profiles in poetics: Kristi Maxwell

Photo on 2013-01-14 at 12.04Kristi Maxwell

Website: www.writing.upenn.edu

Kristi Maxwell is a writer “very interested in the textual body as an analogue to other bodies in the world.” Our communication assembles the forward bend of our bones. She proliferates, “writing is saturated with one’s positionality, the forms our textual bodies take seem consciously or unconsciously meaningful and even performative.” This refraction “challenges the fiction of wholeness and the individual,” meaning why of course hell yes I am not a universal. We are integrated alternative bodies presented in whole “available” form.

The mind and body is expressive and accumulated in the tango of self; “we exist, we struggle, we manifest and play with this presentation.” If anything, she argues, “perhaps the scandal is that the body is the site of origination.” The binary of mind and body structure is bedeviled. Instead, “Intimacy has flexibility because it is porous rather than set … [and this] accounts for its relationship to vulnerability.” We receive, “spaces as testing grounds for each other,” we ask for reciprocation; the reciprocation of other.

Kristi Maxwell is the author of Re- (Ahsahta Press, 2011), Hush Sessions (Saturnalia Books, 2009), Realm Sixty-four (Ahsahta, 2008), and the chapbook Elswhere & Wise (Dancing Girl Press, 2008). Her fourth book, That Our Eyes Be Rigged, is forthcoming from Saturnalia in 2014. She lives and writes in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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1.)      What were the first inspirations that made you desire to become a writer? Who are your favorite writers and how did they change over time?

I have an amazing mom: she took me to the library; she read books to my sisters and me; she transcribed my first books, which I dictated to her before I could spell. I guess I didn’t become a writer: I’ve just always been one, and my mom recognized that in me and helped me cultivate it. I am a writer who has desired to become (also) other things: oceanographer, painter, archeologist, cartoonist, teacher, journalist.

In terms of poetry, in high school, e.e. cummings was my favorite—this was somewhat by default: his poems were among the few 20th century collections sold at my local bookstore, but I adored him (even his prose: my AOL screen name in the ‘90s was DelectableMTN, taken from The Enormous Room)—his playfulness, the energy behind his language, the sheer textual quality reinforcing the physical aspects of words, his ability to balance tenderness and irreverence. A lot of these same things describe the work of the poets I discovered later and who have meant so much to me: Harryette Mullen, Susan Howe, Gertrude Stein, Morgan Lucas Schuldt, Anne Carson, Tan Lin, C.D. Wright, Thalia Field, Tyrone Williams, Jack Spicer.

Even earlier was Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose section 8 from The Wreck of the Deutschland I have tattooed on my back. My speech therapist from when I was a little girl had me repeat his lines back to her to help me learn to form sounds. You really have to get your mouth around those dense word-clots of his so they make for good practice. Let’s see: Antoine Saint-Exupery, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Anaïs Nin also mattered a lot to me.

2.)      Who have been the creative inspiration / mentor writers in your career?

The poet Wendy Cannella introduced me to the poems of Yehuda Amichai when we were in Slovenia together in the summer of 2001—that had a profound impact on me. Ashley VanDoorn, who was a year ahead of me in undergrad at the University of Tennessee and who invited me to the poetry circles she hosted in her apartment, has always been immensely important to my writing and my high valuation of community. My teachers—Art Smith, Marilyn Kallet, Richard Jackson, Jane Miller, Boyer Rickel, Tenney Nathanson, Beth Ash, Lisa Hogeland, Don Bogen—have all played significant parts in my creative life.

3.)      How has your own work changed over time and why? I think I’ve finally learned how to just relax into it. A lot of the early anxiety is gone.

4.)      Have you been influenced by different genres, and if so how?

Yes: I’ve been expanded by all of them.

5.)      What are your plans for the future? I’ve got big plans! I just made a summer projects list that includes working on articles about the poems of Evie Shockley and Morgan Lucas Schuldt, drafting a sci-fi novel, brainstorming a television series with poet Drew Krewer, writing away on a weird thing I started in April, returning to some lyric essays I’ve been approaching (and reconfiguring my approach to) since last year, translating, returning to PLAN/K, my manuscript that had been picked up for publication by the now defunct Mud Luscious Press and that I can return to with some new ideas since it won’t be coming out with them after all. And those are only my writing plans! I also have plans that involve quarries and swimming and plants and loving and impromptu dance parties and patio-sitting.

6.)      Who are promising women writers to look at in the future? Many of the promising women writers I expect I’ll be looking to in the future, luckily, we have access to now, too. My Tucson cohort: Frankie Rollins, Kristen Nelson, Stephanie Balzer, Hannah Ensor, Meagan Lehr, Annie Guthrie, Renee Angle, Deborah Brandon, Julia Gordon Saterstrom, Dot Devota, Johanna Skibsrud, Lisa O’Neill. I’m consistently excited by the writing of Emily Kendel Frey, Lynn Xu, Laura Sims, and Megan Martin. I’m excited to see what my former student Lisa Summe does. I was floored by some pieces Liz Latty read to me last summer. Oh my! There are so many promising women writers whose words we should latch our eyes onto—I could go on and on.

