Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Next Big Thing -- a self-interview

The talented poet Melanie McCabe, author of the newly released History of the Body, tagged me for The Next Big Thing, a series of self-interviews making its way around the blogosphere among poets and writers, one by one. Thank you, Melanie. You can read her self-interview at her blog.

Below is my own self-interview answering the set of questions that is traveling from blog to blog as a part of The Next Big Thing project. My answers all pertain to my second full-length volume of poems, forthcoming this fall.



What is the working title of the book?
My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass

Where did the idea come from for the book?
In 2007 I began collecting and writing epistolary poems in preparation for a poetry workshop I was to teach on the subject, and immediately I was hooked. Besides that, I always loved writing and reading letters.

What genre does your book fall under?

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass doesn’t really want to be a movie. It would much prefer to be a musical composition by, say, Philip Glass. Wouldn't that be a dream!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
What does it mean, this journey of beauty and grief—of the dangerous and the ordinary—when language and love are almost enough to make a connection?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’d have to guess—probably about a year. Or maybe ten. My whole life.

What books within the same genre would you compare yours to?
Instead of making comparisons I’ll just name some contemporary books I much admire for all sorts of reasons: Rose, by Li-Young Lee; Carolina Ghost Woods, by Judy Jordan; Romey’s Order, by Atsuro Riley; A Metaphorical God, Kimbery Johnson; Kingdom Animalia, Aracelis Girmay; Trapeze, Deborah Digges; Columbarium, Susan Stewart; Ornithologies, Joshua Poteat; We Don’t Know We Don’t Know, Nick Lantz; Compulsions of Silkworms & Bees, Julianna Baggott; Bad Boats, Laura Jensen

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Emily Dickinson. A. R. Ammons. Every poet I ever read. The moon. A lack of bees. The South Carolina Lowcountry. Redbelly water snakes. The weather. Back roads. My husband, always.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
How about a few poem titles: “Why I Am Not a Tightrope Walker,” “Dear Yellow Speed Bump,” “Dear Melancholy,” “Why Does Rain Cast This Longsome Spell?” “Dear Morning after the Hailstorm”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Cider Press Review will release it this fall (Septemberish). I’m delighted that they selected it for their inaugural Editor’s Prize.

Thanks for reading this little sneak preview of My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass. In turn, I've tagged several poets so you can read about their new works.  Here are three poets with their own self-interviews for The Next Big Thing:

Mary Hutchins Harris, Do Not Fault the Mockingbird (ms. in progress)

Al Maginnes:  read Al's self-interview about his book Inventing Constellations on Facebook

Cassie Premo Steele,  Wednesday: poems



Poetry Workshop: Beyond Craft -- Feb. 21

Susan Laughter Meyers, instructor
Thursday, Feb. 21
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Litchfield Exchange location
(exact venue TBA)
Register in person or online at (click on Continuing Ed)
$30, plus OLLI membership

When starting a poem, you are often writing blindly, not following a familiar path or arriving at answers but moving in uncertainty. The overriding issue is not a matter of craft—but how to proceed, how to find your way to the real poem. Class packet included. Within two weeks after the workshop, participants have the option of e-mailing a poem to the instructor for feedback. Lunch can be brought or bought nearby. (You may want to bring your own lunch, since our exact venue is uncertain.)

How important is our poetry?
            “The words you speak
            become the house
            you live in.”                    Hafiz


Yes, we are choosing words. But when we’re deep in the process of writing, they are partly choosing us, too. Without measuring each move, we accrue sounds, rhythms, meanings, connotations, and so much more along the way. Each of us and our words are building something, the poem. It’s a makeshift hut we’re constructing in that first draft. Somewhere in our messy construction site is the real poem, or the path to it, and our job is to find it.

Please come join us for the workshop!