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.