Saturday, January 26, 2013

The next Next Big Thing . . .

Thanks to Rebecca Kinzie Bastian, author of the forthcoming Charms for Finding, for inviting me to participate in The Next Big Thing—a blog chain that has been circulating in which participating writers answer ten questions about their books, then tag another who tags another who tags another . . . Check out Rebecca's Next Big Thing, Miranda Field's Next Big Thing, the Next Big Thing from Dennis Prieto (White Malinche, 2014) and one forthcoming from Graham Foust.
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
Where did the idea for the book come from?
Lingering over Anthony McCann’s Moongarden, I came across the reference to a poem by Jaime Saenz called “Homenaje a la epilepsia.” I’d heard of Saenz because of the translations by Forest Gander and Kent Johnson collected in a book called Immanent Visitor, but I hadn’t actually read it. My son has epilepsy so I am always hunting down ways to better understand what it means to understand the condition from inside the experience. Google gave me the poems in Spanish, but for some reason (bad googling) I couldn’t find easy access to a translation into English. I decided to translate them myself with my poor-to-non-existent Spanish and my sense of the lived experience of epilepsy. The resulting poems took on a life of their own and continued to evolve as I worked on them. Eventually I did read the Gander and Johnson translations and discovered that their book includes selections translated from “Homenaje a la epilepsia,” but by then it was too late. My own “translations” had veered off in their own direction and were propagating like mad. 
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Since every voice and figure, every “you” and “I” in this book is both me and not-me, clinician and patient, it’s better to let the reader allow each voice and figure, each “you” and “I” be their own self and not-. In other words, Stellan Skarsgård.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
“There’s a boy who stands where the door should be.” –from “The Door that Leads In and In but Never Out,” a poem in the manuscript
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Agents are not relevant for books of poems. I am definitely a fan of self-publishing for any author who has the spirit and energy to promote their book full time. Dickinson, Whitman and Blake are heralds of the future as much for how they controlled their poems’ entrance into the world as for the poems themselves. For myself, I treasure the collaboration that comes with publishing through an existing publisher and feel that my first two books, Live Feed and The Pitch, were vastly improved by publishing with Alice James Books. So I’m aiming to go the pre-existing publisher route again with a player to be named later.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Six weeks . . . from late July to early September. They came fast.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
As different as my book is from Jaime Saenz’s (and as much as I think my own poems suffer in comparison), any excuse to read his poems is a great one. I was reading a lot of Czeslaw Milosz while I was writing these poems as well. His hand-to-hand moral struggles with the material world and spiritual longing continue to surprise me. He's never top of mind if someone asks me for a favorite poet, but I can’t think of a poet I’ve read so frequently and with such continuing profit over the twenty years I’ve been reading him. While writing these poems, I was also reading a lot of Rimbaud’s Illuminations and from his selected letters, which is an altogether different animal than Milosz. In a way, Anthony McCann is most responsible for the manuscript because he led me to the trigger. But more than that, the perspective of a McCann poem—longing-and-lostness-at-a-slight-remove, passion infused with distance—inspires these poems as well. The poems take a Rimbauldian call to “be drunk with life” and let the experience progress into something akin to an actual drunken state—a little out of control, a wee bit numb, wanting closeness and not sure how to get it, straddling the uncertain horses of body and mind.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
The final section ends up in a humid, fecund garden in my adopted hometown of Coxsackie, New York—a kind of oxygen machine that afforded me the time, space and lung capacity to write these poems. How can you not be interested in a book that lands you in a town named Coxsackie?

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