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Gloria Mindock, Editor   Issue No. 10   April, 2006


Welcome to the One Year Anniversary of Červená Barva Press! This celebration starts out with interviews from writers who are also editors. I hope you enjoy these 7 interviews.

April 27th at 7:30PM, there will be a poetry/fiction reading to celebrate at McIntyre & Moore Booksellers, 255 Elm St., Somerville, MA/Davis Sq. Readers are: Jennifer Barber, Dzvinia Orlowsky, Diane Wald, Rebecca Seiferle, Victor Pavlenkov, and Gloria Mindock. The event is free and wheelchair accessible.

April is fund-raising month for Červená Barva Press, I will be sending out e-mails and mailings. The press depends on your support to survive. Publishing/printing does not come cheap so please help out with something.

All poetry readings, theatre, and other events are listed directly on the website readings page. Check it out.

Thanks to everyone for making this year so great! There are too many of you to name. You have helped in so many different ways. The newsletter interviews have been a huge success with readers.

It is also National Poetry Month. Be sure to support your favorite magazine or press! Go to some readings!

I look forward to a wonderful second year.
Enjoy the interviews!










Write a bio about yourself.

William James Austin

I got my start in the music business when I was sixteen years old. Fancied myself a songwriter. One day I took my material to the old Ed Sullivan building in Manhattan. Back in the day, the place was clogged with music publishing companies. One of my stops was Baldwin Enterprises. They weren't very impressed with my songs, but they were thrilled by my ability to actually read and write sheet music. It should surprise no one that very few rock musicians can actually read music. So they hired me to transcribe their various demonstration records ("demos," for those who know the business) onto paper. I was well paid. They eventually agreed to record some of my songs, but nothing came of it.

I did, however, meet many professional musicians, including Robert Johns (real name Bobby Pedricks, who had two big hits: a remake of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Sad Eyes"). When I was eighteen, I happened to be in a recording studio with the Vagrants, Leslie West's first band. There was a ruckus and the band walked out. Since they had already paid for the studio time, the engineer invited me to record some of my songs, which I did. The next morning the Vagrant's manager, Shelley Finkel (who went on to promote the Watkins Glen Music Festival, and to manage Marc Breland and Evander Hollyfield), called me. He had listened to my songs, and offered me a contract. So I signed with him, and remained his client for the next several years before flying solo. Within days of my signing with Shelley, he set up an audition for me with Pocket Full of Tunes, Inc., a music publishing company owned by Wes Farrell. Wes had made his fortune as a songwriter ("Hang On Sloopy," and many other hits in the late fifties and early sixties). He liked what he heard and signed me to Pocket Full of Tunes as a staff composer.

I went on to write for various acts, including Lou Rawls, Hammer, a recorded but ultimately unreleased side for Judy Collins, a number of less notable acts, and some unremarkable television. I also did two tours with the old fifties group, The Capris ("There's A Moon Out Tonight"). They were trying to make a comeback in their middle age, and hired me as their band leader, given that I could read and write sheet music and therefore create arrangements for various instruments. I also worked as a studio musician, providing guitar parts for various recordings.

As you might imagine, I shared space with a few famous musicians along the way. Roberta Flack stands out. She and I had a very interesting, and lengthy, conversation one evening at a place called Bill's Music Rentals in Manhattan. She bought coffee for both of us. I was thrilled. Roberta Flack paid for my coffee! A very nice woman.

When I started out I, of course, wanted to be famous. But after ten years or so in the business, I realized two things: 1) there was a good chance I would never hit the big time, and 2) I was no longer very interested in the life with all of its notorious vices. I was a working musician and songwriter and, frankly, I was bored. The same performances night after night. Sharing hotel rooms with musicians who, though brilliant with their instruments, had never read a book. I had dropped out of my first semester of college when Shelley signed me. I decided that it was a good time to get educated.

As it turned out, I loved the academic experience. It was far more challenging than what I had been doing. With the exception of a few studio gigs here and there, I pretty much abandoned my music career. Given that I was always interested in lyrics, I was immediately drawn to the study of poetry. I did well in college and, for my graduate studies, I scored a Fellowship to Tulane University in New Orleans, i.e., a full scholarship plus a small salary. I eventually earned my Ph.D. in Modern/Postmodern Literature with an emphasis in Philosophy, teaching first at Tulane, and then at LSU Baton Rouge (since most university English Departments will not tenure their own graduates, for the sake of diversity, I had to leave Tulane). I also spent a year as an Associate Director of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. To add to my lucky streak, I met my wife, Reyna, in New Orleans. She had come to the USA from Caracas, Venezuela, and turned up in one of my classes. So, yes, I am one of many professors who have married students.

In 1989, LSU was poised to grant me tenure. I decided I could not spend the rest of my life in Baton Rouge, LA. I craved a return to NYC, and my wife was more than willing to once again live in the big city. Over the last fifteen to twenty years, there haven't been more than a few tenure track positions, per year, open in the Humanities, with hundreds of Ph.Ds competing for each one. There were two openings that year in New York, one at New York Tech in Manhattan, and one at the State University of New York, Farmingdale, Long Island. I got lucky and scored both interviews, and ultimately two offers. Though Manhattan is my soul mate (I lived in Greenwich Village when I was a musician), I accepted the post at the State University of New York, Farmingdale. The college had just converted to a four year institution. The salary was higher than that offered by New York Tech. Teaching opportunities tendered by SUNY included a greater variety of courses: 19th and 20th Century Romantic, Victorian, Modern and Postmodern Literature, Creative Writing, and the full range of Philosophy courses. Tenure arrived in 1994 (I asked for an early hearing), and I am currently the Artistic Director of the college's Visiting Writers Program.

My first few poems were published in Louisiana Literature, plus a couple of other southern journals and one NYC art magazine, while I was still in New Orleans. The poems were standard fair. My writing career didn't really get started until you published my long poem, "inferno," plus several shorter poems, in two issues of BluR, the Boston Literary Review. By that time I had found my way aesthetically. Both BluR and Richard Kostelanetz nominated me for a Pushcart Prize. My first book of poetry appeared in 1994. Since then I've published three more collections under the UNDERWOR(L)D banner, a book length monograph on Derrida and T. S. Eliot for the University of Salzburg, and poems/book reviews/essays/visual art in over seventy journals and magazines. I've had the privilege of performing my work at several exceptional venues, including universities, the Poetry Project, the Bowery Club, the Knitting Factory, the Ear Inn, the Nuyorican Café, and a shitload of art galleries and saloons. My poetry and prose have been translated into Russian and Romanian, I've appeared on NTV, PBS and Boston/Cambridge television, and the Romanian critic and translator, Stefan Stoenescu, has written a couple of scholarly articles on both my poetry and theoretical positions. I even scored a micro-minute of screen time in a big Hollywood movie starring Dennis Quaid (we had a fine time playing with his two German shepherds on the set). Plus, through the magic of the internet, I've managed to connect with a number of very talented and accomplished writers and visual poets both in America and Europe.

I've been lucky. Life is good! Now if I can just quit the cigarettes . . .

Describe the room you write in.

I converted one of our bedrooms into a study. Reyna and I live in a pre-war building, so it's nothing special. High ceilings, two outsized windows that open the room to the street, modest stereo system, computer, mahogany desk, sofa, oriental rugs, Monet prints on the walls, an old painting by an old friend: Igor Satanovsky, radiator clang when the heat rises, an ashtray that reads, "Get out while there's still time," stables, thirty acres of good grazing land, hundreds of CDs and three burly bookcases gagging on books. Actually, much of the apartment has been taken over by books.

It has been so wonderful to reconnect with you. I've been following your writing for years since first publishing you in the Boston Literary Review/BluR. How do you think your writing has changed since then? Please discuss your UNDERWORLD books. You know how much I love them.

I missed you too.

When I started writing poetry in earnest, I went through several stages: the Ginsberg stage, the Ashbery stage, the Broadway stage. It didn't take me very long to swallow all the available influences and cough up something multi-colored and my own.

The UNDERWOR(L)D books are loosely based on Dante's nine levels of hell, plus a snatch of paradise. Dante's geography, of course, has been exchanged for the dystopia of New York City. The poetry has been described as urban nasty in both content and rhythm -- the whole thing can get pretty ugly at times. Each UNDERWOR(L)D volume contains two parts. I'm currently working on sections nine (a structurally insane novella) and zero. When this volume is published sometime this year, the project will be complete. I can then have lunch which is probably cold by now.

According to a couple of European critics, my major work evinces an original turn, i.e., Baudillaire by way of Derrida. Wouldn't it be great if they were right? I suppose it's possible, since the conventional wisdom has always held that, in the main, the structuralist/poststructuralist project and Romanticism are mutually exclusive. I've always considered this an error of biblical proportions. Derrida, for example, is clearly an arch-Romantic, given his concern with the always "to come." Anyway, as experimental poets go, I arrive by way of de Sade, Lautréamont, Les Poètes maudits (Verlaine's appellation), Apollinaire, Artaud, et al, and their American variants -- which is clearly different from the more contemporarily common lineage of Stein and Cummings, the Joyce of Finnegan's Wake, and like that. Two poles of progressive writing, each providing a necessary tension: Protestant and Catholic, Romantic and Classicist, personal and impersonal, the individual and the "school" or "movement." My end finds its experimental stimulus in voiced innuendo, in pun, in secreted referential and ideational possibilities, while the manipulations of, say, radical formalists usually focus on the more apparent structures. So I'm open to interpretive functions. The work can be explored for meaning, as well as experienced for its visual and phonetic qualities. I do, however, try to make something else happen. Sometimes interpretation acts like someone following clues into an alleyway that forks any number of times. Whereas, normally, the interpretive process formalizes and unifies, its dispersal fractures meaning against the skin of language, such that the poem or essay is not thoroughly dissolved in explication. There remains an excrescence of linguistic flesh, so to speak -- something unaccounted for -- mystery. I'm not talking about the simple disruption of meaning which is, in today's art, quite common. Rather I refer to meaning's dispersal, its secreted existence within itself, within its possible trajectories.