7.)      If you were asked to create a flexible label of yourself as a writer, what would it be? Hmm. I don’t really know—I feel like “writer” is pretty flexible.

8.)      The following passages are from a section of work titled: “TO INSIST ON THE ‘SOMENESS’ OF EVERY ASSEMBLAGE”. We enter into a dialogue as language enters cognition. We have an assumption of language as it is interpreted by the receiver. “The day invented your voice / someone heard … what is the lace verb / or the last verb instead? … your body is where?” The provocation is an invitation of one speaker to another. We read, “is the universal ever not not / flawed? is the flaw ever not / universal?” In this context do you believe we are ever able write the body on to the page, thus inflecting the hierarchy of the mind over the body? Or does this merely place us into universals that are the way in which we identify to others lacking specificity?  _____________ I am very interested in the textual body as an analogue to other bodies in the world. Because writing is saturated with one’s positionality, the forms our textual bodies take seem consciously or unconsciously meaningful and even performative. I remember the first time I read Jennifer Martenson’s xq28—a text whose words exist only in the space of footnotes—and thinking about how compellingly the textual body she puts forth comments on erased lesbian bodies and subjects. I’ve been thinking about this in the context of other writers, too—for instance, how the neologisms and portmanteaux in Morgan Lucas Schuldt’s work (poems most certainly bound to his very real experience of moving through the world with cystic fibrosis) seem to challenge the fiction of wholeness and the individual: I like the model of interdependency and proliferation his poems put forth. I’m wary of the notion of universalism because difference has a tendency to get quashed under its weight.

9.)      Continuing the discussion of mind over body, the following passage delineates: “I mistake stillness for death / I shake a little body / I nudge a bigger body / until I am satisfied / The spirit real and sexual realm collide / mentally bump and rub / A thought is always scandalous / as it steals from the body.” Body and mind here are in opposition. The mind conquers in every turn and steals from expression. How does language allow us to communicate if we cannot speak with our bodies? The “sexual realm,” is that what you see as body? How can we unite these terms in language, or do you see them as disparate entities?  ­­­­_____________ I do not see the mind and body as “in opposition;” here, the thought steals away (in the sense of slinks) from its originary site (the body)—perhaps the scandal is that the body is the site of origination. The body can of course include the sexual realm, but it is not limited to it. For me, thinking (and “the mind”) is an extension of the body; I remember first encountering the so-called French feminist theorists and feeling liberated by their rejection of the mind-body binary. It helps me to think about my relationship with language as an interspecies one: I am a body, language is bodies—we are in collaboration; my challenge to myself is to make myself available, to enact (to borrow from Donna Haraway) a response-ability. I am piercing through language—also absorbing it; it is piercing me, also absorbing the structures of my body and mind. This is perhaps why play exists, but also struggle: one of the things we manage as writers, I think, is the tension between our desire to master language and our inability to ultimately do so. We always say more than we mean to say.

10.)   Intimacy and vulnerability assume a position as the poem develops: “we may be always threatened / I regret making myself vulnerable / yet I do it again / I gape, I gap, gab and gab / I fail to gap gab instead / You are asked to figure out / a definition of intimacy.” And later,  “clothes make us out as what we are / one possibility / an intersection of forms / Each turtle holds a partial truth.” Wherein we knot in relationship, “What a scene! / Later we wee     ded / the poem / by which logic it holds / to memorize is to wed.” Memorization internalizes the processing of logic into the body; the brain. Do you believe intimacy to be clothed or unclothed?  “Wed,” as you say, is the body in language our ability to remember? And if this is so, can we ever define intimacy? Does our attempt to define intimacy tether us further from the close we wish to accept?  ­­­­_____________ I do not know if we can define intimacy, but I trust that we can experience it.

11.)   In the section titled: “EVERY TIME I WANT TO WRITE YOU, / I’M GOING TO WRITE A LINE INSTEAD:” the poem reads, “Name three empty things / A person can’t really be empty / so a person doesn’t count / Of course I do not believe that / people don’t count.” This is juxtaposed to, “What’s worth a fight / The struggle to feel one’s worth.” And the ending, “There is a point at which a person allows another person / to see her in a way she doesn’t like to be seen / This is how I explain trust / How a person gauges something he might otherwise misread / I have brushed my hair and my teeth.” In intimacy we form our own language. We understand each other in ways that if addressed in public discourse, would slip under the radar of the norms of communication. In trust we are able to open to intimacy. How do you see social media as supporting this unequivocal happening or transforming it? Intimacy is displayed over a larger scope as acquaintances are able to chime in, regard, or comment. Do you perceive this to be different than a normal house gathering or do you think the system is flawed? Does the action of listening to someone’s body and voice change the way our bodies are a part of the conversation?  ­­­­_____________ Making ourselves available to connect (and to connection) regardless the outlet seems to foster intimacy—putting oneself in a position to note (which always implies engagement): to pay attention, to listen, and to respond. I do think we are expanded by listening—by paying attention—we hold something of another person inside us and by responding, we give something of ourselves: intimacy perhaps depends on reciprocal alterity, which Joan Retallack so wonderfully discusses in Poethical Wager: the recognition of self in other and other in self. Thinking on this question, I recall phrases that are specific to my exchanges with particular friends—I recall gestures that are specific, semi-private movements that signify: we develop textual and physical languages to honor our intimacies. It is marvelous: the mutual recognition that sustains connection. I’m thinking of phrases and gestures that attach me to certain communities despite distance and time: I’m thinking of creating shared meanings—this seems different from knowing, which can become rather inflexible. Intimacy has flexibility because it is porous rather than set. One can of course know in intimacy (and know intimately), but intimacy makes room for uncertainty, too, and for change: this accounts for its relationship to vulnerability. In intimacy, we offer our spaces as testing grounds for each other. There’s a lot to pilfer there! But we will not pilfer, we will ask for…

