Rusty Morrison with Karla Kelsey

Karla Kelsey
Karla Kelsey

Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process which brought them to the moment of completion that we call a book. As Omnidawn’s co-publisher and senior poetry editor, I’ve had that great good fortune. It finally occurred to me that the readers and reviewers of these books might enjoy hearing some of this talk, too. Of course, a book of poetry needs no introduction or liner notes. But I’m always interested in any stories about how and where authors’ intentions and the actual creative work tangle together. So I started asking each of our authors a few questions in writing, and then enclosing these “interviews” with our advance/review copies. When the book is published, I post the interview on the book’s web page. The Conversant’s editors have asked if they might select some of those interviews to publish. It is my pleasure to say yes! The subject of this interview is Karla Kelsey’s forthcoming A Conjoined Book.

Rusty Morrison: Here, in this text, are two books that are so inextricably intertwined. There are so many ways in which each one complicates, compliments, interrogates, intervenes in the other! Can you speak to how this project came about? And then some of the ways the subjects engage each other?

Karla Kelsey, Aaron McCollough with Carla Harryman, Catherine Meng

Carla Harryman and Catherine Meng
Carla Harryman and Catherine Meng

Karla Kelsey and Aaron McCollough, editors of SplitLevel Texts, talk to their latest authors, Carla Harryman and Catherine Meng, about their new books.

Karla Kelsey & Aaron McCollough: Catherine and Carla—thank you for doing this interview with us. We are so pleased to release both of your books as the second “pairing” of SplitLevel Text titles. The first question is broad but comes out of working so closely with W—/M— and The Longest Total Solar Eclipse of the Century, and speculating about process. We wonder if you could describe the relationship that you had to time when you were composing your books and whether or not it shifted during development and, if so, how. Do you feel your books are “of” or “in” a certain time? “About” or “at?”

Catherine Meng: Most of my work is the product of self-imposed constraints. I prefer to write first drafts in forms or off of word lists in particular. I find a sort of security once I assign myself perimeters in which to write into. In this instance, it was Daniil Kharms’s mandate in The Blue Notebook to write every day “at least half a page”—if you don’t write at least write “today I wrote nothing.”