Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Next Big Thing Project

I’ve been tagged in a blogging project called "The Next Big Thing," a series of questions and answers on my next project, big or otherwise.

First, thanks to Carlen Arnett for inviting me to do this blog-tag game. Carlen’s interview is here: http://robinblack.net/blog/. I know her as a poet, but she is transmogrifying into a fiction writer! Her project is fun and exciting--I hope you'll go and check it out. She's guest-blogging on Robin Black's site.

In a couple of days, I'll be passing on the links to the writers I've tagged for this project.

Here are my answers to the interview questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

My next volume of poetry is tentatively titled "Map of the Floating World." The title has changed about six times since I started it. My guess is that when my editor starts work on it, the title will change yet again.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Hard to answer. The ideas for poetry come from everywhere and nowhere. One section of the book is definitely inspired by reading I was doing about Anton Mesmer. The guy lived a really strange life! And it's hard to say whether he was a great psychologist or a complete charlatan. Both, actually.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry. Definitely poetry. My last book, "Meridian," was more of a mixed genre, employing a mix of lyric and prose. This one is much more purely poetry.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Silly question to ask about poetry. But I think Mesmer could be played by my father, were he still alive.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

"Map of the Floating World" is an exploration of the Trickster in mythology, history, and personal experience.

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

Again, the question assumes prose. My book will be published by a fine small literary press. Only about three poets in this country are commercially viable enough to have agents. Well, maybe a few more, but not many. And not me.

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

About six years. I have written and published a couple of others in the meantime, but this one was started and stopped any number of times.

Who are your influences?

Poets whose work I love and who have, I hope, made me a better poet: First and foremost, Dickinson. Then Hopkins, C.D. Wright, Rae Armantrout, Louise Gl├╝ck, Anne Carson, Brenda Hillman, Carol Snow, Roethke, Bishop. Etc.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My father. When I was very young, he would disappear into the sky in a big yellow bird with a red stripe, and I thought he was magic.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shakespeare, the Sonnets

I was so impressed the other night, at a reading, to hear Minnesota's poet laureate Joyce Sutphen recite a couple of Shakespeare sonnets off the cuff. This, just after I had taken a class at the University on Old Bill's sonnets, and had decided to read them all in order, something I have never done. I have my favorites, but I've also missed a bunch. So hearing a couple from someone who's committed a number of them to memory was such a pleasure.

What is it about those poems that continue to draw us? And what is it about the sonnet form? Sonnets often feel like letters to me. They're so often addressed to an intimate you, and so often to a loved you. One of the things I always notice when I hear a sonnet read is that it seems larger, more expansive than the 14 lines of 5 beats each into which it is usually tucked. Great sonnets are bigger than their form. Although I guess that could be said about all great poems.

I sometimes imagine a sonnet as a boat, a small boat with oars and that last two lines a rudder. It's always going somewhere, and I am being carried with it. Maybe I'll commit a boat or two to memory--