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profiles in poetics: Kristy Bowen

authorphotoKristy Bowen

Website: www.dancinggirlpress.com

www.kristybowen.net

From onset, poet Kristy Bowen has had, “an attraction to language combined with a mind prone to fantasy and imagination.” The fervor of one to, “[string] together … things, words, images, ideas, found text to create something entirely new.” In doing so, “The edges and structure are a little looser and more fractured, but I like it that way.” As editor of Dancing Girl Press, Kristy “[seeks] to get more women and their work into the conversation of American literature, it’s both frustrating and motivating…unfair and ridiculous in this day and age … [and] inspiring.”

Bowen’s work in this conversation alludes to the domestic settled in the everyday contemporaneous corporality of landscape and conversation. Domestic dust, she illuminates is, “a very closed, confined space, and one that belongs wholely to women .” This, “ordered system, or a system of systems … is subject to chaos and misfirings … desire, in the physicality of the poem, in the body that exists that is almost always in peril.” But herein, we are able to transform voice: “The layering of multiple voices and consciousnesses over each other.” Unification of subject and object intersect: “what seems to be true … is actually true.”

A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of a number of book, chapbook, and zine projects.   She lives in Chicago where she runs dancing girl press & studio, devoted to paper-oriented arts and publishing work by women writers/artists.
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1.) What were the first inspirations that made you desire to become a writer? Who are your favorite writers and how did they change over time?

I think it was always a certain temperament I had even as a kid, an attraction to language combined with a mind prone to fantasy and imagination.  This is what had me buried in books and stories from the time I could read and what made me eventually want to write them. I remember being 13 and enamored of Stephen King and Christopher Pike and deciding I needed to write a horror novel.  I had about a hundred handwritten pages before I gave up, but the need didn’t go away.  Consequently, as far as poetry goes, it was Poe that captured my attention and for years I could have recited “Annabelle Lee” from memory.   Though there were a number of things I considered and/or planned doing with my life, it eventually always came back to that.  By the time I was in college and had decided to major in English, I had discovered Sylvia Plath ( though then it was more her journals that I was interested, her life (and death) as a writer than the actual poems I would devour later).  At the time, it was mostly fiction writers that held my focus– William Faulkner, the Brontes, Margaret Atwood, Marilynne Robinson.  While I’d read and loved classics like Millay and Dickinson, for someone who would become a poet, I was pretty out of the loop on more contemporary poets until I got to grad school and started reading Plath again, and then Sexton.  Later, Louise Gluck and Jorie Graham and Anne Carson.  This was when I was really starting to write more and deciding to spend my life doing this. I had always focused most of my study and interests in the direction of female writers, but it was actually TS Eliot that sort of broke things wide open for me, the possibilities that The Wasteland offered in terms of what poetry could be.  By the time I landed back in grad school for my MFA, it was mostly current and emerging writers that excited me, people like Olena Kalytiak Davis, Larissa Szporluk, Daphne Gottlieb, Mary Anne Samyn, Sabrinah Orah Mark, and CD Wright.

2.) Who have been the creative inspiration / mentor writers in your career?

I’ve  never really had anyone I would consider a mentor, but there are people I’ve encountered, both in terms of their work and friendship, who have influenced shaped my work (either consciously or subconsciously), people like Simone Muench, Lauren Levato, and Daniela Olszewska ) And, of course, there is a lot of inspiration to be found by immersing myself in writing as an editor/curator, so many dgp authors and their work adding to the virtual soup from which my own work generates.

3.) How has your own work changed over time and why?

I think my approach to crafting a piece of writing (I say writing and not poem since most of what I write lately is actually more prose-like) has changed very much from when I was starting out.  I used to sit down with a subject in mind and hammer out a poem.  In the last 10 years or so, and this may have to do with my forays into the visual arts (collage and book arts), it’s become much more of a fragmentary process.  A stringing together of things, words, images, ideas, found text to create something entirely new. It is much more fun and interesting and much less dogged this way, and it often leads me in directions I’d never even imagined.   The edges and structure are a little looser and more fractured, but I like it that way.

4.) Have you been influenced by different genres, and if so how?

I mentioned collage and book arts, and many of my writing projects these days are entwined with and/or have a visual component. I think, with pretty much anything I write, story and narrative are the important part, the goal, what I’m reaching for.  It might be fragmented and messy and associative and tangential, but it’s there if you look for it.  I’m also interested in non-creative forms of language and text (instruction manuals, word problems, letters, ephemera, indexes, glossaries.)

