Next Big Thing



What is the working title of the book?

I’m not sure. The file on my computer is named “Pupils” but I’ve been thinking about the title “Mirage Repair” ever since I saw a cleaning service truck in Denver advertising “Mirage Services.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The manuscript only consists of a handful of very short poems so far, so the idea is very much in development. I’m guessing it is still several years away from being completed.

There is a poem called “Lost Moat” which is an adaptation of a dream I had about an octopus that was bumping my knee and trying to lead me through a confusing house (e.g. a bathroom that when you opened the door it was really a bathtub room, complete with tide). I’m pretty sure the octopus is a dream version of Virginia the cat, who lives in my real life house. The octopus was gentle and slightly annoyed with me for not understanding where to go. The poem feels like narrating what it would be like to die. I hope Virginia the Octopus Cat is there to show me where to go when I die.

Another poem is called “The Rain of the Ice” and that title evokes, for me, both Breton’s book L’Air de l’eau and also a mental erasure of the title of the Roland Barthes essay “The Grain of the Voice.” It includes a horse that is in various states of presence/illness/decomposition and perhaps it’s about animal consciousness in relation to physical pain/shelter/relief. It is also about a view of a storm I had once when driving through Iowa at night with my sister.

What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry. Prose Poetry.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
There are no actual characters other than an “I” and a lot of objects, environments, and animals. Since it is a very young manuscript, maybe a child actor doppelganger makes the most sense. I have been told that from a certain angle I look like the middle brother, Dewey, from the t.v. show “Malcolm in the Middle.” I think an MRI image of that actor comes pretty close.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The shore grew sails.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I am not even close to a first draft of the manuscript. It has taken me about a year and a half to write the first few pages.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The inspirations tend to be poem-specific and in some cases line or phrase or title specific. Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain” (echoed in a poem called “Mute Casting”), Mequitta Ahuja’s “Tsunami Generation” (inspired the palinode “Echo Solvent), a dream about a centaur in a fight with a horse mutated with the title of a book on electronic music The Ambient Century (inspired the title “Ambient Centaur”), a poster diagramming the internal organs of a bird (inspired “The Diagrammed Ear”), a grasshopper in my old backyard (“Pupa Deluge at Bastille Labs”), Brian Lucas’s visual art (inspired the title and some imagery from “Nova Compost Extract”), dehydrated lamb lung (aka “Lamb Crackles”), my space heater pointed at my cold limbs while I write.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Another source of inspiration was this sheet of paper that Andrea Rexilius found at her old job at the Denver Public Library. It talks about “pupa.” This “pupa” appears as a figure in some new poems.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book is a larva. Let’s not impose expectations on it just yet.

Thanks to Kathryn Pringle for tagging me for this.

I tag: Brian Lucas, Curtis Crisler, Trevor Calvert, Danielle Pafunda, Dorothea Lasky. If you feel like it, tell us what you’ve been making lately.

appalachee review

Ed Roberson reads the poem Sequoia Sempervirens from his book City Eclogue on January 21st, 2006 in NY at the Segue Series. (Segmented from a longer recording on Pennsound).

I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to present and sequence audio texts in relationship to print texts lately. I spent most of this afternoon segmenting a recording of Grace Paley reading from UMass so that I can play it for my students next week. I’m teaching her Collected Stories in a post WWII-present American Lit class.

We’re reading Little Disturbances of Men (1959) for Tuesday’s class, which is the first book in the Collected Stories. We have two weeks (4 classes) to deal with the whole Collected Stories.

I think I’m going to begin class by playing a more recent essay/story Travelling, which deals with issues surrouding race relations in 3 different time periods. At the beginning of “Travelling” Paley comments about the blurry line between fiction and nonfiction in her work, which I think will be helpful to address right away.

Noy Holland’s Intro to Paley is great. Actually I think I might play the intro after playing Travelling. Holland recounts a great comment about Paley’s character Faith, who bears some resemblance to Paley. When asked about her relationship to the fictional character, Paley said “Faith works for me.” I like how this articulates a seperation between author and character while acknowledging more than a trivial relationship between the two.

After talking about the line between fiction and nonfiction, I will probably play Inherit the War a 2 minute story that satirizes generational nostalgia for war. Neither of these stories is in the book.

I’m hoping that a discussion about audio files (which my students won’t have read on the page) will lead us into a deeper consideration of Paley’s early work.

There is a longer story, My Father Addresses Me On The Facts of Old Age, which is too long to play in class but might be a good thing to assign as listening homework.

When I assign audio listenings as homework, I like asking simple questions like “What (images, words, phrases, intonational patterns) did you remember from your listening?” and building a conversation from students’ individual impressions. There will probably be some talk about different tones, approaches, stylistic choices Paley makes between these pieces.

I tend to be hesitant to play very long recordings in class, as it feels like a time-killer to students. I also don’t want to use too much audio per class. I mostly teach poetry audio files, but I think these fiction recordings are pretty helpful. I’m curious about how they will respond to her voicing of the stories and her comments.

I have taught Paley’s story Living several times in creative writing classes. Students are often surprised by the audience laughter. Reading the piece on the page sometimes creates a darker, more somber sense of the story. I will play this piece after they read Living on the 3rd or 4th class. We can talk about the complexity of Paley’s tone via a conversation of the audience response. I tend to shy away from presenting audio versions of texts after students read print versions, but in this case, I think it’s o.k. I’m hoping it will be a good way of talking about the context of the live event in shaping the meaning of texts.

Anyway, I wanted to think through some issues related to sequencing and framing audio texts so they don’t instantly pin down the author or become a passive illustration of what students have already read.

This is a recording of my brief comments about using audio files in the creative writing classroom, delivered on April 8th 2010 at the AWP conference as part of The Networked Poetry Classroom Panel.

W.B. Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree & Bernadette Mayer’s Sonnet (You Jerk) .

When I teach intro poetry classes, I have found that playing these recordings next to one another provoked a lively discussion of diction, tone, etc. Obviously, the contrast between these two poets and poems is fairly stark, but we also look at any formal similarities between the poems. We talk about the ways these two recordings might distort one another. For example, students often pick up on Yeats’ elevated diction and contrast than to Mayer’s generally conversational word choice, but there are often several words and references in Mayer’s poem that students are not familiar with, and we talk about that too. The idea is not to come out with an aesthetic winner, but to talk about both content and context in a more organic, experiential way than listing and defining terms on the board. I like this kind of discussion because students build an understanding of terms and techniques out of their own concrete perceptual experiences.

A review by Rob Mclennan of Tuned Droves is in Jacket.