38 minutes ago
Monday, January 18, 2010
Here is my full interview from Poets & Writers. I went ahead and included the other questions that they didn't end up putting in the article, though I must say I was very pleased that they used everyone's entire responses to "What Inspires You To Write" instead of chopping them down, and that each poet was given more or less a full page this year.
I was also happy with the diversity of the poets they chose this time around, and hope this means that they will continue to seek varied and provocative new talents every year--and to widen the scope even further, as I know there are even more challenging and exciting writers out there who were not included in the issue. It would be so wonderful if they devoted an entire issue to new poets instead of simply an article.
INTERVIEW W/ POETS AND WRITERS MAGAZINE:
How old are you?
Where do you live?
Do you have a graduate degree in creative writing?
I have an MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from the University of California in Riverside.
What do you do for a living?
I teach composition and creative writing at various colleges/universities throughout Southern California. My favorite class to teach is a writing seminar on vampires, werewolves, and zombies at Whittier College. Also, I am a companion to a handicapped woman in Irvine. I read to her and we recite poems and nursery rhymes together.
Does your job allow for enough writing time?
I intentionally live very cheaply and choose not to work full-time so that I can write as much as possible. I am careful not to stretch myself too thin—I want to be an excellent teacher and I especially don’t want to undermine my writing. I say I live very cheaply, and I do, but that doesn’t mean I live ascetically. I would happily live in a tiny apartment forever if it was filled with bizarre and beautiful things, and mine is.
What inspires you to write?
Sex, death, God, art, taboo, the uncanny, monsters, religion, cannibalism, gender, madness, mysticism, fashion, pop culture, and the weirdness of language itself.
I am often driven to write after taking in other people’s art—from the films of Lucrecia Martel to the performance work of Vanessa Beecroft.
Were you inspired by anything specific during the writing of The Ravenous Audience?
The first poems I wrote for The Ravenous Audience were exercises that I created in response to the films of Catherine Breillat, who deals with female sexuality in singular and provocative ways. I was also obsessed with the problem of the iconic woman, particularly American sexual icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Clara Bow.
While writing this book I felt an urgency to regurgitate the myths about women that I’d ingested in my childhood—from fairy tales to Bible stories to the tragic end of Amelia Earhart. Instead of “rewriting” them, however, in a positive, revisionist light, I subverted them to make them more morally ambivalent.
What do you turn to when you've reached an impasse in your writing? What keeps you writing?
I write best when I am feverishly obsessed with something. In these instances I might write for 9 hours straight or more. It doesn’t happen often, though when I was a child this was always the manner in which I wrote. That isn’t to say I don’t write now when I don’t feel like it—I do, and usually I can squeeze out a few salvageable lines of a poem or part of a scene for a novel.
What's your favorite book?
The book that has most influenced me in a myriad of ways is The Bible. Other favorites include The Passion According to GH by Clarice Lispector, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil, The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek, Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, The Cow by Ariana Reines, and The Lost Lunar Baedeker by Mina Loy.
How long did it take you to write the poems in your book?
About two years.
How long did you try to find a publisher for your book before it was accepted by Chris Abani at Black Goat?
I didn’t try—Abani was my thesis advisor at UC Riverside, and he kept dropping elusive hints while I worked on the manuscript, though he waited until I was nearly finished to formally ask me to be part of the series. I am very grateful that he did, because I think it would have been hard to publish this book elsewhere—it’s a strange book, and a strange fit for the poetry world.
If you could show a prospective reader a line or two from your book --- just a couple representative lines --- what would they be?
“Spring-stink, the world heaves with lust”
Are you working on a second book of poetry or a book in a different genre?
I am working on a literary horror novel with the working title The Husband, as well as a collaborative poetry book called Excess Exhibit, with poet Amaranth Borsuk and visual artist Zach Kleyn. It’s flip book, wherein the drawings and poems eventually merge.
Any advice you'd like to share with other poets who are trying to publish their debut books?
Never compromise your vision for potential publication.