Friday, April 24, 2015

Damian Rogers, Dear Leader

As If I Were Anything Before

Not all rocks
        are alive. Or
                so I’ve read.

Someone I love
        is struggling, her thoughts
                a coral net.

The pills fail.
        Her chakras shatter.
                I want to show her

the Canadian Shield.
        I’m in Sudbury.
                It’s snowing.

The pine trees looked
        lovely as I drove
                the treacherous roads.

I’m ill-equipped
        for this. I sit
                by a fake fireplace

that frames a real flame.
        I’ve been crossed
                by two crows today.

The long-awaited second poetry collection by Toronto poet and editor Damian Rogers is Dear Leader (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2015), a collection of poems rife with energy and beauty, observation and tension, writing as deeply contemporary as might be possible in poetry. Dear Leader, which appears six years after her Paper Radio (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2009), is an exploration of hope, rage, memory, loss and salvage struggling through a series of optimisms, in poems that attempt to capture the minutae of everyday living, whether writing on and around explaining ecology to a toddler, classic albums, villanelles and Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright, or notes sketching out a series of thoughts and ideas both casual and deep. There is such a curious way that Rogers composes a poem around a thought, stretching and searching across a great distance over a few short lines. “The Book of Going Forth In Glitter” begins: “See the daughters of the screenshot / arrange their arms like / the ladies in major paintings // for an online salon. See them inventory / their makeup bags in popular verse. / What’s worse? My peeling skin // or how my mind shrivels in its cap?” Or “The Black Album On Acid,” that writes: “I’m at the centre of the never- / ending night. // You pull me out.”

Certain poems in the collection exist as short monologues or scene studies, such as the poem “There’s No Such Thing As Blue Water,” that opens: “I’ve been thinking that montage is a mental technique / for accepting unity as a convulsive illusion. I feel sick. / I hate it when my stories have holes, though I suspect / there’s where the truth leaks out. So go back to bed.” Another piece, “Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Black Lambswool Coat,” opens: “And we were talking about the house / parties where all the guests / try to describe / the milky void [.]” I’m curious as to Rogers’ explorations in prose and the sentence, and wonder if she might be leaning her way towards postcard fiction, easing slowly from one genre into the possibility of another.

Dear Leader

Fuck the fourteen-year-old who flirted with my boyfriend. If I’ve turned ugly on the inside, it’s all her fault. Where were you when my love split the planet in two? I knew who would undo me. Did you grab her throat and drag her downstairs? I’ve been betrayed by the boys who sprayed my name under the overpass, the ones who walked me home in a pack, called me their tender pet. This isn’t over yet.

I eat you I eat you I eat you.

There is a complexity to her poems, and an anxiety that quickly emerges as well, as from someone paying deep attention to the world, but not entirely pleased with what is going on, and occasionally uncertain on the effects humanity has on itself and the surrounding planet, as the end of the poem “Storm”: “We live in / the arteries / of a large / ugly animal / and I saw / it move.” One of the finest poems in the collection has to be her “Poem for Robin Blaser,” composed with such a graceful ease and space of breath, and dedicated to the late, great Vancouver poet. “O,” she opens the piece, “I know your thoughts are with the gods, / so young and loose.” The final couplet of the short piece, both lovely and striking, manages to somehow exist as a distillation of the book as a whole:

            You blew smoke at me and smiled.
            Nothing is          so easy.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Meteor" (new poem) : Cosmonauts Avenue,

I've a new poem, "Meteor," now online at Cosmonauts Avenue. Check out the new issue, which also includes new work by David McGimpsey (including an interview conducted by Mike Spry), Melissa Bull, Jennifer Sears, Andrew Purcell, Kevin Grauke, Coe Douglas and plenty of others. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Raoul Fernandes

Raoul Fernandes lives and writes in Vancouver, BC. He completed the Writer’s Studio at SFU in 2009 and was a finalist for the 2010 Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers and a runner up in subTerrain’s Lush Triumphant Awards in 2013. He has been published in numerous literary journals and is an editor for the online poetry magazine The Maynard. His first collection of poems, Transmitter and Receiver is out this Spring from Nightwood Editions.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book is barely a month old at this date, so I'm in the dazed and delighted stage. But comparing my writing to my old chapbooks or online livejournal writing, I think I've become less overtly sentimental, and yet probably a bit more open to real feeling. Less cloaking. More attentive to syntax and the rhythms of the line. I think I've also allowed myself a range of new subjects I probably wouldn't have touched back then, flowers, computers, other people.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I started writing through that common angsty teenage pressure release valve. Lyrics in songs played a part too. I like how saturated in meaning some lines felt when strung together. And just being able to get in and out on a single page was appealing. I don't think I have the attention and capacity for fiction or non-fiction. Also when I was much younger, my elementary school teacher once complimented the first poem I wrote. That kind of thing goes a long way.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I've never seen my writing as a project. Most of my poems begins as messy unformed things, buried somewhere in sessions of automatic writing. If I see something that might survive, I keep working on it until it comes alive. And yes, this is after filling copious notebooks.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
My poems begin as tiny elements: an image, a phrase, a question. It grows from there. I told people I was working on a book for a while before it came out. But I was mostly only working on poems until near the end where I had to sequence. I think I still have to learn how to write books.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I really like them despite the nerves and rarely being as good as I want. It's very important for my work to connect with people. I write my poems towards that. It's such an intimate thing to have people sit quietly and listen to you, to have that trust. Especially with something as potentially volatile or bewildering as poetry. After, I want to kiss all their foreheads and say “sorry” and “thank you.”

