Andy Fitch with Travis Nichols

Travis Nichols
Travis Nichols

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.

Andy Fitch: Somewhere you’ve suggested that Iowa explores the art of memory, using the sentence for its elemental stitchery—as happens in Joe Brainard’s I Remember and Lyn Hejinian’s My Life. Yet while many readers may expect prose syntax to prompt further elucidation and narrative cohesion than poetic lines do, the opposite seems to occur here. So perhaps we could start to explore related rhetorical tensions by tracking the place and progress of time throughout the book. Readers encounter statements such as “I, swirling and flowing past us into every artery and every thing, was the time.” Elsewhere, Iowa’s “I” ponders whether “My Time Hand” has gone pink from gazes. Later, this same passage closes off its episode by declaring “That was the first time I tried it.” Could you put into relation Iowa’s sentence-based thrust, its prose-block framing and its fluid/static conceptions of time?

Travis Nichols: Narrative in its most basic received form is: Born, Lived, Died. This depresses me. I don’t think it’s “true,” or no more “true” than any other form so clichéd as to become invisible. I feel different experiences of my life recurring at different times—my childhood experiences aren’t isolated to the time when they first occurred, because I’m re-coding and re-traumatizing and re-living them through memory, dreams, storytelling and also through my senses, every day. When I hear a song I used to listen to all the time as a kid, but not often since (pick any of the 8-Track of Funny Bone Favorites for examples!), it sends me back through my earlier experiences in ways often so striking and vivid that I’m incapacitated. If I didn’t know better I’d probably crash my car or get picked up by the police for vagrancy. The second, third, fourth or fifth time is just as real as the first, and in some ways is more so, because it’s re-enforcing the cognitive grooves that had been laid by the first experience. Is my first memory of curling up inside my green plastic frog toybox as the sunlight streamed in “real” or just something I’ve been told happened to me and so it has become real in the telling? Yes, which is what makes it so rich and real to me.

Andy Fitch with Edmund Berrigan

Edmund Berrigan
Edmund Berrigan

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.

Andy Fitch: Could we start with somewhat abstract questions of autobiography? Can It!’s foreword, for instance, celebrates two types of reading experience: the processual encounter with an idiosyncratic, hybridized form “in which seemingly disparate elements unite into a wonderful, though not particularly intentional, whole”; and the fortuitous discovery of “found” texts that have “escaped their previous intentions and arrived elsewhere”—far from their purported purpose. Can we consider our own random life experiences similarly “found,” seemingly disparate, not particularly intentional, only potentially coherent or unified? Does Can It!’s fusion of nonfiction memoir, fictional story, poetic cut-up provide, in this regard, a logical means of constructing autobiography?

Edmund Berrigan: I prefer to think of Can It! as a book of poems. Maybe the question is what can you really relate about a person’s perception of life. A memoir, autobiography or whatever a person presents about their lives can only ever be an incredible reduction of the total experience. Can It! is an attempt to express multiple levels of experience. It made sense to use multiple forms and modes, all of which I think I had worked in previously. In my view of the book all of the forms blend together, poetry turning into prose, cut-up turning into biography, with a recasting of impulses in a couple of the cross-out pieces. I usually don’t predetermine content, but rather make an account of whatever is accumulating. So I could pick a form, pick a different form, let some time pass, and a set of experiences would develop.

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.

Andy Fitch with Cole Swensen

Cole Swensen
Cole Swensen. Photo Courtesy of Carl Sokolow.

Ugly Duckling Presse has just released Andy Fitch’s interview collection Sixty Morning Talks. Here Fitch interviews Cole Swensen about her book Gravesend. Recorded June 25th and July 20th. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Andy Fitch: Could we first contextualize Gravesend amid a sequence of your research-based collections? Ours, for example, comes to mind. What draws you to book-length projects, and do you consider them serialized installments of some broader, intertextual inquiry? Does the significance of each text change when placed beside the others? Or do they seem discrete and self-contained?

Andy Fitch with Anselm Berrigan

Anselm Berrigan
Anselm Berrigan

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.

Andy Fitch: Can we start with the Free Cell acknowledgments page? Here this 2009 City Lights collection goes out of its way to present Edge Books as your “primary publisher,” and even offers a brief timeline of Rod Smith’s founding of the press. What type of gesture did you wish to make with this acknowledgement? Why align oneself as a writer in this way? Did you want to demonstrate ongoing loyalty to a hardworking small-press publisher who gave you crucial early support? Do you appreciate the art-world model of a gallery cultivating/representing its selected “stable”? Can the symbiotic models of family-hood, of civic citizenship (both of which I hope we’ll discuss in detail later) extend to the relation between poet and publisher?

Andy Fitch with Aaron Kunin

Aaron Kunin
Aaron Kunin

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.

Andy Fitch: Could we start by contextualizing Grace Period amid your broader literary output? Some readers may assume that an author’s notebooks only could supplement his/her “serious” work. Some aphorists, some masters of the portrait or miniature or serial poem, may consider the notebook a genre like any other—with its own literary pedigree, rhetorical conventions, inherited formal or interpretive or theoretical problems. And especially since your first two poetry collections offer a circumscribed idiom, a quasi-conceptual resonance not extractable within any straightforward confessional or lyric utterance, I wonder if you see Grace Period as a real-time complement and/or extension of these poetic projects, as a fellow traveler, as a willed divergence or desecration.

Andy Fitch with David Lazar

David Lazar
David Lazar

As The Conversant continues its merger with Essay Press, we offer a 2012 conversation between Andy Fitch and Essay board member David Lazar concerning nonfiction publishing. This interview first appeared in Bookslut.

