Rusty Morrison with Elena Karina Byrne

Elena Karina
Elena Karina Byrne

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! This conversation focuses on Elena Karina Byrne’s book, Squander. –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison: I felt such delight when I first read your manuscript and experienced your deft, surprising control of image as it reflects and refracts ideation. In your poems, new understanding comes to us through both mimetic and metaphoric surface tension, achieved with choices of diction, lexicon, sonic techniques, and more. A rich tension of excitement of surface elements is in fluid continuity with the deeper meanings of the work. Can you discuss your use of image and trope? Your approach to image and how it informs your craft as a poet?

Rusty Morrison with Jennifer S Cheng

Jennifer Cheng
Jennifer S Cheng

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! This conversation focuses on Jennifer S Cheng’s book, HOUSE A. –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison: It is such a great pleasure for all of the poetry editors at Omnidawn that Claudia Rankine selected HOUSE A as the winner of our 1st/2nd Book Prize. As one of the blind readers who screens work for this and for all of our poetry contests, I recall my delight to see this manuscript in the blind submissions. I immediately recognized that this work had come to us before, in shorter form, through our chapbook contest. It had not won, yet I knew it to be an amazing work in chapbook form. Then reading it for this contest, I was stunned by the power of HOUSE A, and all that is included now in this text as a full book. Would you speak to the ways that the sections cohere, and how you made decisions to bring the text together in this form?

Jennifer S Cheng: Inside the book, there are: migratory birds, (un)tethered boats, water, sleep, the body in dislocation, shadows, mappings, weather systems, echolocation, nests, moons. Which is to say that all of our work as writers and artists are like maps of our obsessions, our preoccupations, our hauntings. I started writing “Letters to Mao” in summer months, and most of the prose poems in that series came quickly (which rarely happens for me; I am usually slow like a snail). I work mostly by intuition, and it made sense to me that other poems I subsequently wrote—those in the sequence “House A; Geometry B” and the series “How to Build an American Home”—were of a similar attunement and investigation. Maybe I can call it the poetics of an immigrant home: how the body is inscribed with a cosmology of home and vice versa. How, for example, are the subtleties of history, displacement, and migration woven into the shelter my parents made for me and my siblings? In all three sections, I am writing into a critical and personal silence, and I hope that by evoking the shadows and subterranean, I complicate the immigrant landscape, conjure the small layers it can carry.

Rusty Morrison with Erín Moure on translating Chus Pato

Erín Moure and Chus Pato (photo credit: Xoel Gómez)
Erín Moure and Chus Pato (photo credit: Xoel Gómez)

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! This conversation focuses on Erín Moure’s translation of Chus Pato’s  Flesh of Leviathan.  –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison: I could not believe our luck, and your faith in us, when you offered Omnidawn your translation of Chus Pato’s Flesh of Leviathan. I imagine that many readers will be very familiar with Chus Pato’s history and writings, but some may not be. I think it would be wonderful if you’d share what will be most engaging, most relevant to a new reader regarding this text, its importance, its position in Chus Pato’s trajectory.

Rusty Morrison with Cassandra Smith

Cassandra Smith
Cassandra Smith

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! –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison: Cassie! How to begin an interview with you!? I’ve known you so many years, and I have such enormous respect for your canny insight into the art of writing and trajectories of poetic practice in our current era. And Omnidawn has been so lucky to have the great benefit of your prowess as an editor and book designer for us. It is a deep pleasure to be talking with you, now, not just about poetry, but about your poetry. I’m very excited that you have a manuscript coming out soon with Called Back Books, and we are thrilled to be publishing u&i, which does share with your previous poetry, in tone and tensions, some of the irreverence your work reflects in relation to the“lyric I.” But this text, u&i, seems be using a very different lens of technique or techniques, as it delves into that territory or territories. Can you speak to the ways that this work disarms, diverts, destabilizes a reader, as well as the agent of voice, which is nearly but never entirely disarmed of its agency, even as the sentences read with such luminous clarity?