Hence my emphasis on variety. This is not the place for further explication of this bit. Poets who are also philosophy addicts might want to follow the trail into my essays. Or not. Anyway, I like the idea of more than one thing going on, of conflicting styles and methods fighting for dominance, either poem by poem within the book, or within a single poem. I'm also interested in our emotional lives. The conventional understanding of the emotions is that they issue from, and are circumscribed by, the subject. But in fact they mark a place where the subject yields to, and is dominated by, the object, by the object's resistance to rational thought, to comforting comprehension. This reversal is not desire's fulfillment, but rather its confrontation with its own fragility, its ultimate lack of completion, its empty center -- the tragedy of its own existence. There is always something mysterious about the emotions. Much reactive, post-Beat/New York School writing neglects the emotions. So I don't.

The books also contain an ongoing series of essays (some of which have been published in various online and print venues) on visionism, my own go at a theoretical position. As those essays make clear, I admire more than one location along the progressive landscape, and occasionally move to a different neighborhood. One of visionism's "positions" involves the lack of position. With so much already on the table, the innovative impulse may require that both poetry and its collection as book become something like a negative zone, an anti-vicinity for the inadmissible, the discarded, the deviant. Again, a place to collect the various. The simple fact is that originality is quite difficult to come by these days. Certainly the traditional lyric and narrative are now more familiar than familiar (to borrow Baudrillard's phrasing). Equally habitual "avant-garde" maneuvers, as well as the disruption of the conventional referent, have been on the field at least since the 19th century. Nevertheless, if there is any innovation in play these days, it's coming from these artists and, I hope, from me. There is still an intelligent audience for imagery. The unpredictable "vision" is, obviously, a structural innovation. And it goes without saying that a good number of the more radical formalists do astonishing work.

Discuss the role of experimental poetry in today's literary scene.

Well, from my point of view, experimental poetry is the scene, whatever form it takes. As a judge for one annual poetry award, I have to trudge through piles of manuscripts that simply replicate one another. The poetry is formulaic, academic, dry, distanced, without passion. Any one of these poems could be written by any one of the candidates. The craft is certainly there but, as musicians say, it lacks soul. The few submissions that "come on" as experimental are usually l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e derivatives (decades beyond the initial novelty, do we still consider this experimental?), or else "slam" exhibits. The "spoken word" submissions might be quite entertaining as live performances, but too often they don't earn their way on the page. Truth be told, I have my problems with poets contesting, though obviously they've been doing it for a very long time. I've entered some contests and have won, and come close to winning, a few times. What does that mean? What can it mean? It means I got lucky, no more or less. Considering that my work has been censored by one journal and one reading series, I was very lucky.

Truly experimental poetry, the real deal, should drive the art form, and probably does. Even those bibles of literature, the various Norton Anthologies are, for the most part, records of experimentation. Of course the Norton people have certainly missed, and continue to miss, crucial talent. Important innovators have been excluded from, or lost their positions in, the Norton universe, replaced by fairly ordinary yet prize winning poets -- clear evidence that really bright light can blind some editors. Luckily we have Jerome Rothenberg's Poems for the Millenium anthologies which are absolutely invaluable, as is Ron Silliman's In the American Tree. Many of the poets contained in those collections remain unknown, or at best minor figures, to the vast majority of middle class, middlebrow poetry readers. Yet their {the poets'} influence on the genre cannot be overestimated.

What is the strangest thing you've done to find writing material?

Well, I can't deny that my past experiences in the music industry provide for much deviant subject matter. What I didn't experience personally, I observed up close. As just one example, the transsexuals I knew back then have become, in my poetry, a significant indicator of the failure of high modernist aims and yearnings, i.e., the desire to reconstitute the one from the many (both Eliot and Pound mourn the loss of European "catholic" unities -- tough luck, guys). As I look backward, it was the transsexuals' embodiment of difference/differance that made them so generous with their humanity. Consider also that deviance is always both comic and tragic. You really can't have one without the other. It's not a matter of simple contraries, like man vs. woman. The comic occupies the tragic; the tragic occupies the comic. Their identities are mutually contingent, one a-part of the other, one with(in)out the other. They inhabit the same "body," a coeval accord and discord always on the edge of chaos. For my money, there's no better expression of the transsexual than Beethoven's string quartets, Op. 130 and Op. 131. I hope I court this lip of violence in my best stuff.

Who are you reading now? What writers inspire you?

I'm picking up where I left off Proust, at "Swann's Way." My recent reading (since mid-autumn) includes The Brothers Karamozov (for the second time), Crime and Punishment (for the first time), Bataille's Guilty and Cradle of Humanity (on architecture), Kenneth Patchen's Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer (good, but I prefer The Journal of Albion Moonlight), Ashbery's Where Shall I Wander (had the strange feeling I'd already read it), Stein's Mattise, Picasso, and Gertrude Stein (same feeling sentence by sentence!), further selections from The Making of Americans (a masterpiece), the second half of War and Peace (finally), de Sade-Baudillaire-Lautréamont-Corbière-Rimbaud-Apollinaire-Valéry Breton-Artaud (again and again and forever), and lots of Derrida (there's been an avalanche of translations since his death) including, so far, Rogues, Sovereignties In Question (on Celan's poetry), Counterpath, Who's Afraid of Philosophy, Eyes of the University, and an old one, The Other Heading (which is out of print, but still available in hard cover from Amazon's used book sources). Before I die, I will read every word Derrida wrote for public consumption. I'm almost there. I mean that I've read almost everything he wrote, not that I'm almost dead -- no matter what my wife says.

Inspiration? Anyone whose writing may be regarded as deviant, in any way, floats my boat. I've already provided a litany of writers in answer to some of your other questions. Frank O'Hara comes to mind, quite suddenly, due to his versatility, his exploration of various selves. Personality like that could not be contained within a single method. After all, the best bands have always varied their musical styles. There's no reason for poets to play the same tune over and over. I should add that more than a few living poets, writers, and visual artists, who are not yet superstars, give me much pleasure. The creators I've featured in Blackbox usually offer at least an interesting variation on a theme, often much more. Hell, there are many talented people out there, including yourself, if I may say so. I'm privileged to be in their company.

Talk about your book, A Deconstruction of T.S. Eliot: The Fire and the Rose.

Well, as the title makes clear, I deconstruct Eliot, his poetry, plays, essays, plus his Ph.D. dissertation on the philosophy of F. H. Bradley (Eliot never completed work for the degree). The poet's revaluation of Bradley serves as a precursor to Derrida's ideas. As one particular, Eliot rethinks Bradley's concept of "immediate experience," and the result is akin to Derrida's singular treatment of difference. Curiously, Eliot is closer to Derrida than to the structuralists who never quite manage to escape a controlling Logos, a ruling center. He {Eliot} was a great poet. We pretty well understand his psychology, the reasons for his ultra-conservative turn. What more can be said about that except C'est dommage? Anyway, it's a book for those who are well versed in the discipline and history of western metaphysics. You can find it at the 42nd Street Library in NYC, in the NYU library (along with the UNDERWOR(L)D collections at both locations), and in most European university libraries. For that reason it's my best seller. I enjoyed writing it, and the University of Salzburg was nice enough to publish it as part of their Salzburg Studies in English series. My long poems and visionism series also go heavy on the philosophy, though in the case of the poems, it's both betrayed and secreted within all the street patter.

When did you start the literary on-line magazine Blackbox? Why did you start it?

In fact, Blackbox began as a print journal in 1997, originally conceived by me and one of my colleagues in the English/Humanities Department of SUNY Farmingdale. My colleague moved on, but the journal survived, eventually finding its way online. The debut print issue included the Italian painter, Roberto Bocci. Subsequent issues featured Igor Satanovsky, Mikhail Magazinnik, Richard Kostelanetz, John M. Bennett, and Guy Beining. The online version offers an affluence of and artists and styles, from Ron Padgett to Karl Young, and lots of cool people in between and along the edges. In 1997 it seemed like an interesting and productive way to spend some of my time. Still does.

What sort of writing do you look for?

Assuming that beyond a certain point -- "over and above" concerns with the mechanics of basic grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and cogent literary devices -- quality gets pretty subjective, I look for work that seems to me either innovative, or exemplary of a particular tried and true methodology. That's the ideal. I retain a soft spot for vivid imagery, and for a strong individual voice. Reports of the death of the author/subject were, of course, premature. Much current "avant-garde" film is firmly rooted in the subject. Poetry need not swim against the fluidity of the current. There will always be important work created in a variety of ways, atop various philosophical underpinnings. A smart man or woman will remain open to possibilities ("Anything goes" -- so said the Lost Generation). Of course structural experiments get my absolute full attention, especially if there's more going on than the simply clever, or decorative. Frank O'Hara believed that poetry should be at least as entertaining as the movies. The underside of all this is that, unfortunately, we live in a world in which everything ages in a New York minute. Yesterday's fresh is today's refrigerator stink. Blackbox is subtitled "a record of the crash." If all else fails, I'm looking to snag the debris before they collect the dumpster. The organ may be used up, but the goo is still interesting. Look where it's been!

You also are a Contributing Editor for Koja Press. How long have you been involved with this? Talk about this press. When did it start? How did you meet the other editors Igor and Mike?

The original Koja literary magazine was conceived (in the early 1990s, I think) by Igor Satanovsky and Mikhail Magazinnik as a venue for avant-garde writing and visual poetry. If I'm not mistaken, they always thought in terms of Russian-American connections. I was not involved at that time, but I was introduced to Igor and Mike by Richard Kostelanetz. In the later 1990s, the full Koja-press was applied and books scattered among an innocent public. Igor especially is very active in book publishing. Much of the "play-list" is devoted to Russian language writers. I don't speak Russian. However, the English language portion of the program includes several first tier artists, such as Richard Kostelanetz, Bill Keith, and Julia Solis. Richard, of course, is internationally renowned. The late Bill Keith was one of the pioneers of contemporary visual poetry. Blackbox devoted an entire gallery to his memory. Julia's Scrub Station, a collection of Kafkaesque short stories, is the press' best seller through Amazon (the first UNDERWOR(L)D collection comes in second). She is well known for her investigations of underground spaces and abandoned "mental asylums" in both America and Europe. Her book of photographs with commentary was initially published in Germany, in German. Routledge issued the English language version.

