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?
Essay Press’s EP series showcases authors currently developing new book-length projects. EP 24, Notes from a Missing Person,by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, is part of this digital series.
Maria Anderson: In the introduction to Notes from a Missing Person, you talk about this chapbook as a “tentative doorway” you’ve “cut from all the fissures and fractures” you accumulated, a way of putting new life into these family connections you’ve been investigating. You write, “whether one reunites or not, one transgresses by way of the dream.” Can you talk about this dream, and about how you access it?
Jennifer Kwon Dobbs: The dream is for a language that can summon intimacies blocked by power structures—namely, U.S. militarism, forced family separation, and gendered and class violence against single mothers—which configured my imagination to see my Korean relatives as dead. I suppose this is the dream of anyone who, unlike the immigrant pursuing a better life in another country, did not choose to remove herself or himself from home and who recognizes retrieving an intact past is impossible. Instead, there’s the possibility of injecting fresh language to enliven and so challenge fictions of death and distance. This language begins in the body to re-animate areas of feeling in order to create. For example, for me, learning Korean has meant dismantling a silence built by decades of assimilation where I did not know myself as a Korean diasporic woman, and understanding how that silence was made while my mouth tingled and ached, trying to wrap around Korean words I never knew in the first place.
Later this year, The Conversant and Essay Press will publish a chapbook, curated by Brian Kim Stefans, devoted to exploring the diversity of communities and historical trajectories shaping Los Angeles-based poetics. Here we offer, as an excerpt from that chapbook, a conversation between Wanda Coleman and Paul Vangelisti, conducted in the months preceding Coleman’s recent death.
The Conversant is happy to announce its merger with Essay Press. Andy Fitch will be Essay’s new editor. Cristiana Baik will be its managing editor. Christopher Schmidt will serve as editor at large. We look forward to working with Essay’s founding editors Catherine Taylor, Stephen Cope and Eula Biss. Here we offer Fitch’s 2011 interview with Taylor concerning Essay Press. This interview first appeared in Cream City Review 36.1.
Andy Fitch: You’ve founded respected publications before, the Harwood Review and New Ohio Review. Could we start by discussing if, initially, you’d thought of Essay Press as an extension of those projects, if you envisioned the press making a pointed intervention into contemporary publishing (specifically into creative nonfiction or poetry, or as critique of any clear demarcation between those fields)?
Catherine Taylor: It’s true I’ve done many publishing projects. I think they’re all just symptoms of the way I live and work. But in terms of intervention: It might be too programmatic, or ascribe too much intention to say I meant to make an intervention. I just responded to a perceived lack. I was teaching creative nonfiction but struggling to find the kind of work I wanted to teach. I’d wanted to teach more innovative pieces, pieces that challenged students in terms of form or politics or were just a bit less mainstream than the essays that tend to get featured in anthologies. That was my first motivation. I was looking for pieces. And realizing they were in literary journals, some already defunct, and that there really wasn’t a place in the publishing world where my students and I could access this work. I thought, Well, I could start a press that gave essayists and creative nonfiction writers a home in the way poets had. And that became the model, that you can return to your favorite poetry book year after year, but it’s hard to return to a great essay you saw in an obscure journal six years ago if you’re not schlepping around your old journal copies. Sometimes I do that and sometimes I don’t.