5.) What are your plans for the future?

I pretty much plan to just keep doing what I’m doing, writing things, making things. I have a list of projects I want to get to at some point, titles for unwritten manuscripts, sketches and description of art projects, books projects, things I want to do with the press.  I just plan to keep moving forward.

6.) What are your views on writing by women as it has occurred in the past twenty years?

I think there has been a lot of progress, but also that there is still so much left to do (as things like VIDA statistics reveal.)  As someone who is seeking to get more women and their work into the conversation of American literature, it’s both frustrating and motivating.  On one hand, as a female writer and reader of women’s work, it feels limiting and unfair and ridiculous in this day and age.. But as a publisher, it feels inspiring to know that we’re fighting the good fight.

7.) Who are promising women writers to look at in the future?

I just read and fell in love with Poisonhorse by Brandi Wells.  dancing girl press has also recently issued  a handful of first chaps by writers that are just staring to make their way into journals and the literary world (Caylin Capra Thomas, Laura Mei Roghaar, Meghan Brinson, Sarah Cook, Sacha Siskonen.) This is, of course, in addition to a number of more established poets we publish, all of whom you should keep an eye out for..

8.) If you were asked to create a flexible label of yourself as a writer, what would it be?

I guess I initially used to consider myself a “poet”.  Especially since my attempts at writing fiction were lacked a certain amount of endurance.  I guess now, if I were to describe it, it would be more geared toward just “writer/artist” be that related to words or images or whathaveyou.

9.) “intertia,” is a poem of domesticity that revolves around cultural staples. “rabbits,” “milk,” “ribbon,” “lanternlight.” These are words that have origin. The poem reads, “The trick is distance. / The trick is diminishment.” If we change the materialism of the language, does the pathos attached to the object change the definition of domesticity?

The entirety of the first section does deal with the domestic, everyday space (as opposed to the strange, tranformative space in the other two sections.) It’s also a very closed, confined space, and one that belongs wholely to women.  I think everything in that section is moving toward something, or exists in those moments BEFORE one is moving towards something and away from that everydayness

10.)  In the poem, “a little fever,” “the glass factory, the space behind the body is warm, chambered // like heart. All wires and threaded light. / My mind a railcar sideways on a track”. We are confronted by a heavy nostalgic beauty. Take the following, “Times like these, / if sliced open, you’d find a lake, a length // of copper inside us. A litany of weathered / saints sitting in the bathtub. Our legs listless, // petal heavy.” This is a linguistic tradition of intimacy. As we attempt to evolve and change in language we cannot forget these damp, “sliced openings,” of self from our parents, our minds, and our tradition. How then do you suppose we blend and acculturate these differences, while at the same time change the dissonance of a violent past? How does this happen in language?

I think the setting, or even the concept of, a glass factory makes the world of the poems prone to danger, to sharpness, to fragility and destruction.  The body, and you could even say like language, is this very ordered system, or a system of systems, but also one that subject to chaos and misfirings.  But there is also desire, and in desire, in the physicality of the poem, in the body that exists that is almost always in peril.

11.) The active character in your poem “double tongue,” becomes divided. We read, “She’s prettier, but I’m the quick one. / There’s no telling what we can do / with our throats, this frail pipe // that joins us.  Rough lungs, / cloven heart. Each night, / I practice scales. Her.” And at the end of the poem, we are left with archetype: “We prefer to be addressed as Alice.” The duplicity is at once active and passive. The split character is one of force. Can please allude to the departure from the passive towards Alice who is a transitory dynamic duplicitous female voice?

I think this poem best illustrates what I was reaching for with the entire book in terms of voice.  The layering of multiple voices and consciousnesses over each other. Like the siamese twins, every voice in the book speaks both separately and yet also in unison.  The twins become both subject and object, which is a thread in the book, the idea of women as spectacle, as something to be viewed, to be watched, to perform.  And yet, they are also subjects with their own volition and narrative voice. In general, there is also a lot of duplicity going on.  Twins, sisters, hybrids (mermaids, bird girls). The intersection of what seems to be true and what is actually true.

12.)   In contrast to “intertia,” “la grande ploungeuse,” is a poem with no “milk”. The opening lines begin, “It’s the drama turns me / inside out, all black // velvet and the flare / of doves. Small things // placed inside the larger / like nesting dolls.” We can still attach ourselves to the domestic through “dolls,” and “doves,” but here, the “arc of women / [fling] themselves into // the taught air.” We have action, we have dissonance; we have movement. We do not have redemption, but we have voice. How does the language change specifically in regards to logos based definition of culture? And how does this affect our ingestion as readers of the characters within this undertaking of language?