What is your biggest challenge as a writer? as an editor?

To create or acquire work that proffers something unique, that rattles some cages. That's it.

You teach at SUNY at Farmingdale. What is one of the most important things you try to teach your students about writing?

This is a tough question. I know I can't teach talent. That might eventually become a project for genetic engineers. Most of my students are young, 18-21, and want to express themselves, their emotions, their pleasures and pains. I see myself as a facilitator. I don't steer them towards writing like me. Ideally I help them develop whatever style/method falls within their comfort zone. For example, many students are most familiar with song lyrics. Their initial submissions to the class are often rhyming lock steps. So I help them discover new ways (for them) of handling rhyme, e.g., internal rhyme, off rhyme. There's always the chance they'll teach me something if I don't dictate. The ones with serious talent -- and I've come across a few -- make themselves known right away. I suppose I "teach" them to write and write and write -- oh, and write. Some reading is also advisable. I imagine that, for the bona fide artist, there is something obsessive-compulsive about the process. The creator can't stop creating, no matter how many neighbors complain.

Something similar holds for significant work. It's the stuff that refuses to go down no matter how many times you flush. Some of my work may be significant. Some of it is likely meant for the sewers.

You've had work shown at galleries. What is that like for you? Talk about your experience with some of the galleries.

I'm getting a quite a lot of pleasure from this aspect of my creative process. But honestly, I don't yet see myself as an expert visual artist. The "genre" is still new to me, so I'm learning, which no doubt accounts for much of the pleasure. I admire the technical expertise of those "vispo" artists who've been at it for a very long time. I try not to imitate them, which leaves me little room to move since they have covered most of what is good about the form. I have managed a somewhat individual approach, but difference doesn't guarantee quality. I consider myself lucky that the "old hands" appreciate some of my work in this area. And I'm more than a little grateful.

As for my experience with galleries, I haven't had very much. I'll be part of a new group show at Gallery 324 in Cleveland, Ohio. The arrangements for the exhibit, much like the previous show at the Durban Segnini Gallery in Miami, are being handled by the curators. I do little more than supply my work. There's also talk of a show in Puerto Rico. So it's all good. The most I can say about my visual/graphic/web art, which I term "photopo," is that there is a very obvious aesthetic connection between it and my poetry, fiction and essays. My wheels seem to hold from location to location.

You've composed and written lyrics for Lou Rawls, Hammer and others. What was that like for you? Have or when did you stop being a musician and composer/songwriter?

Lou Rawls passed away this year. I feel the loss. He was one of the great blues/jazz/soul singers of our time. Anyway . . .

When I first signed with Wes Farrell's Pocket Full of Tunes, Inc., I was thrilled, as most 18-19 year olds would be. I was paid a good weekly salary to sit home and write songs. Once a week I would show up at Wes' offices to play my latest creations for him. He would choose what he considered the more saleable tunes, and book studio time for me. At the studio I would record my chosen ones with a bare bones backup band. These "demos" were then sent to various artists with the hope that they might care to include one or more on an album. I was also performing my own material at clubs in the Village and around the city: Café a Go Go, Café Wha, Nightowl, The Bitter End, Brandy's, Café Bizarre, and the like. At that time my dream -- it should surprise no one -- was to record my own album. I had one shot at that. The Elektra label flashed on my music and wanted to record me, but my manager rejected the deal. Label and manager could not come to terms regarding advance money. No regret since I expected to receive another offer, sooner or later. I might have, had I stayed with it. I must admit that, along with the shit, there were many, many good times. There usually are at the edge of the law. Like most musicians, and with a nod to William Blake, I located that line by crossing it.

I still play the guitar, mostly for my own enjoyment. Of course I can still write songs. One never loses the ability. But I do find poetry and theory more of a challenge. By the time I returned to college I was no longer a star struck kid. I realized that a career as a rock musician was not for me. In the words of B. B. King, "the thrill {was} gone."

When did poetry become a regular part of your life?

Officially in the early to mid 1990s. But I've always read poetry, and most everything else I could handle, from a fairly young age. I also wrote the occasional song, poem and short story in high school. Later, when I became a professional musician and songwriter, my gods were the poet lyricists: Dylan, Lennon, Becker and Fagan, Nyro, etc. So I guess I've been hot for poetry for a very long time.

Gloria, allow me to finish up with sincere thanks for your giving me the opportunity to discuss . . . ME. I had a ball. It's been ten years or so since we connected and I, for one, felt your absence. Červená Barva Press is an impressive project, and I'm honored to be included. My gratitude, also, to anyone taking the time to read this, and to all the talented people out there with whom I am personally and/or aesthetically engaged. Thanks for being there. Shit! My lunch is cold.


Jennifer Barber

Write a bio about yourself.

I grew up in the Boston area. Poetry has always been important to me, from Mother Goose on. After college-I went to Colby, in Maine-and studies in medieval literature in England, I went to Columbia for an M.F.A. New York City is also where I had my first several jobs in publishing, as a production assistant and later production editor for college textbooks and professional books. My husband, Peter Brown, is a writer whom I met in graduate school. After the birth of our son in 1988, we moved back to Boston.

Describe the space you write in.

We live on the second and third floors of a two-family house. My writing space is a small area at the top of the third-floor stairs. The space was originally a kitchenette that the former owners had installed, against the local building code; when we moved in, we had the kitchenette dismantled and the old eating-counter became a new desk surface. A door separates my husband's third-floor writing space from mine, which helps both of us concentrate. I admit that my space is messy and cluttered with books and papers; that seems to be my nature. I'm also a member of the Writers' Room of Boston, which provides cubicle workspace, and I often head downtown when I need a chunk of time uninterrupted by phone calls.

Talk about the publication of your book Rigging the Wind, by Kore Press.

I had been working on a manuscript for some time. I had written poems about cities, about marriage and motherhood, and about Galicia, Spain, where I lived for several months with my husband in 1986. What made the book come together for me was adding to this mix an interest in the judeo-conversos in Spain. In 2000, I began reading up on fifteenth-century Spain, trying to understand the glimpses of daily life and historical forces at work in fragments of Inquisition documents, and this puzzling-out turned into various new poems.

Kore Press is a small press located in Tucson, Arizona; Kore's founder and director, Lisa Bowden, has an extensive book design and book-making background. Kore had just instituted a first-book poetry prize in 2002, the year I sent my manuscript in. It was selected by Jane Miller, who teaches at the University of Arizona. The Press focuses on women writers, and I enjoyed seeing their various publications when I went to Tucson to give a reading.

When did you start publishing the literary magazine Salamander? What sort of writing do you look for? Just recently, Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, announced it is sponsoring the publication of Salamander. Please talk about how this came about. What does this mean for the magazine?

I started publishing Salamander in 1992. As for what sort of writing we look for, that's difficult to put into words. I would say that we look for writing that stays in the reader's mind after it's read, that enters the reader's memory. Sometimes I find myself saying a line of poetry, adrift from its surrounding lines, enjoying the rhythms or phrasing without remembering where the line was from, and it turns out to be a line from a poem that appeared in Salamander recently, or years ago.

Suffolk University recently founded the Poetry Center, under the direction of poet and professor Fred Marchant. Suffolk's interest in affiliating with Salamander has to do with the Poetry Center and the expansion and deepening of Creative Writing at Suffolk's College of Arts and Sciences. The affiliation in turn provides Salamander with a base in downtown Boston, and will enable us to increase the magazine's reach nationwide.

What is your biggest challenge as an editor and writer?

I'd answer "time" in both categories. Managing the hours needed for writing, teaching, editing, and parenthood on any given day can be challenging. Sometimes I miss sharply the daydreaming space that can result in a whole different take on things. I'm teaching Thoreau to my students this month, and I find myself a bit envious of his time at Walden, writing whenever he felt like it, watching the pond and the birds and the rain.

What are you working on now?

I'm writing some new poems…


C. L. Bledsoe

Write a bio about yourself.

I grew up on a catfish farm in eastern Arkansas in the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest places in the country. During the summer, my family raised rice and soybeans as well as cattle and other things. During the winter, my father and uncles and my brother sold catfish and buffalo fish.

When I graduated from high school, my father didn't want me to farm anymore because he saw no future in it, no way to really make a living. So I worked odd jobs: fast food, I managed the produce department at a grocery store at one point, and wrote. I'd always wanted to be a writer. I knew that to be a writer you had to read, but most of the bookstores around were Christian bookstores, so I would drive maybe once a month to the nearest town with a mall and buy books.

I also knew that to be a writer you had to write. I wrote a couple thousand poems and a novel before I started college. The novel was short, maybe 150 pages. Very experimental in the vein of Beckett's trilogy. A friend of mine read it and said about it, "You know, it really picks up after page 130." This is why I went to college, because I wanted to learn how to write things people would be interested in. If I chose not to write in this style, then so be it, but I wanted to at least know how.

So I went to the University of Arkansas and got my Bachelor's in English with a focus on Creative Writing. I studied under a lot of great writers; U. of A. is a phenomenal school and I was fortunate to go there. I did a year in the MFA Playwrights program and transferred to Hollins for Creative Writing. I am in the last semester of my MFA there.

Describe the room you write in.

Very messy. I have a pretty good sized desk covered with papers and books, magazines, granola bars, glasses with a swallow of water still in them, envelopes, magazines, Jimmy Hoffa and various CDs. Soon, I will need to get a bigger desk.

What writers make you tick? Authors you read over and over.

I get in weird moods with reading and stick with one kind of thing for a long time, then switch gears completely. Lately, since I've been working on my Master's, I'm reading stuff for pleasure, outside of class. Terry Pratchett is great. Italo Calvino is probably my favorite writer because his work is so interesting. He was one of the first writers who really showed me that everything doesn't have to be confessional. Donald Harington is a brilliant, unrecognized writer. I just finished Aimee Bender's new story collection. James Baldwin was, in my opinion, the greatest writer of the latter half of the 20th century. Great stuff. I'm really all over the place.