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

Oh goodness. Well, I think I can speak only for myself. I find myself getting obsessed with certain human qualities: how we perceive things, how we try to make sense of this life.  What is this sensation I have no words for? How do we get through the day? Why did that person set himself on fire? Do I want to set myself on fire on occasion? Things like that.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I imagine that a lot of poets who get to this question, pause and squirm a little. My first response is “I have no idea.” But if I pushed myself to get heady, this is what I might suggest: We all use language to make meaning out of life. And disrupting or charging that meaning-making machine, can make it spark and whir in really lovely ways. Maybe this ensures you're not taking it (or life) for granted. And we get to connect with each other on new playing fields. Even if it only happens in fleeting moments. I don't know if it is good for everyone, but it's been good for me. I think there are writers who write more overtly political and such--and that's terribly important--but I feel most of them still start with that simple function of lighting up your imagination.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Both. It really has to be a good fit or the dynamic can be very difficult. My editor was pretty hands off with my book, which was nice because I had already worked it through quite a bit with my first readers.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Doesn't it seem most good advice is what you already know, but for some reason haven't permitted yourself to follow? It's nice to hear it from another person. With writing it's probably the advice that suggests being very conscious of a reader. That and write much and often. Focus on quantity before quality.

10 -What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
If we're pretending it's my day off and somehow my 3 year old son has run off happily into the woods, you'll probably find me heading to a coffee-shop soon after breakfast and filling up a few pages my notebook. It's not very complicated. I try to (and have to often) write at different times of the day, but the morning is ideal.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
In the scenario above I have another book of poems beside me to dive into if I lose steam. In general, art, music and film helps too.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Probably an earthy post-rain garden and the smell of my wife and child. Though I don' t think I am reminded much of home unless I am home.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
All of the above, I'm sure. Music is probably the most emotional of those forms for me and probably has a direct connection to my writing more than the others.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
A handful in no particular order with apologies to the hundreds I am omitting: Bob Hicok, C.K. Williams, Dean Young, David Foster Wallace, Mary Ruefle, Matthew Zapruder, Lydia Davis, James Tate, Frank Stanford, Anne Carson, Gerald Stern, Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski, Kathleen Graber, David Mitchell, Zadie Smith, Alden Nowlan, Richard Brautigan, Thomas Lux, Rachel Zucker, a lot of old Japanese haiku poets, a lot of my peers, too many to note.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I'd like to make a little film sometime. And write a book for children.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I don't call writing my occupation (I work as a maintenance worker to pay the bills). But if I devoted myself to another calling it probably would have been one of the other arts, a painter or a musician. I'm also considering going back into school to be a library technician.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I have played around with some other arts (painting and music) but it's probably the simplicity and accessibility of the materials for writing that have made it the most appealing. A pen, a piece of paper, this blob of grey matter. It costs very little and one could do it anywhere.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Probably Mary Ruefle's poetic collection of lectures Madness, Rack, and Honey. And the Swedish-Danish film We are the Best! by Lukas Moodysson. Both very alive with wonder.

19 - What are you currently working on?

Nothing, happily. Well, getting ready for a cluster of readings. I'll probably start getting back into writing again once the buzzy stuff settle down a bit. Or even take a longer break from writing and create some music. Make some new pathways in my head.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Jared Schickling on Delete Press

Delete Press publishes work by established and emerging poets.  We ask ourselves the question: what does it feel like to be set on fire with an odorless accelerant?  We respond by building chapbooks that are letterpress printed and handbound.  Anti-gravity ephemera is also floated.

Jared Schickling edits Delete Press and eccolinguistics, and has served on the editorial board of Reconfigurations: A Journal for Poetry & Poetics / Literature & Culture, among others.  He is also the author of several books, recently Two Books on the Gas: Above the Shale and Achieved by Kissing (Blazevox, 2014), ATBOALGFPOPASASBIFL (2013) and The Pink (2012), The Paranoid Reader: Essays, 2006-2012 (Furniture Press, 2014) and Prospectus for a Stage (LRL Textile Series, 2013).  He lives and works in Western New York. 

