Tagged: H.L. Hix

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.
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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? Continue reading

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?

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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?

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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?

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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.).

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

H.L. Hix with Kristi Maxwell

Kristi Maxwell
Kristi Maxwell

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 Kristi Maxwell’s Re- (Ahsahta Press). 

H. L. Hix: At some point during my reading of your book, the phrase “stream-of-sonority,” came into my head, by contrast with “stream-of-consciousness.” It seemed to me that the poems listen to language, adapting consciousness to it instead of adapting language to consciousness. (Or something like that—surely I’m not saying this well.) So, with that in mind, when I get to the sentence on page 45, “Logic a device that keeps wonder at bay,” I wonder if for you that listening, letting sound determine the course of the poem, is a way of letting wonder overwhelm.

Kristi Maxwell: Harvey, first of all, let me say thank you for such an attentive reading of Re-. When I was writing these poems, I often thought about a poetics of listening. In many ways, these poems are an attempt to respond to language through listening and being faithful (and unfaithful) to listening while transcribing. Continue reading

H.L. Hix with Juliana Spahr

Juliana Spahr
Juliana Spahr

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 Juliana Spahr’s Well Then There Now (Black Sparrow Books).

H. L. Hix: Early in the book, these two lines appear: “Things should be said more largely than the personal way. / Things are larger than the personal way of telling” (23). For me, these lines resonated throughout the book. They echoed back over the first section by way of reminding me of Leslie Scalapino’s assertion that “individuals in writing or speaking may create a different syntax to articulate experience, as that is the only way experience occurs.” They made me see the “swirl of connection” (47) as centripetal rather than centrifugal, and the infusion of this work with fulfillment of the demand that “poets need to know the names of things” (70) as enlarging. My question has to with its relation to the last section, “The Incinerator,” which seems to me the most “personal” part of the book in the way “personal” is often used when describing poetry: How does the attempt to say things “more largely than the personal way” inflect or temper or inform that section?

Juliana Spahr: Yes. “The Incinerator” is more personal. And yes, it is also not. Continue reading

H.L. Hix with Lily Brown

Lily Brown
Lily Brown

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 Lily Brown’s Rust or Go Missing (Cleveland State  University Poetry Center).

H. L. Hix: Near the middle of your book, there is a poem called “Knower,” and near the middle of that poem is the sentence “Here, / my trick: accompaniment.” I don’t mean to make too much of one moment in the book, but I wonder about its importance—for you personally, for this poem, for your book, for the project of knowing, for our culture—of “accompaniment.” (Just as one for instance, do the quiet woman and loud man in the title poem accompany one another, or fail to accompany one another?) I think this is a question, but in any case I’ll be interested in any way you choose to respond.

Lily Brown: The issue of accompaniment is a loaded one for me, and I think you pick up on my ambivalence with your question about “the quiet woman and the loud man” in the title poem from my book. I observed those people in a coffee shop in Berkeley, and while I have no real way of knowing whether they did or did not accompany one another, the exchange got me thinking. I was actually touched by the conversation because the man seemed to want the woman to know she would still have her coffee to accompany her, even if he went to the restroom. Perhaps he was projecting his own worry about leaving her in his utterance. Or perhaps he himself was not a person who liked to be alone. Or maybe he liked to be alone but was concerned about what that meant with regard to his significant other. By transcribing that exchange and then giving it a sort of metaphorical equivalent in the poem (“He says, while you enjoy your coffee, / I’ll go to the bathroom. // He says, here’s the light. I place it in your glass. / Here’s how light stays when I’m gone.”), I wanted to raise questions about accompaniment and maybe highlight its complexity rather than provide answers. I see that as an issue with cultural significance, actually: to give space to questions, rather than answers and to complicate notions of identity and relationships. Continue reading

H.L. Hix with Jena Osman

Jena Osman
Jena Osman

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 Jena Osman’s The Network (Fence, 2010).

H. L. Hix: In Lyric Philosophy, Jan Zwicky proposes that “Few words are capsized on the surface of language, subject to every redefining breeze. Most, though they have drifted, are nonetheless anchored, their meanings holding out for centuries against the sweep of rationalist desire.” Her focus there seems to be the contrast with history, the way words hold their own in spite of history. But as I read your etymological inquiries in The Network, your focus there is on a parallel relationship between etymology and history: words as historical archives, reference not only as designation of a present object but also of a historical continuum. How far off base am I in that reading?

Jena Osman: I don’t think I’m trying to argue that words are completely flexible, bending entirely to the historical moment. As Zwicky says, meanings drift but are still anchored. But I don’t believe those meanings exist out of context—there isn’t some kind of platonic ideal of words lurking out there outside of their use. Words are the product of their usage, and I’m interested in trying to map out those uses. As I say in the book, if I could follow the history of the words I’m looking at, maybe I could understand the history of the times. But I’m not a linguist, so this is more of a fantasy than a reality. The word maps I trace in The Network are thoroughly amateur, the product of my trying to “translate” the entries I found in a book by Eric Partridge called Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. Continue reading

H.L. Hix with Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani
Anis Shivani

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 Anis Shivani’s My Tranquil War and Other Poems (New York Quarterly Books, 2012).

H. L. Hix: I want to frame my question by juxtaposing two excerpts. In doing so, I know I’m taking them out of context, but I’m curious whether you see anything apt about the conjunction, or if it’s just a misreading, a kind of petty violence to the poems. Is there any sense in which this whole collection could be taken as a set of “angles of surmise” (96), points of view taken toward “panoramas” that are “refusing to unfold by script” (28)?

 Anis Shivani: Thank you so much, Harvey, for this insightful question. Perhaps refusing to unfold by script is the way things unfold by script now? Your pairing of the two poems, “Twenty-Six Angles of Surmise” and “Perpetually Ascending GNP,” from which your two quotes come, is astute. In the first I am taking familiar terms—limited arbitrarily by the number of letters in the alphabet, but mocking by that act the perceived limitability of language—and redeploying them in the interest of a laxative poetry, a poetry that looks at things as they exist and perceives correspondences that complicate the meanings of both words and definitions. Words are useless without definitions, and official culture, which surrounds us like an embryo is surrounded by protective amniotic fluid, insists on precise definitions. Hence dictionaries. Hence the abuse of the dictionary form in this particular poem. Hence the abuse of abuse. Continue reading

Lia Purpura with H.L. Hix

Lia Purpura
Lia Purpura

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 Lia Purpura’s Rough Likeness (Sarabande 2011). 

H. L. Hix: I am repeatedly drawn in these essays to the lists they contain. (As for example the lists on pages 29-30, 43, 67, 73-84 [the essay is structured as a list], 86-87, 147-48.) To what extent, or in what way, is the list a synecdoche (a microcosm? an analogy?) of the essay? In asking the question, I have in mind places at which you may already imply an answer, such as at the end of “Gray”: “And here I am, outside, giving thanks. I’m starting by noting every gray thing” (96).

Lia Purpura: A list is a savory thing. In a hearty list, objects mingle and bump up against: think winter soups, not consommé. Continue reading