With poetry, I owe a debt to James Tate. Again, he showed me that not only does poetry not have to be confessional, but it could be the confession of a turnip, or your dying mother. This may sound silly but it's not but that's not a bad thing, either. Cummings has been a big influence. To be honest, most of the reading I have done lately has been of books or collections I am reviewing for various journals. Daniel Donaghy has a really powerful collection called Streetfighting. Jo McDougall's poetry is slim and perfect like a ladyfinger.

One of the first things, probably the first thing I was taught as a writer was to "make it new." Anything that does that, I tend to like. If it's treading water, I usually don't care for it unless it has a hell of a backstroke. I rarely read southern fiction because a great deal of it is either set sometime before or during the 50's, or should be. And we've covered that era, I think. Of course there are exceptional examples of envelope pushing.

Where do you find inspiration for writing?

If I don't write something every day or two I get really depressed and start feeling like the only purpose to my existence is building up some sort of pension so I can retire and spend my last years watching reruns of CSI (my generation's Matlock?) and complaining. Or traveling to foreign countries to complain about things there.

Writing is a way for me to reorganize the world into something that make sense, or to show that it doesn't make sense. When I'm not writing I feel like I don't exist. Or that I'm living a kind of half-life. Also writing is fun.

I was raised by storytellers. Nothing passes the time like a story. The difference between a story and a joke is that in a story the punch line might come halfway through it, or never. It might take five minutes to get to the end, or there might be half a dozen punch lines. It doesn't matter if you've heard the "joke," it is the telling that matters. Writing is like that. Coming from this culture inspires me to tell stories. Not just funny ones. People's lives inspire me. My father used to say that you have to laugh to keep from crying. Turning tragedy into art, life into something else; it reveals the man in the monkey. Maybe that is what art is for, to cull the spark from amidst the clutter that is most of our lives, and share it.

What is the strangest thing you've done to find writing material?

Mostly strange things happen to me, or I cause them or whatever, then, later, I think "Ah, that would make a great poem or whatever." Usually I'm wrong about this.

Červená Barva Press will be publishing your book, Anthem, in 2007. Discuss your poems in this book.

I was moving beyond the confessional mode into more interesting and experimental forms and approaches. These poems were born mostly out of frustration at various limitations with writing and with life. It is frustrating to be human, to be stuck in the day to day, when your real interest lies in something beyond that. It is like being in love. The dishes must still be washed, though this is something we have no interest in at the moment.

Many of the poems are commenting on a kind of search for how to live, literally how to make it through the day and deal with all the indignities we have to face. But I am not preaching, I am looking, myself. Of course we put ourselves in these positions much of the time. But there is also humor in the book. In the end, maybe that's how we survive, by laughing.

You edit an on-line magazine called Ghoti/Fish. When did you start this magazine? What sort of writing do you look for? Talk about the types of work you publish. Who are the other people that help you publish the magazine? How long have you known them? Are they writers also?

I co-founded Ghoti with my fiancée and a couple friends. Now, there are just three of us left, myself, my fiancée Jillian Meyer, and Donna Epler. We started it at the end of 2004. We were all grad students at Hollins, all writers. Jillian is a poet and therefore edits the poetry, Donna is a fiction and nonfiction writer and edits fiction and nonfiction. I pinch hit and do the initial reads, usually, and then team up with whoever needs help. We have gone through several incarnations of editorial approach but this seems to work for us.

We publish fiction, poetry, nonfiction, book reviews, etc. What we look for exactly what we demand of our own work - something new, something different. We don't have a radically different agenda than many journals -- we just want to give a worthy venue to people writing good stuff because they love to write.

You were Editor of Exposure and an Assistant Editor for The Hollins Critic. Talk about these journals.

I was an editor for Exposure as an undergrad. We published visual art, poetry, fiction, etc.. I didn't like it, actually. I was young and dumb. There were a lot of editors and we published ourselves. And I thought that I knew everything and what I happened to be into right then was more valid than anything else.

After I left, the journal changed its name to The Aux Arc Review (pronounced "Ozark") and no longer published art or the work of its editors.

The main reason I didn't like it was that we rejected so much more than we accepted, and most of our submissions were from students, so they weren't necessarily bad, they were just not quite there. With revision, many of these pieces could've been good. And with the large amount of editors - there were something like 6 or 8 editors for writing, just as many for art, and we got together every so often and hashed everything out - so everyone got to say yay or nay. What this meant was that there was no prevailing vision to the journal, and we ended up taking a lot of mediocre stuff.

The Hollins Critic is more a critical journal than a literary one. I started as an assistant poetry editor, which means I read poetry submissions and not much else. In the Fall, I was promoted to assistant editor, which means that now I do more technical things. I am not very involved in the journal, really. I just do what I'm told. My favorite thing about working for the Critic is doing book reviews.

If I hadn't co-founded Ghoti, I would probably have a much more negative view towards publishing. Being my own boss is much more rewarding and it allows me to search out the work of writers I admire and enjoy.

What is your secret for finding a balance and still having time to write?

I don't. Ask my fiancée. I am a workaholic about writing. I always have a lot of work lined up (book reviews, articles) because it gives me a frame work of due dates to work within, and it keeps me busy. I need that hectic environment to get anything done.

I think part of this comes from my background as a farmer. It is a myth that farming is somehow an easy or pastoral life. It is very hard and there is always more work. At three o'clock in the morning the sheriff's department might call because the cows jumped a fence and are roaming through some neighborhood. You need more rain, you need less rain. You are constantly in debt and your equipment is breaking down and there is always shoveling to be done, watering, fertilizing, something. It is physically demanding and stressful. So you find a nest within all this in which to live. But the work is there, always, and it doesn't really pay enough to be worthwhile. This is really writing in a nutshell, I think.

Maria Static or Slizknit are great names for the punk band you co-founded. Are you still performing? When did the band start? Talk about your band, music and how often you play at clubs.

Maria Static was the earlier incarnation. Shizknit disbanded a couple years ago because life got in the way. We started in high school. We played around the state a bit, got some radio play on student radio, put out a couple self-produced singles. It was a lot of fun but hard work and hard to sustain. You might drive a couple hundred miles to play a gig and they take up a collection for gas money to get you home. Or maybe you get door money. I loved doing it, loved playing. I would like to have a band again in the future and probably will.

The punk aesthetic of DIY and not taking things at face value permeates my work. It was crazy to start a band in Arkansas. Who ever came out of Arkansas? (Aside from Johnny Cash) But we were too dumb to realize it couldn't be done so we did it. It's crazy to be a poet or a writer. But I didn't know I couldn't do it, so I did it.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a semi-autobiographical novel about my childhood in Arkansas. I am also working on a nonfiction collection. Most of my time is spent either reading or writing. It's not a bad life, really.


Write a bio about yourself.

I like the bio used by Červená Barva Press:
Gian Lombardo is father to Carlo, son to Santo, and a middling winemaker. He also makes books, students and prose poems - not necessarily in that order and not necessarily simultaneously.

Other than that, the "official" bio:
Gian Lombardo is Publisher-in-Residence in the Writing, Literature & Publishing Department at Emerson College, where he teaches courses on book and magazine publishing. He is also Coordinator of Emerson College's graduate Certificate in Publishing program. Gian has had over 25 years of experience in a wide range of publishing environments -- trade, association, literary and consumer magazines as well as professional, literary and textbook publishing. He has provided these publishers with editing, design, production and project management services and consulting on a freelance basis. His clients have included Reed Business Information, Ploughshares, Agni, Bedford/St. Martin's, Boston Society of Civil Engineers and Transitions Abroad. He is also the author of Between Islands, a collection of poems and verse translations (Dolphin-Moon Press, 1984); and three collections of prose poetry -- Standing Room, Sky Open Again (Dolphin-Moon Press, 1989 & 1997) and Of All the Corners to Forget (Meeting Eyes Bindery, 2004). His translation of the first half of Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la nuit was published in 2000, and a translation of Eugène Savitzkaya's Les règles de solitude in 2004. Gian also directs Quale Press, which publishes both literary and technology-oriented works. He has a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Trinity College and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University.

Describe the room you write in.

Third floor in a 19th century brick building. My window overlooks greater downtown Florence, a bustling part of Northampton, and in particular my window overlooks the Miss Florence Diner. Inside, it's all brick walls. Brown rug with almost every inch covered with piles of paper and books. Tables strewn with Zip disks and CDs. Near my chair a sculpture formed by my son from a half-dozen cardboard boxes and yards of scotch tape. If I'm lucky, the construction crew in the other part of the building is not working building luxury residential condos in the hall where Sojourner Truth once spoke. Much dust from the construction layers over the many piles of papers. Right now I can see a large swath of blue from the window and can hear hammering and the whine of a circular saw.

Of All The Corners To Forget is your newest book to come out (in December 2004). Please talk about this book. How long did it take you to write?

I think it took about two years to write. My memory gets hazy on these things. There's no point where I consciously started work on this book but somewhere along the line I stopped writing long enough to see if I had enough material to put into a collection. When I write I at least want each new collection to do or be something different (stylistically or content-wise) from the others. I had finished a collection called Who Lets Go First. Those prose poems were based on the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination. The pieces in there reflected me thinking on each particular hexagram, coming up with an image and then running with it narratively. That book was the first book I'd done that has some sort of thematic and formal unity. But that book got done about 6 years ago and has been waiting for its publisher to publish it. For the next book, Of All The Corners To Forget, I wanted to free the language up, move away from narrative and the normative expectations of the prose poem. I just wanted to play again and also to keep the writing from getting boring to myself. Too much has been made of poets needing to find their voice. My feeling is once they do, they sink into that rut and in the end cease saying anything of worth. Sort of like a ventriloquist finding a voice for his/her dummy. Pessoa (and his many manifestations) is the model I'd like to live up to. Don't get boxed into saying (or writing or looking at) things one way. Mix it up. Learn. Challenge yourself. Don't end up being an old fart too self-conscious of being the image of a writer, or one particular type of writer. I'd rather try something (even if it's tiny) different with each book. Not to play it safe. It's better to take a chance and to fail than to do the same-old same-old (or end up being your own dummy).