This is, again, largely about the object/subject division.  The woman at the top of a diving board is both performance and performer. This was one of the last poems that was written for the book, and I do feel like the language becomes cleaner and meaner at this point, so I’m not as much sure that it’s the subject matter that changes the language or just happenstance. But I suppose if we look more at language itself as performance, at this point in the book, the concept of voice, becomes more layered and even muddy, even while the poems become more spare at times.

profiles in poetics: Annie Guthrie

annie_guthrie_photo_savannah guthrie

Annie Guthrie

Website: annieguthrie.net

thevolta.org

Annie Guthrie poetically transfixtures emphatic and empathetic states of semiosis. Jewelry, she explains, is about “noise, rhythm, placement, shape and tools and I think about tension and action in terms of poetry.” A drawing produces intervals of “mark-making and how the gesture is made in language outside of chronology or narrative.” The elements of “poetry [happen] across investigation and encounter and it isn’t separate from life.” Rather, “It’s the score of a call and response of the interior.” This compelling play enunciates how we encounter life and self.

In this interview, we consider Guthrie’s book the good dark forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2014. The tangled economical positions cue “gossip,” “ontological and existential suffering,” “visibility,” and the constitution of this space. The main character tumbles towards desire; intimations of saturated intimacy. “Threat” occurs when “visible” dissolves the speaker’s ability to merge with her beloved. Guthrie shares, “The identity of this beloved is often confused, for her, and for the reader. This is an enactment of spiritual grappling.” It is only when she is able to accept self-difference that conscious calculation is surrendered. This, as Guthrie inspires, “[makes] room for…a spirit-ditch.” Ultimately, “The speaker is seeking self/meaning/god in everything, which includes ‘a boy,’ ‘the visible,’ ‘the body,’ etc. In short, everything is considered. All approaches, conceptual, physical, perceptual, biological, intuitive, spiritual, are considered.”

Annie Guthrie is a writer and jeweler from Tucson. She is the Marketing Director at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, where she recently curated a national symposium, Poetry off the Page, featuring poets who work in hybrid, multi-media forms and in other art forms such as film, theater, book arts and dance.

Annie has a metalsmithing shop at the Splinter Brothers warehhouse in Tucson where she designs custom pieces in platinum, gold and silver. Her how-to jewelry book, Instant Gratification, was published with Chronicle Books. Her jewels can be seen at http://www.annieguthrie.net and on Etsy.

Annie received an MFA from Warren Wilson and has been teaching Oracular Writing at the Poetry Center since 2009. Annie has poems published in Tarpaulin Sky, Ploughshares, Fairy Tale Review, Many Mountains Moving, HNGMAN, The Destroyer, RealPoetik, Everyday Genius, Omniverse, The Volta, Spiral Orb, The Dictionary Project, 1913, A Journal of Forms, Drunken Boat, and more. Her book “the good dark” will be published with Tupelo Press in 2014.

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1.) What were the first inspirations that made you desire to become a writer?

In fourth grade, I wrote a “collection” of my “creative writing stories.” The best one was called “fortunately, unfortunately.” It amuses me that my thought default mechanism was already in place. In sixth grade, I won a prize for reading the most books in the school. I think I wrote a hundred book reports. I was trained as a reader. My family was book-centered. In junior high I always hid in the library at lunch time to avoid the other kids. I think writing is just what young readers begin to do. There was never a decision. My Mom always made us keep diaries. I was really into journalism class in seventh grade. Writing was the way I worked out my being. It still is. I grew up identifying as a writer but I really wanted to be a painter.

2.) Who are your favorite writers and how did they change over time?

I like difficult writing. I think I always have. I like to be made to think harder or differently. When I was a kid I loved mystery novels. That has translated in adulthood to a love of mystic/shaman writer-thinkers like Helene Cixous, William Bronk, Bhanu Kapil, Gaston Bachelard, Sofie Calle, Michael Palmer, Virginia Woolf, Paul Celan, J.M. Coetzee, Jesse Ball, Fanny Howe, Fyoder Doestoyevsky, Hiromi Ito, W.G. Sebald, Fred Moten, Susan Howe. When I love a writer I read them for life. Additions are made, but my loves don’t change. I’m very loyal. I’m slinking around the thought-archives of Dalkey and Naropa and the Sorbonne.

3.) Who have been the creative inspiration / mentor writers in your career?

I worked with Claudia Rankine early on at Warren Wilson and she remains a powerful influence and friend. She’s got this ferociously lightning mind on top of this thick, established stratum of calm. An incredible human. Another great thinker that has shaped and re-shaped really my entire approach to writing, teaching, and to life is Kim Young, a painter, and a dream and IChing scholar. My husband Tommaso Cioni is my greatest teacher. He is a great manifester; he writes poetry with his lifestyle.

4.) How has your own work changed over time and why?

I don’t know. The subject of inquiry changes, so the writing changes. I like to think of the writing as what’s left behind of my inductions and transductions. It’s crafted evidence of thought. So whatever I am inspiriting gets its traces all over the pages.

5.) Have you been influenced by different genres, and if so how?

Absolutely everything has a chance to emphatically and empathically influence me. If I am making jewelry I think about noise, rhythm, placement, shape and tools and I think about tension and action in terms of poetry. If I am drawing I think about mark-making and how the gesture is made in language outside of chronology or narrative. I read a lot of fiction, because I am interested in building and accumulation. I often get a little lost in research when I explore other fields. I am teaching a class called “Oracular Mapping,” and so I am reading a lot of material related to urban planning. Right now I am reading “The Wayfinding Handbook,” “The Image of the City,” and “Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information,” for instance. The poetry happens across investigation and encounter and it isn’t separate from life.
It’s the score of a call and response of the interior.