Andy Fitch: Amid the ongoing economic crisis, one neglected tragedy has been the postponement (?) cancellation (?) of your Transgenre series with University of Iowa Press. Can we start with you describing the types of work you’d hoped to include in this series, the creative/critical/hybrid discourses in which you’d hoped to make an intervention?

David Lazar: That experience was terribly disappointing for me. I had worked with editors at the press to create a series that would publish projects difficult to publish, works that didn’t have any obvious generic category, that perhaps included elements of clearly defined genres (prose-poem, essay) but also combined elements from other genres: fiction, poetry, any kind of nonfiction. Writers I’d talk to, whose work I’m especially interested in, were frustrated that, with manuscripts that weren’t easily identifiable, publishers (even small publishers) were loathe to take a chance. So I put together a board of writers who represented the full scope of what I was interested in doing: Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Phillip Lopate, John D’Agata, Wayne Koestenbaum, and set out to identify works that I thought might be an amenable first group in the series. I was also interested in re-publishing work by women, especially essays that had disappeared or were absurdly out of print. I had been working, in the magazine I created and edit, Hotel Amerika, to publish works I call transgeneric. I’d hoped that the Iowa series would help such works see the light of day. I’ve always promoted work that I thought represented exquisite displays of writing from clearly defined genres as well, especially prose-poetry and essays. In any case, it didn’t happen. I’d be happy to re-locate.

Andy Fitch with Amaranth Borsuk

Amaranth Borsuk
Amaranth Borsuk

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 Amaranth Borsuk’s and Brad Bouse’s book Between Page and Screen (Siglio Press). Recorded August 30th. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Andy Fitch: Since it probably requires a new form of physical effort from most readers, can you first describe our experience encountering this book?

Amaranth Borsuk: Sure. When you encounter the book, you find a square-shaped object with a patterned, red-white-and-black block printed at its center. When you open the book, you don’t find printed poems but more black-and-white symbols. The only text you can read provides author names, mine and Brad Bouse’s and instructions to go to betweenpageandscreen.com, where you can “hold the words in your hands.” When you arrive at the website and click on a link, you receive instructions to present one of these black-and-white markers to your webcam. When you do, a live image appears on the computer screen. You see your hands holding the open book, and once one of those printed markers becomes visible to the webcam, a poem pops vertically off the page. This part resembles a pop-up book but with text instead of shapes or images. This text stands vertically with respect to the plane of the page. As you turn the book’s pages, the projected digital text also turns, so that it seems to hover above a page like a hologram. As you flip the book’s pages, poems explode and their letters fly in all directions. And in between epistolary poems (consisting of love letters between P and S) you find concrete poems, anagrammatic or paragrammatic poems, each of which provides a different animation for how it disappears from view.

Andy Fitch with Bhanu Kapil

Bhanu Kapil Rider
Bhanu Kapil

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 Kapil’s book,  Schizophrene (Nightboat). Recorded November 1st. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Andy Fitch: You’ve described this edition of Schizophrene as a mutation of its predecessor. Could you discuss what has changed, and the motivations or circumstances behind those changes? What only can be arrived at through mutation? How does mutation-based composition facilitate and/or complicate your ongoing efforts to develop a book or sentence or narrative that “never arrives”?

Bhanu Kapil: Before you called I tried to find a copy of Schizophrene. Fittingly, I found one that is neither the first nor second edition, but a literal mutation that Lucas de Lima sent to me with a letter. Hang on. I shall open it. It says: “Enclosed is an occult copy of Schizophrene. Hope you don’t mind me saying that I love both versions of the book. So did most students, who thought the repeated pages were intentional, as did I.” Around page 19 this version repeats. Following the line ” ‘Reverse migration. . . ‘ Is psychotic,” the book just starts again. But not only does it restart. It condenses and excludes some sections. Perhaps 100 similar copies have circulated. Lucas has written about it on the Montevidayo blog. Though my own emphasis upon mutation comes from the thinking of Elizabeth Grosz, as communicated to me by her protégé Andrea Spain. Andrea and I will teach a workshop on this topic next summer at Naropa. From Grosz I take the notion of non-reproductive productivity. The larger the number of generative acts that do not result in “progeny,” the faster a species’ outer boundaries evolve. Mating need not involve childbirth. The mutations always occur in another place, a place not visible as a boundary, but which precedes a boundary. This pre-space or activity vibrates with the limit of what that space will become. Schizophrene, in its notebook form, presents both an installation and a staging ground. In fact the bulk of this project does not reside in the finished book, but in many notebooks and documents that contain my research on psychosis, immigrant experience, touch.

Andy Fitch with Lisa Robertson

LIsa Robertson
Lisa Robertson

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 Robertson’s book, Nilling (BookThug). Recorded July 3rd. Transcribed by Maia Spotts. 

Andy Fitch: Could we start with the acknowledgments, with the ongoing occasional nature of your prose projects? First, do these various professional alibis serve as a corrective prompt to some shyness on your part? Do they allow you to say things you otherwise wouldn’t? Do they deliberately demonstrate your active engagement with specific traditions, discourses, audiences, communities? What continues to compel you to foreground the institutionally constructed nature of these investigations?

Lisa Robertson: Much of my critical prose remains occasional simply because I don’t have much time. When I write a catalogue essay (as in the case of some Soft Architecture pieces) or give a lecture (as with most of the Nilling projects), I try to make that occasion work toward my own current interests. Here I had the idea to construct a book of linked essays, loosely exploring a conceptual field and used a series of lecture invitations to explore that concept. I never have the time to both fulfill my institutional invitations and to write an unrelated book. I work slowly and just can’t crank out six essays. Similarly, back when I started The Office for Soft Architecture’s occasional works, I supported myself as a freelance writer so had to find a means of bringing my economic life together with my research and creative interests. I suppose I foreground these contexts out of gratitude.

Andy Fitch with Lytle Shaw

Lytle Shaw

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.