The Next Big Thing
Thanks to poet and essayist Lisa Wells for tagging me in this literary meme and community effort to talk about our book projects with each other. Lisa’s poems speak to me across miles. Go see her beautiful, heartbreaking limited edition chapbook, Beast at Bedouin Books. It will make you feel like living better. loving harder, throwing your heart at the people you’d miss if they suddenly disappeared.
What is the working title of the book? I’ve got three projects going at the moment but I’ll tell you about “Dear Animal”, the most finished of the three.
Where did the idea come from for the book? The poems arrived in their own time, and eventually I understood the arc of the collection, themes, their relation and why they belong in a book. These particular poems were also made possible by my chapbook, The Grass Impossibly, which came out in 2008 and staked out some terrain, showed me what was mine, and that I had more to say.
What genre does your book fall under? Poetry
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Maribel Verdú (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Pan’s Labyrinth) would play the main voice. The other players are plants, animals, lovers, Desire, Rebellion, Loss and Grief. I’d love to see the director of Beasts of the Southern Wild apply his strange, beautiful imagination to this book.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? I’ll answer in Denise Levertov’s words because they serve as the epigraph for the collection:“What is this joy? That no animal falters, but knows what it must do?” (from the poem ‘Come into Animal Presence)
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? Most of the poems were written between over two or so years. I finished the manuscript about a year ago during a residency at The Jean Nobel Parsons Center for the Study of Science and Art, which provided half a year of time and space to do the obsessive work of revision, assembly and the first round of submissions. Now I feel like I’m letting it brew on a back burner while I work on new poems and a non-fiction project.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? Being alive. Struggle. Fire. Sex. The one’s I’ve loved. Beauty and Death. Questions about all of these things. The non-stop sounds in my head and ones I hear when I walk around in the world.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? At the heart of this collection is a visceral and unstinting identification with the body as the site and source of pleasure, self-knowledge and delight, but also ruin and grief. These poems often occur in the context of relationships, but also present a speaker grappling with what it means to be whole, whether alone or coupled, and what it feels like and means to be free, to be authentic, real. A speaker driven by curiosity and adventure; one who moves toward what is unknown more than the familiar or safe. The animal in the title is the wild nature in her, or in any of us: untamed, fierce, propelled by basic needs and desires, resisting domestication.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Only time will tell. Obviously I’d love to work with a top-notch editor, one who really gets what I’m doing and believes in the book, but I am less sure that I need to wait around for a sanctioned enterprise to open the gate for me. It’s expensive and time-consuming to send a manuscript around to contests and I’m more and more dubious of that model anyway. These poems are not only for me and my few poetry buddies. I write to be read and I have hopes for this collection. If I have to break with convention and invent another way to publication, why would I resist innovation?