6.) What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to continue teaching “Oracular Writing” at the Poetry Center in Tucson – it keeps me on my toes. Hopefully I can manage a tiny book tour when the book comes out. I have friends in big cities and I will probably just design it around where my loved ones live: Paris, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Asheville…hmm I am forgetting somebody.

7.) If you were asked to create a flexible label of yourself as a writer, what would it be?

Artist.

8.) In the section: “chorus,” the voice of, “*the priest” orchestrates a scenario in which the “Lord performs a test”. The priest has set up “one mirror, in an empty room, the entrance to his home. / And the call to his guests: ‘Come, I’m in the back’.” The visitors are invited to walk through a “secret” opening admitting, “I don’t care for submission. As much as coincidence. / I’m not good at being very happy, / when not spoken to directly.” The request is one to look at themselves in a petri dish of sorts where the priest assumes an omniscient hierarchical presence. If this was a coincidental happening they may succumb in a discourse that places both respective intentions across from one another. However defining his position within his own home is alienating and their participation is black and white. They defensively acknowledge the test. The structure of the test dissolves the intimacy of the interaction. Does the test lack intimacy because of the structure of the environment, or does it lack intimacy because of the structure of the pathos? Which do you believe to be more hierarchical?

The priest is telling a story (an unlikely one for the priest to tell) about the Lord. It’s the Lord’s home, and the Lord’s test that the priest illustrates. However, the priest’s own sermon undoes his intentions, because his characters lose their identity in the syntax: the reader doesn’t know if it is the Lord whispering, or his guests. This is serving to abolish hierarchy. The syntactical arrangement itself is a gesture toward intimacy. Which is what the speaker is seeking throughout all her investigation.

How can the spiritual component of this piece be altered so that the priest is an open presence not lost in a looming controlling based spectrum that is based on fear? Well I wouldn’t want to do that, because it isn’t a tract, it isn’t redemptive. These poems are evidence left by a speaker, a seeker who leaves a trail of ontological and existential suffering.

Is this a critique of monotheism?
No, this is a poem- it contains our loneliness – god’s, and ours.

9.) The voice “*the gossip,” in the same section, is a tavern “damp, dark, filled with enough / to feel invisible.” We learn, “The Visible [is] a violent character here.” We read on, “She’s tethered to a game. The man will play the ground. / ‘What are you doing, protecting your rook?’ he’ll say, taking the queen. / ‘Trying to find a good place to hide,’ she’ll say, letting him down.” This societal reflection juxtoposes girl in her visibility as both victim and passivity. The “game” of social underpinnings is everywhere. “He” is the player. Here “She” lets him down. If she plays him does this admonish both visibility as violent and she as passive? Where in your mind do you see the flexible underpinnings of being both visible and non-violent, active, and cooperative? And why is this gossip?

The gossip tells of an encounter between a man and our main character (“she.”) The “visible” is a spiritual threat to her, she who is trying to mystically dissolve, or merge with her beloved. The identity of this beloved is often confused, for her, and for the reader. This is an enactment of spiritual grappling, but not a sociopolitical commentary. The gesture to want to hide inside of the inanimate and too-small rook reveals the crisis and confusion of the character, she missing entirely he man’s grounding gesture to keep her in the game (in the present.) Gossip is not real, it’s gossip. A poem is a kind of gossip, that is, it can only touch some part of the truth about this kind of crisis.

10.) The character/theme “*gossip” at one point in the “chorus,” shares, “In alongside intuition a certain new loneliness creeps / when she found out she might be the inventor of herself / the light the words her eyes spill.” This is juxtaposed to the transition in the last section is titled, “body,” in which an asterisk is unaccompanied, and “I” is used instead. We listen, “what if wish & love open at the same time? / I ask the glass with a kind of dare // (the difference between fantasy and prayer is innocence).” If the fantasy is towards self it is both love and open. This assumes a type of “innocence”. Does this ask us to reassess our patriarchal lens of competition?

It’s meant to reveal a move the character has made, into perhaps a place without reference. Her investigations are leading her into a reassessment of the lenses she has been using.

11.) The work ends as follows: “I counted truth for my life, recanted – / finding a sameness in things. // The body took the blame / for the deeds of the mind. // It was this kind of human.” “Human” becomes “body”. In sameness we depart from gossip, but how do you see this partaking in language? How does our difference assemble our visibility outside of fantasy and where does the body reunite with the mind?

When awareness achieves “lightspice,” fantasy and difference are momentarily dissolved (the robes fall; dark). This kind of character doesn’t end, and can’t, inside language, do anything but pick up difference again (to spell, to read, is to differentiate.) Perhaps the reunification will happen next: when difference itself is acknowledged, reunification as a goal, might be dropped. Which could make room for.. .

How do you see genders re-equating to each other outside of this pathos in visibility?

