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Nature Theater of Oklahoma with Tom Sellar

Tom Sellar
Tom Sellar

Nature Theater of Oklahoma talks with writer, editor and theater thinker Tom Sellar about surrender and control—physical, mental and structural. Join us as we clear the air—talking about artists and critics and the whole interdependency and strangeness around that relationship. We rely on critics to write about the work, but what do we care about really? Do we want intelligent writing or just positive gush? Do critics appreciate that they are just seeing one performance and it all may be going horribly wrong? All this and even more thoughts about social practice, multi-media, durational performance, art brut and political theater.

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Zach Savich with H.L. Hix

Zach Savich
Zach Savich

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 Zach Savich’s The Firestorm (Cleveland State University Poetry Center).

H. L. Hix: The formulation “I suppose I do believe in nothing” is repeated several times in your book (for example, as part of the first line of three poems in a row on pages 26-28). For me, the word “do” stops me, and makes me think about the formulation, asking myself whether this is an affirmation or a negation. Consequently, I want to ask you, about the whole book: are these poems affirming or negating? (Obviously, this is a false dilemma, so feel free to reject the very form in which the question is asked.)

Zach Savich: False, perhaps, but fair to ask. I ask it of many books: what world do they posit, what do they leave out. Do they do what I, lover of TV and walks and coffee, believe only books can do and expand from that? And I ask it, foolishly, of my life, while knowing that, you know, the tomato sauce may negate the recipe but affirm the wine: the coin has two sides one spins among, so Washington appears to eat the eagle eating him. . . I hope my poems posit knowledge that is similarly spun, aglint, in motion, not of balance but of exchange; not of a position but of positioning. As, in one’s emotional life, contradictions do not necessarily conflict but gesture toward a self that’s odd, but not at odds. The self less a character than a setting. Today I felt at home in the afterlife. Today I felt suspiciously alive! Me: the setting where such weather blew; I hope my poems also are. . . Continue reading

Thomas Fink in Conversation with Ari Mason and Maya Mason

Maya Mason, Ari Mason, and Thomas Fink. Paintings by Maya Mason.

In this conversation, Thomas Fink and his daughters, Ari Mason and Maya Mason, interview each other about their creative practices.

Ari Mason: Where does the inspiration for your work come from: friends, family, mentors?

Thomas Fink: As we know, in my books Gossip (Marsh Hawk Press, 2001) and After Taxes (Marsh Hawk, 2004), you and Maya elicited the poems beginning with “And Called It Milk,” and your great-grandmother Ethel is the linguistically compelling source for “The Ethel Landsman Poems,” which led me to the “Yinglish Strophes,” a series that started in 2004 and continues. Your grandfather’s speech (& parts of letters to you) are the basis for “In Memoriam” (After Taxes). Continue reading

Brandon Shimoda with Andy Fitch

photo of brandon shimoda
Brandon Shimoda

Over the summer, Andy Fitch has interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Shimoda’s book O Bon (Litmus Press). Recorded May 25. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Andy Fitch: In O Bon’s author statement (itself perhaps more poem than transparent autobiographical record) you mention, as poets often do, the desire to create a ritual space through or within the text. Yet your book, unlike many, points toward a quite specific ritual space, one associated with both the Obon holiday and Bon Odori dance. Can you provide some sense of how these particular cultural practices work their way into the idiom, thematics, and/or architecture of the book—especially in terms of its emphases upon honoring one’s ancestors while enacting a dance or procession?

Brandon Shimoda: I’m still trying to figure that all out. This goes back to 1988, when I first experienced the Obon festival and dance as a 10-year-old, standing with my family on a bridge in Kyoto. A lot of this book comes from trying to piece together what happened on that beautiful and terrifying night. Continue reading

Ronaldo Wilson’s Street Songs

Ronaldo Wilson

The following triptych, “Street Songs,” provides the first of three monthly selections from a larger project, Off the Dome: Rants, Raps, and Meditations, for which I have been making live sound recordings as Solo-Dialogues since May 2010, entering into a streaming, internal conversation that vocalizes questions around, race, representation, selfhood and place. Using my iPhone, I perform and document impromptu audio recordings in a variety of dynamic environments. The three separate monthly installments will get grouped by landscape, occasion, and experience. In each place, I engage in various activities that find their way into my current thinking and play with various forms of totally improvised, “off the dome” poetry, rap-battles, meditations, and songs. —Ronaldo Wilson

      1. Fourth Street Vista - 14 Min. 36 Sec.
      2. Commercial Street - 4 Min. 04 Sec.
      3. Melodic Song 34th Street - 3 Min. 19 Sec.

Ed Roberson with H.L. Hix

Ed Roberson
Ed Roberson

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Ed Roberson’s City Eclogue (Atelos, 2006).

