Saturday, February 23, 2013

Next Big Thing


What is the working title of the book?

So far it’s In the heart is a forest. There have been much shorter versions (Forest everywhere) and a longer inverted version (In the center of the forest is a heart), but the current title has stuck around the longest.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It started with a book called Grimoire by Own Davies which is an academic history of spell-books. Around the same time, I had gone on a hike with this ecology-minded long-distance runner, who made the point that in some sense there is no more “natural” landscape as airborne manufactured-particles have touched everything. So that got me thinking about cities. Not in the sense of cities bad, forest good, which I think is kind of a played-out binary and anyway not very accurate, but rather as grown systems with underlying, sometimes hidden, patterns—which is kind of how a lot of magical systems theoretically work. There’s a structure there, but at the same time, these structures have grown organically from specific cultures. Egyptian magic looks a lot different than Hoodoo from the American South even though everybody at the time was borrowing from Egyptian iconography to lend authenticity. Anyhow, I live in Oakland, so in a way every city is Oakland to me. So I started thinking about Oakland, and cities in general, as mythological landscapes, and went from there.

looking at Lake Merritt

What genre does your book fall under?

Lyric pastoral maybe? Slipstream poetry is what came to mind, but then I began to suspect that all poetry is really slipstream, and that that label only works for fiction where borders are perhaps a little more stable.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, there’s a lot of animals in the poems (foxes and wolves recur) and there’s sort of an us, so maybe it could be filmed sort of shaky cam first person-plural, and there could be some talking animals (but it would be really brief, and they wouldn’t say much). There’s also a series in the book called The North gives flesh to wind which is about power structures, insistence, and mythologies surrounding the North wind where there’s a cast of characters including the North wind (kind of an abstract sovereign), a boy, geese, fur, secret agents, whistling, girls, a Queen with a math-skirt, wolves again. So I think that James Coburn could voice the North wind. He was great in Affliction. That also took place in sort of a mythological cold north.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

"It’s in the trees, it’s coming."

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft took about two years—I write slowly and non-methodically, which is, like, a one-two punch if your goal is to not put out coherent book-length manuscripts. Which, sadly, is not my goal, but maybe rather a gaol. Actually, that’s too strong a word, it’s just how I write (a lot of unconnected stuff between pieces that work together). Which is okay as a lot of that writing never meets anyone but me, but sort of acts as the dream-life for the poems that I actually send out.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Well the book starts with two epigraphs—one from Kate Bush and one from Wallace Stevens. I don’t think those two would get along, but there it is. Some other poets that have a lot of influence are: Jack Spicer, Elizabeth Willis (one of my teachers at Mills), and Lisa Jarnot (whose Night Scenes is one of my favorite books of all time).

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Well, you know, some of the poems have been picked up by magazines but I haven’t really started sending it around as a book. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Thanks to Eric Baus for tagging me for this.

I tag: Sara Mumolo, Nik De Dominic, David Harrison Horton, Reb Livingston

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