Featured Poet Interview

Featured Poet Interview : Pamela O’Shaughnessy
                                                                                with David Mehler
 

 

You grew up in California, then studied political science at Harvard and went on to law school there, right? How did this come about? And what did you think of your education there?

True, I grew up in various outlying suburbs around East Whittier Blvd. in Los Angeles, left home at 15, and somehow found myself at 16 attending Whittier College, Richard Nixon’s ultra-conservative alma mater. Dropped out after 2 years to be in a band and ended up working as a payroll clerk for a year, then going to Europe for a year where I did exactly what every other 19-year-old set free at last does. By then I was mostly interested in songwriting and had discovered Lautreamont and Dada, and was ruined for normal life.

Back home I went to UCLA for a short time until I got fired from my telephone solicitor job and had to drop out, then to Long Beach State, studying International Relations because I wanted to be anywhere else, and continuing my payroll clerk career. The day I graduated I moved to San Francisco and soon landed a job as a federal Civil Rights Investigator. My main interests were still songwriting and playing guitar. After a couple of years my office mate mentioned she was going to take the Law School Entrance Exam and I offered to come along and keep her company. I took the test and got a freaky score; the thought of being a lawyer had never crossed my mind. I figured, have some fun with this one, so I applied to Harvard, which felt something like applying to Ouagadougou, it seemed so exotic, and lo, I was accepted. One should always rush through the doors opportunity opens. So I packed up a trunk and moved to the East Coast.

The ratio of men to women at the law school was then 7 to 1 so I had a lovely time. The work was all reading and writing, no math, so I did fine. I seldom went to class. I swam a lot at the Cambridge YWCA and generally went around ignorant of all nuances. Other students stressed quite a bit, but I was such a fish out of water I just wasn’t affected. I had some very smart professors and went to teas and suffered a lot from the unaccustomed cold. The line is, the first year they scare ya to death (I was too ignorant to be scared), the second year they work ya to death, and the third year they bore ya to death. The White Mountains were great hiking and there were a lot of coffeehouses to play music at in Cambridge. The best thing was, I was living on loans and scholarships and didn’t have to work, so it all felt like a happy vacation in a very foreign land, all these smart people around and galoshes and stuff.

But then I graduated and had to figure out what to do next.

What a great response. I could ask you about a hundred questions based on that, but moving on, what did you do after that?

After that, I had to use the degree and try to become a serious person. I returned to California, and for the next decade and a half worked as a lawyer in Carmel (Big Sur pot fields and aerial surveillance, murder, copyright, divorce, appeals), Monterey (my mother and brother and I started up a firm), Tahoe (assault, drugs, molestations, divorce, ski collisions, medical malpractice), San Pablo (have blocked this out, but I do remember suing Denny’s Restaurants for employees spitting in their soup and stuff). I was pretty erratic and the stress was dreadful, but the drama was addictive. My favorite memory is of a Hmong shopowner in Richmond. The crooks came in to demand some vig and he said no, so they shot half his face off. He went back, and when they came in again, he shot one of them dead. Three days later they burned down his store. I did his insurance claim. There were boxes of inscrutable receipts in Hmong and few tax documents. The claims adjustor was a hero. We put together a persuasive claims letter and got him a fortune. He wanted it in cash and we went to the bank together. That afternoon he and his family took a flight to Laos. I hope life was good there.

During this time I also got married and had a little boy. I had some breaks and would spend my spare time recording songs. Also became a Tibetan Buddhist. My son used to meditate with me.

The truth is, I wasn’t suited to be a lawyer, and I salute my poor clients, none of whom ever sued me. I tried limiting myself to research law and appellate law and university law, but all of it bored me silly when I wasn’t worried silly. Like my musical career, my legal career began to peter out. Finally, my husband and son and I packed up a U-Haul and drove across country to live in upstate New York in a garret and get a fresh start. The garret was so low you had to duck your head a lot. It got down to twenty-five below that winter. It was such a joy after practicing law. I finally finished paying off my student loans. Freedom, but whither?

At some point the idea to collaborate with your sister and write legal thrillers occurred to you, and you two went on to write a series of 13 novels under the pen name Perri O’Shaughnessy (Perri a combination of Pam and Mary), all revolving around the same character, a lawyer, named Nina Reilly. All of these have met with some success considering you can find them in just about any library or bookstore across the country. I think I remember you saying that you read a book on how to write a bestseller (I know I’m getting this wrong) and you and your sister decided to try your hands at it. It seems like you enjoy writing collaboratively—you have done so with your sister, and you did so briefly with the Orzel Project and the AutoFlarf Collective. Can you tell us a little about this?