This book takes us through a spirit-ditch. I don’t see it as a gender-differentiated place.
The inequality suffered is not happening between genders here in this place. The speaker is seeking self/meaning/god in everything, which includes “a boy,” “the visible,” “the body,” etc. In short, everything is considered. All approaches, conceptual, physical, perceptual, biological, intuitive, spiritual, are considered.

profiles in poetics: Maureen Alsop

maureen 2013 032Maureen Alsop

Website:

www.maureenalsop.com

www.alchemicalflamingo.blogspot.com

Constellatory impressions of self, need “[agents] for energy [shifts]” in relationships. Maureen Alsop is a poet who sifts through the “imprints, subtle accumulations of a personal, yet collective landscape.” She expresses, “The YOU I refer to is always multilayered. You, the stranger. You, my father. You, deceased. You, who go on living. I know you; you know me/ not. You are whispered of. You am I and I am you.” And here, the “fractal patterns in nature suggest,” interpersonal relationships “theoretically [as] institution [are] easily a miscarriage. Relationships are powerful”. We manifest self-reflections of choice motivated in life. This energy is an “act which, in consequence, forces a form of ‘self as installation.’  I am a walking, breathing relic of my departed tribe.” We are subtle accumulations; relics of our past, present, and transformative future tribes.

Maureen Alsop, Ph.D. is the author of, Mantic (Augury Books)Apparition Wren (Main Street Rag), and several chapbooks, most recently a blade of grass made bare by its own anatomy (Blue Hour Press)Luminal Equation in the collection Narwhal (Cannibal Press), the dream and the dream you spoke (Spire Press), and 12 Greatest Hits (Pudding House, pending). Additional chapbooks include Nightingale Habit (Finishing Line Press) and Origin of Stone. Maureen is an associate poetry editor for the online journal Poemeleon and Inlandia: A Literary Journal. She presently leads a creative writing workshop for the Inlandia Institute, the Riverside Art Museum, and The Rooster Moans.

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1.)      What were the first inspirations that made you desire to become a writer? Who are your favorite writers and how did they change over time? 

I don’t think I desired to be a writer; I sort of couldn’t help it.  Favorite writers have not changed for me. I still love and return to D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Porter, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemmingway, T.S. Eliot, Larry Levis, and many other writers. I also like reading random sources for ideas, books on symbolism; the Bible (though I’m hardly religious) is a great source text. There are some beautiful poems and language in those testaments.

2.)    Who have been the creative inspiration / mentor writers in your career?  Too many to name…

3.)      How has your own work changed over time and why?  I used to obsess on narrative aspects of poetry. I think this was because I was keenly aware that I was a “closet anti-narrative anarchist.” I still believe that poetry is often sacrificed to fiction. Eventually I figured out how to wed my antithesis.  I worked at that to some satisfaction (narration).  It’s like learning a technique. Not that I’ve mastered narration, but I understand it’s mechanics well enough, respect the human tendency for story, and appreciate my own way of thinking. Now I can allow the structure of my poems to fall away just enough to see where my poem’s scaffolding supports it’s own rawness.

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4.)      Have you been influenced by different genres, and if so how? I’m highly visual. So visual imagery whether it’s a physical landscape I am standing in, a film, a painting, these effect my psyche and shift my approach to language by inexplicable means.  I remember experiencing some “writer’s block” (which I don’t really believe in) a few summers ago so I decided to watch every Ingmar Bergman film I could lay my hands on as a source to write from.  Very little writing trickled out, but recently I shared a poem with a friend and she felt that the poem was a reflection of Bergman’s Persona.  The association shocked me.  I believe in the power of the subconscious.  Let your subconscious do the work and shut the thinking brain off.   Be ready to write, always.   I also have a steady awe for physicality. Getting into myself physically and also ‘getting out of the way of myself’ is a revelatory prowess.  Physical practices: breath-work, bodywork, meditation are increasingly as important to me as my writing.

5.)      What are your plans for the future?  I’ve heard the phrase, “if you want fear, create a future.”  In this transitional era, I’ve started to create a few projections—mostly finger-puppet shadows on a blank tableau.  My intimations rework themselves without reference.  Hawk’s flight-patterns frequently crowd my evenings.

6.)      What are your views on writing by women as it has occurred in the past twenty years?

The New Yorker article indicating that women writers are less likely to be published than their male counterparts was extremely discouraging.  Yet in our country, probably more than any other, we have more writers than we’ve ever had.    I’m not sure really what to make of technological changes and trends. Movements are vast and rapid. Opportunities create optimism—our culture seems to promote both of these qualities in equal balance.  Poetry circles have small drains in which to swirl/channel.  I guess my view would be “do what you want to do, work at it, expect nothing, try to enjoy the process.”  I don’t see any other choice or barrier beyond one’s own determination to grow.  Maybe I’ll adapt a masculine pseudonym and watch my readership multiple (joke).

7.)      Who are promising women writers to look at in the future?  Hillary Gravendyk, Sarah Maclay, Amy Schroder, Elena Karina Byrne, Farrah Field, Bethany Ides (performer/artist), Louise Mathias, Carolyn Guinzio, Nicelle Davis, Lily Brown, Bronwyn Tate, Julia Cohen… there are many

8.)      If you were asked to create a flexible label of yourself as a writer, what would it be? Anyone who writes poetry probably lives in an atypical reality; one’s imagination, self-possession, the requiescat ability to filter environmental influences, these are potent manifest allies. Call me crazy; call me Ishmael.

