A big THANK YOU to Rebecca Hoogs — poet-friend, poet-hero, and author of forthcoming poetry collection Self-Storage — for tagging me for The Next Big Thing question series. (I’m honored, and I do love a survey.) And while I dawdled in posting my answers I was blessed with another Next-Big-Thing godparent, the lovely Ryan Wilson, author of forthcoming novel Spiral Bound Brother. Please take a moment to enjoy them and their answers — great sneak-peeks into their new books.
Now on to the Q’s:
What is the working title of the book?
The Lachrymose Report (full-length manuscript) and senda & viðtaka / sending & receiving (chapbook).
Where did the idea come from for the book? [and] How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The Lachrymose Report has been a slowly evolving collection of poems spanning the past decade. A few veteran poems have hung in there from my final MFA manuscript (2002, University of Washington), but new poems get worked in with each reincarnation, whole sections taken out—the spirit is largely the same, but most of the body’s cells are different. The idea for the current title (which takes its title from a poem in the book) came to me while teaching after-school SAT prep classes (one of many exciting career paths I’ve explored as a poet). Lachrymose (from Latin lacrimōsus, from lacrima a tear): given to shedding tears readily; tearful. (There is also a lacrimal lake: the small cistern-like area of the conjunctiva at the medial angle of the eye, in which the tears collect after bathing the front surface of the eyeball and the conjunctival sac. Exciting!) Lachrymose can also mean mournful, but that’s not how I mean it; I hope the book is more on the funny and strange side of sad. More like a swim (gross! magical!) in a lacrimal lake.
The poems in senda & viðtaka / sending & receiving were all written in February 2010 during an artist residency at Samband íslenskra myndlistarmanna (SIM) in Reykjavik, Iceland. Setting out to write a poem for each of the Nordic rune symbols, I pulled images and observations from my travel notebook from that monthcombined with research about each rune and its meanings. (I especially enjoyed Ralph H. Blum’s The Book of Runes, even though his take on rune symbology is a little controversial, especially his inclusion of a “blank rune,” which I also decided to include.)
At the end of my Icelandic residency, I created an interactive installation with these poems called Runasafn / Rune Library. Participants were asked to pull out a rune (symbol drawn on a volcanic stone gathered during the month) from a special container (a small round purse with an ancient mirror I found in a Reykjavik second-hand shop). The participant was then invited to take a copy of the corresponding rune-poem (named for that rune), return the stone to the vessel, and write their name and the date on a library card (to track which runes were pulled when). I love this interactive, communal process of connecting poems to people (and I was able to remount the installation at The Project Room in Seattle last fall)—but I’d also love for all the poems to exist together in a book form, so that people could read the poems as a set if they wished, or to use as an ongoing reference book / rune companion.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
For The Lachrymose Report, it would be wonderful if it could star this guy and this guy — with live audience crying behavior graphs designed by We Feel Fine. (I’m imagining some sort of Cry-O-Vision technology for this – they invented that in the 60’s, right?)
For the poems in senda & viðtaka / sending & receiving – I could imagine them as a series of animated shorts, maybe by the illustrious Britta Johnson?
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The Lachrymose Report: “Hold me like a sobbing sunbeam, please.”
senda & viðtaka / sending & receiving: “I can’t tell you, but it’s going to be good.”
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The amazing mentors, peers, and collaborators I’ve met along the way including Richard Kenney, Heather McHugh, and Linda Bierds, my writing group (from Rock Shop to LHGTI), my Typing Explosionists, Loren Erdrich / Invisible Seeing Machine, Rome, Friday Harbor, Iceland, Vermont, MacDowell, my complicated feelings about New York City, love, science, loss, scurvy, written instructions of all kinds.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I hope all my work—whether in a traditional book form or in more unusual interactive formats—invites readers to intersect with the words in a way that is most meaningful and useful to them at that moment.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m still in the process of sending out both of these manuscripts to potential publishers, hopeful they’ll find the right homes. (Fingers crossed.)
Tune in to hear what Rachel Kessler — my long-time collaborator, chanteuse, and kick-ass poet in her own right — has in the hopper. And learn what’s new on the wing with poet, dancer, and extraordinairer Melanie Noel.