That’s about it, Dave. Mary and I both decided it was time to give writing a shot at about the same time, and naturally we wanted to do it together. Mary was an English major and actually thought we could sell something. I had no such hopes but I was busting with stories and needed a new job. She and I used to sing and play guitar together and were close, and Mary had visited me a lot when I lived at Tahoe; so we decided to write a bestseller set there. After one bum attempt and a couple hundred query letters and a year or so, we got another novel written, about a gorgeous cocktail waitress, a sinister hypnotist, and a cross-dressing card-counter, and to my amazement, sold it. We just kept going from there. We wrote in our kitchens at night and sent each other files across-country, until eventually I moved back to California. Our fourteenth novel, Dreams of the Dead, comes out in spring 2011.

I do like collaborating. Writing is a lonely business. I discovered that with a co-writer you can talk about the imaginary universe you’re constructing with someone as interested as you are. It’s like a folie à deux. Also, everybody has blind spots, like my personal love for the passive voice, and you help each other write better. But you have to honestly respect the other guy, and you have to be close enough to imagine a story together. You have to check your egos at the door, and you have to be able to argue and speak plainly. Or it just won’t work.

Poetry is also a lonely business, especially when our friends and family get those funny expressions when we talk about it. I have found in The Critical Poet a whole group of congenial people struggling to do better like me, even if we’re not writing single poems together. I have enjoyed other collaborative poetry experiments too. I understand why, in poetry especially, there is a tendency to form associations or schools. We are collaborating on a different level, taking and giving and influencing and supporting groups of poems. I wouldn’t sit at home all alone and isolated and do this. I’d end up being a muttering person who seldom washes.

Well let’s see, I’m going to guess that you came to poetry originally as a lyric writer for your band, started writing fiction commercially, but then, wanting to break out of genre writing and commercial formulas, you desired to free yourself up and branch out, seeking a truer more personal artistic expression, so turned to poetry—but then there was that time early on spent in Europe where you discovered Lautremont, Dada and Gertrude Stein. And, you have incorporated poems into your novels too on occasion as rock songs—I’m thinking of the King Kong poem. When, how and why did you turn to poetry, and what have I got right and what wrong?

Man, it’s spooky to see it all laid out like a plan! I always liked the art of poetry— the combination of verbal and musical. Our mother used to bring home boxes of old books from Goodwill, and I’d read them over and over. Two of them always said something new to me— a 1902 volume for kids called A Book of Famous Poems, and an even older book, Volume X of The Junior Classics, “Poems”.

When I was 14 a teacher offered to give an extra credit ‘A’ for each 50 lines of poetry we could recite from memory. I memorized a thousand indiscriminate lines from those two books, all from the 16th to the 19th centuries, in a game with my friend Janet Nussmann. Each morning I’d show up with something from Shakespeare, Herrick, Milton, Lovelace, Blake, Coleridge, Hogg, Landor, Hunt, Byron, Hood, Keats…and on and on and on. My favorites were long and rhythmic stories, like “The Raven”, “Charge of the Light Brigade”, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, and “The Song of the Shirt”.

In college I found the French and Germans, the Dadaists and Surrealists. Never read many Americans. It was all for pleasure, so my knowledge is erratic. I never got around to poetry written in America or after 1940, thinking things couldn’t get any better. TCP and a recent poetry class have introduced me to what has come since. Who is this red wheelbarrow guy? Writing poetry got me through a lot of blue periods over the years. I’m one of those who writes most when she’s a wreck.

About seven years ago, I found writing poetry at night relieved some big tension left over from writing commercial novels all day. Later I found out Gertrude Stein did this too, writing the Autobiography days and Stanzas in Meditation at night. I gradually got more serious about it. At some point you realize that it’s not enough to have the urge; you need to study and learn a few things from others to refine what you’re doing into an art. It leaves the recreational and becomes a sort of incomeless side occupation. It offers a release for a dark part of the personality and keeps it from getting too bumptious in real life, maybe.

What can poetry do that prose can’t? Do you believe in ghosts?

