I’ve tried to embrace as much as possible parts of me that don’t seem poetic. I’ve cultivated what you could call rants or rambles. The rant as a written and spoken form remains dear to me, helping to establish space between storytelling and narrative.
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 Schmidt’s chapbook Thermae (EOAGH, 2012) and was recorded on May 1, 2012. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.
Andy Fitch: Could we start with waste, the focus of your current scholarly project and a subject that first appears in Thermae’s Baudelarian epigraph? Is Thermae an outlet—that’s a pun in some ways—for your critical study? Did one emerge from the ruins of the other? Does one evolve out of the other? Do they both take on this role?
Christopher Schmidt: They are related. One emerges from the cloaca of the other. [Laughs.] Writing Thermae, which came after starting the critical text, helped explain to me why I’d landed on this topic of waste, what my transference to it was.