Discuss why you like writing prose as to other forms of writing?

It seems as natural to me to write poems in prose as it does to breathe. At this point, it makes absolutely no sense to waste time thinking about where to break lines. I just like constructing writing on the basis of using the sentence and paragraph as organizational (formal) means. I'm just not interested in verse per se. I'd rather explore the possibilities of poetry written in prose and to explore the possibilities of the sentence - syntax, rhythm, structure.

Where do you find writing inspiration?

Everything. For me, it's not a measure of inspiration. I can't conceive of living without writing, nor more so than I can conceive of life without my wife or my son. Living, in itself, is enough. But more than living - it's looking, truly trying to see as best you can.

What is the strangest thing you've done to find writing material?

Live. (I really don't want to quote the Grateful Dead here, but if something in specific floats up into your consciousness here about this, I wouldn't deny it…)

What are you working on now?

I'm altogether working on too much. Grandiose dreams and big projects. I've got one collection of prose poems that's about half done. It contains one section that's an abcedarium. Another section of that book I'm working on now contains pieces that are based on larger texts that have been out in the world for a spell. For example, the piece published by Červená Barva Press in a postcard ("The Demarcation of Indigence") is found text from the Declaration of Independence. Other pieces in the series are from such texts as Darwin's Origin of Species, Tom Paine's Common Sense, Marx & Engel's Communist Manifesto, etc. I extract words and phrases from the source text and play with them and off them. One person who has read pieces from the abcedarium and the "found text" sequence says that it feels like I'm making English sound like a foreign language. I'm pretty happy with that characterization. Many politicians are adept at making English sound like a foreign language, why not me (especially since I harbor a latent desire to enter the political realm)?

Another project - also half done - is a prose poem sequence in the voice of a 19th century engineer who designed and built a dam that failed and killed over a hundred people. He wrestles with his guilt and his love of science and progress. His guilt makes him see the ghosts of the people who died in the flood, one of whom in particular he starts conversing with. I sort of latched onto that because it's based in a true event (the Williamsburg, Massachusetts, flood killed over 150 people in 1874). The stream that was dammed runs through my land (the dam was about three-quarters of a mile downstream).

Yet another project is working on a translation of Michel Delville's (a French-speaking Belgian writer) book of poetry/prose poetry Troisieme corps (Third Body). That, I'm glad to say, is over half done. Plus two other translation projects also half done - to finish off Le centaur part of Maurice DeGuerin's La bacchante & le centaur and to complete the translation of an ancient Greek poet named Archestratos, who wrote an epic poem on the culinary arts (of which only 300 or so lines remain). Yeah, and I've only half finished translating Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la nuit.

These are the major fragments of work being worked on and reflect some of the larger piles of paper on my office floor. There are numerous other projects that haven't reached this far yet. So many ideas, so little time…

It kind of makes sense to me that I have so many half-done projects lying around since I'm more or less half-baked…

When and why did you start Quale Press? How many titles do you publish a year? How do you find authors? You also provide services for publishing at Quale Press. Please talk about that some.

The old geezer in me is talking now. I've been working in publishing for over a quarter century, and for the last twenty years or so as a "freelancer" - on my own. Quale Press is an outgrowth of my career in publishing. After too many years working for other publishers putting out their magazines and books, I wanted to do something that had my "imprint" (sorry for the pun) on it. So in 1997 I launched Quale Press (and the name does NOT rhyme with a former vice president's name but is pronounced kwa-lay) to start publishing a small literary magazine devoted to prose poetry called key satch(el). In my efforts to disseminate linguistic confusion, the name of the magazine is a phonetic rendition of a favorite Italian phrase of mine, "Qui saccia?" which means "Who knows?" (It's an idiomatic phrase and can be used to respond, for example, to the question "Does the bus stop here?" when you are standing in front of a bus stop sign. The person answering might reply "Qui saccia?" and it could be interpreted on many levels - the first being absurd and sarcastic - of course it stops here, that's what the sign is for - and another also absurd but now fatalistic - of course it stops here, but then the driver might forget and drive right by - or absurd and philosophical - of course it stops here, we're all in the same bus - and so course. Forgive me for this tangent.) Of course, to be difficult, the "el" is silent (which is why it's in parentheses). I published that quarterly for three years and stopped after getting frustrated. Initially, I wanted the reach and scope of key satch(el) to be broad, to encompass mainstream-type prose poetry as well as avant-garde or language prose poetry. But I found people to be too sectarian in their aesthetics and gave up. But I still had the desire to publish work so I started a chapbook series called edition key satch(el) - an outgrowth of the magazine but focusing more on individual writers. I did this for another three years. At that point I found myself wanting to publish longer works. So I disbanded the series and started acquiring titles. In 2004 I published 5 titles and the goal is to publish 5 books a year until I die or go bankrupt or both. Mostly prose poetry but whatever interests me. This was possible because of what's called print-on-demand, which is basically employing a digital press (a glorified laser printer/photocopying machine) and printing books as they are ordered. For literary works that sell less than 1000 copies over their lifetimes, this is the way to go. It also pisses the hell out of me that most of the book publishing industry has little accurate perception of POD technology. Since some vanity presses (like Author House) use POD to physically create the books, they equate any book produced by POD as vanity publications. It's as facile an analogy as saying that all publishers that use sheet-fed offset presses to physically print books are vanity presses.

I'm also almost insanely pissed (think Network outrage) at the current state of literary publishing. When I first started writing over 30 years ago, there were only a few book contests. The Yale Series of Younger Poets and the National Poetry Series come to mind. Winning one of those contests then meant something. Now every small literary press has its own publication contest and these presses receive a good deal of funding from charging writers a "reading" (or entry or handling or whatever their euphemism is) fee to have their manuscript read. There are literally hundreds of these competitions and, to me, these "prizes" have little value. On top of that, I view the practice of charging writers to read (or handle or whatever) their work as being one of the most reprehensible practices on earth. Too many poets have too hard a time scraping together a living - charging them to "read" their work is a slap in their face. Desktop publishing is great in that it allows anyone to become a publisher, but the problem is that too many people these days become a publisher without an inherent consciousness of what it means to be a publisher. Also, it's an impossible task to hold an impartial and ethical contest. Teachers will pick student work. Friends will favor friends. I know too many stories of the connections between judge and recipient. In itself, the website (despite its often immature and ill-thought actions) performed a necessary service. You should have read the congratulatory glee that occurred on a small publisher's listserv when the owner of was outed. It is very disheartening that most of these publishers have an almost born-again religiosity to their adherence to contests and reading fees and it's equally disheartening that they are unequivocally blind that that charging these fees is an innately unethical practice. Sure, I know without raising money through these fees these presses couldn't publish work, but that still doesn't solve the problem of how (and who) to sell these books. I'm also not a fan of editing by committee - either directly by a "panel" or indirectly through rotating judges through each contest sequence. I started my own press, and I'm sinking my own money (which should go to my son's college fund and my retirement fund) into my press. And since I'm footing the bill, I'd sooner die than delegate the task of selecting a book for my list to someone else. I publish books that I believe in one way or another. At the moment, I don't have the time and resources to read unsolicited work. Maybe that will change in the future (say if I win the lottery). Instead, I read as much as I can. I look for work that I like and go after the author (a don't-call-us-we'll-call-you mentality). I don't profess to be fair. It's not a contest. I do publish friends (& possibly family). I'm open to recommendations from others. I look for material that other publishers might not take a chance on.

I'll stop my rant on the current literary publishing scene. Sorry.

Quale Press offers other magazine and book publishers project management, training, editing, rewriting, copyediting, proofreading, design and production services. We have reduced rates for non-profits. It helps pay the bills.

You currently teach Book Publishing, Magazine Publishing, Copy Editing, and Desktop Publishing at Emerson College in Boston. Talk about your classes there. How long have you been teaching there?

I've been teaching at Emerson for five years now. I love sitting in a classroom trying to get students as fired up about publishing as I am. It's exciting trying to train the next generation of editors and publishers. I try to challenge them to be up to the task of giving us the best information to base our own decisions on - whether it's political, social, professional, etc. The public is only as good as the information it receives (garbage in/garbage out).

What is your biggest challenge as a writer? As an editor?

My biggest challenge as a writer is to always keep my head in the game. To always be hungry and curious and not satisfied. Not just to go through the motions. Same goes for editor, except maybe to add in to always try to piss people off (or at least get them thinking). Worst thing for me is to be that tree that falls in the woods and that no one hears.

When I decided to start Červená Barva Press, you were so kind and supportive answering my many questions. A huge thank you!!!!! My last question to you is how do you find time to do everything? It is so important to have a balance in life. What's your secret?

Everything doesn't get done (witness all those piles). Every day chew off a little more and hope it stays down. You get done what you get done. You get to know what you can't live without - whether it's writing or eating or f***ing or going for a hike with your son or paddling a kayak for hours on end.

I don't think I've gotten there - balance in life - yet (maybe that's a good definition of death - where everything is in balance). I think the secret, though, is in trying. You might not achieve balance but you know it's out there somewhere. Just gotta find it. Know that perfection doesn't exist but that improvement does.

I think I'm done now because I think I've overused the word particular just too god***n many times in this interview.


Rebecca Seiferle

Write a bio about yourself.

Oh, bios, ergh: usually with writers there's the bio of publication, but there could be the geographical bio, the bio of the interior realities of writing poetry or fishing or carving wood, etc, or the bio of one's sexuality, or the bio of relationships, or the bio of the books one has read, or the bio of all one has loved, or the bio of perceptions, or the bio of life-changing dreams, any of which might be more interesting.