I’m no expert, but it seems to me there are three main categories of imaginative writing: prose, free verse, and formal (rhymed in some fashion) verse. All are integrated in Finnegan’s Wake, a “novel” where music and wordplay permeates the prose, where paragraphs could as easily be broken into lines and be called free verse, and where there are frequent extrusions of rhymed verse. Joyce’s book of poems, Pomes Pennyeach, came out in 1927 and has a lot of rhyming. Joyce was also a tenor with a big knowledge of pop songs of his day. I don’t think the categories can be separated in Finnegan’s Wake. Attention to the musicality of words exists in his prose and his verse in that amazing book; I don’t think musicality is an exclusive feature of poetry.

All three categories may express the same content, too. A letter to a lover may be highly charged emotionally, only a few lines long, and limited in content to the expression of a state of mind, for instance. It’s still prose. A rhymed or free-verse poem may be as long as a novel and tell a logical, linear story, like the Odyssey or an Icelandic Edda. Ancient texts like Buddhist sutras are broken into lines like poetry and use poetic techniques like repetition. But they are sermons, and I don’t think meant to be offered as poetry. So content doesn’t distinguish the categories.

Form is the distinguisher, I think. Prose is very formal writing, if you think about it. The “form” is the use of the conventional grammar of the language (full sentences with subjects and verbs), the linear thinking, the conventional breakage into paragraphs to introduce a new concept, and so on.

Free verse, to me, has dispensed with conventional form. The syntax will be broken, but communication still takes place. It’s that simple. Rhymed verse (or “formal” verse) is free verse organized into lines, with an emphasis on music.

Maybe exceptions spring to mind right away, Dave. The only group of exceptions I can think of right now, besides Joyce, is a peculiar form of poetry like that of William Burroughs, for instance, in which the syntax is intact, but the conventional linearity of the organization of the thinking is disturbed. Greg Grummer and Don Zirilli use this a lot on criticalpoet.com. I suppose you could call it the Surrealistic Singularity, but they probably wouldn’t want a label at all.

I often see prose on poetry forums. Why not? Short prose has no other home, so let’s welcome it.

So you ask what poetry can do that prose can’t? I’d say, it liberates us from the thought-habits and constraints of syntax. I think that’s awfully important to explore. I think of Chomsky and Lacan, who seem to feel grammar is hardwired into our brains. But when we dispense with it to some degree we may be able to get deeper into our consciousnesses, and discover new ways of thinking, of getting at that elusive “truth” that’s the goal of all communicative imaginative works. You could take that further and say that use of words could be eliminated, and a poem “written” in gestures or rebuses, or silent visual images like American Sign Language, for an even more liberating effect. Or you could strip words of their conventional meanings and use them for sound-effects or to create subtle, off-key moods. Or you could create a new arbitrary constraint, such as dispensing with a part of speech, like nouns. The result may be strange, but so long as it communicates something, it’s poetry, IMHO.

That’s why I like poetry more than prose; it’s more exciting and there’s much yet to be learned. It’s an exploratory art, as theoretical physics is an exploratory science. That, and I have a short attention-span. 

You ask about ghosts. I have seen three ghosts: a menacing black Door hovering in my bedroom at night at my aunt’s old cabin at Lake Arrowhead (seen by several other family members); my three-days-dead dog (nosing her way into the bedroom as she did every night of her life, and lying down in her corner); and I have felt my mother’s presence shortly after her death. Now here’s a subject ideally suited to poetry, because if you’re going to plod along with sentences and paragraphs, you’re probably going to find the truth of the uncanny has been sucked out. Better to be fractured, elusive, suggestive…it’s much closer to the actual experience, don’t you think? The uncanny is all around us, and we’ve all felt it, but all the ghostbusters in the world with their infrared cameras and tape recorders aren’t going to teach us as much as delving deep into our own minds…

I remember when I first started posting at TCP in 2003, you were already around and posting relatively formal poems often using meter and rhyme, and eventually you collected most of those earlier poems in a self-published book of poems titled, Flying at Sea Level. Can you talk a little bit about why you’ve never sent that many poems out to journals for publication and tell us something of the sea-change you’ve experienced to go in a relatively short span of time from more formal verse to the experimental stuff you’re currently working on? Taking something, for example, like “The Isle of Seboo” and then move on to something as wild as, “How I Wrote my Poems by Raymond Roussel.” Same play and whimsy—totally different devices and execution.

No change, Dave, I was just starting at the beginning, learning form. For a while it was ghazals. The Isle of Seboo is in dactylic heptameter. (“The boat without moorings has cast us ashore on the beautiful isle of Seboo”). I think poetry begins to grip us harder and harder. I think a lot of people collect all their early stuff into a first book, and then disown it or at least put it away. It’s the book where we had the poetic urge but weren’t skilled enough to recognize conventional sentiments and tired phrases and simplistic rhythms.

