H.L. Hix with Naomi Ward

H.L. Hix and Naomi Ward
H.L. Hix and Naomi Ward

Concerns traditionally central to poetics (pity and fear; to delight and to teach; truth, beauty; etc.) also matter in other domains of inquiry. This is the first installment of a series of interviews that pursue such “poetic” concerns with practitioners of other domains of inquiry, such as science and philosophy. When they were paired in a recent collaborative project involving scientists and artists, hosted by the Ucross Foundation, H. L. Hix took the opportunity to interview microbiologist Naomi Ward about her recent work, with particular focus on her recent paper disclosing a discovery about the bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A.

Jonathan Weinert with H.L. Hix

H.L. Hix
H.L. Hix

Jonathan Weinert sat down to talk with H. L. Hix during the AWP Conference in Seattle, Washington, on March 1, 2014. They discussed Hix’s latest book of poems, As Much As, If Not More Than, just released by Etruscan Press, as well as his online project IN QUIRE and his critical project Alter Nation, forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse, from which some of his recent poetic material derives.

Jonathan Weinert: These lines, from the poem “A Falling Thing on Fire from Its Fall,” seem to me to address in a rather explicit way the strategies that you use in your new book, As Much As, If Not More Than:

To transform my spills into progress, I try to rhyme
observational studies, developed over time,

with spontaneous, dispersed experiments
meant to surprise laws whose operations we can’t see.
That something is colossal does not make it permanent.
Give me entanglement, and you can keep grandeur.
The built loses to the improvisational.
Its being impossible does not make vain
an attempt to redefine the dominant powers.

As the introductory material states, the notion of this book derives in part from artist statements. As I was reading the book, especially its second section, “As Much As,” I began to feel that you were making something like artist statements in almost every poem, and I started looking at each poem as kind of a statement about its own strategy. I’m interested in what the poems say about your strategy, but I’m also interested in the idea of the artist statement as a strategy. Could you talk about that a little bit?

H.L. Hix with Susan Gillis

Susan Gillis
Susan Gillis

In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Susan Gillis’ The Rapids.

H. L. Hix: Two terms in the very first poem caught my eye, and I began to see them everywhere. Some version of “limitless music” seems to me present in “Sleep,” “Ars Poetica,” “Entry,” “River” and “Mid-Winter Dragon,” and some version of “troubled origins” seems to me present in “Sanguinaria canadensis,” “Spring Pries at Me,” “Habitat 67,” “Entry,” “A Good Plan,” “Birthday” and “Retreating Ice.” Which leads me to ask about the book as a whole: is it limitless music or a kit of troubled origins?

H.L. Hix with Julie Bruck

Julie Bruck
Julie Bruck

In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Julie Bruck’s book Monkey Ranch.

H. L. Hix: “The Change” ends (and ends the book’s first section) with a question in italics: “What does it mean to love / the life we’ve been given?” The book is filled with animals—from “normal” dogs and cats to horses—but also, in several poems, the monkeys that give the book its title. In this book, are these animals guides to answering that question?

H.L. Hix with Brian Henderson

Brian Henderson
Brian Henderson

In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Brian Henderson’s book Sharawadji.

H. L. Hix: “As if” recurs frequently in English usage, so I don’t want to attribute to it more importance than you mean for it to have, but it seems to have unusual importance in these poems; I counted twenty instances of it in the book, and maybe there are others I didn’t catch. Is “as if” important to this work? Are these poems especially attuned to that mode of hypothesis?

H.L. Hix with Jan Conn

Jan Conn
Jan Conn

In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Jan Conn’s Edge Effects.

H.L. Hix: Though the poems in Edge Effects occupy “this intermediate realm,” they enter others frequently, and suddenly; they “superimpose / one horizon onto another.” I’m no mathematician and no scientist, but I think I “get” the concept of self-similarity at all scales, as it gets emphasized in popular accounts of fractals, and I wonder if some version of “self-similarity at all scales” is at work in the movement from one realm to another in these poems (from the music of the spheres, to my being “dog-eared and decadent”; from “a train / racing overhead” to “ground level / among the centipedes and beetles”; etc.).