1 – When did Delete Press first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?
Crane Giamo, Brad Vogler and I started Delete Press in 2009 when we were all living in Fort Collins, Colorado.  We’ve done ten paper chapbooks since then, and the only thing that’s really changed for us is the medium.  Crane is the press’s bookmaker (I edit, Brad is webmaster) and as his skills have crystallized the intricacies of the objects have changed.  As this has increased the cost and amount of time between each book, Brad and I decided to launch an e-book series.  We’ve published four titles so far.  We also have our own projects, aspects of Delete—Crane is the proprietor of the letterpress Pocalypstic Editions, Brad publishes Opon, an online journal of long poems and process statements, and I do eccolinguistics in the mimeograph tradition.  One thing I’ve learned is the importance of distancing yourself from the presswork—it’s the only way a writer will trust you and the only way to properly present another’s work.  Another is what it means to arrive at that point where all involved will trust that someone else’s idea is a good one, what it means to build something with people you admire. 

And also this: produce, produce, produce, be irreverent, and keep promises no matter how embarrassingly long it may take.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
As far as Delete is concerned, a desire to be of service publishing great work and the belief that this could be done with Brad and Crane.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
To change the face of literature. 

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
I think we’re unique.  After all, we’re not doing what other wonderful operations are. 

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?
To be honest, my primary concern in this regard is to make sure we’ve made something that when read brings pleasure.  The rest seems to take care of itself. 

But certainly digital transmissions and friendships are the most effective way to get the word out.  That’s difficult too, though, as it requires a fair degree of diligence keeping up with what’s what.  Basically, I participate in various forms of reading and listening and that natural curiosity makes the connections I cannot.     

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
I stay utterly faithful to the work.  In the case of small press poetry, submitted materials tend to arrive in rigidly precise form.  The editing in that regard has much to do with finding the correct shape and feel of the book object or page, or screen, the space around the content.  I certainly have made my fair amount of text edits, though.  But even there, it has tended to be in response to some imposition of format. 

I am presently editing a book in which the next-to-last line of the manuscript needed to go.  I deleted it and explained politely to the author why it was necessary.  I was right, and the author was agreeable.  It’s not always so easy.

That’s another thing I’ve learned—more often than not (no one is perfect), trust your editor. 

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
Editions of Delete Press paper chaps have ranged from 40 to 120 copies.  The e-books have gotten a few hundred downloads each.  300 copies of the eccolinguistics mailer go out periodically, for free.
8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?
I think I mentioned my wonderful experience working with Brad and Crane, so I won’t say too much.  Really I would just like to see them more.  We live in different parts of the country now. 

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
Utterly.  I primarily edit my work.   

10– How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?
Well, I’m not against it in principle, but one who goes that route needs to be very careful.  The offending person’s stature in the poetry market must be such that the ego can be overlooked.  In the case of coterie, I think a shared critical apparatus has to be there or else the cliquishness doesn’t make much sense.  

I suspect that self-publishing through one’s own operation didn’t always carry such a stigma, when the technology and means of distribution were more prohibitive of an over-saturated field of publishing writers and when the aesthetics we’ve inherited were just beginning to take shape.  Perhaps it is that the vast good and cheap publishing opportunities for poets today means the expectations for model behavior have changed.   

11– How do you see Delete Press evolving?
I don’t know.  To be honest, Crane’s bookmaking abilities have reached a point where we are reassessing what the chapbook line should be.  I suspect that we will also be doing full-lengths in the near future.  Brad is pondering a new website.  Delete Press has changed and will change again, I know that. 

12– What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?
I’m proud that we’ve sold out of most everything.  That might sound superficial, but it’s not.  The generous response from readers has helped confirm my faith that, contrary to a popular belief, people actually do read poetry.   

But you have to be realistic about it.  I wouldn’t say we’ve been overlooked—we’ve been too busy making and publishing to notice in any case.  You have to be tactical in your methods and output depending on the work you are publishing.  And you have to be willing to accept anonymity. 

For me the frustration is with trickle-down poetics.  I’m not looking for laurels but I wish the embalmed would get out of the way.  I just read a rather smug response by Ron Silliman to the identity politics happening in poetry lately.  The gist of his blog screed is that humankind is headed for a cliff of epic proportions, so there’s no sense getting riled up.  Plus, he says, if the targets are institutional then they’re misguided.  Hell, even the police are our friends—verbatim!  We’re just too far gone for any of that to matter, says Ron Silliman.  The problem is that unless he’s rapture-bound, which he very well may be, who can say, then Silliman is as stuck here in the only place we got as anyone. 