Over a long time (and it’s been about five or six years of writing, starting at about a poem a week and progressing now to a poem a day), a lot of convention does drop away. We come to the limit of it and wonder what to do now. We naturally progress outside syntax and get more bold in our play. Otherwise we’d start frizzling from boredom. Somebody asked me recently how you can tell if a poem (like my later ones) is any good, or just a bunch of good-looking words and images that add up to nothing. It’s hard sometimes! I can compare this to my experience of contemporary art. Like, I hate Barnett Newman; he bores me silly with his stupid, absolutely linear stripes in dull colors. But maybe as I keep looking at paintings for another few years I’ll see how he has developed his style, how much has dropped away in the interest of truth. That happened to me with Motherwell (actually Motherwell is easy to like viscerally).

So how to tell if I’m getting “better”? What is better? Well, I do look at where I have grown from. And with another writer unknown to me whose work is “advanced”, I do like to find out where they have advanced from. You can’t just start out writing abstract poetry, I think. It may look good, but it’s going to lack substance. It won’t have a root stretching into the ground, it’ll be airy-fairy. Also, it may be abstract, but there’s really a clumsiness in the use of the words that you pick up pretty readily.

The Roussel poem tries to give the reader a break just when the reader’s starting to give up. It’s full of real clues. It’s a real story, just told with great immediacy. It’s not even abstract.

You ask why I never sent out poems? Well, I sent out a few literary short stories early on. One of them, a Gertrude Stein parody, got published. It took two years. The magazine was so obscure I doubt if 50 people saw it. The payment was 2 copies. It ain’t worth it. It’s downright disrespectful. I also think I’m not writing anything publishers want, or at least I don’t have an academic background that makes them think they ought to want it. I’ll tell you a secret: about four months ago I signed up with an outfit that shops submissions of about 7 poems to about 30 journals each month, carefully picked. I haven’t had a nibble, and I’m quitting. I’m insulted, hahaha. That adds up to about 840 submissions. You have to laugh. So I decided to put out another collection, a damn good one this time. Looking around, I saw some wonderful TCP poets whirling around the same drain. Our anthology, Burning Gorgeous, Seven 21st century Poets, has just been published. And I’ll keep on, because Print-On-Demand has freed artists from the burden of the BS. Now we can reach readers directly, and if readers don’t like it cuz we’re bad, fair enough.

Jumping off of what you say, and more about Burning Gorgeous later; as you may know I’ve been reading a lot of Hemingway lately–God knows why–I didn’t plan on it; I just kept moving from one thing to another and maybe because he’s easy to read when you’re tired–anyway, I was reading a “Paris Review” interview and he says something interesting: George Plimpton asks, “Can you say how much thought-out effort went into the evolvement of your distinctive style?” Hemingway replies, “That is a long-term tiring question and if you spent a couple of days answering it you would be so self-conscious that you could not write. I might say that what amateurs call a style is usually only the unavoidable awkwardnesses in first trying to make something that has not heretofore been made. Almost no new classics resemble other previous classics. At first people can see only the awkwardness. Then they are not so perceptable. When they show so very awkwardly people think these awkwardnesses are the style and many copy them. This is regrettable.” Do you think he’s making a valid point here? Is voice and idiosyncratic style, peculiar to an individual innovator that we often associate with genius (those who bear influence on others is one definition), just an awkwardness they must work through before they really get around to saying what they were meant or wanted to say?

Hemingway had a highly distinctive voice, most strongly apparent in his short stories. He was, of course, famous for it. I imagine this interviewer caught him at a moment when he was tired of hearing the same questions over and over about it. That’s about the only way I can explain the answer you quote. He seems to have been answering another question, one which other writers and artists have discussed: why does “new” art seem ugly at first? The classic situation is the Matisse painting “La Femme au Chapeau”, 1905, which was excoriated for its garish colors.

http://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/213

Gertrude Stein said, “Those who are creating the modern composition authentically are naturally only of importance when they are dead because by that time the modern composition having become past is classified and the description of it is classical. That is the reason why the creator of a new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he [sic] is a classic…for a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause everyone accepts…when it is still a thing irritating annoying stimulating then all quality of beauty is denied to it.” Breakthroughs are and look clumsy, ugly. Other artists may be stimulated to treat the clumsiness itself as the breakthrough, and copy that. Big mistake. They’ll have to find their own breakthrough, Hemingway says.