H.L. Hix: In “Toward an Urban Pastoral,” Reginald Shepherd says, “Often we write about nature because there is a readily available, thoroughly worked-out language with which to do so,” a language that ensures we’ll “come up with a recognizable poem,” though using the language of nature typically results in only “a simulacrum of nature, a reiteration of the vocabulary of nature that refers not to nature but to nature poetry” (Orpheus in the Bronx 57). Would that be one valid lens (not, of course, the only one) through which to read your City Eclogue, as an attempt to write about nature, in a country in which 75 percent of the people live in urban areas (Shepherd again), without falling into the already-worked-out language of nature poetry?

Ed Roberson: As I grew up I knew many black people who would take deep offense at the words “you people” as a form of address, when in conversation especially, but any kind of public speaking in which they were spoken to or referred to as “you people.” You would think it was a matter of tone, but it is the basis of segregation enforced in those words. Continue reading

Jennifer Moxley with H.L. Hix

Jennifer Moxley
Jennifer Moxley

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Jennifer Moxley’s Clampdown (Flood Editions, 2009).

H.L. Hix: Since one aspect of my project is to engage poetry by conversing with it rather than pontificating about it, I am especially interested in the sense that seems formative in Clampdown, of poetry as itself a conversation. The poems seem to be talking with Alice Notley, James Schuyler, Robert Creeley, Constance Hunting, and others. Do you mean for the book to be a conversation in that sense, and if so why was it important to make it such a conversation?

Jennifer Moxley: I can’t imagine that this quality is unique to Clampdown, as I have always thought of poetry as a conversation. For me, poetry is a conversation back through history, forward into the future (Whitman: “I consider’d you long and seriously before you were born”), and with the present as well. Continue reading

Richard Rothman with Alex Stein

Photograph by Richard Rothman

Richard Rothman and Alex Stein met on a flight from New York City to Denver. This conversation took place a few days later, on May 16, 2010, in Boulder, Colorado.

Richard Rothman: On the plane, you spoke of the perfection of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape—of how the play consumed all the energy it created, and how that perfect arc of order, to you, was also a description of the perfect art. You said that civilization was in a casket and that Beckett was one of the pallbearers carrying it off. When I first read Beckett, in high school, I didn’t understand him. It wasn’t until I got older and came across a quote that the whole thing pulled together for me, the artist and the condition. Beckett had written, “There is nothing funnier than human unhappiness,” and suddenly I understood. Except that, granting its wonder as a saying, I would amend it to read: “Yes, it might be true, there is nothing funnier than human unhappiness, except, of course, when it happens to be your own.”

Alex Stein: How much of everything is in our veins and how much is just an accretion of chance and experience?

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Caryl Pagel with Emily Pettit

photo of Carly Pagel and Emily Pettit

Over the next year, Andy Fitch will be asking participants from his Ugly Duckling Presse interview project to pair up and interview each other. By placing parallel interviews alongside his own, Fitch hopes to demonstrate that no one talk is definitive, that there are an infinitude of possible trajectories for such a discussion to take.

This exchange took place in the summer of 2012. The Conversant expects these links to degrade over time.

 

Emily Pettit: 

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Teresa Carmody with Leonard Schwartz

Teresa Carmody

In honor of Litmus Press’ forthcoming collection of Leonard Schwartz interviews with female poets, we will offer an ongoing series of transcribed talks from Schwartz’s “Cross-Cultural Poetics” archives. This month we focus on poets’ innovative publishing projects.

Interview with Teresa Carmody, from CCP Episode # 196: Place. June 14, 2009. Transcribed by Kelly Bergeron.

Leonard Schwartz: Today’s guest on the phone, from Los Angeles, is Teresa Carmody. She’s a writer and the publisher and editor of Les Figues Press, based in Los Angeles, publishing very interesting work, largely in prose, largely experimental or innovative prose, I would say. But what is really interesting to find out is what Teresa Carmody would say. Welcome Teresa Carmody.

Teresa Carmody: Thank you.

LS: Great to have you on the phone, on the line from L.A. Can you say a little bit about the publishing vision for Les Figues Press?

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Stephen Motika and Christopher Schmidt in Conversation

Stephen Motika and Christopher Schmidt

Over the next year, Andy Fitch will be asking participants from his Ugly Duckling Presse interview project to pair up and interview each other. By placing parallel interviews alongside his own, Fitch hopes to demonstrate that no one talk is definitive, that there are an infinitude of possible trajectories for such a discussion to take.

In this two-part audio conversation, Stephen Motika and Christopher Schmidt discuss their work, including Motika’s recent Western Practice, published by Alice James Books (2012), and Schmidt’s chapbook Thermae, published by EOAGH (2012).

      1. Part-1 - Schmidt interviews Motika about Western Practice
      2. Part-2 - Schmidt and Motika discuss their work

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