The life of poetry and of literature is always small press.  Always.  Chris Fritton printed these wonderful broadsheets for the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair that are tacked to my office walls: “Small Press / Everything for Everyone Nothing for Ourselves.”  The words are Mike Basinski’s, or so I hear.  An original Basinski gifted me is tacked next to one of the broadsheets.  I kind of live according to that advice. 

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
Frankly, I didn’t have any.  I read voraciously and saw all manner of things.  But later on, dirty mimeo, Fuck You, The Marrahwanna Quarterly, the Aldine Press, Grove, stuff like that. 

I did learn a great deal from Stephanie G’Schwind at the Center for Literary Publishing at CSU, where I interned, and from David Bowen of New American Press, whose Mayday Magazine I helped launch (issues 1 and 2).  I learned a great deal about what not to do as an editor and publisher at Alice James Books.  That shouldn’t be taken the wrong way, as AJB is very good to their authors and their own venerable history doesn’t need me.      

14– How does Delete Press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Delete Press in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
Well, at one point I think Compline, LittleRed Leaves, Punch Press, and Delete considered getting a small corner of AWP.  That was maybe five years ago, I don’t remember.  I still dig what those three are doing. 

But honestly we at Delete are omnivores.  I know I am.  Ugly Duckling Presse is stellar, of course, and I am particularly fond of their translation series.  michael mann’s unarmed is a powerful little journal.  One of my most cherished possessions is a tiny, nondescript, side-stapled bit of ephemera from Luc Fierens and François Liénard, PAPER WASTE SHOOTING!  Boaat Press’s Some Simple Things Said By and About Humans by Brenda Iijima is a book whose physicality furthers what’s there in the poem.  Projective Industries, Further Other Book Works, Cuneiform Press—there are some master bookmakers out there, all specializing in poetry.    

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
We don’t organize launch readings or sell wares at book fairs as we don’t have any stock to speak of.  All the books are gone.  I’ve organized readings, but not for Delete.  Readings are very important.

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
We advertise on the Internet and otherwise read it.  Reading is essential to a publisher, for all the obvious reasons and more.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
Generally speaking, yes.  We are fluid and keep ourselves open to what comes in.  We like adventurous work and we know we want it when we see it.  We are in every way an experimental bunch.  We also solicit most projects that we end up taking on.  

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
PORCHES by Andrew Rippeon
Dancing in the Blue Sky: Stories by Geoffrey Gatza
ROPES by W. Scott Howard and Ginger Knowlton

All of these literary works advance an internal poetics while stimulating the senses.  Each of them invokes their respective traditions while managing to transcend lineage and enter into dialog with a contemporary moment.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lance Phillips, Mimer

Wouldn’t measuring, with index finger and thumb, the slight wall between the anal cavity and the vaginal cavity of a woman require a more fixed and intimate understanding of not only the body, but possibly the methods one has of imagining space? Circling this line of thought down to a moment of establishment in the ear ever so long ago would have the effect of a cold towel on him as he sits with legs and arms crossed, breast folded into knees so that making himself small would in turn enlarge everything which is not him.

I’m curious about the floating, meditative, lyric accretions that make up North Carolina poet Lance Phillips’ Mimer (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press, 2015). This is his fourth poetry collection, after Corpus Socius (2002), Cur Aliquid Vidi (2004) and These Indicium Tales (2010), all of which have been published by Ahsahta Press. The prose poems and lyric fragments that make up Mimer manage to hold together so easily and seamlessly that it would appear that Mimer is less than a poetry collection than a single, extended, fragmented lyric, composed across an enormously broad canvas. His “Author Statement,” included as part of the press release, includes:

I think of the book as a collection of parables, but in the sense that Crossan uses the term, as disrupters. Parables are meant to attack the status quo, to enact the “kingdom of heaven” on earth, to speak metaphorically. A parable is an orgasm, or so I take it to be, which allows the body to arrive at its own disruption. Those disruptions present authentic reality.

Constructed in four sections, two of which, themselves, break down further into poem-sections, there is something of the collage in his lyric mediations, playing off each other like cards, not entirely sure where they are headed, but seeking out and searching, constantly, for comprehension. This is a book that can be opened at any point to begin reading, and read in any direction. Through the prose-poem, there is something in Phillips’ work of Phil Hall’s bricolage and lyric koan, approaching wisdom through accumulation, consideration and the pause, itself on the very edge of hesitation.

He was dumbfounded at the minutiae, at the sheer will of that process which seemed to force his hand with regard to the graph. Prius, he could call his mind there in the diffuse light. Primus, which painted the walls and added grain to the floorboards; Primus, the sense made of the marks on the graph, the sense of imagining to speak; Primus, whatever animal heart was a scourge to him in his socks and deep in memory. Goose-pimples all the while he was repositioning the graph on the ceiling and all the while he wrote Primus over the outline of his body as a continuous barrier, dipping and rising in small letters and touching the horizon of skin just as a hand in the sea.