Andy Fitch with Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison
Rusty Morrison

The Conversant happily has published Rusty Morrison’s recent interviews with Omnidawn authors. Here Andy Fitch interviews Morrison about her own new book, Beyond the Chainlink.

Andy Fitch: I’ll hold off on a couple basic questions that Beyond the Chainlink raises for me concerning the communal, choral, coupled “We.” But could we move toward more concrete questions of relationality by considering a favorite concept of yours from past statements—that of “adherence”? I’ve never fully grasped this concept, and I doubt that the dictionary can help much. Could we instead start with how adherence gets embodied in a few of your preceding books? I’ve vaguely thought of the percussive, right-justified repetitions on “please,” “advise” and “stop” in The True Keeps Calm Biding Its Story as somehow tattooing the reader, mobilizing receptivity to that book’s particular tonal variations, and perhaps prompting adherence this way. Or Book of the Given seems to parse the distinction (or ask readers to parse the distinction) between vocational adherence and intertextual adjacency. But already I’m adrift in my own abstracted speculations. So how about your personal sense of adherence, your encounter with Michel Serres’ work, your ongoing engagement with this concept across multiple collections?

Rusty Morrison: In The Birth of Physics Serres proposes that “every form is draped in an infinity of adherences.” One of its myriad connotations is a powerful reminder to me: as I write each sentence, I should stay alert to what is occluded under the accumulating adherences of familiar ideation or style. I want to write with the intention to undrape, infinitely, those more typical, more initial adherences that are the outer layers, which appear most obviously to me as meaning. Beneath those, there exists a more volatile fomenting, which is forming the work, and which must be expressed by the formal construct of the work, as it is shaped on the page. When working in a new series, the first challenge is always to find the formal construct that will best enable it, and to appreciate the useful problems that this form provokes; this is an insight-liberating practice for me.

Rusty Morrison with Julie Carr

Julie Carr
Julie Carr

Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process that 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 focuses on Carr’s RAG.

Rusty Morrison: The title RAG forcefully calls to my mind what is degraded, what is easily cast off. But this is only one of the many vectors that radiate from the word “rag.” Can you speak to your choice of this title and how it provoked, compelled, engaged you as you wrote these poems?

Rusty Morrison with Gillian Conoley

Gilian Conoley
Gilian Conoley

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 focuses on Conoley’s book Peace.

Rusty Morrison: The word “peace” has so many connotations and suggests so many interpretations. It risks so much. Can you speak about how the title came to the work, and why? In answering this you might also answer: how did this book begin? Which were the first poems you wrote? When did the project begin to cohere for you?

Rusty Morrison with Endi Bogue Hartigan

Endi Bogue Hartigan
Endi Bogue Hartigan

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 focuses on Bogue Harti­­­gan’s forthcoming Omnidawn book Pool [5 choruses].

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

Rusty Morrison with Daniel Tiffany

Daniel TIffany
Daniel Tiffany

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.

The subject of this interview is Daniel Tiffany’s Neptune Park.

Rusty Morrison: The paragraph that you wrote for us about Neptune Park begins: “Some might call Neptune Park a graphic novel—minus the pictures: mumblecore, infidel pamphlet, lazy cento.” Your prose has a beguiling dazzle. A luster plays over this paragraph’s meaning, which both lures and taunts, tempts and briefly blinds with its brightness. I find this an excellent entry into poems that are “graphic” in all the ways one might read meaning into that word, including alluding to the intersection on the “graph” of language’s two axes (selection and combination), which, at the point of encounter, make a little emptiness, according to Roman Jakobson. Can you talk about how (or why, or when) you construct, in your poetry, predicaments that are never predictable as they move under a reader’s eye (little “action figures of speech,” I’d call them)?

Rusty Morrison with Sara Mumolo

Sara Mumolo
Sara Mumolo

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 focuses on Mumolo’s book Mortar.

Rusty Morrison: It is such a delight to be interviewing you because your first book is coming out with Omnidawn! You have been one of Omnidawn’s longest tenured and most important poetry editors. And it’s especially meaningful to me that I was an early reader for much of this work, since you were in my workshop at Saint Mary’s College when I was a visiting writer there. You were such a terrific student, I had to invite you to be an intern with us. What a thrill it is for me to see this book come to fruition! That it became a finalist, selected by Fanny Howe, for the 1913 Poetry Award, made it clear to us that we simply had to ask you to let us publish it. Can you say a bit about the work? What is at the core of this material for you?

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?

Rusty Morrison with Martha Ronk

Martha Ronk
Martha Ronk

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 Ronk’s book Transfer of Qualities.