We’re talking about a lot here; genius, breakthroughs, style, voice. You equate genius with innovation. I’ll agree with that. I’ll also equate style and voice. What causes, forces, allows an artist to make something the world hasn’t seen before? And not only is it new, it’s significant, it illuminates some truth about our human condition?

A lot of us see truths. But we can’t formulate these truths into a forceful, convincing expression. The words, or brush strokes, or carving, are cages rather than tools. The expression is conventional, frozen into cliche, weak, timid, maybe not even in control of the conventional expression. It’s not art yet.

It’s frustrating, but a lot of us never do get our truths out. A lot of poetry strikes me as a doomed effort to say something which the poet never quite manages to articulate. One adopts a rhyming style, a plain prose style, an over-embellished archaic style. One copies Stevens or Eliot or Ginsberg. What’s the problem? The problem is the copying. The problem is that the poet needs to be on another path entirely. The poet needs to be writing clumsy, amateurish crappy work which nevertheless is drawing out the unique voice of the poet. This is the real business of the practitioner, after the conventional tools have been mastered.

Genetics teaches that each of us has a personality which is mostly inherited, partly subject to environmental influences. From this personality comes a characteristic turn of phrase, a subtle mood, an attraction to certain metaphors of life, a set of attitudes; a voice. The truths are universal, and the art consists of expressing them as purely in our own voice as we can. That’s where the power is; that’s where the conviction is that drives those truths into the eye or ear of the beholder. Our voice is as unique as an iris or a fingerprint. Combine the power of the found voice with the truth, and you’re an artist.

Why is innovation so crucial, then? Because we’re the wise men touching the elephant in different places for the first time, always. We each have our finger on some tiny aspect of the divine. Our tiny truth is not going to be instantly accepted; it will not fit the accepted standard. Obviously! Nobody ever heard of it! But if you have to get your truth out, you have to work with this dynamic; you’re impelled.

After a very long time, I still don’t have my voice in a pure strong state. I still am trying various styles to see what adapts itself to my needs. I’m not there, not a master. Often these days I feel like abandoning the struggle entirely. But I have tried music and fiction, and poetry for some reason seems like my best bet. Some day maybe you’ll hear my real voice, and some sort of truth will flow forth, and that will be the reward, all there is. Wow, that would be plenty!

You’ve compared poetry to sculpture. And you’ve written several poems in response to your reading of critical theory. Tell us something about your poetic theory? What should poetry do—what makes a poem powerful?

I haven’t much studied Poetics. I haven’t much studied Poetry. As you know, I’m not very interested in academic theorizing. I keep it personal and try to allow myself to be influenced primarily by fellow-travellers for whom I have built up a long-term respect. But at the risk of sounding like an idiot, I can say some things about how I do it and why I do it.

As to an overall theory about poetry, I read Jung’s old essay on it recently (http://www.studiocleo.com/librarie/jung/essay.html) and nodded my head at about everything he said.

I’m only interested in writing about things that feel imperious, imperative, important, the grand primordial themes of love, death, art, and work, that add up to the human condition. I won’t be around so long that I have time to collect and pass on trivial insights. I also know that I don’t feel or think anything that hasn’t been felt or thought by millions or billions of other humans. That’s pretty intimidating, and the only way I can make these themes workable in poems is to make use of a personal iconography (as the poet Steve Parker calls it). It’s a filter of an idiosyncratic set of images, themes, and techniques to make huge inchoate things organized and malleable. Here’s how I think I write:

Let’s say I’m a river, alive and talking like the Liffey in Finnegan’s Wake. I run through a deep bed of clay and silt, sediments from the too-huge world outside. I pick up a lot of that, and then I turn into a person on the riverbank with a big pile of glowing sludge. It’s glowing because it’s alive. I let it dry out and look at it, and it eventually lets me know how it wants to be shaped. Then I start making it into something with my hands, not thinking much, like making a basic shape on a potter’s wheel. Then I cut into it like a potter (sculptor’s too fancy a word for this). The form’s inside and I go for the primordial image instinctively. I don’t build from details, I excise from a whole.

Then when I have a plain crude rough but still-living cut I start shaping it more consciously, and here’s where it gets filtered through a human brain with a personal iconography.