I don't know, more simply, my life seems to have been several lives, all marked by traumatic disruptions, a kind of death and being reborn. I grew up moving, sometimes three or four schools in one year, so it was a very nomadic existence. My second life began in New Mexico, which was unlike anywhere I'd ever lived before, its different history, a strong Hispanic and Native American community, and also the presence of vanished cultures, and the way in which the landscape itself seems to intersect with my imagination. I lived there for twenty years, about twelve of them in the desert raising goats, and a number of years hauling water and generating our own electricity. As for this third life: the last several years have been full of change, in any number of respects, sometimes incredibly difficult, and at times I feel as if I were inhabiting a transition zone. For this simplifying framework of 'lives' doesn't really convey the corresponding changes in many other aspects, which changes all of these other bios. I decided that I wanted to write when I was fourteen, and writing has been perhaps the only thread of continuity throughout, perhaps because from the beginning, it was the only place in which the ways in which I already existed were allowed a way to exist.

Describe the room you write in.

We rent the second floor of a house, and I write in the sun room which is at the front of the apartment and set off from the living room by a wall with a large arch opening, which is vaguely Arabic. I like that it's more subject to the weather, colder in winter, warmer in summer, and the incidentals of light, though I'm also always within child-tending distance. My desk is against one wall so that working I face the four full length windows which overlook the street and which look into the branches of various trees.

Where do you find inspiration for writing?

I don't know, at the moment I find this question impossible to answer, or maybe always since there is no "where" some place to which I can always go. I have gotten used to some profound way of being homeless, even as a writer. So since you asked about my writing "Singular Cherubim" perhaps I can answer there more clearly in the particular.

You recently moved here from New Mexico. Why the move and have you adjusted to Boston?

I moved for the job at Brandeis and, since I partly grew up in New England, moving here has been partially a reconnecting with my childhood and familial history; though I don't know if that's so much a matter of place as this particular time in my life. When I went to Lithuania in October, a country I never expected to visit, I learned at a party given by the scholar, Dovid Katz, in connection with his new book, Words of Fire: the Forgotten History of Yiddish, that my last name which I'd thought was from the German, meaning something like 'little soaps' is in fact from the Yiddish "seyfer" which means a book of sacred text in Hebrew or Aramaic. Which made me feel as if some obscure weight which had been attached to me, unknowingly, in the womb, like lead wings on my shoulders had lifted, become somehow light or bearable in a way it hadn't been before . I would say that it is 'reclaiming' one's ancestral inheritance, but for me, it is as much about, how becoming aware of it in some clearing way, allows me to leave it behind finally. In a way, I think I buried my father in Lithuania, even though his ashes are scattered on a mountain in Colorado, put to rest his invisible presence. And being in Boston has had that aspect of going back to a past where there were obscure weights, and also of clearing those unknown inheritances. These forests were the forest of my childhood and part of my imagination (I was first aware of my desire to write poetry when I was nine and trying to complete a writing assignment in the Vermont woods). I like very much the access to art and music here. I've gone to the Boston Fine Arts Museum for a number of exhibits, and been reminded of how art was integral, for I used to paint and sculpt in my early twenties, to my sense of writing. But I also remember my first trip to the museum when I was nine and going with my father who was showing one of his paintings of Lincoln to the museum director. So being here has had an aspect of both the familiar and the unknown; there are certain intangible things I love about it, even the rush of being on the T and coming out on the Charles River Bridge where everything opens up to the river, the sky and the skyline of Boston. Or of being out on the Cape, and out on the ocean, but those are encounters with nature. And, on the other hand, urban life is to constantly encounter human injury, the various inequities, the sheer inhumane of human societies, tragedies which are chosen again and again, the afflictions of indifference and neglect, to which there is also an inability to ever adjust.

You translated one of my favorite poets, Vallejo. Please talk about your translation of Trilce and The Black Heralds.

I had read Vallejo for a number of years in the original but didn't translate any of his poems until I was at Warren Wilson and wanted to write about them critically and realized this would mean having to translate them, since I felt the extant translations missed the point. Then one of my advisers suggested that I translate Trilce, and the suggestion stuck. Except that I thought, making excuses, that it would be difficult to find the original; until I went to a local bookstore and there was a copy of Trilce for 99 cents on the remainder table. . . I worked on the translations for a number of years, and then Stanley Moss offered to publish them. We went over the poems word by word, some of his remarks were very sharp, but others missed altogether, so I ended up feeling somewhat frustrated, so within a period of three weeks, I redid the entire book, as if my brain were on fire. One of the criticism that followed my publication of Trilce was the view of several critics that I had overemphasized the importance of Vallejo coming from a mixed cultural and ethnic background. So wondering if they were right, I read backwards into Vallejo's earlier work and began translating The Black Heralds. His work in The Black Heralds is more accessible, but there are other challenges, for instance, his writing of sonnets. I don't know, Vallejo is a very different poet than I am. There's a terrible gravitational pull in Vallejo, his work differs from mine in that it spins ever more tightly into some interior void, whereas my own work flies out from it, as if impelled from that same center. So I learned a great deal about writing from translating him but cannot say exactly what. Though of course, one could say it's the preoccupation with the precision of language, while allowing oneself to be haunted by another's very different realities and intensities, that translation lends to poetry.

Please talk about the books you have published and awards. I thought rather than me naming them, I would let you talk about these on your own. This way, you can say what you want about them.

In terms of the books alone, I guess I would say that I've never wanted to repeat myself, to cultivate some niche of style or material and remain there, and that each of them was driven out of the necessity of various intersections. But, since also you ask about the awards, which is something else altogether, it's probably the case that my books wouldn't have been published without winning awards, for that was the means by which various people became aware that my work existed. When I read for the Bogin award at the Poetry Society of America in NYC, Stanley Moss, the publisher of Sheep Meadow Press, happened to be there. Both the publication of Trilce and The Ripped-Out Seam followed from that occasion. In 1998, my trip to to NYC for another PSA award, the Hemley award, led to Stanley asking if I had a new manuscript, so The Music We Dance To was published from that. In 1990, the Writers' Exchange award, led to my meeting Sam Hamill, then editor of Copper Canyon. We didn't stay in touch, and I was surprised when he called in 1998 and asked if I had a new poetry collection for Copper Canyon to look at, though I'd already verbally promised The Music We Dance To to Stanley. Though this may not be the entire story, since Michael Wiegers who is now the editor at Copper Canyon and was managing editor during those same years had been interested in publishing my work since the early 90's when he was visiting Grolier's in Cambridge and asked Louisa Solano if she had anything to recommend and she gave him a copy of The Ripped-Out Seam. So I'm not sure if Sam's calling in 98 wasn't due to Michael's prompting. The most notable award I've been given is the Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship in 2004 which helped enormously, particularly given the economic difficulties of my divorce.

As you know, I write poems about angels. I recently read a poem of yours called Singular Cherubim. This poem knocked me for a loop. It is so powerful, blunt, dark, haunting, beautiful, and graphic. Please talk about this poem and how it came into being.

I was living in the desert of New Mexico when one of our cats who was pregnant went missing for a day and then came back. I'd been looking for her but it was until a couple of days later that I found the two kittens that she'd had in the brush; when I picked them up, they had maggots, which were in the lining of their skins beneath the navel. My reaction was of revulsion and also that sort of shock that I'd felt as a kid when I saw a bird hopping on the grass and going toward it, in delight of seeing a bird up so close, only to realize, as I came closer, ,that the bird was walking because half of its head was gone or one of its wings was frozen in injury. I extracted and killed the maggots to save the kittens, but felt in so doing that the maggots were not creatures of my revulsion but creatures in their own right , that they had no choice but to be so. I was also thinking of Catholicism, the way in which Christianity regards the body as a sort of soul hatchery. In our culture, even when consciously aesthetic or agnostic or not driven by any apparent 'religious' values, there is still a fundamental sense that regards the body, the experience of living in a particular body, as raw material, something to be used, for whatever's valued--fame, celebrity, money, success, power in various aspects, etc. A sort of profound contempt of bodily reality which can only confirm itself by marginalization of various aspects of being, and even entire categories of being, species, classes or groups of people, etc. I realized that these three maggots were holy, even though I felt profoundly shocked, as if I were called within myself to love what I had not been able to love before.

When did you start The Drunken Boat? How many issues come out a year? What do you look for when reading submissions?

The Drunken Boat's first issue went online in April, 2000. Originally, it was on a quarterly schedule but there was almost a year, 2004, without an issue, due to my moving etc, and then it's moved toward a biannual with double spring/summer and fall/winter issue which I think will probably remain the case for a while. When reading submissions, I look for a certain quality of language but also a certain edge of raw, some way in which the poet is doing more than creating a merely well-crafted poetry box. I prefer work where the poet is taking a risk in some way, a risk of writing in ways he or she hasn't before, a genuine sense of exploration or of being up against some particular force in the world and trying to speak anyway. I don't look for 'perfect' or 'best' works, or those that suit my own taste or poetic practice, and the works published are rather eclectic. It is a 'drunken' boat, drunken in the sense of allowing space for other's enthusiasms, and even for my allowing for what I don't favor. I guess I am most concerned with the struggle with and for existence. Some of these works are rescues, of ignored literatures, of overlooked writers, of the overlooked works of an otherwise somewhat known writer, sometimes of works which in the particular poet's life were silenced for a number of reasons, works which involve writing about subject material that hasn't had much of a poetic life, or literatures that have been oppressed.

The Drunken Boat has given me the opportunity to read many poets that I normally wouldn't be exposed to. How do you find these writers and give them a voice to be heard? So many of these writers have lived under oppression at one time.

Well, it's interesting that you notice that many of these writers have lived under oppression. I think Vallejo said something about the experience of having been unjustly jailed made him aware that we were all, always, in jail. And I do feel that much of my life has involved weird forms of oppression, which is why some of my writing has been generated by rage or pain, as if out of the wounded creature. So perhaps that's an accurate reflection of some preoccupation.