Rusty Morrison with Barbara Claire Freeman

Barbara Claire Freeman
Barbara Claire Freeman

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! –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison: I first read your poetry when you were a winner of the Boston Review/Discovery Prize. That piqued my interest and so I was glad to see your first collection, Incivilities, published by Counterpath Press, receive such impressive endorsements: Judith Butler and Timothy Donnelly. Impossible to convey substantively their claims for the book, but I’ll just highlight two of the issues raised that especially engaged me: Judith Butler’s astute perception that in your “extraordinary collection .… the syllables somehow stand [as] insistent scraps of language pushed beyond the possibility of narrative sequence by forms of destruction”; and Timothy Donnelly’s insight that “Freeman’s poetry carries with it the hope that we might restore to sense what experience’s avalanche undoes .… yet … [the poems] entertain, half-tragically, the possibility of such restoration only as long as the sentence proposes it.” Though the reader of Every Day But Tuesday will experience similarly searing insight into the injustices of economic, interpersonal, ecological crises, the constellating force of the form of this new work speaks to a reader in ways few, if any, other books of poetry achieve. I sense the work proposing syntactically, tonally, perhaps even etymologically in its diction choices, that while truth is transient, contextual, shifting, and not to be referenced or uncovered in the interrogations of event, it is, as Derrida suggests, contained in movement, only in movement. And the poems are indeed in constant movement even as they both alert me to, and alter continually, my expectations of arrival. It is the movement from word to word, line to line, sentence to sentence, the formal rigor and what it evokes, which stuns me, and illuminates so much more of the irresolvable in our natures than words themselves can articulate. Still, I want to ask you to talk about it! Can you speak to the crafting of these sentences and the evolution of this groundbreaking text, which mesmerizes as its music brings us to the brink of our lives’ implacable mayhem?

Rusty Morrison with Margaret Ross

Margaret Ross
Margaret Ross

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! –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison: The poetry editors here at Omnidawn (myself included) are the blind readers who screen for our poetry contests, and then send our selected manuscripts to the judge. We were delighted that A Timeshare was the manuscript selected by Timothy Donnelly for our First/Second Book Contest. The manuscript demonstrated fluency in current conventions of craft, yet showed, too, an infectious freshness, an alertness, a willingness to break through what is normative in poetry culture, which is one of the qualities that most excite when reading first and second books. But rarely do we find that freshness to be so fully integrated in a manuscript. Can you discuss your relationship to craft: have you been writing poems like those in A Timeshare for some time? Where did the book begin?

Margaret Ross: The poems were written between 2009 and 2014 but the way they’re written started with a feeling I first got in 1996 from a movie called Powers of Ten. The opening shot is two actors by a lake and the camera zooms out by a power of ten every ten seconds. A meter, ten meters, a hundred, etc., the ground becomes the planet, the solar system, galaxy, until the screen’s at the scale of the observable universe. Then it zooms in and moves by a power of negative ten into one actor’s hand, recognizable tissue down to quarks in an atom’s proton. The whole thing takes less than ten minutes. I was ten and watching, I felt something like what Bishop describes in the waiting room, realizing for the first time “how ‘unlikely’” it is to be simultaneously floating and stuck, that every second of life is as vertiginous as it is claustrophobic. Of course it’s something you keep realizing as your relationship to space keeps changing. Not only outer but inner space too, and places, rooms, durations. The movie moved along a vertical axis but the way it construed a person as participant in multiple scales is as true along the horizontal, the temporal. This shifting sense of what scale you’re living at—you’re deep inside yourself one moment, then close to somebody else, then to multiple others, to a memory, a history, an object, objects, an economy, a different person, a system, a power structure, an environment. And the question of what feels proportionate—emotionally, ethically, actually—gets constantly recalibrated.

Rusty Morrison with Andrea Baker

Andrea Baker
Andrea Baker

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! –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison with Bin Ramke

Bin Ramke
Bin Ramke

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! –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison with Joseph Massey

Joseph Massey
Joseph Massey

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! –Rusty Morrison 

This interview concerns Joseph Massey’s book, To Keep Time

Rusty Morrison: Can you speak to the title and how it resonates through the poems in this collection?

Joseph Massey: To Keep Time, to seize a moment or a series of moments in motion before they degrade into memory, is an impossible task for the poem — for any work of art. There is no such thing as time, anyway, in the linear sense of the word. Phenomenal experience has no margins; but the poem defies that condition by attempting to say anything at all. I like that tension, that reach — I think, I hope, it’s what holds the book together.

Rusty Morrison with Joshua Corey

joshua corey
Joshua Corey

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! –Rusty Morrison

This interview concerns Joshua Corey’s book The Barons.

Rusty Morrison with Ewa Chrusciel

Ewa Chrusciel
Ewa Chrusciel

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! –Rusty Morrison