Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)

  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
  • DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
  • CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
  • KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Blog Tour: My Writing Process (such as it is)

Many thanks to the fabulous David Lazar for inviting me to join this discussion re: writing as present-progressive verb. You really must read David's new book, Occasional Desire, which, unlike most "creative nonfiction," is composed of essays - indeed, essays that are entertaining! He is also editor of the indispensable journal Hotel Amerika and is a Professor of English at Columbia College Chicago. 

1.) What are you working on?

That’s a rather pointed question to pose to a writer. What the hell am I working on?

My “Big Project” is a trilogy of books about my mother’s life and times (and a lot of other things besides, like history in general, US in particular; time; gender; epistemology, etc etc). This is a follow up to my last book, Things Come On (an amneoir) [Wesleyan UP – now available in paperback! Woo-hoo!]

I’m also revising a poetry collection, working title: Extinction Canceling Button.

And I’m writing a book chapter about documentary poetry for a critical collection on 21st c. US political poetry.

2.)  How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Uh . . . it doesn’t have one? It doesn’t even establish one. I’m talking about this Big Project: it mixes and invents genres, uses whatever is ready to hand. One volume is inspired (loosely) by scrapbooks; another, by the archive; a third, by the newspaper. There’s verse, prose, dialogue, reproductions, headlines, photographs in each.

In terms of content, you could say it’s biograpahy/memoir/history. Indeed, the point is to think about those three genres as mutually constitutive: a small life as a tour through a big history, documentation merging with memory, all one text. The point is that you could write a trilogy of books about anybody’s life. My mom wasn’t famous – though she did work as Sen. Albert Gore’s secretary during the 1950s, which just makes her a famous-person enabler. But that’s an interesting perspective: from the wings. And doubly offstage, as a woman artist.

The poetry book is built around several voice-based serial poems, broadly on the theme of schizotheology, in a neo-necro-pastoral mode. I don’t think that’s ever been done before, do you?

The book chapter is, well, academic criticism. But it’s on a topic that hasn’t gotten much ink. And I think criticism/theory can and ought to be more interesting to read – more “creative” – and that’s what I’m moving towards.

3.)  Why do you write what you do?

Because I can’t help myself.

4.)  How does your writing process work?

And does it? Another pointed question!

As to the Big Project: bricolage. “FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT,” to which Olson adds “this possible corollary, that right form, in any given poem, is the only and exclusively possible extension of content under hand.” To me, that corollary sounds like “There is only and exclusively one possible person for me, in all the whole wide world!” – a belief which has diverted billions of dollars of capital into the pockets of divorce lawyers.

I got yr corollary right here: throw it against the wall and see what sticks. But the writer has to do the throwing, even if she doesn’t use any of her own words in the text. One chooses one’s content, and the more moving parts, the more possible combinations.

If you’re working with existing texts, as I am, part of it has to do with which of those texts seem most compelling. In Things Come On, it turned out to be hearing transcripts and a medical chart – and those things largely suggested the structure of the book. Likewise, using scrapbooks, archives, and newspapers as research sources suggested broad structures for the others.

Then again, I’m revising the hell out of all of them. It’s not like Michelangelo “finding” the form in the marble. It’s more like a potter shaping something that’s in motion, in response to the shapes that are emerging in her hands. And then collapsing it all and doing it again. That sounds more organic than it is. But then all metaphors are.

As to the serial poems, I try to hew to Jack Spicer’s injunction to listen to “The Outside” – that is, to try not to find the perfect words to ex-press my inner truth, but rather to trust that I’m receiving something more important as words come into my head. And I collect phrases, sentences, etc. I have a “word collection” that I draw upon as the bricks for poemlets – then I put in new words to form the mortar. 

Anyway, here is a section of No Soap (v. 1 of the B.P., as free PDF) - a portion also appeared in Hotel Amerika; and here is a section of Griefing on Summit (v. 2). For poems, see earth day suite, published by the great Beard of Bees Press, also in Chicago, also as a free PDF.


Is that it? Are we done? . . .

OK! Well, now that you’ve suffered through the warm-up act, here are the headliners for Feb. 17:

TONY TRIGILIO’s newest books are The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood), Book 1 (BlazeVOX Books, 2014); White Noise (Apostrophe Books, 2013); and, as editor, Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments (Ahsahta Press, 2014).  His other books include the poetry collections Historic Diary (BlazeVOX, 2011) and The Lama’s English Lessons (Three Candles Press, 2006); the chapbooks With the Memory, Which is Enormous (Main Street Rag Press, 2009) and Make a Joke and I Will Sigh and You Will Laugh and I Will Cry (Scantily Clad Press, 2008); and two books of criticism, Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012) and “Strange Prophecies Anew” (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2000).  He is co-editor of the anthology Visions and Divisions: American Immigration Literature, 1870-1930 (Rutgers University Press, 2008).  He directs the program in Creative Writing/Poetry at Columbia College Chicago and is a co-founder and co-editor of Court Green. Tune in next Monday to Tony's website.

BEN CARTWRIGHT’s poetry and prose poetry have appeared in Sentence, The Stinging Fly, Parcel, and Midwestern Gothic.  He was awarded the Ana Damjanov Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and won third place in the 2012 Atty Award poetry contest, judged by Margaret Atwood.  Ben records poets reading their work for his Kansas Blotter poetry archive, and his recordings of the poets Kenneth Irby, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and Fred Moten have been added to the PennSound archive.  Ben lives in Topeka, Kansas, and teaches creative writing and literature courses at the University of Kansas. Tune in next Monday to Ben’s Blog

LEA GRAHAM is the author of the poetry book, Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You (No Tell Books, 2011). Her poems, translations and reviews have been published in Notre Dame Review, Southern Humanities Review and Fifth Wednesday. She is a contributing editor for Atticus Review’s feature, “Boo’s Hollow,” which showcases poets writing on place.  She is an Associate Professor of English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Her entry will appear on the Atticus Review web site (somewhere - stay tuned!).