Well, I don't give them a voice to be heard, that voice is already there; I just give the space for it to exist where it might not have been heard before. In fact, most of these writers find me, and I think that's mostly a matter of having created the space, and how it extends itself through various associations. For instance, the Latvian and Lithuanian features are due to J.C. Todd's long-term interest in those areas, her travels there and connections with other writers. George Murray contacted me with his work and his interest in doing a feature of Canadian writers, Lisa Katz contacted me about a feature of several Israeli poets she had translated, Liz Hall-Downs contacted me concerning doing a feature of Queensland, Australia, poets, and about her own work as a performance poet. Charles Fishman brought in a good number of writers, both from the U.S. and in Israeli. That's why I have contributing editors, though a number of these writers contacted me about the features and then 'became' contributing editors. In the beginning of the magazine, I asked some writers that I knew, Ruth Stone, Eleanor Wilner, Sam Hamill, and whose work was then somewhat overlooked, if they'd be interviewed and send new work. But most of the work comes to me one way or another, and has sometimes created a continuing association, for instance, Aliki Barnstone's work has been included a couple of times and then Abayomi Animashuan who had done an interview with her contacted me since he knew I'd published her work previously. And, yes, it is true, that many of these writers have lived under oppression, the Lithuanian and Latvian writers. I also publish as many women writers as men, sometimes perhaps more, since I feel that they have often been oppressed in weird ways, allowed to write only in certain modes or manners, and that, even when writing in more conventional forms, they are often exploring material that has been left out of poetry.

I find all the writing that you publish in The Drunken Boat to be so beautiful and strongly written. How has reading this work influenced your own writing? Your own life?

I am glad that you find it so. I don't know as it has influenced my writing or my life, which is perhaps an odd thing to say, but basically in publishing, I wanted to make space for others' enthusiasms. There are a few works which have great personal significance to me, but, in general, The Drunken Boat is mostly to create space for what I'm not. It does reflect my life in that most of this work has come to me, either through the other editors, the accidents and circumstances of meeting people at various writer's events, etc, and then these writers bring in other writers. It is perhaps a reflection of various associations, people that I have met or encountered or features that I have lent my support to. I have found something of interest in everything I've published.

What is your biggest challenge as an editor? as a writer?

Well, I would say my biggest challenge all along has been doing all the work since I did the webdesign and do all the html work. But lately, I'd say my biggest challenge as an editor has been waking up to my own naivete. I began the magazine with a somewhat naive ideal of creating a space for other's enthusiams, of a space beyond boundaries, an international poetry, and of giving a space for what had been marginalized, not allowed (perhaps even in a writer's sense of his or her own work) . I have been very slow to wake up to this role of being an 'editor'.

I felt I was basically no one publishing this magazine at my own expense and effort in the middle of nowhere. So it's taken some time to dawn on me the whole aspect of 'having something to offer,' that there is this role of being an 'editor', and how this has meant various people attaching themselves to me as it were by stealth and my not noticing, or people creating various 'personal' relationships in order to be published or the difficulty of having contributing editors who trade on the magazine in some way, of how . With the Latvian issue, I became particularly aware that a letter from me can obtain government funding for projects, help decide which translators get work, that it's very political and that I am not that aware of the intricacies of involvements, nor am I sure in a country that lived under Soviet repression, even the people there are. All of this has made me, I don't know what, uncomfortable, preoccupied, wondering how to precede from here, or even at times whether to precede. I am also aware that this naivete was also in some way an unawareness of responsibility, that, in publishing, I'm also creating a sense of what matters. So I am thinking about this in various ways and do not know exactly where it will lead.

At Brandeis, what do you try to teach your students about writing?

Well, my students at Brandeis are undergraduates, young and often need most a sense of welcoming recognition, a sense that it is ok to exist as they are--however crazy or quirky or impossible they've been made to feel that their own perceptions and feelings are. Generally I try to teach both an awareness of craft, form, language, and also create an environment that is both welcoming and challenging to them. For instance, I usually give them two writing exercises every week, one that challenges them to some aspect of form or craft that most of them haven't tried before, and one that's a bit crazy and hopefully leads to expansiveness, more possibilities from which they can write. I'm surprised that while young, they are not young in a sense of possibility, but write out of one particular mode, moment, feeling, situation that they've feel is 'poetic,' it's as if there is one spot in their being where they write poetry and the rest of their lives never gets into poetry or is viewed as a part of poetry. So it's like this division in the self, between the 'poet' who is like someone else, and the person who lives all the rest of their lives. Since they are young, I hope that perhaps I can help make them aware that it doesn't have to be that way, that you don't have to put your soul in a never never land and live your life according to entirely other, and often imposed, values.

Any last comments?



Judith Skillman

Write a bio about yourself.

Here is the standard bio I currently send out with work:
Judith Skillman is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Eric Mathieu King Fund from the Academy of American Poets for her book "Storm," Blue Begonia Press, 1998. Grants include a Writer's Fellowship from the Washington State Arts Commission, a publication prize and public arts grant from the King County Arts Commission. Her poems have appeared in FIELD, Poetry, Southern Review, Seneca Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, , Fiberarts, Northwest Review, and many other journals. Skillman's "Heat Lightning: New and Selected Poems 1986 - 2006" appeared in February, 2006 from Silverfish Review Press. It contains selections from her seven previously published books. "Coppelia, Certain Digressions," is due out in midsummer from David Robert Books. Skillman is a Faculty Member at City University in Bellevue, Washington.

Describe the room you write in.

I have written in many different rooms over the past twenty-five years. The common theme when I set up my 'writing' room is a sturdy desk, a window, either with the desk facing the window or near it, index cards, my computer and printer, and my favorite authors in a cubby or on a shelf nearby. Some of these authors are Philip Levine, Czeslaw Milosz, Lorca, Borges, and Baudelaire. There are many others, including the Swedish poet Edith Sodergran. I often refer to Hugo's "The Triggering Town" and Stafford's "Writing the Australian Crawl" for inspiration, or during those 'fallow' times. The University of Michigan Press Series "Poets on Poetry" provides excellent essays from many poets, and has been a good source of inspiration as well.

Where do you find inspiration for writing?

Inspiration comes in many forms. It can happen when I remember a vivid dream, have a conversation with a fellow writer or artist, or read an article, essay, short story, or novel. Dialogue with other authors and artists in diverse disciplines, including music and textile art, inspire me. Nature is another source of inspiration. I like to walk, either in the neighborhood, or on nearby trails such as the one called "Red Town" (also the title of my fourth book) in Cougar Mountain Regional Park. My walks aren't too long, but just being around trees is very calming. Last but not least, my childhood is an endless source of inspiration. I must have suffered as a child, because I can never seem to get free of those memories. Writing about them is not only therapeutic, but creates a forum for me to investigate the past and see it in another light.

You have two new books forthcoming by Silverfish Review Press and from David Robert Books. Please give the names of your books and talk about your poetry in them.

"Heat Lightning: New and Selected Poems 1986 - 2006" will be out shortly from Silverfish Review Press. This is a collection of poems taken from my seven previously published books, plus a section of new poems that have been in FIELD, Northwest Review, JAMA, and other journals. I am very excited about this new collection as it feels as if a body of work has been completed. The book is due back from the printer any day now. This project was demanding for Rodger Moody, the editor of SRP, and he was very patient with the incredible number of changes that had to be integrated as we worked through the manuscript. Text is hard to pin down! The upside of having this body of work in print is that I feel free to move forward with new work, and perhaps in a new direction (I'll address this more later, with your last question.)

"Coppelia, Certain Digressions," will be published by David Robert Books in the summer or early fall of 2006. This book contains poems about the myth of Coppelia, which was made into a ballet and is rather beautiful with a happy ending, and the reality of the Hoffman Coppelia story, which is not quite so pretty. The gist is that of a man who creates a woman and she becomes his puppet. I try to explore the differences between the sexes in this book, and there are other themes as well, including figures from literature and myth such as Procrustes and Prometheus, and Madame de D., who was a young girl diagnosed with tourettes syndrome around the turn of the century. The poems are diverse, but I hope they hold together as another way of investigating both the problems and delights of womanhood. The volume has three sections: "Wood," "Stone," and "Human."

Forgotten But Not Gone, is a collaboration you did with Ron Hammond. As you know, I grew up in a small town. I have been to Eureka, Illinois many times. In college, I even brought the musical Godspell there in the 70's. It was performed just one night there in the gym. We'll leave it at that. I feel small town life is such a big part of me. My family and many of my friends still live in the area. I was intrigued by this project since I grew up not far from there. What inspired this? Talk about the photos and poems on the CD.

The inspiration for Forgotten But Not Gone was the set of photographs Ron Hammond showed me. That work was done over a decade ago; the details of how we decided to collaborate on this project are sketchy. In any case, these short vignettes came easily. I grew up in a small town-Greenbelt, Maryland, from age 6 - 28-and that helped me to relate to his photographs. There was a "Co-op" in Greenbelt; I used poetic license to overlay it with the Farmer's Co-op in Goodfield, Illinois:

"The Co-op once meant life to its members,
even if that life was one where you could be
accused of being a Communist, and taken in
for questioning. Even when all that was inside
the humble store answered I'm not Red:
barrels of salt, sugar, and flour.

Also, I spent two years in Westminster, Maryland, for my first two years of college. That town had a railroad, silos, and abundant pasture land, in the early seventies. In addition, I had visited relatives in the Midwest as a child, and found that I could identify with the landscapes. I'd experienced a squall and seen a tornado in the distance, and those images stayed with me. It was fun to have visual point of reference to work with, and Ron is a very accomplished photographer.

I know one of the founding editors of Fine Madness, John Marshall. When did you become one of the editors? What sort of work does the magazine look for? Please talk about the magazine and the other editors involved.

I became an editor for Fine Madness in the Spring of 2000. The magazine looks for accomplished verse that has a certain flavor. Each issue has, on the inside cover, "Neat Marlow bathed in Thespian springs/Had in him those brave translunary things…For that fine madness he did retaine,/which rightly should possesse a poets braine." We have published poets such as Neruda, Mandelstam, Keleras and others in translation. In addition, FM takes work from both well known and beginning poets from all over the country. Our editors are diverse, so much discussion takes place before accepting or rejecting a promising piece.