9.)      The poem “Thumomancy” is titled and speaks to the divination to be inspired, not by God, but of soul. In corporeal form we are asked how the body is an immortal essence of self, foreseeing future events.  We reevaluate the connection of body and passing, not from love, but humanity. A squirrel is majestic “constructing snow angels, turning your palms/ skyward, but the gesture/ of your hands were not holy. Tonight the oncoming/ boxcar whistles your unfolding.” Instead of an ideal future utopia the speaker gravitate to a past “you” in the form of a squirrel. Not the most flattering of flittering animals. Here “night has given me an addiction,” an “accident without origin.” An “unfolding” occurs within the soul as it collides with the collapse and ultimate death of the squirrel. Please extend these notions of the unfolding as they occur both in the death of the body of “you” and of the soul. Is the connection to the “other” through death? And if so, why is this poem in the middle of the book?

Well, as much as I have empathy for a squirrel, the little critter was an incidental sideline for the poem, not meant as the sole focal point.  Though I am intrigued that the poem may be interpreted that way, and honor that interpretation so let me consider the squirrel… where s/he came from and what s/he means.  I do remember one summer in Canada (we had a cottage on Lake Huron we visited annually) that a squirrel shimmed down the chimney, where he became trapped and died.  Not a joyous occasion for my parents for sure. I felt that critter’s desperation, imagined myself trapped in the cottage, starving.  There were tons of squirrels where I grew up. I could spend hours observing. I remember a painting I created of a squirrel that I was very proud of as a kid. When I moved to Australia, then California, there were no to very few such creatures. They are not my favorite animals necessarily, I’m not a big rodent fan, but I do love animals, so see them as a cousin.

Absence’s force unfolds, as you say, by multitudes. In relation to the poem, based on a divination by the means of one’s own soul, obviously there are some childhood references lurking.  The beginning of life on the planet, the understanding of the means for being alive, the illumination of joy and it’s undercarriage/partner, sorrow.  Creating snow angels.  The sound of a distant train.  A dead squirrel.  These are all imprints, subtle accumulations of a personal, yet collective landscape. Soul, transgression’s agent for energy’s shift, seems a central preoccupation, thus a centerpiece poem.

The YOU I refer to is always multilayered. You, the stranger. You, my father. You, deceased. You, who go on living. I know you; you know me/ not. You are whispered of. You am I and I am you.

10.)   “Epithalamium” is a poem where God is a coughing song embedded into the logos of a young girl. She awaits passively her confinement as she digests the language of His omission. The Epithalamium is a traditional Greek song in praise of a bride and groom on the way to their marital chamber.  But the poem has a conflicting sentiment. “The small girl never looks up” as she wants to “kiss someone familiar,” instead “[staring] at a diagonal / scar down the wall,” staring just long enough to see Him. God is a hierarchical king in this ideology overpowering the girl without redemption. Traditional marriage here has no redemption. Does this reflect in your opinion our current marital conversations and how do you believe this logos and song needs to change to empower the partnership?

I love being married, but theoretically marriage as institution is easily a miscarriage. Relationships are powerful.  However all these relationships and structures we develop are self-reflections.  I do think marriage can be redeeming. In this poem, the speaker comes to terms with her marriage to life, which is also her marriage to death.  It’s not exactly a poem one would hear at a traditional wedding, though I like to imagine that (a wedding in which everyone wears black, funerary right?…).   The postulate is the question of death rather than marriage. People have a natural fear of death, which in itself is quite natural. The poem is an understanding, a marriage to death; this partnership is not exclusive. Intimate, yes.  A profound, awakening? No. Probably equivalent to any other event (even as simple as flossing one’s teeth) signifying we are alive, small epiphanies; the light we cannot hide from is the same.

11.)   Death and memory essence in “The Arrival of Memory”. The “soul inside soul wants to talk,” “later this fall will know you were not alive,” and a “voice that won’t drift keeps naming the water a blue afternoon.” In “Necromancy,” (a divination of one speaking to the dead) we read, “what finds you again is you,” “who find love in secret will not know the tremble of the body,” and “your hair will be filled with kisses, larkspur, birdseed. A crown of bees fill the mirror.” Can you please discuss this interlocution with the past, how the soul connects to memory, and where presence and clarity enrich the conversation?

If the soul exists it is transcendent.  If we consider soul as life force, what transcends is our ancestral lineage through the mechanism of the body.  Our DNA is as delicately positioned for survival, as it is destruction/ completion. Fractal patterns in nature suggest an end to any continuum.  The imprint of this poem, as with many of the poems in the collection, Mantic, involved a repositioning of awareness into my father’s psyche. He passed away when I was seventeen, but his life (and unexpected death) resonates in my every fiber.  Many of the poems were also written as my mom began to decline.  She too has recently passed away.  What remains is my animalistic longing to embody their energy; an act which, in consequence, forces a form of “self as installation.”  I am a walking, breathing relic of my departed tribe.