Thanks to my inspiring poet friend Raina Leon, I have been tagged in a fun blog hop project called “The Next Big Thing.” Writers around the world are tagged by other writers and asked to respond to 10 questions in a self interview about their latest big project. Here is my response, which outlines the inspirations behind my forthcoming chapbook, out soon through Dancing Girl Press.
1. What is the working title of the book?
in the way of harbors
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The spark for the book’s ideas occurred much earlier than its actual composition. The conceptual foundation takes its materials from my experience of traveling solo in the summer of 2005 through the strange tundra of Iceland. Iceland is such a mercurial place of geological extremes; a place that is forever shifting in a literal, visible way; a place where the unpredictable natural environment so clearly determines not only the landscape but also (perhaps) the moods and ideas of the people there. At the time, I was writing many of the poems of my first chapbook, which was concerned with the power of human projection—the way we all tend to create truths and realities based upon our own subjective perceptions. But traveling to Iceland in that “endless” summer and again in the dark winter of 2006, I began to appreciate another notion of projection, thinking of how the seemingly inanimate (natural elements, as seen in Iceland, but also objects of the city, as well as intangible social constructs) can have a moving, mind-rendering force as well. I began to imagine that maybe we shape and project upon what is “other” just as much as outside forces render our internal identities. In any case, my interest in these fluid ways of understanding selfhood and meaning began to enter my poems. Before I knew it, I was obsessed with this fact of impermanence and finding mirrors of it everywhere during my travels, including in the similarly shape-shifting cities of Sao Paulo, Rio, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Bangkok, and Mexico City. I began to collect several poems that emerged out of those wonderfully dislocating but revealing experiences.
Yet I suppose the language and prosody of the book has much earlier roots. In my former life, I was a musician, and grew up playing jazz guitar and flute in various bands, both in the U.S. and abroad. As such, I’m really attracted to the movement and rhythm of music, and its power to reveal a certain solid, sublime truth in a life that can have just all too much uncertainty. So the poems are very interested in the infinite music hidden within that uncertainty.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. If applicable, whom would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My protagonist would definitely be an imaginary actress. Let’s say, the mid 20s adult love child/daughter-actress of Leonard Cohen and Virginia Woolf. Let’s call her Shalene Woolf Cohen. Her godparents were Ingmar Bergman and Gertrude Stein.
5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Perhaps it’s best summed up by Virginia Woolf (the epigraph):
“But they beckoned; leaves were alive; trees were alive. . .Sounds made harmonies with premeditation; the spaces between them were as significant as the sounds.”
We are invited to explore life’s transience through the imagination of a skeptical tourist who engages the paradoxes of fixed human constructs and eventually learns to embrace the invisible music pulsing inside all things.
6. Will your work be self published or represented by an agency?
Dancing Girl Press will be publishing in the way of harbors in the late spring of 2013.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Most of the work was written over the course of 2010-12. A few poems originate from the last year of my MFA program at University of San Francisco (2006) and take their inspiration from those Iceland trips.
8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
See question 2. Or:
Urban and natural experiences involving flux, impermanence, or some form of violence….Volcanoes, earthquakes, Camus, my husband’s forensic engineering field notes, a bridge demolition at Vermont Studio Center, Celan, glaciers, hotel or motel or pension rooms, looking out the window during road trips in foreign countries, geysers, hospitals, Marker’s Sans Soleil, mosques…..And, as always, the invisible— the space between.
9. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
Questions like this always make me uncomfortable. I’d like to think the work stands on its own just as the work itself challenges the human obsession with categorization. But, I’d say my chapbook shares a kinship with Brenda Hillman’s Cascadia, Christine Hume’s Alaskaphrenia, Brian Teare’s Sight Map, Andrew Zawacki’s Petals of Zero Petals of One, and Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Some readers might enjoy the Mallarme inspired use of space featured in most of the poems (think: “Un Coup de Des”, or maybe Barbara Guest’s Quill, Solitary Apparition).
I have chosen and tagged the following writers to discuss their latest project(s) on their blogs or websites. Thanks to these incredible artists for sharing their inspirations. Please feel free to visit their blogs and comment. Keep the circle moving!
1. Fiction writer Ryan Wilson will be talking about his debut novel, Spiral Bound Brother, on March 20th.
2. Poet Della Watson will be discussing her new book, Everything Reused In The Sea, now out through Mission Cleaners Books. Della co-authored these poems with poet Jessica Wickens. Della will be posting on March 27th.
3. Poet Jessica Wickens will be discussing her new book, Everything Reused In The Sea, now out through Mission Cleaners Books. Jessica co-authored these poems with poet Della Watson. Jessica will be posting on April 3rd.
4. Poet Tiff Dressen will be discussing her new book, because Icarus-children, out later this year. Tiff will be posting on April 10th.
5. Poet Ed Smallfield will be discussing his new work on April 17th.
One Reply to “The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!”
Alex, you have revealed so much more about yourself – I would have loved to follow in your footsteps in all those travels! Very much looking forward to reading “in the way of harbors”.