I have found my work as an editor helpful in that it assists me in understanding the process that takes place when I send poems out in the mail. I am, however, taking a leave of absence at present due to many writing and other obligations. The work of a journal is intense, ongoing, and rather thankless. None of the editors are paid. I suppose the reward is in finding a gem of a poem every so often, one that makes us green with envy. And, of course, when a new issue comes out there is a real feeling of accomplishment. Fine Madness has received awards at Bumbershoot. It also gives our four awards of $500 each for poets published in the magazine.

What are you working on now?

My current manuscript is titled "The Carnival of All or Nothing." In it I am trying to explore the theme of all or nothing as it relates to relationships, but also, in a larger context, our cultural environment in which human domination of animal species, the 'concrete jungle' of cities, and the gap between rich and poor is ever widening. I hope, within these poems, to use some experimental forms such as visual poetry and structural verse, as I have been writing in stanzas of left justified fixed lines lengths (a three or four beat line, generally) for many years. Opening up the poem to lines of varying lengths and sprawling across the page, using the 'ampersand' for and, and other devices interest me at present. I feel that this form, or lack of formality, may go with the content I am trying to capture. It's exciting to try new things.


Ian Wilson

Write a bio about yourself.

Here's the official bio as Hollyridge Press might send it out:
Since concentrating his attention on writing literature two decades ago, Ian Randall Wilson has published nearly two dozen stories, a novella, and over a hundred poems in such prestigious literary journals as the North American Review, The Gettysburg Review and Poetry East.

Wilson's work, the novelist Chuck Rosenthal says, "is smart and funny, some of the strongest stories I've read."

In 2000, Hollyridge Press published Wilson's debut collection, Hunger and Other Stories, which brought together for the first time many of those published pieces.

The winner of the Cera Foundation Poetry Award and a semi-finalist in the 1996 New Issues Press Poetry Competition, Wilson is also a versatile writer with published critical essays in The Americas Review and the electronic journal Writer On Line. He has reviewed for New Times.

A fixture on the Los Angeles poetry circuit, Wilson has been a frequent featured-reader at such venues as Beyond Baroque Foundation and Big and Tall Books where his imagery and often humorous world-view never fail to elicit a response from local audiences.

Along with his writing, Wilson, a Boston native, has enjoyed a 25-year career in the entertainment business working his way from Norman Lear's mailroom to success as a television writer with credits on the NBC sitcom "Silver Spoons" and the first-run syndication special "Battle of the Videogames" which aired on stations in over 85% of the United States. He developed the critically acclaimed movies "The Man Who Broke 1000 Chains" (HBO) starring Val Kilmer, and "Samaritan" (CBS) starring Martin Sheen.

Wilson is currently the Vice President, Marketing Contract Compliance at Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, a Sony Picture Entertainment Company.

He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and holds Master of Arts degrees in Communication from Stanford University and in English (with a Writing Concentration) from Loyola Marymount University where his first-place finish in all three of the school's 1995 writing competitions -- poetry, fiction and the critical essay -- remains unprecedented. He also has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry from Warren Wilson College.

Wilson is on the faculty at the UCLA Extension where he is teaches classes in writing the short story and novel. He is a member of Alpha Sigma Nu (The Jesuit Honor Society) and Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. He is a BMI writer.

Describe the room you write in.

Because I've been in the film business for the largest part of my adult working life, I've had to find time to write within a busy work schedule. The rooms I write my fiction in are often company offices at lunch time. They started small, the first something like a closet with a desk and file cabinets on all the walls, the fire marshall mandating that the door be kept closed to enforce the fire codes. As I was promoted, my office got bigger and I got more floor space, managed to get the file cabinets somewhere else but never any plants. Just before leaving MGM, my office was huge. I had a full length sofa, a fabulous view of the Santa Monica mountains, and plenty of space. That lasted about a year. There's always the possibility of interruption by phone call or someone delivering someone that can't wait. I once read how Adrienne Rich wrote her early poetry when she was a wife and a new mother. It was something she did in between the spaces and that's what most of my writing life has been. Sometimes, I'm able to write poetry in what my fiance and I refer to as our "reading room." It's a back bedroom with two reading chairs purchased from Relax the Back that are able to tip the occupant into the zero gravity position. Very relaxing but not easy to write at that angle. Still comfortable even more upright. I'm surrounded by books because the only decoration in the room is about 10 bookcases, all of which are completely filled with books.

You write both fiction and poetry. Do you favor one over the other?

I don't favor one or the other. They're both doing different things and I've gone through different stages of development with each.

Where do you find inspiration for writing?

I'm not really an inspiration sort of guy. I make myself write every day, something. Even if it's a paragraph or a few lines of a poem. But let me come at the question in a different way. I'm prompted to write by what's around me. Small events. I'm prompted to write by reading other people's stuff. Almost like a research paper where one extends someone else's argument or rebuts it. Sometimes an image I read will strike me and I'm able to successfully riff off that. Sometimes students in my classes say they don't want to be influenced when they're writing so they don't read anything. I think that's such a load of crap. Unless they live in a cave somewhere and eat greens grown in their own garden the imperative of the market excercises a dominant and continuing influence on them almost every waking moment of every day. Even our clothing advertises to us with its designer labels. So why not be influenced by something good? That's why I'm always reading something. What I see myself working toward here is that if I have an a source of inspiration, it's ideas.

Who are you reading now?

I just finished reading Beasts of No Nation by an African writer educated at Harvard whose name I can neither spell nor pronounce. It was a deeply disappointing first novel but one I was interested in because I've also been reading the nonfiction Children at War by Singer and They Pured Fire On Us From the Sky by three Sudanese "lost boy" whose names again I can't spell. Beasts was disappointing because the first person narrator, cleverly conceived for a few pages, begins to feel like artifice as the short book unreels. That is, the mind behind the mind revealed itself as one careful constructor. It sustains fine for a short story but not an entire novel.

Talk about your book, Hunger and Other Stories, by Hollyridge Press.

Hunger brought together a group of stories published in literary journals, some my earliest work. The stories tended to be about unrequited desire whether it was for love or sex or respect. The stories are generally Realist. As an example of responding to ideas, the title story "Hunger" was written in response to Susan Minot's "Lust." I thought, what would be the male side of this equation. For the story "Ritz," I'd like to tell you that I actually did dance on the grave on a former nemsis, but given the James Frey debacle now unfolding, I can only say that I wished I had danced on his grave and the story gave me a way to do it.

Červená Barva Press will be publishing your chapbook, Out Of The Arcadian Ghetto, this year. Please talk about this chapbook.

The two stories in the chapbook are part of my move away from Realism toward something more postmodern. "I am For My Nose Known" has elements of fabulism in it. It was prompted by something a friend of mine told me. He described how, in the mid 1960s while he was at college, he participated in a paid study. He had to shower with the same soap every day, and every day researchers from the soap company would literally smell his armpits after he'd finished showering. Gross. A hell of way to make a living. I simply extrapolated for my piece. "The Three Bears" I think is a distinct move into postmodernism. It employs of a variety of discourses to retell this fairytale. It actually treats the fairytale as a sociological drama.

When did you start 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry? How long has it been in existence? What sort of writing do you look for? How many journals do you print a year? I read it is one of the best journals in the country. That's got to feel great! Talk about the journal some. Who are the other editors?

88 started in 2001 with Denise Stevens as managing editor and me as one of the contributing editors along with Eve Wood. It was a huge amount of work and I think doing one issue burned her out. So I took over and have been solely editing issues 2-5. She'll occasionally read something and give me her opinion but the selection and the production and the marketing all fall on me. I'm looking for a variety of different poetries. I don't have any allegiance to one particular school. I find that there is so much competent poetry out there, well written. But well written makes it only average. So it's what strike me. It's highly individual and I have no set criteria. What I don't want are odes to trees or a grandmother dying in every poem. I'd also like some more humor. That doesn't mean jokes but work that recognizes the absurdity of the human condition. That's why work from Charles Harper Webb, Dean Young and Tony Hoagland are of particular appeal. It's kind of you to say that it's a good journal. We publish annually. The journal is printed print-on-demand so all issues are always in print and remain in print.

What is your biggest challenge as an editor? as a writer?

As a one man show with 88, the biggest challenge has been keeping all the balls in the air. It seemed with Issue 5 that we weren't going to have enough material. I put out big call to the Poetics List out of Buffalo and got a whole lot of experimental and post-avant poetry. Another challenge is burnout from the amount of work that sometimes comes in. In an earlier issue, I put classifieds in Poets & Writers and AWP The Writer's Chronicle. I got something like 2500 submissions. You see so much that you begin to lose your sense of what's working, what's good, what you want to take. Yet I feel a responsibility to try to respond in a timely fashion because when I submit my work, it's maddening to wait a year for a response.

The biggest challenge as a writer is less than the writing but in maintaining a belief that it's the writing that matters, not publication, not public recognition, the work itself. That's a hard thing to do in this culture, and even harder here in Los Angeles where I'm reading contracts everyday that have compensation paragraphs awarding millions. Some years ago, the husband of a cousin of mind insisted that because I wasn't getting paid (much) when I got a story published, because it wasn't a principal source of income that the writing was a hobby. From a distance I can see that he was trying to mask his own insecurities in what he did. But it didn't feel that way at the time.

Are you still teaching? At the UCLA Extension school? What do you try to teach your students about writing?

I am still teaching at the UCLA Extension, and as I write this, the Winter term begins in just a few days. I try to use some of the language and ideas of Narratology in my teaching. The discipline has an established set of terms and meanings which I find useful. Narratology offers a way of seeing the functioning of certain aspects of stories.

You have worked as an executive at MGM Studios. What was that like? What did you do there?

I worked for MGM for 17 years. I was in charge of credits for the studio which meant that I worked on all the titles at the beginning and the end of the films, and the legal requirements for paid advertising. It's a technical job which requires reading contracts, proof reading and familiarity with guild agreements. It's highly specializied. There's only about 15 or 20 people on Hollywood that actually do the same kind of job.

What are you working on now?

I'm 3/4 of the way into a novel. It's something I started 18 years ago and never finished. I went back at the manuscript some time ago with a new approach, updating it, and it's coming along. It's an adoption story. Unlike a lot of my other work, it has a happy ending.


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