H.L. Hix with Sue Sinclair

Sue Sinclair
Sue Sinclair

In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Sue Sinclair’s Breaker.

H.L. Hix: I am struck by the ambiguity of the book’s very last poem, “Asleep,” especially its last line. “We sleep side-by-side with eternity, and never touch” might mean that we two humans (the speaker and the particular person being addressed by the speaker) sleep, both of us alongside eternity, and we two humans never touch one another, or it might mean that we humans each of us individually sleeps alongside eternity, and we never touch eternity. (The line might sustain other meanings as well.) No doubt the ambiguity is intentional, so I do not ask you to “settle the matter” by removing the ambiguity, but I do ask: How does the line’s ambiguity cast back over the poems that preceded it in the book? Does it magnify other ambiguities?

H.L. Hix with Erin Knight

Erin Knight
Erin Knight

In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Erin Knight’s Chaser

H. L. Hix: The epigraph from The Plague (“Ah,” Rieux said, “a man can’t cure and know at the same time. So let’s cure as quickly as we can. That’s the more urgent job.”) seems like a clue about how to read the book, but I’m curious about what kind of clue. Rieux’s position is that one can’t cure and know, so better just to cure. Chaser is full of poems in which the relation between curing and knowing matters. Is it written in affirmation of Rieux’s position or as an “argument” against Rieux’s position, a way of saying that we can’t separate curing and knowing?

H.L. Hix with Karl Jirgens

Karl Jirgens
Karl Jirgens

In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is the journal Rampike, edited by Karl Jirgens.  

H. L. Hix: In your introduction to the current issue (21:1) of Rampike, you speak of “moving towards revisionist understandings of discourse.” The texts (and images) you include in the issue move toward revisionist understandings, but so does the issue as a whole. How would you speak of your editorial role as a movement toward a revisionist understanding of discourse?

H.L. Hix with Lisa Fishman

Lisa Fishman
Lisa Fishman

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Lisa Fishman’s Flower Cart (Ahsahta Press).

H. L. Hix: I keep returning to this sentence on the next-to-last page of the book: “This could continue only by being a letter because what is most real is the person in the alcove or the object on the table or the shimmering idea.” I think I’m drawn to it because it gives me a way to talk about why your book so resonates with me: I take it as—whatever else it’s also doing—undertaking an intense inquiry into what is most real, on the tacit premise that typically we don’t recognize the most real as the most real. I’m not coming up with a good way to end this “question” with a question mark, but I will be interested in any way you have of responding to it.

Lisa Fishman: I like your question-comment a lot. It appeals to me, the possibility that flowercart could be an inquiry into what is most real. Intuitively, I would like that to be the case, among whatever else the book is or is doing or undertaking.

H.L. Hix with Jacqueline Jones LaMon

Jones LaMon
Jacqueline Jones LaMon

This interview by H.L. Hix continues a series that began as multi-question interviews but now has taken the form of one-question “mini-interviews.” To ask a series of questions about a book is to keep returning to the book and thus to emphasize its opacity, to regard it as one would regard, say, a painting. To ask a single question, Hix tells himself, is to emphasize the book’s transparency, to regard it as one would a window, as what offers a vista, what frames for us a world. The subject of this interview is Jones LaMon’s book Last Seen (University of Wisconsin Press).

H. L. Hix: Near the end of “Preface” (11), you speak of the children’s “collective voice” as what you strain to hear. Yet the poems themselves seem especially attentive to individual voices. What for you is the relationship between individual voices and collective voices, in these poems and in relation to the children?

Jacqueline Jones LaMon: First of all, thank you so very much for taking the time to read the collection with such attention and care. And thank you for your question. Last Seen was inspired by the hundreds of long-term missing African American children who have historically been overlooked by our national media. It is a collection that evolved in focus and definition, from being a collection about those missing children to being a broader exploration of what it means to be missing or lost in our society and how that void is experienced by all those who remain present and connected to each other.