At this point I have some ever-evolving rules for texturing the pot that help me avoid using images and techniques that have been used so much already by me and others that they have lost their utility, their content. They are Verboten (but so tempting that I find myself breaking my own rules all the time). Verboten poems for me include:

poem that starts with I poem with a neat ending poem about writing poems poem alluding to another poem poem with forced perfect syntax poem that steps outside the poem poem about my past poem about anybody I know poem with a tinge of bitterness or ironic humor poem with commas poem alluding to mythology poem about the march of time poem about nature in which nothing happens indignant poem arch poem boring poem self-pitying poem poem that aims to impress poem I write when depressed poem written after midnight poem after a glass of wine poem trying to get someone to sleep with me poem revealing a personal secret poem with flowers poem with a trivial insight poem that trails off wistfully poem that looks misshapen on the page poems about swimming cosmology food dogs buddhism things seen on TV or read about in science magazines

And so on. The work I put in avoiding known tired images and subjects is rewarded by fresher images, which is the art part, the personal part where I have fun decorating the pot. Mostly it looks like a pot or vase when centered, maybe long and flute-like, maybe shaky at the base, maybe squat (sometimes just for fun I force it into a more complex shape, as I mentioned earlier). Anyway, it’s the shape it wants to be, I hope, and keeping it centered lets me see problems with the symmetry, flow and dynamics.

Then I assess the finished work: is it still alive? Did I retain and polish up enough of the primordial to make it worth keeping? In other words, does it still have an uncanny or magnetic element? Does it seem necessary for it to exist right now? Is it shiny and appealing so it will slide into the consciousness of others without much interference or repulsion? To answer one of your questions, Dave, to me anyway, it’s a “powerful” pot if it’s alive, has to do with the human condition, and is polished so that it at least approximately manages to communicate itself. The important thing is not to kill it with technique.

Then I post the pot or put it away, and turn back into the river, and start collecting silt and clay again.

Which gets me to the other thing I can talk about: why do I write poetry? That’s two questions: why make art, and why use this specific art form?

Why make art? Because I’m a maker. Because I have come to find out that making art is the best and highest use of my energy. I may not be good at it, but I’m worse at everything else, like unclogging drains, governing, lawyering, and nurturing, it appears.

Why this specific art form? Because I’m better at collecting clay and shaping it with words than brushstrokes or piano keys or, haha, real clay. Because poetry is quicker to make than novels. If you get lucky, a poem will have as big an impact as a novel for the receiver. Because keeping the clay alive is easier when you work fast.

If all the preceding is incomprehensible or nonresponsive, my apologies, Dave. It was just one pot, however. The next one might be better!

What do you plan to do next now that you’ve decided to no longer collaborate with your sister? And this collaborative anthology of poems with friends, Burning Gorgeous–tell us more about that? I’m particularly curious how you chose the poems that make up your contribution. You’ve written a lot in the last few years. How in the world did you figure out how to narrow down your contribution in BG to 40 pages?

I’d like to do more collaborative projects, but also to put out a few things of my own. I’ve got an idea for a thriller about a woman chemist and the drug trade that would write itself. I’ve been thinking about science fiction and Nietzsche a lot—maybe something will decide to write itself there. Private publishing is so exciting, I think I’ll put out a book of just my craziest poems, then try another anthology, make like Sylvia Beach and look for a bunch of James Joyces. I don’t like chapbooks and don’t understand why people put them out—they keep poetry books in an obscure niche. They should be fat and colorful and sexy-looking like a best-seller. As I get better with cover designs and pdf files, I may just print books on the new Espresso printing machines that do it at big bookstores While-U-Wait. It’s the future, and I like it! It’s so fun to morph oneself into a new entity—just call me Laika Press!

Making Burning Gorgeous, the poetry anthology I edited this winter, was a delightful experience. The idea was to publish whatever was sent, no interference. Each poet got forty pages, and wow, did they send some wonderful material. I had watched them writing online for years, and knew we all had bucketloads of poetry that was going to disappear down a rabbit-hole if somebody didn’t do something. I don’t know how any of us got our material down to forty pages, Dave, or how the poems all seem to work together to end in a balanced if unusual book. All I did was pick a small group whose work I thought hung together for various reasons, get my cousin to design a fabulous cover, and then get out of the way. Critical Poet site readers will recognize all of them: you, me, Greg Grummer, Beth Vieira, Steve Parker, J. R. Pearson, and William Fairbrother. Check it out at http://www.rp-author.com/BurningGorgeous.

Comments are closed.