Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Next Big Thing

settings for these scenes (Convulsive Editions, 2013)
1. What is the working title of the book? 
settings for these scenes

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Literally, from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927). The copy I used was published in 1955, and all the text in setting for these scenes is from a single paragraph of the novel. The paragraph begins: But whose foot was he thinking of, and in what garden did all this happen?
To the Lighthouse (Harvest Books, 1955)
3. What genre does your book fall under? 
Poetry, though it is carved from fiction. Also erasure, found poetry, appropriation, maybe conceptual writing.... 

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Well, the wind is a character, and the light(s). There's a garden. It's tough to think of actors who could pull off just being shadow, or scenery. 

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
“these scenes were drawn, like a  leaf”

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
For this type of project, it's difficult to pin down what exactly a draft is. Maybe the selection of source text was one draft? That took a week or so, though I'd been circling around doing a project of this nature -- thinking I should perform some "legitimate" literary erasure to compliment my research into the form -- for some months and struggled a lot over potential source material.... But once I had an audience more firmly in mind (see #7), I was able to narrow my options and turn to Woolf. 

There are also multiple versions of the book. The first was a handbound nine-poem volume that I completed as a gift in 2011. But once I started carving out poems from Woolf's paragraph it became pretty addictive--it was exciting that the same language could be selected or manipulated into so many different sets. Like the best game of Boggle ever, really. I made over sixty erasures of Woolf's paragraph before telling myself that enough was enough. settings for these scenes includes 13 of these poems. I probably spent six months or so gathering these erasures. 

7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Certainly the literature I've been lucky enough to study as part of my dissertation has influenced this project -- you'd only need to skim through my blog to see the kind of work I've been paying attention to recently. Ken Campbell's artist book Father's Garden (1988), which I was lucky enough to see in person at The Getty library in 2009, has a structure of obscuring and delaying the experience of the poem, which I'm sure in some way inspired my choices in settings. Too, I really enjoy the permutative work Gregory Betts does in The Others Raisd in Me (2009) and Caroline Bergvall's varied repetitions in her long poem "Via (48 Dante Variations)" (2003?).

Trying to list sources of inspiration is, too, just an example of selective memory. It's probably relevant to admit that I've been practicing this type of composition for some time, pretty much since a high-school English teacher let us make cut-outs of magazine language in order to create a poem. settings for these scenes is not the first book that I haven’t written. A Margaret Atwood chapbook (circa ~2002, discussed further here) is likely a more direct precursor to this project. Too, a little Alice in Wonderland dos-a-dos cut-up that I made at USC, does similar work obscuring and revealing elements of Lewis Carroll's original prose, while book-ifying and poet-icising the source text.

Alice's Alphabet (2010)
To be even more specific about the beginnings of settings for these scenes, for Mother's Day 2011 my mom asked me to write her some poems. Since I dislike being told to write poems, and I had been thinking about performing such a project for some time, my solution was to not-write some poems for her and bind them into a little book. (I'd post a picture of the handmade 2011 settings, but I only made one. Hi, Mom!) Anyway, having an audience in mind made it easier to select a source text. My mom likes nature, and gardening, and rocks, among other things. Most text written on these subjects is so unliterary that excavating multiple poems--let alone a single poem--from the same chunk of text would be ugly and/or impossible. So I turned to literary passages, and when I thought of Woolf's awesome density of language, I knew I was onto something! So, I made the 2011 settings, and then I kept on with the project of repeated poetic excising, as I said in #6, until it almost started interfering with the other work I had to do.

8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Nate and Nikki made beautiful letterpressed covers for this chapbook! I can't get enough of the alien-green repeating shells on the cover.

9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Convulsive Editions will publish the book. Come to the reading in March at AWP and get your hands on a fresh copy! Or you can buy it on their website, of course. 
10. My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:
Bryan Hurt, Stephanie Schlaifer, Vanessa Hua, & Karen Greenbaum-Maya

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