Rusty Morrison: I have been an ardent reader of your books since I happened upon Eyetrouble. I recall when you read at Cody’s Books in Berkeley. I think you were reading from Why/Why Not. I introduced myself and had the audacity to ask you if you’d let Omnidawn publish a book of yours. You were so gracious! And even more marvelous is the fact that you gave us In a landscape of having to repeat, which remains one of my most beloved books. I still keep it at my writing table. It won Omnidawn our first major award, the PEN USA Poetry Prize. It’s a privilege to bring out this new book, Transfer of Qualities. I saw poems (prose poems) from it, I think in Colorado Review? And I recall feeling that I absolutely had to read more of the work, and I lusted to publish it! The work in it has your unique sensibility, and yet it is unlike much of your past work. Could you say a bit about how you see the collection?

Rusty Morrison with Paul Hoover

Paul Hoover
Paul Hoover

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 interview focuses on Paul Hoover’s book, desolation : souvenir.

Rusty Morrison: What aspects of your history and/or what particular obsessions of yours do you see apparent in?

Paul Hoover: desolation : souvenir began as a “filling in” of the blank spaces in A Tomb for Anatole, Paul Auster’s translation of Mallarmé’s grief-stricken notes for a poem that he never completed on the death of his ten-year-old son. However, my writing soon turned to my own consideration of life, death, the breaking of family relations and loss of love as experienced by all of us:

Rusty Morrison with Cyrus Console

Cyrus Console
Cyrus Console

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 interview focuses on Cyrus Console’s book, The Odicy.

Rusty Morrison: You have described the title of The Odicy as a pun on Odyssey (Homer) and Théodicée (Leibniz). Would you say more about this choice, about your relationship with these two texts, and/or your choice to use a pun as a title?

Cyrus Console: I have never managed to feel entirely comfortable with this title—it’s a stupid pun—but it sticks because of something the wordplay does with regard to the religious experience, or the idea of religious experience, realized or unrealized, that drives much of the writing. It really affected me when, early in the project, I noticed that you could break the theo-prefix, common in English and derived from Greek θεό-ς, “god,” in order to yield the definite article, “the.” It seemed to me that the definite article was the point of contact between form and content or between language and the world—it seemed literally to articulate “the chair” I was sitting in from “chair,” as a position in a vocabulary or as a category in the mind. Part of what I wanted the book to do was narrate a variety of religious experience that was more or less atheistic, and I liked the way the introduction of a single en space turned “theodicy” (from the OED: “The, or a, vindication of the divine attributes, especially justice and holiness, in respect to the existence of evil; a writing, doctrine, or theory intended to ‘justify the ways of God to men.'” Cf. optimism n. 1.) into “The Odicy,” which refers both to the epic and to a more general idea of wandering.

Rusty Morrison with Calvin Bedient

Calvin Bedient
Calvin Bedient

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 interview focuses on Calvin Bedient’s book, The Multiple.

Rusty Morrison: When I first read this work in manuscript, I heard echoing in it Deleuze’s assertion, “A principle of the production of the diverse makes sense only if it does not assemble its own elements into a whole.” I felt stunned by the myriad ways that this collection of poems is, to use Deleuze again, “An addition of the indivisibles.” One could say that you marry contrasting dictions and categories, using their intimacy as interrogation and that you juxtapose the literary, the sacred, the lascivious. But that would not reflect the disarming coherences, the unexpected accord in which these poems accordion forth, unfurling such a lively, uncanny, daunting music. Yet music it is. I’ve not read poems like these before. Can you speak to your intentions for the book?

Calvin Bedient: That is an extraordinary description; what hopes I have for the book’s reach can be found somewhere along the generous way of it. Indeed and instinctively I cultivate diversity and divergence, on the one hand, and on the other a jump-cable linkage or lyrical coherence of opposites. My writing is alive to me only if it is strange and surprising at every point. “I’ve heard that before” or “I know that connection” are anathema. What good is a poor copy of what has already been done? I listen for the work’s difference even from itself. All on its own, as it were, the poetry wants to show that, loosed from its common discursive ruts, experience tumbles forth in a mixture of dismay and delight. Even so, the work’s unresolvable elements may join together in a vital motion that surpasses or at least contests its splintering. This motion, this drive to feel out the “indivisibles,” results, in part, from a need to keep the work dynamic, to reject the notion that history has squashed life. Despite their skepticism, the poems sometimes behave as if they want to attain to an uber stage of music and feeling that will bind the elements, bind them in flight. For it really does seem to me that in some (though not clearly not in all) the poems the elements are being assembled and united, not just serially paraded. But, again, the shattered and shattering constitution of being prevents totalization; it founders before the inappropriable and groundless sense of existence. You see how I go around and around in circles—dialectic as rotation.